The Death Of The Common Good

4 comments October 4th, 2008at 02:57pm Posted by Eli

The bailout bill has already been aptly compared to previous travesties where the Democrats let Republican fearmongering  – and generous corporate donations – stampede them into voting for Very Bad Ideas, like the expansion of FISA and the invasion of Iraq.

But as bad as those cave-ins were, this one is worse.  Ian Welsh provides a detailed rundown of why the bailout will suck, and why $700 billion will only be the first installment of cash to be Hoovered out of our pockets.

The problem is that the common good has simply ceased to be a consideration to our lawmakers, at least when weighed against the short-term wants of corporate donors.

Consider global warming, which could make the entire planet all but uninhabitable.  Yet our government refuses to take decisive action to reduce carbon emissions or develop alternative energy sources, because the energy companies don’t like it.

Consider healthcare, where tens of millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured, many of whom are going bust and thus contributing to the subprime crisis.  Yet our government refuses to even consider universal single-payer healthcare, because the insurance companies don’t like it.

The bailout is the same story.  We don’t have a majority that wants to impose any significant structural changes on the financial sector, or to give ordinary Americans mortgage or bankruptcy relief, or limit executive compensation, or raise upper-bracket tax rates to fund a bailout, because the financial companies don’t like it.

I would love to have a government that puts the common good ahead of what the corporations want, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.  Publicly financed campaigns that eliminate politicians’ dependence on corporate donations to get elected would be a great start, but I don’t think the companies would like it.

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Economy,Politics,Republicans


  • 1. Charles  |  October 4th, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Ironically, this is the result of our success in resisting the far right.

    During the 1990s, they were trying to create the fear of biblical Armaggedon. At the dawn of the millenium, fear was at very high levels. When 2000 came and went without an apocalyptic event, the movement started to decay.

    Yes, the attacks of 9/11 rekindled that fear. But by then the Republicans had fallen to looting, which is what ultimately destroyed their movement.

    Imagine an alternate universe, in which the attacks of 9/11 occurred instead on 12/31/99. Clinton, weakened by a decade of scandal-mongering, is blamed because it happened on his watch. Despite the swift arrest of bin Laden a few months later, the Republicans sweep to victory. They begin by declaring the United States a Christian nation, at war with Islam. The looting goes on, but is more restrained, so that as the collapse comes, the state merger with corporations is triumphal, not desperate.

    As bad as the bailout is, it comes as Republican and corporate power is collapsing and forces of resistance are rising. Even if they seize power, we have won the battle. Any right-wing government will be viewed as illegitimate and will fall. There’s lots of pain ahead, but this is the dawn of a new progressive era.

  • 2. Eli  |  October 5th, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I really, *really* hope you’re right. And that we don’t have to see the end of America to see the end of Republicanism.

  • 3. Charles  |  October 5th, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I think we have seen the end of America.

    Torture? Mass wiretapping? Stolen elections? Invading countries that haven’t attacked us. Those aren’t America. We may be lulled into a false sense of security because McDonald’s is still selling (very small and vegetarian) hamburgers, because the advertising goes on full blast, and because there are elections, but America?

  • 4. Eli  |  October 5th, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    America may be terribly degraded from what it once was, but we’re still a long way from Somalia/Sudan/Afghanistan/Iraq levels of dysfunction. So far.

    Actually, I think 1970s Argentina is more likely to be our role model.

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