"Ultimately, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. We will rise or we will fall together as one nation." — President Obama, Remarks by the President on Wall Street Reform, Cooper Union, New York, New York, April 22, 2010.
"We didn't become the most prosperous country in the world just by rewarding greed and recklessness. We didn't come this far by letting the special interests run wild. We didn't do it just by gambling and chasing paper profits on Wall Street. We built this country by making things, by producing goods we could sell. We did it with sweat and effort and innovation. (Applause.) We did it on the assembly line and at the construction site." — President Obama, Remarks by the President at Laborfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 6, 2010.
This is really something. Speaking in New York to an audience that includes financial industry executives, Mr. Obama assures everyone that "there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street." Speaking in Wisconsin to an audience of labor union members and leaders, Mr. Obama draws a distinction between, on the one hand, "gambling and chasing paper profits on Wall Street" and, on the other hand, "making things...on the assembly line and at the construction site."
This Wall Street-Main Street distinction that President Obama first denied and now, sadly, is engaging in is a historically freighted and highly problematic one, as we discussed here in the review of the book Capitalism and the Jews.
It also raises the question — if Wall Street profits are based on greed, recklessness, gambling, and chasing paper profits, what does that say about Mr. Obama's chairman of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers, who earned $5.2 million a year for his one-day-a-week job at the D.E. Shaw hedge fund? Or about Mr. Obama's White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who earned $16.2 million for his two-and-a-half year stint as managing director in the Chicago office of Wasserstein, Perella? Or about Mr. Obama's new director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Jacob Lew, who took home $1.1 million in compensation from Citigroup during 2008 and the first two weeks of January 2009, as the bank was receiving taxpayer assistance? Were Mr. Summers, Mr. Emanuel, and Mr. Lew being rewarded for greed and recklessness, gambling, and chasing paper profits? Or were they making things on an assembly line or at a construction site? If you follow the false dichotomy of Mr. Obama's Laborfest speech, those are the two choices.
I haven't seen anyone in the press yet call Obama on his flip-flop.