Which Side Are You On?

December 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

The Scandal

As I write this, the United States Senate is debating a measure that would weaken Dodd-Frank’s regulation of  Wall Street banks, increase the amount of money a single donor can contribute to political parties and enable employers to reduce pension payments of retirees after they retire and have earned their pensions.

These outrages are attached to a budget bill whose passage is required to keep the government operating.  None of these dishonest and unwise amendments have anything to do with the budget.  They were attached to the budget bill by anonymous members of the House of Representatives at the behest of Citigroup.  There was no committee hearing.  There was no opportunity to vote on them separately.

In other words, they were so obviously the result of corruption that their sponsors would not own them.  They could only be adopted as part of a legislative blackmail scheme.

This is not, however, the real scandal.  The real scandal is that this dishonest scheme could only proceed with votes by Democratic Party members.  The bill passed the House by a narrow margin, including aye votes by 57 Democrats.
[I note with some satisfaction that no Texas Democrat voted “aye”.]

No, that is really not the real scandal.  The real scandal is that the only two elected officials who are personally identified with pressuring members of Congress to agree to these outrages are named Barack Obama and Joe Biden .  Yep.  Some things are too dishonest to make it, even given the present sorry state of our politics.  So you have to bring out the Big Guns, the Prez and Vice (pun intended).

How did this happen?  Well, we get the usual explanation.  It was a compromise; the best deal we could get.  If we don’t go along, the President won’t be able to work with Republicans on other matters.

Whoa!  Say what?  When has the President been able to work with Republicans on anything significant?  What makes anyone think this will improve in a few weeks when the GOP majority will become filibuster proof?  Just how stupid and naive are we suppose to be?  Will this be an adequate explanation for the retirees whose pensions will be decimated?   When the power of the Koch Brothers and others like them is used to gain even more control of our political parties, will we view the results and say, “Well, it’s bad, but it was worth it to avoid an ugly argument about the 2014 Budget Bill.”

The Perpetuation of “Too Big To Fail/Jail”

Dodd Frank addressed a problem that confronted us when the Wall Street Banks faced insolvency because of their fraudulent marketing of mortgage based derivatives.  They used depositor money to finance those derivatives.  If they became insolvent, the taxpayers would have to make the depositors whole because of the FDIC insurance program.  That is, the taxpayers would belatedly finance the reckless greed of the Wall Street pirates.

Dodd Frank cured this by requiring that future trading strategies that depend on derivatives and Byzantine schemes involving  sketchy tools like credit-default-swaps, that look like insurance but have no reserves, would have to be conducted by entities separate from FDIC insured deposits, with money other than depositor money.

In other words, the ones who profit from high-risk gambles would have to risk their own money, not FDIC-insured depositor money.

Predictably, this was regarded as a terrible idea by the high-risk gamblers.  They have become addicted to the system of “If I win, I pocket the money.  If I lose, you pay for the loss.”  So, Citigroup, acting for the other pirates,  just wrote a solution to their problem, forwarded it to some elected officials  they owned, who transcribed it into an amendment to the budget bill.  Their solution is part of the bill Obama and Biden have been frantically calling House and Senate members about, begging them to vote “aye”.

Thank God For the Women

Nancy Pelosi was left out of the negotiations that led to this piece of garbage.  She did not join the cheer leaders who whooped it through the House.  But the one who has filled a gaping chasm where the political soul and conscience of the Democratic Party once rested, is Elizabeth Warren.  What a thrill to see a Senator who has not forgotten how to express moral outrage.  And knows how to do it while exhibiting a razor sharp wit and a mind to match.

When she spoke on the floor of the Senate, looked squarely into the camera and addressed Citigroup, the sponsor and author of the Dodd-Frank gut job, and said, “I agree with you.  Dodd-Frank is not perfect.  It failed to break you up into small pieces.”, I just about fell in love again, despite 65 years of marriage.  She is a wonder!

Which Side Are You On?

This episode reminded me of an old union song I taught my daughters to sing when they, and I, were young.  It was written in 1931 by Florence Reese, the wife of a coal miner in Harlan County, Kentucky, during a bitter strike.  The Harlan County Sheriff was J.H. Blair, an enforcer and strike breaker for the mine owners.

