Wing-nut commentary about the crisis blames the victims. As if things weren't already bad enough.
As if the fact of the world financial meltdown – which, one is told, is the worst since the Great Depression -- isn’t dreary enough, the steady stream of right-wing commentary about the crisis makes matters worse in the salt-in-the-wound sense that it, typically, blames the victims, lionizes the villains, attempts to deflect blame from the criminals and proffers that the greed that totally poisoned the system in the first place is in fact the answer to all our problems.
Take, for instance, Ross Douthat, a young conservative pundit whose white, privileged, Harvard-educated, East Coast Money pedigree makes him uniquely qualified to lecture the lower classes on how to behave. He advises the mopey, repressed, upper-middle "creative" class to swing, baby. But he tells the irresponsible rabble of the lower orders, on the other hand, to chill:
Our meritocrats [sic] could stand to leaven their careerism with a little more romantic excess. (Though such excess is more appropriate in the young, it should be emphasized, than in middle-aged essayists and parents.) But most Americans, particularly those of modest means, would benefit from greater caution and stability in their romantic entanglements.
For their own good, of course. Satisfying Douthat's own priggish sense of morality has nothing to do with it. Nothing. Neither does the right-wing, lizard-brained, shorthand of promiscuous poor people = more poor babies = more welfare = higher taxes have anything to do with it.
Actually, this may truly not have anything to do with it for Douthat, whose foremost pleasure in life seems to be scolding people about sex, but it does have something to do with it for the right-wingers who, when they say "liberty" and "freedom" actually mean "the right to economic sociopathy."
Actually, forget the "liberty" and "freedom" euphemisms wingnuts smear on their dented and creased vehicles of propaganda like so much Bondo. Why not? Francis Cianfrocca certainly forgets such safe and traditional (and mendacious to the point of Orwellian) euphemisms and goes for the gusto: Greed is goo -- well, screw it, this is better left in his own words, which read like Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness" translated into middlebrow douchebagese:
[T]he United States under Barack Obama may be taking a hatchet to a pillar of the American social contract, which is that Americans should be free of encumbrance in their pursuit of private wealth.
Thus the social contract is defined by one of those people who believes there "is no such thing as society." I especially like Cianfrocca's disingenuous quoting of Lincoln, who was in reality about as much a laissez-faire man as he was a Confederate.
Next we have David Frum, whose idea of proper financial reform is making sure that Good People (you guessed it, the filthy rich) have access to ample credit but Bad People (riiight) have access to little or none of it:
[B]y expanding government regulatory power, the Obama administration may invite innovation-thwarting meddling. Back in the 1990s, entrepreneurs used to say that America was the only country on earth where you could borrow $100 million without owning a suit. That's the thing we need to defend. What we need to end is the ability to borrow $100,000 without a down payment.
Obviously for the wingnuts, if there is to be regulation, then it should be of the peons. Or as Huey Long, coming from an entirely different direction, threatened those usually cronyist Louisiana pols hesitant to accept his largesse: Be on my side, or you will enjoy Good Government.
At least Ol' Huey was threatening to sock it to mostly the right people. Wingnuts, like their patron saint Rand, think the most pernicious folktale in history is Robin Hood and agitate accordingly: government, if it is to take sides, must support, in A. Hamilton's phrase updated however you like, "the rich and well-born."
Besides, the rich will corrupt the process anyway, so why bother trying to check them at all? Or so shrugs Ramesh Ponnuru, whose usual schtick of shrill moral certitude (his book about Democrats is thoughtfully titled The Party of Death) is here belied by his casual acceptance of the Wealthy Criminal Class's amorality:
Regulatory Capture [Ramesh Ponnuru] Thomas Frank understands that regulators can easily become the servant of the companies they are supposed to be regulating. Why this phenomenon does not dim his enthusiasm for regulation even a little is a bit mysterious.
A nice try by Ponnuru to argue, albeit implicitly, why try? But of course decent people must try; as for corruption, well … it could be managed if regulatory agencies had more transparency, if regulators with conflicts-of-interest were sacked or never hired in the first place, if both politician bribe-taker and businessman bribe-giver were subject to harsh criminal penalties, and if, above all, the regulatory system were to adopt an adversarial (to business, I mean) mentality worthy of its checks-and-balances nature.
On the other hand, it is nice to see a libertarian fellow traveler tacitly admit that the whole campaign-contribution = protected speech thing is a total sham.
With their reflexive coddling of the malefactors of great wealth, it's no surprise that wingnuts are perplexed by and outraged at the traitors of this class, those whom we might call benefactors of great wealth but Frum describes as:
As [Andrew] Gelman demonstrates ... the great mystery of our time is not that working-class Kansans vote Republican. The great mystery of our time is that upper-class residents of Beverly Hills and Greenwich, Conn., vote Democratic.
Getting back to Douthat (though I sympathize with the reader who says, "please don't do that!"), one reason explaining the existence of the Rich Who Vote Democratic is social liberalism: like Thomas Frank's Kansans whose social and cultural beliefs trump their own economic interest, rich liberals take their place in the culture war seriously enough to, literally, pay for it.
If this seems like a coldly calculated trade-off for Wealthy Democrats, it no doubt is in some cases. In other cases, the Wealthy Traitor to his class might simply be such a "single-issue" fanatic that his other voting interests don't even register. But the real answer is in the nature of social liberalism itself: unlike social conservatism, which is proscriptive, idealist and frequently hypocritical, social liberalism is tolerant and "realist" -- attributes that inevitably flow from the ability to empathize with the Other. In Bill Clinton's shorthand, the liberal rich can feel the poor's pain. Sociopathy is, at root, inability to empathize.
Frum simply cannot empathize with the few rich whites who can empathize with the poor.