We don’t do competent governance anymore. Everything is simply a looting opportunity.
There are clusters of competence, of course, but they are overwhelmed by incompetence, corruption and callous disregard for anyone who isn’t wealthy or powerful. The elites have become feral, out of touch with actually producing anything of value and only capable of playing political games. They get money by manipulating politics, not by genuine production. Pump up the stock market, let the workers starve and run out of rent money, shovel money to the rich, so they can swoop in to buy up distressed assets.
Why is it okay for the Fed to create $1.5 trillion to buy stocks to prevent rich people from losing, when it’s not okay to print $1 trillion to pay for free Medicare for the entire population? Remember in the debates during the spring when Biden and Klobuchar kept saying, “Medicare-for-All will cost $1 trillion over 10 years.” But suddenly the Fed can create $1.5 trillion in one week just to buy stocks.
It’s perverse Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), where only the rich should be allowed to print money for themselves, but the government should not be allowed to print money for any public purpose, any social purpose — not for medicine, not for schools, not for personal budgets, not for full employment — but only to give to the 1 percent.
The one-time $1200 payment is derisory. Meanwhile, Republcians and Democrats shovel trillions to malefactors of great wealth, unanimously, without a single dissenting vote. Virtually all the relief money has flowed to the top, not the bottom. Landlords and tenants are in crisis. Unemployment is going over 30% and in many places higher. A vast swathe of American small business will be destroyed, and is unlikely to recover in a generation. Meanwhile, corporations, like Boeing, which borrowed money to do stock buy backs, or to give money to their private equity purchasers are bailed-out, but many small businesses will go under.
If you had consciously tried to engineer a massive public health disaster, you couldn’t hope to match the ways in which the whole American system has been calibrated to transform this crisis into a catastrophe. Decades of racist, anti-worker, and plutocratic government policy has created the ideal conditions for a pandemic to turn the United States into a failed state.
What happened? Well, simply put, the rich grabbed hold of political power, took over the government and started to unlevel the playing field. Wherever they can exercise their power they do. They were aided massively by neoliberal ideology, with its emphasis on the sacrosanctness of the market. The result is that over the last 40 years, a large majority of American workers (us) have seen their real incomes stagnate or decline.
It turns out that everything has a cost, and years of attacking government, squeezing it dry and draining its morale, inflicts a heavy cost that the public has to pay in lives. All the programs defunded, stockpiles depleted, and plans scrapped meant that we had become a second-rate nation. What we’re finding out is that government programs in the United States are not designed to solve problems. Rather, they are designed to pretend to solve a given problem so that this problem doesn’t require an amount of spending that would necessitate financial sacrifice on the part of the wealthy.
It would be easy if we had one party that was decent but we have a tag team of evil, opportunistic sociopaths, who would sell out their own grandmother for a campaign donation. We have bad cop, worse cop, where one party supports a brutal, unrestrained version of neoliberalism, and another party supports a marginally less brutal, slightly mitigated version of neoliberalism but with “identity politics” and “safe-spaces”.
Want sprinkles with that scoop of dog-shit?
Presently we have Senate Majority leader and Republican, Mitch McConnell telling state pension funds to drop dead, while, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is now advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on economic policy, including its plans to revive the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic. Got that? The party that is supposedly less evil is bringing back Larry-freaking-Summers, the man who has been wrong about everything. Here’s how one pundit described Summers tenure. “Over the past three decades, Summers has amassed a policy record of almost unrivaled social ruin.”
Lately it feels as if I could write a variation of this post every week, but I’m not sure how long this continues. What can’t go on forever doesn’t. History demonstrates that political institutions and the behavior of ruling elites largely determine the economic success or failure of countries and that momentous political changes take place when a nations elite and the major institutions they control lose public trust.
We’ll talk about what comes after next week.