Randy's Corner Deli Library

11 July 2008

Raging Bull - A Nation of Whiners?

No, I am not referring to Jake LaMotta's fights with Sugar Ray Robinson or Marcel Cerdan. I am referring to the load of raging bull coming out of the mouths of those who would pretend to the office of the Presidency of the United States.

Reports and video that I have seen of former Senator and UBS (presently under investigation for helping rich people stash money away in Zurich) lobbyist Phil Gramm have come out in which he says that the U.S. is a nation of "whiners". In about five seconds, the economic adviser to John McCain was, to use present day political parlance, thrown under the bus. But did Gramm lay down between the tires of the "Straight Talk Express" while it was passing over him?

Phil Gramm uttered the same thing as John McCain did when he, McCain, admitted that the idea of a "gas tax holiday" was merely a gimmick designed to quench the thirst of Americans for gas, whose price per gallon and pump pain is also completely a figment of everyone's imagination - a "mental thing". According to Mr. McCain, anyway. It almost makes sense to cut the price of oil by .18 cents in order to allow more money to go to countries whose rulers fund terrorism designed to destroy our way of life. Our thirst for oil is nothing less than suicidal or at best self-defeating.

This is the same Phil Gramm whose long stint in the Senate included assisting companies like Enron, whose energy traders caused rolling blackouts across California several years ago and who helped to pass the "Enron loophole" to make energy futures exempt from scrutiny by the CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Corporation) which has today made oil in addition to a commodity but also a financial instrument and which has added dollars to the cost of a gallon of gas, regardless of the fact that the OPEC cartel has held down production of oil in order to keep prices high in light of negatively inelastic demand. The rest of the world wants to live like Americans circa 1985. And the more they are successful, the more energy they are using (not to mention the impact on the environment - Dickensian China?). It is the road to global ruin.

What does it say about a candidate for President when his chief economic advisor says that the recession we are in is all in our collective heads? Who exactly is out of touch with reality here? Driven solely by the bottom line of quarterly earnings reports to help with market analysts' expectations and recommendations, Mr. Gramm and Mr. McCain are the ones who are really out of touch with ordinary Americans. Mr. Gramm and Mr. McCain are apparently only in touch with the corporations that, whether we like to admit it or not, run this country.

Are they not reading about mass layoffs all over the world? Siemens of Germany - and Germans do not, as a rule, get excited about things -- is laying off 16,500 workers worldwide. Do Mr. McCain and Mr. Gramm think that difficult global economic circumstances are in the figments of the imaginations of the directors of Siemens? That Siemens is whining, too?

It's lovely that Mrs. McCain donates the use of the company plane (or whatever the arrangement is) to the McCain campaign so that Mr. McCain does not have to unduly burden himself with ordinary commercial air travel. He does not have to worry about airlines which are going broke by the minute because of the price of jet fuel. He does not have to worry about shelling out money to check a bag. And it certainly doesn't concern his wife to have to fill up the brauhaus' company Cessna Citation Excel. It's all deductible, though it amounts to a subsidy for the McCain campaign, at the very least. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/us/politics/27plane.html

Perhaps Mr. McCain would like to stop for a second and consider that in 1972, the fuel budget for the Department of Defense was 1.2% of the total defense budget. According to figures I heard from Dr. Robert Zubrin, the fuel budget for the Department of Defense in 2007 was 52.4% of the entire defense budget. By 2010, based on current trends, the fuel budget for the Defense Department will be over 100%. That means no money for guns. No money for planes. No money for replacement parts. No money for training new troops or retention of current ones. This is not in somoneone's imagination. These are real numbers. The notion that this country's, nay, the world's economic woes (outside, of course, India, China, and the rest of the usual list of suspects)is the result of some mental deficiency on the part of the American public is an insult to our collective intelligence. Those in power would have those out of power believe that there is something wrong with the "have-nots". Otherwise, given the amazing system that people like Mr. Gramm and Mr. McCain and like thinkers have built, how could there possibly be any have-nots whatsoever? According to these people, the system is fine, so there must, ab initio be something wrong with us.

