"And we recently discovered, if it was not known before, that no amount of power can withstand the hatred of the many." – Marcus Tullius Cicero
Americans are brought up to believe all sorts of myths about the country we call home. We’re told our economy is a free market meritocracy governed by the rule of law. We’re told our civil liberties, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, are inviolable and protected by the most powerful military in the world. A fighting force entrusted with the admirable and monumental task of defending freedoms at home, and democracy and human rights abroad. We’re told we exist in a system of self-government, in which our votes matter and our voices heard. In practice, none of this is true.
The fact of the matter is American citizens in 2018 are just a nuisance for the real power players. Useful as consumers, but increasingly problematic as larger numbers start to ask questions about how things really work. For far too long, we’ve been ignorant and willing accomplices in our own bondage. This allowed the concentrated and unaccountable power that really calls the shots to go for broke in recent decades, with unsurprisingly tragic results.
Only recently have things started to shift. Increased levels of barbarism abroad and corruption at home during the 21st century — under both Republican and Democratic administrations — have shaken many Americans from a long stupor. Irrespective of where you sit on the political spectrum, most people know something’s not right. People don’t agree on the details of what’s wrong, and there’s certainly no consensus on solutions, but increasing numbers of us know something’s very broken.
I try to look at things from a big picture perspective, and from that angle I see too many people focused on the symptoms of cultural decay versus root causes. Not enough people seem to be taking a step back to see that at the core of today’s broken socioeconomic and political paradigm is an American citizenry fundamentally entangled in various abusive relationships with power. This post will highlight three of these relationships. The first with government itself, the second with central banking, and the third with the dominant political parties.
When it comes to the relationship of U.S. citizens to the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington D.C., there’s no indication that anything remotely resembling self-government is happening. Rather, the relationship is far more like that of a servant to a master. The powerful in this country have declared themselves above the law and beyond accountability on too many occasions for it to be an accident. Rather, it’s clearly unwritten public policy at this point. For starters, key players who pushed the Iraq war during the George W. Bush administration, such as John Bolton, are never held accountable. Instead, they’re promoted to even more influential roles many years later.
Equally troubling, leaders of intelligence agencies like John Brennan who supported torture during the Bush years, ran the CIA while it spied on a Senate investigation into torture and then lied about the spying, likewise face no consequences for their actions. Rather, Brennan ends up with a corporate media gig as an MSNBC/NBC “resistance” pundit. Same thing with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He lied under oath about domestic government surveillance, gets caught following the Snowden revelations, and then nothing at all happens to him. He leaves government many years later, joins a think tank, and becomes a CNN contributor.
Of course, this whole above the law thing extends well beyond government officials. We saw how bankers who tanked the global economy as a result of systemic and extremely lucrative fraud schemes received bailouts instead of jail sentences. We should never forget that not a single bank executive went to jail. When a class of powerful super predators are placed above the law, society dies.
Let’s now dig a little deeper into the economy. It’s still a relatively under appreciated fact that the most powerful players commandeering and influencing the U.S. economy, in a fashion similar to a communist politburo, are a collection of unelected central bankers. These people can bring an economy to its knees via interest rate hikes at a moments notice, or bail out powerful financiers should that need arise as we saw explicitly in 2008/09.
Moreover, what’s most instructive about central bank policy is that it always seems to help connected speculators and Wall Street hooligans versus the general public. One thing you’ll notice if you watch the Fed steer the economy over the course of its cycle, is it doesn’t really get going with rate hikes until wage pressures emerge. In other words, once your average worker starts to get some leverage in the labor market the Fed ends the party. The same thing’s happening again right now.
Then, after asset markets crash and the economy enters a recession, central banks will rapidly lower rates to start the cycle all over again. Naturally, the people who benefit most from all this are speculators and those investors with access to low rates who buy assets on the cheap. Meanwhile, you probably got kicked out of your home and continue to face double digit interest rates on your credit card balance. Then years down the road, as soon as the labor market tightens and you get a couple of raises, the Fed again will hike rates and end the expansion.
The Fed makes up all sorts of excuses for why it doesn’t care about asset inflation or commodity price inflation, but the moment wage pressures emerge it jacks up rates and ends the cycle. As I mentioned earlier, it’s happening right now all over again, and it’ll become increasingly clear over the next year or so. This economy isn’t a free market in any real sense, it’s largely a rigged oligarchy. Another abusive relationship designed to enrich a particular type of charlatan.