Greed-is-Good Capitalism (orig date 3/3/09)

So the word of the hour is, lobbyists no longer get to write the legislation.  How do we know this has already begun?  Because Big HMO, Big Pharm, Big Oil, and Big Banks are all standing outside in the snow, scrambling to get back inside and back at the table.  So think about how you would react if you were Big Oil or Big HMO, or Big Banks.  You’d pull out your best and most persuasive voices and start finding them a forum.  A microphone.  You’d buy time where the biggest audiences are watching and then hire the best and the brightest advertising agencies.  You’d call up all those physicians, experts, researchers, and scientists — you know — the one’s you’ve been paying off and employing for all these years — and you’d get as many of them as possible on the air, in print, on the blogs, in the editorials and out on the street as you possibly could — and you’d do it fast.

Never mind that this administration is only 32 days old.  Never mind that it took at least 35 years, and probably closer to 55 to put this economy into the condition it is now in.  Never mind that they sound like whining, spoiled, sore-losers that they lost their allies in Washington — all those politicians, aids, advisors, assistants, speech writers, and misc. bureaucrats they’ve been paying to take their side for decades.  In those 32 days their position has gone from comfortable and secure to flapping in the breeze — and they are pissed as hell and twice as panicked.

Pick up any of the financial newspapers and without looking, I can guarantee they are crying SOCIALISM.  Pick up any in-house publication of the HMO’s or pharmaceutical, and I guarantee they are crying the same thing.  Pick up any publication or cable/TV network with ties to the “Good Ol’ Boy Network” comprised of Friends of OPEC, Friends of Fossil Fuels, Friends of No-Bid Contracts, or Friends of US-trained Mercenaries — and they will be crying the same thing.  SOCIALISM.  The biggest bug-a-boo they can think of.  Oooooo.  Scary words.  Scary unfathomable words.  Scary un-American words.  Scary McCarthism words.  Scary Marxist words.  Scary Communist words.   Oooooooooo.   And we all shake in our boots and cry NO!  Capitalism!  We want capitalism!  Capitalism will save us!  Capitalism will save us all!  Capitalism is the engine that runs the American Dream!

Except for when it isn’t.  Capitalism — reallllllly unhealthy capitalism — is what started this.  Not in the Bush administration.  Or the other Bush administration.  Or the other Bush Sr. administration.  Or Clinton.  Or Reagan.  Or Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, or Kennedy.  This unhealthy form of capitalism is a viral mutation that’s been cooking on the stove through all those decades.  It is the lazy American’s American Dream.  The one that says “you don’t have to work that hard or that many hours.  You don’t have to scrimp on luxury.  You don’t have to do business in a way that is fair, or benefits all your employees.  You don’t have to stand behind your product or give people their money’s worth. You don’t have to be your brother’s keeper — because your brother will sink or swim on his own — let the free market decide.

This most unhealthy form of capitalism is what got us to the point where already 1 of 10 of us will be out of work OUT OF WORK as in NO MONEY BEING EARNED by summer.  NO MONEY to pay rent, mortgage, buy groceries or gas, NO MONEY for shoes or books for college.  NO MONEY for education or to see a doctor.  NO MONEY to pay property tax. Or sales tax.  Or income tax.  Out of work is just that — out of work.  No longer part of the GNP.  No safety net.  Unless you’re really lucky and have family or friends to take you in.  And you can pray with them every night that they don’t lose their job or their savings or benefits….

What distinguishes unhealthy capitalism from the HEALTHY kind?  Greed.

Remember Gordon Gekko?  Contrary to all those wide-eyed and drooling Wall Streeters who idolized that character — Gordon Gekko’s GREED is what got us here.  Make it big, make it fast, make it without reservations and without conscience.  Strip a company, a community, or a family dry — take it all — and then move on.  Which is exactly what the CEOs of all those companies we now condemn — Enron? All those fat cats flying to Washington in their private jets to beg congress to give them OUR money?  How about EXXON and it’s record profits for 28 straight quarters?  Or any of the pharmaceuticals who plead “research research!” when challenged on how much Americans have to pay for their medications compared to the rest of the world….

But it’s not just the Gordon Gekkos on Wall Street who got greedy — it’s every one of us who demanded higher profits every quarter in order for us to be happy and contented enough to stick with a company.

I’ve got news for you.  Pure capitalism does not demand a new record for percent of profit every quarter to be successful.  Only Gordon Gekko’s capitalism does that.  And that is the only kind of capitalism that has existed in the US for a very long time.  At least the last 16 years, and I would guess that it goes back to the 8 years of Ronald Reagan.  It’s no coincidence that Wall Street was written, produced, and released during RR’s 2nd administration — they had to get the idea from somewhere.  It was an idea whose time had come.

So before you go joining in with Big Oil, Big Pharm, Big HMO, and Big Banks, crying SOCIALISM to try and scare the bloody Jesus out of good, hard working, solid Americans — you might want to cry GEKKO CAPITALISM first.  That’s the boogie-man that brought us to this dance, and for my money — and my American Dream — those are the really scary words.  We got to this dance on the arm of a monster wearing a mask that says Greed is Good across the forehead.  CAPITALISM WILL SAVE US.

The truth is, most of us squirmed a little the first dozen times we heard Gordon Gekko say those scary words.  We knew from the beginning it was a lie.  –that it could only result in nightmares and a fast decent into hell.  We knew Gordon Gekko was not the man we wanted to be when we grew up.  Greed driving an economy can only result in the trampling of huge numbers of those on the bottom — because the structure is that those on top win, and everybody else loses.   Greed driving a country has the same result.

That’s the model we built and that’s the model we’ve been living.

And now — here we are.

And I would suggest that we have to treat all those Gordon Gekkos (and Bernie Madoffs, and Ken Lays…) out there like bottle-hugging, swerving, weeping, alcoholics.  It has to be cold turkey or a padded cell in a hospital for the “Capitalistically Damaged”.  They can’t “mend their ways” and suddenly start running a healthy model of capitalism.  They wouldn’t last 5 minutes alone with the temptation to cheat, steal, con, or otherwise screw their employees, shareholders, friends, fellow Americans, relatives and investors.  It has to be cold turkey for them — and for all of us who bought into the Greed is Good Capitalism of the last 40 years.

So, until there is a new generation, not corrupted by our twisted version of the sacred economic religion — there has to be another way to live.  To survive.  To do penance.  To nurse our social conscience back to health.

The truth?  Truth with a capital T?  Greed is a bad thing.  Always.  And we are our brother’s keeper.  Always.
Where have I read that before?