The problem is not that America is a nation of whiners. On the contrary, whining is not part of the Protestant work-ethic on which this country was founded. The problem is that people did not whine loud enough before the sky began to fall.

George H. W. Bush, in the 1980 Republican Primaries, called Reaganomics "voodoo economics". He was absolutely right. The notion that if you give the wealthy loads of tax breaks that this will spur investment whose benefits will "trickle down" to the rest of society has proved to be exactly the fiction that Bush pére warned against. The results of that fiction, however, are painfully very real to the vast majority of Americans today.

What we are facing right now is the culmination and collapse of voodoo economic theology. The rich have become insanely rich, and the middle class - you remember - the ones who worked on assembly lines in Flint who could afford to buy a house and send their children to well-funded state universities - has been systematically destroyed, with people today just trying to keep the electricity from being turned off. The middle class has been redefined, wiped out of existence permanently, unless things drastically change in this country.

The oil problem and larger energy problem in this country is nothing less than a national security issue based on the DOD numbers. In 1952, President Truman attempted to nationalize the steel industry to avert a proposed steelworkers' union strike that would have impacted the US' ability to fight the Korean War. The strike was averted, but the US Supreme Court ruled that such an action was an unconsitutional seizure of private property that was not otherwise allowed by statute.Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer 343 U.S. 579; 72 S. Ct. 863; 96 L. Ed. 1153 (1952) In the end, the steel industry was forced to accept exactly what the union had offered four months before the scheduled national shutdown.

I seriously doubt that Mr. Bush will take any drastic actions to avoid further spectacular profits from going to his friends in the oil business, not to mention Mr. Cheney's own carnal ties in that field of endeavor. We can only hope that a President Obama will take a good long look at this situation and make the hard and politically unpopular (at least to the oil and gas lobby and our dear friends the Saudis) choices that need to be made.

In my view, these are worse circumstances than even Harry Truman faced over 50 years ago. The price of oil's impact on the US and world economies -- spiked by the confluence of rising global demand, the OPEC cartel's reduced or steady levels of production, the fall of the dollar used to buy all that oil, and last, the transmutation of oil from a commodity to a financial instrument - Morgan Stanley owns more oil in the Northeastern United States than any other company - has made the very existence of the independence of the US as a soveriegn nation a questionable proposition unless some radical measures are taken to wrest our independence away from oil and the people who control its flow into this country.

The national priority right now needs to be the total destruction of OPEC. The "war on terror" begins there. And I am talking about a war footing in order to do so. For if we do not, and things are allowed to continue ad infinitum as they are now, there will be nothing left of what was once the most powerful nation on earth.

The benefits to the destruction of OPEC are manifold and almost too obvious for explanation. Regardless, it is a maxim that once the flow of money to Wahabbi institutions is cut off from the Western world, we will see, over time, a reduction in radicalism or at least a stemming of its tide. With the reduction in places that teach radicalism will be the marginalization of those insitutions that insist upon terror as a way to stay in power, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, not to mention all the other lesser-known but just as deadly terror groups waging Jihad against Westerners and non-Wahabbi Muslims. There are complicated questions that will still linger even if we were to throw off the bondage of OPEC. But those questions -- e.g., what to do about a resurgent Iran - pale in importance when compared to the idea that we have to have our independence back. Once we have our independence back, we will have our defense credibility and capability back and can then, with some level of reassurance, begin to again confidently assert our national interests globally so that when the US speaks, people will listen, not laugh in our national face.

So what are we to make of Mr. Gramm and his notion that the US is a nation of whiners? Given the gravity of the situation the world is in right now, I cannot see any reason not to whine. But we, as Americans, need to whine much, much louder. I understand now, in the harsh light of national tragedy, how people in the past have called for revolution. Where is Thomas Paine when you need him?*

Randy Shiner

*Right here: http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/commonsense/index.htm

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