Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Invisible Fist

Americans disagree vehemently on how to fix our economic system. The reason why is simple. There's a lot of really bad advice out there. Consequently, my advice is what Barry C. Lynn suggests; to believe what you see with your own eyes.

So, what have we seen? For the past 30 years; the mega-rich have become the super-rich, the poor have become the primary growth segment of our society, and the middle-class has been shriveling away. For the past 30 years we have witnessed the monopolization of just about every business sector. And for the past 30 years, we have lost millions of jobs to foreign countries. Our nation has gone from the most economically powerful in the world to a borderline third-world nation.

In other words; we've been doing something wrong for the past 30 years.

But you won't hear that from the people who are now super-rich. In fact, they're still preaching that the “free” market economy is the way to go. …Yeah, right... You can see where it's going – straight to a privatized authoritarian oligarchy (some inevitably crashing combination of Brave New World, 1984, and the movie Brazil).

But it didn't have to be this way.

From the years just after WWII until the 1970's, our nation's economy grew steadily and all our citizens benefited. For a few decades, almost every American child had a chance to go to a good public school – and at least some of the poor actually had the opportunity to break free from the inter-generational grip of poverty.

For a while back then, the Great Depression was still fresh in our leaders' memories. For a while; we wouldn't let the money changers, the financiers, the speculators, the corporate raiders, and the super-greedy take control.

But that was before Milton Freedman preached that if our markets weren't a free-for-all, they weren't really free. He even claimed that if you weren't a “free” market capitalist, you were a socialist. Talk about revisionist history. Apparently we were all socialists before 1980. I did not know that.

But Americans weren't really paying attention. And what we had accepted as normal; sensibly regulated open markets, got rebranded. They were now “free” markets – and “government was the problem.” The goal was no longer to fix our imperfect regulations. No. The goal became to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And instead of “there ought to be a law,” we started believing that there ought not be any laws.

The pundits spread the “free market” word with religious zeal... But it didn't free us. And it didn't save us. Instead, we developed a nationwide mono-culture of atrophied minds that believed that the “free” market was the only answer. This left us particularly vulnerable – which is likely just what the “free” market zealots intended all along. We were vulnerable to the corporate raiders, the mergers and (lay-off funded) acquisitions, and the exportation of American jobs and industry.

Of course, a few people got really rich gutting everything. And a whole lot of small investors made money in the stock market for a while – even though they didn't fully understand the profits were actually coming from the gutting of American companies, and that they would eventually lose all of the money back (when the contrived bubbles burst).

Allow me to explain: “Free” markets have led to the control over American companies by investors and financiers, who favor windfall profits over the health of the companies they control. “Free” markets have led to predatory markets. And “free” markets have led to the monopolization of almost every market in the U.S. Think about it; when I mention food, clothing, and shelter; what comes to mind are McDonald's, Wal Mart, and Home Depot. We should have figured out long before now that this is NOT the kind of capitalism we really want. (Monopolies lead to poor quality goods/services, less selection, less innovation, and of course, higher prices – as you may have noticed over the past few years.)

All I ask is that you believe what you have seen with your own eyes.

If you look around, you'll likely see examples everywhere. I have a personal example: Yesterday, I had a brand new inner tube in my new (Asian made) mountain bike just break – on my very first ride. I have never had a bike inner tube just break on me before. And this was an ultra-thick tube (three times the thickness of an ordinary tube). I looked at the inner tube to see who made it, and there was no brand. But it probably didn't matter anyway because they're probably all made by the same Chinese company. And since I have to buy another tube, they'll likely make twice as much money for doing a crappy job – or maybe more if they've raised their prices. The “free” market left me out in the wilderness on a broken-down over-priced mountain bike. And I can't even call anyone to complain to.

We have been “free” market lemmings. And as consumers, we now have no choice but to pay.

But the worst result of “free” markets has been the wholesale gutting of our manufacturing segment of the American economy. Millions of jobs have been lost. We hardly make anything anymore in this country. And why? Because some other country is willing to allow their employees to be treated like slaves? This has been devastating to our economy. It's like someone just ripped out our lungs, and then tells us that this is good for us, it's natural, and it's just the price of being free. What a LIE! ...Excuse me, but I want to be free, not work for free.

This shows us exactly where “free” market economics is ultimately headed – towards a world of filthy rich and dirt poor – and your odds of being one of the filthy rich are essentially zero.

The “free” market fanatics told us that anything else was socialism. Yet, if the filthy rich get into financial trouble, the rest of us have to bail them out. Hey, wait a minute. This was supposed to be a free market. But now that the monopolies are so big, we can't afford to let them fail. Let's face it; the economic system that America has now is far more socialist than before 1980 – for the super-rich, that is.

There are powerful people in this country (who claim to be patriotic Americans), who've done far more damage to our country than any terrorist ever dreamed of. These super-greedy “Americans” only care about themselves. They want the freedom to maximize their profits without any concern for the consequences. They want the freedom to not pay any taxes, while they also manipulate lawmakers to steal our tax money. And worst of all; 150 years after Americans fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery in our country, there are still “Americans” who want the freedom to enslave.

We have allowed these “free” market fanatics to operate freely for the past 30 years. And this is what we get. They blame it all on the liberals, you know. But there hasn't been an bona fide liberal President since Lyndon Johnson. Moreover, when you think about it, back when the super-greedy screwed up the last time and left us with the Great Depression, it was wasn't conservatives who fixed things.

So, where do we go from here. Our business economy has been gutted. Our government has been financially drained. The only money left for them to take is what's left of our tax money. They want to take our social programs.

Just ask Nevada's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Sharon Angle. She wants to privatize Social Security. You would think that issue would be dead after the financial meltdown. You'd think no citizen in their right mind would allow Wall Street to gamble with our retirements again. Doesn't anyone remember what happened to our 401Ks?

But there isn't much else left to pillage. The only big money left to take in America is from the social programs for the poor and the middle class. They want it all. They don't intend to leave us with anything. And without our economy or our government safety nets, America will then be a third world nation... While some people will get filthy rich making it happen.

We can stop this pillage now - maybe even start to fix things. But let's not wait for another Great Depression.

To see a Book TV video of Barry C. Lynn's synopsis of his extraordinary book click here.

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