Sunday, October 24, 2010

Calculating the price we'll pay for the blunderings of both parties' leaderships


"2013 – In charge of the judiciary, Congress and the Presidency, and with hard right crazies as a substantial caucus, the Republicans finally repeal the New Deal."
-- Ian Welsh, in his prognisticating blogpost today,

by Ken

The economy could be in worse shape, Frank Rich notes today, and probably would be if Republicans had been allowed to apply the neo-Hooverist "policies" (for want of a better word) that are all they seem to have to offer. He recites the "catechism" of reasons why the administration has reaped no credit for such accomplishments as it can legitimately claim: "the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House's surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements." But, he continues --
the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It's the country's fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.

No matter how much Obama talks about his "tough" new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there's been real change. That's not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It's also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.

Rich reminds us: "This intractable status quo is being rubbed in our faces daily during the pre-election sprint by revelations of the latest banking industry outrage, its disregard for the rule of law as it cut every corner to process an avalanche of foreclosures."

With more than passing reference to Inside Job, the new documentary about the global economic meltdown, noting wryly the devastating portrayal of the administration's departing economic point man, Larry Summers, in both it and The Social Network, he takes the administration to task for a failure we've been screaming about for close to two years: the failure even to attempt to establish what went wrong, both for crucial informational value and in the interest of punishing legal wrongdoing. "Asked in 'Inside Job' why there's been no systematic investigation of the 2008 crash, ["star economist" Nouriel] Roubini answers: 'Because then you'd find the culprits.'"

Rich has a lot to say about this failure to hold to any standard of legal accountability for possible crimes, which both demoralizes the country at large and encourages the criminals to push further to see how much more they can get away with.
The real tragedy here, though, is not whatever happens in midterm elections. It's the long-term prognosis for America. The obscene income inequality bequeathed by the three-decade rise of the financial industry has societal consequences graver than even the fundamental economic unfairness. When we reward financial engineers infinitely more than actual engineers, we "lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase" for Wall Street riches, as the economist Robert H. Frank wrote in The Times last weekend. Worse, Frank added, the continued squeeze on the middle class leads to a wholesale decline in the quality of American life -- from more bankruptcy filings and divorces to a collapse in public services, whether road repair or education, that taxpayers will no longer support.

Even as the G.O.P. benefits from unlimited corporate campaign money, it's pulling off the remarkable feat of persuading a large swath of anxious voters that it will lead a populist charge against the rulers of our economic pyramid -- the banks, energy companies, insurance giants and other special interests underwriting its own candidates. Should those forces prevail, an America that still hasn't remotely recovered from the worst hard times in 70 years will end up handing over even more power to those who greased the skids.


For anyone trying to imagine how the current toxic political process will play out in the years to come, Ian Welsh prognosticates today on his blog:
2010 – Republicans take control of the House. The Senate remains in Democratic hands, but the margin is reduced.

2011 – Bush's tax cuts are extended. Social Security is slashed. This is done at Obama's behest, so that Dems get blamed for it.

2012 – The Republicans take the Senate (this is virtually guaranteed, 2012′s geography is awful for Dems).They retain the House. They probably take the Presidency.

2013 – In charge of the judiciary, Congress and the Presidency, and with hard right crazies as a substantial caucus, the Republicans finally repeal the New Deal. SS is turned into privatized accounts (older folks will keep most of what they have), Medicare is slashed going forward, regulatory agencies the EPA are cut to the bone, education is turned over to the private sector as the Feds withdraw virtually all support for public schools and move to a voucher system. A new bubble (the last one) is inflated at all costs by Bernanke. Massive slashing of the federal civil service occurs, programs which are not slashed are transferred down to the States, where corruption is easier.

2014 – President Teabag starts a war somewhere to keep pump up the military Keynesianism. Said war is used as an excuse to even further curtail civil liberties.

If the Republicans don't win the presidency in 2012, no big deal, they'll still control Congress and the Supremes, and they'll get him in in 2016. (Obama will do much of what they want anyway, and get the blame.)

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At 7:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember when the Supremes were pretty (especially Diana Ross), talented, and probably honest. Or am I dating myself?

At 12:31 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Well, of course you're dating yourself, Anon. (I know I do it these days most every time I open my mouth or put on my blogging beany.)

The only consolation I can offer is that, technically speaking, we aren't dating ourselves. Time does an impeccably immutable job of it on our behalf.

But as for these Supremes, can you imagine being stuck in a room with Nino Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John John Roberts, and Sammy "The Hammer" Alito? (Anthony Kennedy's presence I wouldn't dread so much. He just seems desperate to be in the room.) Yecch!



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