Monday, April 09, 2012

The Big Scam

Over and over, we hear politicians say that the way to prosperity is to cut out regulations so as to unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit. Even a brief glance at history reveals what nonsense that notion is. What cutting government regulations is really intended to do is to unleash profiteers to grab an even bigger share of what working people produce.

For most of our history, we had little government regulation. A nation of small farmers didn't need it. Then, as the country industrialized, we had monopolies, frequent economic "panics", tainted food, snake oil, child labor, unsafe working conditions, and unmitigated suffering of the poor. It culminated with the wild, speculative "roaring '20s" that led to the great depression.

Something obviously had to be done, and was. Unscrupulous profiteering was curbed. Unsafe banking practices were eliminated. Social Security was established to provide a modicum of security for those too old or unable to work. Labor laws were enacted to give a fairer shake to workers. There ensued four decades of unparalleled growth, the emergence of a thriving middle class, and relative freedom from the destructive economic ups and downs.

Then came deregulation and a return to unmitigated profiteering. In the three decades since the late '70s, as the government dismantled  its regulatory structure, the income of the top 1% went from about 9% of all income to 23%. Economic instability again reared its ugly head. That led directly into the Great Recession, from which we are only now beginning to recover. What deregulation actually unleashed was the predatory practices and profiteering of the financial community and giant corporations. 

Now, the rich and powerful are calling for less regulation and lower taxes. They have already succeeded in getting the top tax bracket reduced from over 90% in Eisenhower's day, when the economy was booming, to 35% today. With all their money, they have funded a propaganda campaign that has been so successful it has persuaded millions of victims of their scam that they benefit from the rich taking an ever-growing share of our national income, even as the incomes of the less affluent have declined.

Now, with the Citizens United decision, and large corporations and billionaires spending hundreds of millions to elect minions to help them become even richer and more powerful, the ordinary working people are being taken to the cleaners. The end result may be the death of the middle class or worse.

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