Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rule by Rentiers

The New York Times' resident Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman, in discussing why the government does nothing about unemployment and personal debt, but rather freaks out on phantom deficit fears, dances around the awful truth:

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

Of course, that’s not the way what I call the Pain Caucus makes its case. Instead, the argument against helping the unemployed is framed in terms of economic risks: Do anything to create jobs and interest rates will soar, runaway inflation will break out, and so on. But these risks keep not materializing. Interest rates remain near historic lows, while inflation outside the price of oil — which is determined by world markets and events, not U.S. policy — remains low.


And that explains why creditor interests bulk so large in policy; not only is this the class that makes big campaign contributions, it’s the class that has personal access to policy makers — many of whom go to work for these people when they exit government through the revolving door. The process of influence doesn’t have to involve raw corruption (although that happens, too). All it requires is the tendency to assume that what’s good for the people you hang out with, the people who seem so impressive in meetings — hey, they’re rich, they’re smart, and they have great tailors — must be good for the economy as a whole.

But the reality is just the opposite: creditor-friendly policies are crippling the economy.

More here.

So you know what I think: corporations and too-big-to-fail banks run the US government. Literally. Or, perhaps it's better to say that the formal structure of our republic no longer represents the people's will, but rather serves the interests of the incredibly wealthy. Whatever. One way or the other our democratic republic is a thing of the past, replaced by what amounts to a plutocracy, rule by the wealthy.

Krugman, however, who is a liberal to be sure, which necessarily makes him deeply entrenched within the establishment, just can't bring himself to go as far as I, a radical, or leftist, whatever you want to call it, am willing to go. Instead, he speaks of the assumptions about our government that we're taught in school as though they were somehow still operational. I mean, he spells it out clearly enough: Congressional Representatives and Senators, hell, the President, too, are all far more focused on the interests of their wealthy campaign donors and country club pals than they are on the interests of citizens, which is very, very, very bad. And I agree. But he just won't go there. He just can't bring himself to say it's all over, that democracy is dead.

But deep down, I think he knows, but is afraid to admit it. Actually, I think that deep down lots of Americans have figured it out, but know that once they actually speak the truth out loud, there's no going back. And then what? New territory, beyond the looking glass, and all that shit. Scary.

Personally, I think we're in for a new consciousness about our nation's political and economic arrangements, one that makes the wealthy plutocrats out to be the villains they actually are. It may take a while, but as long as we're suffering such high unemployment, and all forecasts are saying we're probably in this slump for the long haul, people will start throwing out all that "we the people" shit under-girding the corporate political theater and propaganda to which we are subjected on a daily basis, and start demanding democracy.

And that's when the tyrants will be toppled, done in by their own arrogance and greed. It will be glorious.