Sunday, July 16, 2006

Greed is Not Good

"Greed is good." -- Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone's Wall Steet

How precocious, way back in 1987, to make that trenchant observation on the American condition. Of course that was at the end of the Reagan Years, but no one could have predicted the absolute mess we have today in an economy built entirely on greed.

You'd have to go back well over 100 years, to the so-called "Gilded Age", to find an equivalent set of economic circumstances in American history, the age of the Robber Barons, the age of brutal suppression of the working classes, the age of corruption in politics and the spoils system in political appointments.

Kind of sounds like today, doesn't it. That's not a coincidence.

It was a combination of things that eventually ended the Gilded Age: Theodore Roosevelt and Progressive Movement; WWI, the various recessions/depressions in the economic cycle, culminating with The Great Depression, the New Deal and finally the societal changes resulting from WWII.

The neocon post-industrialist fascists who are now in charge of things have made no secret of the fact that they want to roll back each and every one of these advances and reforms, at least back to the way things were before the New Deal (and even farther if the truth were known).

And sadly we're well on our way down that road. The minimum wage hasn't been increased in nine years, and it looks like there's no chance for an increase with the current party in power. They'd like to do away with it altogether but they haven't figured out quite how to get away with it. The gap between the richest people and the rest of us has grown every year, and the "great economy" touted by Bushco isn't so great for those of us toiling away at the bottom of the ladder.

Greed is not good. As Molly Ivins argues in her July 11 column, the capitalist system will not be destroyed by "communists" or any other outside force -- it will destroy itself through its own self-consuming greed.

An economy is really nothing more the value of the goods and services that are in motion within it. What is beyond me is who these new post-industrialist Robber Barons think that they are going to peddle those goods and services to if the people creating them are being paid slave wages, with only enough cash for food and shelter.

Henry Ford, for all his faults (anti-Semitism, anti-unionism, etc), instinctively "got it" -- he doubled the pay of his factory workers, on the theory that a man who was building his cars ought to be able to afford to own one.

Today's corporate execs, in a race to the bottom when it comes to the wages, hours and working conditions of their employees, patently don't "get it". I don't know what it will take before they get it, but if we can survive long enough to avoid World War III, we'll have to figure out a way to make them get it.

In the words of Chairman Mao, "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun".

It doesn't have to come to that. Our only hope now is to put back into power the party of The People. The Democrats, in the meantime, have to come up with some non-nuanced sound bites that will get the attention of the Moron-American voting bloc and stop allowing the Repugs to run on their tried-and-true good ole boy "god, guns and gays" platform, convincing people to vote against their own economic self-interest.

6 Comments:

betmo said...

truth be told- we are screwed anyway. i have been reading about globalization and posting about it in my own way- but the crux of it is really simple: the rest of the world is moving forwards and america is moving backwards. we are not investing in our infrastructure or young people and that is where we will lose it. we need to teach and train our young people in math, science and engineering because we will never have 'worker bees' here again. gone are the days of going to work in a factory or cubicle for 20 years and having the american dream. no- the world is changing and we aren't because we aren't encouraged to and because we as a whole are too arrogant to acknowledge that we are no longer a world superpower. that is why we are screwed.

JBlue said...

You touched on some of my biggest concerns, Farnsworth. (In fact, I just blogged about a bit of personal experience in middle class American. Or, vanishing middle class America, I mean. Rapidly vanishing...?).

Anonymous said...

"What is beyond me is who these new post-industrialist Robber Barons think that they are going to peddle those goods and services to if the people creating them are being paid slave wages, with only enough cash for food and shelter."

Hmmmmm.....have you considered this scenario:
The middle class is destroyed and becomes part of the lower class/poor because of debt and unmanageable interest rates that are raised each time a payment is late.
A second horrible (but government permitted) 'terist' attack occurs and the Bush Admin declares Martial Law and suspension of Presidential Elections.
The general population can no longer get to work due to travel restrictions and the militarized police force who are directed by the Martial Law declaration.
The Civilian Imnate Program is implemented shortly afterwards.
(http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r210_35.pdf) and all civilians are directed to report for relocation. (http://www.greaterthings.com/News/Concentration_Camps/index.html)
All who resist are destroyed.

I know this is an extreme vision, but the government seems to have taken some extreme actions.

I hope I am just being paranoid.

moderate said...

Yes, yes and yes...unfortunately for America...we are burdened with a Congress which truly cares only about money, power, and reelection...and a press that has become a parody of the dimwits on the cable "news" programs. ...and the people watch what's happening and wonder where the future went...

JBlue said...

"Hmmmmm.....have you considered this scenario:
The middle class is destroyed and becomes part of the lower class/poor because of debt and unmanageable interest rates that are raised each time a payment is late."

And Congress made it harder to file for bankruptcy protection...?

Farnsworth said...

Anonymous, that's exactly the kind thing that keeps me from sleeping at night.
I suggest It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, which will show exactly how it CAN happen here.
I also suggest Jack London's The Iron Heel, which also demonstrated how a capitalist oligarchy could take control.
Those books are fiction and now have an almost quaint "alternate history" feel to them.
For a true story of how Marine General Smedley Butler foiled an actual takeover plot, see The Plot to Seize the White House.