Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jake's Word re: The Blame Game, Part Two

(A response to Jack Random's The Blame Game - Part Two, The Trillion Dollar Gambit: Corporate Socialism. Reprinted below.)

If only one - one - a number that even George W. Bush can count in his sleep - if only one of the so-called pundits, experts and economists spoke or wrote with the clarity and precision that you employ the people of this nation might actually wake from their media induced stupor and take action.

The problem is that I don't think any of the experts can see the situation as clearly as you do. Or perhaps they are being paid too well to see beyond the veil of phony finances that have been the pillar of fat that has supported this fictional economy since it was sold lock, stock and barrel during the first oil crisis.

There are some of us that remember it all too well because just as we were learning to drive and getting our first cars we found ourselves in long lines waiting to pay double or triple what we would have paid only a few months before. Nixon, for his crimes, was trying to dodge the law by manipulating the justice system. He was pulling remedies for the economy out of his back pocket that only Stalin or Castro would have dreamed of before him. Price freezes. A free-market, anti-communist was making executive decisions in all directions like a dictator. Congress was reeling. This man after all had just been re-elected by a huge margin. Not until the evidence was so obvious that it had become common currency did they act. Too little and too late.

By the time he left office Nixon had cut a deal with Chairman Mao that opened the door to economic prosperity - for China. About that same time the standard of living in terms of real dollars and wages, genuine wealth, peaked for the middle class. The rich continued to get richer and the poor could continue to make do with the scraps, but for the majority the grand promise of post-war prosperity hit a wall. It has never recovered.

There was the boom of the 80s in which the national debt sky rocketed to pay the price of rockets and bombs for a cold war that could only become hot at the expense of the end of the world.

The taxpayers had to pony up for that one during the first Bush administration. Bush himself paid with the loss of the election. The neocons never forgot that lesson. They determined to invent a new set of lies for the New World Order.

Enter The Project for a New American Century where the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz laid plans for the invasion of Iraq, the domination of the Middle East by force and the extension of Pax Americana (the term is used in one of the articles at their website).

Meanwhile the Clinton administration witnessed the longest economic expansion in the nation's history. Never mind that it was financed by an explosion of cheap, and often worthless, imports and the wildest level of speculation that Wall Street had ever seen. Suddenly it seemed the budget was balanced and everybody wanted to take credit.

Credit is the key word because that was how the whole thing was financed. Internet companies were making billions of dollars based on what their profits would be in the future. Every new retirement plan added a 401(k) option. We'd become a nation of gamblers. When the Treasury Department informed the President that many of the CEOs salaries were based on this kind of speculation and that it was in fact illegal, Clinton chose not to enforce the law. Why rain on his own parade? Especially at a time when he was being impeached by a Republican congress for things that had nothing to do with government, the economy or anything else that would have effected the future of any family in the U.S. outside his own.

By the time the towers fell and revealed the staggering amount of corruption that fueled companies like Enron and MCI, the dim-witted son of the former president had seized the oval office on the backs of a cabal of his father's friends including those Pax America fellows.

Eight years on and we hear an ironically familiar song from that administration. This time they are warning us of a complete economic meltdown. Suddenly, the crisis is obvious. Even the opposition party is scrambling to get in line to vote in favor of the solution. No one wants to be left to blame when the world comes to an end - whether it be an immediate and inevitable assault by terrorists or the collapse of every financial institution in the country. Such is the price of deceit. The first time around we were told a lie and we, and the future generations, will pay at least a trillion dollars for it. Now they come from another direction asking for another trillion.

Should we believe them? Indeed as you make so clear, what happens if the Chinese government, the EU and the others who are financing this debt decide to collect the debt sooner than we are able to repay it?

A few years ago Gore Vidal said that one day the debt collectors would come for their money and the American Empire would be over.

Death always comes too soon. No matter what age, you'll always ask for another day. Not today, perhaps next month or next year, any time but now.

The corporate elite and the government they bought with our money are telling us today is the day unless we pay up. Why should we believe them? Simple. Just as before the question hangs over us - what if they are right? We won't know until the money has been committed, the election is over, and everyone at the top of the heap is once again raking in profits at historic levels. Whether those profits are here, in China, India, Europe or all over the world makes no difference to them.

Thanks again for yet another in a long, powerful string of essays that keep us on our toes with eyes wide open.


Jake Berry

(Author of Brambu Drezi, Liminal Blue and other works of extraordinary insight.)


The Blame Game – Part Two

By Jack Random

On September 19, 2008 the government announced what amounts to a trillion dollar bailout of the corporate empire. It was denounced in some quarters as corporate socialism.

Corporate socialism is an oxymoron. What kind of socialism nationalizes the debt of private enterprise without nationalizing the profits? What kind of socialism assumes liability without assuming assets?

Whatever this is it is not corporate socialism.

Overnight the national debt grew by a trillion dollars – from 9.6 to 10.6 trillion.

What happened?

The ultimate dream of the Adam Smith Free Marketeers, an unconstrained and deregulated marketplace, ran us straight over a cliff. Rather than sit and watch tragedy unfold as their philosophy mandates, they have chosen to enact the largest government intervention since Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.

This time, instead of infusing the economy with capital from the ground up, they are robbing the victims (all of us) to save the Robber Barons.

All the economists agree it is necessary and there is no alternative. I would feel more secure if all the economists saw this crisis approaching.

What happens next?

Having transferred a trillion dollars of debt from private corporations to the government, it is the government that is now at risk. The implications are profound.

Our exploding debt is being financed by foreign nations including China, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia and the European Union.

For the first time in our history we have handed the fate of the nation to another country and we all know who it is: China. The same China that steals our jobs, depresses our wages and displays such a disturbing lack of government regulation that Chinese industries have sought to increase profits by adding a toxic chemical to baby formula and lead to the paint on toys for tots.

We cannot trust China to do what we have failed to do (regulate our industries) but we have no choice. They own us. It is unlikely for now that China will bite the hand that feeds them but if the debt continues to mount, they will have no choice. Nothing in China’s history suggests that they would hold on to a drowning man.

The markets soared on the news of the great government bailout – as well they should. We have removed risk from the marketplace. It is a phenomenon that violates the essential core of a free market economy. Suspending the practice of selling short (betting on a stock to go down) is also against the tenets of a free market. Installing brakes on sell orders during a fall (after a 1987 crash) is also antithesis to the free market ideal.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (enacted after the Bush infected Enron scandal) sought to bring transparency and accountability to corporate accounting. Applied to the current crisis, it actually might have helped but it was also against the free market mandate, which is why it was never enforced by the Bush regime.

So it seems the free market is not so sacrosanct after all. Wall Street likes a fixed market: Heads we win, tails you lose. We are all regulators now. Government intervention will be employed with reckless abandon whenever the corporate giants come calling.

It is an outrage that the American people must pay a second time for this trillion-dollar train wreck. We paid once with our homes, our home values, our defaults and our debt. (Is this what the president meant when he asked us to go shopping after 9-11? Remember the president’s Ownership Society?) Now we will pay again and the bills keep coming.

It was a failed strategy of the corporate elite that caused this crisis and it was never intended to benefit anyone but their own. This is the nastiest part of this nightmare scenario: The guilty party has been richly rewarded for grossly irresponsible behavior.

It seems the only guilty party we can hold responsible is the “free-trade-free-market” politicians. They too have profited from this disaster. Contributions came with the package.

This means you: John McCain.

If you have ever witnessed your local politicians swooning over “deregulation” or trumpeting the virtues of “free trade,” it is time to give them what we can only dream: early retirement.

We don’t know where it ends but we do know who got us here.



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