Editor’s Note: For decades now, the American people have been fed a steady diet of propaganda about the magic of the markets and how unrestrained capitalism is the best way to organize a society by rewarding the winners and punishing the losers.
But what the current financial crisis has revealed is that this supposedly “free-market capitalism” has been just another form of cronyism in which privileged insiders profit when things go well and are bailed out when they don’t, as Brent Budowsky observes in this guest essay that appeared first as a column in The Hill newspaper:
This is a tale of Washington, Wall Street and wounded troops. It is a story about socialism for the few who game the system and Darwinian capitalism against the many who suffer the pain and pay the cost.
I am for laissez-faire. I am against laissez-unfair, the scandal of our times that caused the crisis of our generation. …
We must end the corrupting collusion between Wall Street money and Washington policy, and begin a serious and thoughtful relationship based on sound business and true capitalism.
Jon Stewart said it perfectly. Americans ask, “Who is on our side?”
And Steven Pearlstein stated the insider case perfectly when he wrote in The Washington Post: “Fairness is a luxury we cannot afford.”
No, Mr. Pearlstein, fairness is not a luxury. It is the heart of the matter, the soul of democracy, the core of real capitalism.
When banks take huge bailout money but raise rates and cut credit lines to good customers, it is bad business and bad economics. It is an abuse of taxpayers and an attack on the economy in a trademark symbol of laissez-unfair.
Geithner, like Paulson, accepts this paradigm:
Wall Streeters make huge bonuses through short-term profits in meta-speculation. In good times, they keep the money. In bad times, they keep the money. In good deals, they keep the profits with bonuses worthy of imperial Rome. In bad deals, the taxpayers take the losses, pay for bonuses worthy of imperial Rome, and read that fairness is a luxury we cannot afford in a newspaper that cannot figure out why it is losing subscribers.
At the other extreme, we send heroic men and women to war. They suffered preventable deaths and wounds because we did not provide body armor and Humvees while we passed tax cuts for upper incomes, while the Masters of the Universe gorged on bonuses from deals that were failures or frauds.
While Wall Streeters cause scandals about bonuses, wounded troops suffer scandals of medical care. Even the President almost supported a very bad deal for veterans.
Angry Americans are treated like museum pieces who must be humored by faux anger that borders on comic opera.
Even Alan Greenspan, whom Bob Woodward hailed as a maestro and Harry Reid brilliantly described as a hack, is now writing excuses for himself and defenses of disasters done in the name of his goddess of laissez-unfair, Ayn Rand.
Let’s bring back capitalism where great wealth is earned through risk, vision, courage, daring and true investment, creating profits that are great, in markets that are fair, in a society that is just.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Rep. Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. He can be read in The Hill newspaper, where he is a columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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