This is a review of Jeff Connaughton’s book Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins by Matt Stoller. An in-depth review of a look inside Washington and to a large extent, a take down of more than a few democratic Senators — most notably Joe Biden. By reading this review one would get the impression of it being the work of a disgruntled ex-employee, the author seems to think that it’s is deeper than that. I really cannot do this justice and I am sure Matt Stoller has left out some of the juicier parts.
Telling stories of how Wall Street runs the show and how professional politicians on both sides of the isle make damn sure this does not change. That what you see on CSPAN is an act performed by even the most idealized of the Democratic Party to look as life like liberal as they can. In the theatre this is known as Verisimilitude or the appearance of truth.
The book begins with Jeff’s entry into politics and ends with his complete disillusion with it. The corruption and debasement of our democratic process for primarily the personal gain of those involved. How attempts at financial reform were thwarted by even the most liberal of senators.
This is a great part of the book, where Connaughton explains the wider circle of influence. “Professional Democrats are not just lobbyists. The term applies to almost all Democrats in the legal, policy, foreign policy, and even national security worlds, each one of whom is trying to climb the greasy pole of power.” These well-paid bureaucrats pass from a public position to a private position, hoping that Team Blue or Team Red wins so they can increase their monetary and political value. But the status quo is paramount, and anything threatening that brings the two teams together (as does, well, cash). This dynamic is well-covered by sociologist Janine Wedel’s Shadow Elite as a core element of corrupt economic organizations, this is a narrative documentation of it.
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My favorite Senatorial reaction was from Dianne Feinstein. Dodd, knowing Brown-Kaufman was gaining strength but didn’t yet have enough votes to pass, called a snap vote. Connaughton wrote about the vote that “no one could confuse the issue, or so I thought. But, just before voting, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) – one of the most liberal members of the Senate — asked Durbin, the majority whip, “What’s this amendment?” According to Durbin, who later told Ted, he replied, “To break up the banks.” Giving the thumbs-down sign, Feinstein said bemusedly: “This is still America, isn’t it?”
The Blob incidentally refers to the Wall Street bankers and traders and lobbyists who call the shots. Payoff will no doubt be thoroughly trashed and eviscerated by democratic loyalists who insist on looking at their party and politics in general through rose-colored glasses while taking heavy doses of Ecstasy. And as Matt Stoller says in his review here, Connaughton may even have a tough time getting employment selling used Yugos after laying down the gauntlet is this book.
However the insights given here are sure to create a stir assuming people decide to actually read the book. Denial can be a very powerful force and the truth very uncomfortable, regardless of where it comes from.