Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thank Goodness for the Super Rich

In defense of the superrich, the former head of Bain Capital, Edward Conard, one of the super contributers to the presidential campaign of his former boss and friend Mitt Romney, says the 1% of the wealthiest Americans are helping our economy.  According to a New York Times article, Conard, who retired at age 51, is not merely a member of the 1 percent, but of the 0.1 percent.  He believes that the gap in income and wealth demonstrates that our economy is working.  All Americans benefit from multi-millionaires and billionaires.  If the superrich were not superrich, the superpoor, workers  and the middle class would be worse off.  We 99 percenters should thank our lucky stars for the 1 percenters.  ("The Purpose of Spectacular Wealth, According to a Spectacularly Wealthy Guy," NYT,  1 May 2012).

Boy, I feel the goodness.  Sure the economy is working, for the 1 percent, and that’s the problem: Rampant unregulated capitalism benefits the few at the expense of the many. The “trickle-down” theory has never worked, never will.  Herbert Hoover taught us that history lesson. The system needs fixing.

But according to Conard, I’m super ungrateful.  I don’t know how lucky I am to be living  on a fixed income with a modest retirement portfolio.  I would be worse off if Conard and his fellow superrich patriots made less money.  I should be grateful for the profit-seeking investors who make huge international corporations  profitable and send work abroad to increase their profits even further.  I should be grateful that super financial institutions are not held accountable for their risky business. 

Yep.  If we little guys would just keep saving and putting our money in these same banks and invest some of our meager earnings in those big financial institutions that we bailed out, JP Morgan coming up, we’d be better off.    It’s our fault the economy tanked.  It’s us little guys that caused the financial crisis by withdrawing our savings and investments in panic a few years back.  It had nothing to do with the banks, who were just doing their jobs;  it was not “an orgy of irresponsible lending,”   No, oh no.  It was us, the consumers, the low-wage earners, the middle class, the 99%, who screwed up the economy.

I’m loathe to believe that  Conard’s argument reflects the opinion of Mitt Romney, perhaps even president Obama. But I  think it does, and that’s the scariest part.  Conard’s arguments, which he is putting into a book to be published soon, has been and might continue to be the basis of  national economic policy, and fuel further deregulation and tax policies for the rich begun under Ronald Reagan and reinforced mightily during the Bush/Cheney years.  Nor has Obama done much to change the course, with his inept economic advisors,  reluctance to pursue the banks illegal activities,  and the kinds of ties his administration has to the superrich.  Maybe he'll do better in his next term, if elected.

Apologists for self-serving capitalism are nothing new, but somehow Conard’s arguments seem especially dangerous.  The recent news about JP Morgan's $2 billion losses,  a result of derivative trades and hedges, makes it worse.  Are we to blame for this,  too?    I really have to restrain myself here, and Loren’s not around to rant with.  Go back to your super mansion, super yacht, and super lifestyle, Conard, and give us a break.

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