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Peggy Noonan asks why the clever young people in charge of the Obama administration fail to notice how much the rest of us are hurting:

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren’t they worried about the impact of what they’re doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they’ve never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don’t have the habit of worry. They talk about their “concerns”—they’re big on that word. But they’re not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa’s lap.

They don’t feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—”strongest nation in the world,” “indispensable nation,” “unipolar power,” “highest standard of living”—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

We are governed at all levels by America’s luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they’re not optimists—they’re unimaginative. They don’t have faith, they’ve just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don’t mind it when people become disheartened. They don’t even notice.

The sort of people who govern America are the investment-banking, private-equity, law-firm elite who have turned the financial system into an oligopoly dominated by a handful of players with an inside track from the federal government, either in the form of preferential financing or direct bailouts. I am not sure that the worthy Ms. Noonan has gotten it right. They seem less complacent to me than predatory. The entrepreneurial class—the outsiders, wannabees, local boosters, and promoters— has been wiped out in the present crisis as surely as Stalin killed off the kulaks. Bear Stearns was a Republican firm that specialized in mortgages because one didn’t need old-boy connections to get into that market. I worked there in its scrappiest days, and can report that it was the nastiest as well as the most honest place I passed through on Wall Street: its managers were convinced that no mercy would be shown them if anything went wrong, unlike their WASP competitors. Of course, they turned out to be correct.

The concentration of financial assets and financial power today is without precedent, and the last men standing after the bloodbath will make more money than ever.  “Callous” is the least of it.




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