A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires assembles to agree to provide themselves flexibility and a little less oversight. An agreement reached not quite in secret, but rather obscurity. Money changes hands? The rules change. Public announcements and verbal handshakes follow.
Despite the fact that Bloomberg would like to run again on the platform of economic expertise in a time of crisis, his last few weeks of public appearances during the developing economic crisis focused almost entirely on himself. As everything went to hell yesterday, he hosted a meeting in the mayor’s mansion to discuss extending term limits – not the city’s finances, not the impact of the depression on tax revenue, not the housing crisis from mortgage defaults – his own re-election. I suspect this is a sign of things to come in a third Bloomberg term, where economic security rhetoric will continue to serve as a thin mask for overt self interest. Look: these people didn’t get to be billionaires out of benevolence or civic interest.
The lesson of the economic crisis needs to be that accountability and democracy not only make sense as moral imperatives, but that they also protect against the failures of government. Bloomberg cannot or will not resolve the root causes of the economic fallout from Wall Street’s collapse: he is a friend and peer of the CEOs whose companies keep imploding, trusting his economic wisdom at a crucial turning point for New York is like trusting your retirement funds to the golden boys of economics who ran Lehman, Bear Stearns and Merill Lynch. The faith we place in Mike’s type of expertise necessarily implies a loss in faith in the democratic checks we need to keep everything from going totally fucking haywire – and it probably means more of this bullshit.