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April 10, 2009

Show Me The Knuckles

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With the market impressing that the worst is over, this scene from Washington yesterday frames the economic narrative in two extremes.

In the photo, we have Larry Summer, Obama’s financial architect, sitting with David Rubenstein, Managing Director of The infamous Carlyle Group, during a luncheon of the Economic Club of Washington. Rubenstein is the organization’s President and Co-Founder. Behind them, just before they were run off, are two members of Code Pink holding up a sign that says “We Want Our Money Back.”

The protesters must have judged their action successful for: framing Summers as the government’s bailout heavy, as opposed to Geithner; framing the two men as well-heeled members of “the club,” especially Rubenstein with the fancy watch, the cufflinks, the traditional pinstripes, the polished shoes, and the cushy chair; swapping out the club’s slick branded background with this garish by-hand version; lining Summers up with the dollar sign (and blocking out the “We”); showing DR forming a fist and putting enough weight on his chair (reminiscent of what the banks and investment houses did to the economy) to actually split its apron and expose the undersurface, and more suggestively, capturing that awkward look bonding the two men, Summers’ expression open to a guilty or “we’ve been busted” kind of reading.

Even if Humpty Dumpty is well on his way to being pieced back together, the image seems to do a nice job of framing the fundamental Wall Street/Main Street dichotomy, even if — as evidence by the flag and the apparent similarity between Rubenstein’s tie and the the male protester’s — we are one America.

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. J.W. Marriott, April 9, 2009 in Washington, DC.)

  • lytom

    Why is Obama’s Director of National Economic Council meeting with the President of Economic Club of Washington and the co-founder and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group? It it because the fix of the economy has some specific interests in mind?
    I would call this abandoning of the citizens, the business as usual – bailout for the rich, no change, a scandal…
    Now comes the fix: Obama’s demand for the money for wars – $83.4 billion! Shame.

  • thomas

    Great shot & read. And hopefully this heralds a new level of quality in Code Pink’s actions.
    Lytom is right: business as usual.

  • arcadesproject

    I haven’t seen data to support the proposition that Humpty Dumpty is on the way to being put back together. As I read the numbers, it seems to me that Humpty is fucked. See unemployment figures. See sums being shovelled into zombie banks and fraudulent insurance companies with promises that more will be ‘necessary’. See the notice you just got from your bank credit card company notifying you that your interest rate has gone up 8 points. See how far you get when you apply for mortgage financing if your credit score is under 750. While you’re at it, check to see if you still have a job.

  • yg

    short video clip:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/09/protesters-jump-on-stage_n_185224.html
    caption reads:
    summers: risks of both inflation and deflation
    what does that look like? i’ve never heard of both occurring the same time.
    when protests broke out at obama town halls, he would address them and acknowledge their concerns. he even promised one pro-life group to meet with them after the forum. would have been nice if summers had done the same. to pretend the protesters lacked anything worthwhile or substantive and prefer to ignore their concerns and treat them like rabble is only going to fuel the outrage. surely mr. smarty pants could have defended himself against charges of corruption. instead he sloughed it off as a joke. summers needs to break out of his bubble, look around and see what it’s like to live in the country as non elite.
    this also puts an ironic twist to obama’s statement to the ceos that his administration is the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks. whose going to stand in between summers? the fact that this forum lacked security is troubling. that’s pre-sept 15th thinking, the day wall street collapsed. they underestimate the level of outrage, coming from both the left and right.

  • yg

    oh, and don’t forget, summers is krugman’s favorite.

  • stevelaudig

    rubenstein is checking to make sure the bribe is still working..but there is a hint of shylockism wafting around their shoulders. summers’s eyes indicate “we’ll talk for real later. this is just the pregame show. The required public [and meaningless] humiliation the powerful must pretend to suffer before the real business of moving value from the schlubs occurs.”

  • bystander

    Link?

  • mad_nVT

    Thank goodness Code Pink is showing up for us.
    Just like in the story, Humpty Dumpty is all busted up and ain’t going back together. All the King’s men and all the machinations of the Masters of the Universe can’t put Humpty back together again.
    Summers is the toady for the Masters of the Universe, and he is the toad that is poisoning the future for the rest of us.
    BagMan comments that we are one America. I’m not so sure- what I see is buckets of money for bailing out the rich bankers and to hell with the rest of us. That’s two for them and none for us.
    And contrary to yg comment above, Summers is a favorite of Krugman only as a whipping toad.

  • http://www.newsweek.com/id/191393/page/3 yg

    from his newsweek profile:

    Although he [krugman] thinks Geithner has been captured by Wall Street, he has hope for Summers. “I have a strong suspicion that if Larry was on the outside and I was on the inside, we’d be reversing roles,” he says, but adds, “Well, not entirely. Larry has more faith in markets. I’m more of an interventionist.”

    summers gets millions of dollars in speeches from the financial sector, yet it’s geithner who krugman singles out as having been capture by wallstreet.

  • http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/incidents.html yg

    somebody on another board provided some context for the krugman/summers relationship:
    PK has long been a moderate neoliberal. He was hired by Martin Feldstein and worked with Larry Summers in the Reagan Treasury. The wider circle of Summers associates includes people like Brad DeLong and Nouriel Roubini. This group of people see themselves as the genuine liberals: hardheaded, practical people who understand how to deal with the far right and produce workable policies. I see them as well-intentioned, but in many ways captured by the ideology of the right.
    the source he linked to:
    http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/incidents.html

  • http://profile.typepad.com/Serr8d Serr8d

    I don’t think we’re getting out of this economic mess anytime soon. Those two guys? Both, clueless.
    Kunstler, now, he gets it.
    Oh, and those two code pinksters failed to get the poster high enough to overcome the photographer’s low-profile shot (he’s good like that). What that image says to me is “it never matters what sort of ‘protest’ goes on in the background; the real work and any accomplishments will continue unabated after the vermin are shooed away.’
    In any event, it’s nice to see the pinksters are beginning to look more..well-kept.

  • Trumbull

    I think it might be time to stop drinking the Kool-aid. After eight years of a national nightmare, please consider that the antidote might not be to throw REASON out the window. Your interpretation is, in a word, ridiculous. I have nothing to say in defense of anyone in the picture, but PLEASE, can we try not to TOTALLY overinterpret the images? You criticize the polished shoes. First, that is a ridiculous thing to do, but second, are you also criticising the polished shoes of the Code Pink protester? And the “fancy watch”? Perhaps you have a close up that shows the brand….I have an old Timex that looks about the same. The “cushy chair” with the “split apron”? I see a cheap pair of chairs with a cheap slip cover. The presence of Larry Summers at the event? Any doubt that this was with the blessing – indeed, the forthright support — of his boss? As the old saying goes, when the clock hits the thirteenth chime, not only do you question the current time, but you question whether the clock is ever reliable. For you to retain your credibility, I think you ought to try to rein in your desire to see everything through such a skewed lens….

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