Published on Friday, September 19, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
You don’t have to be a socialist (and I certainly am not) to understand that this capitalistic country is confronting a crisis of capitalism. This is not merely a matter of the huge losses and meltdowns that have taken place and have threatened to bring down the whole system with them. It is also a matter of the failure of a culture, a culture that has grown and grown since the sainted Reagan introduced the twin pillars of his morning in America: unchecked greed and militarism.
Militarism today holds high carnival: in Iraq, on somewhere between 700 and 1,100 American bases around the world (the exact number being a secret, even if known to the Pentagon), on huge carriers patrolling seas all over the world, in Bush/Cheney ideas that we should intervene all over the world, in a Pentagon budget of what — something in the neighborhood of 500 billion dollars or more, I suppose?
Unchecked greed also held high carnival, as it drove the housing market ever higher by means visibly pregnant with failure because they defied history, economics, human comprehension and sense: Adjustable rate mortgages, with initially low rates that one knew — I certainly knew, often said, acted accordingly, and wholly fail to grasp why everyone didn’t know — were pregnant with disaster because they would be unsustainable for the buyers when the interest rates increased, as inevitably they would because rates always rise and fall; securitization that gave rise to so-called tranches so complicated that nobody could understand what the risks and rights were; derivatives which may be even more complicated and which nobody has a real handle on apparently. It was all nuts (as this writer often said to people), and now it has come crashing down, as was inevitable. The acclaimed geniuses — like Alan Greenspan (who led the way) — who lived in and loved celebrification, who profited from it, have been shown the fools that they are. In Greenspan’s case, this is at least the second burst bubble he promoted, the other being the high tech stock market which melted down at the beginning of the 2000s. (Of course, in America, where nothing succeeds like failure, as is oft typified by celebrified coaches, baseball managers and university presidents, Greenspan remains a great man.)
The heads of major firms have likewise fallen, as their houses of cards collapsed. The fall of titans represents a horrid, economy-threatening failure of the culture of greed, dishonesty (which often was a major part of pushing the insane instruments on uncomprehending buyers), and unchecked capitalism, the culture which has been pushed on us by conservative intellectuals, politicians and the uncomprehending mainstream media since Reagan took office in 1981. This vile culture (and the militarism which is in some important ways associated with it (e.g., a war for oil, huge profits for contractors)), came to dominate much of the American nation. Now the culture of unchecked greed and celebrification of its richest practitioners has come acropper (as did the war in Iraq). That it would come acropper was inevitable, based as it was on stupidity. Leaders have been exposed as fools — yet again.