by Frank Thomas
I am one with you on your ideal definition of the purpose of the Universe. I share your conclusion that we have modern-day predators that are a constant source of division and unrest in our US universe. They just take on more advanced, arrogant means of deception and tools to oppress the willing and the passive. That's why our Founding Fathers were unanimous on insisting that "a government of, by, and for the people shall not perish from this earth." The wise men recognized that those governing as well as those governed are not angels and must be "checked and balanced" against their worst instincts. For they understood how power corrupts and narrows the areas of man's concern for the collective. And true to expectations, over the last 230 years we have witnessed how one political ideology becomes the predator of the other and vice-versa to the sacrifice of balanced, creative government policies and programs nourishing the whole body politic.
For example, modern predator forces have escalated the financialization of our society to recurring bubbles, now imprisoning millions in financial misery and even penury. Yet there is every indication that the same predator forces are now reinstituting the financialization speculative process with a new generation of exotic, casino products .... legitimized by current modest reform regulations and comforting illusions of more transaction transparency. Our government's mild regulatory reforms will only lay the conditions for another "too big to fail" finance-led economic expansion. Similarly, other formidable threats receive mild attention including a mushrooming cultural cancer -- the rising exploitation, joblessness, and under-education of workers.
The "predator state" indirectly still seems to favor financial capital as the main economic "fix" through big capital bailouts, socializing oligopolic financial institution losses, investing billions in stimulus packages to counter a deep, prolonged economic stagnation .... all, of course, ballooning the Federal Deficit and National Debt while strong deleveraging/job outsourcing/automation forces and resultant stagnant wage forces continue to restrain GDP and job growth. The speculative momentum paradigm of financial capital may well soon be converging on us again. Business Week recently focused on new bubble/inducing financial instruments that financial predators are prepäring for the privileged few. For example, Business Week reports:
"In recent months, such banks as Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase have introduced new-fangled corporate credit lines tied to complicated and volatile derivatives .... Some of Wall Street's latest innovations give reason to pause .... Lenders typically tie corporate credit lines to short-term interest rates. But now, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, among others, are linking credit lines both to short-term rates and credit default swaps (CDSs). The latter are the volatile and complicated derivatives that are supposed to operate as 'insurance' by paying off the owners if a company defaults on its debt. In these new arrangements, when the price of the CD rises -- generally a sign the market thinks the company's health is deteriorating -- the cost of the loan increases, too. The result: the weaker the company, the higher the interest rates it must pay, which hurts the company further. Managers must now deal with two layers of volatility -- both short-term rates and the credit default swaps, whose prices can spike for reasons outside their control."
Business Week mentions other new speculative instruments being introduced, such as "structured notes" or a form of derivative aimed at small investors, offering "teaser rates" -- virtually guaranteeing high returns for small investors for a few years followed by "huge potential losses" after that. (see "Old Banks, New Tricks," Business Week, August 17, 2009).
So now we have the familiar tragic comedy (strangling our political system) of the Right accusing the "predator" Democrats of Tax and Spend and Deficit/Debt mortgaging our children's future at a time when a do nothing approach by the federal government as a last resort -- while states cut teacher/police/firemen/social-worker jobs by the thousands -- would skyrocket our Tax and Spend/Deficit/Debt/Jobless situation much more than now is happening. At the same time, we have the Left accusing the "predator" Republicans as being solely responsible for the last eight year mini-depression financial crisis when Democrats said or did little while it was occuring .... while Clinton's Administration actually participated in the deregulation process in the 90s. This, combined with Bush Jr.'s deregulation euphoria, also helped to explode the financial industry fiascos now crippling our economy.
The result is that objective, common sense reasoning over governmental policy making has been bushwhacked for the last 30 years by political conservative/liberal predator dog- fighting strengthened by an unmobilized Left .... all leading to minimal, crisis-reactive attention to deeper underlying breakdowns/obsolescence in our social-economic model. This has all made the middle-class (bottom 80% of households) easy prey of the upper class (top 10% of households) as the social/stratification between the Haves and Have Nots inexorably reaches destabilizing proportions. As you have said, stock prices rise again as corporate profits go up by predatory slashing of jobs .... compare this to Japan's 5% unemployment because everyone takes a big 20/30% wage cut to maximize employment levels. Their economy is now recovering. Ours is still suffering from a serious lack of job generation.
This unbalanced, inequitable situation has been cemented by the ultimate political-economic system predator .... the lobbyist and corporate funding industry, successfully corrupting and blackmailing our political representatives as well as many of our prime news networks. Sadly, our democracy has long been bought by special interests. As I've said before, in the Netherlands (and in most advanced European countries) company and individual contributions to political elections are strictly limited to very small sums to political parties only and no funds allowed directly to political candidates by firms. Lobbyists cannot provide one cent to a politician in Holland and are prohibited from lobbying politicians directly.
Until we address effectively this toxic, systemic dysfunction in our political system, I see the no real change in the advantaged playing field for predators to undermine the interests of the common man in our democracy.