James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Unintended lessons of the bailout

That the American people are going to be swindled again, or further swindled, to bail out the untouchable, unreachable rich seems inevitable.

The volume of commentary on the banker bailout is huge, and most of it should go directly to the “junk” folder or a recycling plant. I'm not going to add to the pile. Instead, at the bottom of this, I'll include links to some informed and truly perceptive analyses that you almost certainly won't find in the corporate media. It will suffice for now to say that the best and most knowledgeable observers agree that the plan will indeed aid the big-buck bankers while doing little for the rest of us.

We need to talk, however. There are some related issues that aren't being discussed at all, so far as I can find. This is a good time to think about who's doing this to us, and how and why.

Know thine enemy. And thine jackass.

As I write this, the U.S. Senate has just approved the lightly altered bailout plan (Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008). The House is expected to vote Thursday (Oct. 2), and like most people I know, I'm betting it also will approve the scheme, though more narrowly.

Leaders of both parties have had sufficient time to bring serious pressure to bear on those who voted no the first time around, and all sorts of games, from nasty to petty, are being played to line up the yes votes.

A couple of reports today say Congressional leaders have blocked constituent emails to members of Congress on the phony grounds that they fear their server will crash. Constituent contacts have been overwhelmingly against the bailout, members of Congress admit. But an employee of my Congressman, Keith Ellison, said the blockage is not deliberate. He said the servers simply can't handle the volume of emails being sent prior to the vote. I tried a couple of times to email Ellison and couldn't get far enough to enter text, let alone hit the send key.

His Minnesota office is answering telephone calls. That's good enough.

One thing that the public really must notice, or be led to notice, is that the corporate media are once again acting as touts for the powerful politicians who are most involved in screwing us over. Like the public, they're pretty much ignoring the lame George W. Bush. No one, possibly including even his wife and daughters, any longer believes that what he has to say about anything matters to anyone.

The media are jumping through hoops for the Congressional leadership of the Corporate Party, however. That is, for the top dogs of both Republican and Democratic wings of the party, who are united on the bailout to a degree not seen since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Listen to the language the next time you turn on CNN or CNBC. (Fox Propaganda? We know what they'll say about anything before Bill O'Reilly warms up his tonsils.)

The people of the perfect teeth are working hard to assure us that the bailout is necessary “not for Wall Street, but for Main Street,” as the corporate elite's political water carriers have so nicely phrased it. Opponents of the scheme are made, with smirks and well-placed little head shakes, to seem misguided. Proponents are presented as sages, doing their best to rescue a public that “doesn't understand” the plan.

Note that in print, even more than on television or radio thus far, the Washington scheme is increasingly referred to as “the rescue plan,” rather than the bailout. That was prescribed by party and congressional leadership, and a bunch of the newspapers and the Associated Press –- once the most neutral of all news services-– jumped on it immediately. A couple of longer neutral terms are used by some reporters who couldn't quite swallow “rescue” in one bite.

The party hotshots are “rebranding” the bailout. It's still the same pile of horse dung in the middle of a muddy street, but from now on we're going to call it something like “Frederick's Fine Fertilizer” and the press will work to make you believe your nose is wrong and that it really smells sweet. And that probably will work in the long run.

If you listen carefully to the language of the television spinners, read carefully, and watch the well-rehearsed “spontaneous” facial expressions and body language, you'll see the salesmanship at work.

What it tells you is important, and though we all know it, we tend to forget: Broadcast “news” generally isn't reporting these days so much as it is flackery, and the loudmouth salesmen and the plethora of babes who've replaced real reporters on most television systems are there to sell their masters' points of view. The situation isn't much better on most newspapers.

(Revealing sidelight: In newspapers, both reporters and writers of letters to the editor frequently refer to “extreme leftists” and the “extreme left of the Democratic Party.” No news story ever refers to a Republican as a right winger or extremist, and as frequent letter writers of liberal persuasion can attest,
no letter using such a phrase will be printed. Right wingers are merely “conservatives.”)

The other important side story of our miserable economic situation is how much it reveals about our politicians and the people who own them.

