Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Where's Guy Fawkes When You Need Him?


"Despite all my rage / I'm still just a rat in a cage." - "Bullet With Butterfly Wings", Smashing Pumpkins

     (Editor's note: This is a slightly revised blog post I'd written and published three years ago exclusively for another blog I'd started that never took off and had abandoned by the summer of 2011. Despite the topical nature of politics and social events, when I reread this over the weekend I found more that was actually still relevant than  was irrelevant. The face of evil never changes. The people that ran the Triangle Shirtwaist factory still live on. Their successors just think bigger. And while this was written at the time of the horrendously misguided and infinitely more corrupted 2010 midterms, and while November 5th this year is a nonelection year that will see races in Virginia and a few other states, much of what I'd written in this lengthy, furious screed, tragically, remains germane.)

     Oh, heavens, no, Constant Readers. I would never advocate blowing up the White House or Capitol Building or even a Port-O-Potty on the National Mall with a keg of dynamite. That is, like, so 2009 Tea Party. But it is, after all, the 5th of November and the country had obviously slid another several feet toward the edge of the cliff in the wake of the last midterm elections. So, let's all sit down at my little kitchen table and have a nice chat, shall we?
     Now, I'm as anxious as the rest of you about the direction our country's been heading ever since Ronald Reagan doddered around his California ranch wondering what the fuck happened to his 2nd rate acting career. And I won't be impolitic enough to point out that while we share the angst of the Tea Baggers, our own particular stress arises from knowing actual facts and not feverishly imagining Socialist / Fascist conspiracy theories.
     Nonetheless, enough of us were deluded enough to hand the rudder wheel back to the same psychopaths who'd confidently steered the ship of state straight into the iceberg. And the GOP majority in the House and their equally insane bretheren in the Senate are just two of the things we have to worry about just in the next three years.
     Because instead of the corporation-gobbling Marxist a certain notorious number of us think we have in the White House, we have a Step-and-Fetchit house nigger willing to dance a jig to Wall Street's tune and willing to go by the new name of Toby if they but so much as dangle the whip.
     The proof is in the pudding that is the health care bill, that Obama says will be improved upon and tinkered with when this government of plutocrats already had almost a year and a half to get it right the first time with an historic "progressive" majority. What little good the bill will do anyone who doesn't work for the government or who is rich enough to not need health insurance won't kick in until New Year's Day 2014.
     Let's get one thing straight about ObamaCare: As with RomneyCare, the entire focus, the overarching emphasis was in keeping the powerful HMO's between the hashmarks. Insuring tens of millions of Americans, by mandate, was merely incidental. You were merely a glorified afterthought. If Congress and the administration had the slightest intention of insuring every American (and ObamaCare will fall just short of that), they would've told redneck states to stuff their "states' rights" and force these states to extend Medicare to anyone who needed or wanted it. Instead they gave them the power to opt out, which many of them did.
     Iraq and Afghanistan are little more than Bush-era bailout packages for hundreds of military industrial contractors except we're using more contractors than we ever did under Bush.
     The filthy rich, thanks to the right wing Supreme Court, now have nothing to stand between them and buying seats for their slightly less filthy rich comrades in harm, making the voice of the people more redundant than ever. Many of these same corporations belong to Infragard, the cabal of Fortune 500 companies that have been deputized and immunized by the Justice Department to kill American civilians who are judged in the field to be a threat to the national infrastructure.
     These same corporations have already gotten an admirable head start in their undeclared eugenics program by making health care and life-saving pharmaceuticals so conditional and prohibitively expensive that we die while waiting for them. Visits to their corporates offices results in tasing and having the police called on you.
     Corporations like BP and Exxon slather our coastlines with oil they spilled then try to slough off culpability like a wet blanket, get out of paying fines that still do not benefit us, get out of cleanup costs then, if we're lucky, they'll hire us at substandard wages and using substandard PPE and no health insurance. Then, whatever we're fortunate enough to make when our livelihoods are destroyed then gets deducted from whatever piddling settlement we would've gotten from them.
     Then they have the nerve to expect the government to let them do it all over again.
     Corporations like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and other scumbags are literally stealing our homes and our cars even when they're paid off and the courts let them even when they produced just shoddy, backdated documents. They're shanghaiing us in our homes and fooling us into thinking we're in real courtrooms before real judges and real sheriff's deputies.
     They lay us off by the tens of thousands, ship our jobs overseas so they can save a bundle so they can buy for themselves corporate jets, yachts, mansions and amass billions then have the gall to spend up to $160,000,000 on one campaign (all but $20 million coming out of Meg Whitman's bottomless pockets) and expect us to vote for them on the strength of fiscal responsibility and permanent lower taxes.
     These same gabardine-swaddled, jiggling swine are building ocean liners, not yachts, but billion dollar ocean liners so they can then serenely float off into the sunset while the mainland erupts into a smoking war zone while the craters fill up with human blood. Once again, if you're lucky, you may survive as a member of the servant class onboard these getaway ocean liners.
     Every once in a great while in the interests of cathartic theater of the absurd, the government temp workers of these same corporations (aka Congress) bark at them like irritable, overcompensating Pekingese, jesters timidly mocking the monarchy of old before cartwheeling away back into obscurity.
     The problem with this country is that the fraud, the corruption and the outright contempt for the average working-class family is so pervasive and widespread, so deeply entrenched into the fabric of government that it's possible there's no one person who can connect all the dots and have a perfect, all-encompassing overview of the rot that has taken this country into the third world.
     It's no accident but by design that we are last in the world in math test scores, last in preventable death health care (the hated France is #1), our health care system is the most expensive in the world but dead last or next to last against other industrialized nations. Having slipped seven ranks in just three years, we are 49th in life expectancy at just over 78 years (the hated Socialist French are #12 with tiny Monaco topping the list, averaging almost 90 years.) When the WHO last did their national rankings of health care systems 13 years ago, once again France came in 1st out of 191 nations while we did a dismal 37th.
     Because the last thing the power elite wants is an actual Democratic citizenry that's educated, informed and healthy enough to take back their government whenever necessary.
     Yet all these corporations have to do is say, "Uh uh" and countless tens of millions will believe them when they say socialized medicine is evil and unAmerican, counter-capitalistic and Communist, that the free market always has our best interests at heart and can always be counted on to be responsible stewards of the environment. What they won't tell you is that the Free Market 2.0 in virtually every industry now agrees to not compete with one another so they all can share equally big slices of the pie while bilking the consumer in mutual plunder.
     The problem is, the stock market on Wall Street and the corporations who trade on the market floor have less to do with the actual economy than ever before. There's not just a gap widening between rich and poor but between Wall Street and Main Street.
     When Mikael Blomkvist of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo exposed a Swedish tycoon of having committed virtually every white collar crime known to Man, he was asked what responsibility he and the media bore for the collapse of the Swedish stock market. Blomkvist said, "The idea that the Swedish economy is headed for a crash is nonsense." The incredulous reporter pressed on with, ""We're experiencing the largest single drop in the history of the Swedish stock exchange- and you think that's nonsense?" These are the words that the late Steig Larsson put in his mouth (with some modest editing from me):

