Friday, April 30, 2010
The Cheese Stands Alone
Maybe this will help us understand the hostility towards Lance Armstrong in France.
Goldman Sachs is now under criminal investigation and lawmakers are spurning GS lobbyists. Why? Because Republicans and Democrats are united in their dislike of the French. Well, that's my hypothesis anyway.
Fabrice Tourre's fabulous emails, read across the country sotto voce in a caricatured accent, piqued nationalism to a degree that finally frightened Congress off GS money.
Which is like frightening a fat kid off a birthday cake.
We were collectively ok with former GS employees shunting billions, and indirectly, perhaps even trillions, of the national wealth to GS and other banks run by former GS employees, so long as it was American Eagle Scouts like Henry Paulson doing the shunting, and bipartisan Bob Rubin types on the receiving end.
But one pretty Frenchman crows to his girlfriend about selling toxic CDO's to orphans and widows, and suddenly people come to a realization: money is not American. The U.S. dollar has little to do with the U.S., or with us.
Top American banks are full of the bright immigrants and foreign nationals extolled by a supplicant Tom Friedman as our only hope against a surging China. Foreign banks are staffed with American expats too. Wealth knows no national boundaries, nor loyalties, but flows wherever there is potential profit (for investing) and potential pleasure (for spending).
Not that there is anything wrong with this. It just exposes hypocrisy. Liberals are traditionally "citizens of the world", and more open to the perspectives and values of other countries, whereas conservatives are suspicious of all things foreign. Remember when Huckabee accused Obama of bringing back "dangerous ideas" from his trip to Europe?
But conservatives are aligned with money, capital, and its unimpeded flow across national boundaries. When activists push for tariffs to enforce child labor and environmental laws, conservatives generally fight it with cries of "free trade!" (Except in the cheap labor market, for some reason. No importation of cheap foreign labor. Rather: exportation of jobs and subsequent importation of goods.)
Furthermore, the conservative view is that money is speech, and that money should flow freely into politics too, and that corporations are people, etc. When you represent the top tenth of a percent, you stand a better chance if you are running a campaign for dollars than for votes.
Not that money is the god only of conservatives. GS, hedging its bets, also bought the Obama campaign.
What we see now is that the U.S. dollars purchasing votes are often in the hands of foreign elites, and most visibly, thanks to the newly iconic Mr. Tourre... the French.
The conservative position seems to be: we will take campaign money from corporations (i.e., French traders, Chinese investors, and Saudi princes) but scorn the foreign ideas that come with it. Will the tension hold?