One night some of Blair’s thugs stormed into the Reese home, looking for Sam Reese.  He had been tipped off and was not there.   They terrorized his wife Florence and his children but didn’t get Sam.

After they left, Florence, angry and scared, wrote a song on the back of a calendar, expressing her devotion to the union and her contempt for those who failed to support the strike.   Here is a link to Pete Seeger and his banjo, singing Florence’s song:

Whose Side Are you On

While watching CNN and MSNBC about this budget episode, I kept getting madder and madder and I remembered that old song.  So I wrote my own version:

In our US Congress
There are no neutrals there
You either vote your consciences
Or whore for billionaires

[chorus]
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Obama we’re in danger
The wolves are at our door
We don’t need reasoned argument
We need a two-by-four

[chorus]

Barack Hussein Obama
How dumb can you get?
A shepherd cannot safely try
To make a wolf a pet!

[Chorus]

It’s time to rein in Wall Street
Our country’s not for sale
At ballot box and in the streets
We must fight and prevail.

[Chorus]

Thank God for Betsy Warren
She speaks for us out loud
She does not hedge or compromise
To blend in with the crowd

[Chorus]
No go along to get along,
She hews to moral rules
She tells it straight and tells the truth
She has no time for fools

[Chorus]

I don’t yet know how this drama will end, but I’m not optimistic.

Bob

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Capitalism and Democracy In Symbiotic Conflict

April 19, 2013 § 1 Comment

Summary

In the following essay I will describe the conflict between capitalism and democracy; how that conflict has developed; how the conflict can either benefit or threaten both capitalism and democracy; and how recent changes in the uses and availability of political money affects that conflict.

The Conflict Between Capitalism and Democracy

I recently read two essays by Peter Radford.  He is the publisher of The Radford Free Press, worked as an analyst for banks over fifteen years and has degrees from the London School of Economics and Harvard Business School.  The essays first appeared in his own journal and then in the Real World Economic Review blog.  Here are links to the blog posts:

First Post

Second Post

I have cited the blog posts rather than  Radford’s journal because the second blog post responds to comments made in response to the first one.  Also, the comments to both posts are interesting and informative.

As stated, Radford is not an academic.  His descriptive references to capitalism are informed by his past employment by two large banks.   Here is his comparison of capitalism and democracy:

“It isn’t capitalism that created the American middle class. It was democracy. Which is a countervailing force pressing against capitalism. Democracy is the mechanism through which the likes of you and I prevent the pillage that unfettered capitalism encourages. And it is the method we use to make sure we get our fair share of the collective spoils.

So, you see, capitalism and democracy are locked in a fight against one another. They cannot abide each other.

The one concentrates wealth by encouraging greed, exploitation, monopoly, and conspiracy. The other distributes wealth by enforcing the tyranny of the majority, constraining liberty, establishing rules, and forcing apart those conspiracies.”

Notice there is no mention of the economic system described by Adam Smith, the one that achieves efficiency through competition and division of labor.  No.  Mr. Radford, the veteran practitioner of capitalism, understands how it actually works in twenty-first century America.  In fact, he observes that capitalists “despise competition” and seek every way possible to diminish or destroy it.  The adherents of democracy, eager to escape exploitation at the mercy of monopolies, impose anti-trust laws that are resisted by capitalists.

A Brief History of Freedom

Radford  offers an insightful discussion of the word “freedom”.   He uses history to explain how the word came to be used in two different ways by capitalists and the rest of us.  In Medieval Europe, property was owned by kings and the aristocracy, but kings controlled its use.   As wars required money and soldiers, the landowners were able to force kings to limit royal control over their land in exchange for armed soldiers and increased taxes.   As this process progressed, the concept of “freedom” was equated with the right to control the use of one’s property.

At this stage in history, freedom had nothing to do  with the wishes or welfare of common people, who were landless.  Finally, as the feudal era ended, towns were organized around commodity markets.   A new class of merchants, tradesmen and artisans  emerged.  The members of this new class acquired small tracts of land and became protective of their right to use their property.  This was the situation at the time of the American Revolution.

