How's That Recessioney, Oily Thing Working Out For Ya?

Let's be honest:
We live in stunningly, jaw-droppingly, ridiculously absurd political
times.

Let's be honest:
We live in stunningly, jaw-droppingly, ridiculously absurd political
times.

Here's the story in
a nutshell: A far-right predatory overclass has spent the last
thirty years undoing the hard-fought gains of the mid-twentieth century,
which had produced a robust middle class and vastly more economic and
social justice in America than the country had ever known before.
These regressives used every kind of deceit imaginable to persuade unsophisticated
voters to choose candidates whose real agenda was to assist their plutocratic
puppetmasters in fleecing the very same people who voted for them.

Such candidates ran on
issues like the death penalty, immigration, bogus wars, gay marriage
and abortion. But what they really were about as legislators was
exporting jobs to where workers are dirt cheap and politically neutered,
crashing organized labor, shifting the tax burden onto the mass public,
deregulating industry to allow unhindered profit-taking on the upside
and socialized public responsibility for risk on the downside, and locking
in a Supreme Court majority that would never blanch at even the most
outrageous rulings enhancing corporate power in American society.

If the product of this
slow and silent coup wasn't so bloody and so ruinous to so many lives,
you'd really have to hand it to these guys for their political acumen
and patience. It took a while, and it required the building of
a broad and robust infrastructure, spanning from mainstream media to
talk radio and TV to think-tanks to Congress, the presidency and the
judiciary, to the GOP and now to the Democratic Party as well, but they
have pretty much completely succeeded in grabbing all the levers of
power in our society. They dominate its discourse entirely, and
they have been almost completely successful to date in securing all
the elements of their legislative, regulatory and jurisprudential agenda,
at least to this point (how far they ultimately intend to go isn't
clear - the US as Honduras, perhaps? - but it's unlikely to be
pretty). Perhaps the only major exception to that rule was their
2005 failure to privatize the vast pool of public money sitting in the
Social Security coffers, which they lust over lasciviously, like teenage
boys inhaling online porn by the bucketful.

The product of these
efforts has been precisely what one would expect. Corporations
and economic elites have grown fantastically more wealthy than they
already were thirty years ago. Their tax liabilities are now negligible
and sometimes less than zero. Massive national debt, the product
in part of those tax gifts to the rich, plus huge bills for interest
on that debt (this alone is one of the largest items in the federal
budget each year), is now owned by the mass public, who got nickels
and dimes worth of tax cuts, in exchange for which they will now have
to literally work years of their lives to pay down the taxes the rich
escaped. Working people across the country get less and pay more
for everything today. College is becoming increasingly out of
the financial reach of average Americans. The minimum wage, which
actually often isn't the minimum, is far from a sustainable salary
for one person, let alone a family. As of 2004, the richest one
percent of Americans possessed sixty percent of all wealth in the country,
while the bottom forty percent accounted for a whopping two-tenths of
a percent. Between 1979 and 2004, after-tax income for the top
one percent of Americans rose by 176 percent, while for those in the
bottom 20 percent that figure rose only six percent. And those
figures are for six years ago, during what by current standards was
flush times for working people. Now jobs are disappearing, with
the inevitable effect of driving wages down further, not to mention
all the obvious effects on prosperity, security, health, mental health
and sheer longevity.

Meanwhile, just the approach
to regulation alone has produced three monstrous attacks on American
society as a direct result. First the recession-starting-to-become-a-depression
and all its devastation, then the recent mining disaster, and now BP's
WMD attack on the Gulf Coast states. What all of these have in
common is a government regulatory apparatus that over time transitioned
from a public service mission into deference to those supposed to be
regulated, and then from deference for the corporate sphere into constituting
a straight-out satellite office of the corporations themselves, literally
having business supposed 'regulatees' fill out their own monitoring
forms in pencil, to be inked in later by the planted shills in government.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been wiped out by these actions
and the public is paying for its own thrashing through bail-out funds.
I'm sorry, but in what sense is this not treason?

Okay, so far so bad.
Nothing particularly Alice-In-Wonderlandy or especially novel about
rampant greed, is there? But what's really bizarre to the point
of being becoming a fully hallucinogenic experience that really should
come under the supervision of the Controlled Substances Act is the effect
that this has had on politics. Could there ever be a moment when
right-wing 'economics' have been so thoroughly and manifestly repudiated?
Could there ever be more overt examples of corporate greed gone nuclear?
Could the repercussions of these policy decisions ever more clearly
have wrecked the lives of economically insecure ordinary Americans?

