Paul B. Farrell
May 24, 2011, 12:01 a.m. EDT
Commentary: Tax cuts, wars, rates, dollar, new crash coming
By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — “My G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy.” Yes, that is exactly what David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece. Not “is destroying,” the GOP has “destroyed” the U.S. economy, setting up an “American Apocalypse.” And it’s getting worse.
Update: With the 2012 election lineup up for grabs, Stockman may be the GOP’s best candidate for president. A hero in American politics, he’s a rare no-B.S. truth-teller who’s been delivering the same message since his 1986 “Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed,” an expose written after leaving the White House.
Better yet, he’s the kind of fighter who could easily go the distance with Obama on the key issues that will dominate the 2012 election: the economy, employment, interest rates, entitlements, war budgets, the devalued dollar, our rapidly collapsing monetary system, another meltdown.
Last fall, Stockman’s hard-hitting op-ed was loaded with jabs like: “If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing. The nation’s public debt” screams “for austerity and sacrifice,” instead, the GOP insisted “the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers be spared even a three-percentage-point rate increase.” Obama blinked, pulled his punch. Let’s get both in the ring. See Paul B. Farrell’s ‘Reagan insider: GOP destroyed U.S. economy.’
Stockman’s latest attack proves he’s still a powerful fighter. Recently, Reason magazine’s editor-in-chief Nick Gillespie did a long interview with Stockman. The title builds on the book: “The Triumph of Politics Over Economics.” But instead of just looking back at the failure of a self-destructive Reaganomics, an older and wiser Stockman focuses us on the paradigm shift that’s destroying America from within.
Warning: GOP’s self-destructive capitalism wrecking U.S. economy
In this new “Triumph of Politics Over Economics” we see America at a crossroads, struggling to redefine itself. Politicians have become the new economists. Politicians and their big money backers and lobbyists now rule the American economy like banana-republic dictators. Stockman calls this corrupt system the new “crony capitalism.” The old capitalist economics that made America the world’s greatest superpower no longer exist.
Today, professional economists are no more than hired guns for politicians with myopic ideologies and huge bankrolls that make it easy to justify lying, cheating and stealing from investors, workers, consumers, savers and taxpayers. Capitalism has morphed into a monopoly ruled by politicians who are serving a wealthy elite. Competition is a joke. Democracy is a farce. “We the People” no longer exists.
Stockman has seen all of it. And he knows that while his message hasn’t stopped the “GOP from destroying the U.S. economy,” the coming crisis will trigger another megacrash, bigger than the dot-com crash and subprime meltdown combined.
David Stockman, former budget director for former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, following a 2007 court appearance in New York.
Indeed, Stockman warns of an inevitability: Another major crisis is necessary to wake up Wall Street and Washington to the fact that Reaganomics really is destroying America from within. We dissected the Stockman-Gillespie interview several times, gleaning 10 principled facts seen fueling the political drama surrounding the 2012 elections and challenging all Americans at this historic turning point, facts demanding we wake up, before it’s too late:
1. Politicians are addicts, can’t stop spending America’s future
Reagan’s big government policies “led to the utter failure of spending control.” Today America is “living way beyond our means,” and yet politicians are incapable of thinking past the next election. “They hear the squeaky wheel, and they respond. … money has become such a massive force in the electoral process” making politicians “slaves” to big money and special-interest lobbyists.
2. Cutting taxes: a cruel joke, defers big tax burden onto kids
“In pure philosophy, lower tax rates would be better.” But when we got a “Republican government in the Bush era … nothing was cut. Everything was ratified. In fact, they added to Medicare through the drug benefit.” Our “welfare state that seems immutable politically … you’re kidding yourself if you think cutting taxes today is really cutting taxes. We’re simply deferring massive tax increases into the future, unfairly and immorally putting huge debt burdens on future generations.” Tax-cutting is a “massive Christmas tree of special-interest tax benefits and loopholes … reducing the revenue” and “almost no spending was cut, and the defense budget soared out of control.”
3. Social Security is a myth: Forget 2036, there’s no money today
“The combination of Medicare and Social Security” is “the heart of the budget, and the top one-third of that goes to retirees who have private assets, private pensions, other sources of income. They shouldn’t be dependent on the government … and there really is no trust fund there — that’s all fiscal mythology … that money wasn’t saved or hived … it was spent on cotton subsidies and bribes to warlords in Afghanistan. The fact is, this is simply an intergenerational transfer program. … social insurance is a myth,” that bank is empty.
