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Behind the Crisis

If we’re going to learn anything from the economic crisis we’re in, we need to make sure that the same elites aren’t in power coming out of it that got us into it to begin with. And of course, those elites are doing all they can, in the media and in the halls of government, to make sure their power remains invisible and untouched.

Here’s the first article I’ve seen that gets to the heart of the matter:

    Corporate directors and managers have long defined how people live, what people do…. For generations, they’ve been writing our laws, propagandizing our children, dictating policy, plundering the planet….
    Armed with “freedom of speech,” “due process,” “equal protection of the law,” the “commerce clause,” “the contracts clause,” and other constitutional powers…corporate directors and managers have been making “private” decisions, which in an authentic democracy must be made by people in community via democratic processes.
    Their real bottom line is not that their corporations are “just too big to fail.” It’s that without giant corporations, we helpless human earthlings could do nothing to meet our needs. That we would languish freezing, starving, unemployed, unentertained, vulnerable, in the dark….
    After every financial cataclysm of the past century, people have been assured that the problem was “greed and excess”….
    But after the Madoffs of every generation are all locked up, most of the corporate directors and managers who “legally” plunged the nation into these messes continue governing over the nation…. They keep spending the people’s money to set things right. And they keep writing We the People’s laws.
    Isn’t that what’s happening today?

I suspect that the same problem exists, or is even worse, in many nations outside the U.S. where government of, by and for the people is less well defined—where the moneyed elites don’t even bother hiding their belief that the power of the state exists to benefit them.

If any good can come of this crisis, it’s that for a brief moment, the raw mechanisms of money and power have been exposed. The latest example of this is the arrogance of A.I.G. in using hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to give bonuses to the same people who brought this crisis upon us. I can only hope we see this as a learning opportunity. If, going forward, we don’t figure out how to take back control of our government from the corporations, shame on us.

UPDATE: Discussing the A.I.G. debacle, Josh Marshall digs into the issue of “who’s in control.”

    The problem is what appears to be the president’s mortifying impotence in the face of bankers and financiers who created the problem…. Anyone can look at that and see that the equation of power and accountability is all screwed up.

Comments

Comment from leblase
Time: March 19, 2009, 14:34

I just can’t agree with your conclusion of “If any good can come of this crisis, it’s that for a brief moment, the raw mechanisms of money and power have been exposed.”
Because precisely, they haven’t been exposed.
Neither the cause of the lack of regulations, nor the revolving door mechanism, nor the very discreet handlers of the strings and the way they act have really been uncovered to the public.
All that has been done-and the media is very prompt in pushing the story-is the creation of a big outcry over this AIG bailout, a non-event compared to what goes on in other insurance, hedge funds, offshore evasion, hand-to-hand lobbyists and interbanking cronyism.
Not to mention (because the President wants to “go forward”) the incredible corruption schemes surrounding the diverse Army furniture system

Comment from eatbees
Time: March 19, 2009, 19:17

leblase — I’m not sure it’s over yet. The people are angry and the Justice Department and Congress have only begun to investigate, though it’s true that the media are doing their best to obscure the problem.

It Obama fails to channel the public anger in a positive way (yesterday he spoke about just that, “channeling” anger), he will lose his chance to implement the transformative politics he ran on, so a lot is at stake for him, and he knows that. On the other hand, he’s the president so he can’t be seen to be cheerleading the anger; he needs to be standing above it. But I feel that he’s aware of the nuances and is tweaking the debate day by day in incremental ways.

It’s still not clear to me whether Obama is the profound change agent some people believe him to be, or simply a gifted servant of the status quo. Anyway, I think we still have a long way to go in this story and I’m not making any judgment yet.

Your statement that the raw mechanisms of money and power haven’t been exposed makes me wonder if they’re any easier to see in Europe than here? Or is it the same story all around?

Comment from leblase
Time: March 20, 2009, 08:46

Same story all over.
But differently told, and differently hidden ;-)

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