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February 22, 2014

Our latest and newest Gilded Age which we have allowed the fates to consign us is much like the some three or four century-old English colonial enslavement we suffered under various kings and queens of that insular domain – only the cast of characters has been changed. At the time of the Revolution, we had King George; now we have Wall Street banks. Then we had monopolies by royal edict; now we have corporations who write their own tax and bankruptcy codes via campaign contributions (formerly called bribes in the Vanderbilt-Depew version of business-as-usual era at the turn of the 20th century) through a process now called (and what a stretch!) “representative democracy.” (Representing whom?)
Then we were governed by royal edict and Stamp, Molasses, Tea and Navigation Acts of Parliament as colonists without representation in Parliament, properly giving rise to colonial cries of No Taxation Without Representation! in the streets of Boston and elsewhere; now we are governed by a banking and corporate culture through a thin veneer of congressional Depews pretending to legality and always anxious to please their banking and corporate masters. Our new purchasers are the same plantation overseers who are spewing out propaganda via their corporate press and captive “think tanks” appealing to those of us on their plantation to maintain and even strengthen the existing system (all under the aegis of such economic fairy tales as “free trade,” “vigorous competition,” “open markets,” and other such fantasies designed to maintain and promote the status quo).
The “status quo” as presently configured is, of course, very profitable to its proponents and increasingly disastrous for the rest of us, many of whom are residing on the sidewalks and under the bridges in this country, and some of whom are veterans who fought for this country to preserve the status quo, which they were told was the patriotic thing to do. Millions of others are unemployed, homeless via foreclosure, hungry and even personally insulted by the dominant culture as lazy members of the 47%, as bums who live off the rest of society (a society bankers and corporations themselves concocted that picks winners and losers). It takes a lot of gall for parasitic Wall Street paper shufflers who produce nothing to call anyone a “bum,” which instead describes the shufflers. I have neither seen nor read any reports identifying bond traders and hedge fund managers sleeping under bridges or on sidewalks, and there is a reason: They live in a world of economic froth; the rest of us live in the real world economy.
Let’s look at that “status quo” that our new rulers want us to maintain under the cover of flag and country and the well-being of “all the people.” How is that proposed set of flag-covered policies essentially different from those of King George’s edicts and the Acts of Parliament in those days that guaranteed that colonial America’s businesses could not compete in manufacturing, shipping and commerce generally – when the king’s businesses were subsidized and while ours were heavily taxed and with such tax booty removed to our subsidized competitors in London rather than staying in the “colonies” for building much-needed improvements such as roads and other infrastructure? It isn’t different. Only the cast of characters has been changed.
The dominant corporate and banking culture in our society is skimming the froth off world-wide and what is left of domestic investments and commerce these days while the rest of us (if we have a job) are seeing family median wages stagnate or even fall year to year. The Dow zooms, but so do bankruptcies among ordinary Americans, a strong indication (among many others too numerous to enumerate) that new wealth is not being shared with all of those who made it happen. All of us are aware of the old adage that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but to have that failure in economic theory condoned by government and reduced to policy by those who profit from such lopsided treatment of ordinary Americans by corporate and Wall Street tycoons is too much to bear. Evidence? When Mitt Romney pays taxes at a lesser rate on 21.7 million dollars in a given year than the people who trim the hedges on his estates, something (in words of the street) is bad wrong. How can that be policy? Easy answer – it’s policy by purchase. Reread the Vanderbilt-Senator Depew story in Part II of this essay.
We are supposed to be placated by understanding that our economy has its ups and downs via “business cycles” and that we must be patient – that prosperity and employment and all of these other good economic things are just around the corner and will happen in due course. That may have had some validity in times gone past when such cycles were well documented, but I think that with globalization we have removed ourselves from that old standby alibi and that our problem is now systemic. That old diagnosis spoke to relatively closed economies, not the open ones of today.
In this brave new world of cross-border movement of capital, investment and production, I think that the powers that be are zeroed in on profits and that any sense of national patriotism in economic matters they may have had has been lost as world-wide economies supplant national economies in this now transformative stage of a developing global economy. Without history to guide me (or anyone else), I don’t know how all this is going to eventuate. What I do know is that the king is not dead; he has only changed masks while attending a new ball, one which he has again fashioned to suit his monetary requirements for his periodic wars with France. Our new king and royal court, the secularly-endowed and now governing banking and corporate culture, are not at war with France; its members are in an economic war with anybody anywhere who stands in the way of their accumulation of yet more, more and more. It matters not that the prey are oil-rich countries with poverty-stricken populations like Nigeria or Sudan or an increasingly poverty-stricken country such as ours. All are prey in the game of accrual of assets for our new purchasers, and the hunting season is always open. Patriotism is not involved. The relentless pursuit of profit is their only involvement; the rest pretense and propaganda.
As suggested earlier, I think that we have national economies now who are (in fits and starts) morphing into a global economy (witness the EU, trade pacts galore, enormous cross-border capital allocation etc.). It will be easier five or ten years from now to guess how this is going to wind up, but now, in its early stages of transformation, my guess is no better than that of the proverbial man in the street. There are two things I do know now: (1) Transformation is here, and denial is useless, and (2) Our new owners, unless removed from power or somehow thwarted in their blind pursuit of profit, are likely to take this country down a road good for their bottom lines but catastrophic for the America we love and treasure.
As in Rome and Athens, our enemy may be from within, the enemy of lethargy and inattention to the drumbeat of change and our failure to be involved as a democracy in directing such change, having ceded such a right to a small slice of the elite, i.e., the corporate and banking sector, whose goals are not congruent with ours. It is time for the people of America to take control of their own destiny. We are, I hope, more than just a base for profit. It is becoming late in the game – time to move. GERALD E


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