MSNBC political and financial commentator Dylan Ratigan went all me-after-four-drinks on Representative Kevin Brady (R–TX) Monday, delivering a long rant while the latter clung to GOP talking points and smiled like a man invited over for a big slice of crap cobbler. Props to Pete for the link. Let me first say that I do not usually have truck with MSNBC, for reasons exemplified in Ratigan’s interview style. He begins his segment by pointing out that Wall Street and high finance is one of the few sectors of the economy that is hiring again, which seems kind of ironic given that they were, to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, the dildo of our original clusterfucktion. Ratigan then advances the thesis that the stock market, originally conceived as a means of encouraging investment capital to flow to new ventures, has become a “giant sucking machine” that draws money from real industry and into a realm of computerized abstraction. Cue Kevin Brady.
Representative Brady apparently entered the Dylan Ratigan Show with a plan, and that was to talk about how the federal government is too big and also taxes. His answers have almost no bearing on the questions he is asked, which encourages Ratigan to formulate ever more belligerent and statement-resembling questions, which of course leaves Brady with only his talking points and…we’re yelling.
Two things strike me about this video. First, Ratigan is right: the US financial system, originally an enabler of industry, has become an industry unto itself—one that offers no benefit to the majority of Americans. As our host points out, 70% of the NYSE’s trading volume is in computerized transactions with an average holding period of ten seconds. It’s hard to argue that those ten-second investments are doing anything to produce jobs or useful goods, and the news that the people who own the supercomputers that make them are back on top after two years of slightly diminished richness is not exactly heartening to former auto workers whose unemployment benefits have just expired.
That being said, I defy you to watch this video without wanting to punch both participants. Dylan Ratigan starts as a man whose point can be metaphorically discerned among his repeated uses of the word “stealing,” then quickly makes a run for the mayoralty of Pricksville. Meanwhile, Kevin Brady is like a robot programmed by Mitch McConnell. His explanation for the growth of jobs on Wall Street is that the only place creating new jobs is the federal government (which is, somehow, bad,) and his assessment of the morality of the finance economy is that “you can’t tax yourself into prosperity.”
This is not political inquiry, or even partisan debate. This is two men yelling their preconceived opinions over each other, and besides the thrill of watching a political hack smile nervously while hearing himself described as exactly what he is—which thrill is considerable—it produces nothing. There’s a point in the video when Representative Brady says that it’s impossible to tax yourself into new jobs. Ratigan could have, at that moment, mentioned the established practice of using tax money to create jobs via pubic works projects—an interjection that might have returned the whole thing to the realm of productive debate. Instead, he lambasts Brady for not answering his non-existent questions.
It makes for good TV but poor government. Sooner or later, the country’s failure to pull itself out of the recession in any area but the one that recessed us in the first place is going to be a crisis-level problem that we have to solve. When that time comes, we will need sharper deliberative tools that trying to say “I’m against government and taxes,” more times than the other guy says, “Wall Street is stealing from us.” As much as I like politics as entertainment, I would also like to someday watch one of these videos and change my mind about something.