Friday, December 26, 2008

Priorities & Connecting the Dots

THE MARCH GOES ON: American Financier after Corporate CEO after Industry Representative, heads held low as they shuffle along, stepping in line; up Capitol Hill, down Pennsylvania Avenue; hands out, palms up; and nothing but billion dollar bailouts on their minds.

If this is not actually the funeral procession for laissez capitalism it damn well ought to be.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the National Priorities Project released a brief video this year as a deserving tribute to the persistence of its founders and supporters. The video, presented here, provides an overview of the environment in which this organization has worked all these years and what they have been doing to raise awareness of the displaced priorities, missed opportunities and economic threats that brought us to our current situation.

More than $700 billion of tax-payer money set aside for cleaning up after so much out-of-control profiteering and corporate excesses of the past three decades!

As that unfathomable figure keeps growing and the national debt skyrockets our personal income, if we are lucky, just stagnates. For too many of us, caught up in the resulting layoffs from this colossal boondoggle, our resources are drying up completely - including any personal savings and public services we may have been counting on.

So far, the outrageously expensive relief packages that Congress and the Bush Administration have rolled out include nothing that might effectively stabilize the inherently volatile capitalist system. Other than strict regulation and market oversight - incredibly still a matter of political debate in this country(!) - there is absolutely nothing that can prevent a recurrence of the meltdown we are in.

Left to its own erratic devices the free market will inevitably lead those undead corporate bloodsuckers back to the taxpayer's trough like zombies out of a Robert Zemeckis flick.

Having found such easy pickings in the DC vaults they are likely to be back sooner rather than later.

There is reasonable hope that the Obama Administration will at least see to it that the wage slaves of the middle class will benefit in some tiny, short term way from the disbursement of those bailout funds. But it remains to be seen how the new regime will address the inevitable rehabilitation of the economy once they take over and the current crisis has bottomed out.

Though the most egregious corporate failures and abuses leading up to the current collapse were certainly accelerated during the free-wheeling, bellicose Bush years, the wheels were definitely set in motion by the repulsive "Reagan Revolution" launched nearly 30 years ago. All of us consumers and voters have been made fools of for having let things go so long and get so out of hand before enough of us began to realize that this is where we have been headed all along.

Some - like the National Priorities Project - did catch on pretty quickly. But nothing was able to stop the blood tide once it started rolling.

We have been lured into regarding this global economic downturn as though it is some sort of widespread natural disaster that just happened, unforeseen and unforeseeable - like an act of God - with all of us more or less equally victimized. Clearly this is another instance of that "manufactured consent" Noam Chomsky speaks of in this enlightening video...

In adding up the costs of the impending bailouts and remedial measures that are intended to revive our ailing economy after the Bush era implosion the question remains of what and who really caused this fiasco. And what consequences will be in store for those found to be responsible for having brought us to this brink of international economic catastrophe?

Naturally, those who are caught blatantly committing fraud and other indictable economic crimes are likely to face charges at some point. But will the prosecution of independent mercenaries be sufficient when most of the damage has been wrought by organized syndicates operating within the parameters of legality?

In the past, when we were serious about preventing any recurrence of major global disasters perpetuated by legitimate armies, tribunals were held to make spectacular examples of those found to be responsible. Blameworthy commanders and troop leaders were made to pay for the error of their ways.

Of course, war crime tribunals have only been held in extreme cases that cost innocent lives while property and other assets were destroyed or appropriated and the sovereignty of nations was threatened. But if things are as bad as we are just beginning to hear isn't this substantially what we are facing today? Are we not involved in international class warfare that has escalated to the point of a potential destruction of the global economy?

American political leaders have a long tradition of exploiting the metaphoric language of war to any perceived crisis we face. We've had a "War on Poverty," a "War on Drugs," a "Moral Equivalent of War," a facetious "War on Terror," and of course the one-sided imaginary "Culture Wars."

