Tuesday, March 25, 2008

McCain in Wonderland

by Norman Markowitz

John McCain was talking like the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (which was itself a satire on British politics in the form of a children's fable) today. He actually said the following: "it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly whether they are big banks or small borrowers." But what Looking Glass is McCain looking Into? It has been both the policy and the philosophy of his party and especially his political hero Ronald Reagan to both deregulate industry and finance as much as they could and then proceed to bail out the banks and corporations with taxpayers money. This certainly wasn't what John McCain said to the Federal Home Loan Board over twenty years ago when he asked them not to seize the assets of Charles Keating, his friend and financial backer, who was a major figure who "acted irresponsibly" in the Savings and Loan scandals brought about byReagan administration deregulation (which taxpayers are still paying for).

But McCain went on, talking like the Mad Hatter to smiling businessmen. The problem wasn't deregulation, the banks who packaged crooked mortgages into securities, but the dopes who got the mortgages to begin with, believing that they could refinance in a rising market, the small time operators who made the wrong choice and now face losing their homes.

There are 80 million home owners and "only 55 five million have mortgages," McCain the Hatter went on to say and "51 million are doing what is necessary---working a second job, skipping a vacation and managing their budgets to make the the payments"(I wonder when McCain worked a second job or skipped a vacation, or even managed his budget).

But McCain stopped short at calling the four million home owners in dire straights today an unimportant group of deadbeats. Instead he went back to Herbert Hoover language from the early 1930s, calling what is happening a "crisis of confidence in the markets." How do you restore "confidence" in the markets. Through "accountability and transparency," McCain said. How can you have accountability and transparency with extensive deregulation of industry and finance? McCain didn't say and of course he can't because you can't do that.

All government assistance, went on to say (unlike Obama and Clinton he didn't have any specific suggestions for aid) should go owner to "homeowners," not to "people who bought houses for speculative purposes, to rent or as a second home." How on earth can you distinguish between those who buy houses for speculative purposes, when the real estate industry presents them with commercials for "starter houses" and encourages them to "trade up" to bigger and better houses" and the homeowner simply looking for a permanent place to live? McCain didn't say and he can't say because unless you uses some debtors version of the patriot act to go very specifically into peoples private economic dealings, emails, phone calles, etc, you can't.

Reporters on the McCain campaign say that he is crafting his campaign around the theme that the economy is "sound in its fundamentals" (Hoover said over and over again that the "economy is fundamentally sound" which was a better sentence even though the overwhelming majority of people knew from experience that it was totally false).

As in Ohio where he told workers that they would have to forget about their lost jobs and adjust (his hero, Ronald Reagan, told former GM workers in Flint, Michigan over twenty years ago that they could always "go West" to find new and better jobs) McCain will be running a campaign that will tell Americans to forget their troubles, "support our troops" in this war and the next by giving the President everything he wants, and go onto the next frontier in the economy, which will be better than the last frontier, just like the Reagan frontier with its declining wages, deteriorating infrastructure, escalating health care crisis, and revival of mass homelessness, was a step upward from the days of "liberal big government."

Perhaps McCain is trying to prove to those Right-wing radio demagogues that he is a true conservative and they should say nice things about him. He doesn't have to convince me. I know that he is a Goldwater-Reagan and now Bush Republican and that he always has been. I also know that rightwing Republican policies have been discredited among the majority of people, except those who can be reached by appeals to fear and hatred and those whom Herbert Hoover, as he prepared to go down to defeat to Franklin Roosevelt, called "the irreducible minority of the Republican party" (about one third of the voters who would vote for anyone, even Donald Duck, on the Republican ticket). There were a couple of Mad Hatters who became Prime Minister of England and a number who became President of the United States. We can't afford another one in the White House if we want to keep the economic crisis of today from becoming a general depression tomorrow.

No comments: