The year of inverted socialism

Obama was more than willing to oblige the predators in a letdown first year

By Walter Kirn
Published January 20, 2010 8:01PM (EST)

From each according to his need, to each according to his greed. It pains me to say it, because I voted for him, manned phone banks for him, and gave to his campaign, but Obama (in truly flabbergasting cahoots with Goldman Sachs, the Citibank alumni club, and the jet-setting Ivy-League long-range-thinking all stars who love to convene at Aspen, Davos, Sun Valley and other ritzy spas and ski resorts to discuss, over cocktails, the global common good) has managed to perfect, in just one year, an ingenious socioeconomic system that might be called "inverted socialism" and which makes the free-market conservatism it succeeded seem, by comparison, principled and simple.

As though he believes that the best way to redress a ruinous, massive private-sector theft is to rehabilitate the thieves by putting them to work as Cabinet members and high-ranking public policy officials, Obama has licensed the bungling robber barons who managed to gamble away the loot amassed in their attempt to fleece the world to recoup their squandered booty by "borrowing" from the taxpayers and homeowners (lots of them former homeowners by now) the money that they failed to grab the first time -- and then lending, with interest, the borrowings back to them!

But that’s just abomination No. 1 from this year-long experiment in reverse-progressivism that no new belated "tax" on Wall Street fortunes can hope to render more acceptable. There’s also the nearly trillion-dollar jobs program that set a new record for high-speed wealth destruction through widespread cronyism, sham accounting and bureaucratic self-enrichment. The effort climaxed in a propaganda fest touting the countless positions that it created (but really, upon investigation, didn’t create; or certainly not in the numbers that were announced) while also taking credit for all the jobs that still existed but hypothetically wouldn't exist if the whole failed project hadn’t been tried.

And then there's the war, that enormous bloody befuddlement that we’re both ramping up and winding down at the very same time, supposedly. And, last but not least in this Orwellian roll call, we have the so-called healthcare bill -- if "bill" is actually the word for a document that has grown longer than Dickens' "Bleak House" and whose major theme, like the great novel's, is man's apparently infinite capacity for turning the pursuit of justice into an endless legalistic entanglement whose origins are eventually forgotten, whose purposes are devoured by its procedures, and whose chief outcome, one can be assured, will be to lay the groundwork for years of further conflict and confusion, by which time the parties present at the beginning will all be in their graves -- and grateful for it.

All the televised golfing didn't help much, either. 

Walter Kirn is a novelist, essayist and literary critic. The movie "Up in the Air," now in theaters, is based on his novel of the same name.

Walter Kirn

Walter Kirn is the author of the novels "Up in the Air" and "Thumbsucker" and the nonfiction book "Lost in the Meritocracy." His blog is Walter Kirn's Permanent Morning.

MORE FROM Walter Kirn

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Barack Obama Obama's First Year