In America, free land was available on the frontier and those who became landowners saw the efforts of England to impose taxes and to limit their right to import and export commodities as encroachment on their freedom to own and use their property as they chose.   Again, the protection of those property rights had no relationship to those with no property.  When the Revolution was successful, the new American government did not provide for or guarantee any voting rights for the landless.  Our Constitution was designed to limit government’s authority, but it was adopted by the votes of landowners as fearful as Mitt Romney that their property rights would be threatened with taxation by those without land.

Industrialization produced a new class of workers, whose interests and rights were not land-based.  These factory workers and miners  conceived of freedom as the right to vote and to have some control over government’s right to impose taxes, to limit their right to travel, to marry, to raise their children, to organize and bargain with their industrial employers for a fair share of the results of their labor – rights that were not related to property ownership.

Finally, another very significant result of industrialization was the replacement of human landowners  with a new corporate aristocracy.  This  transformation has had a significant effect on the nature of the struggle between democracy and capitalism.  In feudal Europe and pre-industrial America, human landed aristocrats were subject to some moral strictures.   Although slavery became common, and was not affected by compassion or empathy, there were, at least, some religious forces that affected the way that landowners treated those dependent on them.  When they were replaced in the industrial age with corporations, those influences ended.   Corporate masters respond only to the drive to make profits and the only moderating influence they respond to is the threat of punishment if they disobey laws.  When that threat, which results from the force of democracy. disappears, they become oblivious to everything except “the bottom line”.

A Recent Example:  The Banks and Dispossessed Homeowners

In 2007 – 2008, Wall Street banks capsized financial markets by bundling vast numbers of residential mortages in derivative products, obtaining false ratings for the value of the derivatives, and selling  them to pension plans, government agencies and other investment groups all over the world.  When the truth about the value of those derivatives finally became known, the scheme collapsed and our current recession as well as some of the current economic problems in European countries resulted.

This caused  panic in Washington near the end of the second Bush administration.   The banks threatened to convert the mess they had created into a bottomless financial disaster and the government paidthe ransom demanded by the banks and their complicit “credit default swap” partners.  The perpetrators’ potential losses were covered one hundred cents on the dollar..    There was no mutuality to this deal.  The banks made no enforceable promises to use their lending capacity to alleviate the results of their wrongdoing.  No fines were paid.   The massive fraud was entirely unpunished.

A part of this episode consisted of local banks, eager to provide the fodder for the creation of the above-stated derivatives,   making thousands of loans without any attention to the ability of  the borrowers to repay them.  Contrary to the claims of the GOP, most of these bad loans were not the result of government policies encouraging banks to make residential housing available to middle class  borrowers.  Those policies may have contributed in some way to the problem, but no government policy encouraged or enabled Wall Street bankers to securitize the mortgages securing those loans into derivative products and then fraudulently market them.

When the recession began and layoffs occurred, many homeowners became unable to make payments on their loans.  At the same time, far from trying to moderate the harm from these problems, the banks began aggressively foreclosing on homeowners and severly damaging the housing market.  Widespread misconduct  characterized these foreclosures,  including forging signatures on loan documents, filing false court papers and erroneously foreclosing on mortgages even if the payments on the underlying loans were current

The victimized homeowners sought redress in class action litigation.  That litigation was recently settled.  The settlement required the banks to pay a small fraction of  the amount of the damage they caused.  The average payment to a homeowner who was thrown out of his or her home was $500.

Meanwhile, during the current recession, Wall Street bankers have enjoyed record profits and bonuses.   The  stock market has risen to unprecedented heights.  The pain has not been shared by those who caused it and, in testimony to a congressional committee, the Attorney General acknowledged that the “to big to fail” banks have proved also “too big to jail”.

This, in  part, explains my feeling that, from 1890 to 2013, during the industrial age and beyond. there has been, as Radford argues, a conflict betwween the capitalists and democracy and, so far as I  can see, the capitalists have won.

