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Hullabaloo


Thursday, July 19, 2012

 
Something is very, very wrong here

by David Atkins

Hunter at Daily Kos encapsulates better than I ever could the core frustration of the Presidential race:

The current political riff over whether or not Barack Obama does or does not loathe businessmen and wish to do them harm is yet another in a long line of examples in which the narrative is, in variation after variation, centered on the titans of finance and what we can do for them. If the economy is suffering, it is because we have not appeased the titans properly. If there are no jobs to be had, it is because the titans are still too unsure of our intentions towards them. If there are still crooks on Wall Street, it is because entirely too many things have been declared to be illegal. Whether or not people have money to buy the things the titans are selling never comes up; it is implicit, in every debate, that the titans will decide whether we will buy things or not. When the economy crashed and things needed propping up, it was Wall Street that got propped up first. When the economy recovered, it was Wall Street that gained the largest share of the profits. According to current narrative, the entire world economy can be neatly encapsulated by the considering the desires and requirements of the top one percent of the top one percent; everyone else on the planet is a footnote.

The central banks all express alarm at unemployment; the central banks all do not a damn thing to combat it. The governments all express alarm at the behavior of the titans; the governments all do hardly a thing to forcibly reform them. And, in politics, we are trapped. The titans finance the elections, the titans underwrite the people who write the rules, the government looks to the ranks of the titans when seeking officials to lead the economic decision-making process. All of this four years after their recession. Their crash. Their failures. All of it just the same as during the four years before the collapse, or worse.

So now the current challenger for the presidency is a Wall Street financier, one who made his money by closing factories and shipping the jobs to cheaper places, or by taking control of companies, loading them with debt in order to pay his own company handsomely from that debt, and departing again—the kind of money-making that the titans think of as the most clever of all, because it extracts money from nothingness, but the kind that nearly everyone else points to as economic parasitism of the highest order. Gordon Gekko has come back to town, and by God and the titans, he's been heralded as a diplomat, and a patriot, and a generally fine fellow.

Holy hell.
If you were to design a tailor-made plutocratic villain to run for the Presidency in the post-crisis Occupy era, you could barely do better than Mitt Romney. The guy quite literally has the very job and personality that Gordon Gekko's character was based on.

And yet nothing in American politics has changed. The majority of the Left backs its own candidate in spite of various backslides toward neoliberalism. Conservatives rally around the plutocratic flag just as eagerly as ever, with the same racist and sexist phobias playing themselves out as usual. And the same old collected assortment of Perot, Nader and Ron Paul voters still stand holier-than-thou outside the system, declaring a pox on both houses and insisting that the whole thing is due to collapse any day now, with all the accuracy and relevance of those awaiting the Rapture.

The Republican Party couldn't have done more to discredit itself from 2000-2008 if it had tried. Two wars lost, an economy crushed, a surplus squandered and an entire city drowned, and yet nothing really changed at the core of the country's politics. The nation elected a Yankee African-American named Hussein, replete with a professorial and community organizing background. And still nothing changed: Barack Obama might as well have been playing out Bill Clinton's 3rd term. The Republicans stormed back into office with one of the biggest midterm landslides in history. No change. Americans started occupying the streets in protest of record income inequality. Still nothing. And then Republicans nominated Gordon Gekko himself as their candidate for President, and still the Presidency hangs on the edge of a knife so sharp we might as well be living back in days of hanging chad recounts.

Things do eventually change, of course. Tipping points come, and then things tend to move dramatically. But if even the course of recent events has not been enough to budge the ponderous weight of the political system, it's terrifying to think of the catastrophe it would take to force a real transformation of this dreary reality.


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