4. Reaganomics loves war: Military spending is off the table
“Reagan was utterly uninterested in any detail of the defense budget, of any of the claims for dollars made by the Pentagon,” says Stockman in a passage that sounds like the GOP’s policy in 2011. “He gave them a blank check, without question, and that … ballooned spending just as we were massively reducing the revenue” and “it created an enormous political impasse. … Spending increases were so huge in defense that it became almost impossible to get anybody to … go after the food-stamp program or school lunches, when you’re just showering tens of billions of dollars on ammunition accounts and spare parts replacements and a massive expansion of the Navy.” Or wasting another “hundred billion dollars on wars of occupation in places that are the ends of the earth.”
5. Gross leadership failure: clueless ex-Goldman CEO at Treasury
“[Henry] Paulson frankly is the most incompetent, reckless secretary of the Treasury that we’ve had in modern history, if ever. He had no schooling in public policy, he had no schooling in the longer-term issues of fiscal management, or even what sound money is all about.” When “the crisis metastasized in” 2008 Paulson got “panicked calls from his buddies on Wall Street who were seeing their pyramids of debt coming crashing down.” And when Goldman Sachs’ stock cratered, Paulson really panicked. “There was no philosophy behind it; there was never an analysis done.” Driven by a clear conflict of interest, he wanted to protect the $600 million fortune he built at Goldman, while saving his Wall Street buddies from bankruptcy. So Paulson failed the American people.
6. Bank bailouts: Bad economics now accelerating America’s decline
Paulson’s panicky failure “was a profound moment in political history in September 2008, … Even the House Republicans knew in their better judgment that it was a terrible idea, and they voted initially against it.” In fact, “the only panic that occurred was in” Paulson’s panicky mind. “Big pyramids of debt on Wall Street were coming crashing down. Had we allowed nature to take its course, maybe Goldman Sachs stock would have gone down to $10. But that’s their problem and that’s the problem of speculators who owned the stock, not a systemic problem for the economy.” Instead, Paulson’s panic made matters worse.
7. In a “free market,” Wall Street banks must be free to fail
“The fundamental principle of free-market capitalism is that you have to be free to fail as well as succeed,” but “when you go in the opposite direction and socialize losses and privatize gains, you will destroy” our system of capitalism. Why? Because moral hazard encourages new “reckless risk taking, misallocation of capital.”
8. Today’s “crony capitalism” is destroying our faith in America
Wall Street is killing trust in the economy: “Once the broader public sees that the cronies of capitalism are bailed out by their friends in Washington or the Fed, why should they believe that the system we have is fair or is working in their interest? It’s just politicizing even further the economy and suffocating the only hope that we have for real prosperity.”
9. Derivatives speculation: Wall Street gambles in shady casinos
Gold was “at the heart of it a fixed exchange rate system” before 1971 obligating “each country to settle its accounts at the end of every year … Chronic payments deficits and you were going to… lose your monetary reserves.” But when we “went to pure fiat money … financial volatility and instability” created a “massive speculative casino … Today probably 99% of currency futures are for speculation and 1% might be for legitimate trade hedging. That’s the problem we have in the whole financial system today.”
10. Too-greedy-to-fail banks are creating another bigger meltdown
Before the crisis hit in 2007, “the top four banks in this country had $5 trillion of assets combined. After the whole crisis of too-big-to-fail and all of the bailouts, today the top four banks have $7 trillion of asset footings.” Simultaneously, fear has “been generated on Main Street, and the appropriate antipathy that’s developed towards the crony-capitalist policy of bailing out anybody that’s big and strong like GM and Goldman Sachs” has created a new “generation of workers that’s going to be turned into tax slaves … That will have to change … but it will only change when the crisis comes … it’s unavoidable.”
Yes unavoidable: American capitalism is so corrupted that change is impossible without a megameltdown, a historic paradigm shift with an inevitable collapse. Stockman knows well the political process is manipulated by a wealthy elite that cares nothing of the people, nothing of Main Street, nothing of the future of America. They care only for themselves.
Money has corrupted our political system. We’ve lost our moral compass. “The Triumph of Politics Over Economics” is a self-destructing ideology. Money has driven all politicians into a bizarre conspiracy that’s destroying America from within. And nothing can stop this overarching historical cycle …nothing but a thundering crisis will shock America awake.