At a time of record corporate profits, a time when 14 million Americans are out of work, when millions have lost their homes and, according to the Census Bureau, the ranks of those living in poverty has grown to one in six—that Elizabeth Warren could be publicly kneecapped and an agency devoted to protecting American consumers could come under such intense attack is, ultimately, the story about who holds power in America today.
And then there’s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical — it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum that “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.”
But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you’d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a “collectivist agenda,” that she believes that “individualism is a chimera.” And Rush Limbaugh called her “a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.”
What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
I got to see some of this with conversations regarding the recent protests over the weekend. There are some *very strong* attacks going against Warren, and really she did nothing more than explain how a modern society functions.
Heck, I’ve seen Adam Smith and Reagan quotes dismissed as “socialist propaganda”. It would seem, as one who rejected it at the outset, that the anti-intellectual bent of modern conservatism is finally starting to eat itself, as these folks have no idea how to engage this debate on a rational level, and instead retreat to 60”s-era stereotypes and hope that 50 years of cultural propaganda against a word will suffice as a coherent political argument (i.e. We have to do everything the rich say because otherwise *socialism*).