Saturday, February 11, 2012

How Modern "Progressivism" Normalizes Evil

"Progressivism" has an interesting history of which I was unaware until very recently.  Interestingly, both major parties coined their own versions during the presidential election of 1912 .  The Democrat's vision of progressivism is set forth in Woodrow Wilson's The New Freedom.  The Republicans' version is set forth in Teddy Roosevelt's The New Nationalism.  I'm not going to discuss either vision here except to say that early Progressivism was not the tinkering of modern progressivism but promised to bring real, substantial change, for good or ill.

The modern progressive does not seek change, real or substantial.  Her function is to push for cosmetic changes to the status quo and, in so doing, legitimize it.

Let's take a look at a recent post from my favorite establishment hack, Yves Smith.
Remember that historical mortgage settlement deal that was the lead news story on Thursday? It has been widely depicted as a done deal. The various AGs who had been holdouts said their concerns had been satisfied.
But in fact, Bank of America’s press release said that the deal was “agreements in principle” as opposed to a final agreement. . . .
This may not sound all that important to laypeople, but most negotiators and attorneys will react viscerally to how negligent the behavior of the AGs has been. The most common reaction among lawyers I know who been with white shoe firms (including former partners) is “shocking”. Let me explain why.
Negotiating of large, complex deals (or even little deals) does not happen in one fell swoop. Even when the two sides have outlined the major terms, and in sone cases hammered out the really important ones in some detail, there is still a great deal of negotiating that takes place in finalizing the text of the contract. The negotiation over the definitive agreement makes a great deal of difference on how fair the pact turns out to be. For instance, one of the sayings of transaction lawyers is “He who controls the document controls the deal.” The party that writes up the initial version of the contract has undue influence because that becomes the default and the other side has to negotiate back from that language.
Why is it deeply troubling that the attorneys general have gone along with the Administration’s messaging and have all fallen in line with the “biggest Federal-state settlement ever” when no such settlement in fact exists? This isn’t just acceding to the Administration’s pet wish to build on its State of the Union PR. They’ve completely abandoned their negotiating leverage at a critical stage.
Let's leave aside for a moment that parties may use a binding memorandum of understanding to bind themselves to the major terms and conditions of a deal while they work out the smaller details (i.e., the banks may well be bound by the terms and conditions that have thus far been announced).

Let's focus on the faux populist outrage of Ms. Smith.  What precisely is she angry at?  What shocked her?  The fact, in her view, that the attorneys general "completely abandoned their negotiating leverage."

Shouldn't her outrage be at the fact that the attorneys general are negotiating a "settlement" AT ALL?   A settlement is something you have in a civil action.  In a criminal action you have plea bargains.  Why are the states' lead criminal prosecutors treating clear criminal activity as if it were a civil matter?

By focusing her ire on how the AGs seem to be negotiating, Ms. Smith has legitimized the negotiations themselves.  Indeed, she has gone much farther than that, she has lied about the options that remain for the AGs.

Think about it:  if there is no binding agreement between the banks and the AGs, as Ms. Smith argues, then the AGs maintain ALL of their negotiating leverage, including the ability to start criminal investigations and prosecutions.  Ms. Smith is a very smart woman, and I cannot believe that she does not recognize this obvious truth.

If Ms. Smith were truly the crusader for change that she portrays herself to be, she would be hailing the fact that there is no deal (assuming that is the case) as an opportunity, not an outrage.  Yves Smith: establishment hack normalizing evil one event at a time.

Update: Predictably, Ms. Smith has misled her lambs to the slaughter.  In the comments, not one person has questioned her false framing of the situation.  Instead, people seemed outraged that the really bad deal the AGs allegedly cut is not actually done and could get worse.  That is, her readers are now pining for the bad deal they were decrying only a few days ago.  Anchoring and adjustment.  Ms. Smith defines the "progressive" anchor, and her followers adjust around it.