IT is May 23rd in Indiana, Land of the Midnight Sun, and I have already seen 5,673 Mike Pence For Governor spots.
I tuned out 5,672 ago, but that isn't the point. What is the point is that this is what people like David Brooks peddle as "freedom". But the system this replaced, where campaigns did not begin until Labor Day, and the Trustees of the Public Airwaves had a responsibility to present a balanced picture, wasn't Tyranny; it was Decency. Of course, the modern American Right didn't invent Doublespeak. It simply, as here, realized the benefit in raising generations of Americans so inundated with crap that few can tell the difference anymore.
(Which reminds me that in between Pence commercials yesterday I saw somebody's exposé of rampant teacher cheating on Indiana's standardized high-stakes testing. Teachers are cheating on tests. Sometimes en masse. Congratulations all around. I'm sure the state legislature would get around to finding innovative solutions to the problem in twenty years, or at least auctioning off the right to find a solution to the highest bidder, but there won't be any public schools left, so why bother?)
Forty years ago, corporate America was bloated, sluggish and losing ground to competitors in Japan and beyond. But then something astonishing happened. Financiers, private equity firms and bare-knuckled corporate executives initiated a series of reforms and transformations.Once again, one starts off picking a nit with Brooks and finds his whole column unraveling. Forty years ago it was 1972. The less said about the political situation the better, but let's say this about economics, with the usual caveat that I know nothing whatsoever about the subject and cannot be induced to care: Nixon and his advisors had frozen Wages and Prices the previous year, imposed an across-the-board tariff, and taken us off the Gold standard. The last of these either acceded to, or kicked the ass of, the international financial community, which had been devaluing the Dollar relative to Gold because, if I may be so illiterate, of Vietnam. Like it or not, Mr. Brooks--and just joking; I know the answer--our little Indochina excursion showed a lot of people worldwide what we had truly become since the days of the Marshall Plan. And it had created commodities scarcities which seemed for the first time to get people thinking about limited global resources. Or so it seemed to me; I was seventeen, and make no apologies for not understanding everything that happened before my time, seeing as how so many people earn a living at the New York Times writing as though the history of the Republic precisely corresponds to their cherished notions about it.
Anyway, maybe the international financial community had also glommed on to what the Big Three were beginning to figure out: that so long as American industry could finagle the courts it could pretty much do as it damned well pleased. And would. It's true that at the time UAW workers made 50% more than comparable working people in other industries. Nobody's ever said that the history of trades unionism is one of unprecedented altruism. But if you want Bloat, try what was stuffing the skulls of the Big Three boardrooms of the era. Japanese car makers didn't eat America's lunch because of innovation (and they weren't doing so in 1972, a year before the first Oil Embargo). They made smaller, quality vehicles, while the nepotistic Big Brains in Detroit insisted good gas milage and reduced emissions were un-American.
Which organized American (that is, multinational) business is still doing, mutatis mutandis. If "bloat" is a large, prosperous workforce, "slimming" doesn't consist of letting Mitt Romney and his fellow sociopaths make 50 times the yearly income of the average family of four per hour. The word I believe we're looking for there is "piracy". Nobody (that I know of) has questioned whether what Mitt Romney was up to at Bain was legal. Many of us question its morality, and its sanity.
Private equity firms aren't founded by moral crusaders. They're founded, and operate, in order to use large piles of capital to strip value from anything in their path. That much is pretty straightforward. You can't simultaneously praise their economic carrion-feeding and pretend they're all charity organizations.
Oh, sorry. You can, of course.
But the rest of us might see it from a little different perspective, and many of us are old enough that the whining about "how our elections have sunk to this point" just provokes a memory of the cruel laughter this sort of hypocrisy used to jam in our gorges, back when it at least seemed fresh. And with all due respect to the hard scrabbling economists at the Harvard School of Business and the University of Chicago--I'm sure someone will be along any minute now to explain to me how much respect they are due, and why--anytime someone with a vested interest can do no better than to claim "a modest overall effect"--no one in Vegas would take my bet that the reveal would be "modest overall negative effect", even if I discounted "modest"completely--it's time to put both hands on your wallet. For all the good that does ya.
Six percent job loss due to equity scavenging. That's the best they can do. In other words, rust would be an improvement. Unless you're Mitt Romney.