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by John Atcheson
When Obama took Office on January 20th, 2009 the stench of failure hung over the conservative’s economic philosophy like a mushroom cloud. For the second time in a decade, deregulation had produced a huge speculative bubble, fed largely by unregulated hedge funds operating in secret and “irrational exuberance” fed in part by fraudulent lending practices in the largely unregulated mortgage lending market.
It was yet another failure in a long history of failures for the conservative’s beloved laissez faire policies – in fact, they’ve brought on the three biggest economic collapses (http://www.commondreams.org/view/view/2011/08/04-2) this country has ever experienced.
So in January of 2009, the time was right to take on the myths that conservatives had been using to fleece us and enrich their already rich constituency.
The time was right to set the record straight.
To tell Americans what the Orwellian terms conservatives had been using for four decades really meant.
“Trickle down,” was really all about trickling up. (http://www.decisionsonevidence.com/2011/10/do-tax-cuts-and-trickle-down-...)
“Job creators” were really “job exporters.” (http://www.salon.com/2012/04/05/the_corporate_job_creator_myth/singleton/)
“Small government” was really a code word for “weak government" – government that couldn’t get in the way of their extremist greedophile contributors. (http://www.brendagrantland.com/Blog/BlogRepublican.html)
“Fiscal responsibility” was really about gutting government in general and benefits for the middle and low income Americans in particular. See the Ryan budget for Exhibit A of this particular lie.
“Our Founders” really meant “Their Funders.”
“Strong Defense” really meant white collar welfare for the likes of Haliburton.
“The Clear Skies Initiative” was about rolling back clean air rules to the point where we would have been literally killing children (http://www.alternet.org/story/16795) by upping asthma rates.
“The Healthy Forest Initiative” was really about enabling industry to mow down formerly protected forests.
The list of Orwellian bull by which we’d been running our Republic was as endless as it was destructive.
So in January of 2009, the mother of all these myths – the throbbing bloody heart of this Ayn Randian wet dream which for four decades had deceived, deluded and destroyed much of what our Founders held sacred -- lay naked and vulnerable, ready to be dispatched with one simple dose of truth. Their perversion of Adam Smith’s famous Invisible Hand had been shown to be the ultimate in Orwellian Newspeak: nothing more and nothing less than a justification for the dismantling of the New Deal regulatory and social framework that had restrained rampant corporate greed, and which for three decades had enabled a widely shared prosperity.
So what did Obama and the Democrats do?
They doubled down on the free market uber alles approach that nearly destroyed our economy.
They hired new Goldman Sachs executives to replace the old Goldman Sachs executives who’d brought down the house under Bush.
They bailed out Wall Street, and ignored Main Street.
They paid lip service to economic reform, but didn’t address the biggest causes of the economic meltdown – the repeal of Glass-Steagal and the failure to regulate hedge funds and derivatives.
Today, we have even fewer too-big-to-fail banks controlling even more wealth.
Today, the Volker rule – a pale doppelganger of the Glass-Steagal Rule to start with – is being watered down by thousands of lobbyists as you read this.
And now, we’ve passed a JOBs act that's not likely to create jobs, but will almost certainly result in more Americans getting swindled by a deregulated securities market (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-obamas-jobs-act-...). Oh, and probably a bubble or two.
Really? After two decades of non-stop con-games, bursting bubbles, and economic crises brought on by deregulation, the answer is more deregulation? Really?
So here’s the deal. There is an invisible hand afoot, but it’s not the one Adam Smith spoke of.
It’s the hand that turns over the power and influence once wielded by people and vested in a government that often acted on our behalf to corporations and the ultra wealthy who always act for their own exclusive benefit.
It’s the hand that sends thousands of lobbyists onto Capital Hill – some 24 per congressperson (http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/) – every time a bill comes up. Not to mention funding the likes of corporate-friendly legislation factories, like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
It’s the hand that uses the bought and paid for think tanks and politicians to discredit and disable government so the rich have a free hand.
It’s the hand that uses the bought and paid for main stream media to distract and deceive the American people about who controls government, and who government now really represents.
So what are we to do?
Well, the first thing is to understand is that the solution to bad government isn’t no government, it’s good government.
The second is to realize that there is an antidote to the plutocracy that now runs our country.
It’s sunshine and transparency. It’s knowledge and truth spoken to power. It’s sustained action. It’s us.
Join the 99% movement, yes. Get trained. Hit the streets. But we need more than political action. More than inchoate rage. We need focused campaigns against common targets.
We need to vote with our dollars in the market place. That’s what African Americans did after Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted for more than a year, and it ultimately succeeded in desegregating the transit system.
That’s what Creaser Chavez did with farm workers. The grape boycott lasted five years, but it won workers better wages, better working conditions, and better hours.
But above all, we must stop swallowing the swill politicians, corporatists, the mainstream media and right wing wonks sell us, and start telling them what we demand – the government envisioned by our Founders, not their Funders.
To get that, this Spring we must shine a spotlight on the real Invisible Hand.
Obama and the Democrats sure as hell aren’t going to do it, so it’s up to us.
John Atcheson's writing (http://www.commondreams.org/john-atcheson) has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as well as in several wonk journals. He is the author of a fictional Trilogy that centers on climate change. The first book will be available on Amazon in the spring of 2012. Atcheson's book reviews are featured on Climateprogress.org.