In all the media and governmental talk about the depression we are in there is a curious assumption of priorities. Why is it domestic spending on services and benefits to The People of the United States that are considered to be the optional frills? Why is it that spending on healthcare, environmental preservation, education, programs preventing or alleviating poverty, housing, etc. are the things that are held up to the coldest of lights and the first things that “have to be cut”? I think we won’t get out of this without facing up to the very unpleasant truth that we can’t afford the overhead that our elites have erected and I don’t mean Social Security and the such.
Let’s put a few of the details of that overhead on the table for examination and ask about those.
Military spending, and I don’t mean support for the troops. The People of the United States cannot police the world. First, our spotty history of sending in our military with the motive of doing actual good to people in other countries disqualifies our various elites from the position. That is the moral disqualification and the most important. The practical one is that we’re broke. We can’t sustain that position no matter how much those elites and Hollywood enjoy the idea that we can control the world. After the two wars under the Bush years and the debts incurred by theft, incompetence and criminal ambition in Iraq and to a lesser extent in Afghanistan we are ruined. And notice where the bulk of that treasure was spent, in the country which so conspicuously didn’t attack us. You have to wonder what we’ve got left to conduct even a defense if there is another attack on us.
The idea that the United States can unilaterally end evil in other countries is a delusion. A delusion on top of the one which holds that is what our military has been used for in every instance. We start out with the decided disadvantage of not living in those places and having a direct ability to govern them. We can’t determine the governments that are possible and behavior of the people who can. We have severely limited abilities to change bad behavior in the corruptible governments that have been bought. We definitely have limited abilities to rapidly change the cultures which lead to bad behavior. Look how long it takes to make that kind of change in our own country.
Most apropos to us who write for this blog is that the ability of the United States to affect the continuing oppression of women in the two countries we invaded during the past decade is clearly limited. The evidence is that the position of women in Iraq has plummeted due to the invasion and change of government. The position of women in Afghanistan might be more mixed but from what I understand, the women in Afghanistan didn’t enjoy anywhere near the freedom or benefits that they had under the former Iraqi regime. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator but in the context of Islamic countries, his regime was relatively good for women. Clearly the facts of that context matters for the position of women in that country. George Bush didn’t invade on behalf of women there. The pretext that Bush and, more to the point, Cheney cared about the status of women in Iraq was the emptiest of PR.
Bailing out the financial sector is another area which it is understood comes before the direct welfare of The People. That is an unspoken assumption among of our elites, most aggravatingly, in our media elite. Notice who has gotten dibs when it comes to spending in this economic collapse. The bankers, the insurance companies and Wall Street. Notice that it was the stimulus bill intended to benefit us directly as well as the domestic spending in the appropriations bill that was the occasion of deepest scrutiny and objection. Notice what programs are called “entitlements” in a clear attempt to elicit envious criticism of them. In the emergency adoption of the TARP program, at the most urgent insistence of the Bush Treasury department, there were some unstated truths. Things were falling apart. Credit was freezing and with that the entire funding base for the economy was going to go. That was considered an acute emergency, action on which was unquestioned. The continuing, even chronic emergency of the uninsured, the ill housed, the ill educated, the financially ruined citizens of the country, are optional and of little interest to our real governing elites.
I don’t think much more of that is sustainable, certainly not now that the media have finally noticed that the thieves are stealing a not inconsiderable part of the money that has already been given to them. It is interesting and was entirely predictable that it wasn’t the money handed over to them during the Bush administration that is getting the most mention but that’s not the point of this piece. Considering how much money AIG was given by Bernanke and the FED without congressional approval, you would think he’d be in more hot water than Geithner and Summers over it. Though any criticism of Democrats who protected the bonuses of those crooks is earned and should be taken as such.
But in the renewed interest by our media in looking at the ugly truth of our economic elite, we need to go a lot deeper than the easily understood and relatively petty scandals.
In the crisis adoption of TARP there seemed to be a fear of calling the situation what it was, the collapse of the financial system. Calling it what it was would cause panic which would make the collapse worse. It could have killed off the all important Christmas season spending which, it was hoped, was already starting. And that wasn’t to mention the election. Not being a fan of denial of reality, I thought the opposite was necessary. We needed to know how bad things had been allowed to get under deregulation and other assumed boons of market capitalism. And there was nothing that needed to be known more than how much money had been stolen and who stole it.
