First of all, we are suffering the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And why? Because the financial industry was permitted to run amok.
Under the relaxed regulations of the Reagan and Clinton administrations, the banks did not prove themselves trustworthy to do the right thing for the economy and for the customers they served. They only cared about profits. Alan Greenspan himself admitted that he had "put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton [i.e., unregulated] mortgage lending."
Nevertheless, the wealthy ruling class of Wall Street, largely unpunished, is doing just fine with its multi-million-dollar bonuses. But middle-class and working-class Americans continue to suffer through home foreclosures and long-term unemployment. And small businesses can't get loans to stay afloat.
As if that's not enough, with the ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico we're now watching the greatest environmental disaster that the U.S. has ever seen. And why? Because the oil industry was permitted to run amok.
BP and other oil companies have a long record of thumbing their noses at safety regulations. For example, it seems that a safety device was available for $500,000 which could have prevented the BP oil disaster. This acoustic switch would trigger an underwater valve to shut down a well in case of a blowout, like the one that recently happened in the Gulf. BP, however, decided that $500,000 was too much to spend on safety, despite the fact that its 2009 profits totaled some $14 billion. So BP spent its money instead on working with Dick Cheney to block regulations that would have required the use of this and other safety precautions.
As a result, not only is the environment suffering, along with the coastal wildlife, but so are the livelihoods of everyone who works in the fishing and tourism industries in the Gulf Coast region.
But don't worry. Even if BP were to go bankrupt as a result of the disaster, as some have speculated, the oil industry in general won't likely suffer any more long-term setbacks than the bankers have. If it's not BP drilling off our coasts, it will be Exxon or Shell.
And don't forget about the coal miners who have died due to relaxed safety standards, and those who will likely die in the future for the same cut corners.
These days, the corporations are calling the shots. And, now that the Supreme Court has given corporations the unlimited "right" to buy and sell elected officials, I can't see it changing any time soon.
So they'll be fine, even if we won't.
The banks will continue to do whatever it takes to make profits, even if ordinary Americans and small businesses must suffer as a result.
The oil companies will continue to do whatever it takes to maximize their own profits, planet be damned.
Coal miners' families will worry each day until their loved ones come home.
And, sadly, given the status quo, I don't think there is anything we can do about it.
Unless, of course, we the people can find a way to overturn the wealthy and powerful status quo.
Meantime, I suspect that our Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves. After all, they warned us about this. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "I hope we shall crush ... in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
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