Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D
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The Gadfly Bytes -- March 3, 2009


Take the Money and Run


Ernest Partridge

 

If the Obama economic goals are to be met – a repaired physical infrastructure, educational pre-eminence, health care for all, international leadership in science and technology, etc. – we, the public, must retrieve the cash that was effectively stolen from the public treasury. A bank robber does not gain legal possession of his loot. Neither should today's "robber barons," notwithstanding the fact that the theft was accomplished under the guise of quasi-legality. The loot can be recovered legally, if the public demands it and the Congress responds accordingly, through the enactment and enforcement of appropriate legislation.


I include myself among those convinced that the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen, along with numerous congressional elections. How, then, are we to explain the success of the Democrats in 2008? If the GOP could have stolen the 2008 election, as they stole the previous two elections, why did they not do so?

They did not for the same reason that bank robbers don’t hang around the premises after the heist. Rather than wait for the cops to arrive, they take the money and run.

Even so, I must confess that I was somewhat amazed at both the fact and the scope of the Democrat’s victory in the presidential and congressional elections.  For last August I wrote:

Better get used to the idea: John McCain will probably be the next President of the United States.

The fix is in, as it has been in every election since 2000.

This follows from two overarching facts that the corporate media will not report, and the Democrats choose to ignore: (1) The ruling oligarchy can not allow a reformist Democrat to occupy the White House. (2) They have the means to prevent it, as they did in 2000, in 2004, and as they might do again in 2008.

All other aspects of this "election" – issues, personalities, media blitzes – are secondary and perhaps even irrelevant....

[Accordingly], an Obama victory in November is unlikely. But it is not impossible...

To win at all, the Democrats must win big.

And that is precisely how they won it: BIG!   R.I.P., Karl Rove’s "permanent Republican majority."

And yet, most of the votes were tabulated and compiled in those unverifiable Republican-built machines and computers, with their secret software. Hundreds of thousands of eligible voters were taken off the rolls. Election watchdogs such as Mark Crispin Miller and Greg Palast fully expected these devices to be put to the same devious uses as in 2000 and 2004. Why not this time?

The Democratic victory in 2008 was, as usual, the result of several factors:
 

  • The national media was no longer safely in the pocket of the Republicans. The internet emerged as a significant source of independent political and economic news and opinion. This time there were no "inventing the internet" and "swift-boat" smears from the Republicans, as the attempt to tag Obama with guilt by association with Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers caused no appreciable damage.
     

  • The Republicans managed to nominate two extraordinarily weak candidates which, this time, the media took no great pains to whitewash. John McCain’s stumbles and fumbles were duly reported, and Sarah Palin, thanks to Tina Fey, Katie Curic and Palin herself, became a national joke.
     

  • Conversely, the Democrats nominated two strong and attractive candidates, and Barack Obama orchestrated a brilliant campaign. Obama exhibited competence, intellect and eloquence to a public that, at long last, was looking for more in a President than an amiable drinking buddy.
     

  • The public had had enough of Republican lies and incompetence. Bush’s approval ratings were in the basement. GOP propaganda had lost its punch: "fool me once..."
     

  • The economy collapsed at the worst possible time for the Republican party and its candidates.
     

  • Given all this, yet another electoral "upset" like 2000 and 2004 would simply be more than the public would tolerate. The dirty secret of rigged elections would no longer be sustainable.

    All that is old news. Add to these factors, another which, though scarcely mentioned, was, I believe, significant: the GOP, having successfully "starved the beast" of government and looted the public treasury, was in a mood to pack up and get out of Dodge. As any confidence man knows, the secret to success is to skedaddle ahead of the tar and feathers.

    For eight long years, the United States of America suffered through a political crime wave in the guise of a federal administration.  The Bush gang and its willing accomplices in Congress had allowed corporate lobbyists to write legislation, had handed out truckloads of unaccounted cash to favored "no-bid" contractors, had slashed taxes for the wealthy resulting in a massive transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the richest one percent of the population, had added five trillion dollars to the national debt, and had allowed the unregulated banking system to acquire a massive amount of unsecured debt, leaving the U.S. economy in a shambles.

    So why would the culprits want to stay around to clean up the mess they had created?

    Clearly, all through the presidency of Bush the Lesser, it was obvious that the economy was heading for a spectacular collapse, and the later the collapse was postponed, the worse it would be. The consumer-driven US economy was running on debt – federal deficits, second home mortgages, and personal credit cards -- as the banking system immersed itself in toxic financial manipulations such as "derivatives" and "credit-default swaps," etc. Herbert Stein’s rule reigned supreme: "That which can not go on forever, won’t."  Eventually the house of credit cards had to collapse, and the Bushenomic wizards knew this. So they desperately piled up more debts in an attempt to keep the scam going past November 4, 2008, so that the new, and presumably Democratic, president would take the fall.

