Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Economic Lessons from Mount Olympus

As I've watched the economic down-spiral of recent days, I cannot help but think of the two Republican pillars that have set this decline into motion. I speak of corporate tax cuts and deregulation. Democrats may wonder why these two bedrocks of Republican ideology are treated with such unquestioning reverence. I liken it to the mythology of ancient Rome.

In the Republican worldview, corporations sit, like gods, atop their economic Mount Olympus bestowing upon us everything that is good and just. And, of course, we must sacrifice to these benefactors in the form of tax cuts. Only then can we hope that perhaps a morsel of corporate goodwill might “trickle down” to us.

But if we know anything about the gods, it is that they are both unaccountable and capricious in their actions. They may act corruptly and abuse their power. They may ignore our sacrifices and rain cruelty upon us on a whim. But if they do, this can be easily remedied with yet another sacrifice, likely in the form of a taxpayer bailout.

From this peculiar perspective, it must seem that Democrats hold an insanely arrogant worldview. We sacrifice, not to the gods but to ourselves, giving tax cuts to the middle class and providing a broad safety net for those most at risk. Regulations are used to coerce the corporate “gods” into being good citizens. And economic prosperity flows not down from Mount Olympus but up from the people. What insolence!

Using this analogy, I can almost understand the “How dare you try to control the economy!” attitude of Republicans. Corporate tax cuts and deregulation are articles of faith, neither rational nor logical.

And so it is not surprising that McCain must imitate Janus, the two-faced guardian of Roman mythology, and support both sides of the regulation issue. Political expediency mandates that he endorse increased regulation while in the same breath preaching the old Republican rhetoric about getting government out of the way of the economy.

So which of McCain’s mythological mouths are we to believe?

Well, do not forget that John McCain has always bowed to his corporate gods. He was part of the Keating Five, who fought banking regulation and helped accelerate the financial collapse of 1989, costing U.S. taxpayers $125 billion. He opposed regulations proposed by Sen. Obama that might have helped control the current financial collapse. And as recently as March 26th, McCain gave a speech recommending further deregulation of the banking industry as his response to the mortgage crisis.

So when you hear John McCain bemoan the abuse and corruption of today’s business community, remember that while he may lament the inevitable results of corporate tax cuts and deregulation with his mouth, he and his Party continue to offer the same hurtful sacrifices at the altars of their corporate gods.

No comments: