dimanche 27 mars 2011
The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
Failure and tragedy, like water, seek the path of least resistance. And it’s perhaps no coincidence that the words “trailer” and “failure” are almost perfect rhymes. In the American mind, the two are perfectly synonymous. That’s because we tend not to look beyond end results and aftermaths. We see trailer parks, tent cities, people living under bridges and think not “refugees” or “victims” but “failure.” Assumptions are dangerous but those of us who are more fortunate can live with that kind of danger. - Opening paragraph of my memoir, American Zen
To cite just one example, the relationship between Barack Obama and GE Chairman, CEO and Artful Tax Dodger Jeffrey Immelt is so close, it's a miracle Michelle Obama hasn't filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Indeed, when Obama turns over in bed at night, one can imagine his elbow hitting Immelt in the face.
Indeed, naming Immelt to head the president's commission on job creation seems like a sarcastic jibe or slap in the face: Immelt's GE has done more to ship US jobs overseas than almost any other corporation. This is necessary to a tax-dodging corporation that has to set up dummy and shell companies and incorporating overseas (such as Halliburton moving to Dubai), taking US jobs with it. Yet no one has ever dared suggest to Immelt that the first thing he should do as Job Czar is to bring GE jobs back to American shores.
And don't even think about criticizing either Immelt or GE for that paradox or you'll get publicly bitchslapped by Obama's circus Carney.
This is but one example of how thoroughly Corporate America has infiltrated the highest echelons of our government. If you need another to see this trend, look at Obama's new Chief of Staff, former JP Morgan Chase goon William Daley, a guy who made almost $9 million last year working for a mega bank that has done more than its fair share of throwing people out of their homes.
And if you need more examples of just how deeply Goldman Sachs, to name just one other mega bank, has both infiltrated and exfiltrated our government in some darkly comical musical jobs game, check out this CBS investigation that aired almost a year ago.
Our economy, to quickly and neatly unpack it and lay it on the bed, is based on fraud and corruption. There is hardly even the appearance of corporate accountability let alone any real accountability. Corporations with its greasy, grasping paws found in the cookie jar have but to pay up to 9 figure "fines" to the federal government and that money doesn't even come out of their pockets. It's often paid for by the shareholders and taxpayers they remorselessly ream on an hourly basis. Daley's old company, JP Morgan, also used that sleazy trick when they got hit with a $700,000,000 fine when Daley was working for them.
A survey released just last September found the gap between rich and poor in the US is the greatest than at any time in American history. And things aren't any better in China, where 130 billionaires live in what you would think is the last Communist stronghold on earth.
To paraphrase Lord Acton, Wealth corrupts and absolute wealth corrupts absolutely, regardless of nationality, political or economic ideology, whether you're a capitalist or Communist, human nature is easily corrupted by money and the impunity and insularity it all but guarantees.
But anyone raising the specter of class warfare is automatically letting themselves in for a right wing shouting-down of fomenting rumors of class warfare. Which isn't so much a rumor as a fallacy: In order to have a war, there has to be some parity. Otherwise you're not talking about a war but a brutal invasion and occupation.
Who knows where, how and when it started but between the time I was a young man and now, our national economy became one based on good and services to one based on debt. Lobbyists were always a problem in government until they ceased becoming a problem and became an accepted part of the legislative process. Suddenly, President Kennedy standing up to Big Steel seems like a fairy tale out of Camelot because one cannot imagine a chief executive today standing up to any corporation, especially one that had contributed heavily to his campaign.
Now, it's accepted that corporations such as GE not only should be allowed to essentially write self-dealing policies but that they pay not a single penny in taxes (in fact, Uncle Sam owes GE some $3.2 billion in tax breaks and deferments).
Now, it's accepted that internet providers get to essentially write policy and to cripple a compliant FCC and have its own self-dealing policies upheld by federal courts.
Now, it's accepted that bills such as the "Consumer Protection and Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention Act of 2005" are written not by Congress but by other self-dealing corporations such as credit card companies, banks and other lenders.
Now. it's accepted that some banks and corporations are too big to fail and ought to be bailed out to the tune of trillions with neither oversight, enforceable conditions nor accountability after almost literally tearing down not only America's but the world's financial market.
And it's accepted that public union workers, the elderly and the indigent will have to continue giving and giving in the community spirit of shared sacrifice while billionaires and multibillion dollar corporations continue to not pay a penny in taxes, that Social Security, Medicare and collective bargaining will have to be the first things to go.
Meanwhile, to show how much they care about us, the wealthy will continue snuggling up to the poor literally side by side almost as if to rub their grimy faces in it for not being rapacious, greedy or sociopathic enough to share in their good fortunes.
It's an infinitely complicated mess but the fallout isn't nearly as hard to see. The rich are simply getting richer while the poor are simply getting poorer. While John McCain, who married a $100,000,000 beer fortune with 110 pounds of flesh attached to it, can't remember how many houses he owns (10), low income and middle class families are getting kicked out by Sheriff's Departments for foreclosing on their one mortgage on the one house they own in which their children have grown up because usurious banks made them pie-in-the-sky no-money-down, low interest loans that then turned into crushing debts within months of ownership.
And it's accepted that these people with the least amount of money and power are the ones who are to be blamed for bringing down the global financial market and for selling these toxic mortgage-backed securities to megabanks. And it's also accepted that we victimized taxpayers and homeowners not only should reward and encourage bad behavior by bailing out these white collar terrorists against our will but to allow the government to do it all over again.
To quote Dickens, it's the best of times and the worst of times, depending on which side of the wall and guarded gate you live on. It's also the most incredulous of times when one considers what we're willing to believe. And if Lewis Carroll were alive today, he'd realize that our political and corporate structure has made his nonsense fiction look amateurish by comparison.