in Manhattan. AP /Mark Lennihan
Face it. We live in two nations, sharply divided by an enormous economic chasm between the super-rich and everyone else. This should be an obvious fact of life for most Americans. Just read the story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal headlined "Profits Thrive in Weak Recovery." Or the recent New York Times story pointing out "that the median pay for top executives at 200 big companies last year was $10.8 million," a 23 percent gain over the year before.
In the midst of a jobless recovery, those same corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in reserves, refusing to invest in this country, as increasing percentages of their profits are garnered in tax-sheltered operations abroad. And the bankers who caused the economic meltdown have turned against President Barack Obama, who saved them; instead they favor a tea-party-dominated Republican Party that seeks to limit any restraint on corporate greed while destroying the ability of state and federal governments to bring some measure of relief to ordinary folk.
The whole point of the tea party is to focus concern over our stagnant economy on something called "big government" while ignoring the big corporations that have bought the government as an accessory to their marketing strategies. Big government is big precisely because it now exists primarily to make the world safe for multinational capitalism, whether through a bloated defense budget, trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement, or monetary policies that serve the interests of the largest companies.
It was their lobbyists who got Congress to end sensible regulations of financial shenanigans, and now, with the new tea party members of Congress as their most stalwart allies, they are yanking the teeth from the very mild regulations that Obama got through the last Congress. As The Associated Press reported: "Congressional Republicans are greeting the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's financial overhaul law by trying to weaken it, nibble by nibble."
It is nothing short of demagogic for the Republicans to be complaining about the debt when it was the radical deregulatory policies that they pursued which caused all that governmental red ink in the first place. What a hoax to pretend that teachers' pensions or environmental protections are responsible for a debt that increased by 50 percent as a direct consequence of the banking collapse. Yet they want to gut even the tepid regulations that became law under the Obama administration, foaming at the mouth about sensible regulation as job killing when it is the uncontrolled greed of Wall Street that is at the root of our high unemployment.
Congressional Republicans are cutting funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as if those already underfunded agencies are centers of anti-business radicalism. The CFTC is run by former Goldman Sachs partner Gary Gensler, who, back when he was in the Clinton Treasury Department serving under another onetime Goldman leader, Robert Rubin, teamed up with Republicans in Congress to gut financial regulation. He is one of the Obama regulators who has managed to delay even the minor controls that the Dodd-Frank law requires for the still wildly out-of-control $600 trillion derivatives market.
What a joke that the tea party assertion that radicals have taken over the Obama government is embraced even by lobbyists for Goldman Sachs, whose former executives have populated the Obama administration as widely as they did the two previous administrations. All they are missing this time around is that they didn't get to have one of their own named as treasury secretary, as was the case in both the Clinton and Bush cabinets.
This week, the Los Angeles Times reported on Goldman's renewed lobbying efforts in Washington aimed at watering down what remains of the promise of Dodd-Frank. True to Washington tradition, Goldman has hired Michael Paese, a former top staffer for the "liberal" Rep. Barney Frank to head its Washington operation, which last year spent $4.6 million lobbying Congress to soften the bill, a task now made far easier with Goldman's tea party allies in the new Republican-dominated House. As the Times noted, "Goldman has spent much of its money on hired guns from major Washington lobbying firms, including former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.)."
Between the faux populism of the tea party and the army of sellout ex-congressional staffers and politicians from both parties, the Washington fix is in. Short of hitting it big on a lottery ticket, the vast majority of Americans are sentenced to a future of lowered expectations, insurmountable personal debt and dismal job prospects.
They may not know it, however, thanks to the constant propaganda from a corporate culture dominated by images of a classless nation in which all consume the delights of the American dream, from the perfect smartphone to the perfect pill for bladder control, while merrily hacking away on the perfectly manicured golf course of one's fantasies.