Anyone Who Tells You Otherwise Is a Snake Oil Salesman
America has been from the very beginning a country of marks, swindled by sidewinders and claim jumpers. What were the Puritan priests of the Plymouth Colony if not a caste of sanctimonious, mind-stifling con men whose divinely-inspired, witch-burning mentality has perdured down to our own times? They were–and remain–America’s Spanish Inquisition and their strangle hold on a vast swath of the country’s population remains intact and is not about to be thwarted in our lifetime.
What Happened Then?
Flash forward 400 years. Sure, the country is bigger and has more labor-saving devices but a priestly caste remains in the business of cultivating voodoo and inequality. Now it has new practitioners, the asset managers, a powerful branch of the accounting sect, which rose to prominence in the mid-20th century. The asset managers are just another iteration of America’s time-honored inequality creators, this time on a galactic scale. They are the other pandemic of the industrial age. Every time a well-meaning American government thinks it has defeated these economic imbalances, whether it be with the enactment of the Wagner Act or the Glass Stegall Act, the epidemic morphs into another guise and marches boldly on. Ironically it’s this uber-capitalistic virus that always discovers more creative ways to protect itself from democratic control, whether it’s lobbyists pushing trade liberalization, a Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the rest of the country’s high courts stuffed with Neanderthal judges appointed for life or legislators bought, sold and rented under the table.
What happened in the period between New England theocracy and the New York-Washington-West Coast influence corridor? How could four centuries of struggle leave Americans in the same unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after landing at Plymouth Rock? The answer to this question is the key to America’s past–and future. At no time or place in history has there existed such a population of hapless suckers at the disposal of an elite of clever bad guys–ruthless, self-serving, power-grabbing, manipulating flimflammers and bamboozlers. Does that too-long list of adjectives sound like an inventory of requirements for candidates to the United States Congress?
Did any member of that august body ever come out poorer than when they went in? If their first priority was ever that of managing the country to the benefit of its citizens, that anomaly didn’t last long. It was soon usurped by the compelling necessity to be re-elected. From that flip of priorities sprang a whole Pandora’s Box of governmental ills, from gerrymandering and voter suppression to today’s big-league game of crony capitalistic footsy between corporate movers and shakers and elected Washington officials. And let’s not delve into what happens when a psychopath is elected President.
Scamming in the Free World
The country took a great leap backward when its politicians started hobnobbing with its con men. After a couple of centuries of pseudo-democratic maneuvering by America’s ruling classes–legislators-on-the-make, the clans of the railroad and oil barons, farmaceutical magnates, insurance scammers, armament killers, big-data bandits, private-airliner preachers, internet bright boys and the rest of the whole granfalloon–they now have the playing field pretty well groomed to their liking. Not only that, they dictate the rules of the game. This falls to Congress members, who write ever-more misdirected laws, or even better, have those laws written for them by lobbying agencies. There are more lobbyists than legislators in Washington. Indirectly, of course, they’re written by rich corporate sponsors who subsidize worthy congress members. How many of American members of Congress consider themselves worthy of re-election? That number approaches 100%. By the time all these “special interest” thugs take their share of the pork there’s not much left in the barrel for incidental details like schools and public health.
Unlike presidents, members of congress are subject to no term limits. They can be re-elected to unlimited six-year terms of office and the permutations of this rule can yield bizarre results. With more than 59 years in the House of Representatives, John Dingell, Jr., of Michigan, who finally died in 2019 at the age of 92, holds the record for longest consecutive service. Dingell, Jr. is a special case. Not only was he a nearly-six-decade incumbent, but he was elected in a special election to take his deceased father, John Dingell, Sr.’s place in the House. Dingell, Sr. had occupied that office for 22 years before his son took over. The saga continues. Dingell’s wife, Debbie, ran for her husband’s seat and won it in 2014, becoming the first U.S. non-widowed woman in Congress to succeed her husband. The dynasty might not be over yet. Dingell, Jr. is survived by three of his four children from his first marriage, all of them well prepared to take a seat in the House of Representatives. Some observers think that this extravagant quasi royal line might have been obviated with a simple two-term limit to House membership.
The American Way of Life: Greed, Hypocrisy and Lynch Mob Values
America has always been a rich breeding ground for extravagant entrepreneurism, a fabulously well-endowed place to cultivate greed in all its grotesque guises. What is the most lucrative business of all? War, of course, the only industry in which the products are systematically blown up creating, ipso fact, more demand. America has developed the biggest and most-profitable form of war of all: perpetual war. In the 76 years since the end of World War II, the war that permitted America to put the pieces in place to dominate the world, the country has been been at war during all but just under 20 years.
Arthur Charpentier writes in freakonometrics.hypotheses.org/
“America Has Been At War 93% of the Time – 222 out of 239 years since 1776. The U.S. has only been at peace for less than 20 years total since its birth. Since 1945, the United States has very rarely achieved meaningful victory. The United States has fought five major wars — Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan — and only the Gulf War in 1991 can really be classified as a clear success.”Freakonometrics
Charpentier is perhaps being a bit naive in his analysis. In order to acertain the “success” of America’s wars one must define success. If by success we mean “victory over an enemy on the battlefield,” then he’s correct. But if we measure success by the profits generated for America’s massive arms manufacturers, the Americas victories in all these wars have been overwhelming. And this is the yardstick employed by the American oligarchy. The military victories, strictly speaking, and the loss of lives are largely irrelevant.
Like any other vigorous American growth enterprise, the war business lends itself to diversification. They have wars both cold and hot. When the activities of pulverizing other people’s countries slow down, they have other outlets for their belicose trade. There’s the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the War on Literacy, the War on Domestic Liberalism, the War on the Environment… There’s even the War on Poverty but that one has the lowest priority.
Is There a Cure?
There is a cure for America’s maladies and it’s close at hand, but nobody has any time for it. Americans are so distracted by ever-more-ingenious geegaws that they are coasting bovinely through the gates of hell. Just out of curiosity, what is that cure? Is it still available? It is and it’s so obvious you shouldn’t have to ask. Books are America’s last hope. The last promising author, perhaps capable of lifting America out of it’s hell-bent confusion and complacence, was a young man called David Foster Wallace. Born in Ithica, NY in 1962, he had heart and wit perhaps sufficient to awaken America’s dazed and doped-up populace and set it on the road to recovery. But it was not to be. Wallace looked into the heart of the beast and hanged himself from a rafter in his house at the age of 46. He had a lovely singing voice. Was he crazy? Probably, but some observers think that, if he had moved to Europe, he would still be alive today.
As for “Making America Great Again,” was there ever a time when Americans were endowed with greatness? There was, actually, but it was a long time ago. Luckily for us, that greatness was brilliantly portrayed in Cheyenne Warrior, a movie released in 1994. You can see it on YouTube for free. You’ll like it. It’s a western. Kelly Preston is very pretty and you will meet a great American, one of many. The film comes recommended by David Foster Wallace.
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