Nothing to Get Angry About

Government-sponsored reports just came out concerning the causes of the financial crash. Interestingly, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission came up with not one, not two, but three reports. NPR foolishly argues that the “reports differ more in style than substance” titling their story aired on Friday’s Morning Edition “The Crisis Reports: A Literary Analysis” (as if literary analysis deals only in style?). The news story then goes on to reveal that the reports (one from the majority democrats, one from the minority republicans, and one dissenting hold-out republican) didn’t differ on only style. Instead I want to point out that it is the style, in actuality, that reveals the very substantive ideological differences between them.

First, NPR gives us some interesting stats: the democratic report has an astounding 6711 footnote and is 500 pages long. The republican report is a measly 26 pages long with a pathetic 9 footnotes. Yes, 9 footnotes. Now, as a self-identified intellectual, perhaps I’m biased on this issue. But, it seems to me that the dissenting opinion to the majority report on the largest economic crash since the Great Depression should be just a tad longer than 26 pages? Assuming that the minority report is only a qualification of the majority, it takes more than 9 footnotes to refute 500 pages—that is, unless not drawing attention to why you’re really refuting the main report is part of the main objective.

Next, NPR runs through some of the evidence in each report (well, there isn’t much offered in the short report is there?). Despite the story’s thesis, reporter Alex Blumberg writes, “And the pages of the majority’s report are strewn with quotes from these interviews.” So, this is “style” over substance Alex? The minority report claims this evidence and data as mere “flourishes.” Really? If an undergraduate student of mine handed in a paper without evidence or data to support their claims, would I give them a good grade?

Now, I admit openly, I haven’t read either report yet. But I think there’s probably something good in those 6000-plus footnotes worth of evidence. And it sounds like it from the excerpts NPR provides.

The major point here is that the difference isn’t only in the form of the reports. It is the very style and content (or extreme lack thereof) that reveals part of the ideological gulf between them. The majority report seems to go to great pains to exposit why it blames various parties, that is, government regulators and private financial institutions (quibble with that as you will, as I do). The minority report, apparently agreeing with this part of the majority report’s position, does not try to explicate the why. Instead, it tries to claim that isn’t possible.

So herein lies the rub: “We conclude this financial crisis was avoidable”, writes the democratic majority. Republicans do not believe this, and thus their response. The majority opinion argues that humans have control over their surroundings, control over the political constructions they make and participate in. The second argues that you do not. Just accept your lot in life; there are powerful forces (Wall Street banks) outside of your control. Even really smart people couldn’t see it coming. In short, it implies, no one is to blame. Nothing to get angry about.

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