Endless Crash, Endless Pain

The great stock market crash of 2008 goes on and on. Even in today’s papers, more than three years later, there is news that drastic cuts affecting tens of thousands of people will be made at California State University. Before long the California state budget will be before us, and as the governor promises, it will be pain, pain, pain for a state population greater than all of Canada. None of this will do anything to help us recover, but that’s another story.

It’s not even certain when the crash of 2008 began. It was presaged by the savings and loan wreck in 1986 and a long series of disastrous political decisions designed to free the marketplace to do its magic. Republicans, as the party of big business, were the drivers behind all of this benevolent freedom, beginning with that wonderful visionary Ronald Reagan, who initiated the long downward slide for most of us and the multiplication of the wealth for the already rich, the fruits of which adversely affect practically everybody on the planet today.

I’m not the only one to personally indict those splendid geniuses of Wall Street for their role, nor to wonder why not a single one of them is serving time. They are certainly not the entire fault, but what they did picked away at the underpinnings of the financial structure until it finally cascaded into rubble, with resulting worldwide trauma actually far greater than Japan’s Great Quake.

The truly hateful thing about Wall Street and its greedy manipulations is that they serve no socially useful function whatever. Wall Street exists entirely to manipulate money for the already rich. More money for them, less for the rest of us. It’s painfully clear that this is exactly what has been happening for the past three decades. The rich got ever more wealthy, while the lives of the rest of us gradually deteriorated.

At the core, however, lies an all too human fault: greed. As I said earlier, there may have been a time when greed was a good thing, when it was controlled by natural limits such as how many mastodon steaks you could carry back to the cave. That time is long past, and greed serves no social purpose today.

The worst things about greed are its infinite and universal nature. Greed lives in our very cells, and the only way we can overcome it is to be constantly aware that it’s there and simply reject it when we realize it doesn’t actually improve our lives. That comes earlier than most of us think, and rejection is certainly not easy to do. It always seems like just a little bit more money would make things so much better. But when you get that little bit, just a little bit more seems like a good thing.

Greed is infinite. It’s a rare billionaire who doesn’t want more.

So we are left with two remedies: personal integrity and legal restrictions. Obviously, personal integrity comes up short as a driving force in the financial world, so that leaves legal solutions.

It is at the point of devising these regulatory and legal restraints on greed that we come up against the full power of the Republican big business machine. Each and every modest proposal to control their greed is vigorously opposed by people who have the power of the purse string over our elected representatives. Republicans, conservatives, and corporate business tycoons all believe that untrammeled greed is what made us great. They cannot claim they don’t know regulation is essential at this late stage, but they battle each and every effort to restrain the power of the rich to make still more money. Greed rules.

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