Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lessons from Michael Moore

My wife, some friends and I saw Michael Moore's film, Capitalism: A Love Story. Not unexpectedly, the theater was mostly empty, but next door, Amelia was well attended. I suppose in this economic and psychologically depressing time, escapism trumps reality.

The film was a review of the economic disaster that has been bubbling dangerously for the past 12 years and which came to a full boil in September 2008. The 'lessons' I walked out with last evening are ones that I already knew- Americans are a gullible lot. That sad truth has been told many times on this blog. The second lesson- Wall Street and its associated banking structures are a worthless parasitical commodity and, in fact, anathema to a fully-functioning democracy.

Tea-baggers, Limbaugh-listeners and Beck-watchers come to mind in lesson one. Many of these Americans are ripe for propagandist infusion. And, oddly, tend to believe in and propagate an economic 'system' which, in fact, acts counter to their own economic situation. The prime example of this was their support in killing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, an act of Congress that kept banks out of the investment markets. Libertarians and right-wingers applauded the efforts of former Senator Phil Gramm to kill that legislation. Of course, this led directly to the home mortgage fiasco and the subsequent failure of many large banks.

How many of the cheerleaders were immune from that disaster? Few if any. Yet, like pre-programmed robots, they called for [shouted!] deregulation so to 'get the government off of our backs.' They and we 'got' just that.

The parasite known as Wall Street with its associated financial institutions has proven to be a toxic and extremely costly cancer on our society. It is a totally unnecessary commodity for a fully-functioning democracy. In fact, I contend that it is worse- it is a plague on a democracy that is meant to corrupt that society. The system operates by taking advantage of the citizens, most especially, the under-educated and naive citizens. One needs only look at the 401 K 'instrument' that was sold as a secure financial tool to guarantee a decent retirement income. Hundreds of millions of Americans now look at their 401 K and see that much of their savings has disappeared. Disappeared into the portfolios of smarter, more adroit investors who took advantage of the minions in this society. That 'great sucking sound' that Ross Perot uttered decades ago was heard in the past few years as 401 K's were emptied into the pockets of the well-to-do.

That is how Wall Street operates- there has to be a small set of winners and a large pool of losers. Gambling, in fact. Yet the perversion is much more insidious. Citizen's homes were stolen. The very life-blood of a middle class democracy, the family home, was gambled away through complex mortgage schemes written by investors who bet on foreclosures. The loss of a job has been a historic fact throughout our history as a nation, but not wholesale loss of homes.

The 'theft' of a person's home through manipulative and deceptive loan practices is tantamount to undermining the very security of this nation. Those who formulated and sold these 'instruments' to unwary citizens are as dangerous as terrorists with bombs. Yet, they continue to go about their ugly business as if nothing had happened.

Worse yet, the tax-payers, the very people who were preyed upon, have given hundreds of billions of their dollars to prop up the people who raped them! It is staggering to know that our tax dollars were given to these filthy institutions who gambled with the savings and homes of the citizens and lost. Yes, they lost and we rewarded them for losing. That fact is stunning!

What other 'business' in this nation has been so generously rewarded for having failed? If there is even more egregious detail to understand and digest, it is this fact- these Wall Street institutions were given the billions of dollars with no strings attached. Correct. No rules, no demands on what they were to do with the money. That piece of the legislation did not appear anywhere in the document. Nada. Of course, the legislation was written with the help of Wall Street executives and former executives including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Foxes guarding the hen house!

What are the citizens to do? Do we throw up our hands and surrender? Do we filp the channel from the news to a sit-com or a ball game? Do we eat more comfort foods and get more obese?

What the hell can the citizens of this democracy do?

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