Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ramming through the bailout

By Sam Webb
National Chair, Communist Party, USA

Bush, Paulson make Dellinger look like a Boy Scout

As the Bush administration attempts to ram a bailout package of nearly one trillion dollars through Congress, it begins to feel like Colonel Sanders asking the public to trust him to take care of the chickens.

If it weren’t so damn serious, there would be something almost comical about it. Here we have the White House, which has squandered trillions of dollars over eight years, and its point man, Hank Paulson, fresh from 38 years of gaming the financial system while working at Goldman Sachs, insisting that Congressional leaders hand over a trillion dollars to them with no debate and no strings attached.

In this real life drama, Bush and Paulson make John Dillinger, the legendary bank robber of the Depression years, look like a Boy Scout.

Nothing to do with socialism

This is not “socialism for the rich,” as some have suggested. Socialist measures would thoroughly clean up and stabilize the financial system to be sure, but a socialist-led government would also place the good as well as the bad assets of the responsible parties (commercial and investment banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds) into the hands of a public democratically run authority. It would turn the Federal Reserve Bank, which during the Greenspan era was one of the main architects and cheerleaders of bubble economics (hi-tech, stock market and, its latest version, housing) into a publicly controlled institution. And it would bring those responsible to trial and penalize them appropriately, if convicted.

At the same time, a socialist-led government and its congressional allies would funnel money to homeowners and working people and enact special measures to assist communities of the racially oppressed, not to mention our rural towns. It would rebuild our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure, invest in renewable energy and green jobs, and bring the Iraq war to a quick end. It would also propose the people’s takeover of the energy complex, which has also turned into a cash cow of the wealthiest corporations.

Use common sense

Does it make any sense to give control of our financial and economic system for the indefinite future to the same individuals, who while gaming the system, got us into this mess in the first place? I can’t think of anything that is less democratic or goes against the grain of common sense.

In the money and banking textbooks that I read years ago, our financial institutions and system supposedly channeled idle money to productive uses – to new technologies and business startups, to build homes and create jobs, to invest in new plant and equipment, and to construct and renew our nation’s infrastructure, while extracting handsome profits all the while.

Looking back, it is fair to say that banks and investment houses did perform this function for a period in capitalism’s development, but that period has largely passed.

Finance capital’s rise and ultra-right rule

Indeed, with the rise to dominance of the extreme right and the reassertion of power by finance capital three decades ago, our financial system has operated more or less independently of other sectors of the economy, functioned largely free of any regulatory body, and grown exponentially.

Finance capital – in its quest to maximize its rate of profit – has drained dollars from the private economy (especially the manufacturing sector) and the public treasury into incredibly risky and speculative financial schemes; it has spawned a series of complex financial instruments and paper transactions which few understand, but fabulously enrich the buyers and borrowers of these exotic instruments, most of which have nothing to do with the real economy.

Finance capital has facilitated megamergers, takeovers and corporate flight to off shore locations; it has wreaked havoc on sovereign states and their economies, particularly in the developing world; it has without as much as a thought introduced enormous instability into the arteries of the U.S. and world economy, evidenced by the frequent financial contagions at home and globally.

And, it has been one of the main class agents to successfully engineer the biggest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history from wealth creators -- the world’s working people -- to wealth appropriators, the upper crust of U.S. finance capital, while leaving at the same time our nation with an astronomical pile up of household, government and corporate debt that cannot be unwound overnight.

In short, the reassertion of finance capital to a dominant position in the political economy of our country, which was only possible because of the right wing dominance of our nation’s political levers of power, has come at a heavy price for the American people and people worldwide.

Clinging onto power

And yet, despite this incredible wreckage, this almost incomprehensible corruption, this reckless speculation, these merchants of plunder, debt and hardship are still attempting to resolve this financial crisis in a way that continues to leave them in charge of the main levers of power and their wealth intact.

As I said earlier, this is not socialism. A more apt description is parasitic state monopoly-finance capitalism. According to marxism, the main mission of the state is to reproduce the conditions for the reproduction of the class structure and economic relations of capitalism. If I am not mistaken, isn’t this precisely what Bush, Paulson and team are doing now?

Arena of struggle

Of course, marxism also says that state is an arena of struggle. While the ruling class employs the state apparatus, including violence when necessary, to impose its interests on society, a united working class and people can successfully resist these measures from within as well as outside state structures. This was done in the 1930s and in so doing, secured important victories for the nation’s working class and its allies. It was also done in the 1960s and in doing so brought down the system of legal segregation. And we see it again today in the incredible efforts of millions of working people of all races and nationalities and their allies to elect Barack Obama and larger Democratic Party Congressional majorities in November. Indeed, it is a task that takes on even greater significance given the financial storm that is shaking our country.

For the moment however, the American people and their friends in Congress are faced with a first class challenge – to impose their own imprint on the way in which this financial crisis is resolved. Let’s have no doubt that our financial system can be stabilized and restored to its orderly functioning in a way that meets the needs of the American people and our country. But will take a fight!

Sam Webb is chairperson of the Communist Party.

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