The Nature of Political Power

Because Democratic Party candidates have won four of the last six presidential elections, and because Barack Obama just won re-election, my pessimistic ranting may seem inappropriate, even ungrateful.   Of course I am relieved that Mitt Romney is not President.  But, in terms of the subject of this effort, the tension between capitalism and democracy, I am not sure that Obama and Clinton, the two winners in those four elections, represent a triumph of democracy.

Is Obama’s  rhetoric about the urgency of “solving” the “debt crisis” significantly different from the RNC talking points?  What is the explanation for his peculiar negotiating style:  Make an opening offer that concedes the opponents’ primary argument?   When he proposed the “sequester”, did he really believe that the GOP would never allow it to become law?  And, now that it has become law, is  there any reasonable basis for believing that some less damaging alternative will be embraced by the GOP?  If the  Senate filibuster could have been defanged  in January with a simple majority vote, why wasn’t it?  What did the GOP threaten in reprisal that would have been as damaging as the filibuster rules?

In a recent episode of “Up With Steve Kornaki”, I heard a panelist succinctly describe political reality:  “There are two kinds of political power:  money and constituent base.”  Well, so far, money has not been able to determine the outcome of presidential races.  But state legislative races seem to be very vulnerable.   The score card on voter suppression is not encouraging.  If you’re more than 200 miles from one of our oceans and 100 miles South of the Canadian border, you’re screwed if you are interested in expanding voting rights.  No, I haven’t actually checked to see if that’s true, but I’ll bet it’s not far off.

I think of political parties as mechanisms for requiring or, at least, demanding that political candidates adhere to a set of values and principles.  So, when candidates depend on political parties for money, I regard that as a helpful antidote to their temptation to sell out to the highest bidder in the political money scramble.   The Citizens United decision has undermined that potential effect.  Now, corporate America can establish superpacs dedicated to supporting or opposing any political candidate and anonymously contribute unlimited amounts of money to them.  The voters will have no  way to know what deals have been cut or what promises have been made.

Here’s a link to an April 10 NY Times article that describes how this new Supreme Court designed invitation to political bribery works.   Superpacs

It seems to me that our technology has enabled a relatively small number of giant American corporations to dominate global markets, including financial markets, and to control barely imaginable amounts of money, thus becoming, as stated earlier, too big to fail and too big to jail. These corporations, joined by a host of smaller ones,  have managed to manipulate our government during the past forty years in ways that allowed them, not only to become big enough to bully the forces of democracy, but also to revise the tax system in ways that have created a gross inequality of wealth.  Wages have stagnated while the wealth of a few Americans has skyrocketed.   In terms of wealth inequality, America ranks second in the world.  The GOP warns that we are in danger of becoming Greece.   In  fact, I think we may have already become Mexico, except we have no handy neighbor, except Canada, to which we can export our impoverished working class

So far as concerns the “constituent base” component of political power, the capitalist forces have solved that problem by guiding their state legislative departments to design constituencies that do not threaten their interests.   I have read that 80% of Congressional districts are so designed that general election outcomes are decided by margins of 10% or more.  [For a thorough and interesting analysis of this phenomenon, see this post in the Five Thirty-eight blog.]  “Throw the rascals out” is an empty threat in such districts.   The collapse of any effort to limit gun rights demonstrates that “profiles in courage” are in very short supply in the U.S. Senate.  Even when over 90% of Americans demand action and the President is roused to active participation, only fifty-four of the one hundred Senators were willing to offend a lobbyist association like the NRA, which itself had the “courage” to ignore the opinions of a majority of its own members, in order to kow-tow to a group of weapon manufacturers.

In addition to designing constituencies, capitalist forces have also managed to shape the electorate in many states by limiting the period of time for voting and by requiring that voters have picture ID”s.

These defeats for democracy are continuing and, given the new power that the Supreme Court has bestowed on those who control wealth in this country, I see no reason to believe that the trend toward autocracy will not continue.

To summarize, the capitalists have enough money to bribe or threaten most political candidates.  They also have learned how to herd those subservient agents to create ways to control and manipulate the electoral process so that democracy is, at best, a mild threat to capitalist interests.

