Nobody Does It Better

Why Economic Meltdown Isn't the Universal Catastrophe It's Cracked Up to Be

Some of you may have read the especially prolific burst of political critiques yesterday on Bodhi-Thunder, which included:

Yet one premise in most of those posts never fully came to the fore. And it needs to be made explicit.

Lots of people are duly horrified at the ever-swelling magnitude of the economic collapse in the United States, the UK, and elsewhere. And more than a few of them seem to think things like predictions about the imminent bankruptcy of Social Security and the estimated $1.2 trillion deficit for 2008 are just the result of blundering, stupidity, incompetence, and bad economic luck.

The collapse we're starting to see the magnitude of is the result of none of those things. It was meticulously planned to bring a specific, desired outcome. And, to give the Devil his due, it's actually the product of genius. Maybe not pure genius, but genius.

"Golly," some of you are saying as you stop trying to wipe the sleep from your eyes. "How could that be so? I thought I was just having an industrial-grade nightmare."

You did? You apparently don't quite understand.

Will Social Security Survive a Second Depression?

Let's illustrate the dynamics by taking one of the fiascoes most recently noticed to be looming on the American political horizon: Social Security. For years the neo-cons have been intent on giving Wall Street a new pot of money to "manage" by privatizing Social Security. That effort took its most concrete form in the Newt-Gingrich-led Kontrakt on Amerika in 1994. (OK, he was smart enough to package it more palatably as the Contract with America.)

Newt's Kontrakt never quite caught on, though. The 'cons found too much popular resistance to directly and transparently privatizing, via legislation, the lifelong retirement contributions of working people. Working people kept raising hell with their Senators and Representatives, as did the AARP.

So the Cheney-Bush 'cons devised an even more effective means to reach their goal: Against the backdrop of economic collapse, they would make Social Security look like a luxury "social program" that could be cut. Forget that it was enacted during the last Depression and intended to be a giant, legal promissory note to the people who have been funding it.

Things were different way back then, the 'cons tell you. Now it's 70 years later. Now we need to, er, modernize and streamline government.

If you're a 'con yourself, you and your Halliburton friends would have your financial security all sewn up. In fact, by now you'd probably be wondering why you shouldn't capitalize on this opportunity by making Social Security into a fun board game that warriors young and old can play.

Let's see, what would that game look like? Well, players could see whether they could make their pot of gold bigger than their yachting buddies' by diverting the pensions and SS checks of "ordinary people" into their own more deserving pockets.

Those ordinary people will get by; they always have, haven't they? Besides, what could they possibly do to stop you from fleecing them?

In one fell swoop these same neo-cons could also justify the years they spent chanting the Reagan mantra: "Government isn't the answer to the Problem; government is the Problem." (And now they'd like to make it Your Problem, not theirs.)

Many who actually bought into the American Experiment in Self-Government, of course, thought government was there to ensure that the terms of the Constitution and the United States Code were complied with. Not a flawless institution, to be sure, but better than nothing at all. To make the playing field slightly more level. To "promote the general Welfare," as the Preamble to the Constitution put it.

Now those quaint Constitutionalists are learning from their more or less elected political leaders that there's red ink everywhere. This ink bath puts their nest eggs and their futures at risk. And that, it is commonly known among right-thinkers, is the fault of an inefficient public sector. Too many bureaucrats, too many do-nothing programs, too many welfare cheats. No profit incentive. Softness everywhere.

And suddenly the democratic ideals that the quaint Constitutionalists held so dear for so long begin looking negotiable.

How the devil did things get this way, anyway?

It comes down to this: If you were a 'con and wanted to strip away all but what you considered the absolutely essential functions of the government of the United States (i.e., the war-making apparatus, corporate welfare, and taxes on the poor), and if the people weren't going along with it, how would you do it?

Attacking it wouldn't work. Going through Congress wouldn't work. Defunding it proved unpopular during the Gingrich reign.

Hmmm. Tough problem.

Hey, I've got an idea! you might exclaim in your best Mickey Rooney voice (if you were a 'con). What about driving the government into insolvency?

Now we're talking! Play on the patriotism and religiosity of the masses, speak to those personal beliefs and values out of one side of your mouth, waving the flag a lot as you mimic inane idealism. Then start unwinnable, unnecessary, perpetual wars in the wake of September 11 that oil companies are very keen on and that Congress would have to support. The good ordinary people, you know, will contribute their sons and daughters.

Next, solidify popular support by creating a bogeyman. Politicians have long had this maneuver down to a science, but most haven't dared state it as brazenly as its most infamous modern practitioner did:

... the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Hermann Goering
Air Minister, Nazi Germany; founder
of the Gestapo; Hitler's Minister
of Economy
18 April 1946, to Gustave Gilbert,
a German-speaking U.S. intelligence officer
and psychologist granted access to
prisoner Goering by the Allies,
as published in his book Nuremberg Diary

Then the bogeymen were Communists, Jews, and enemy armies. Today, the art of getting people to go to war has acquired more subtlety: we scare them with words like "terrorism" and "liberal." And unlike the clumsy Nazis, we can divert attention from the main event in Iraq by creating a lavishly paid private army of American mercenaries and steering the media toward the public army. The private one is called Blackwater, and it has been around 10 times more expensive than the public army.

(SOCIAL NETWORKING HINT: If you've recently gone over to the Dark Side, avoid mentioning this wasted money when you talk to Katrina victims and people without health insurance. Those ordinary people are tired of hearing that there's no money to help them recover from natural catastrophes and financial devastation after the huge Wall Street bailouts. Oh, and don't mention, either, that you're deliberately doing nothing to limit obscene executive salaries and certain sloppy accounting practices in the banking and financial sector. Those are the preserve of the people Dubya once happily called his "base.")

Meanwhile, make emergency assistance to disaster victims so complicated and inefficient that it drags on for years, sucking up all the free time of a large chunk of the working and middle classes, particularly African-Americans.

Claim that you're addressing these problems by letting no-bid contracts out to ultra-efficient private-sector contractors, who just happen to be your pals. And they just happen to make huge profits from the suffering of the powerless by defiantly plundering the public treasury. (If you're a true 'con, the real high comes less from the plundering than from the specter of an intimidated, weak-kneed, co-opted Congress.)

And Now for the Harvest:

  • social chaos that pits people against each other rather than uniting them to hold responsible the people who caused it;
  • enmity toward government in all its forms;
  • cutthroat competition for the few remaining jobs so that those with jobs become docile and accept their status as expendable and CHEAP;
  • economic feudalization and dependency on a few dozen corporations with assets exceeding those of the 100 poorest countries; and
  • a sidelining of education and democratic traditions, including the Constitution.

Think about it. What more effective route could any gang of unsupervised thugs have taken to implement a right-wing agenda after they've left office?

It's genius, as we said at the beginning. And all it took was a leader with Passion and Vision. Someone with the know-how to make the unbridled lust for power seem like a virtue, especially when complemented by an absolute moral vacuum.

Team Cheney, in other words.

So you see, folks, not very much about this was accidental.

That's why what looks like unmitigated, unprecedented disaster to most of us is cause for quiet celebration in the ranks of the Cheney-Bush Cabal. Celebrating comes easy when you've pulled off this kind of caper without a hitch, and even easier when you've managed to make it risk-free by using other people's money.

Mission accomplished — yeah, this time, you, too, Big Dick!

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