Calhoun's Can(n)ons for February 26, 2010
The demagogue is one who preaches doctrine he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. H.L. Mencken
It was a tragically perfect metaphor for our times: Average American, Joe Stack, angry at “the government” over his own self-created problems, burns his own house down then kills himself by flying his small plane into a Texas IRS building.
America has now self-devolved into a mook’s game. For over twenty years, a sufficient number of Joe Stacks believed the patent nonsense being fed to them by the carny barkers setting them up for a proper fleecing: Tax breaks for the rich would “trickle down” and make them all rich, too. Government is the problem, not the solution, which is why government needs to be starved until it’s weak and small enough to be drowned in a bathtub. The Free Market doesn’t need rules and regulation because The Free Market is never wrong and will solve all problems. Poor You are hideously, unfairly overtaxed! After all, Poor You shouldn’t have to pay taxes in order to pay for all the services you voted for. No, The Other Guy needs to pay for those things, not Poor You. Move your war-profiteering corporate and personal assets offshore into tax havens and you can still receive a standing ovation at a GOPAC convention. Question those tax same havens and you’re engaging in class warfare and are a bad American who wants the terrorists to win. The growing gap between rich and poor is a Good Thing because the American Commons is nothing but “French Socialism.” Our motto isn’t e pluribus unum, it’s “I’m All Right, Jack.”
And so, while the distracting carnival music blared in our ears and the Ferris wheel spun, our real national wealth – workers actually making things, including a living wage that created and supported whole communities -- was drained away offshore and our imaginary wealth – housing bubble Ponzi schemes and stock market gambling with imaginary money selling imaginary “products”—was finally revealed for what it always was: A mechanism to fleece the mooks.
And Everyman Joe Stack brooded. And all across the country angry citizens brooded, then put Hitler moustaches on posters of a President Obama oxymoronically labeled “Communist.” Or gathered in the thousands to angrily declare that they were tired of being overtaxed at the same time they had actually been receiving tax cuts via various stimulus packages. Inchoate anger being fueled by various demagogues – phony Astroturf groups fronting and funded by well-paid lobbyists for a variety of special interests – carny barkers signing best-selling books while preaching doctrine they know to be false to people they believe to be idiots, while the “idiots” sadly refuse to look behind the curtain.
And so it goes. Congress is now in self-inflicted gridlock because voters didn’t send a sufficient number of politicians to Washington with a clearly committed set of marching orders. Or, more accurately, didn’t send a sufficient number of politicians who weren’t already wholly own subsidiaries of Corporate America. And Congress itself continues to suffer from self-inflicted rules that have moved “majority” into “Supermajority,” procedural rules that virtually guarantee that nothing will get done. So here we are, two scorpions in a jar, locked in mortal combat, focused only on jockeying into deadly striking position, while polls now show a country adrift and best described by the phrase, “Yes we want no bananas . . . maybe.”
Over at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi continues another hilariously brilliant report on “Wall Street’s Bailout Hustle,” noting, “Instead of liquidating the prosecuting the insolvent institutions that took us all down with them in a giant Ponzi scheme, we have showered them with money and guarantees and all sorts of other enabling gestures. And what should really freak everyone out is the fact that Wall Street immediately started skimming off its own rescue money. . . . ‘It’s evidence,’ says Rep. Kanjorski,’ that they still don’t get it.’ . . . More to the point, the fact that we haven’t done much of anything to change the rules and behavior of Wall Street shows that we still don’t get it. Instituting a bailout policy that stressed recapitalizing bad banks was like the addict coming back to the con man to get his lost money back. Ask yourself how well that ever works out. And then get ready for the reload.”
And so it goes. Self-ignited, Rome burns. Demagogues fan the lucrative flames that bring them riches while burning most fiercely their self-blinded adoring supporters. And the usual foxes grin and pick fresh chicken feathers out of their teeth while Joe Stack lights a match to his own house and heads for the airport. Get ready for the reload, indeed.