The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers. …
…So it’s time to admit it: We’re fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we’re still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream.
Although I might quibble with some details, I think on the whole Taibbi gets to the core of the matter better than most. His article also made me think of the Harper’s article by Thomas Geoghegan I mentioned last week, “Infinite Debt,” which you can now read online in PDF form. [Oops, it appears the PDF is available only to subscribers. Sorry.] In a nutshell, the financial sector has eaten the other sectors, and our national wealth has been hijacked into a vast scheme of money chasing money. Less and less of our wealth is being used to create tangible things like food or consumer products; more and more is plowed into financial investment instruments that are, basically, air.
And ordinary citizens have been sucked into a treadmill of debt bondage. I keep thinking of that old Tennessee Ernie Ford song —
You load sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go;
I owe my soul to the company store.
Maybe we didn’t see all of the details, but many of us have been viewing the bigger picture for some time. We unhappy few are called “liberals,” and of course nobody listened to us.
What’s remarkable is the degree to which apparently intelligent people still don’t see the bigger picture. These include, unfortunately, the Obama Administration, which appears to be in tweak rather than overhaul mode.
Not to say he is “apparently intelligent,” because he isn’t, but much of What’s Wrong With America is exemplified by the meathead anchor, CNBC’s Mark Haines, interviewing Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) in this video:
So to Power Tool John’s question, “Are We a Banana Republic?” I’d say yes, and for some time, but not for the reasons he thinks.
And you want to know how we gave it all away? Memory Lane time —
[Video no longer available, but I believe it showed Ronald Reagan claiming government is the problem.]
The disconnect in Saint Ronald’s thinking was that government is not a hindrance to self-government. It is the very tool the founders left us that enables self-government. By persuading people that government is irrelevant, Saint Ronald enabled the colossal power grab that is strangling our country. Forget the Road to Serfdom; we’re serfs already, and have been for years.