Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Binnie's Missed Opportunity

In and out of the car on errands today, I picked up this exchange between NPR's Neal Conan and New Hampshire Senate candidate Bill Binnie:

CONAN: One last question - and I don't mean to be too flip, but you'd think the two things would be unpopular in this particular place and in this particular time in this country's history would be New York and stock exchange?

Mr. BINNIE: Well, I think that there's nothing wrong. I'm very proud of the fact that I built a business. ...

And so forth, blah blah in the same vein. Look,nobody ever paid (or would want to pay) me a nickel for political insight but would I be wrong to infer that Binnie blew a splendid opportunity here? Of course he's proud of his work as a businessman--and in New Hampshire, my guess is that it's saleable politics.But business is not finance. Shouldn't Binnie have said that yes indeed he was a businessman and that that is exactly why he knew how corrupt and predatory Wall Street finance can be? Shouldn't he be telling us that he is uniquely qualified to tell the voters just how anti-business finance has become, how suffocating is the weight of Wall Street as it sits on the heads of businessmen like him?

Sure, it is demagogy. But it has the virtue of being a very likely correct. Of course we need an effective banking system, and a functioning capital market. But lots of people who understand these things better than either Binnie or I do--lots of these people strongly suspect that the banking/finance system over the last, say, decade or so, has done more harm than good, has sucked more money out of the system than it has put back.

Binnie is hardly alone in missing this opportunity. I admit I haven't been paying careful attention but so far I haven't heard anybody trying to fashion the narrative into a pro-business, anti-finance kind of story. We've certainly done it before: depression rhetoric was built on exactly this distinction. Maybe Binnie has been so busy with his business that he never played a game of Monopoly.

1 comment:

elrojo said...

i worked in politics and congress for a long time and i say being a successful businessman is no qualification for being a legislator. parker griffith of alabama was a successful businessman and i guess he still is but he got the boot from his switched to GOP primary voters, after a miserable first term voting record. govt aint a business. it's more like a charity.