With the light of awareness intensifying at last on the heretofore covert "War Between the Classes," we have already seen one notorious lieutenant on the side of the filthy rich, Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villhuchet, evade public humiliation and justice by way of dishonorable suicide.

Villhuchet was apparently nothing more than collateral damage in what might be called the Madoff Offensive. In this raging class war the autonomous actions of Bernard Madoff's cartel is likewise the equivalent of those attributed to private militias in the so-called "War on Terror."

(BERNARD MADOFF = Bin Laden? His extortion squad BMIS = Al Qaeda?).

This is because the fraudulent Ponzi Scheme Madoff perpetuated is said to be only technically different from the "legitimate" business models developed by those failed and faltering financial institutions that have bilked billions of our tax dollars in the current bail out. The profits derived, whether legally or not, all end up supporting the exclusive interests and lifestyles of the rich and famous as well and their cohorts, the infamous rich. 

Many of them, in fact, represent the same families, dynasties and governments who fund and benefit from the autonomous terrorist plots carried out by al Queda and other extremist groups in the "War on Terror."  

How convenient that Madoff's crimes have come to light at this moment. His high profile arrest could take a lot of the heat off those with much more blood on their hands by lending credibility to their claims that this was all a function of rogue Wall Street Investors. By all accounts there may be no more deserving a fall guy than Bernie Madoff: he who brazenly swindled those wealthy investors to get a piece of their action also targeted a number of schools, charities and non-profit groups who invested their operating funds with him and now face ruin. Who is not happy to see this cad go down?

But what about those "merely unscrupulous" super-wealthy mercenaries and their corporate officers who exploited the legal but deficient principles of laissez faire capitalism to their own benefit and to the severe detriment of the world as we know it?

In their defense, of course, fingers are pointed at over-spending, credit-busting consumers who are said to have undermined the credit and lending industry and caused this market collapse with overwhelming demands against supposedly diminishing supply. Balderdash!


It does not take much to show that the blame lays squarely in the laps of unethical and greedy corporate moguls and financiers colluding with corrupt government officials.

The fact is that middle and working class consumers are largely alone so far in bearing the brunt of punishment for this debacle by way of devastating losses of livelihood along with the employer-provided health insurance, diminished savings, rising costs of living and the inevitable burden of increased taxes to fund the mounting bailouts in lieu of the public and charitable services that those diverted tax funds once supported.

But brace yourself. The worst is yet to come.

So what of those who have been in decision-making positions and benefitted outrageously from the supposedly over-burdening economic demands and drove us to the door of the poorhouse?

Will they be left free to enjoy the rich rewards of their actions and the self-serving decisions they made? As much as their personal wealth may be chipped into as a consequence of lower returns on their invested endowments, the worst of them will still be left with obscenely substantial means relative to those who will have lost everything. With all that loot they could easily slip away to live out their years in Dubai comfort like so many Nazis did to Brazil, rather than face the Nuremberg Trials.

If such an exercise in connecting the dots seems to lead us to a far-fetched conclusion, or if the call for an economic war crimes tribunals sounds implausible or absurd, it may help put things in perspective to recount the huge diversion of public funds to support the actual on-the-ground opportunistic war still raging in Iraq. This economic meltdown did not happen in a vacuum. Connect the dots: the conquering of the world's middle class is in no way a bloodless coup.

Several years ago Brave New Films released a documentary of the nearly $700 billion+ U.S. occupation of that country, "Iraq For Sale: the War Profiteers" (still available). Of particular and disturbing relevance is the expose of those whose coffers the lion share of funds supporting that war ended up in -- and how they are connected to the overlords of our government and our economy.

If you have not had a chance to attend a screening I urge you to do so. The DVD is available at their website: The bonus scenes below give a good sense of what the film contains.

If laissez faire capitalism has finally fallen victim to its own excesses in the War Between the Classes, will it be given it a proper military funeral, flag draped coffin and all?

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