Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There Are Two Americas…

…maybe several more, but at least two. Investment Banker Bernard Madoff lives in one, the rest of us live in another.

It’s well into February. The Obama administration has been off to a blistering start. Only Right wing pundits like establishment hacks Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity can see the dark side of having a fast moving, hard working administration during times like these. The sight of President Obama briskly going about business, answering questions intelligently with credible force of reason, calmly calling on Helen Thomas (welcome back baby) infuriates Far Right mouthpieces, like Rush Limbaugh for one. You’d have to really hate your country to pine for the days of George W. Bush’s press conferences. One would have to really despise truth, justice and the nation’s stated ideals… and I’d suppose they hate America if I were given to betting on the inner workings of the minds of others. I’d accuse them of hating America if I had something to gain by shutting down GOP demagogues. I’d call them anti-working class, anti-middle class or unpatriotic to neutralize any point they might raise. The truth is, these days the Right wing echo chamber is doing a fine job of shutting itself down.
Right wing policy makers, pundits and “journalists” are offering us no new direction, no new policy other than the same tired, free-market, help-the-big-guys-out-first, trickle-down, Reaganomic nonsense that brought the country to this low.
They are still extolling the virtues of allowing the Rich to pay less taxes proportionately than the rest of the country.
The GOP is still the party of some “other America.” They are still the party of the top 1% and can no longer hide it behind monosyllabic sloganeering.

The Fox News Empire, various DC think tanks, and all the free-market tax-cut hawks in government want to take credit for promoting and supporting the deregulation that made the excesses, abuses and criminality on Wall Street possible (read profits), but none of the responsibility for its consequences. Hank Paulson for one, was not only a high profile actor on Wall Street as the CEO of Goldman Sachs, but the man caught holding the bag last year, or more accurately the man who saw there were snakes in the bag. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will never be congratulated for identifying the apocalypse of creative instrumentation in the financial world because the problem with our last Treasury Secretary was that; derivatives, the explosion in hyper-leveraged-intra-bank-financing, and the bizarre housing bubble they were built upon, didn’t bother him until that other “other America” crumbled under the weight of predatory lending.

…The man had the nerve to ask for all but a blank check from American tax payers on behalf of his community of liars, cheats and thieves.

There have been several appointments and “disappointments” in the almost entire month since our new president was sworn in. It seems that most influential Democrats at the front of the line for appointments don’t think much of raising our taxes but also don’t think that tax laws apply to them. It’s not much of a way to turn the country around.

Who are these people?
What culture is this where one class of people routinely steals from the rest of the country and gets away with it?
The answer is “the other America.”

The other America” is a term that has historically been used to signify the downtrodden; the poor; the destitute; those hidden masses who suffer below the grinding wheels of “prosperity.” -You know, the poor saps who keep losing their 401ks every ten years or so when the stock markets tank. The truth is, most of us are overwhelmingly much closer in economic stature to the working poor, exponentially so, than we are to the Richest people in our nation. For a middle class American to refer to the poor as “the other America” is something of a joke. -And it’s a joke being played on him. It’s a joke that allows him to identify with the top half of the country, as opposed to the bottom half.

America is not a country of “halves.”

While America can be divided into two distinct realities, they’ve hardly ever been halves at any point in our history. Back in 2004, I shuddered when then Senator Barack Obama said that there was no Black America, no White America...
-Now I know he meant there shouldn’t be… but there is. Denying these central truths, these corrosive inequalities in our nation are what allow them to continue and flourish.

Supporters of free market capitalism as it is unscrupulously practiced on Wall Street by investment banks and on the world stage by transnational corporations would probably say the tension between the Rich and those who aspire to be wealthy is what drives progress in civilization. They’d say it’s what moves history. Conversely, failure is what regulates fraud. Ruin is what enforces moral behavior in markets… As if bad ideas and criminality were never profitable. I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing.

The tension between the Rich and the Poor isn’t there to make anybody better, or move civilization forward. The chasm between the tiny wealthy minority and the rest of us only serves to allow the wealthy to live in a world of different standards and laws from the rest of us. The chasm serves to keep the Rich, rich.

Consider the fact that we have two prison systems: One for regular people who steal and break the law, “Federal Penitentiary,” and another one for people like Sam Waksal: “Minimum Security Prison.” If you’re as Rich as former NASDAQ chairman Bernard Madoff, you don’t have to sit in jail at all. You can just hang out under “house arrest” in your multimillion dollar apartment (which you should no longer have because you stole billions of dollars) until your trial, unlike let’s say, -someone who forged checks. Check forgers go right in with the rapists and other violent offenders… because they’re not Rich like Bernie Madoff.

There are at least two Americas. That promise of someday clawing our way into that “other America” keeps much of our society moving and yet it’s funny how the very promise of a thing… obscures the thing itself.



Jack Jodell said...

WELCOME BACK, SJ! You and Michael have been sorely missed! You raise so many valid points in this piece, I'm speechless. You truly do see the REAL world, as it truly is, and no amount of Hannity or Limbaugh propaganda can disprove that!The Madoff world is an artificially created, unethically and forcibly maintained one. It is full of despicable, misled characters who can't see beyond the ends of their own noses. Obama's world, OUR world, is the REAL world, populated with genuine, other-directed, good hearted people. We see things as they actually are, and we strive for a better place for all. The GOP as it now standsa defies all logic, reason, and civilized behavior. It defies the laws of reality and can not possibly stand much longer. Political and social progress always seems to move one step forward, one backward, two forward, one backward. It seems that we are finally leaving a freak occurrence of two backward steps. Let us hope we now move at least 4 forward ones with no retreat. I've had it with the dark ages; time for a new renaissance!Time to bury those neocons and for-the-rich-only pigs once and for all!

SJ said...

Thanks for the kind words Jack! There's almost been too much to write about of late. I'm trying to keep my posts to a manageable size and resorting to multi-part entries only when absolutely necessary for this year. MH sets a high standard on this blog by example, so I'm trying my hand at concision (mostly failing), otherwise these posts will get longer and longer. I think we've had trouble settling on single topics to address within the administration's first month. It's hard for me to analyze something moving so fast... or maybe it's got something to do with the undeniable intersection of our social and economic problems these days.

Jack Jodell said...

You guys are both brilliant and I know what you mean about trying to keep postings short. It's a constant struggle for me.