Over the past week, I’ve been reading the hilarious true-crime book, Bayou of Pigs, by award-winning investigative journalist and bestselling author, Stewart Bell, about a group of mercenaries yanked from both extremities of the ideological spectrum who combined their single-engine brain-power and came up with the idea of invading a Caribbean country, offing the US-friendly government, and turning it into a “Six Flags: Sopranos” style criminal playground, complete with drug labs, guns, casinos, and offshore banks. The story takes place in the wake of the Jimmy Carter economic “stagflation” disaster, with the group’s leader — a Texas soldier-of-fortune — saying of his motive, “We wanted to help stop the spread of communism and make money for ourselves.”
What a quaint idea! Reminds me of the good old days between the end of the Napoleonic War and World War I, which is more or less the last time that capitalism was able to successfully operate free of government intervention.
Given the current economic crisis, Bell’s book reads like Danielle Steel romantic escapism for capitalists. The fact that far-right and far-left entities would find common ground on a venture like this may have seemed bizarre — until our present-day government gave away $700 billion of our money to their Wall Street friends. Suddenly we’re witnessing left-wing statists and right-wing capitalists reaching across the ideological divide to find common ground over a venting session at the local pub.
The difference between these mercenaries and the average person in America today is that the former were more proactive. All we can really do is note the dynamic polling lines running flush with the top of the graph whenever the candidates diss the bailout during presidential and vice-presidential debates, jumping up and down in hollow victory on our mattress as all our stashed coinage tumbles out.
But even capitalist heroes have made sweetheart deals with Wall Street.
Capitalist-Objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand, used to say that you can’t have capitalism and altruism. This includes fiscal altruism by the state. Alan Greenspan co-authored a book about capitalism with Rand in 1986, and was appointed Federal Reserve Chairman by Ronald Reagan in 1987. Shortly thereafter, Reagan and Greenspan presided over a $125 billion government bailout in the Savings and Loan Crisis.
What did the government do before bailouts? Nothing. As Reagan used to say himself, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
It’s purely an issue of natural selection in the financial world — and understanding that it has to happen, just like you can’t cry like a baby and freak out when a cat eats a mouse. What the government is trying to do with its meddling is the equivalent of venturing out to the Serengeti, rounding up all the fatally wounded zebras, nursing them and feeding them cash — er, grass — while keeping the lions at bay. But at some point, it’s going to be suppertime again and the feeding frenzy will resume. Of course, some zebras will manage to escape, having loaded up on enough grass to spend a lifetime chilling in the Caribbean somewhere. Just leave nature alone, and everything will work itself out.
We know that Democrats, liberals and socialists can do socialism — corporate or otherwise. That’s all they’re good for. From FDR’s New Deal to Carter and Clinton’s Community Reinvestment Act, we know they’re the go-to guys when we have some hard-earned cash of which we’d like to relieve ourselves. It would be nice to have an alternative, though. And right now, we don’t. And we haven’t for a long time.
From a political strategy perspective, John McCain would have been wise to use the bailout issue to put some light between him and the socialist he’s running against. Judging by the dynamic polls of independents watching the debates on CNN, no one likes this thing. You want to show that you’re a maverick? Then how about opposing a bill with so much pork wrapped into it that it looks like a Michael Phelps sized piggies-in-a-blanket breakfast at IHOP? And how about telling the Wall Street lobbyists camped inside the Washington beltway to go screw themselves — then dishing to the rest of America about it? That’s how you win votes and show that you’re fighting for the common man — not by shrugging your shoulders and saying that it’s unfortunate.
In not opposing the bailout, McCain and the GOP risk two things: Alienating the undecideds, and scoring a protest vote from true conservative capitalists. The latter is likely to figure, “Hey, you want socialism? Fine. We’ll give you four whole years of dealing with a socialist in the White House and see how you like that.”
It’s enough to make you want to run away to your own little tropical island somewhere, isn’t it?