Friday, December 26, 2008

Drawing a Clear Line In The Sand (or Snow)

At least when the Enron/Worldcom scams erupted, culprits were rounded up and sent packing to jail. The little people - folks like you and me - thought the Oligarchs had been taught their lesson about honesty and decency and social responsibility.

It seems the fiscal autocrats did learn a lesson but maybe it wasn't the one we wanted them to get. How many of the Wall Street titans who masterminded the greatest scam ever seen on this planet are under arrest? How many of these agents of the influence of affluence who were the toxic pushers of Asset-Backed Commercial Paper and Credit Default Swaps have been run out in disgrace, reduced to poverty? None. In the U.S., they were even able to find a bit of loose-change in the trillion-dollar taxpayer relief package to ensure they didn't have to forego their annual bonuses.

The Oligarchs who, for years, amassed enormous wealth from greed-driven activities plainly detrimental to their countries and to their societies, have achieved a level of economic power to rival, at times supercede, the power of democratic institutions to control their state. They can't take your vote, at least not yet, but they can undermine the power of your democratic franchise.

With Bush and his henchman Cheney in command, the Oligarchy embarked on a ruinous plan to cut taxes for the rich while spending America into abject, crippling penury. It wasn't just an effort to defund the federal government and force it to jettison social programmes they didn't like (as a lot of us so benignly thought at the time). It was a wholesale transfer of economic and political power from the blue and white collar working classes to the rentier class. Wealth steadily concentrated in the top few percent of Americans while the gap between rich and poor rapidly widened and middle class incomes stagnated as the government debt for which they would be held accountable skyrocketed. It was undeclared class warfare on multiple fronts waged by the agents of the Oligarchy who wangled their way into power by any means necessary.

Even as their reign is coming to an end, Bush and Cheney are furiously introducing regulations to damage America, its people and their environment. As Graydon Carter put it in the latest Vanity Fair:

"Bush and Cheney have been working feverishly to write as many as, by one count, 130 new regulations undermining federal laws protecting not just our environment but also our civil liberties and personal safety. And with the nation's attention ping-ponging between Obama-mania and Dow-phobia, the White House is hoping we won't notice. ...The New York Times and the Washington Post have been particularly diligent in shedding light on these final, grasping acts of an administration that can be described only as a widespread criminal conspiracy."

The time has come for a renewal of democracy and the democratic franchise. Part of that will come from burying Cowboy Capitalism in the deep, deep grave it deserves. Part of it will require paying a bit of respect to our democratic freedoms once again because if we don't defend our democracy and make it paramount, the Oligarchs will surely win.

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