The Campaign Spot

Who Does Rick Santelli Speak For?

Over at Daily Kos, they point to recent polls showing high approval ratings for Obama, and argue that CNBC’s Rick Santelli is out of touch:

The public isn’t in a giving mood when it comes to business, who they think play a rigged game with a stacked deck. NY Times:

A majority of poll respondents said bankers, not all Americans, would benefit from rescuing the nation’s financial institutions. An even wider majority said the struggling automotive companies should not receive further taxpayer money to help them survive. And while there is a strong belief that government should help homeowners avoid foreclosure, people are evenly divided over whether the plan announced last week is fair.

So, my media friends, try as you might, you can’t fool the public. This isn’t Obama’s problem, it’s a problem for Republicans and for Wall Street. The public doesn’t trust either one, so let’s start telling it like it is. There’s more work to be done on the program for homeowners, but let’s not pretend the Rick Santellis of the world are “average Joe Populist”, or that commodity traders represent public opinon. [sic] If anything, they’re on the wrong side of the divide, along with Congressional Republicans.

Yes, but note that the investors don’t just “vote” by responding to an opinion poll; they vote with their dollars through investment. You can argue that Santelli represents a minority or a special group of Americans, but they’re a particularly influential group, because they’re the ones who disproportionately invest in America’s companies.

If investors think that Obama’s proposed solutions aren’t going to fix the problem, or will make the situation worse, they’ll want to get rid of their stocks (and perhaps bonds) before they lose even more value. They’ll continue selling their stocks, and those who are willing to buy will bid lower and lower for stocks, and we’ll continue to see broad losses. And everybody’s 401(k)s, etc., sink lower.

(The markets are up a bit today so far. As usual, many factors come into play, but I suspect that folks are looking for bargains after yesterday’s big sell-off.)

If the markets continue to tank, will the public continue to blame “bankers” or “Wall Street”? How long will the non-investing public at large persuade themselves that it’s those folks over there who are the problem, and not the policies being pursued by the administration and Congress?

Santelli may or may not represent a majority of public opinion, but he appears to speak for a large number of folks who have their fortunes, both metaphorically and literally, tied to the performance of the American economy.


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