Nearly 150 years ago our country suffers through a horrific war that drastically alters the economy of the country from top to bottom. But once the war ends, the country starts to go through a period of invention and development, exploration and prosperity. New industries rise up and the industrial age booms.
At first the general populace, by and large, enjoy the benefits of the growing economy and increased jobs despite the massive shift from rural to urban manufacturing economy. But then corporations and conglomerates grow and merge and fight and corporate owners become richer and more powerful as the natural flow of wealth in corporate capitalism goes upward toward the top of the pyramids. The rich and powerful capitalists begin to literally buy laws from local, state, and even federal government which continue to favor the power of the corporation and protect the wealth of the owners while taking advantage of labor.
Thus began a Gilded Age in which the rich got richer and everyone else got poorer. Government was in the pocket of business and corporations and in entire concept of “free market” was undermined by the fact the government was simply a tool of the robber barons to get what they want at the expense of the worker–which was most of the country.
Then the economy collapses. Banks fail. Houses and small businesses are foreclosed on. Unemployment skyrockets. We imagine this as a time in which everyone, including the wealthy, suffer–but this is not true. The only people who lost their “fortunes” were that period’s middle and upper-middle class. They became poor while the poor became destitute. The rich and wealthy: the Rockefeller’s, the Morgan’s, The Bush’s, the Gates’, the DuPont’s–the capitalists of the country–remained largely unaffected.
To help return the government back to promoting life, liberty, and the pusuit of happiness for all citizens, and not just the corporate owners, radical and progressive politicians are voted in by a citizenry disgusted by the corporate lackey and conservative public disinterest administrations of Coolidge and Hoover. These progressives start passing laws to regulate the markets, banking, loans and lending, housing, and creates social programs like Social Security and work aid programs, welfare programs, and supported union interests.
And guess what? People are back to work, the economy begins it very slow but palpable crawl back to recovery, and less people are sleeping in the streets and waiting in lines for basic foodstuffs. By the time we start making some equipment to help the British fight Germany, the United States is on its way out of the Depression and most Americans are at least earning living wages again.
The conservatives and capitalists have twisted the facts and promoted the message so that when we think of the end of the Depression we think nothing of the massive shift in policy from pro-corporate interests to pro-worker/people interests and simply credit war with economic recovery and the return of the middle class. While it’s true that the creation of the military industrial complex accelerated the rise of wealth (along with the imperialism) of America, the improvement was already begun before the war and the sustained power of the middle class through the 40s, 50s, and 60s was due to government policy which kept corporate greed and power brokerage in check.
And then Reagan and the proto-neo-cons happened. With his mantra of “small government” he eliminated and reduced some of the most significant regulations on corporate interests. Some of the immediate results include the Savings and Loan and junk bond scandals. He helped accelerate the growth of global market capitalism and the disempowerment of the workers by crafting policy which encouraged corporations to move labor and manufacturing to other countries in lower labor costs and raise profits at the expense of American employment stability, earnings, benefits, and bargaining power. Reagan was responsible for one of the greatest shifts in power from the worker to the CEO since Hoover.
And in the years since, further corporate deregulation and dismantling of social programs has created another Gilded Age in which the top 1% have gotten obscenely richer and the bottom 99% have gotten increasingly poorer as well as more politically disenfranchised and powerless. And what is happening today? Foreclosers on a scale not seen since the Depression. Massive national banks and lenders going under. The stock market plummeting on the bad days, shaky and unstable on the good. The middle class becoming poorer and poorer while the rich corporate owners enjoy bail outs and tax breaks and other help from a corporate owned and controled government. (“Free market” my ash!)
So, how far down will this eerie replay of history play out? How bad is it going to get before progressive politicians return government to the role it’s supposed to play to favor the rights and power of the people and not corporate interests? (If that’s even possible any more, and most Democrats and 3rd Party politicians aren’t even close to free of corporate butt-kissing.)
Here’s something of note, that may indicate how things could go the next four years: McCain recently picked William E. Timmons to head his transition team should he win. Who is Timmons? A former Reagan adviser who has made his considerable wealth by being a Washington lobbyist working for, among other corporations, oil companies.
“This word ‘Maverick’ you keep saying–I do not think it means what you think it means.” I think I heard that in a movie once.
(Top image (source unknown) : Photos of former employees of banking giant Lehman Brothers packing up and leaving after it filed for bankruptcy on Sunday. Side note: other banking giant, Merrill Lynch & Co., to be sold.)