Saturday, March 20, 2010
American Pie....That You Shouldn't Want
Don't get me wrong. I think the American religion of capitalism has some merit. I've done ok by it, I guess. But it also seems to me to be fraught with failure; failure that is rigged into it for most of us no matter what we want to believe about unfettered and free capitalist markets that create opportunities for any of us to be rich.
Believe in tinkle-down economics and corporate benevolence if you like, but the reality is that the vast majority of us are only so much chattel in the execution of an economic model that sees people as expendable resources. That's not rain splashing on top of your head. More on that in a minute.
How else can our indifference and downright hatred and contempt from some segments of our population be explained? I'm no theologian, but I don't think it can be explained as part of any mainstream religion.
No, IMHO, it comes from what I consider to be a terribly misguided resurgence of Randian capitalism and what seems to be a built-in contempt in conservatism for anyone not meeting their litmus tests and the definition of "success" in a capitalist sense. It all seems to me to breed an ugly culture of greed and amorality that spawns idiots like Beck, Limbaugh, and Palin who preach their sermons of lies and hatred. They make tons of money and grow their personal wealth by duping certain people in this country into thinking that things like universal health care and financial market regulations are bad ideas. In simple terms, their religion of capitalism puts greater value on money and individual wealth than it does on human life or protecting the rest of us from undue investment risks taken on by people who get all the reward and bear none of that risk.
(BTW and before anyone takes offense at my penchant for using the word 'dupe', it means to deceive. It has nothing to do with intelligence. Even the brightest people in the world can be deceived.)
Unfettered capitalism also dupes Americans into believing that we can buy our way into wealth and happiness. Who was it, after all, that made credit cheap and told us the only way to be happy was to stuff our lives with more and more stuff!?! Probably wasn't the liberal left.
Unfettered capitalism also seems to create a sense of entitlement among American consumers. Strange use of that term, entitlement, I know. What I mean is that we have allowed ourselves to be deceived - duped - into believing that we are entitled to cheaper and cheaper consumer goods so we can stuff our lives with more and more stuff without one wit of consideration for how, where, and by whom those goods are produced, distributed, and delivered to market. It was this video that got me thinking about that today.
The high priests of this capitalist religion - the "captains of industry", "Wall Streeters", and, yes, neo-Randians, so-called fiscal conservatives, even Libertarians - are more than happy to supposedly "serve the market demands", right? I mean, why not? If that's what Americans want then, dammit, we're Americans and that's what we're going to have. All that's being done is the servicing of the demands of the marketplace, right? If that's what people want, that's what we'll give them. What's wrong with that?
Fair enough. I'm ok with that....to a point.
If cheaper and cheaper is the siren song to wealth and happiness, how's that going to be possible in a country that produces fewer and fewer consumer goods? How's that possible where the middle class *is* the primary consumer marketplace and where that part of our society is under the most stress and may even be shrinking?
If everything has to get cheaper - and in the case of food, nothing could be worse, really, since the cheapest food products tend to be the least healthy for us - what's a good capitalist to do? Well, there's the always-popular answer of lowering labor costs. Turning people into chattel. It's either continue to ship middle class jobs overseas so you can pay slave wages to workers, or risk pricing your goods and services out of the market. Now that's good capitalism at work!
The very class of people capitalists need in order to have at least a domestic market - the middle class - are the very people getting hurt the most right now. Who's doing that? It's precisely and unequivocally the fault of unfettered and unregulated capitalism and capitalists.
I mean, you're not going to blame the poor are you?
And certainly you can't blame the government for over-regulation because the RRs - Randian Republicans - successfully deregulated financial markets when they passed GLB.
I suggest you think about this the next time you hear the ultra-whack-wing-right mouthpieces like Beck and O'Reilly and Limbaugh and Palin - or elected officials with "Waterloo" agendas - criticize an administration for not yet having fixed a broken economy. Are we that eff-ing stupid to think that 8 disastrous years can be remedied in one?
Think about this the next time.....
....a jobs number comes out
....someone complains that America doesn't manufacture enough and our trade balance is all out of whack
....someone claims that what's needed is less government regulation and not more
....someone points out that the middle class is shrinking and we're headed toward some banana republic state where you have only a small percentage of wealthy people living off the backs of an impoverished population.
Exactly where are jobs supposed to come from in an economy that long ago - and in the name of corporate profits and shareholder returns - shipped most of its manufacturing overseas where there's nothing close to our definition of a middle class?
And exactly how many "services" jobs can we reasonably expect companies to create and sustain in our economy? Oh wait, many of them now exist overseas, too. Why? Because labor is cheaper there. Remember that the next time you make a "language skills" complaint about the customer service agent who answers your call. It wasn't the liberal left who outsourced that job from Minneapolis to Mumbai. Thank your friendly neighborhood capitalist.
So what's the answer to our current economic mess? Is it more government bail outs to free market capitalists who want nothing to do with government involvement in their lives and their businesses? F***ing hypocrites.
Is it protectionism? Is it isolationism? Can't keep lowering operating expenses and outsourcing jobs to Asia-Pac countries and then close off our borders to the importation of those foreign-made goods. What would happen to the income statements of our benevolent corporations then?
Is it more regulation or less? History can teach us a lot if we just take the time to study it. The first Great Depression seems to have taught us very little.
I don't profess to know the answer.
What I do feel pretty confident that I know unequivocally is this.....
....it wasn't the so-called universal health care socialists who think it's time to rein in insurance companies who put money and profits ahead of humanity and humane treatment of others
....it wasn't the advocates for social equality and gay marriage rights who keep wondering why anyone else gives a f*** about them and their desire to get hitched
....it wasn't the "nut-job" environmentalists and tree-huggers who wonder why we can't see the reality that oil barons are simply protecting the last few drops of a disappearing resource from which they will wring every last penny at our expense
....it wasn't all those worrisome waves of illegal immigrants taking all those prized lawn-care and domestic housekeeping jobs from true middle class Americans
....it wasn't the inner-city poor luxuriating in lives of crime-free-front-stoop Doritos-munching and drug dealing
....it wasn't the peaceniks and war protesters who want the government officials brought to justice who dragged this once great country as low as it could go by admittedly torturing people
....and it sure as f*** wasn't the the middle class that put us into this mess.
No, no, no. It was..................................................................................nah, I don't need to say it. You know who it was. Whether or not you'll ever admit it out loud....now that's a different question. ;-)