Honest Conservatives

It is possible, although decreasingly so in American politics, to admire, if disagree with, your political opponents. I keep a dwindling collection of conservatives, who are not preoccupied with vengeance, destruction, pledges and sexual politics. I call them thinking conservatives and perhaps the matters where we disagree would come down to economics and foreign policy. David Frum is on that list, so is David Brooks. William Buckley, the lucid founder of conservative magazine National Review, whose son Christopher Buckley famously left his father’s venue and voted for Obama in 2008, was a pleasure to read before he passed away, if not for agreement but for his deft command of English. I can hardly imagine a current day conservative to publicly criticize Ayn Rand, as well as denounce John Birch Society as “far removed from common sense”. Who does the Right have now to carry the torch – Rush Limbaugh? Charles Krauthammer? It’s beyond embarrassing!

The other day, scanning through the headlines this has caught my attention: “Bankers vs. Capitalism” at the Weekly Standard, a conservative, well, weekly.


This uncharacteristic for conservative setting headline intrigued me, although not without suspicion. Nonetheless, right after dispensing with mandatory, or shall we say credibility-building jab at “disease-infested occupy-something-or-other encampment” the author, Irwin M. Stelzer states: “(America) is not even under threat of socialism, the hysterical charges of some anti-Obama extremists notwithstanding”. Wow! Quite a statement for a right-wing magazine. It got better the further I went:

“And the failure of Republican politicians to ask themselves just why they support banks’ opposition to allowing bankruptcy judges to include mortgage obligations when they restructure the debts of those seeking bankruptcy protection, as many Democrats propose. Executives of American Airlines are applauded by the financial community for their shrewd use of the bankruptcy laws to get out from under their contractual obligations. Homeowners who do the same thing are considered immoral.” 

This last sentence, I must say, is my favorite point to make in order to display a double standard employed by conservative hacks blaming homeowners who defaulted, but not the banks or corporations who have done the same. I have never heard a conservative make it until now! If contractual obligations are not sacred for American Airlines why should they be sacred for the underwater homeowner?

Further, he begins to sound like Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone brilliant and ruthless journalist, who wrote extensively on Wall Street crisis and who coined the term “vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” in reference to Goldman Sachs.

“Most surprising are the objections of leaders of the banking community to quite sensible reforms, their willingness to sacrifice long-term support for the market system to the desire for short-term profits. It is true, for example, that higher capital requirements for banks, requirements that “don’t go nearly far enough” according to John Cochrane, finance professor at the University of Chicago, will reduce their profits. That is so—but only because requiring banks to hold more capital reduces the risk of failure or the need for bailouts, risks that have until now been borne by taxpayers.

Bankers are not alone in their failure to understand that something must be done to prevent the opposition to many features of the current system from creating an atmosphere that will support “reforms” so draconian that the resulting system will retain few of the virtues of the existing one. The corpocracy at times seems equally obtuse, as when its leaders call for repeal of the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley law that make it easier for shareholders to rid themselves of underperforming directors, and require that directors be truly independent, rather than chums of the CEO, especially when serving on compensation committees. The breaking of the link between performance and reward that results from friends-of-the-CEO boards of directors does as much to undermine capitalism’s claim to legitimacy as financiers’ obtuseness about their responsibility to act as if they are members of a society that extends beyond executive dining rooms and country clubs.”

I couldn’t help but put the entire paragraph – it is so honest, so pointed and so rare to hear from anybody on the Right! These arguments have been made repeatedly on the Left and in my own blog; are they really becoming so hard to deny and ignore that they finally trickle down (pun intended) into the right blogosphere? Has someone out there had let the guard down or, gasp, saw the facts and connected the dots? The opposition on Wall Street to moderate regulatory measures is like opposition to a bitter medicine – it doesn’t taste good now, but there will be benefits down the road. Has trading so atrophied their reasoning that the only stimuli they recognize is “must feel good NOW”? I always found it astonishing that supposedly smart guys on Wall Street do not understand it. Their choice is not between no pill and bitter pill – it’s between bitter pill and chemotherapy.

To read this sort of article at the conservative site brings me hope that not everyone on the other side has gone completely insane. If there are authors who think like Mr. Stelzer, perhaps there’s a chance that we can agree at least on facts and take it from there. It makes dialog possible. I quite forgive him for a stab at the unions and occupiers – it comes with the territory. When I meet a conservative like this, a dying breed, I make sure to put them in my “endangered species” book.


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