I picked the morning paper off the floor
It was full of other people’s little wars
Wouldn’t they like their peace
Don’t we get bored
And we call for the three great stimulants
Of the exhausted ones
Artifice, brutality and innocence
Artifice and innocence

– Joni Mitchell from “Dog Eat Dog”

It is wearisome to argue with conservatives these days about the economy. They have the selective memory loss, of children and the very,very old. Forget what is bad, focus on the joy — easiest to do if one is gainfully employed these days or simply well off. At the start of the new century, that President pondered the privatization of Social Security, he accepted a blank check for reckless war spending, while he passed the biggest tax relief in generations, mostly for those of means. He did this initially with a Republican legislature which rubber-stamped his every whim. They burnt through a surplus budget hard-wrought by the previous Democratic President. Few Republicans were outraged by this deficit spending, unequaled by any President since St. Ronny of Reagan.

Money surged to the top of the private-sector food chain. Federal coffers grew depleted. Public projects were abandoned or ignored. It was a typical Republican reign — loot ‘n plunder under the heated flush of accelerated, rabid investment. After all, government was evil in their eyes. Weaken the beast, release the yoke of burden carried by all entrepreneurs. Inflation was the only fear for laissez-faire, overextended risk-takers. While interest rates remained low, money was plentiful. Easy come, easy go.

Commercial banks — earning a pittance compared to the ballooning profits of their investment arms — emptied their reserves into derivative fueled speculation and increasingly attenuated ventures. Wall Street banks gorged on rich profits, an artifice allowed by the dismantling of the very regulation which provided the firewall between business and market trust companies. Sadly, this legislation was passed under a previous Democratic administration, with the blessing of a Republican Congress awed by the merits of the free market place. History was to repeat itself.

Finally, the bubble popped, the paper profits vanished like smoke and the stupor set in — with a Republican administration still seated. Enough of the rascals were drummed from office at the next election to flip the balance of power toward Democratic control. Yet the ship of state was left scarred and a great economy threatened collapse — unheard of events going back three-quarters of a century, to the Great Depression. And what do these hooligan Republicans howl about now as millions of Americans found themselves without work? Reign in the budget, end deficit spending — (except for the planned expiry of previously passed Republican tax cuts, largely enjoyed by the most wealthy of U.S. citizens). How crass, what hypocrites!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the following chart.

War and unfettered speculation is very profitable for some, the very few, the very rich.

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