For years on the news we’ve heard “On Wall Street today…” followed by a recital of a bunch of numbers that the majority of us don’t have the time to understand. And when something happened in the world of any importance, we would hear how Wall Street reacted. After a while, it became evident to anyone paying attention that Wall Street ran this country and pretty much dictated the terms of the debates, such as they were. Even though the words “Wall Street” don’t appear in our Constitution, the reality of Wall Street was more important. This is really the essence of right-wing and so-called free market ideology.
Conservative social and cultural issues such as abortion are only battering rams to keep the people divided, and this should be obvious if you observe that the huge corporations that have benefited from right-wing political dominance are never averse to financing and disseminating cultural products that are anything but “conservative.” NewsCorp, for instance, which owns Fox, is in the pornography business, as is Time Warner and many other big players.
The ideology of Wall Street is that profit trumps all values. We may give lip service to “all men are created equal” and other sentiments from the era of the nation’s founding, but in practice the only motive that is considered valid without question is the profit motive. Regulation, therefore, contradicts free market ideology, as does government action towards any public good considered to be independent of profit, or potentially limiting to business. At the libertarian end of the spectrum we have the absurd naivete of Ron Paul, who thinks that the market would work just dandy if government did virtually nothing. People know that it’s dangerous nonsense, which is why libertarians never win elections. The Wall Street ideology, on the other hand, sees government as a clenched fist protecting corporate interests, maintaining economic hegemony through military might abroad while greasing the wheels for privileged elites to make money off the working majority at home. The people bought into this sucker’s game because it sustained enough of a consumer lifestyle to keep them docile, and kept us divided by scapegoating minorities and playing on fear—first of communism, later, of terrorism.
The unique moment we are experiencing now is the utter collapse of Wall Street’s claims to legitimate rule over our lives. Of course people are afraid of this. Our de facto rulers, the Big Daddies of America, were supposed to have things in hand. Now we’re expected to quake with fear at the prospects of losing our jobs, our homes, our lifestyles. But at the risk of alienating some readers, I have to confess a kind of grim pleasure at the spectacle of all these government “experts” and economists and financiers and media pundits going spastic in hysteria as they contemplate the collapse of their beloved hog trough, the American economy. No, I do not enjoy the suffering of the millions of ordinary men and women who are the real victims of their masters’ rapacity. And I certainly am not pleased to witness the complete lack of consequences for the thieves who speculated the banking and credit system into the dirt. But I do think this was all bound to happen, and the fact that it is finally happening marks a decision point for our country and the world.
One of my constantly reiterated themes since I started this blog has been the distinction between the conventional view of what’s happening as some kind of malfunction within an essentially valid political framework, and my own view that corporatist rule constitutes a criminal enterprise. I include so-called “centrist” approaches within my indictment, because the interests of the financial elites still obviate all other values. The United States treasury has simply been looted by the ruling class. A criminal element gained political and military power and proceeded to steal public wealth to enrich its own private coffers. And when the stealing reached a certain point, the system began to collapse. That’s the truth, and that’s what you won’t hear in the media or from politicians.
I’ve come to believe that one of the ruling ideas of the Cheney regime (not Bush, who was too simple-minded to do anything but obey his handlers) was that a Third World-type dictatorship would be eventually necessary in the United States if rule by economic elites was to continue. For 1% of the people to maintain a monopoly on the country’s wealth, what was left of democratic institutions had to be radically modified, ensuring military and political dominance world-wide. Thus a permanent war on terrorism, a permanent state of emergency requiring a “unitary executive” (a dictator) who would be above the law, torture and other forms of state violence in order to keep people in fear, and so forth, were all components of the rightist “vision” of the future. The enemy was not terrorism, but the American people.
The ascension of Obama represents a setback to that vision, a victory for the old-fashioned East Coast establishment with its ties to European capitalism, as opposed to the cowboy Reaganist upstarts who dreamed of total American dominance. But the danger of dictatorship is not over. The centrists who are now in charge still seek to prop up the rule of Wall Street, to somehow save the system which places profit above all other values. The alternative, we are told, is socialism, which is unthinkable, so we carefully refrain from thinking about it. The danger, however, is that these attempts to save Wall Street may only exacerbate the crisis, leading to a resurgence of neo-fascism, which will be sold to us as the only way out.
So this is an important time, because we can all see that the emperor is naked. There is a lot of anger against Wall Street right now, and that’s a very healthy thing. This anger needs to build into a demand for economic justice in which the mass of working people are released from the vise of this destructive and criminal system. Thieves must be identified as thieves and their ill-gotten gains taken from them, through taxation or other means, and redistributed downwards. Yes, I’m talking about spreading the wealth to the people who actually created the wealth—us. Our work created our country’s wealth. The bankers and speculators did not create their own wealth; they gambled ours. And lost. The vast sums devoted to military dominance need also to be redirected to our real needs—housing, education, health, infrastructure. Our anger at Wall Street can be a fuel to ignite these demands. They are not only reasonable, but necessary for the survival of our republic.