Sunday, December 14, 2014

A thought for Sunday: one step from despair

 - by New Deal democrat

[Who said: "I believe that our Great Maker is preparing the world, in His own good time, to become one nation, speaking one language, and when armies and navies will be no longer required" ?  Hint:  not a hippie.  Answer at the bottom.]

This was a horrible week for what I once thought were American values.

First we find out that letter that state officials are submitting as official "comments" to federal legislation, were in fact dictated almost word-for-word by energy companies.  Then we find out that the CIA enthusiastically embraced torture - not even to extract actionable information, but to make sure that nothing was left, or even to induce false information that could be used politically.

Finally a multi-billion dollar gift is delivered from Congress to Wall Street, repealing a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act that prohibited Wall Street banks from gambling on derivatives with their FDIC-insured deposits.  On this last bit, fully 1/3 of all Democrats in the House voted in favor, Senate Democrats are expected to follow, and President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

Let's be clear about one thing:  not a single word has been uttered by any lawmaker as to why this repealer is economically necessary. Wall Street banks are already making record profits.  By definition we are not talking about a farmer, industrialist, or merchant hedging against adverse contingencies.  This is strictly about gambling - with deposits that are backed up ultimately by the US taxpayer.  It is also "moral hazard" at its absolute worst.  Gains will be distributed as profits.  Catastrophic losses will be bailed out.  There is every incentive to swing for the fences.

And 1/3 of the supposed protectors of the middle/working class voted in favor?

But wait, we are told soberly by, among others, Barack Obama. Here's what the democrats got out of deal, according to Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:
In 20 years of being on the appropriations bill, I haven’t seen a better compromise in terms of Democratic priorities. Implementing the Affordable Care Act, there’s a lot more money for early-childhood development — the only priority that got cut was the EPA but we gave them more money than the administration asked for....There were 26 riders that were extreme and would have devastated the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of the Clean Water and Clean Air Act administration; all of those were dropped. There were only two that were kept and they wouldn’t have been implemented this fiscal year. So, we got virtually everything that the Democrats tried to get.
The ... full-year appropriations legislation for most Government functions [ ] allows ... authorities and funding provided to enhance the U.S. Government’s response to the Ebola epidemic, and to implement the Administration’s strategy tocounter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as well as investments for the President’s early education agenda, Pell Grants, the bipartisan Manufacturing Institutes initiative, and extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
In other words, the democrats got funding - for one year - for favored programs.  The republicans permanently killed a provision keeping Wall Street from gambling with FDIC-insured deposits.

Imagine you want to throw a party for your graduating senior.  You expect the party to get a little raucous, and you don't want trouble, so you go to your difficult neighbor and ask him to agree.  He agrees, but only if you agree to deed over to him 5' of your yard.  You got something temporary. He got something permanent. Sound like a deal?  Well, that's akin to what those guardians of the little guy and gal just agreed to.

Mark my words, those same cuts will be demanded by the GOP next year.  And the protection against gambling with FDIC insured deposits will still be gone, so another demand will be made of the democrats to save the cuts.

When it comes to American history, the scales fell from my eyes long ago. Andrew Jackson and Manifest Destiny virtually defined the 19th Century.  If native tribes had to be slaughtered, well, too bad for them.  The effort to expand slavery West and South (to Cuba, Mexico, and the Caribbean) were centerpieces of the Jacksonian dogma.

And torture?  Been there, done that, in the Phillippine - American War of 1899 - 1902.  Just an example:
To force information from a Filipino mayor believed to have been covertly helping insurgents, American soldiers resort to what they call the “water cure.” After tying the mayor’s hands behind his back and forcing him to lie beneath a large water tank, they pry his mouth open, hold it in place with a stick and then turn on the spigot. When his stomach is full to bursting, the soldiers begin pounding on it with their fists, stopping only after the water, now mixed with gastric juices, has poured from his mouth and nose. Then they turn on the spigot again.
The disgust felt by many, such as Mark Twain, was unpersuasive.

In World War 2, many Americans at home wanted all Nazi and Japanese POW's killed.  They were restrained by the military, which pointed out that American POWs were also being held by Germany and Japan.

But I digress.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the Presidency of George W. Bush might turn out to be as influential as that of Andrew Jackson.  That torture - even if not effective - is viewed as a legitimate tool of government, that Wall Street should unquestioningly be given what it wants - are now topics of "legitimate" discussion, even "bipartisan" approval.  The entire range of acceptable policies has been moved a full standard deviation to the right, and remained so during the presidency of the man who ran on "Hope" and "Change."

And the GOP hasn't officially taken control of the Senate yet.

I am one step from despair.  But despair will never be an option.

You want hope?  Here is the answer to the question I posed at the outset of this post.  That sentence was uttered by President Ulysses S. Grant, the General who had saved the Union, in his second inaugural speech, 1873.  There is no record of outrage from Washington insiders in response.