A Self-indulgent Conclusion

I tend to see technological changes as being accompanied by institutional changes.  Professor Ayers at UT taught me that “accompanied by” is correct, not “caused by”.  In the past, I have thought of this relationship as a hopeful one.  I saw technology avoid the grim predictions of Malthus, the prediction that we were “running out of energy” giving way to nuclear discoveries and, currently, to the expansion of natural gas availability.  The diseases that were the scourge of medieval times have been vanquished by modern medicine.  It remains to be seen how the threat of climate change will fare, but the technological solutions are plainly available.

I thought that digital technology and the internet would be a liberating force, enabling ordinary people to organize themselves into  powerful coalitions, free of control by corporate media, and thus obtain a better bargain with their governments and the corp;orate giants that control so much of their lives.  I now have serious doubts about those hopes.  The communication marvels that now span our planet have  enabled some corporate giants to access, exploit and influence, for good or evil, global markets.  Twitter, Facebook and other popular digital meeting places, except for some instances in the Middle Easts’ recent upheavals, have proved to be mere distractions for ordinary people.  I see small evidence that they have strengthened democracy more than they have the interests of capitalists.

Radford’s description of the history that has led us to the present situation reminded me of a very old story.  Now, having given the matter more thought, I have concluded that the triumph of capitalism was not inevitable, as I once intended to illustrate with the story.  I just think  that, right now, the future looks bleak.   But, I like the story so  I’m going to  finish with it because I like to share things I like.

An Appoinment in Samarra

There is a very old story, told many times in many contexts.   Its earliest appearance, so far as I can find, was in the Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 53a, written about 1500 years ago.   Somerset Maugham and John O’Hara used it to launch stories.  Here is Maugham’s version:

“The speaker is Death

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture,  now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

In the Talmud, after recounting a similar tale, King Solomon said, “A man’s feet are responsible for him; they lead him to the place where he is wanted”, which I interpret to mean that flight from one’s destiny is futile.

It Seems To Me I’ve Heard That Song Before

October 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here is an editorial from the July 27, 1935 issue of Saturday Evening Post, attacking FDR because he was not a “business man”.
THE SATURDAY EVENING POST
FOUNDED AD: 1728
PUBLSHED EVERY SATURDAY BY
W CURTIS PUBUSHINC COMPANY
INDEPENDENCE SQUARE
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

GEORGE HORACE LORIMER. EDITOR
PHILADELPHIA. JULY 27, 1935
Two Billionaires
IF THE President’s “soak-the-rich” tax proposals
had been made for the purpose of balancing the
budget; if they had reached down to the lower income
brackets, so that everyone in proportion to his
means bore his share of the tax burden; and if they
had been accompanied by an expressed determination
to redeem his campaign pledges of drastic economies,
there could have been no just criticism of
these purposes. It is, therefore, with sincere regret
that we must conclude, on the evidence of both his
message and his “must” attitude toward Congress,
that his primary concern is with his political fortunes,
aa they are threatened on the left, and not
with the fortunes of America, as a whole.
The left should not be discouraged, even if they
feel that the proposed taxes will not soak the rich
enough. The objective, to adopt the President’s
football figure, the goal posts toward which the
Administration snake dance, with its wobbling from
right to left, has been heading from the first, should
now be perfectly plain to the gentlemen of the left,
as well as to those who, seeing, still could cot believe.
The New Dealers seem determined to uproot the
twin posts of constitutional government and the property
rights of the individual. And if they are leveled,
the crossbar of democracy, those other rights of the
individual, will fall to the ground and we shall find
ourselves members of a collectivist society.
Anyone with ordinary sense who has followed the
windings of this tortuous dance, one step to the
right and two to the left, can only conclude that
Professor Tugwell and the President are twins in
their determination to roll up their sleeves and make
over America. And what a mess they are making of
their making over !

