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October 2011 Archives

October 5, 2011

The Suskind Book--Skeel

My first reaction to the reviews of Ron Suskind’s new book about the Obama administration’s handling of the economic crisis was that it mostly seemed to confirm widely held views, such as the perception that President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner are both comfortable with big banks, and resisted to efforts to scale them down. (The one big exception was the President’s temporary decision to break up Citigroup, which was, according to Suskind’s sources, stymied by Geithner).

My other reaction was to marvel at how differently President Obama and Elizabeth Warren address politically sensitive issues. The President often seems to tailor his remarks to his audience. This got him in trouble during the 2008 campaign, when he told a group of Democratic contributors that ordinary Americans cling to guns and religion. During the economic crisis, he has berated Wall Street, on the one hand, while defending the too big to fail banks behind the scenes.
 
Warren recently caused a flutter when her quote (at a gathering of fervent Democrats) that no one got rich on their own, without the government, went viral on YouTube. In the Suskind book, she complains that the Obama administration can’t criticize Wall Street and at the same time “dump money in their laps and be credible.” Her message—that the government has a central role to play, that big institutions should be controlled, that consumers need a protector-- is almost the same in both contexts. Whether one likes the message or hates it, it doesn’t change from one setting to the next.

October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street--Skeel

My favorite piece on the Occupy Wall Street movement thus far is a commentary by John Gapper in last Thursday’s Financial Times. (In good capitalist fashion, FT puts articles behind a paywall, so I can’t link to the commentary here).  For Gapper, there’s nothing wrong with the movement’s confused messages—the mostly young protesters are angry at Wall Street and worried about the future, and appropriately so. He would be much more disappointed if the movement devolved into violence, as has occurred in Greece and London.

If OWS is like a Tea Party movement from the left-- I agree with commentators like Gapper who have suggested it is-- Democratic politicians should hesitate to assume that OWS is wind in their sails. Much as the mostly Republican Tea Party criticized President Bush’s spending and bailouts, the mostly Democratic OWS may indict President Obama for underestimating the seriousness of the economic crisis and failing to rein in the largest banks.
 
I don’t think a massive new stimulus would solve the economic malaise. Continuing to rely on government funding, and keeping the market at bay, seems more likely to prolong than to end this period of low growth and few jobs. If OWS is as varied and multi-faceted as it seems, perhaps one or two of the protestors might even agree.

October 21, 2011

The Eurozone Crisis--Skeel

Earlier this week, I wrote an op-ed on the Eurozone crisis that was inspired by a wonderful conference in Iceland two weeks ago, and follows up on thoughts from an earlier blog post.  The op-ed is here.

Stuntz Book Event and NYRB Review

A very belated post to note that there will be a book event for The Collapse of American Criminal Justice at Harvard Law School at 3pm today for those who are in the area. It should be wonderful.  (Check the Harvard Law website).

There is a terrific review of the book by Justice Stevens in the current issue of New York Review of Books.  Although review defends some of the Supreme Court's handiwork during the Warren Court era of the 1960s (which Bill criticises in the book as having had bad unintended consequences), Justice Stevens makes clear just how compelling and important The Collapse of American Criminal Justice is.  It's linked here.

October 29, 2011

More Great Reviews

There are a number of new reviews of Bill's book, in addition to Justice Stevens' review in the New York Review of Books and Lincoln Caplan's review in Democracy mentioned in earlier posts.  I'll start adding them to this post. 

As Bill's colleague Carol Steiker noted at the wonderful Harvard Law School celebration for the book last week, Bill put an enormous amount of energy into the book in his last couple of years (so much so that she often urged him to take it easier).   It shows, and is reflected in the reviews' repeated use of terms like "magisterial."  ("Magisterial" comes up so often, and is so obviously accurate, that I'm trying to come up with some other word.)

The Wall Street Journal review is here

The review in Chroncle Review is here.