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It's the economy?

By       Message Richard Hirschhorn       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Picture, in your mind, a great tower reaching towards the sky. An edifice, proudly erected, where masters of profit design our world.. See the wizards hard at work. They are determining the credit worthiness of various “instruments”. These worthy ladies and gentlemen are the products of our finest institutions. Veterans, they have fought to the top of their profession after many years of training, and hard work. They are expert. Indeed, no souls on this planet understand creditworthiness better.

Picture in your mind, if you will, placed upon the desks of these august and austere paragons of probity propositions demanding judgment. During the “bubble” these items included steaming platters of excrement. See, that with one hand on their nose, and the other on the “Triple A” stamp, this crap was deemed inspected and fit for consumption. There is nothing new in this vision. That special “touch” that changes dung into gold is as old as the ages. “Hustling”, in one form or another, has long been ranked one of our oldest professions.

Just one year ago the stock market hit record heights. This affirmed the greatest global boom of all time. If that boom reflected real economic conditions, today’s catastrophic collapse cannot be a result of economic conditions. We are led to believe, as a recent speaker in San Antonio opined, that boom was replaced by bust because of “shenanigans”.
Shenanigans indeed!
What is missing most from a flood of analysis is the dry eyed judgment that at the root of the problem lay an immoral mode of behavior which included criminal conduct. To be sure, some commentators are getting close to being able to utter the “C” word. Less and less we hear the pathetic euphemism “bubble” Soon; perhaps, the experts will stop saying “shenanigans” when what has happened is really fraud.
In our society analysis and commentary is increasingly restricted to a partisan context. More and more situations are presented and defined by how they affect one side or another. Political consequences command as much ink as human conditions. Not only does this preclude any explanation that is not exploitable by red or blue, it has led to a condition wherein we are so unfamiliar with core issues that we are unable to find guidance in truths other than those attachments presented by politicians.
Our ideas, when taken from political rhetoric are so twisted to serve and justify partisan ends, that they offer no reasonable explanation, and hence no solution, to our real life problems. Where some may say “religion is the opiate of the masses”, I would add that partisan ideology is the opiate of the pseudo-intellectual. When I listen to the slanted and biased presentations made by these otherwise intelligent people, my response is always the same. You must be stoned.
I wonder what people are smoking today when I hear the “financial” crisis blamed on political ideology. Certainly, it is very clear to what electoral ends the dissemination of this view has led. The view that Conservative economic ideology caused the problem is the single idea most responsible for people recently switching to Obama. That these policies were supported under the Clinton administration doesn’t matter to partisans or the press. That’s yesterday’s news. Dipping reality into a partisan vat may galvanize an electorate to take a candidate the whole nine yards, but it does not advance us towards the truth one single inch. 
Conservative, Liberal, Rightwing, Leftwing. Progressive, Democrat, Republican, when written in the upper case, are like April ice, a slippery surface upon which we must not rely, lest we find ourselves in over our heads when things start to heat up. Before we blame conservatives for this colossal heist (one must wonder what motivated criminals before Neo-Conservatives arrived) let us take a look at real life, rather than partisan rhetoric for an explanation. Examine the following two sets of words:
Sober, Stingy, Prudent, Cheap, Careful, Sensible, Calm, Sane, uptight..
Reckless, immoderate, rash, out of control, hasty, rushed, hysterical, loose.
One of these sets may be applied to a conservative mind, while the other to those hustlers whispering in your ear “it’s a sure thing”, “you can’t miss”, ”buy, buy, buy.” . Only a total idiot could believe that a conservative nature is synonymous with the words of the whisperer, or the words in group two. Yet, in the twisted world of American politics, it is this gross perversion we are being asked to buy into.