That brings us to a consideration of our two billionaires:
President Roosevelt and Henry Ford—
President Roosevelt because he is the only man in
the world who has billions to spend as he sees fit,
and Henry Ford, a newspaper-reputed billionaire,
though his actual fortune is probably less than half a
billion. Rockefeller, or any one of a hundred other
men, would do as well for purposes of comparison,
but we have chosen Ford because he ie the best advertised
rich industrialist in the world.
Henry Ford started life as a humble mechanic,
without any special social or educational advantages.
but as he progressed step by atep, hia education
progressed along sound, if not academic, lines, and
he acquired an intimate knowledge of social problems
by personal contacts with both the higher and
the lower strata of society. No college, no professor
and no theorist formed his philosophy of life. No
banker, no trust, no financial skulduggery helped to
found and increase his fortune. He built it step by
step with his hands and his brains, and in building it
he was a member of many classes of society, and
gained an insight into their needs. His matured belief
is that to give work with good pay and an opportunity
to rise according to ability is the first and
soundest thing that can be done for any man. In
carrying out that idea he has been on firm ground.
From our own observation, his is the philosophy of
almost every successful businessman, but their objective
is always to make work, not ” made work.” It
is one of the strong points of the American System
that the men at the head of a business, starting with
tbeir bare hands, almost always create an industry
out of an idea’ and their willingness to stake their
lives on it; or if they have had some advantages, they
have been thrown into the hopper and have climbed
out because of special abilities. Men who inherit a
business, and without foundation training try to run
it, almost always make a mess of it.
As the rich industrialists made their wealth, only a
small part of it was spent on themselves. The major
part of it went into the creation of new wealth, more
jobs and more opportunities for others. Of course,
there are many exceptions—men who have achieved
wealth in devious ways and by sweating labor; men
who have disregarded the obligations and duties of
their position and spent wastefully and selfishly
on vain and vainglorious show, but they are not
representative of the American System, and their
number is steadily decreasing.
President Roosevelt is not, of course, a billionaire
m his own right, but he is by decree of Congress,
Born to inherited wealth, he was educated in select
schools, at Harvard and by travel. In his youth his
was the environment of the rich, and the rich with
social position. He tried business; practiced law;
went into politics and graduated to the position of
an Assistant Secretary of the Navy and a vicepresidential
candidate on the badly defeated Cox
and Roosevelt ticket. It was due to the persuasion
of Al Smith that he ran for governor of New York,
was elected and, under the tutelage of Louis Howe
and his Tammany friend, Jim Farley, became a
presidential candidate. ‘
President Roosevelt is wise politically, but qot
economically. His real experience is largely political.
His environment and inherited position cheated him
out of an opportunity to engage as a private in the
battle of business and to win his stars on the field as
a constructive economist. He is aa theoretical as any
of his professors. His whole course as President shows
that he is willing and ready to tackle almost any
experiment that listens well in the telling, regardless
of the counsels of experience. That, of course, is the
defect of his early environment and later training,
for he never was a real cog in the machine that
makes the economic wheels go round. That, too, is
the defect of his closest advisers.
Young men with brains—and there are many of
them in the field of inherited wealth—if they have
dormant ambition gradually tire of a round of
dinners, balls, hunts, Newport in summer and Palm
Beach in winter, with travel de luxe over and around
the world. Their names and pictures in the Bociety
column no longer give them a thrill and a sense of
importance. They yearn to move over to the news
columns. The deference that is paid to inherited
wealth and social position in America gives them a
sense of superiority and a feeling that they are thoroughly
qualified to iron out all other human inequalities
while keeping their own status on a higher
level, and to mold the rest of us in accordance with
their own impractical social theories. These young
men and women, with many professors and young
radical lawyers, have naturally floeked to the New
Deal.

As we have already said, the President is not a
billionaire in his own right, but materially he is as
fortunately and as pleasantly placed as the richest.
Aside from his salary of seventy-five thousand dollars
a year, he occupies rent-free the most desirable
house in the United States, with greenhouses and
pleasant grounds, and by all accounts he is determined
to occupy it until 1941, at least. When he
wants to travel, there is a special train at his command;
when he wants to go to sea, there is a Navy
ship at his disposal or the luxurious Astor yacht.
With salary, house, allowances and perquisites, he
probably has what amounts to better than three
hundred thousand dollars a year. This is as it should
be. No one want-s the President to be stinted or to
live beneath the dignity of the office, but his is not
exactly a share-the-wealth background.
Then, as Mr. Garrett has pointed out in a recent
article, he has not one billion, but many billions
to spend and employ in the way that he thinks
best. No one doubts that he expects to spend for
what he believes to be the common good, though
a little personal political increment must necessarily
accrue to one who can dictate the place, time and
manner of such enormous expenditures.

