A commentary by Craig Barnes
On a Monday in early August, nurse
AIG (American International Group) filed claims in federal court against Bank of America alleging losses of $10 billion. The insurance giant claimed that the bank had intentionally disguised the risks of products to be insured. At the same time, recuperation
Bank of America was already being sued for $82 billion in a multitude of other suits. According to The New York Times, JP Morgan was also being sued for almost $40 billion, Wells Fargo was being sued for $35 billion, Citigroup for over $2 billion. All were alleged to have marketed securities as solid investments when at the time of the sale they knew that these representations were untrue. In legal jargon, when a person makes a deal based upon a fact that he knows to be false and intentionally disguises the falsehood, that is fraud. The giants of American capitalism were therefore this August in a hugely costly family quarrel, suing one another for throat-choking amounts of fraud.
Humongous enterprises are suing to protect their balance sheets because—contrary to the theory of capitalism—the free market has not made everything right. Worse, when the American congress decided on August 2nd that the way to solve the problem was for the government to spend less, resulting in less economic activity overall, the U.S. stock market in a few days lost 1,500 points. Not only were the giants of finance suing each other; they were losing confidence in the market as their security.
At the same time, French bank stocks were pressured on the fear of default spreading from Greece, to Portugal, to Spain. Further, U.S. banks hold huge loans interwoven with those French banks and as a result of the European scare in three days the U.S. stock market fell at first, 600 points. Then the gambling started and the market rose hundreds. By then marketeers were only betting against each other and the market fell again hundreds, rose again, fell again, in a game of guesses and risks, hubris and chicken.
America’s free market capitalism has, over the last 30 years, failed to put more income into the hands of more people, has failed the middle and lower classes driving them under water, and now is, for the first time, failing those at the very top. While they sue each other the stock market staggers and rises, staggers and rises, manufacturing stalls, people who already work two jobs cannot work more, or borrow more, and the governments of the U.S., Britain, France and Germany have all determined that they are going to help them less.
Capitalism provides no theory to explain why it is failing from top to bottom. The oligarchs are searching out more people to blame, more to sue, and different momentary heroes to elect to high office. Blame is, however, not a solution for bad economic theory. Someone is going to have to think new. Not just about stimulus. About corporations. About property. About plutocracy. About monopoly.
American government is also a mess. In the words of former republican congressman Tom Davis, “The political system, Republican or Democrat, over the last decade has delivered two failed wars, an economic meltdown, 20 percent of homes underwater, [and] stagnant wages.” (NYT, 8/8/11, The Caucus.) In other words, the American political system is also stalling out.
Anyone who has watched the minority party in the first two years of the Obama administration, and the stalemate of the last months over the debt ceiling will agree. The American political system is dysfunctional at best, failing at worst.
While capitalists sue capitalists and everyone blames the politicians for not being able to fix the capitalists, and while the capitalists spend billions to elect people who will prevent their being fixed, it is clear that this is a political and economic culture that is in deep trouble.
Some effort will be made to change politicians in 2012. But changing the incumbents in the congress or the presidency will have little effect if no one has a better story to tell, or something more promising than killing either government or corporations. They do not need to be just killed. They need to be newly understood and reframed in a world of scarcity, a world of limits to clean water and air, limits to growth, limits to greed, and limits even to the rights of property.
It is time to move beyond Adam Smith and Ayn Rand or misleading slogans like survival of the fittest. It is time to start over, and this time to follow some new instinct that appeals to the heart and not just the sword. Start over, and if the heart leads to feminine principles or to generosity and community, have the courage to follow on. Start over, and touch the earth and when we touch it try not to everywhere make it sore. Start over, as if life mattered, as if it mattered more than the fear of death. Start over as if to live for each other and as if the future mattered. Start over.
By Thomas Wark
They’ve started roasting the green chile here in southern New Mexico. This produces one of the great food aromas in the world, refractionist like baking bread or fresh-brewed coffee or grandma’s roladen.
All great chefs understand the importance of the olfactory element in food. So, too, do dogs, often with results that displease their human companions.
A few fortunate folks have developed keen olfactory skills for political odors, as well,. In this country they’re called liberals. Every now and then they catch a political aroma like green chile roasting. More often than not, in these United States, what they smell is rotten meat.
They are underwhelmed of late by a really bad stink on the wings of the winds out of Texas. Gov. Goodhair, as he was dubbed by the late, great Molly Ivins, wants to be our President.
Honest Injun! THAT Gov. Goodhair.
The one whose only policy decision about the state’s record, impoverishing drought was, “pray for rain.” (It didn’t work.)
The one who brags about the “Texas miracle” of increasing jobs during the recession, whereas in fact in true job creation data Texas ranks last among the 50.
The one who has compelled the state’s history teachers to tell their pupils that Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlaffly are “great Americans,” whereas Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez are not.
The one who primed his base for his presidential run by staging a great pray-in featuring some of the most whacko, racist, ill-informed Christofascists on the face of the earth.
The one who set the all-time gubernatorial record for executing prisoners who suffered from mental disability.
Ramblin’ Rick thinks he can pull Texas out of the union with a stroke of his pen; calls Social Security and Medicare unconstitutional and — get this — thinks the way to get this country moving again is to suspend ALL Federal laws and regulations. And one of his lesser gaffes: Fed Chief Ben Bernanke commits “treason” when he takes even mild regulatory action to keep the country solvent.
In Iowa, a handful of kooks got together in Ames to eat pork tenders and proclaim Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota congressperson, their favorite for the Republican presidential nomination. This makes her Gov. Goodhair’s principal rival.
What a pair!
Bachmann could improve her knowledge of her country’s history by studying even Goodhair’s cockeyed version of it. Last I heard she thought Paul Revere crossed the Delaware to warn Manchester, NH, that the British were comin’, which alerted Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys to win the battle of Lafayette, Ind. Something like that.
She and her hubby made their little fortune by praying homosexual people into heterosexuality, the way God intended it. Maybe her contest with Goodhair will come down to a praying contest. What a choice to inflict on God!
Meanwhile, vile odors waft unto us from Minnesota and from Texas. Fortunately, they come together right at the point of heavy green chile roasting, which neutralizes them.
Read more by Thomas Wark at http://www.bordellopianist.blogspot.com