Have you been watching President-elect Barack Obama’s appointments to his administration with a sense of confusion? A feeling of anti-nostalgia? Crying out, “Why all the ClintonAdmin re-treads!?”
Steve Fraser is your man. Writing in The Nation, Fraser echoes a familiar complaint by liberals about recent appointments, registers dismay at the nearly uniform “neo-liberal” ideology, and compares the group think to the greater diversity that stocked Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet during a transition period frought with peril.
Worth reading for historical boning up, I suppose, but I was more interested in Fraser’s call for bolder action:
Under the present dispensation, the bailout state makes the government the handmaiden of the financial sector. Under a new one, the tables might be turned. But who will speak for that option within the limited councils of the Obama team?
A real democratic nationalization of the banks–good value for our money rather than good money to add to their value–should be part of the policy agenda up for discussion in the Obama era. As things now stand, the public supplies the loans and the investment capital, but the key decisions about how they are to be deployed remain in private hands. A democratic version of nationalizing the financial system would transfer these critical decisions to new institutions created by the Congress and designed to pursue public, not private, objectives. How to subject the flow of credit and investment capital to public control ought to be on the drawing boards if we are to look beyond the old New Deal to a new one.
Or, for instance, if we are to bail out the auto industry, which we should–millions of jobs, businesses, communities, and what’s left of once powerful and proud unions are at stake–then why not talk about its nationalization too? Why not create a representative body of workers, consumers, environmentalists, suppliers and other interested parties to supervise the industry’s reorganization and retooling to produce, just as the president-elect says he wants, new green means of transportation–and not just cars?
Why not apply the same model to the rehabilitation of the nation’s infrastructure; indeed, why not to the reindustrialization of the country as a whole? If, as so many commentators are now claiming, what lies ahead is the kind of massive, crippling deflation characteristic of such crises, then why not consider creating democratic mechanisms to impose an incomes policy on wages and prices that works against that deflation?
Why not, in effect, assert greater control by the people over the economic forces that affect them? “Cuz that way lies socialism! Aaagh!” Onoz. Heavens to betsy. And, well, probably not. More like neo-social democracy.