Sunday, August 08, 2010

American Elites Have Lost Their Way

America's elites have lost their way. And that is bad news for all of us.

America's elites have always been selfish and self serving, but once upon a time most of them also understood that their wealth and privilege was also dependent on improving the standard of living, the level of education, the personal and collective security of the masses of the American people. Of course, there were exceptions - the Mafia and Southern slave owners, for instance - who never had any concern at all for the masses among whom they lived and upon whom they depended for wealth creation and comforts. But the majority, understood that their own wealth and privilege depended on a modicum of welfare for the masses. John Carnegie's libraries are a classic example of this self interested noblesse oblige.

But today, the majority of America's rich an powerful are turned 100% inward. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are the exceptions. Most of Americas rich care only for themselves and their circle of friends. Witness the extreme opposition whipped up against health care, or raising taxes on the richest 1% of American in order to fight the deficit. Along with that, and perhaps explaining it to some degree, most or these elites, fully trained by now by the quarterly bonus system of corporate America, are concerned with only with the short term. And the politicians that controlled by these selfish short sited elites are no better.

Occasionally, someone at the edge of this elite circle, someone not yet completely bought and sold, will let it all slip out. Three such cases caught my eye.

First peek behind the curtain is the video clip above. It shows Congressman Anthony Weiner railing about Congress's failure to pass health care benefits for first responders whose health problems stem from 9/11. The ostensible reason for the refusal to help "America's Heroes" is that it would increase the defect unless taxes were raised - and we can't raise taxes (heaven forbid!)

Second, is a piece by economist Paul Krugman in The New York Times. In it he decries the lack of will of Congress and the elites it serves to do anything about America's near record levels of unemployment. Not only are they refusing to extend stimulus measures, that are also refusing to extend underemployment benefits. They are creating millions of new long term unemployed and likely unemployable citizens. And no one seems to care.
... unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn’t care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

... those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is “structural,” a permanent part of the economic landscape ...

Not long ago, anyone predicting that one in six American workers would soon be unemployed or underemployed, and that the average unemployed worker would have been jobless for 35 weeks, would have been dismissed as outlandishly pessimistic — in part because if anything like that happened, policy makers would surely be pulling out all the stops on behalf of job creation.

But now it has happened, and what do we see?

First, we see Congress sitting on its hands, with Republicans and conservative Democrats refusing to spend anything to create jobs, and unwilling even to mitigate the suffering of the jobless.

We’re told that we can’t afford to help the unemployed ... fighting deficits, they insist, must take priority over everything else — everything else, that is, except tax cuts for the rich, which must be extended, no matter how much red ink they create.


What lies down this path? ... Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable. ...
American elites once wanted to make Latin America more like the U.S. Now they want to make the U.S. more like Latin America.

The third peek behind the curtain, was this piece by Thomas Freidman, also in The Times. In it he bemoans America's inability to take any action at all on climate change. "How short sited can we be?" he asks.
... The best thing about improvements in health care is that all the climate-change deniers are now going to live long enough to see how wrong they were. Alas, so are the rest of us. ...

Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for ... what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”
All this is not just bad news for America. Sadly America, for better or for worse, is a model for much of the rest of the world.


Anonymous Eric said...

Syd- America denies it has an aristocracy so it denies noblesse oblige as a responsibility.What you see is no different than Andrew Carnegie et al in the 19th century.

9:19 am  

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