    And they almost made it.

    With the onset of the collapse of Bushenomics, the smarter heads on Wall Street were well aware that an effective rescue of the economy could not be accomplished by the self-described economic ignoramus, John McCain, and the self-authenticating omni-ignoramus, Sarah Palin. So they put their money on the smart skinny kid with the funny name.

    Enter the Obama Administration, facing a national debt of ten trillion dollars (about 80% of the U.S. gross domestic product), a federal budget deficit of one and a half trillion, and a growing roster of homeless, foreclosed, unemployed, uninsured citizens.

    Meanwhile, the oligarchs are sitting pretty. Over the past thirty years, as the average income of the bottom half of the population has grown a mere six percent, the income of the top one percent has more than tripled, the greatest income gap since 1928, the year before the onset of the great depression. And the typical CEO of a Fortune 500 company earns in half a day more than the median employee of the corporation earns in a year.

    The kleptocrats' personal wealth, much of which is deposited in offshore banks or invested in multi-national corporations, is of little use in the oncoming struggle to repair and restore our national economy. The national wealth thrown at the rich by Ronald Reagan and by the Bushes, fil et pere, did not, as promised, "trickle down" to the rest of us. Instead, it "leaked out" of the national economy, along with the manufacturing base.

    If the Obama economic goals are to be met – a repaired physical infrastructure, educational pre-eminence, health care for all, international leadership in science and technology, etc. – we, the public, must retrieve the cash that was effectively stolen from the public treasury. A bank robber does not gain legal possession of his loot. Neither should today’s "robber barons," notwithstanding the fact that the theft was accomplished under the guise of quasi-legality.

    The loot can be recovered legally, if the public demands it and the Congress responds accordingly, through the enactment and enforcement of appropriate legislation.

    Here are a few proposals:

    • The legal fiction of "corporate personhood" must be abolished.
       

    • The estate tax must be increased and enforced. Over the next twenty to thirty years, presumably most of the ill-gotten fortunes might thus be returned to the public treasury.
       

    • High marginal income tax rates must be reinstated, perhaps the 90% rate of the Eisenhower administration, or at least the 70% rate of the Kennedy administration. Opponents of such rates call them "confiscatory" and "class warfare," as they conveniently overlook that qualification, "marginal." A 90% marginal rate does not apply to all of an individual’s income, only the income above a specified amount, say a million dollars. Thus the first million dollars of income would be taxed at a lesser rate.
       

    • "Income" must be broadly interpreted to include all gains in wealth, including wages, capital gains, stock options and bonuses. Tax loopholes must be closed and an Alternative Minimum Tax imposed. In short, a progressive tax system must be restored.
       

    • End the Iraq and Afghan wars ASAP. Close 80% of the 1,500 foreign military bases.
       

    • Cut the National Defense budget in half, at least. No more submarines and aircraft carriers to fight an enemy without a navy, and no more fighter planes to fight an enemy without an air force.  And after twenty-six years of uninterrupted failure, surely it is time to rethink "missile defense."  Because sudden and drastic cuts in the defense budget would cause severe economic dislocation, defense industries should continue to receive appropriations in order to convert to research, development and production (R&D&P) of green energy, mass transportation, and high speed data transmission.
       

    • Through appropriations and tax incentives, direct the auto industry to invest in R&D&P of electric, fuel cell and hydrogen fuel cars and in fast rail.
       

    •  No government contracts to corporations that incorporate offshore (e.g., Halliburton, KBR).
       

    These are radical proposals, and it is doubtful that they will be accomplished in the face of opposition by a party, the effective leader of which, one Rush Limbaugh, is determined to see that President Obama fails. Judging from the behavior of the congressional Republicans, it appears that the GOP would rather see their political rivals fail than see their country succeed.  Neither are a few rogue "blue dog" congressional Democrats of much help.

    While many of the President’s economic proposals have been appropriate in content, they have been inadequate in scale. Thus, while many of the outlaws may have left Dodge, it appears that Sheriff Obama is no Matt Dillon. Still worse, it seems that he has deputized some of the outlaws.

    Perhaps the crisis will have to become even more severe, if the appropriate radical remedies are to be enacted. As Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel put it, "we must never let a crisis go to waste."


    Copyright 2009 by Ernest Partridge


    Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .