We have nothing to fear, but greed itself
[ opinion - march 09 ]
"On a global basis, $50 trillion in wealth has been erased over the last 18 months. This includes $7 trillion in the U.S. stock market and $6 trillion in housing wealth," Summers said last week, adding that, "greed has given way to fear."
While the economy showed some early slight signs of bottoming out last week week , and Obama chief economist Lawrence Summers took public questions for the first time , most of America's right wing appears near collapse following a decade of unprecedented consolidation and power. Mr Summers took us back to the origins of the current collapse, claiming the recession is, "not the result of a normal business cycle," but rather one created by inflated asset prices, and insufficient regulation.
It's like saying armed robbery is rising as a result of poor gun regulation, while both armed and white collar robbery (far more detrimental, as we've seen) are rising because there are more criminals attracted to profit by robbery. Bernie Madoff is just the tip of a melting iceberg: Your average sixth grader could calculate that Bernie had to have at least dozens of managers and "feeders" complicit in his organized international crime network. Bankers, auditors, SEC officials, analysts, brokers, media people - many had to have known, cooperated with, and profited from Bernie's lucrative mob enterprise.
Based on recent Irish government charges of bank fraud in some recently nationalized Irish banks, the US government may be reluctant to take over failing financial institutions in part because they don't have the sailors to manage all the sinking ships, and they might know full well they'll find widespread fraud and crime, which would shift the locus away from recovery toward prosecution.
In other words, the US may be so riddled with corruption, coming out of the most powerful right-wing government in US history, that merely opening any random can of worms might pollute the culture to the brink of collapse. As it stands now, for example, is there an American anywhere who would ever have confidence in the SEC again? And isn't the US Department of Justice in a similar state of ethical limbo? Until it musters some kind of action against the rampant corruption of the Bush-Cheney-Gonzales administration, how credible can DOJ be?
One admittedly forced example comes to mind - a Bush-appointed prosecutor in Chicago undid the Democratic governor of Illinois and disrupted the transition of President Obama's vacated senate seat at a time critically sensitive to the incoming administration. Right-wing politicians and media attempted to link the incoming president directly in the scandal for a few days; but America was in a "happy mind set" following the election, and simply ignored the ruse. The prosecutor clearly "polluted the jury pool" in the process with unnecessary and perhaps questionable public statements.
Should we trust this appointee of an openly politicized department because he had successfully prosecuted Dick Cheney's chief of staff? He didn't prosecute the president's political director, key to the incident, when obviously Scooter Libby possessed neither the rocks nor the authority to out a CIA agent simply because he felt like it. (Of course, based on press reports over the years, I do have confidence in the judgment of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; but really, why should I?)
One can sympathize with Mr Obama's dilemma. Progressives can apologize for the president's preference to "look forward, rather than backward"; there are only so many hours in a day, but there's only one serious justification, in my view, for his reluctance to encourage action against the constitutional calamity of the Bush Administration. Fundamentally, President Obama intends to protect executive powers as status quo, for use progressively, as he deems necessary, to address the array of national and global issues facing the nation today. If President Obama is willing to push a progressive agenda until congress or the courts push back, he apparently enjoys a public mandate to do so.
The president seems to parse his issues carefully, delineating a position, diluting or retaining implied executive powers in the process. He pulls back from stem cell restrictions, sets a "withdrawal" date for "combat status" in Iraq, while increasing troops in Afghanistan and CIA bombings in Pakistan. A similar accretion of executive power was one key to President Franklin Roosevelt's success in the last century. Roosevelt pushed balance of powers to its limits as he managed public support to his cause and moved the nation away from right wing economic failure toward progressive reconstruction.
Mr Summers had it right yesterday when he said:
"On a global basis, $50 trillion in wealth has been erased over the last 18 months. This includes $7 trillion in the US stock market and $6 trillion in housing wealth - greed has given way to fear... This is the paradox at the heart of the financial crisis - it was this transition from an excess of greed to an excess of fear that President (Franklin) Roosevelt had in mind when he famously observed that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. It is this transition that has happened in the United States today."
But "greed" is too imprecise a term, too faith-based, too weak: it covers up crimes even as it implies redemption. Who cares what motivates Bernie Madoff? He's uncooperative according to prosecutors, covering up myriad accomplices, starting with his wife, bookkeeper to all his enterprises.  Madoff told the court this week that he knew "this day" - his day of conviction - would come, and like any good martyr, he had obviously prepared well for it.
Widespread polling indicates the nation has steadily moved away from right wing extremism toward a moderate progressive center led by the new White House and Democrats and moderate Republicans in congress.  The American right wing and its dated political apparatus is championed now by a wild-eyed bouncing radio buffoon and an African-American jive artist - men who appear the very personification of all things wrong with the American culture of ignorance.
1 Signs of Stability Drive Up Stocks [Back]
2 Q&A: Obama's economics guru defends deficit spending [Back]
3 Madoffs Worth $823 Million, a Filing Says [Back]
4 Politics and Government - http://www.gallup.com [Back]