No, no and no.
All this is as obvious and predictable as sunrise. And yet...
Here we find ourselves in this remarkable and remarkably absurd position
where the folks who not only created this monster, who not only have
worked assiduously to prevent any solutions to the destruction they've
wrought, and who now also promise even more of the same - these very
folks are poised to win resounding electoral victories in November.
And the folks who will be voting for them will once again become victims
of their predations. And the folks in Congress and the White House
they'll be voting against - supposed socialist-fascists (whatever
strange Janus-faced zoological beast that would look like if it actually
existed) - are in fact just about the most pro-plutocrat government
imaginable. But they're going to get stomped by voters for being
socialists.

How on earth did this
happen?

Well, to start with,
it happened because it was intended to happen. As described above,
this is the product of a broad, concerted and patient effort by the
radical right to capture and control American government, and it has
worked remarkably well, especially when one considers the sheer amount
of deceit required to pull it off. It's like trying to sell
a cocktail of Dirt Drink mixed with Sawdust Soda to a man dying of thirst.
But it can be done, and we know that because the process is now all
but complete. When even John McCain refers to Congress "the
best government that money can buy" you know you're really hurting,
pal. As for that Trotskyite socialist in the White House, well
he's staffed his economic team directly out of Goldman Sachs' boardroom,
he bails out mega-banks one hundred cents on the dollar without even
requiring that they loan money, he wrote a health care bill that forces
thirty or forty million Americans to buy a product from bloated thieving
insurance companies whether they want it or not, and he has dramatically
increased spending on an already astonishingly distended military, while
remaining essentially silent about (meager but essential) unemployment
benefits right now in the process of terminating for millions of Americans.
Yeah, baby - that socialist. "Workers of the world unite"
is definitely what they rap about at White House cabinet meetings.
Geithner, Summers, Gates - all those revolutionary syndicalists can't
talk it up enough. Then they sing "The Internationale".

Clearly, the political
branches of the US government have been fully captured by monied elites.
Perhaps scariest of all, however, is the newly emboldened ultra-radical
majority on the Supreme Court (that description is not reckless hyperbole
used for effect - look at what they've done in cases like Bush v.
Gore, Ledbetter and Citizens United, and watch what they do in the coming
years - it will be astonishing in its scope, radicalism and hypocrisy).
After decades of histrionic lies about supposed objections to judicial
activism (what they really hated was the impudent offense of an elite
court handing down liberal decisions and siding with mere mortals in
American society, period), they have now kicked out the jambs to expand
the practical definition of the 'activism' term beyond all recognition.
Lori Blatt, former attorney in the Solicitor General's Office, put
it best: "They are fearless. This is a business court.
Now it's the era of the corporation and the interests of business."
No case underscored this tendency better than Citizens United, of course,
where the regressive majority was so blatantly activist that they literally
told the stunned litigants to go home, come back in a month and reargue
the case around a far, far bigger question than was at stake for the
parties involved, and then sweepingly cast aside long existing law in
order to blow blitzkrieg-size breaches in the barriers that had previously
controlled corporate influence of elections. The only case that
can rival this one for utterly transparent activism seeking a regressive
outcome is Bush v. Gore, in which the right-wing bloc simultaneously
violated three of their own cardinal tenets - judicial restraint,
states' rights, and hostility to civil rights principles - in order
to require vote counting be stopped (say what?!) and to crown the mentally
deficient dauphin as king. It could hardly be clearer that the
Roberts Court ominously completes the troika of the right-wing governmental
coup.

But there are other reasons
we're in this state, as well. Think about Barack Obama and the
Democrats for a second, and then try applying Ms. Blatt's phrase,
"They are fearless", to those folks. Now pick yourself up
the floor. Change the underwear you just soiled from laughing
so hard. Wring out the hanky you just soaked from sobbing so relentlessly.
Part of why we're in this mess is that Democrats wouldn't know what
guts looked like if they were all board-certified gastrointestinal surgeons.
But, of course, to complain that "the people's party" lacks sufficient
courage of their convictions assumes that they have any. The good
news is that they do, as a matter of fact. The bad news, however,
is that those convictions can be reduced neatly down to two: serving
themselves and serving the nice folks who donate money to get them elected.
It's a bit of a problem when the gang who are meant to protect
us from the crimes of the GOP are nearly indistinguishable from Cheney's
thugs, apart from stylistically. Democrats are happy to give you
a little kiss on the cheek before they screw you. Republicans
prefer to just get on with the assault.