When we see the flamboyant life styles that motivate those bums that pulled off this caper; the hookers, the coke, the flashy cars and tasteless mansions, do conservative family values come to mind?
Okay, we have made two points. The first is that this “financial” crisis is in reality the result of fraud, which is a crime, which results from the lack of character and the absence of morality. Second, that this behavior is exactly the opposite of what we might expect from conservatives, even though they are in a political alliance with those that were accessories before the fact by passing laws that enabled the swindle to move forward.
How does this happen? How do people that are associated with one thing become linked to another group that is exactly the opposite? While we may have various views of what takes place in the privacy of one’s bedroom, we should all be alarmed at the public perversion that makes politicians strange bedfellows.
New and neo are synonymous. Today’s great cultural war is being fought between those that embrace contemporary lifestyles, that emerged in the nineteen sixties, and were called “new left”; and those that wish to preserve traditional lifestyles. In a later generation, political forces called “Neo-Cons” (new right) adhered their economic and political ideas to the social base of conservatism just as the “new Left” adhered itself to the traditional left. Both these usages mean phony; as in unreal, counterfeit, imitation. People from the “new” left are no more leftists, than people from the “Neo” right are conservative. Issues of war vs. peace or promiscuity vs. chastity are not issues of left or right. A homosexual is not a leftist. A warmonger is not a rightist. Which economic theory, left or right, informs us on the issue of abortion?
Liberals, the New Left, and other mainstream day trippers, make a tremendous mistake when they attribute “Neo” ideas to real conservatives. You can never have too many friends, and when misperception allows the discard of so many fundamentally decent people, the cause of common decency  takes a backseat to political expediency. When humanity is divided by historical circumstance it is a tragedy, but when it is divided by design it is a sin.
                                 .    .    .    .   
In America, we had always relied on a small standing army to check aggression, and a militia and patriotic citizenry to respond to larger, more serious, threats. In this, we see the idea of two lines of defense. The first, the small group of professionals is designed to serve in everyday circumstances; the second, the nation as a whole, is relied upon when the going gets really tough.
In society, as in war, we have a second line of defense as well. This is less clearly understood, but it is just as vital to our well being. We, the people, are that second line.

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We serve that function by having values that may be described as our national character. We raise among us not a militia, but a consciousness 
If we can agree on nothing else, we must all admit that the recent looting of our Treasury reveals the absence of that second line of defense. The question then becomes, what ideas are afoot that led to this glaring absence of character?
I recently read “Reflections”. This was written by Robert McNamara, the Secretary of War under JFK and LBJ. Surprisingly, re-entering the Vietnam War mindset, and relearning how a Harvard “whiz kid” made the mistakes that cost a million or so lives, did not disturb me as much as I thought it might have. Instead, my antennas tuned in on something that came straight out of left field. This was, that when at Harvard, Mr. McNamara was introduced to what was then a novel, even revolutionary idea. This idea was that the corporate process should have socially redeeming features.
Apparently, according to this theory, prior to the mid twentieth century “the business of business is business” was the rule; and had been for all of recorded history. To be sure, before then there had been attempts to moderate commerce. In gentle society, careers for young gentlemen might be found in serving God, or in the military serving King and country, in the sciences and in the arts. Decent people didn’t get their hands dirty descending into the merchant class. Money grubbing was considered crass by a class that received its income from inherited estates. As this traditional arrangement made way for the ascendancy of industry, brutal confrontation often characterized the attempts to govern the “anything goes” attitude of money making. Since then, most of us have had our consciousness formed in an era when some businesses in some societies have voluntarily undertaken to include objectives other than profit in their endeavors. This is what “Better Business” means in Better Business Bureau. What could be better for business than the dissemination of the idea that because it is already good no moral oversight is necessary? What could be better for society than when this actually occurs? What a relief! Now, as Mr. McNamara learned, we can rely on the good breeding and enlightened Ivy-League ideas of the gentlemen that captain industry to provide decency, rather than the artful placement of a baseball bat across the heads of scabs.
This is the liberal idea that convinced us to lower our guard; to dismiss the sentries.
Steven Waldman, the head honcho at Beliefnet, an internet site devoted to religious issues (A Fox Division), has often been asked what role religion would play on Election Day. His view is that, this year, religion would recede as moral arguments would be overwhelmed by the “financial” crisis. Once again, that old saw: “it’s the economy, stupid”. While we have all become accustomed to political touts, and smart alecks of every stripe, asserting that we Americans are shallow and materialistic, when a respected scholar on religion in America shares this view, it is something of a shock. It is shocking because it crystallizes the idea that economics is not an appropriate activity for the application of morality; particularly that morality which is gleaned from religion.
This is the conservative idea that convinced us to lower our guard, to dismiss the sentries. 
The Religious Right does not hesitate to assert its morality outside the church when it comes to sexual conduct; but it is afraid to do so in an area which we devote more time to than making love: making money.
Abortion is the sexual issue that joins social conservatives at the hip with phony conservatives. If a wild and reckless policy of foreign adventure is advocated, the exact opposite of the isolationism a true conservative might prefer, it is endorsed by conservatives if those selling the idea are also pro-life. Thus, if we believe that life begins at conception and that all life is sacred, we end up supporting the wholesale slaughter of life that the invasion of Iraq has caused. Worse yet, decent people will conclude that our concerns for life are “phony” because they see the disregard for life in our allies. If a wild and reckless policy of finance is advocated, the exact opposite of the cautious probity that a true conservative might prefer, it is endorsed by conservatives if those selling it say they are “pro-life” Thus, if we are anti-abortion, we end up supporting  the wholesale looting of our treasury. Worse yet, decent people will conclude our concerns for restraint are “phony” because we endorse those that make rash financial decisions.

