Rediscovering Greed

When St. Ronnie descended upon D.C. from his wuthering California heights, he eliminated greed, by his mere hallowed, pre(?)-Alzheimer presence, remember?

How else can we account for his frenzy of deregulation? If there’s no greed, then people won’t do things they ought not do. They won’t manufacture and distribute insufficiently tested and possibly dangerous herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides; they won’t feed ground up dead cows to other cows risk spreading mad cow disease; they won’t sell salmonella tainted jalapenos or chicken nor e. coli tainted beef; they won’t rope people who can’t afford them long term into mortgages whose paymen’s explode over time; they won’t overextend banks’ and savings and loan associations’ ability to remain solvent; they won’t claim that drilling for oil in environmentally sensitive areas will bring the price of gasoline down when that source won’t even reach the market for close to a decade. All these and many others that used to require regulation clearly no longer needed public oversight because greed was gone thanks to St. Ronnie’s beneficent, if forgetful presence.

But alas, when we put St. Ronnie six feet under in 2004, we must have lost that protective aura of his. Now, gasp!, even Wall Street types seem to be OK with regulating the financial markets (as long as it means taxpayer dollars are bailing their crooked tail-ends out). We see St. Ronnie’s ideological successors, the Dick & George Farce (DGF), being challenged over their efforts to continue deregulation. Under court order, DGF’s politicized, science-be-damned EPA has even been forced to recognize carbon dioxide’s threat to life on Earth. We see worldwide revulsion at DGF’s unwillingness to confront the dangerous challenges of the economy, ecology, and society, instead focusing on warmongering, all because extremist religious fanatics first energized by St. Ronnie helped get Bush II (the Shrub) elected through the theft of an election.

The other thing we no longer needed with St. Ronnie present was government, almost, because of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” guiding “the market”. And, in case you’ve forgotten, “the market” is that magical place where everyone is totally informed and totally honest and not greedy. The invisible hand makes the magic of the market work wonderfully for everyone, except when evil government steps in and regulates and; governs, as it did to get the country and the world out of the 1930s Depression. For government to do its thing, it needs money, and occasionally runs up a debt. With greed gone, none of that was necessary, and that’s why when running for Pres, Ronnie vilified Jimmy-the Smile-Carter, for the huge national debt that Jimmy had allegedly accumulated. Here’s the quote: "By 1960 our national debt stood at $284 billion. … Today the debt is $934 billion. … We can leave our children with an unrepayable massive debt and a shattered economy."

If you take a quick look at the accompanying table, you might wonder about how fair St. Ronnie was being to old Jimmy. You’ll notice that, in terms of today’s dollars, Ronnie increased the debt during his eight years in office (ending 1988) by a factor of two and a half times. It took five presidents 20 years to do the same (ending 1980). More importantly, at the end of Jimmy’s term, the debt was only one third of GDP (gross domestic product, a measure of what the economy produces in a year), while at the end of Ronnie’s reign, it was more than one half. In other words, the U.S. debt mattered more and could have a greater impact on the country’s economy after Ronnie than after Jimmy. Similarly, Bad Billie left office in 2000 with the country’s annual budget balanced (in other words no debt would be added by government spending) but Ronnie’s “children” are adding almost $500 billion to the debt this year. How could that be? Weren’t the Saint, Dick, and Shrub those who didn’t want government doing things and spending money and racking up debt that could hurt the magical market and maybe even break that invisible hand?

The sad reality, you see, is that greed was never gone. It was just more focused and disguised by Reagan’s cocky, personable smile. The defense industries made oodles of money during his reign, as they and the “consultants” of the Iraq war along with the oil companies are doing now with Dick and George, both former oilmen, running the show.

Maybe now people will come to realize that what was implemented by way of economic and social policy since the Depression was not some aberrant, “communist” blip of history. Maybe now we’ll restore and build on those policies that provided a stable enough society and economy for business to prosper consistently, if not dramatically (that is enriching very few while impoverishing many). Maybe now all the fawning market worshippers will wake up and stop exporting the ideological poison that has caused untold misery in Africa, South America, and Asia.

And so, we arrive in Armenia, a place with little tradition of civic activism or market experience. A place where old party crooks, er bosses, have taken over the country’s wealth as their own and others emulate them. A place that, at least in government circles, has largely espoused the market idolatry that was rammed down the throats of the former Soviet states. Decision makers still straight-facedly advocate trusting the “invisible hand” and the markets it allegedly guides.

Our compatriots are paying the price for this foolhardiness, economically, ecologically, health-wise, nationalistically, and any other way you’d care to list.

Let’s help Armenia’s government be among the first to break out of the trap much of the world has fallen into during the last three decades of voodoo economics at varying levels of mythicality ushered in by Ronald Reagan and perpetuated by his political descendants currently holding office.

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