Then there's the media
in this country which is, of course, beyond hopeless. Watching
Rachel Maddow the other month throwing a few medium-speed hardballs
at Rand Paul only served to remind me just how rare it is for any of
these pathetic hacks to actually do their job, as opposed to doing the
cash-driven bidding of those in power, especially tough-guy Republicans
who must get plenty of laughs out of how easy it is to bully the Washington
press whores - er, sorry, I mean press corps. There's nothing
quite so self-made as the disasters of Election 2000 and the Iraq invasion
of 2003, and the absence of any sort of serious media scepticism in
those cases simply illustrates how utterly worthless the press truly
are. Except, of course, as excellent public relations specialists
for plutocrats. These days it seems like the only outlet doing
anything approaching serious journalism is Rolling Stone. As to
what it says about American society and journalism that you have to
wade through cover photos of Lady Gaga's full-on unclad posterior
to find out the lies our government is telling us, well, I'll leave
that to you.

But clearly the neutering
of the obedient profit-motivated media has worked spectacularly.
One of the key fronts in this class warfare conducted by the wealthy
in America has been with respect to framing. For three decades
now, all we've heard is how government is a screw-up and how heroically
efficient are the captains of industry in the private sector.
The way regressives trash our own government in a democracy would certainly
have seemed traitorous in another day. Just imagine if you said
the same things about the military, which seems to miraculously escape
the right's attention as the biggest and most famously wasteful government
bureaucracy of all. Moreover, looking back over Korea, Vietnam,
Iraq and Afghanistan, not just a small bit of the curtain has been pulled
back from the notion of the military's supposed infallibility.
It's been two-thirds of a century since the United States won a big
war against a serious adversary, and even then the Russians did the
heavy lifting, at least in Europe. Somehow we never hear much
about big, incompetent government in that context, though.

But, hey, forgive my
little flight into logical analysis there. We really cannot have
that in these times. For a minute there, I forgot to forget.
It won't happen again, Mr. O'Brien, I assure you. From now
on, up is down, black is white, war is peace, government is bad and
corporations are purveyors of Happy Meals (happy, that is, unless you
happen to be a cow, like having small businesses around, have a problem
with obesity, don't want your planet to catch fire, or object to the
creation of massive great lakes full of animal waste). Yep, big
business is good! That's why we need to apologize to BP for
our government "shaking them down" and forcing them to be slightly-barely-kinda-nominally-sorta
responsible for their ecological and economic epic disaster in the Gulf.
Get it?

But the other sad truth
is that, at the bottom of this roll call of nefarious predators -
under every Cheney and Obama and Brian Williams and Lloyd Blankfein
doing (his green) god's work, is a great big stinking pile of yahoos
better known as "Us". We'll vote Republican this fall because
we utterly lack the intellectual curiosity to investigate other options.
We'll vote Republican because we're greedy and lazy and willing
to step on anyone's throat to get our little slice of prosperity back.
We'll vote Republican as if we weren't only two years ago just absolutely
counting down every second until the previous government packed up and
left town. You know, the er, uh, Republicans.

But I have just one question
for my fellow Americans before they step into that voting booth.
The truth is that what ails us now is exactly what y'all have been
voting for over the last three decades. The truth is that if you
vote Republican in November it will all only get worse. The truth
is that you're living the regressive dream just now, right as we speak.

We've let corporations
run wild. We've decimated the government whose function it was
to regulate them in the public's interest. We've shifted a
very large pile of your money into the hands of the richest one percent
of us, and given you and your kids loads of government debt to pay off
in exchange. We've shipped your job off to China or India.
We've completely immunized all branches of your government from any
form of influence other than from rapacious plutocrats.

So my question is, fellow
Americans, now that we've all had a nice heaping helping of what regressive
politics means for us real people down here below the stratosphere,
"How's that recessioney, oily thing working out for ya?"

Eh?