Gore Vidal noted that we have “free enterprise for the poor, socialism for the rich”. He wasn’t the only one to notice that, but of course the rich deny it—well, some of them do—and tell us how very important what they do is, how their benevolence is absolutely essential for the national economy.
More detestably, they tell us that they are actually the only ones in the country of any value. Half the country, by their reckoning, doesn’t actually do anything to contribute to society. We are takers, moochers, welfare loafers who never worked a day in our lives.
Half the population doesn’t contribute.
They are dyed-in-the-wool free marketers, true supporters of democracy. They stand on their own two feet, independent and strong. Only the market can determine who and what should make money and who and what should die, and we have no obligation to someone whose own laziness and incompetence brought them down. And we know they are lazy and incompetent because they have been brought down. It’s a jungle, but that’s how democracy works in a true free market. Those who have what it takes benefit, and the rest go under.
We’ve enjoyed the benefits of this fantasy economy for forty years now. This graph, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shows us what we have gained: vast wealth for the richest 1%, falling fortunes for the bottom four-fifths of us.
But something happens now and then to the Free Market Stars of America. All their shameless gambles go awry in spite of their superior intelligence and work ethic. Like in 2008, after years of brazen risks and reckless gambles with other people’s money. They suddenly owed more money than they’re worth. They would go broke. Unless..
It’s very important that they don’t go broke, because they are the country. It’s imperative that their banks and corporations be saved from their selfish prolificacy because the country will simply collapse without them. We absolutely must bail out the free marketers, who have stood on their soapbox and proclaimed the righteousness of the free market, of standing on your own two feet. Who, oh who, in such dire times, could save them?
The worthless masses must bail out
the free marketers who say
we must stand on our own two feet.
But, dear reader, you already know. It’s us, the worthless masses. We must pony up to save them, because they are too big to fail, even though they are too big to fail because they have devoted decades to purchasing their politicians, who arrange the laws and regulations that allow them to make ever more money without all that unpleasant social responsibility stuff. They need the social assistance only we can provide.
Of course, the government must give them billions of dollars so the poor things don’t suffer from their own mendacity like the rest of us. That’s called socialism. They survive on government money, unencumbered by bothersome restrictive rules, and the stifling effects of too much government. The rest of us work for a living.
That’s what Gore Vidal was talking about.