“Disaster capitalism,” New Orleans, and the USA…

[First, I would like to acknowledge the tragedy unfolding in Japan -- thousands of lives lost to an earthquake and tsunami... and thousands more likely to be impacted by the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.]

I look around America today — at our political, business, journalistic, and religious institutions — and I see a nation impoverished of leadership, ethics, values, and vision.

The United States of America is rapidly coming undone before our eyes:  morally, intellectually, and physically deteriorating. 

Our infrastructure (including reliable access to potable water) is crumbling.  The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s dams, bridges, roads, and waterworks abysmal ratings for many years now — giving our overall infrastructure a grade of D in their 2009 report (next stop, FAILURE!).

This is a slow-motion disaster — like the levees breaking and drowning New Orleans:  long-predicted; the result of official corruption and corporate malfeasance; man-made and far from inevitable (Katrina, downgraded to a 3-rating by the time it reached land, was no “100-year” storm); and utterly catastrophic, thanks to systemic failure.

The results of that predictable catastrophe were tragic, grotesque, and predictive (so watch out):  The government of George W. Bush dispatched private contractors, including foreign “security” firms, to New Orleans, to protect the property of wealthy people in the aftermath of the storm.  The mainstream media had spun wildly exaggerated tales about mayhem and looting by the predominantly African-American population of New Orleans (later, there were retractions… but never apologies for the racist coverage).  Some white people, including police officers, fed on this atmosphere of fear and shot up some unarmed black folks… trying to cross a bridge, trying to enter a neighboring county, trying to procure food and water for their families.

Later, the financial Huns moved in and really finished off the residents of the Big Easy.  They administered the coup de grace (just as they are trying to do to the nation, today): 

The public hospital was closed.  The public schools were closed, and thousands of teachers were fired, paving the way for charter schools and privatization.  Affordable housing, undamaged by the storm, was nonetheless bulldozed, making way for condominiums to be occupied by wealthier, predominantly white, new citizens (classic gentrification and textbook “disaster capitalism”).  The city council became majority white for the first time in decades, and scores of thousands of African-Americans who lost their homes found themselves permanently displaced from New Orleans… by design.  To this day, they remain in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi…

But let me bring the focus back to the nation.

America is not broke (though we will be, if we don’t act soon).

Some $2.2 trillion dollars needs to be invested A.S.A.P. in America’s infrastructure, per the American Society of Civil Engineers — and every year we delay, the costs grow and grow (just six years ago, the ASCE’s estimated cost of repairing our crumbling infrastructure was $600 billion less at $1.6 trillion).

A bridge collapses in Minnesota, heralding things to come, and our political class does nothing — except cut taxes for the wealthiest individuals and most profitable businesses in the history of the world (at a time when such taxes are near their historic lows).

Barack Obama is either oblivious to his own political well being or crushingly insensitive to the millions of people whose lives he is destroying. 

Possibly, he is both.

He should be sitting on a super-majority of actual Democrats (instead of these corporate toadies) in Congress.

He should have prosecuted the fraud committed by thirteen banks (and their accomplices) and reformed the banking system that is still “too big to fail,” with a $700 TRILLION market in derivatives alone — the “CASINO” is still open, and the banks are still fundamentally insolvent, starting with Bank of America and Citigroup.

He should have worked to keep millions of honest Americans in their homes (not less than EIGHT MILLION people, thus far, many of whom were cheated, plain and simple, and robo-signed out of their houses).

He should have demanded a REAL stimulus of two (or three) trillion, rebuilding and greening our infrastructure, putting us on the path to energy independence, clean air, and sustainability (not to mention global competitiveness) while providing employment for millions of Americans (instead of the measly “stimulus” he “won” from the GOP — $300 billion emergency aid for the states; $280 billion for tax cuts, largely shaped by Republicans; and leaving the smallest share, the remainder, to infrastructure, transportation, and myriad other obligations).

He should have ended the fatally ridiculous “War on Terror” that has destroyed America’s democratic foundations (habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights) and obliterated our moral standing in the world (instead of embracing many of Bush’s most despotic practices).

He should have fought for a single-payer healthcare system, eliminating America’s only serious fiscal threat this century (Social Security is not actually facing insolvency, despite self-serving rumors to that effect).

But no…

Barack Obama is an extraordinarily cautious (read timid) politician who seems to believe the establishment wholeheartedly when it tells him, “these are the narrow parameters within which you must operate!  Nothing else is possible.  Ignore the crime scene, and get back to governing for the benefit of America’s elite criminals.  Let the middle class fail.”

After which he begins his negotiations with his political “opposition” (aka “Bad Cop”) by signaling surrender (ALWAYS):  to their narrative, their policy prescriptions, and their politics.

It is a triumph of laissez-faire capitalism:  the government and elections are thoroughly corrupted (we need publicly financed elections immediately).  Powerful corporations are completely unregulated, and the crimes of the powerful are utterly beyond prosecution.

And where does that leave America?

The “hurricane” — the man-made financial disaster of 2008, facilitated by the Congress, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — has wiped us out and flooded us with debt:  more than $20 trillion of Wall Street debt/liability has been shifted to the U.S. taxpayer.  (TARP was never more than the tip of the iceberg; the real looting continues at the discount window of the Federal Reserve, where banks borrow OUR money for nothing and lend it back to us at exorbitant, ever-adjustable rates.)

Now the Wall Street Huns are looking to apply the coup de grace to the nation, just as they did to New Orleans:  electioneering, union-busting, and confiscating as much public property as possible and transferring it to private hands. 

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush may have paved the way for this massive plunder, but it is on Barack Obama’s watch that these criminals are consolidating their ill-gotten gains, collecting their winnings by illegally evicting millions from their homes and gouging Americans every chance they get (through our credit cards, health insurance policies, cheated pension funds, etc…).

They are changing our election financing laws, making our elections more corrupt and opaque than ever (thanks to the Federalist Society and their successful takeover of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court).

They are altering our nation’s tort laws, denying legal recourse to the people their companies injure, cheat, torture, and rape — as well as the families of those they murder in cold blood.

They are using the offices they hold to destroy worker benefits and eliminate checks and balances on the state level (gubernatorial appointees, answerable only to the executive who appoints them, are headed for agencies across the land to dismantle state healthcare, environmental and worker protections, Medicaid, resource management, etc.).

They are ramming through laws that will facilitate the cheap sale of public resources to their campaign donors (in no-bid, no-review processes, thanks to governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker);

They are ramming through laws that will allow their governors to disband elected bodies — city councils and school boards — turning over the management of schools and municipalities to individuals and even to corporations (see Michigan).

And they are privatizing everything from fire departments to hospitals to schools to the military… looting as they go (delivering next to nothing on their promises, thanks to rampant waste, fraud, and abuse).

If America doesn’t reverse course very soon, our next president will continue the 30-year assault on our democracy that began under Reagan.  He/she will bear no resemblance to our traditional, democratic presidents, persecuting journalists and torturing dissidents in the same way that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have… only worse (and Bush flat-out KILLED journalists in Iraq and Afghanistan!).

If Americans don’t start fighting back, like the people of Egypt and Wisconsin, the future looks bleak indeed.

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