Rather than chafing under the restrictions imposed by the secular separation of Church and State, I urge social conservatives to reject the “secular” divisions learned by Mr. McNamara and espoused by Mr. Waldman. In the first we see the historic separation from trade by a haughty aristocracy replaced by a new separation. This was one of trust. A new aristocracy told us we didn’t need to watch them. In the second, we see another “secular” concept. This one is self-imposed. Again we are told to trust; that it is not proper for religion to speak on economic matters. Both the separation of morality from commerce, and the separation of religion and commerce lay at the root of this “financial” crisis.
This financial crisis was not caused by economic condition. It is the economic consequence of immorality. When you hear, “it’s the economy stupid” reply “It’s the economy? Now that’s stupid!
Few ideas are written in stone. To the Ten Commandments, which are a moral code, and were delivered to a godless people adrift in the shifting sands of a desert, I would add this humble advice:
Never trust a politician. Never trust a money grubber. Never trust anyone where temptation is great, whether to power or wealth. This is especially true when we tell them in advance we are going to look the other way. Trusting either one is like falling in love with a prostitute. It may feel good for a little while, but don’t be surprised when you can’t go home.

Today, it is towards the religious conservatives, and especially Mr. Waldman, that my criticism is directed. This great nation has suffered a grievous blow. While you are not guilty of knowingly approving the modus operandi, you are responsible, in your own way, for our guard being down. For, when you withdraw morality from life, as you have done regarding the nation’s enterprise, you have only yourself to blame when the result is immoral, and even criminal. This is a lesson a liberal whiz kid learned from Vietnam, and I hope it’s a lesson religious conservatives have learned from this economic disaster.
I am personally disappointed. Surely, I thought, in a conservative era, this calamity could never befall us. But to my dismay I found you can never find a real conservative when you need one.
As we learn that the perfect crime is that crime which is made legal, you must stand up and take the blame for your part in supporting the politicians that made the greatest heist in history possible.
While you have seen fit to take up a post between the legs of ladies and the butt cheeks of gentlemen, whether invited to do so or not, I would implore you, in appreciation of the contribution a conservative nature can make, to consider a broader moral responsibility.
If you must get into our pants, for God’s sake, could you watch our pockets too?

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shopkeeper 1976-2001

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