Friday, November 7, 2008

The Obama Press Conference: John Maynard Keynes and the Oligarchs Are Alive and Well

John Maynard Keynes and Oligarchs appear to be alive, well and ready for the Obama Administration.

In Barack Obama's first press conference, since winning the presidential election, Obama sounded like a typical big spending Democrat. In opening remarks, he called for a "rescue package" for the middle class, unemployment extensions and other fiscal stimulus. He also said that something had to be done for the automobile industry since it is "the backbone of the country." Somewhere, John Maynard Keynes and Marx are blushing.

Obama did not address how any of these proposals would be paid for.

I took special note of some of the members of his "economic transition advisory team", most of whom stood behind him as he promised to do vasts sums more spending than Imelda Marcos ever did during a good shoe shopping trip to New York City. It was a politically correct mixed crowd that included many women, a Latino and even another African-American, interspersed with oligarchs. Just what you need to fight a downturn in the economy, a politically correct group and oligarchs.

The oligarchs we were told included Warren Buffett (who, golly shucks, usually just represents himself) and Robert Rubin (former Goldman Sachs CEO, now running the Rubin/Citigroup wing of Goldman),but both failed to appear in chorus line fashion behind Obama for the press conference, as did the politically correct and other oligarchs and oligarch representatives.

At the press conference chorus line, the towering Paul Volcker was there, who has been a career long Rockefeller operative. The tiny Robert Reich was there, who was most likely invited as a reward for his regular bashing, on his blog, of Hillary, during the primaries.

An oligarch stepped a bit out of the shadows for the chorus line, Chicago-based Penny Pritzker, who was an early Obama backer, was there. Pritzker served as Obama's National Finance Chair. She and her husband hosted a $28,500 per plate fundraiser for Obama's campaign in Chicago with Warren Buffett and his wife, and Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is 135th richest person on the Forbes 400 list of "America's wealthiest," with an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion US. If one was forced to come up with one name that Obama answers to, Penny Pritzker would not be a bad choice. They are on each others cell phone speed dials, guaranteed.

The Chicago Political Machine was well represented by Mayor Richard Daley's brother William, who also is a member of the executive committee at JP Morgan Chase.

Google's Chairman Eric Schmidt was part of the chorus line.

Much to my surprise, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the token Latino. Readers will recall I had a Q & non-A encounter with the mayor, only a few weeks back.

In short, no one in this group strikes me as the type that understands Say's Law, never mind the business cycle. They all are very good, though, at protecting the very powerful interests that they are aligned with, nothing else. The oligarchs are sleeping very well tonight.


  1. Quite why you should bracket Keynes and Marx together, when Keynes was strongly anti-Marxist, is not clear. Nor why you equate Keynes's economics with big spending. He was in favour of a stimulus - either fiscal or monetary - to an economy that faced dire recession. He was also very concerned about the risks of inflation, and in favour of free trade and free markets when government action - importantly, coordinated between major economies, and with effective international institutions - worked to ensure high employment. It is to save the US and world economies from recession, or worse, that Keynesian policies are appropriate - urgently needed - today. But they must include a strong emphasis on international economic cooperation (such as British PM Gordon Brown has rightly beena dvocating) and a VERY strong effort to promote free trade and fight economic nationalism/protectionism. That all this is in the spirit of Keynes would be evident from reading works like Robert Skidelsky's engaging biography of Keynes, or Donald Markwell's scholarly "John Maynard Keynes and International Relations: Economic Paths to War and Peace". Hopefully Barack Obama's economic advisers are bringing serious analysis, and not wild cliches, to bear on their advice to the President-elect, which is so important both for the US and the world economies, which are more inter-linked than ever before.

  2. Hi Laura,

    Thank you for your comments. I don't think I am equating Keynes and Marx as much as Obama is.

    He is using Keynesian fiscal policy justifications for his Marxian redistributionist beliefs.

    I am curious,if a fiscal stimulus package is initiated, where do you see the money for the stimulus package coming from? And why would you not consider that a redistribution?