|by Roberto Rivera|
In today's New York Times, David Brooks announces that the "establishment is back." By "establishment" he means the "financial elite," "middle-aged men with names like Mellon and McCloy" who "during the first two-thirds of the 20th century . . . led Wall Street firms, corporate boards and white-shoe law firms and occasionally emerged to serve in government."
Dear Lord, I hope not. If we are entering "an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable — and often oligarchic — framework for capitalist endeavor," we are so hosed! Start with the fact that none, zip, bupkes of these establishment-types, who presumably have not been in cryogenic stasis for the past 10 years, foresaw the crisis that has required Brooks' return of the oligarchs.
The establishment has a track record of betraying the enormous trust placed in it, not because it's evil or even venal but because it's myopic and arrogant: it can't admit that that it doesn't know nearly as much as it thinks it does.
Instead it was decidedly non-establishment types like Nouriel Roubini and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, two men from the Levant, who saw what was coming, warned us, and were dismissed by "establishment" types. As Taleb has pointed out, the past few decades have shown that the one thing American banks can consistently make money at is charging your mother-in-law fees on her checking account. Anything else and the soi dissant Masters of the Universe lose their shirts, become bed-wetters, and beg the rest of us to bail them out.
It's not only finance: in Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner of the New York Times documents the way that the folks drawn from the same (apparently shallow) pool have failed the trust placed in them by American presidents and the American people. Just as their cousins in finance missed every black swan in the financial world, they missed every one in the national security world: they told Truman that China wouldn't enter the Korean War. Oops! The missed the Cuban missile crisis. Oops! Vietnam? Oops! The Iranian Revolution? The Fall of the Berlin Wall? September 11? Iraq? To paraphrase the woman in the Amex Blue ad: "Oops! Oops! Oops! and Oops!"
So what did they do with all that money and all that power? Why, play at "Masters of the Universe," of course. Hundreds of covert operations which left countless people dead, whole nations eternally angry at us, and Americans less, not more, safe.
Dear Lord, I hope not.