Whose Recovery, and at Whose Cost?
The financial elite last week announced the beginning of the end of the Great Recession, a nonsensical declaration unless one is a member or servant of the overlords of capital. What the finance parasites should have said, and the real reason for the champagne-popping, is that the money-manipulating classes have been temporarily stabilized by a government commitment of the previously unimaginable sum of $23.7 trillion of the people’s current and future wealth.
It was appropriate that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke delivered the news, since his agency, a creature of and effectively accountable only to the Wall Street bankers, has been responsible for shoveling much of the mountains of cash, credit and guarantees to the ruling oligarchy.
The people, without knowing it, had given the ruling class a reprieve from well-deserved extinction, by putting at the banker’s disposal the equivalent of nearly two years of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—the combined value of every good and service produced by every man, woman and child in the country. Considering the scale of the extraction—the largest transfer of wealth in human history by several orders of magnitude—the heist was accomplished with breathtaking speed.
Bloomberg Financial News reported on March 31 that the government had “spent, lent or committed $12.8 trillion...to stem the longest recession since the 1930s.” The rescue-the-rich package at that time amounted to about 90 percent of the nation’s GDP for 2008: $14.2 trillion. Only a small fraction of the money went to “stimulate” the non-financial sector of the economy. Five months later, in July, Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the U.S. Treasury, reported that taxpayers had committed to buttress the financial sector to the tune of $23.7 trillion—1.7 times last year’s GDP!
Administration spokesmen tried to pooh-pooh the special inspector general’s figure, claiming only $2 trillion or less had actually been spent, so far. (For that matter, only a fraction of the much smaller “real economy” stimulus has been spent.) But that’s beside the point. What we have witnessed in the span of less than a year is the unfolding of a new chapter in the descent of finance capital. The oligarchy, economically paralyzed by the contradictions inherent in its own decay, nevertheless quickly marshaled the political power to seize every mechanism and prerogative of the state, and invented others along the way. In a seamless display of continuity between Bush and Obama, the oligarchy flaunted its effortless domination of both major political parties. Whatever portion the banksters ultimately consume of the $23.7 trillion unwittingly made available to them by the people of the United States, they have proven—most importantly to themselves, and beyond their own wildest pretensions—that they own the American state and can do with it whatever they wish. It goes without saying that the banksters will soon test the limits of their recently revealed superpowers, with nightmarish consequences.
Finance capital, having defeated, exported and devoured industrial capital in the United States, ceased to invest in productive enterprise, which could not satisfy its need for faster and ever-increasing rates of return. Finance capital creates nothing. At this stage in its disintegration, it is both a drag and a predator on society, on whose body the beast will feast until society or finance capital is destroyed. There can be only one acceptable outcome, but it is by no means guaranteed.
Prior to the meltdown, even the most arrogant lords of finance could not have imagined that their near-death experience would, in almost no time flat, be transformed into a March of Absolute Triumph. Who knew that, at the time of their deepest crisis, the bankers could demand and receive the keys to, not just the treasury, which is finite, but the future, open-ended patrimony of the nation? Who would have believed that multiples of the national GDP were theirs for the grabbing?
The possibilities for plunder must seem infinite. For the banksters, there is no going back. Like Pizarro and Cortes, they have beheld the golden cities laid open, and must have it all. From the moment he sees his destiny in pillage, no conquistador will ever again do an honest day’s work. In the same way, the financial oligarchy, having so easily looted the U.S. state and garnisheed the national economy deep into the future, will henceforth direct most of their talents to domestic mega-plunder—like the Vikings gone berserker at home in Norway.
They will give us every reason to erase them from the face of the Earth.
Glen Ford is Black Agenda Report executive editor.
—blackagendareport.com, August 26, 2009