In the Arena

Malefactors of Great Wealth

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David Sanger of the New York Times raises the possibility that the President is courting danger by getting tough on the tinhorn titans of industry. He quotes Professor Jeffrey Garten of Yale:

“He’s walking a very fine line here,” said Jeffrey Garten, a professor of trade and international finance at the Yale School of Management and a former top official in the Clinton administration’s Commerce Department. “He is taking each case on the merits as he sees it, but he runs the risk of sowing a level of mistrust about all big companies. And it’s those companies — not small businesses — that he will need to invest and innovate for the kind of recovery he wants.”

I suspect this isn’t very much of a problem for Obama at all. He’s not a bomb-thrower; he’s been picking his shots wisely. And after a 30 year period when the Masters of the Universe were foolishly aggrandized by U.S. politicians (and, yes, many journalists), the country is looking for a revision–a politician who celebrates private enterprise but is intent on cleaning up the regulatory latrines in the financial services and resource extraction industries. The validity of Obama’s position is evident in the frantic scurrying of Republicans to camouflage the effort by Congressman Joe Barton to tell the truth about his party’s position on oil and gas: that any effort to hold BP–or any other energy company–responsible is an example of undue government intervention.

Obama’s presidency promised a rebalancing of American politics, away from the celebration of mammon of the Reagan Era, and toward an entrepreneurial capitalism that didn’t prey on the American public. I think that effort is pretty much on course.