Friday, December 21, 2007

GEIFY. (George Explains It For You.)

Something is happening in America that isn't pleasant to watch. The Presidency is fast becoming an autocracy and our country seems to be in the hands of bloated plutocrats who earn billion dollar payouts while their companies eliminate jobs.

Some have called this period in America's history "the New Gilded Age," referring to the original Gilded Age when people like John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Leland Stanford, Huntington, Gould, JP Morgan, Charles Schwab and other amassed fortunes that in today's dollars would overwhelm that of, say, Bill Gates. While these "malefactors of great wealth" were accumulating their millions, there were millions of people living hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck in fetid conditions, without access to health care, education, advancement or workplace protection. In other words, a few were well-off and millions and millions suffered.

Being a country which has no historical sense means that most Americans alive today have no sense of what life was like in America only one century ago. And so, we have taken the progress made due to liberal policy that started during FDR's New Deal and continued through to Johnson's Great Society as the norm. What I call the Liberal Period in America, lasted from 1933 to approximately 1968. During this period we saw a narrowing of the disparity between rich and poor, aggressively progressive taxation, a bridling of corporate influence. We also saw a remarkable rise in our general standard of living. Home ownership reached new heights, as did college attendance and the broad distribution of once-unattainable consumer goods.

Since the Reagan 80s, the trend toward a more egalitarian distribution of wealth has been rolled back. Our public education system has been all but destroyed. Nearly 50 million Americans have no health insurance. Public services, like libraries and other cultural institutions have decayed and in many cases have cut back on the hours they are open. Further the state of our cities and concomitant city services are approaching Dickensian levels. In fact, diseases we had all but eradicated a generation ago are making a comeback. Housing standards, while on the books, are not enforced and millions of people are living in conditions that more liberal eras might have termed inhuman.

Here's my point. If you're reading this, if you grew up after WW2, you grew up during the American anomaly of distributed wealth. Rapacious and exploitative wealth has always been the rule and it is back in force. That rule, by the way can be summed up thus: capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich. I say that because the poor are subject to the whims of the marketplace, while the government is on hand to bailout or support wealth with tax-payer-financed largesses. (Think Halliburton no-bid contracts.) Or what today we call Global capitalism, I call Gobble Capitalism.

What follows by the way was written in 1963 by Alan Greenspan, in Ayn Rand's Ur-Unfettered capitalist newsletter. I'm quoting from Paul Krugman here:

"Mr. Greenspan dismissed as a “collectivist” myth the idea that businessmen, left to their own devices, “would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings.” On the contrary, he declared, “it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product.”

Greenspan and company have helped run our nation for quite a while. They are running it now. Welcome to the Dark
Bob Herbert of the NYTimes agrees with me, btw. For further elucidation, read his oped piece (which was released after my post.)

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