Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Unregulated markets lead to greed, greed leads to carelessness, carelessness leads to collapse

Newspapers are running big headlines on their websites this afternoon about the precipitous drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has fallen below 7,000 points for the first time since 1997.

The breathless coverage of investor angst on Wall Street ceased to be fascinating to us a long time ago. Every week, it's the same story: Some big company is laying off a lot of people, going out of business, or reporting a huge drop in earnings, while profits have vanished and many large financial firms continue to bleed money.

We continue to be told that "what happens on Wall Street affects Main Street" (Wall Street/Main Street, by the way, is a Banished Phrase for 2009) but the federal government continues to throw bucketfuls of money at massive conglomerates like AIG, hoping to prop up companies that are deemed "too big to fail", while small businesses - the real engine of our economy - are left out in the cold.

Now, it's true that the Obama administration has only been in charge for a few weeks. The stimulus/rescue plan should save jobs, and the budget that the President has rolled out looks good. The House of Representatives last week passed an omnibus appropriations bill that increases funding for many important priorities, like renewable energy and scientific research.

So we're starting to get back on track.

But we are still suffering the consequences of fealty to an ideology that proclaims the unregulated market is king. The Washington Policy Center, a local right wing think tank founded by John Carlson, continues to use the slogan "Improving lives through market solutions". Apparently, it hasn't yet become obvious to them that markets are currently destroying lives, not improving them.

The linguist George Lakoff has observed many times in his written works that all markets are constructed for somebody's benefit. And the somebodies that have historically benefited from the big markets are a small number of people, not most American families, as Daily Kos diarist kubla000 ranted today:
I just got to thinking...

The Dow has never helped the middle class get healthcare... instead the continuous drive for "profit" created death by spreadsheet.

The Dow didn't give me or you or my mom a raise... instead the continuous drive for "profit" capped the income of the working class

The Dow didn't create my job... instead it caused my neighbor to lose his job as it was shipped to India in the [pursuit] of "profit"

The Dow won't save my job... instead it may kill it...
Kubla adds:
The Dow created a false sense of security, a false hope of riches, a fools chance of getting ahead.

We were asked to join the party and send them our small dollars, and we always end up being the last fool at the table. The last one to sell... the one to take the biggest loss.
The Dow - which is an index of major United States stocks - is no barometer of American prosperity. The Dow doesn't measure how many families have healthcare, how many kids are getting a college education, how many people are impoverished, or how many workers have good paying jobs.

And those are the measurements that count.

During the Bush error, the rich got richer (thanks to outrageous tax cuts), we Americans were encouraged to spend money they didn't have on things we couldn't afford, and executives at major U.S. companies were given a free hand to blindly put profit ahead of people and the planet.

Unregulated markets lead to greed, greed leads to carelessness, and carelessness leads to collapse. Economies all over the world are falling apart because of irresponsibility and tunnel vision. Safeguards that could have potentially staved off catastrophe were removed years ago by conservatives who argued that government should not interfere with the private sector.

And even now that it is clear that things are not peachy, conservatives don't want to change course. They don't want to regulate markets. They don't want to impose rules to make companies responsible and accountable.

They don't want to invest in infrastructure, they don't want to invest in scientific research, they don't want government to help people (which is why government exists in the first place - to do, as Abraham Lincoln said, the things which we cannot do for ourselves individually).

Conservatives don't want our common wealth to be used for the common good.

Rather than constructively participating in efforts to bring about economic recovery, conservatives are currently spending almost all their energy attacking progressives and needling public servants.

Take the Washington Policy Center, whose employees have recently kept themselves busy by questioning economists' credentials, blasting away at Sound Transit, and urging Chris Gregoire to not accept any federal stimulus money (what a helpful suggestion!)

Or Congressional Republicans, who continue to decry the idea that America's budget should be a moral document reflecting America's progressive values. We've been told repeatedly that this is not the time for us to be investing our tax dollars in our future. Well, sorry, but this is exactly when we need to be putting our money where our mouths are. At times during the past eight years, Bush and the Republicans gave lip service to progressive ideals - sometimes in Orwellian language - but now that Democrats are in charge, we're finally walking the talk.

And Republicans are upset about this. They're saying openly that they hope President Obama fails, that they hope his economic recovery plan won't work. They're basically saying that they are going to rejoice and cheer if we have another Great Depression because they believe they can somehow profit from it.

They are delusional.

Their agenda has failed, their cherished myth of the "free market" is being further discredited with each passing day, and yet they remain stubbornly opposed to trying anything different. Well, we can't wait for them to come to their senses, because that may never happen. We just have to move on and tackle the challenges that face us to the best of our ability.


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