The effects of the recession have lingered on for everyone who hasn’t benefited from what financial op-ed columnist Steven Pearlstein describes as “the financialization of the U.S. economy.” “Financialization of the Economy” and the excessive risk-taking associated with it, takes place when the “interests of its stockholders” (really The Management Class) become the single minded focus of large corporations to the virtual exclusion of the interests of customers, employees and society at large. This process which columnist, Dana Wilbank alternatively describes as “revving up the engine of influence” has often been lamented as “the price we pay for living in our brand of democracy.” Perhaps, it is no more complicated than that!
As I noticed in this space last month, the groups that are largely driving our broken politics are precipitating what economist Robert J. Samuelson characterizes as a “crisis of the old ‘economic’ order.” Allan Slone, Senior Editor-at-Large of Fortune Magazine, who describes himself as “an angry moderate who has finally gotten fed up with the lunacy and incompetence of our alleged national leaders”, suggests that this crisis is caused by “knuckleheaded politicians driving us into a ditch.”
These “knuckleheaded politicians” were born as a result of the union of money, networks and power of such respected organizations as The Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and The Business Roundtable. They, in turn, created other organizations with such innocent sounding names as “Americans for a Sound Economy”, “Crossroads”, “Freedom Works”, “The Taxpayer League”, etc. Those organizations, then with their ability to access clever and skilled lawyers and the financial resources to pay them along with a Supreme Court majority, which in the face of 40 years of precedent to the contrary, now holds that “corporations are persons”, enabled them to enjoy some threshold success in attaining what were then limited goals of minimally reducing corporate tax rates and reducing or at least pushing back against some arguably burdensome and unnecessary regulations, as well as some meddlesome regulators whose judgment was lacking and/or who were incapable of applying a rigorous cost-benefit analysis to their work.
Somehow, somewhere the backing of these organizations extended to candidates and organizations whose platforms were thought to thrust toward “limited government” morphed into backing for to use Fortune Magazine Editor , Allan Sloane’s characterization, “knuckleheaded” politicians and political organizations who as a result of a strange combination of zealotry and naiveté´, interpreted this support as a license if not a mandate to abolish all regulation, all taxes, and most government. This would include in varying degrees (which can be verified by watching The Republican debates and the work of Congress), the privatization of public schools, cutting back on basic research on which manufacturers base their product development, shutting down regulatory agencies that protect the public from dangerous products as well as businesses from unscrupulous competitors and the privatization of the public infrastructure that transports our supplies and finished goods to name a few.
This modern day nihilism at the federal level which is on display daily in Washington hopefully will not prove to be contagious and in fact, infect the states. Its symptoms can be spotted early and easily. There is a massive loss of memory which is either brought on by collective case of political and economic amnesia or a reaction to some food or medicine ingested recently that causes delusional or hallucinatory ramblings that the financial crises of 2008 was a dream like the season of the long-running soap opera, “Dallas”, that turned out to be a season long dream. That dream–Subprime mortgages? Too big-to-fail banks? Unregulated derivatives? – Not a problem – didn’t happen! Indeed the crisis of 2008 never happened and nothing needs to be done to prevent it from happening again.
This, of course, is not a dream. It is the nightmare we are in which was created with flowing corporate dollars financing right wing zealots who now are not interested in advice or direction from the corporate interests who made their careers possible. There is still a way to get their attention however. As the ultimate political philosopher, Machiavelli, said a long time ago – “It seems best to me to go straight to the actual truth of things rather than to dwell in dreams”. When the right wing zealots who were elected using dollars that corporate America game them to protect their limited interests run out of that money – cut them off until they recognize they cannot ignore their non-heavenly creators with impunity and begin to act responsibly.
Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and a joyous Quanza. Give wisely to your favorite charity or politician.