The New New Deal
Footing the bill and
holding the bag
By Mike Rivage-Seul
-- - Funny how gambling terms routinely pop us in
discussions of globalized economics. Here I’m not just talking
about desperate absurdities like state-sponsored lotteries to
finance public education of all things. It’s about the “casino
economy” itself, where international “players,” “stakeholders,”
and “high rollers” “win” and “lose” fortunes by betting on the
market’s ups and downs. And then there are periodic reshufflings
and “new deals” like the famous one following the Great Crash of
the 1930s. All of those are gambling terms.
Presently (following the Great
Crash of 2008), we’re in the midst of yet another reshuffling
and redistribution of cards – another New Deal. But whereas 30s
version shifted money from the haves to the have-nots, the
re-run promises an income redistribution from the disappearing
middle class to the super-rich. They’re the gambling addicts who
got us here in the first place.
And what will we get in return?
Nothing, nada, zip.
The gamblers’ codependent enablers
are making sure of that. Samuelson and Bernanke, along with
corporation heads, their lawyers, professional economists, and
the government representatives who share their beds are intent
on pushing through a one-sided deal. They think we’re all too
stupid to understand what they’re doing. So with a wink and a
nod, they slip aces from the bottom of the deck into the hands
of the card sharks that have been cheating all along.
Watch closely. Samuelson and Co.
want to cancel their cronies’ losses, reshuffle the cards, and
allow their pals some kind of do-over. All of this flies in the
face of what we’ve been told are the rules of the game. Adam
Smith’s version of Hoyle says losers should pay their gambling
debts and suffer the consequences.
Of course they tell us that the
consequences would be too much for the rest of us to bear. It
would be the end of civilization as we know it, they warn. I’m
still not sure about that. That rationale sounds a lot like the
trickle-down thinking everyone’s running away from as fast as
they can. It pretends that we’ve all been somehow benefitting
from the market’s unreasonable exuberance over the last few
years. I don’t think so. The ones cashing out at the casino bank
are drawing those seven figure salaries we read about. Even Bear
Stearns and Lehman execs are not suffering. Feeling no pain at
all, they’re comfortably drifting to earth under golden
I’m not an economist. But I do know
is that Samuelson and the gang are not only doing all of this
with our money. They’re doing it in secret and fast. And they’re
working behind closed doors, behind our backs. They say we may
not know the results of their confab perhaps for weeks.
But if we don’t act now, we who are
footing the bill will be left holding the bag. We’ve got to
prevent that pronto. Robert Reich has recently shown us how. In
a mailing from Kate Stayman-London, CREDO Action [email@example.com]
he lays out 5 guidelines and an ultimatum for Pelosi and Reid to
demand. First the guidelines:
If the taxpayers are
shouldering the risk, the taxpayers should reap any eventual
benefits. We accomplish this by giving the government an
equity stake in every company we bail out proportionate to
the amount we give them.
If we're paying (more than)
our fair share, the CEOs and executives should have to, too.
All of the fat cats who got us into this mess should
relinquish their stock options and salaries until they start
showing us, their investors, that they can once again be
profitable. Future salaries should be linked to
No more campaign
contributions from Wall Street executives and PACs.
Taxpayer dollars should be used to get our nation out of a
crisis. They cannot be used to fund giant, powerful
lobby operations that will be used to strong arm Congress
into making bad policy.
Better regulations start
right now. Wall Street can't expect to take thousands of
dollars out of your paycheck without agreeing to increased
transparency and more stringent oversight — the kind that
might have helped avoid this mess to begin with.
Bankruptcy judges get
broader leeway to help homeowners. Why should we lose
our homes so the CEOs can keep theirs?
And then the ultimatum
If Wall Street doesn't like
these conditions, then it is welcome to find private investors
to help it out of this debacle. But if the American people are
going to take this hit, then we must have a say in the terms of
the deal — even if we don't have an army of high-paid lobbyists
at our disposal like they do.
Reich is correct, of course. But
even his recommendations, as sound as they are, don’t go nearly
far enough. In effect they recommend that the monitors watching
each gambling table from up there in the ceiling booths wake up
and start doing their job. What ever happened to the Sherman
But even in Reich’s vision, the
economy still remains a casino, though better monitored and
regulated. He overlooks the fact that the globalized economy
based on competition and risk-taking is a relic of the past --
fundamentally unviable. Peak oil and global warming are seeing
to that. Goodbye corporate globalization. There is no
alternative to consuming closer to home. And for that the
economy must be fundamentally rethought and restructured.
Untargeted economic growth (in Bush I’s terms: “Computer chips
or potato chips; what’s the difference?”) is no longer
acceptable. But that’s another story.
Phone Pelosi and Reid today. Tell
them to make the Wallstreet losers play by the rules.
Mike Rivage-Seul teaches at
Berea College where he has taught for more than 30 years. He is
the director of Berea’s Peace and Social Justice Program. He may
be reached by phone at (859) 986-1361 (H) or at (859) 985-3741
(W). His e-mail address is
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