You have to distinguish between two things- the economy and the stock market. The economy is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in this country every day. It's just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago.

The stock exchange is something very different. There's no economy and no productions of goods and services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide this or that company is worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn't have a thing to do with reality or with the economy.
     All good and well and that may still be the case in Sweden, with a necessary separation between economy and stock market, one dealing in tangibles such as goods and services and the other dealing in intangibles such as run-of-the-mill speculation.
     And that would've been the case in our own financial Ivory Towers were it not for one thing: They decided that the real money wasn't on Wall Street but Main Street. The real wealth of our country is in its real estate holdings, which numbers in the tens of trillions of dollars.
     Then, thanks to economic slaughterhouses such as Magnatar and Goldman Sachs, they realized that not only could they and their buddies sell us subprime mortgages but to then foreclose on those homes when the APR literally doubled within a year and a half of home ownership. Then they realized that they could make a killing by bundling those toxic mortgages by the thousands and to then con banks into buying them knowing fully well they would go belly up. Then they created more money out of thin air by betting against those toxic assets they knew would fail.
     Then they realized that if they could do this with mortgages, well Hell's bells, they could bundle anything, including life insurance policies bought for pennies on the dollar from people on their death beds so they can throw that into the gaping maw of the health care racket.
     Then they realized that all they had to do was wave their arms and pretend to turn blue and beg the government for a bailout when their craps game turned into its namesake and that they could get us, the very same people they've been victimizing for decades, to bail them out.
     Then they realized that, with this massive 11 trillion cash infusion and with the repeal of Glass Steagall in 1999 (which allowed them to more than dabble in real estate), they no longer had any incentive to make their money the old fashioned way, which was loaning it to us at a modest interest rate.
     "Loan money to your business? Make a mortgage modification? To you, of all people? What are we, nuts? Times are tough! How dare you threaten our executive bonuses?!" Even though that was supposedly the rationale of the bank bailout, to loan money to those qualified to take out these loans and to get liquidity flowing again, nonbinding conditions that neither the Bush nor Obama administrations had the heart nor the intention of enforcing.
     Then they realized, with no more incentive to do business the old fashioned way, they went back to lighting their Cubans with thousand dollar bills that came with their billions upon billions in bonuses.
     And Section 6 of TARP gives the Treasury Secretary the discretion to foist on the taxpayer another $700,000,000,000 in toxic debt whenever s/he feels like it. But fear not, John Q. Public: Why should the resumption and escalation of the same reckless greed that occasioned the first bailout result in another future, even larger bailout making the impending billion dollar bailout of the FHA mere prologue?
     Our president is now archly reminding us of the need to pull together and preaching the virtue of shared sacrifice. Criticism of the government is not leveled at the right wing who want even more destruction in the form of Social Security and Medicare put on the auction block but at us with a surliness and contempt that's characteristic of the Bush administration toward those same progressives.
     So let's think of these few facts as Obama prepares to seriously listen to the GOP this winter in their impassioned pleas to reinstate tax cuts for the rich and raid Social Security's, Medicare's and SNAP's coffers. Because they want it all for themselves. It's really all quite elemental: They want to hoard as much money as they can, they will snarl with atavistic ferocity at anyone who wants even a fraction of it, they do not want to accept any criticism or accountability for their crimes and they will not rest until we're dead or fighting each other and everybody but them for whatever few scraps escaped their vulture eyes.
     Because it's not Wall Street banks or the oligarchs who run them that are too big to fail. What's too big to fail is the American Dream and the middle class.

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