Sunday, October 20, 2013

Greedy, sadistic, or both?

Two pieces came to my attention yesterday. Matt Taibbi's July examination of price-fixing by the rating agencies:
"Lord help our fucking scam . . . this has to be the stupidest place I have worked at," writes one Standard & Poor's executive. "As you know, I had difficulties explaining 'HOW' we got to those numbers since there is no science behind it," confesses a high-ranking S&P analyst. "If we are just going to make it up in order to rate deals, then quants [quantitative analysts] are of precious little value," complains another senior S&P man. "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of card[s] falters," ruminates one more. [...]
40 percent of the world's wealth was wiped out in the aftermath of the mortgage bubble, according to some estimates. 2008 was to the American economy what 9/11 was to national security. Yet while 9/11 prompted the U.S. government to tear up half the Constitution in the name of public safety, after 2008, authorities went in the other direction. If you can imagine a post-9/11 scenario where there were no metal detectors at airports and people could walk on carrying chain saws and meat cleavers, you get a rough idea of what was done to reform the ratings process.
And Charles Simic on the sadistic bastards of the GOP:
Bettering the lives of anyone but the wealthy, as we know, has ceased to be a concern of the Republican Party. But millions of Americans are on the brink of buying affordable health insurance and freeing themselves from a worry that makes their lives utter misery; the concerted effort backed by some of the richest men in this country to deprive them of that chance may be without precedent for sheer malice. Indifference to the plight and suffering of human beings of one class or another by some segment of the population is a universal phenomenon, but spending millions of dollars to deepen the misery of one’s fellow citizens and enlisting members of one political party to help you do so is downright vile. It must be motivated as much by sadism as by the political calculation that if these uninsured were to get insurance, they would give the Democratic Party a governing majority simply out of gratitude for letting them see a doctor.
These are not precisely the same behaviors but they are definitely connected.

UPDATE: Michael Tomasky calls the GOP stance on the ACA "indisputably the most strenuous effort at policy sabotage we’ve ever seen in the modern history of this country."
Republicans did not do this to Social Security. Majorities of Republicans voted in favor of Social Security. About half of Republicans also voted for Medicare. A group of senators sought to defund the Vietnam War, but that group was bipartisan. No, there’s never been an effort quite like this. It’s truly astonishing to step back and think about it. The great uniting cause of the Republican Party of the Obama era, the one thing they’re spent more time and energy on than any other, is preventing uninsured Americans from obtaining insurance.

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