Saturday, September 25, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Anyone who can see through the skin deep rationales from the small government ideologues knows that it's easy to stir up anger at government overspending by blaming socialism and other ominous progressive conspiracies. The caricature rings too true in the case of the Medicare recipient who blames overspending on everyone else's programs while he defends that his benefits should be untouchable. The blame for overspending is always someone else's. We want our services as long as someone else pays for it.
The truth is simple. Government is not growing into a socialistic centrally controlled economy. In fact the large government initiatives that built the infrastructure of this country have no parallel today, except in the case of military spending (ignored and untouchable in the right wing paranoid mind set). The cost of government is largely calculated through a misleading and questionable accounting fallacy. Most of the so called "cost of government" is in fact absorbed by programs that pour the funds right back into the economy, and not to support fat salaries of fat cat civil servants. In fact the most material motivation civil servants might have is the possibility of incurring favor with the "private sector" plutocrats that might one day return the favor (a form of delayed bribery, which is nonetheless corrupt). Medicare and Social Security are the largest and growing sector of the federal budget. That, at least, is not a fact in dispute.
Right wing conservatives hiding under the mantle of fiscal responsibility launch attacks on those institutions that provide a measure of safety to the most vulnerable in our society - a requirement of a civilized society. They point at the cost of these programs as the reason for the shrinking wealth of the middle class, burdened by high taxes. Meanwhile we see the rise of a gilded class of short term gamblers who are driven by greed to put our economy on a self destructive race to short term fortune hunting. We see our financial institutions pull the world to the edge of catastrophe moved by executive swindlers who will gladly pursue their destructive strategies with the calculation that their fortunes will be well consolidated in time to step out of the game when the inevitable collapse comes.
The reality that is screaming to be recognized is that, when a society as rich as ours allows such concentration of wealth, it places a heavy burden on the individual, who faces the opportunity of outrageous wealth, to act in a way that is inconsiderate of the values that keep us together as members of a community, Americans, or members of the human family. Most, if not all, will take the mammoth payoff without as much as a moment of annoying ethical second guessing. Isn't the market telling them they deserve it all? Aren't they the smartest ones who are doing God's work, God being the "free market" whose invisible hand touches us all in our pockets? I know He's been in my pocket, but, for the anointed, He has been showering them with limitless asset blessings. The truth is that faced with such adulation from an ideology that idolizes wealth, and the opportunity to a lifestyle beyond any conceivable dream of the average person, these people act, understandably, in a pattern that can only be categorized as sociopathic. Undoubtedly they are as impotent to change their fate as anyone facing the same promise of blissful opulence, with as many exceptions as there were anti-Nazi activists in 1939
If we look at the numbers we see a well documented trend towards wealth concentration that has been blessed by an ideology of paralyzing complacency. This ideology of greed, masquerading as free-enterprise, has us paralyzed in the face of the inevitable self-destruction that is firmly planted in our path. We came very close to irreversible catastrophe which receded only by patching the losses of the big financial behemoths at the expense of Average Joe taxpayer. It was simply another step towards higher inequality where the wealthiest Americans will have us all blackmailed anytime their losses hurt for compensation. And all we have to do is pay up. In that ratchet game, when the economy goes up, they get all the gains, when it goes down we get the losses. That is how we have come to fatten their slice of the pie by taking away from the rest of us (top 1% tripled their after tax income from 8% to 24%, from 1981 to 2006) while their share of taxes actually gets transferred to the Middle Class (one third of it in the same 25 years).
As we are all getting poorer, with standard of living standing still only by switching to two-wage earner families since the 70's (cost of labor peaked in 1972) a few get outrageously rich by literally having their hands in our pockets. Like the saying goes: we rob banks because that's where the money is, and it's been revealed in our times that the easiest way to rob a bank is to own one.
While our manufacturing economy shrinks, the financial services industry explodes, consuming the larger part of our wealth. The top six banks used to have a capitalization equivalent to 17% of GDP but now they add up to 60% of GDP. They fail and we all go down, or so they want us to believe. The process of saving them requires the Fed to provide liquidity (loan them money at 0% interest) while they turn that money back around to buy government debt at 4%-5%, gobbling billions without creating one cent of value. The creative technological advances that provide the life blood to the manufacturing industry, the machine that creates value, keeps shrinking, while these "financial services" serve themselves of anything that they can get their hands on: our savings, our pensions (where else are pension funds, 401-ks, IRAs, going to look for protection from the shrinking value of the dollar? Capital markets are the answer). The only argument in favor of maintaining this structure in place is the impossible-to-rebate ideology that the market is infallible and our only hope for the survival of the uber-efficient capitalist system.
So when we look at government and its size, it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we can't afford Social Security and Medicare, which are pushing us toward bankruptcy. No! These services are a small measure of necessary redistribution required for survival of a system that gives all the winnings to the very few, as if the rest of us who work hard and in many cases create real wealth are in fact a burden and not the real toilers on whose backs the gilded profiteers slide along oblivious of humanity in their ungodly deception of godly aspiration.
It's not the Postal worker, or the fire fighter, or even the maligned DMV worker that is costing us our mortgaged future. It is this class made of hubris and arrogance, and mostly human frailty, that is at once the product and the agent of a capitalistic dream's delusion of grandeur. A capitalism on crack that will shower the greedy with the gold transmuted from the toil of the large American masses, and the blood of the faceless masses of an even more remote world of "terrorism and anti-American rage". Just step back for a moment and see what your eyes are trying to tell you. Add a little common sense to the facts that even Fox News millionaire populists can't obscure, and without the contortions of the misinformation antics that assail us every time we turn to Rah-Rah media, things will start making sense.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Suddenly, after 8 years of gutting the ship of state, the Right is impatient with the trim of the sails. Here's to reviving memories!