I got the feeling that there was an unmentionable aspect of treat in the situation, unstated blackmail which explains a lot about the behavior of otherwise good and sensible members of congress. I got the feeling that the people in control of the financial industry would crash the economy, holding it hostage if they didn’t get what they wanted. What they wanted was, clearly, the rest of the money. Facing the prospect of possibly heading off, perhaps an even greater depression and the certain disaster to their constituents Democratic members of congress cooperated with Paulson and others they had no reason to trust based on ideology and past performance.
Faced with Republican opposition and opportunism, they clearly have done some bad things out of necessity. Trusting the likes Paulson was one of those. But even that folly pales in comparison to two others. Believing that bankers and other executives would do the right thing was one of those. With what they’ve observed in the past six months from the highest reaches of management, that is a delusion that should be dead. The managers don’t even care about their companies, never mind the country. They’ve rigged things so they benefit no matter how badly they damage both. The other is that conservatives in business, finance, the media or in the government itself, are patriotic enough to put country over personal benefit.
The cold truth is, neither the fat cats, nor their conservative assets in the government, actually care about the country. That is except as a PR slogan. That is if by “the country” you mean The People of the United States, the land and environment that we depend on for our lives. That is the true meaning of the period of conservative ascendancy and dominance. They have changed the meaning of “The United States” away democratic idealism to the empty and dishonest rhetoric of an imperial oligarchy. They have created a fictitious cover of televised glamor and feigned glory to cover up sordid, systematic theft and negligence. And, holding the media, controlling the message, they can thwart even the best of our elected leaders.
I don’t think we can afford this elite anymore than we can another unprovoked military adventure. Considering that the big bang of exploding debt is largely caused by them and on their behalf, that the invasion of Iraq was for their benefit and its massive thefts their direct benefit, we clearly can’t afford the wealthy elite we’ve got.
By “we” I mean us, the ones who are supposed to really own the United States and its government. That our government puts our needs behind the insatiable greed of the economic elite is the clearest of all signs that our legal and governmental system is entirely gone awry. That our clearest needs and our ability to force our government to address those needs are constantly undermined by the mass media is the fact that they are the servants of that economic elite. The judiciary and legal orthodoxy which enforces a system that protects both a lying, propagandistic media and the direct theft of our money is another basic aspect of the ruin of our country and our lives.
The crumbling empire is not The real United States, it is not a country created by the more idealistic of our founders and the continuing, two-hundred plus years of struggle by our democratic idealists. It is not the country we have a stake in. It is the product of an elite supported by the various elites in even our most would-be scared institutions. It is imposed on us through a system of phony PR and corroded piety. It has been propped up with legal rulings by a distant and compromised judiciary and hireling crooks in the legislative and executive branches. It is crumbling and those very elites it is created for are sticking us with the cleanup and the bills into the distant future. We have got to face that truth and find the real United States which is OUR country. We’ve got to give up the flickering, celluloid delusion and embrace the hard work of that real country.
I believe that President Obama will have to face up to this and abandon the present course, I think that the proposed solutions of the Treasury and others will not be even legislatively sustainable. President Obama was not elected to keep the horrible truth from us, he was elected to tell it and to deal with the consequences.
In my more suspicious moments, I think the timing of this financial crisis was too just a bit too convenient. By the time it was announced, well into everything falling apart, it was pretty clear the Bush era wouldn't be continuing under John McCain. Things were almost certainly going to change. The massive change necessary to address the common good of The People, the chance that Barack Obama might do that most horrible of all things, govern on behalf of the common people, is most certainly not what our elites really want.
I expect that eventually there might be evidence that supports that suspicion, though it is possible that the timing was just how things happened. It certainly made President Obama’s agenda a lot harder to achieve. Our stake is in his administration, our right is to pressure him and his administration, as well as our representatives in congress and the balky Senate to put our needs before the crooks in the financial sector. And the judges, those who can be counted on to observe executive contracts even as they abridge those of fire fighters and teachers, have to feel the full pressure on them to serve The People. They, no less than the meanest member of congress or town official, are paid to be PUBLIC SERVANTS. It's time the judges are required to serve us and not who has the most money.
Ultimately, it is our most basic civic responsibility to insist on our needs, on the needs of the entire population of the country be served. We are the real foundation of the government, not those we hire. We have seen the results when we don’t insist on our rightful priority. As good Americans, assuming THAT burden of self-government should be a welcomed relief, a justification of well earned self-respect for doing what is really essential.