Bush's politics of greed: Replacing gridlock with "greedlock"

Our economy, Alan Greenspan tells us, is “the most extraordinarily successful economy in history.” While that may be true in a macro-sense, we would be ill-advised to extrapolate from such an assertion that the economic well-being of Americans is an extraordinary, or even an ordinary, success… not for many Americans. Not when we are living on borrowed foreign savings, consuming goods and services which future generations will have to pay back. Not when the gap between rich and poor has been widening for decades, instead of narrowing.

It is precisely this gap between rich and poor that a Canadian colleague and I addressed two years ago via our “Index of Disproportionate Inequality” (IDI), intended to measure socioeconomic success among the citizenries of capitalist nations. (Index of Disproportionate Inequality (IDI))

Our thesis then was… the lower the IDI, the smaller the economic disparity in a nation; and consequently, the higher social harmony and political stability. At that time, of the 30 nations measured, the United States placed 24th… significantly higher in disproportionate economic inequality than every first world nation. A revising of those indices today, after four years of Bush’s politics of greed and economic revisionism, would suggest the IDI for the US to be markedly higher; unfortunately, there’s no current data available for its computation.

Politics of envy and “class warfare” are very topical these days, at least in the written medium. One of my favorite columnists, Molly Ivins, unequivocally states her concerns about an unfair and harmful Washington public policy on taxation… and her indignation as to how the “hyper-rich” benefit from this. And Paul Krugman, ex cathedra, gives us from his journalistic pulpit an understandable version of this administration’s predatory economics… a down-to-earth version that most of us can appreciate.

My concern extends a bit beyond that of Miss Ivins, and that minuscule 0.4% of the nation’s households with “ridiculously wealthy people.” I would prefer to bring that figure to a more meaningful, and symbolic, 10%. These households truly represent under-taxed wealth… and although many in this group may describe themselves as upper middle class, they really represent a new socioeconomic group: the “buffer class,” a sub-elite or squire group who by chance or choice defends the entrenchment, and perpetuation, of wealth and power. This buffer class insulates the “wealth nobility” from the socioeconomic hoi polloi and a fast disappearing middle class… a subject that deserves a reasonable level of scrutiny, and separate treatment.

To those who time and again seem to be soothed by Greenspan’s pidgin economics, I would like to ask two things. First: do they think that our current standard of living is real or inflated? After all, we are working with a twelve trillion dollar economy, yet 8% of it, the amount of the trade deficit, belongs to our good lending neighbors who may soon wise up. Second: how bright do they see this nation’s economic horizon for most of its population, when 80% is “earned” through services? Which brings us to a follow-up question… does the bright future belong exclusively to a capitalist-few and its politically captive buffer class?

Increased capitalist globalization will certainly help the super-rich accelerate the elimination of the remaining middle class… allowing a few of them to climb to the buffer class while the rest are swallowed in the ranks of the disenfranchised poor, tripling or quadrupling that number within a decade or, at the most, two.

Changes in the distribution of wealth, through less progressive taxation- including the elimination of the estate tax, and capitalist globalization are occurring extremely fast, definitely short term; while the remedies, such as retraining and education, are mid-to-long term affairs. This mix of short term ills and long term “possible” cures brings economic instability, sowing a fertile ground for social and political upheaval.

The social and economic future of Americans is under siege by an “in-your-face,” take charge government intent on rapidly changing the socioeconomic and political profile of these United States. Politics of greed are hard at work in a multi-front assault, bent in dismantling anything and everything in its path: progressivism in taxation; regulation of business practices and consumer protection; and even the basic socioeconomic safety net. Not that such assault is totally new… but even during those Reagan years total capitulation was avoided thanks to that much-maligned, yet safe and often prudent, government gridlock. The politics of standing-still at least prevented the President and Congress from forcing Americans to walk backwards… too many steps.

Now, the Bush administration has replaced gridlock with greedlock. While most of us are standing still, victims of government greedlock, a minority of wealth-takers are going unchallenged in their sacking of wealth we all jointly produce. Who would have thought that we might one day be looking back at political gridlock with nostalgia!