1981 — President Reagan pushes through tax cuts that heavily favor the wealthy, dropping the top personal income tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent, the capital gains rate from 28 percent to 20 percent, and the corporate rate from 46 percent to 35 percent. The Reagan tax cuts add $1 trillion in income for the super rich 1 percent during the 1980s, and another $1 trillion in each successive decade. The Forbes 400 Richest Americans triple their net worth between 1978 to 1990, thanks to the Reagan tax cuts.
1982 — President Reagan persuades Congress to pass a law authorizing the exotic loans that will become the hallmarks of the 2000s housing boom. The law permits loans never previously allowed: adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, with ballooning interest rates, 100 percent financing;; and “negative amortization” that permits banks to charge high fees and interest rates and allow minimal payments, causing many people to go deeper into debt, and stripping equity out of many homes.
There's a a lot more where that came from, and Smith's timeline is not complete. For example, it does not include the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which was bundled into some huge, pork-ridden bill as 1999 ended, and was signed into law by lame duck Bill Clinton in January, 2000. And who was behind the repeal? Larry Summers, who served as Obama's chief economic adviser, Alan Greenspan, who needs no introduction, and Bob Rubin, the Democrat's favorite Wall Street guy. And to be clear, Tim Geithner, who served as Secretary of The Treasury (and later chief economic adviser) throughout Obama's first term, was a protege of these Great Men.
I think we can agree about who stole the American dream and how they did it—lobbyists, money in politics, special interests, abject corruption, etc. Historically, this is nothing new, and if you're awake, you know these problems are getting worse, not better (e.g. Citizens United).
But this post is about the Public Broadcasting Company, or as someone joked in a comment on DOTE, the Petroleum Broadcasting Company. PBS (and their radio cousin NPR) routinely covers national politics in tedious, over-kill detail, often featuring little else. Ray Suarez, Gwen Ifill and the rest seek to fill our minds with Washington rubbish day after day, week after week, year in and year out.
The question on the table is: How do the the people working at PBS live with themselves?
On the one hand, we've got Hedrick Smith's exhaustive demonstration that the very political system which PBS covers wrecked millions and millions of American lives. On the other hand, we've got the intrepid reporters of PBS interviewing Smith, and then smoothly moving on to cover the very political system which was reponsible for the damage, all of which took place over the last 30-40 years.
It's as if the lessons of history and Smith's conclusions about them no longer existed one minute after the PBS interview with Smith ended.
I will make the obvious point—if we fully grasp those lessons and conclusions, then the political system in the United States can not be legitmate. Cleary, that system is no longer a democracy because the interests of the vast majority of the Amercian people have been thrown under the bus to accomodate the interests of the big banks and other big corporations, as Smith makes clear.
Yet PBS seeks to confer legitimacy on our faux democracy every day. They do so by talking about it as if history never happened. They do so by talking about it as if re-election money and other favors are not being bestowed upon politicians every day. They do so by pretending that legislators and their staffs, not special interest lobbyists, always write the bills which become law.
Moreover, you needn't adopt a moral stance to see the contradictions.
If you want to fully grasp the Human Condition, and what goes on in America in particular, you've got to be able to explain this bizarre behavior. Here are some of the hypotheses you need to consider, in no particular order.
a) PBS is just as corrupt as the political system they cover (e.g. coverage of this oil spill was brought to you by British Petroleum). Such corruption need not be conscious; the people at PBS are simply unable to acknowledge the connection between what they do and where the money comes from.
b) There is no apparent contradiction for the people at PBS because humans routinely use the classic defense mechanisms to be able to live within the contradiction. In this case, rationalization, denial and compartmentalization come to mind.
c) Humans generally are merely a product of their immediate environment, and in the case of PBS, they are entirely molded at the national level by the Imperial Capital, from which all their nightly broadcasts emanate. In so far as the mandarins and movers & shakers Inside The Beltway will not be acknowledging their illegitimacy anytime soon, PBS will not be acknowledging it either.
d) It is a truly a matter of existence, i.e. the survival of the group. As with any other human group, including complex organizations like PBS, the group is held together by shared beliefs and a mission. If those beliefs and mission are not legitimate, the group can not cohere (exist). At this basic level, it becomes literally unthinkable to destroy their own sense of purpose (and thereby their very existence) by acknowledging the essential illegitmacy of those beliefs and that mission. They would literally have no reason to exist. And course if they were to start dwelling on America's political illegitimacy, they would lose their funding and status in society, i.e. they would become marginalized. Thus they remain committed and faithful lapdogs of the powerful.
e) The people at PBS simply don't care that the corrupt political system they cover has thrown millions and millions of Amercans under the bus. These self-important journalists have got jobs, right? These busy people view themselves as invaluable contributors to American society.
I am not asking you to choose among these hypotheses. To some extent or another, they all provide an answer to the question how do the the people working at PBS live with themselves?
To become sane and stay sane on this planet, you must come to terms with essential contradictions in the Human Condition which are manifest in the world presented to you. Humans assume (pretend) they have constructed a well-ordered world governed by rationality and adherence to reality, whereas the opposite is far more often the case.
The constructed human world has its own internal "logic" but that "logic" does not follow the strict rules of science and mathematics. That world is psychological in nature, and springs forth entirely from the human animal itself. That world is not internally consistent, and is full of absurdities (easily derivable contradictions, i.e. propositions P and not-P are both held in the mind at the same time).
In the past I've used the world "crazy" to describe the Human Condition. Perhaps this small post will give you some sense of what I mean by that.