ERMAHGERD!!! Did you hear? There’s another fiscal emergency about the American economy! It re-emerged a convenient 9.6 milliseconds after the conclusion of the national election spectacle – but it’s like totally dangerous, and you should start feeling bad about it! CEOs should go on TeeVee and talk about cutting funding for winter heating oil programs! Financial reporters should use violence-laden terms like “fiscal suicide!” Because America’s spending and its taxes like TOTALLY DON’T MATCH, and our leeders, the Obbama and the Böhner decided that if nothing happened, or something happened – AMERICA WOULD GO OVER THE FISCAL CLIFF. And on the way down, yanked by gravity at 125 kilometers per second, AMERICA WILL BE VIOLATED BY THE FISCAL RAPE PTERODACTYL, REPEATEDLY. Photos will be taken by the Fiscal Rape Pterodactyl’s friends, the photos will be posted on the Facebook (or the Google Plus, if they want better SEO) and the Fiscal Rape Pterodactyl’s friends will laugh and laugh! And nothing can be done, except the tiresome repetition of America’s partisan fisticuffs, a spectacle so dull and vapid it makes professional wrestling look like the Royal Shakespeare Company doing Othello. So – EVERYBODY PANIC!!!
Has anybody else noticed the absurdly obvious practice of managing the inexplicably-still-the-world’s-largest United States economy via one ridiculous, predictable, manageable fake crisis after another?
Does anybody else recognize that every time an “emergency” is foisted on the American people (and by proxy, the world) there is never any cogent discussion followed by rational options for the future?
Is anybody else annoyed by the way this is always thrust into fake partisan politics rather than a fundamental discussion of the shape of our “economy,” i.e. how we live on the Earth and divide up the material wealth?
Am I the only person who recognizes a parallel between the Christian dogma of “original sin,” – where somebody else did something wrong, but there’s nothing you can do to fix it and you’re going to feel bad and pay for it forever – and the way the media instructs people to feel about these crises?
A partial listing of recent financial crises that somehow don’t require real change
The Fiscal Cliff is only the latest EMERGENCY that you’re supposed to treat like that crappy action move where a volcano erupted in West Hollywood and Tommy Lee Jones somehow stopped the lava with sand bags or something. Here are some of the more recent opportunities to freakout and agree to take jobs without benefits ‘cuz we totally don’t have a good enough Recovery yet.
The Apocalypse of 2008: America has been shipping off manufacturing jobs and juicing its economy through a debt-fueled, housing-driven consumer spending bubble. Wall Street Megabanks are allowed to create whatever financial products they can imagine, and sell them with whichever degree of fraud is fun or expedient. The whole thing blows up. It’s totally a crisis! We need to hand these banks blank checks from the federal treasury!
Aftermath: The megabanks, created in the wake of the removal of Glass-Steagall, are actually made consderably larger. About twelve minutes after getting an explicit guarantee to be made whole no matter what happens, Wall Street arranges to pay record bonuses to the same people who blew up the financial system. The media immediately begins psyching up the American population to reinflate the consumer spending bubble, AKA “The Recovery.” After the election of Obama, the new administration takes an EXTREMELY HARD LINE against these institutions that brought the world to the brink of disintegration by prosecuting nobody, putting a Goldman Sachs vice president in charge of financial regulatory enforcement, and hiring three separate White House chiefs of staff directly from Wall Street investment banks. The architects of unregulated derivatives and the removal of Glass-Steagall from back in the late 1990s are made special advisors to the President to help fix the things they broke by recommending exactly the same strategies.
The Flash Crash of 2010: Not dissimilar to the way everybody on Wall Street was betting on the upside of the same types of derivatives, almost everybody on Wall Street began moving toward high-frequency trading, by which supercomputers execute trades through an algorithm. On May 6, 2010, 2:45pm EST, those algorithms all interlocked to cause the Dow Jones Industrial Average to lose 1000 points in a few minutes, 9% of its total value. It’s kind of a crisis! What’s happening with our glorious and ingenious system of allocating capital for business activity?
Aftermath: The financial media floated some hilarious explanations about “maybe some guy hit the wrong key,” but the notion that the complexity and fragility is beyond our ability to control is strangely silent from the official discussion. Nobody suggests, hey, maybe we shouldn’t have robots run the stock market, or maybe have limits or rules, because that we would be totally stupid since everything is running really great.
The Debt Ceiling Freakout of 2011: Hey you guys! Do you remember when the United States was running debt faster than ever and the Republicans were, like, for nine seconds, saying, HEY STOP SPENDING (*snort*) RIGHT NOW (*giggle*) BECAUSE YOU KNOW WE HATE THAT DESPITE HAVING DONE IT OURSELVES FOR THE LAST THREE DECADES. And they said, hey, Standard & Poors and Moody’s can go screw, we’re going to miss a payment or whatever. And then a few days later they passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which is the most hilarious name for a piece of legislation since “The Patriot Act” or “The Affordable Care Act.”
Aftermath: Resulting in the complete shock of absolutely everybody who doesn’t know anything about international economics, the United States continued on its trend of deficit spending – exactly like the majority of the major economies of the world.
Fiscal rape pterodactyls not failings of the system – they are features
- They are perennial, coming up every year or so.
- They are reduced to a simple domestic squabble between political parties, as opposed to complex international issues.
- They are never followed by in-depth discussions of the root causes of this chronic instability.
I figure that this is no longer an accident. If somebody is trying to negotiate with you, it’s always better for them if you are emotionally unstable, preferably in a panic. You will lose your sensibilities and forget your values in an effort to avoid what you perceive to be Your Doom.
When you look at the state of corporate profits – at record highs – and of top executive compensation – at record highs – there are people for whom thing are really great. There’s doesn’t need to be a Recovery because there never was a Problem.
But for you? Oh, you have a different situation. You’re coming out of college looking for your first job? Sorry kiddo, man, shit – we could really use a Recovery – which, ah crap we totally can’t have because there are all these crises. And you, hoping to move out of part-time temp work so you can get health insurance to help deal with your Crohn’s disease – dude, I’m sorry but we just haven’t had a very good Recovery. And gosh darnit, these crises don’t help because of that goddamn Obama/Boehner/Algorithm/Pterodactyl, so sorry – we’ll be keeping you on 28 hours a week.
If these were serious questions for those creating the crisis of the month, we would hear this kind of thing loud and clear:
- What can we do to make banks smaller, less dangerous and more accountable for bad acts?
- How can America repatriate all the jobs it shipped out?
- What are the biggest wastes of money at the Federal and State levels? Can we get rid of – for example – decade long wars of occupation in Central Asia, a stupid failed drug war, competing subsidies (i.e. paying for tobacco farming AND antismoking, sugar AND diabetes prevention)
- What role will communities play in their own revitalization?
Et cetera. But we can’t have those discussions – because they might actually change things.
And not everybody wants change. Some people are quite content with fake emergencies and a better position from which to negotiate your salary.