Tuesday, April 24, 2012

America's Dirty Little Secret.


Wanted to post an excerpt of Matthew Taibbi's 'Griftopia' I was reading on the bus but'a'mere hour ago... and whilst jamming to Arcade Fire (listen: The Woodlands National Anthem) I will type this up!

First, just my own thoughts: I think Taibbi pinpointed the basic gist of why we need to encourage the American People to not vote in this election, as the ultimate act of defiance that is so simple, yet in reality, feels laughable and impossible to consider, although it would be nice for the People to have the 'last laugh' when it would show that the only the 1% voted, and no one else. That's all calm Gandhi style to give a giant finger to the Man, right? ...... right?

p.31-34 in Chapter, 'The Grifter Archipelago'

The insurmountable hurdle for so-called populist movements is having the nerve to attack the rich instead of the poor. Even after the rich almost destroyed the entire global economy through their sheer unrestrained greed and stupidity, we can't shake the peasant mentality that says we should go easy on them, because the best hope for our collective prosperity is in them creating wealth for us all. That's the idea at the core of trickle-down economics and the basis for American economic policy for a generation. The entire premise- that the way society works is for the productive rich to feed the needy poor and that any attempt by the latter to punish the former for their excesses might inspire Atlas to shrug his way out of town and leave the rest of us on our own to starve- should be insulting to people so proud to call themselves the "water carriers." But in a country where every Joe the Plumber has been hoodwinked into thinking he's one clogged toliet away from being rich himself, we're all invested in rigging the system for the rich.
What's accelerated over the last few decades, however, is just how thoroughly the members of the grifter class have mastered their art. They've placed themselves at a nexus of political and economic connections that make them nearly impossible to police. And even if they could be policed, there are not and were not even laws on the books to deal with the kinds of things that went on at Goldman Sachs and other investment banks in the run-up to the financial crisis. What has taken the place over the last generation is a highly complicated merger of crime and policy, of stealing and government. Far from taking care of the rest of us, the financial leaders of America and their political servants have seemingly reached the cynical conclusion that our society is not worth saving and have taken on a new mission that involves not creating wealth for all, but simply absconding with whatever wealth remains in our hollowed-out economy. They don't feed us, we feed them.
The same giant military-industrial complex that once dotted the horizon of the American states with smokestacks and telephone poles as far as the eye could see has now been expertly and painstakingly refitted for a monstrous new mission: sucking up whatever savings remains in the pockets of the actual people still living between the coasts, the little hidden nest eggs of the men and women who built the country and fought its wars, plus whatever pennies and nickels their aimless and doomed Gen-X offspring might have managed to accumulate in preparation for the gleaming future implicitly promised them, but already abandoned and rejected as unfeasible in reality by the people who run this country.
But our politics- even in the form of "grassroots" movements represented by Tea Partiers (who line up to support a narcissistic, money-grubbing hack like Palin) or MoveOn (who rallied their followers behind a corporation-engorging health bill) - is silent about this. Instead, it grounds our new and disturbing estate of affairs in familiar, forty-year-old narratives. The right is eternally fighting against Lyndon Johnson; the left, George Wallace. When the Republicans win elections, their voters think they've struck a blow against big government. And when a Democratic hero like Barack Obama wins, his supporters think they've won a great victory for tolerance and diversity. Even I thought that.
The reality is that neither of these narratives makes sense anymore. The New America, instead, is fast becoming a vast ghetto in which all of us, conservatives and progressives, are being bled dry by a relatively tiny oligarchy of extremely clever financial criminals and their castrato henchmen in government, whose main job is to be good actors on TV and put on a good show. This invisible hive of high-class thieves stays in business because when we're not completely distracted and exhausted by our work and entertainments, we prefer not to ponder the dilemma of why gasoline went over four dollars a gallon, why our pension funds just lost 20 percent of their value, or why when we do the right thing by saving money, we keep being punished by interest rates that hover near zero, while banks that have been the opposite of prudent get rewarded with free billions. In reality political power is simply taken from most of us by a grubby kind of fiat, in little fractions of a percent here and there each and every day, through a thousand separate transactions that take place in fine print and in the margins of a vast social mechanism that most of us are simply not conscious of.
This stuff is difficult to unravel, often fiendishly so. But those invisible processes, those unseen labyrinths of the Grifter Archipelago that are indifferent to party affiliation, are our real politics. Which makes sense, if you think about it. It should have always have been obvious that a country as rich and powerful as America should be governed by an immensely complex, labyrinthine political system, one that requires almost unspeakable cunning and wolfish ruthlessness to navigate with any success, and which interacts with its unwitting subject peoples not once every four years but every day, in a variety of ways, seen and unseen. Like any big ship, America is run by people who understand how the vessel works. And the bigger the country gets, the fewer such people there are.
America's dirty little secret is that  for this small group of plugged-in bubble lords, the political system works fine not just without elections, but without any political input from any people at all outside Manhattan. In bubble economics, actual human beings have only a few legitimate roles: they're either customers of the financial services industry (borrowers, investors, or depositors) or else they're wage earners whose taxes are used to provide both implicit and explicit investment insurance for the big casino-banks pushing the bubble scam. People aren't really needed for anything else in the Griftopia, but since AMERICANS REQUIRE THE ILLUSION OF SELF GOVERNMENT, WE HAVE ELECTIONS.
To make sure those elections are effectively meaningless as far as Wall Street is concerned, two things end up bring true. ONE is that voters on BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE are gradually weaned off that habit of having real EXPECTATIONS for their politicians, consuming the voting process entirely as culture-war entertainment. The other is that millions of tenuously middle-class voters are CONNED into pushing Wall Street's own twisted greed ethos as though it were their own. The Tea Party, with its own weirdly binary view of society as being split up cleanly into competing groups of producers and parasites- that's just a cultural echo of the insane greed-is-good belief system on Wall Street that's provided the foundation/excuse for a generation of brilliantly complex thievery. Those beliefs have trickled down to the ex-middle-class suckers struggling to stay on top of their mortgages and their credit card bills, and the real joke is that these voters listen to CNBC and Fox and they genuinely believe they're the producers in this binary narrative. They don't get that somewhere way up above, there's a group of people who've been living the Atlas dream for real- and building a self-dealing financial bureaucracy in their own insane image.

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