Take the Money and Run
March 3, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
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
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
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
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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" and co-edits
the progressive website, "The