Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I’ve been intending to write about the astonishingly shameless plan to sell the birthright of our children and grandchildren for a mess of pottage reserved exclusively for the muck-encrusted snouts of today’s brutal and stupid elites. But I find that Arthur Silber, with an assist from Mike Whitney, has already hit every point I wanted to make, and more, in a series of remarkable posts in the past few days.
These points include the overarching fact of the entire crisis — There is No Fix — and something I’d been thinking about a lot in the past couple of days: What if there was somebody in our national political life with the guts to stand up and speak the truth the bipartisan elite’s brazen highway robbery? Silber is already there, too, with A Time Bereft of Heroes.
But he hardly stops there. Get on over there now and read Welcome to the Asylum; Public versus Private Agendas and Goals; and Only One Winner, and Only One Loser. (UPDATE: Wait, something else has come in while I was typing this. Check out Silber’s latest on the growing “bipartisan consensus” on the highway robbery plan: Now Don’t Go Slashing Your Wrists or Nothing.)
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There is almost too much there to excerpt intelligently, so let me just offer up a few particularly choice bits here before you head over to read the full story.
It’s like the lousiest, most moronic sitcom ever made, crossed with the goriest, most nauseating slasher movie ever imagined. A stupidly grinning idiot wielding an axe in one hand and a butcher’s knife in the other, as he dismembers the millions of bodies spread before him.
This is America today, a sickening joke run by people who are incapable of understanding the most rudimentary facts, drunk on power, and who perform only one action in a fully convincing manner: demonstrating their absolute determination to make their ignorance total and irreversible, as the blood of their victims rises around them.
The problems cannot be resolved by shifting the debts of the banks onto the taxpayer. That’s an illusion. By adding another $1 or $2 trillion dollars to the National Debt, Paulson is just ensuring that interest rates will go up, real estate will crash, unemployment will soar, and foreign central banks will abandon the dollar. In truth, there is no fix for a deleveraging market anymore than there is a fix for gravity. The belief that massive debts and insolvency can be erased by increasing liquidity just shows a fundamental misunderstanding of economics.
That’s why Henry Paulson is the worst possible person to be orchestrating the so called rescue project. Paulson comes from a business culture which rewards deception, personal acquisitiveness, and extreme risk-taking. Paulson is to finance capitalism what Rumsfeld is to military strategy. His leadership, and the congress’ pathetic abdication of responsibility, assures disaster. Besides, why should the taxpayers be happy that the stocks of Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual and Goldman Sachs surged on the news that there would be a government bailout yesterday? These banks are essentially bankrupt and their business models are broken. Keeping insolvent banks on life support is not a rescue plan; it’s insanity.
The allusion to Rumsfeld is right on the money, if you’ll pardon the pun. In an earlier essay, Silber had made a similar point, likening the elite’s brutal and destructive economic policy to the mass-murdering foreign policy of the Terror Warriors:
What you have seen over the last six months and more, and what you will see in the coming months and years, is the same phenomenon in the realm of economic policy [as has occurred with regard to foreign policy]. All of the solons who led us into this abyss of mounting debt, worthless securities, failing financial institutions, economic contraction and collapse … and all the rest, will now instruct us as to how we should “solve” the crisis that they have created. The crisis may be ameliorated to a degree, and the worst of the consequences may be postponed for a while. But whatever “solutions” are implemented, whatever reorganization and reregulation is imposed, it will all be done in accordance with the ruling class’s desires and goals. It will all be to protect their own wealth and power to whatever extent is possible, and to expand their wealth and power still more…
The “rescue plans” now being bipartisanly bruited in Washington make Silber’s conclusion painfully explicit. For what is that basic plan: taking at least $700 billion of your money and giving it the same rapacious, ignorant twits — the financial terrorists — who have just blown a gargantuan crater in the global economy. What’s more, the disperal of this astronomical largess is to be left solely to the arbitrary will of the “unitary executive,” with no oversight, legislative or judicial, whatsoever.
Don’t you wish someone would give you $700 billion to give away to your pals as you see fit? With no strings attached, no questions asked?
Not a dime of public money is provided for over-extended mortgage-owners trying to stay in their homes. Not one congressman or senator at Thursday’s meeting rejected the bailout plan or called for a criminal investigation to establish whether laws were broken in the sale of fraudulent securities which have clogged the global system; pushed banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and homeowners into default, and precipitated the greatest financial crisis in the nation’s 230 year history.
And here we come to the crux of the matter: “Not one congressman or senator…rejected the bailout” or called for a criminal probe into a scheme in which bad debts and “financial instruments” based on thin air stripped trillions of dollars from ordinary people and law-abiding institutions. Just as with the world-historical war profiteering of the conquest of Iraq, nobody wants to know, no one among the great and good will step up and speak the stark truth.
Once upon a time, there were such figures in our national leadership, as Silber reminds us, with the story of Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr of Wisconson. La Follette had led Congressional opposition to America’s pointless involvement in the slaughterhouse of World War I, and had been roundly condemned by the political and media establishments of the day for his “treason.” He was written off as a has-been, told by every expert and pundit that he had no political future, should not run for re-election…unless he knuckled under and paid obesiance to the prevailing pieties of the day. Silber takes up the story:
But La Follette…wanted to return to Washington to do battle once more against what he perceived to be the twin evils of the still young century: corporate monopoly at home and imperialism abroad.
The reelection campaign that loomed just a year off would be difficult, he was told, perhaps even impossible. Old alliances had been strained by La Follette’s lonely refusal to join in the war cries of 1917 and 1918. To rebuild them, the Senator’s aides warned, he would have to abandon his continued calls for investigations of war profiteers and his passionate defense of socialist Eugene Victor Debs and others who had been jailed in the postwar Red Scare.
The place to backpedal, La Follette was told, would be in a speech before the crowded Wisconsin Assembly chamber in Madison. Moments before the white-haired Senator climbed to the podium on that cold March day, he was warned one last time by his aides to deliver a moderate address…and, above all, to avoid mention of the war and his opposition to it.
La Follette began his speech with the formalities of the day….then, suddenly, [he] pounded the lectern. “I am going to be a candidate for reelection to the United States Senate,” he declared, as the room shook with the thunder of a mighty orator reaching full force. Stretching a clenched fist into the air, La Follette bellowed: “I do not want the vote of a single citizen under any misapprehension of where I stand: I would not change my record on the war for that of any man, living or dead.”
The crowd sat in stunned silence for a moment before erupting into thunderous applause. Even his critics could not resist the courage of the man; indeed, one of his bitterest foes stood at the back of the hall, with tears running down his cheeks, and told a reporter: “I hate the son of a bitch. But, my God, what guts he’s got.”
Silber notes the consequences of La Follette’s foolish lack of “bipartisan consensus,” his defiance of conventional wisdom and expert campaign strategy: “La Follette won reelection overwhelmingly.” Silber then goes on to draw the inevitable, painful comparison to our day:
There is not a single national leader who possesses even a tenth of the immense courage and bravery demonstrated by La Follette over the course of many years. … Our culture drowns us in the shabby, the cowardly, the pathetic, and the detestable. Men and women of vision and courage need not apply. If they did, they would almost certainly be destroyed. Those dramas that we witness would embarrass the worst of fifth-rate hacks.
I expect the Democrats to extract certain modifications and perhaps make a few additions to the monumentally destructive plan proposed by the Bush Administration. The final plan may be marginally less awful than in its current form — but it will remain entirely awful.
Most Americans would not even recognize a La Follette… if such a person appeared today. And so no such person will appear.
In cultural and political terms, we get what we ask for, and what we deserve. We will get it in spades in the coming week, and in the years to come.
NOTE: For a graphic look at how this latest trough-filler for the rich is nothing new, take a gander at this handy chart and timeline of the “History of U.S. Government Bailouts,” from ProPublica. (via the Angry Arab)
Silber is back on the firing line again, with a few choice words about the Democrats’ chest-thumping calls for more “oversight” over the $700 billion Fat-Cat Subsidy Program. “No blank check!” declares Nancy Pelosi. “No blank check!” declares Barack Obama — when he can tear himself away from praising Henry Paulson’s manly handling of the meltdown, that is. Silber notes:
Make sure you get the message. The Democrats will provide the check, it just won’t be a blank check. The Democrats want “independent oversight.” But the money will flow — to insolvent financial institutions, precisely those institutions responsible for this debacle, and to buy up bad debts which will thus not be allowed to wash out of the system…
At this point, does anyone believe “strings” or “oversight” are worth a goddamned thing? Let me remind you of something that no Democrats and none of their defenders wants to be reminded of: the Iraq catastrophe. The Democrats have had the biggest “oversight” mechanism in the world — or to be precise, in the Constitution — since early 2007. The Democrats could have cut off all funding for this criminal war and occupation. They will not do it.
They could have impeached Bush, Cheney and several more of the leading criminals. They will not do it.
Add in the pattern the Democrats followed in the FISA debacle, with regard to the Military Commissions Act, and on a host of other questions, and you see what the Democratic opposition is worth. In a word: nothing.
This article was posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 9:33 am