By Thomas Jude Germinario
“All and all can only fall with a crashing but meaningless blow …”
-- Bob Dylan, “The Gates of Eden”
The government and their mouthpieces in the corporate media would like us to believe that the current financial crisis is hopelessly complex and inscrutable, and that we “common people” had best forego and effort to understand it and instead entrust our economic security to the “experts”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The current crisis has been caused by the gradual whittling away of economic democracy in this country, with the levers of economic power increasingly concentrated in the hands of a corrupt oligarchy that has nothing but disdain for the welfare of the American people.
Of course, none of this can be understood without a bit of historical context, so let’s look back to the last time America suffered such a financial calamity. For the past three decades, America has experienced a new “Gilded Age”, during which society has become increasingly stratified between the mega-wealthy and everyone else. Not surprisingly, that same phenomenon led up to the Great Depression of the 1930s. America “prospered” in the 1920s, just as it has “prospered” in last few decades, but with virtually all of the benefit of this “prosperity” accruing to a tiny elite.
In both instances, investment was increasingly channeled into speculation rather than expansion of economic output and production. That’s because real economic expansion, as opposed to a speculative “bubble”, requires some degree of equity in the distribution of wealth. If middle class incomes remain flat, as they have over the past three decades, then the domestic market needed to absorb the output of a real economic expansion just can’t sustain itself over the long term. In the short term, this problem can be masked by reliance on credit to keep the engine of consumption running. It can also be temporarily ameliorated by expansion into foreign markets under the banner of “globalization”. But in the end, globalization just succeeds in tying the whole world economy into one rotten foundation of bad debt and wild speculation, which is why we now see the expanding ripples of this financial crisis taking down entire nations.
So it’s not like the current crisis came “out of left field” and surprised everyone, as the talking heads on the boob tube would have us believe. You’d have to be a complete idiot to believe that U.S. Treasury put together a $700 billion bail-out plan in a few days! All of these “rescue plans” we’re now seeing have been sitting on the shelf for a long time, waiting to be deployed when the predictable financial debacle finally unfolded.
It seems that each day a new and more ambitious “rescue plan” in unveiled, and yet – paradoxically – the financial markets respond to the “rescue” by sinking ever more precipitously. Why? Because the corrupt oligarchy is “cashing out” of the American economy on a massive scale. The money that our government is throwing at the Wall Street swindlers is NOT going to be used to restore economic stability. Instead, what we’re seeing is a mad rush by these crooks to stash the loot in “safe” – meaning unproductive – investments like precious metals and Treasury notes.
The crash that we’re in right now can only be reversed by a new New Deal. FDR brought this country out of the Great Depression not by bailing out sleazy bankers, but by funding massive public works projects, many of which still function today as the bedrock of our infrastructure. Public works investment will create real economic assets, not more lining for a rich man’s mattress. It will put money into the hands of the middle and working class people who will actually spend it and thereby stimulate economic growth.
Instead of buying up debt, the government should be cancelling it and freeing the middle class from the virtual peonage into which we’ve sunk in last 30 years. But doesn’t that violate the Wall Street oligarchs’ property rights? Yes, and when Lincoln emancipated the slaves, he violated the property rights of the plantation oligarchs too. The typical American bears a crushing burden of debt that has nothing to do with an extravagant lifestyle, but is imposed on us because we, citizens of the “wealthiest country in the world”, are forced to pay obscene sums of money for health care and education which citizens of other “less fortunate” countries enjoy as a matter of right.
There can be no political democracy without economic democracy. The legacy of the New Deal was an American society with economic equity, strong trade unions, and a large, secure middle class. But the remnants of the New Deal have been under assault for the past three decades, and now we’re experiencing the upshot of that folly. If we don’t turn this ship around, but fast, there’s only one way this thing can go – and it’s called FASCISM. Fascism is more than a nutty dictator with a Chaplinesque mustache stomping around in jackboots. In economic terms, Fascism is a Corporate State, in which Big Business and Big Government merge to form Big Brother. That’s what we’re seeing happen before our eyes right now. National Socialism is “socialism for the rich”. Risk is socialized, but profit is not. The Wall Street oligarchs take charge of the U.S. Treasury and go to the casino with our money in their pockets. If they’re lucky, they keep their winnings; if they crap out, we pick up the tab.
Oh yes, and when the oligarchs feel the need to expand their casino to foreign shores, we’ll have the honor of giving the blood of our sons and daughters for the “greater good”. After all, when the Commander-in-Chief is also the Chairman of the Board, how can we refuse to do his/her bidding?
We’re at the top of a very slippery slope right now. If we, the people of America, don’t assert ourselves to reverse this vile juggernaut very soon, we’ll soon be under the heel of a monstrous apparatus of iniquity such as the world has never seen.
In the darkest hours of the Great Depression, FDR told the American people that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear makes us powerless. It divides us against one another and leaves us isolated and abandoned. Be wary of those who would appeal to your fears in this hour of crisis. We are not powerless. The government can do nothing without our cooperation. If we resist in a broad unified way, we can still stop the neo-Fascists. As always in history, the young are showing us the way, with their bold “occupations” throughout this country. The time has come for all of us to echo the passionate outcry of Mario Savio:
There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.