Notes On The Moral And Political Degradation Of America

The news in the last few days has continued the drumbeat of demoralizing events which started in the Bush administration, and with only a few hiccups

The news in the last few days has continued the drumbeat of demoralizing events which started in the Bush administration, and with only a few hiccups has continued through the Obama administration. It is clear that Obama is, fundamentally, Bush's 3rd term.

First we have the health care "reform" debacle, where it has been confirmed that the White House pushed Harry Reid to accept Lieberman's ultimatum, not go to reconciliation. There will be no public option in the Senate bill. There will be no Medicare expansion. There will be no cap on yearly limits. What there will be is a mandate forcing people to buy insurance, some subsidies which can still leave people spending money they can't afford, and guaranteed issue of lousy plans (Plans where only 70% of the premiums have to be spent on care, for example.) Unless progressive Senators are willing to filibuster, or House progressives are willing to vote against en-masse, something very close to the Senate plan is what will pass, because as I noted some time ago, the White House's bottom line is that something, anything must pass, and conservative Dems are willing to kill the bill to make sure it doesn't actually threaten health industry profits in any way, shape, or form. (Thus why drug importation, which would cost Pharma money, will be made illegal.)

All of this was completely predictable. Furthermore the weakness of progressive and liberal legislators, is largely to blame:

Obama and the Democratic leadership's bottom line is they must pass some bill called "health care reform". Unless you threaten to take away their bottom line, they will take away anything that isn't progressives bottom line

This is Negotiation 101, and progressive legislators either don't understand it, or are spineless. As a result they, and Americans, have been rolled yet again. What is depressing about this is that it should be a surprise to no one, but apparently has surprised many.

It is also noteworthy that spending billions on turning brown people into a fine red mist (a.k.a. the Afghan war) is acceptable, but health care (a.k.a. saving actual American lives) is something which can't cost money. What an interesting--and clearly evil--set of priorities that reveals. I guarantee that real healthcare reform would save more American lives than the entire war on terror—assuming said "war" hasn't cost more American lives than it's saved, which is almost certainly the case.

Next we have what Glenn Greenwald is calling the creation of Gitmo North, in which people whom the government judges there is not enough evidence to convict, will be held indefinitely without trial. This is the very definition of tyranny. Any nation which does this is a nation of men, not laws. America has forsaken its fundamental premise and proved its degradation. Yes, this started under Bush, but as Obama embraces this, it because a bipartisan project and the new elite consensus. This is now something which has been confirmed as US policy which is extremely unlikely to change no matter who is in power.

Then we have bankers are giving themselves bonuses larger than the entire economy's GDP growth this year.

As Peter Morici notes:

How much is $140 billion?

The U.S. economy grew at a $89 billion annualized rate in the third quarter. That was the first growth since the second quarter of 2008 and came to $22 billion in actual growth in the third quarter.

The bankers, after causing the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression, are rewarded with six times the growth accomplished so far in the much heralded “economic recovery.”

Meanwhile, seven million families face foreclosure and 25 million Americans can’t find full time work.

To add this sad state, we have the sad spectacle of Obama lecturing the bankers. Meanwhile in Britain, instead of lecturing, the government has imposed a 50% tax on bonuses, and France looks like to follow suit. The British government's response to threats to move employees out of the country? "That's nice, you do that."

The fact of the matter, as I've long said, is that bankers at the big banks are a net drain on the economy. Their venality and recklessness has wiped out the entire economic gains of the last decade and plunged the economy into its worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Now I'm not surprised they have the gall to pay themselves these bonuses. The entire profits of most large banks in the last expansion were based on open fraud. Of course criminals who have not been punished, but have been rewarded for their crimes are going to continue to steal. What is shocking is that the government is essentially doing nothing. Obama's "Pay Czar" is a sick joke, especially compared to just taxing all bonuses at 50%. Heck, even taxing bonuses at 50% is sad—they should be taxed a good confiscatory 90%. A class of people who caused an economic calamity of this magnitude do not deserve to be paid more than janitors.

Why? Because, as a British study noted, janitors actually create value. So do homemakers. So do assembly-line workers. Modern bankers, on the other hand, destroy value. They make the economy weaker. That isn't the way it should be, but when you bail out the banks for trillions and they decrease their lending to businesses and increase their credit card interest rates to as much as 29% it's clear that all they are is parasites, sucking blood from their hosts.

In a healthy, non-degraded society, none of the behavior listed above would be allowed. Not only would there be confiscatory taxes leveled, there would be massive ongoing criminal investigations into what happened.

In a healthy, non-degraded society, saving American lives by making sure they have health care would be a priority. Especially since the US pays twice as much per person as many countries which get far better results. This would be considered much more important than a war in a far away country, because it would be understood that even if you believe that turning brown people into a fine red mist saves American lives, health care would save more lives. And, done right (a.k.a. single payer) it would even save money. But that was never on the table, and even the limp-wristed compromise of a weak public option was too much for the rich and powerful to tolerate. Americans exist to be looted systematically by their elites, and if they die young and live sick, who cares? They are just sacks of money and the goal of government is to make dipping your hand into that sack as easy as possible for industries which can afford to buy government.

And, last but not least, in a healthy, non-degraded society, the government is not allowed to lock up people indefinitely without trial. If you don't understand why this is, I can't explain it to you, any more than it is apparently possible to explain to a plurality of Americans why torturing people is evil, and beyond the pale. The fact that it can't be explained any more to many Americans, of course, is exactly why it is fair to call this degradation.

Moral and political degradation.

About Ian Welsh

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