Cruel To Be Kind, Part 2:
The Oligarchic States of America
I thought we should rename our country its true, earned, accurate name: the Oligarchic States of America.
After reading the excellent book, GRIFTOPIA, by Matt Taibbi (Spiegel and Grau, 2010, www.spiegelandgrau.com) now in its fourth printing!), you are going to think the same.
Democracy: rule of the people.
Oligarchy: rule by money.
We live in a time when votes, when decisions, when highly illegal, immoral, and unethical leveraging and shameless deal-making for the quick buck are costing all of us, and costing us dearly. The decisions are made by law-savvy criminals (mostly on Wall Street) and nobody seems to care.
And our legislators are in cahoots.
“We have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite,” said Michael Moore in a speech delivered to the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison on March 5, as quoted in Huffington Post. “Wall Street, the banks, and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic.”
Today, noted Moore, just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. “400 obscenely rich people” includes most of whom benefited from the multi-trillion dollar tax “bailout” of 2008.
In a review entitled “Thieves’ Paradise” of GRIFTOPIA from the Dec. 26, 2010 New York Times, Peter Goodman writes, “In Taibbi’s telling, contemporary finance has perverted markets that once served important functions, turning them into frontier-style betting parlors.”
Why did this happen?
Because Uncle Sam will always come to the rescue.
Damned if he didn’t again.
I remember reading and reviewing a book entitled THE GREAT INTERNET DEPRESSION some time ago in True Review. I remember a passage that noted: during the Great Depression, recovery was slow because the Fed was “punishing” the banks for this kind of behavior.
What? We forgot our history, now we are condemned to repeat it?
More of the GRIFTOPIA book review by yours truly in this issue.
In the meantime, you may be startled to know that we live in a very chaotic recovery. I look upon this so-called “false recovery” as those who Would Rather Take Chances Than To Continue to Live Inside the Noose Called The Great Depression Part II.
From the Dec. 29, 2010 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review comes this headline: “Workers abroad gain in recovery.”
In the AP story in the Tribune-Review, “corporate profits are up. Stock prices are up.” So why isn’t anyone hiring?
The companies, in pursuit of the ever-increasing stock price, are bypassing our own workers here and hiring overseas. More than half of the 15,000 people whom Caterpillar Inc. has hired this year were outside the U.S., according to the AP story. UPS is also hiring, mostly overseas.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, while the stock market is making a very select few very rich, jobs are going elsewhere – American companies created 1.4 million jobs overseas, and only 1 million in the U.S. Those additional 1.4 million jobs would have lowered the U.S. unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, according to Robert Scott of the institute.
The stock market-driven companies, according to an expert from Columbia University (Jeffrey Sachs, globalization expert and economist), “have no choice” because the global workforce has improved.
Have no choice? What, is somebody holding a gun to their head? Oh, you mean the “gun” of the mandatory rise in stock prices . . . .
An AP story posted on Philly.com on Jan. 4 makes you wonder what “recovery” is really taking place here. Unemployment rates rose in more than two-thirds of the nation’s largest metro areas in November, a sharp reversal from October and the most since June.
The national unemployment rate recently dropped – only because people have given up trying to find jobs in the so-called “recovery.”
At Temple University, when I was a student, I remember an economics professor who noted we probably wouldn’t remember much of what he said when we took our real-world jobs in the trenches of newspaper reporting. Which is somewhat true, but I remember learning the science of statistics.
One thing the professor told us is that a country cannot have a true economy if it loses its manufacturing. If you lose manufacturing, you are toast.
Gee, if that observation isn’t the truth!
Now that we have NAFTA completing its ugly reign:
North American Free Trade Agreement = jobs sent overseas = no jobs here = lower tax collection = no money to pay for state and federal programs = federal work stoppage. It’s not rocket science, folks! We lose our manufacturing, we lose our economy.
When you read GRIFTOPIA, you get that sinking feeling . . . but read it. I think Matt gives us few answers. How do we educate “ethics”? How do we bring about a “moral” investment base?
Interesting statistic about how the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Information sent to me via Blaise Milanek of the Comprehensive Wealth Management Group: Recent IRS data points out that the “top 25 percent of taxpayers have increased their income at a faster rate over the past 22 years than the bottom 75 percent of taxpayers.”
In an AP story of March 10, the global ranks of billionaires grew by almost 200 people in the past year. The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, added $20.5 billon to his coffers, according to Forbes Magazine.
In the April 2011 issue of The Atlantic, the rich are really worried – worried like you and me. Yes, really! They worry their children will become spoiled trust-fund addicts (I envy them); they worry about the dilemmas of having more zeros after their income line (oh, that’s a luxury, not a worry); and they realize that “no yacht is so super, nor any wine so expensive, that it can soothe the soul or guarantee one’s children won’t grow up to be creeps” (and the poor have creepy children too, you know).
I would easily exchange my worries about paying bills, driving a car that has 100,000 miles on it because I really can’t afford a new one, or spoiled kids in a heartbeat for millions in cold hard cash, let me tell you.
How do we rename our country the United States of all the peoples of America, instead of a sold-down-the-river country used and abused by the select few?
Welcome to the Oligarchic States of America. Money rules. Money rules absolutely.
“The money power has grown so great that the issue of all issues is whether the corporations shall rule this country or the country shall again rule the corporations. [Corporate influence] reaches the Supreme Court, and the White House itself!”
-- Joseph Pulitzer, 1879
A False Recovery, Just Like the Great Depression
And Other Matters
As always, your editorials are thought-provoking.
As we lose more of our middle class, they are cutting out the mortgage interest deduction from our income tax, but I am sure the Republicans will retain the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans.
My friends that are still working can never retire, as they are cutting their pensions and upping the retirement age. They use France as an example, but the retirement age there, 60, was being raised to 62. We went from age 65 to 70! Very different. By 70, many people are not well enough to enjoy any retirement.
Our health care system is broken and will just get worse.
I do think the stimulus did help (though I would have preferred a check myself), but not enough as not enough jobs were created. You are so right about the ongoing Great Depression that no one will acknowledge. They keep saying “Recovery” -- but I see none. Just more people struggling to make ends meet and no help for anyone but the rich.
Last week I saw "Wall Street" again. Nothing has changed. As Gordon Gecko says, "Greed is good," and no one disputes him (though the sequel tries -- I have yet to see it and only have the reviews to go on). Bring the jobs back only if we can get a workforce willing to make a quality product.
Regarding your last True Review home page editorial, “The Power of the Short,” I do sympathize with lost objects of our childhood. I had an original Howdy Doody marionette and a Roy Rogers lunchbox (among others). And comics -- all gone.
I do doubt that my books are worth enough to make my heirs wealthy, but I hope they want to keep them to enrich their own collections. After unpacking the rest of my SF, there are a number of books I just want to re-read and then get rid of. This time I will check to see if they are worth anything.
Thanks again for a great online fanzine.
-- Trina King