The American Oligarchy has done enormous damage to the rest of the country. A brief history of the economic damage would include the depressions of the 1800s, the Great Depression and today’s Lesser Depression; and the Fed’s constant war on inflation which results in one recession after another to the benefit of the Oligarchy and to the misery of those laid off. The human violence is equally fierce, a steady stream of people killed for striking, killed in unnecessary industrial accidents, killed by unsafe products and killed by infected food.
The indirect damage is equally horrifying. Where once US Oligarchs were partially under control, beginning about 1980, they began to dismantle the regulatory and institutional control system. Up to the 70s, the SEC was a scary bunch of regulators. That change began with Reagan’s appointment of John Shad as Chair of the SEC. I was Securities Commissioner in Tennessee, and we were working on fraud cases with experienced SEC and CFTC people. They were pulled off those cases and put on insider trading cases and broker dealer examination. Lots of people quit rather than do such pointless cases.
A succession of billionaires began to use their money to fund think tanks that produced apparently scholarly papers to support the interests of the Oligarchs. They sought out business and economics schools to fund, insuring that the wide-ranging intellectual John Maynard Keynes would be forgotten, replaced by sterile mathematical models and outright lies from people who manipulated data to serve their paymasters. They bought up and consolidated the public media, insuring that a huge number of people would be ignorant as toast.
They export jobs. They speculate in markets for food. They demand the right to privatize roads, water, parking, prisons, education, and parks. It’s all part of a grubby search for safe high returns on their money, selling us things we must have, and can easily and efficiently provide through government.
The Oligarchy refuses to pay taxes. A recent report by the Tax Justice Network says that the total US tax evaded through the shadow economy is $337 billion. The rest of us have to make that up, or do without.
As part of their tax avoidance schemes, the Oligarchy persuaded conservatives that taxes are evil. That idiocy essentially wrecked the public sector. We won’t pay to fix our infrastructure. We won’t pay teachers, cops, and firefighters. Most of us can’t pay for our children’s college education. Most of us can’t pay for our own retirement. Most of us have little, and are losing that. What we do pay for is militarizing our lives, arming our military with every conceivable weapon, and arming our police with less powerful versions of the same weapons.
The latest disaster is typical. When they wrecked the economy, the Oligarchy demanded that the nation protect them from their losses, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Then they turned around like the Ungrateful Servant in Matthew 18:21, and screwed the people who owed them a few thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, we don’t have an avenging Master to deal with them.
What do they do with all of that money? They stack it up like cordwood overseas, refusing to pay taxes until Congress cuts them a really good deal. And while it’s there, they screw around with the world economy, using their money power to replace democratically elected governments. It’s like a giant monopoly game to them: Oligarchs like Pete Peterson and his European equivalents demand austerity, which cuts growth and curtails tax receipts. Then they place bets against sovereign debt. It’s just like Goldman Sachs and the Abacus deals.
The Oligarchy loves austerity, by which they mean you lose your Social Security, your Medicaid, reasonably priced education, cops, teachers, and pretty much everything that makes life secure and pleasant, all so that they don’t have to pay any more taxes.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The per capita number of millionaires and billionaires in the Scandinavian countries is comparable to ours. But, at least on the surface, their Oligarchs don’t use their material wealth to screw over their fellow citizens, to deny them the fruits of good government and democratic institutions. But here, hordes of our best-educated people rush to serve Oligarchs, scrambling for a few crumbs and screwing their fellow citizens into the ground.
We need austerity alright: we can’t afford this Oligarchy any more.