Sunday, January 19, 2014

We are living in Gordon Gekko’s America

It’s a quiet Sunday morning. A good time to reflect on things, especially after spending an hour or so immersed in the latest news the Internet has to offer. Although the sun is out in Minnesota, the climate of this country, and the rest of the world, is very dark and gloomy.

I have an interest in conspiracy theories, but that doesn’t mean I subscribe to all of them. One theory that has been growing in popularity, especially since the Da Vinci Code captured the world’s attention, is that there is a cabal of ultra wealthy individuals, some call them the Illuminati, that pull the economic strings of the international financial systems for their own benefit. This is one theory that I think overcomplicates and over romanticizes a far simpler explanation.

What I believe has happened in America to bring us to our current situation is the growth of unfettered, unrestrained, unregulated capitalism. Since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, we’ve had three Republican administrations and two pro-business Democratic presidents. During those 34 years, these corporate-friendly administrations, with the help of congress, have succumbed to the desires of the military/corporate/media complex and weakened, watered-down and done away with the regulations that were created to keep capitalism in check. As a result, Wall Street and the big banks nearly brought the world to a financial Armageddon in 2008, and there is nothing to say that won’t happen again.

At the same time this massive deregulation was taking place, campaign finance laws were also under attack, culminating in the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allowed companies to pour almost unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns. The result is a congress filled with pro-business puppets who obediently do the bidding of their deep-pocketed masters. How bad is it? House Republicans have just nominated a climate change denier to head the Science Committee’s environmental subcommittee.

None of this needed the invisible hand of a secret group of monocled European aristocrats to happen. It just needed a large enough group of wealthy, greedy, near-sighted capitalists willing to spread around greenbacks to get what they wanted. And they have. Perhaps the most prophetic catchphrase to ever come from a movie was Gordon Gekko’s pronouncement in Wall Street that, “Greed is good.” Way too many corporate leaders and spineless politicians took those words to heart, and we’ve ended up with a situation where Scrooge McDuck and a few of his friends now sit on their mountains of money while the rest of us are happy to be able to pay our monthly bills.

I don’t see a conspiracy here. It’s not nearly as romantic as the Illuminati, but I think stone cold greed has brought us to where we are today.

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