Ye, gods: John McCain and Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Adam Putnam lined up shoulder to shoulder to march over us. (Putnam is the redheaded right wing nutter from Florida's 12th Congressional District who has been on television a lot the past week, expounding on the need for the bank bailout.)

It's enough to make the heart of a $30-million-a-year bank executive go pittypat.

There has been some media talk, though much too little, about the 180-degree difference of opinion between the Democrats who voted against the bailout the first time around and the Republicans who did the same. The difference matters. It, coupled with the fact that a big bloc of Democrats voted for the bill, demonstrates better than any nose count on any other issue why a victory of Obama over McCain won't be anything like enough to bring desperately needed “change” to our government.

The Democrats who voted against the bill Sunday did so mostly for the right reasons, according to various reports, including those from news outfits that disapprove. Very pointed nudges from hundreds and even thousands of constituents helped, of course. The stated reasons were that the Treasury plan was too much a handout to the bankers and others who created the economic spinout in the first place, and provided too little help to the victims of their fraud and avarice and to the vast majority of taxpayers.

Many of the right-wing Republicans who rejected the pro-bailout arguments of their leaders and the White House did so because, they said, it was a “big step toward socialism.”

No, they weren't kidding.

Dozens of “free-market” Republican zealots have found a home in Congress since Ronald Reagan arrived, dragging Phil Gramm, Newt Gingrich and other extremists behind him. They get a lot of help from the Blue (Dirty) Dog Democrats, by the way.

They are people who believe that capitalism -– their version -– and a “free market economy” are holy. And those systems require that government function almost exclusively to benefit the richest five percent (or less) of the population. Socialism is when government functions to benefit the majority of the population.

I worked with top corporate and bank executives for four-plus decades, and I know many people who inherited great wealth and power –- the “old money” elite. The statement above is not an exaggeration.

(An aside: They, through their wholly-owned politicians, such as George W. Bush, talk much about “spreading democracy” throughout the world. Democracy, as they use the word, is most accurately defined as corporate control of government. They want the engines of their wealth to control other countries as they mostly control ours. If they believed in democracy as most of us understand the term, would they be working so hard and spending so much money to suppress the votes of those in this country and abroad who disagree with their view of the world?)

I think, though I have no immediate evidence, that the right wing extremists were frightened by calls from the public for renewed regulation of financial businesses and restrictions on executive pay in bailed-out corporations and for other limits on the freedom of the elite to run things entirely as the choose. They see any restrictions on their behavior as sinful, literally evil.

They're calling for tax breaks for corporations and their major owners as part of the “rescue” package even as we are about to go hundreds of billions of dollars deeper into debt, but they are against tax breaks for anyone else.

When the politicians of the right talk about “protecting taxpayers,” as they are now, keep in mind which taxpayers they mean. It isn't you and me.

Also look closely at the structure of the bailout package. It is a design to further increase the wealth of the mighty by stealing from the rest of us. The insurance provisions and the “need” for consultants to design and run the bailout program –- endlessly lucrative jobs for the very people who created the crash -– is a way to hand out more licenses to steal billions of tax dollars. It's Halliburton in Iraq all over again.

The right wingers were and are angry because they believe the bailout doesn't yet contain enough for the billionaires, not because it isn't a real recovery plan.

Understand: the people of the extreme right are royalists. They believe in the sovereignty of money. They do not willingly tolerate any restrictions on the power of the very rich.

An honest plan to revive the economy and save the public from paying deeply and long for the crimes of the corporate and banking elite requires, among other things, a breaking up of the corporate/banking giants. Instead, our politicians are eagerly helping the giants grow bigger by eating their weakened competitors. We are very close to being directly ruled by the wealthy elite, very nearly to the point of entering America's post-Constitutional era. Or perhaps we're already through the door.


For cogent and truly informed analyses of the bailout plan, check out these essays:

“Firing Back On the CRA Libel” by Sara Robinson on Blog for Our Future, http://ourfuture.org

“Recapitalize the banking system” by George Soros, from the Financial Times, http://www.ft.com

“Hyperventilating on the Bailout” by Charles R. Morris from the Washington Independent, http://washingtonindependent.com