Daley is a Reflection, Not a Cause
Few things interest me less at this point than royal court personnel changes. I actually agree with the pro-Obama/Democratic-Party-loyal commentators who insist it doesn't much matter who becomes White House Chief of Staff because it's Obama who drives administration policy. Obama didn't do what he did in the first two years because Rahm Emanuel was his Chief of Staff. That view has the causation reversed: he chose Emanuel for that position because that's who Obama is. Similarly, installing JP Morgan's Midwest Chairman, a Boeing director, and a long-time corporatist -- Bill Daley -- as a powerful underling replacing Emanuel isn't going to substantively change anything Obama does. It's just another reflection of the Obama presidency, its priorities and concerns, and its overarching allegiances.
There's a section of my forthcoming book about the rule of law which examines the direct causal line between the vast number of Wall Street officials in key administration positions and the full-scale exemption from accountability which financial elites enjoy even for the most egregious lawbreaking. When you compile all of those appointments in one place, the absolute stranglehold large-scale corporate interests exert over virtually all realms of government policy is quite striking. But it's nothing more than what the economist Nouriel Roubini meant when he told the makers of the 2010 documentary "Inside Job" that Wall Street has "captured the political system" on "the Democratic and the Republican side" alike, or what Simon Johnson describes as "The Quiet Coup": "The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against" elite business interests.
Shipping in a JP Morgan executive to be White House Chief of Staff isn't a cause of any of this; it's just a nice symbol for what our political culture is, more than ever in the Era of Change. It's the other side of the revolving door that sent Peter Orszag to his multi-million-dollar a year reward at Citigroup for his 18 months in an administration which lavished that bank will all sorts of gifts. Getting exercised about Bill Daley's empowerment is like going to the beach and being angry that it's full of sand: this appointment is the inevitable by-product of the essence of Washington and of the Obama presidency. It's what they do and who they are. As Matt Stoller suggested, the most surprising thing about the Daley pick is that he has no Goldman Sachs experience.
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