Because greed is characteristically human, it is therefore disingenuous of anyone to be self-righteous about it. The debate on what causes the U.S economic crisis unfairly stereotypes CEOs as greedy. Granted, something is fundamentally wrong with the U.S economy, but blaming it solely on these executives is a dangerous end game that could shake the foundation of the American way of life. Not surprisingly, it is breeding populism, which could become the toxic solution that kills the American dream and transforms U.S society in a way that social scientists could never have imagined.
Populism is an emotional political philosophy that provides refuge from reality during times of economic uncertainties. Naturally, it can cause more harm than good. The spectacle of many captains of industries parading before Congress, like mafia bosses answering for a resurgence of racketeering, is part of the populism courant sweeping the country. Even the notion of capping salaries, which is incompatible with meritocracy, is seen as just punishment for the beleaguered executives who, not too long ago, were lauded for their ingenuity.
Incidentally, the greatest misconception about the steps being taken to confront the scariest economic challenge the country ever faced since the Great Depression is that they could lead to the socialization. It is indeed surprising because the U.S has been a socialist country since the days of the Great Depression. The multitudes of government-financed programs that cannot be eliminated because they could lead to a breakdown of social order are irrefutable proof of the socialistic nature of the U.S system of government. Even the charismatic Ronald Reagan, whose lifelong dream of reducing the intrusive presence of the government in the lives of the American people, miserably failed. In an ironic twist of fate, Reagan presided over the largest government expansion since the days of LBJ’s Great Society.
A 21st century analogy to the U.S is China, which is theoretically communist, but is for all intents and purposes, a capitalist country. Accordingly, China is more likely than the U.S to undergo a proletarian revolution, because the revolution-proof mechanisms currently in place in the U.S are not available in China.
One can repackage a product and give it another name, but the product remains the same. There are many reasons why the concept of socialism (U.S style) eluded generations of U.S economists, many of them Nobel Prize recipients, and the American people. Unlike the nations of Old Europe, the U.S never experienced any peasant-led upheavals because it practically came to age during the industrial revolution. Therefore, any social-oriented reforms, from which derive the word socialism, came to be associated with Europe and other countries. Even FDR’s social reforms, which surpassed those of Old Europe in the first-half of the 20th century, except for Russia, were conveniently labeled the New Deal, which was basically a redistribution of wealth, the quintessence of socialism.
Ironically, during the Cold War, even orthodox communist countries did not possess the mechanisms that could have prevented a proletarian revolution, while the U.S, the archetypal capitalist country responsible for the oppression of workers as the communists were propagandizing, was immune from such possibility. Furthermore, as socialism became associated with totalitarianism, human rights abuses, and dictatorship as practiced in the Soviet Union, China and other communist countries, therefore un-American, the mere mention of the word was enough to send chill down the spine of the great majority of Americans. Innocuous phrases such as leftist agenda, welfare state, and big government were used as substitute for socialism and words like proletariat and underclass practically banned from the U.S political lexicon. Naturally, many politicians and economists, and the American people wholeheartedly embraced these erroneous terminologies.
Indeed Americans have nothing to fear from socialism because it has been a reality in the U.S since the days of FDR. What Americans should worry about is populism, whose worst attribute is the demonizing of the most dynamic sector of U.S society for political purposes. Because history if replete with what ifs, it is appropriate to wonder what would have become of the U.S, had Huey P. Long, the populist Louisiana Governor (1928-32) and U.S Senator (1932-35), elected president? While such question would remain hypothetical because the populist Senator was assassinated before he had a chance to run for president, he had hinted that he would, there is not any doubt that Huey Long’s ideas of income redistribution would have gone further than anything FDR or LBJ ever attempted or imagined.
Therefore what is ailing the U.S economy is systemic rather than the excesses of one particular sector of its society. To sum it up, anything growing at an incontrollable pace eventually becomes unmanageable, which is exactly what happened to many U.S corporations and the Federal Government. Through acquisitions and mergers, the result of legislative loopholes, many companies managed to undo the deregulation process that helped create the economic booms of the 1980’s and 90’s, while the Federal Government ballooned because of its open-ended commitments under the status quo. Fixing the mess requires a drastic reduction of the size of the Federal Government and the break up of the huge corporations that are simply unmanageable. A bi-partisan panel, patterned on the military base closings commission of the 1990’s, might be the only solution to identifying obsolete government programs.
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