By Ron Forthofer
Longmont Times-Call, November 23, 2010
During the recent financial crisis, the privately controlled Federal Reserve led an effort that provided $13 trillion of taxpayer money to bail out the financial sector, which, through crimes and speculation, had almost caused the collapse the world’s financial system. Yet many of these wealthy gamblers were bailed out while the needs of the public were mostly ignored.
Warren Buffett stated it well in a Nov. 26, 2006, New York Times article : “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
During the Wall Street bailout, there was nary a word about the consequences for the deficit or long-term debt. Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat about the debt, with particular concern raised about Social Security and Medicare, two programs that greatly benefit the public.
On Feb. 18, President Obama created a commission to make recommendations on reducing the deficit and long-term debt. The co-chairmen recently presented their proposals, a few weeks before the full commission’s results are due. As expected, they laid out a proposal that mostly, but not completely, targeted programs benefiting the public. I am all for being fiscally responsible, but It needs to be done in a way that protects the public’s interest. The co-chairmen could have presented these Ideas:
• Reinstate the progressive tax levels from the Eisenhower era thus requiring that those who ‘greatly profited from the financial crimes and speculations of this decade share in the sacrifices demanded of “we the people.”
• Place fees on speculative financial activities that would raise large sums and decrease the risk of another financial disaster.
• End corporate welfare.
• Eliminate fraud and waste in military contracting.
• Reverse the wasteful privatization of the military effort and other public work.
• Greatly reduce the military budget. We need a military for defense, not for running an empire.
• End our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and pay reparations for the devastation we caused.
• Enact single-payer health care reform.
The co-chairmen could have taken on the greed, fraud and waste inherent in our corporate dominated system that benefits the few at the top, but they didn’t. Unfortunately, their proposals were not surprising. In “Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith warned that “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”
How much longer will we tolerate the transfer of wealth to the top while we are made poorer and poorer? Almost a century ago, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned: “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Which do you want: democracy or oligarchy? ‘To get involved, call Carolyn at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, 303-444-6981.
Ron Forthofer, a retired professor of biostatistics has been a Longmont resident for 19 years.