We doubt whether any man in the country is big
enough or experienced enough to employ and expend
this vast sum wisely. If we may judge from
past utterances and the present tax program of the
President and his advisers, they would not trust
any other man in the United States to spend even a
small fraction of this sum. As a matter of fact,
both the sum and the grant of power vested in it
are fantastic and quite beyond the grasp of the
average man, including the average member of
Congress. But let nobody imagine that he will
escape lightly. Even more than the rich, the poor
and the middle-class will be ground between the
upper and the nether millstones of higher prices and
heavier, though indirect, taxation. The essential
difference between our two billionaires is that Henry
Ford creates and adds to the wealth of America,
and President Roosevelt taxes and takes from it.
This is not a nation of peasants and parasites.
There is still a lot of independence and fight left in it.
Farmers may temporarily be tempted by easy money,
but it is hard money for the rest of the country that
is taxed on its bread and meat for their benefit; labor
may be dazzled by the prospect of always-mounting
wages and the domination of industry, but neither
means anything when there is little work and less
industry; business may be beguiled by fair promises,
but when every face-to-face smile is followed by a
kick from behind, fair words soon lose their meaning.
The truth is that not only have we an unbalanced
budget but we have thoroughly unbalanced legisla-
tion, even to achieve the clearly avowed, and some
not so clearly stated, ends of the Administration.
Those who have sharp ears can already hear the
distant popping of the first minor Administration
experiments, punctuated from time to time by a
major explosion, though, so far as possible, the sound
of these blowups is being carefully muffled and the
effects discounted by new bombshells.

The real making over of America will come when
the country as a whole wakes up to what has been
done to it in the name of reform and the more abundant
life by the President and his subservient, though
not quite so subservient as it was, . Congress s0oner
or later, the return to sanity, to common sense and
to the possible, must come, and the foundations on
which America grew to its foremost position will he
rebuilt. They will be stronger foundations, bouud
together by a finer and cleaner cement, instead of
the jerry-built courses that are now being laid in a
professed attempt to build to high heaven.

______________________________

The amazing thing about this diatribe is that it is so cookie-cutter similar to the Chamber of Commerce/Tea Party line today.  The dismissal of college-educated people; the “built it with his bare hands” rhetoric; the equation of taxation with theft; . l. . it’s all there.  These guys never change their tune.  And even more amazing:  Even when they are almost literally standing in the ashes of the latest financial or economic disaster brought on by those “built it with their bare hands” heroes, a substantial percentage of the listeners lap it up.

During the “Roaring Twenties”,  the Wall Street geniuses flew the entire American economy into a total collapse and, in 1935, when FDR and the Democrats were desperately trying to resurrect the barely breathing corpse, this jackass was denouncing him for his lack of business skills.  Sound familiar?

I have a theory about why this keeps happening:  No one ever goes to jail for doing it.  Lying, cheating and defrauding seems to be acceptable behavior so that we can retain our “freedom”.  It would be too “divisive”, even “class warfare” if the perpetrators of these dishonest schemes paid for their crimes.  Bernie Madoff went to jail because he caused a lot of losses among some wealthy “investors”; but the guys at AIG, who made gazillons of dollars peddling phony credit insurance (mis-labeled credit-default-swaps, as a result of a deliberate loophole in the applicable regulations), not only paid no penalty; they were bailed out with taxpayer money.  So why not keep doing it?  The brokers on Wall Street who sold billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed derivatives, knowing full well that they were falsely stamped “AAA”; not to mention the dishonest evaluation companies who supplied the stamps –all those guys walked away with their fat bonuses and swanky vacation homes in the Greek Isles and the South of France.  So why shouldn’t they keep doing it?

We need to stop this nonsense the only way it can be stopped:  Perp walks and prison cells, and I don’t mean minimum security country clubs.   Those guys need to get to know the non-violent black kids in prison for possession of a handful of grass or a crack pipe.

I know.  It aint gonna happen.  But it should.

Bob

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