United States

Casino Capitalism

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Glen Ford

Ruling circles in the United States have decreed that the Great Recession is over. These are the same circles that waited through half of 2008 to announce that the nation had been in recession since December of 2007. They now declare the worst is behind us even as unemployment climbs, smaller banks go under and a new wage of foreclosures looms. But there is not time in a 4-minute commentary to quibble about technical definitions of recession. In the larger scheme of things, such conversations are diversions that obscure what actually happened to the capitalist system over the past year. It has been broken beyond repair.

There is nothing left of finance capitalism but The Casino, which is only kept whirring along through the fiscal resources of The State. When the ruling circle, which of course includes the finance capital-infested Obama administration, announces that the economy is on the “road to recovery,” they are speaking of The Casino—Greater Wall Street and its speculations. But the once-dynamic heart of Wall Street, the great investment banks, are through, dead and gone, no longer willing or able to gather trillions in capital for any enterprise vaguely resembling national economic development. That stage of capitalism definitively ended in the Great Crash of last year. With the final collapse—decades in the making and historically inevitable—finance capital became irrevocably dependent on
The State’s capacity to subsidize its activities. It could not save itself; much less contribute to national economic reconstruction.

Instead, The State—meaning, the people of the United States—have so far gone into hock for $23.7 trillion to bail out finance capital, 1.7 times the U.S. gross domestic product for 2008. The relationship between finance capital and U.S. society has devolved to pure parasitism. Such is the nature of post-2008 capitalism in America.

Greater Wall Street has become a Black Hole of its own creation. It now sucks all remaining and potential national wealth into its infinite darkness. Medicare and Social Security and every sizable public asset are pulled ever closer to its event horizon, to be lost in the Black Hole: The Casino. Meanwhile, the ever-expanding military acts as its own Black Hole, in order to safeguard the imperial domain on behalf of The Casino.

Strange phenomenon occurs in the presence of economic Black Holes. Unemployment in Detroit nears 30 percent, while Wall Street experiences 12-month highs. State and local governments disintegrate, safety nets unravel, as the rich clink champagne glasses in celebration of their mega-trillion salvation, financed through the full faith and credit of the people. Like Atlantic City, New Jersey, all is despair and devastation—except on the boardwalk at The Casino.

Post-2008 America has a Black Hole in its soul. The political project could not be clearer: We’ve got to shut down The Casino, before it sucks up everything of value around us.

Glen Ford is Black Agenda Radio commentator and executive editor.

—Black Agenda Report, September 29, 2009