The lie of personal responsibility


« Reason

by Tyler S. Clark (Contact)   | 92 entries


Last week, the New York Times reported that the Bush Administration is considering rescuing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from insolvency. This, after they stepped in and engineered the sale of Bear Stearns to JP Morgan Chase for pennies on the dollar so that it would not fail. The government argues that it's in the best interest of the economy for these banks to succeed, just as it argued that it was in the best interest of the economy for the airlines to be propped up after the 9/11 attacks. In other words, the free market reigns supreme except when it doesn't. The rules are inviolate, except when they're not.

These so-called conservatives like to espouse the principles of free-market economics: deregulation, laissez-faire legislation, tax cuts for corporations to stimulate investments, tougher bankruptcy rules for individuals to ensure personal responsibility as a bedrock principle of our society and, of course, letting the market run free to figure out for itself what is right and fair. Meanwhile, we're in the midst of a widely recognized downturn, and people are hurting in real ways.

My mom, like so many other folks, had put her faith in the real estate market. She had bought a home in a good neighborhood in Tucson, then a bit later found one closer to work and bought it assuming she'd sell her old one in short order. Weeks turned into months and, finally, with no buyer, she had to take an offer to rent it.

Since our move to Youngstown, she's joined us and put both homes on the market. They have finally sold, but what the market has decided they are currently worth is at a drastic deficit from what she owes. Of course, no one in the federal government is stepping up to offer her, or any of the other thousands of homeowners in similar predicaments, assistance. Personal responsibility and the free market have handed her this lot, and she must now deal with it.

If we're going to have a big bailout here, then why are the citizens of the United States exempt from it? Why are the corporations the only ones who matter to the nation's economy? Why are the taxpayers being told they must fend for themselves while footing the bill for the failures of the corporations?

I suggest to you it's because the government can't hear its people any longer. The link of the government of the United States to the citizenry has been severed and blockaded by corporate interests sucking at the teat, so that its children cannot find the mother for nourishment.

This is why personal responsibility is so important in this corporate-dominated nation: there is no other recourse available. If you cannot sustain yourself, then may the fates help you, for your government cannot; it is beholden to the corporations that created and nurture it. Every two years, elected officials come through town shaking hands and promising to love, honor and cherish you, then they disappear and get fat at the corporate trough, never to be seen again while we waste away to greater debt. Meanwhile, the CEOs of the corporations we serve are paid 465 times more than the average worker. So, it's more than a little shocking to hear McCain adviser Phil Gramm call Americans concerned about their condition in this "mental recession" a "nation of whiners."

I'd like to tell Mr. Gramm, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, for that matter, that they can all go to hell, or to their country club, or anywhere but back to Youngstown, until they've grasped a realistic picture of the facts on the ground. Not the Iraqi ground, not the Israeli ground, not the Chinese ground, the ground right here in America, right here in Youngstown.

The headline in Sunday's Vindicator was "Economic decline leaves less money for fun activities." Yet, the business section's headline was something quite different: "It's smooth sailing for yacht builders". The lead paragraph told it all: "Fuel prices are soaring and credit markets tightening, but the super-rich are still lining up to pay tens of millions of dollars for mega yachts."

I don't want to hear about the candidates' plans to prop up this or that corporation with taxpayer money. I want to understand what the plans are to fix the income disparity between the top .01 percent in this country, who bring in 976 times more income than the bottom 90 percent. Surely that can't just be a matter of ingenuity and hard work. There's something systemic going on here, and it stinks, and it's killing us. For all you people who want to vote pro-life, forget abortion, focus on the economy, and you'll save more lives.

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