Financial FAQs

As Maureen Dowd just put it in a New York Times Op-ed, the debt ceiling audience has staggered away from a “slasher flick still shuddering…The gory, Gothic melodrama on the Potomac is a summer horror blockbuster—without the catharsis.” The shuddering had to come from the audience facing what Jungians would call their shadow side—the worst, most atavistic part of our nature that we have avoided facing until now.

In this case, it is the rise of the job killers—no compromise Republicans who would rather sink the economy that raise any revenues to pay down the debt. They are being led by the Tea Partiers, a mix of racists, misogynists, birthers—mostly white and less educated—who want to take back America to what it was before the last wave of immigrants reached our shores—maybe 100 years ago?

The result was incredible panic selling as ghoulish whispers of recession echoed through the financial markets. But a double-dip recession? No way, not with corporations holding $2 trillion in excess cash profits, and banks holding $1 trillion in excess reserves. These excesses are the real reason the Fed has held interest rates so low for so long. The Fed is attempting to coax them into doing something with their cash and reserve hoard, rather than hold them in MZM accounts—zero maturity earning almost zero interest rates.

Americans have not had to face the worst elements of our culture for a long time. Although our characterization of Vietnamese as “gooks” in order to make them enemies despicable enough to invade wasn’t so long ago.

The debt ceiling agreement was no catharsis because not enough was done to prevent the S&P downgrade of U.S. Treasury debt to AA+. They could not agree to reduce the deficit roughly $4 trillion, in S&P’s view, to stabilize the deficit by 2015. So S&P has begun to slash AAA ratings here and abroad.

Paul Krugman’s comment on the dark consequences of the European Union also embracing austerity when it should be stimulating growth was “Got that 30s feeling, all the way.” The results of insufficient job creation and growth would be ugly; such as the unrest in Greece cited in an AP report by Krugman.

ATHENS, Greece — They descended by the hundreds — black-shirted, bat-wielding youths chasing down dark-skinned immigrants through the streets of Athens and beating them senseless in an unprecedented show of force by Greece’s far-right extremists. In Greece, alarm is rising that the twin crises of financial meltdown and soaring illegal immigration are creating the conditions for a right-wing rise — and the Norway massacre on Monday drove authorities to beef up security.

It took FDR, maybe our greatest President, and WWII to pull us out of the Great Depression. Right now, we have no such leadership when we need him or her the most. We happen to have President Obama, who seems to not want to face his own inability to find any villains of the Great Recession. And so the villains are prevailing at the moment.

If only he could face his enemies—which are those who want to tear him down by tearing down the economy. Roosevelt was able to face them down in his famous 1936 Madison Square Garden reelection campaign speech while on crutches and debilitated by polio:

“Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”

Obama has failed to recognize the bullying tactics of House Republicans, such as blatantly ruling out any kind of compromise during the debt ceiling negotiations. It was also the Nazi’s main tool of intimidation during their rise in 1930’s Germany, described most recently via U.S. Ambassador William E Dodd’s account, “In the Garden of the Beasts”.

It is even showing up in our schools with the rise of children’s bullying in schools. Is all this pessimism warranted, is the real question, or is it the product of our 24/7 media feeding frenzy that wants to show up any sensational incident or event in its worst light to gain attention?

Alas, it is more than that. It is the steady loss of opportunity and growing income inequality we have allowed to happen over the last 30 years that is the real cause of the rise of our dark side. Michael Moore answers it best in his latest letter to his followers:

“From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America’s downward slide?…"It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981.

“Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" — to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves. And they’ve succeeded.”

On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who’d defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.

Reagan had been backed by Big Business in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President Franklin D. Roosevelt started — a tide that was intended to make life better for the average working person, said Moore.

The best evidence of Republicans job killing machine is their attack on government spending in the debt ceiling agreement, when government employment has fallen by 946,000 over the past 13 months, according to Barron’s Gene Epstein, while private payrolls have grown by 1.96 million over that time. And their attack has continued in Wisconsin, Indiana, and even Ohio with cuts in public employee benefits. This is when we most need to strengthen our governmental institutions that pay for environmental protection, education, health care, and public safety.

These are not signs of an incipient recession, in other words, but a lack of responsible leadership, as even S&P said in their downgrade announcement. So how do we put the darker side of ‘U.S.’ back into its bottle? The huge stock market losses make it harder for even the no tax, free marketers to deny the results of their work. The free market had spoken, after all, and did not like what it saw.

We can hope the panic subsides and rational thought returns. But it is really up to our leaders to lead again, as President Roosevelt once did.

Harlan Green © 2011