Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Wayback Machine...(An Homage to Mr. Peabody)

Eight of them stood on stage in the hope of being their party's nominee for president. For more than an hour they attacked President Obama's failures, especially his inability to re-kindle a vibrant economy and add jobs to a bleak employment scene. The punditocracy fell in love with Rep. Michele Bachman and made note of the fact no one on the stage offered counterproposals to the Obama strategy. The analysis was self-serving, in the case of Bachman (remember the corporate media need a horserace with controversy to make money), and wrong in their summary of the candidates positions.

Every person on the stage that night in New Hampshire proposed to "roll back", "eliminate", "end", "repeal", and otherwise stop government regulation of everything. It was a consistent mantra from the extreme regressive side, (Bachman, Paul, Gingrich, Santorum, Cain) to the less regressive side, (Romney and Pawlenty). The root of all problems in this nation is government regulation according to the future standard bearers of this major political party. (A recent survey criticized American students for their lack of knowledge of American history. Given what occurred on that stage, America's students have an overabundance of role models to choose among.)

We turn on the "Wayback Machine" to see what we can discover. In the 1930's, President Roosevelt established a series of firewalls between Wall Street and Main Street. He created the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Comptroller of the Currency and the Glass-Steagle Act separating commercial banking from the speculative operations we have become so familiar with. From 1940 on, regressives slowly chipped away at all of this regulation culminating in the repeal of Glass-Steagle in 1999. The result allowed banks to take depositors savings and speculate and gamble with them. The SEC had been neutered by the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington. The Fed was run by a Republican appointee, Alan Greenspan, who loved the anarchist Ayn Rand and did not have a problem with the Bush Administration cutting trillions in taxes while spending billions on military adventure. He hated regulation and he left Goldman Sachs, Lehman Bros., J.P. Morgan et. al. to their own devices. You know how this all turns out.

President Bush pushed a $750 billion bailout of Wall Street (with no oversight as to how the money was spent so these same banks didn't have to lend it to main street). President Obama passed an $800 billion stimulus package, which was too small; but which put the banks all back on their feet. We are reaping the whirlwind of the rolling back of federal regulations and we continue to suffer for years to come.

The Wayback Machine is working to perfection and now we can watch President Reagan de-regulating the savings and loan industry. Ah, I remember how that worked out. Taxpayers spent over $500 million to bail them out too. (Do you remember the Bush involvement in Silverado Savings and Loan?)

It is impossible to find a single example of de-regulation where the average gum-chewing consumer has benefitted. The opposite is usually the case. President Clinton de-regulated radio and television in 1996. Over 50,000 jobs were lost. The regressive onslaught of talk radio would never have happened without de-regulation. Limbaugh, Hannity, the Weiner would all be local radio hosts none of whom would be number one in almost any major market. Their competition was eliminated not defeated. California de-regulated energy. The resulting rolling blackouts, loss of billions of dollars and electricity bills ranging from $200-$1000 a month were common and we are still paying the highest rates for electricity in the nation many years later. Lack of regulation has made our food less safe and allowed drug companies to test and monitor drugs which killed people who used them. There is no reason to beat a dead horse, you probably could come up with numerous other examples including how well P.G.& E. was regulated concerning its thousands of miles of gas pipelines.

Capitalism is a simple system. The capitalist wants to invest his or her money and receive a profit in return. Anything which reduces that profit is anathema. Therefore, true free market capitalists long for the Gilded Age. It was the time around 1890-1910, when the federal government was weak, corporate America ruled, the gap between the rich and poor was enormous, the middle class small, no income tax existed and regulations were a communist or socialist plot. The capitalist class opposed unions, minimum wages, collective bargaining and anything which raised their labor costs. They fought any attempt to make the workplace safe and made sure they could dump a cocktail of toxic sludge into any available river or stream. The U. S. Chamber of Commerce, the most evil organization in America today, fought against child labor laws and laws expanding job opportunities. They and their cronies were not called robber barons for nothing. More recently they waged an epic battle to prevent regulators from making autos safer, food safer, drugs safer and to protect the status quo as much as possible.

The true capitalist pines for a product that requires no employees and returns pure profit. Regulations are obstacles to overcome or subvert. Look at how the Bush administration put representatives, of the very industries being regulated, in charge of the regulatory agencies. Watch as the chamber and its allies attempt to weaken regulations governing the financial services industry. Corporate America will always fight any attempt to force it to pay better wages, under safer conditions, without ruining the land. (Have you seen what mountain-top coal mining does to an area?) After the gathering in New Hampshire, it appears they have won at least half the battle. What I don't understand is why Americans would go along with such dreams.

The middle class of this nation exists as a result of actions taken by the government over the last 100 years. Whether it was the right to organize workers, demand better wages, have access to higher education, use an interstate transit system which dramatically reduced the cost of moving product to market or research funded by government grants, the end result was the rise of a robust and solid middle class. Today, as the gap between the rich and poor widens and the middle class shrinks, and there is a direct relation to the weakening and elimination of regulations and laws that forced the capitalists to share more of their profit with average Americans. Yet, those 8 people on that stage in New Hampshire think they can be elected president by asking working Americans to cut their own throats, and past experience says they might be right.

I don't claim to understand how middle class Americans can vote for a party whose most recent leader reminded his supporters how he represents,"...the haves and the have-mores." How do you vote against you own enlightened self-interest? The 8 people on that stage believe you will do precisely that and have to hope you do not have access to a Wayback Machine so you can see what this country was like and will be again if they have their way.

1 comment:

  1. Bernie, the republicans main goal is for President Obama to fail and for President Obama to be a 1 term President. Republicans will do everything they can to keep the US economy weak. American citizens are clueless that they can't see this fact. Democrats need to continue calling out and exposing Republicans and their fascist policies.