Too Frail to BegSeptember 15th, 2009

About a year ago, we experienced a major interruption in the process by which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in the past, it was an indisposition of the rich and not a windfall for the poor that upset the economic balance. Suddenly, the rich, who require credit to enhance their holdings, got stiffed by their financiers when it was discovered that a considerable portion of their assets had little or no value.

Trillions of dollars turned out to be nothing more than gambling debts and bids in fixed auctions, backed by absolutely nothing of value and financed by insolvent guarantors. Nobody had any intention of paying any of it, and it was simply erased from the economy, like penciled entries in a crook’s ledger.

Since the rich control almost all the world’s resources and all the world’s governments, they don’t have to accept major interruptions in the flow of wealth to them from the rest of us. If their usual financiers could no longer fund them, they’d simply have governments–especially the US government, which they own outright–print money for them. Calling their vast securities fraud a liquidity crisis, they arranged for the Federal Reserve, a cartel of private bankers with a license to create dollars, to funnel money directly to their financiers. “We’re too big to fail,” they announced, “and we’ll take you all down with us if you don’t meet our demands.” There was no way they could extort enough to get even, but it would be something.

The trillions that got erased never really existed, and the rich still own just about everything, so they weren’t hurt all that much.  Even so, they do like to keep their books in rough balance, so they made up the shortfall by trimming payrolls. They cut back on the number of people they employ as servants and they reduced the pay of the few lucky ones who were retained. They call this a recession, and it’s a win-win-win proposition for the rich. It preserves their assets by reducing expenses. It keeps their newly-minted money from losing its dollar value by controlling demand. And it acts as a form of insurance against the poor–so numerous as to be a potentially menacing force if empowered–ever managing not to get poorer and weaker.

Today, all signs point to recovery. That’s what the networks and NPR are saying, and they direct us to the rise in corporate share prices by way of evidence. They’re calling it a jobless recovery, because so few of us still have income-producing work. It’s a recovery because the rich are getting richer again, and the poor are still getting poorer.

None of this is happening in secret. It’s clear to everyone that we’re being robbed, but nobody’s doing anything. The robber barons are outnumbered a thousand to one, and we’re paralyzed. If you’re working, you don’t dare do anything because you might lose your job. If you’re not working, you can’t do anything because you’re too busy struggling to survive, often contending with other desperate people instead of the common enemy. The victims of this atrocity can’t even plead for succor, much less demand justice. Our malefactors are too big to fail, and we’re just too frail to beg.

Is it possible for a people to get strong when they’ve been reduced to a state of utter powerlessness, deprived of the protections of their laws, misled and disinformed by their news-mongers, separated from their meager assets by market predators, witness to the destruction of the planet their children must inherit, and mortified by their own weakness and lack of resolve? Does a day ever come when, in real life, people unite behind the determination not to take this anymore?