Justice, not Policy

by isaac black

The masters of the universe have figured out a self-perpetuating money-making machine. Like Newton’s clockwork universe, they wound it up on the First Day (Morning in America), and it’s been running itself since. Here is the schematic: Boost a select few people to enormous wealth. Let others dream of the same while pulling their financial security out from under them. Convince them that it’s the Other that keeps them from attaining financial godhood. When jobs are scarce, demand tax break sacrifice to appease the fickle job-creators. Then the cycle begins again.

The genius of this cycle is how effortless it is to maintain. Of course, it requires the proper preparation. First they had to prime the country with a couple of premises–taxation was punishment. This allowed the argument to be made: why punish the successful? Another is that policy should work in the favor of economic incentive rather than some sense of moral fairness. Ayn Rand’s philosophy took several years to fully sink into the zeitgeist. Once it did, then came the initial big bang–a giant ATM withdrawal from the savings account of the Common Good and a slashing of just rules that kept the masters of the universe from their goal. This gave the masters of the universe the initial thrust. Aiding in this was the timing: China was selling their labor force, and energy was cheap. More women in the workforce and cheaper time-saving technology made the status quo cheaper for executives to provide for their drones. While asking more hours of them.

But the real coup (not the access to power; that’s always been available for the haves) was the concept of the Economy. Some abstract, vulgar macroeconomic Tower of Babel that the masters of the universe convinced the underlings that they must work and sacrifice for, using their real dollars, because in the end the Economy would make us all Rich. If we weren’t getting richer, it was because of the Economy. The case for policy that serves the Economy, instead of making laws because they were just, became easier to make once everyone simply understood that GDP going up meant the country was better off and still Number One. Once the American voter was willing to give up real dollars to make the Economy better, the bark collar began closing around his neck.

Down went the unions. Down went progressive taxation. Down went financial and environmental regulation. All those things destroy Incentive! Here we are in 2013 when the Department of Justice admitted, on the record, officially, that HSBD was too big to prosecute for their crimes of money-laundering for Mexican drug lords. After the federal government spent TRILLIONS (1,000,000,000,000’s) of dollars to rescue the global financial system (and then further guaranteed that they would do so again by barely regulating or reforming anything), the shareholders of AIG considered suing the fucking government that rescued them. Listen, the masters of the universe reassured us, it’s going to be better for everyone if it’s better for us. Who wants a bacon treat?

Imagine the outrage of anyone spending any public money on something that doesn’t directly create jobs, Mitt Romney suggested, then reminded us that the government doesn’t create jobs.

Common people who actually work for their money and pay higher payroll taxes as a direct result of the intervention of the masters of the universe still have sympathy for them. And the sympathy deepens as executive pay rises–untethered from impertinent concerns like job performance or labor standards or the prudence of overleveraging your business to a magnitude of thousands–and jobs become more tenuous. Who else can save us but the people who are powerful enough to ruin us in the first place?

The problem is that not only are we holding the bag while they shit, we’re eating it too. It taints our mortgages and our retirement accounts. Hell, it taints our savings accounts (where did you think that 0.3% interest rate comes from?). To knock them from their perch, we would have to give up our own American Dream. We’d have to love justice more than buying that boat we want, or that second car, or that child’s education. It’s crumbs to them, but it’s enough to us that it keeps us docile. And so, the masters of the universe will live in splendor until the machine winds down, until they ruin us all, and until the masses tear their grandchildren apart and boil their bones for soup.