Prompted by questions about an insinuation I made regarding the Bush administration I find myself writing a longer answer than I initially intended, in my compulsion to clarify my own mind about the history. In a few hours I tried to put a few ideas together to describe how I came to understand that the Bush administration had followed a formula that Madison had warned us about: "If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."
Just relying on memory of the chain of events I tried to find links of pages documenting them. Maybe the dots can be connected differently, but my interpretation is coherent with the facts. I have not cherrypicked facts to make my point because I know of no facts that contradict my narrative, I simply googled some of the events I mention to facilitated anyone's investigation of these facts. In any case it is easy enough to do further research online, whether the intent is to support or contradict this interpretation.
Many people believe that 9/11 was the result of a willful neglect of warnings that an attack was about to happen. There are many indications that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and influential neo-cons wanted an excuse to go into Iraq from the first day in office (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/09/60minutes/main592330.shtml ). As outrageous as it sounds it is not much of a stretch compared to tactics used in the past by overzealous right-wingers such as in the Iran-Contra scandal. As it turns out they did use 9/11 as an excuse to go into Iraq by exaggerating non-existent threats. In the process they declared a war against a ghost country/army - Terror - and created a bloody conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed the livelihood of millions, all at a safe distance that could be witnessed on TV by a horrified but untouched populace. The argument that we were at war was used successfully, combined with voting shenanigans http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen), to re-elect Bush in 2004.
In the 8 years of that administration billions of tax-payer funds were used to bribe occupation collaborators in Iraq (http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132x1550912 ). Billions were awarded in contracts to Halliburton, KBR, and organizations that sprouted out of the blue to fill the need to stir the pot of terror with mercenaries hired in Peru, Chile, Central America (http://www.worldpress.org/Americas/2853.cfm ). The lives of our military were gambled away on a battlefield so frivolously created, while back home traumatized young veterans' suicide rate shot up to 6000 per year as the war went on (http://www.wpxi.com/health/22206480/detail.html ). Meanwhile the propaganda machine touted the dangers of a color coded Terror threat to keep the public in fear and in line. More people were at risk of choking on a pretzel than from terror attacks at home over all those years. But the merchants of war had their endless orgy of profits, and this country, that hasn't had a real war in it's mainland for over 200 years, spread terror and death among millions of brown people, on the opposite side of the world. They stirred up the hordes of those who understandably hate us and therefore enlarged immeasurably the numbers of potential recruits to the cause of anti-Americanism. There was Abu Graib, Guantanamo, illegal torture (to be redundant) perpetrated in the name of the American people. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jNCvoPHgjZpDTm4VC-gaz2XbWx0Q ). This process made us more likely targets of a threat that appears to be initially neglected and subsequently carefully nurtured, judging from the results.
Undoubtedly the war business was a success for enriched arms merchants (including some of the largest corporations in America that would presumably bankroll the Republican Party ad infinitum). The depletion of our treasury was useful in other ways. The debasing of government offered more opportunities for privatization of any operation that could yield profits for the corporate moguls. There was a great plan to dig into the Social Security funds and enrich the hunting grounds of Wall Street predators. Taking money from unprepared involuntary overnight investors would be like shooting fish in a barrel. But the memory of 2001-2002 crash and the corporate fraud scandals from Enron to WorldCom were still fresh in people's minds and that effort thankfully failed. Yet, the credulous mobs nurtured by the religious right were mostly appeased with the version of facts presented by a president that they identified with. He was one of them, a man on a Christian mission. As Aristotle warned: “A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious.”
And while he did the PR work Bush's brain, as Carl Rove came to be known, conspired with the “dark side” in Cheney's office to persecute political foes, by hook or crook. Where the US Attorney was ready to collaborate in the witch hunt Democratic foes were taken down. A governor election was overturned in the dark of the night after the winner had been declared (Alabama) and the presumed winner was thrown in solitary confinement for months without the ability to contact his own wife and lawyer (http://www.donsiegelman.org/pages/MAIN/aboutdon.html ). Where the US attorney was not cooperative he was thrown out, accused of incompetence, and replaced with a “true believer”. (http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2008/06/04/looking-back-on-the-justice-department-scandal.html ).
Under cover of war powers (even a war that had been invented by them) the administration found ways to get around courts and infringe on the rights of any and all citizen by collecting phone call recordings into the huge NSA databases in collusion with corporate telecom giants, such as AT&T. Again corporate America and the “permanent majority” party scratched each other's backs (http://news.cnet.com/AT38T-leaks-sensitive-info-in-NSA-suit/2100-1028_3-6077353.html).
All this was part of a grand plan for 100 years of Republican majority. Tom Delay the majority leader who scruplelessly ruled the House rigged the redistricting in his home state to bar any chance of opposition representatives being elected. He twisted arms to pass a deficit busting bill in the middle of the night giving the pharmaceutical companies a sweetheart deal (http://securingamerica.com/ccn/node/7827 ) saddling seniors with the perplexing “donut hole”, and adding Big Pharma to the list of political supporters. He was unable to finish his term leaving under a cloud of perfidious indictment for bribes and lobbying deals with tearfull lobbyists that for so long had operated above the law. Rumsfeld was discarded as a face saving act from Bush after the debacle of the 2006 elections, as the failures of Katrina brought to the surface the true incompetent nature of this government. The people started questioning the trust they had bestowed on this man that they believed had been chosen by God. Reality started infringing on the fictional story that had been manufactured to disguise the simple goal of this team: permanent and total power.
The castle of cards started to crumble. It was a downhill ride all the way to the end. Democracy bobbed back up, partly saved by a disaster brought about by the incompetence of those who so recently saw themselves as permanent masters of our destiny.