Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The U.S. is facing the worst financial crisis since the Depression. You would never know that from the Democrats' platform in Denver or its Republican counterpart, or from listening to Barack Obama or John McCain.
While both candidates have bemoaned the ravages of the subprime crisis, they have yet to spell out steps for tackling it, such as using taxpayer money to shore up banks and housing.
the reason why, of course, is because neither political party has in its construct of political fable the faintest link to reality. this is primarily so because reality is difficult, and difficult doesn't win elections in a democracy with a wide franchise.
moreover, it has more than a little to do with culpability -- who is responsible for this mess? fannie mae and freddie mac, for example. who got them into such a mess? the truthful answer neither party wants to breathe is that it took the bipartisan efforts of republicans and democrats in congress with the approval and encouragement of successive executive administrations of both parties. in the words of charlie reese as relayed by jeff saut:
Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them. Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?
You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.
100 senators, 435 congressmen, 1 president and 9 Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of the 300 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country. I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress.
In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank. I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do anything. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.
No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes. Confidence conspiracy: Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party. What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.
...Replace the scoundrels. It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.
If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in IRAQ, it's because they want them in Iraq.
There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power.
Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like ‘the economy,’ ‘inflation’ or ‘politics’ that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.
Those 545 people and they alone, are responsible. They and they alone, have the power. They and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their
bosses – provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees. We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess.
while there are no insoluble government problems, however, there are insoluble situations that can arise out of persistent government neglect, stupidity and malfeasance. the housing bubble-cum-crash, as a symptom of the much larger dollar debt bubble which is showing cracks, is one.
there is simply no getting around these basic facts. the united states -- both in terms of its government accounts and the accounts of the private banking industry which the government purports to regulate -- has been managed in a nakedly malfeasant and utterly incompetent fashion for well over twenty years. the men and women who managed it so are either republican politicians or democratic politicians, and often in that time politicians of the two parties colluded to increase the degree of their malfeasance and ineptitude. moreover, the consequences of that malfeasance have now grown so large that they are well beyond the control of these same managers -- shots are now being called in american monetary and fiscal policy in significant part from the overseas capitals upon which america now heavily relies for financing.
these are horrifying turns of event, truly rife with parallels to the decline and fall of history's dead empires. following years of growing imbalance, we are faced with massive adjustments now. it calls for bold leadership in rejecting the reaganite agenda of debt-fueled economy that has spiralled out of control and setting a new program of sustainable growth from a smaller base. and the predictable response of would-be-culpable politicians from both parties facing election, much less trying to avoid public lynching, is to deny that any such problem even exists -- to instead construct a telegenic and "patriotic" fairy tale smothered in billowing flags, laughing children and endless empty bloviation.
the trickier part, however, and where the rubber meets the road is the aspect which reese -- despite nailing the home of culpability -- patently ignores: american voters install and reinstall these politicians with remarkable reliability. re-election rates for house seats consistently exceed 90%; senate seats are not far behind. as the state of fiscal affairs has deteriorated, re-election rates have trended up, not down. there is now a strong question of efficacy to be posed for the american democratic experiment.
it comes as a surprise to most americans that this country was not founded as a democracy.
If it were probable that every man would give his vote freely, and without influence of any kind, then, upon the true theory and genuine principles of liberty, every member of the community, however poor, should have a vote? But since that can hardly be expected, in persons of indigent fortunes, or such as are under the immediate dominion of others, all popular states have been obliged to establish certain qualifications, whereby, some who are suspected to have no will of their own, are excluded from voting; in order to set other individuals, whose wills may be supposed independent, more thoroughly upon a level with each other.
these are not the words of some african oligarch or central asian despot; the man who said them is on the american ten-dollar bill. the american culture of debt fostered by the rise and political ingratiation of financial corporatism -- what the younger prof. galbraith has so perfectly captured with the term predator state -- has so altered our moral conception of indebtedness that some of us may laugh to think our votes could be bought by vice of our financial vulnerability to such an extent that our democracy would be rendered ineffective and even dangerous. and yet so huge in number and extent is the proportion of americans that have reaped the illusory and temporal benefits of borrowing from future income for current expenses that there is hardly one among us who understands exactly how far above our means we have been living, how distorted our perception of a sustainable lifestyle really is. that illusion has worked to unnaturally increase our support of political incumbency over these last decades; for many of us, our support for our chosen political party has been bought quite surreptitiously with us none the wiser -- with funds borrowed by the united states treasury against our future prosperity, with us plebes in the main too stupid and deluded to understand how or why.
but i would venture that the more cynical power brokers in washington and new york very certainly understand both the reason why and the lengths to which government policy has gone to manufacture and maintain the illusion of rapidly and reliably increasing standards of living in the period of american empire. some fewer may further understand that the illusion may be lifting, and that a reckoning may be afoot -- and this realization has caused some to redouble their efforts at any ridiculous and desperate cost. the last thing on their agenda is an acknowledgement of difficulty, at least prior to the next election if ever. much more likely, we will hear from washington pronouncements of fine fiscal and economic fitness all the way down to the bottom.