Washington or Wall Street?

Check this excerpt from the Wash Post: Oct. 23, 2011, What do Americans hate more: Washington or Wall Street? (Robert S. McElvaine, a professor of history at Millsaps College, is the author of “The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941.”):

In the 30 years since Reagan’s election, the success of Big Money in the battle of the beasts has been extraordinary. For all the hue and cry from the right about taxation, federal tax receipts actually fell by 4.1 percentage points as a proportion of GDP. Over the same years, the share of national income going to the richest 1 percent has more than doubled, from 10 percent to 21 percent. That is what has given rise to the “We are the 99 percent” protests.

The collapse of the economy in 2008 provided an opportunity to restore public faith in Big Government, similar to what occurred in the 1930s after that economic catastrophe. All the ingredients were there for President Obama and his party to make it happen; they should be winning this latest Battle of the Beasts easily.

But they aren’t — in part because of the relentless propaganda from the right, but also because the American public has yet to see the government as being on its side against the Interests on Wall Street, and has yet to see evidence that what Franklin Roosevelt declared in 1936 is again the case: “Your government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.”

What would reestablish Americans’ faith in government — and what the Occupy movement is implicitly seeking — is the separation of corporation and state. Perhaps the movement will give the president and his party the resolve to make it happen — or at least to wage the battle.

First of all, this shows why history is such a blessing to understanding issues of our time. Historians are, by and large less partisan, and inevitably more insightful than the average bear. McElvaine tells us what should be happening, and why it is not. Next, McElvaine agrees with you, JP – a creeping revolution has been going on, wherein the rich have gotten richer, and corporate power has integrated with the government.

Now, for his conclusions and recommendations. The right kind of public speeches or declarations will not work, nor will FDR-ian program initiatives. In fact, JP, after your obituary for journalism, I must report that old-style government solution-oriented leftist policy making is dead, too. What Clinton did, and Obama should continue is to create win-win situations that head us in the right direction. Right now, they should head towards what McElvaine recommends (and so does Robert Reich, and so do I) a separation of business and government. The Tea Party would like this almost as much as the Occupiers, at least that is what they have in common at their roots, before the corporate right got hold of them. The Tea Party harnessed some of the anti-regular-guy angst; the right wing just grabbed that and twisted it into something Rush and Hannity could sell on the airwaves. And historically, I blame Newt Gingrich for starting all this. The government can push for market solutions to this issue, rather than piling on restrictions or big company favoritism.

I agree, the world is becoming a sort of battle ground. I can (very roughly) see a parallel between dictatorships in north Africa and the “people” named Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, etc. We just need to set ourselves on a course where corporate power and government power are checked by the actual people.

We need not see this as a choice between big government and big corporations. I say, both are evil, and defeating the real America.


About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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