A Multi-Polar World from the Meltdown

By Kollengode S. Venkataraman (Published in January 2009)

Towards the end of the ‘08 campaign, the Republicans and right-wing talk shows extracted one phrase—Redistribution of Wealth– in Obama’s chance encounter with “Joe the Plumber” and berated him till the end.

Of all the GOP invectives against Obama this election season — his “funny” name, menacing middle name, his picture in a Kenyan costume, his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers of the Vietnam Era Underground Movement… …  —  the most hypocritical was the criticism of Obama’s phrase “redistribution of wealth.”  Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin used it in every campaign stop calling Obama by the awkward phrase “Redistributionist-in-Chief.” Gov. Palin and her fellow travelers incessantly castigated Obama for being a “socialist.”

It was hypocritical because even as McCain-Palin campaign was criticizing Obama for simply saying “redistribution of wealth” casually in a chance encounter in a rally in Ohio, their Republican president George W. Bush was actually doing it, pouring billions of taxpayer dollars to bailout scandalously mismanaged companies.

Bush’s bailout of the gilded Wall Street idols would ultimately cost taxpayers, by one estimate, over two trillion dollars ($2,000 000, 000,000), and then some. The companies receiving the bailout money are the gilded American idols like Bear-Stearns, AIG, and Goldman-Sachs. Even the prestigious American Express and Citi Group are begging for the handout. The Big-3 auto companies, after receiving $25 billion, are asking for another $25 billion more.

The original $ 700 billion bailout plan and others proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the ex-CEO of the gilded Goldman-Sachs, was the biggest ‘redistribution of wealth’ in reverse.  It took money from Joe Six Pack and gave it to John Fat-Cats. Remember, these companies, till March 08 paid their executives and their sidekicks bonuses exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars for supposedly running their companies well, while they were actually running them into a ditch.

The subprime mortgage scheme perfected by the Wall Street mavens that led to the global meltdown is the biggestfraudulent multinational scheme ever invented, even though it was entirely legal and wholly unethical.

While the redistribution of wealth from the affluent to the needy is an anathema to the right-wingers, the reverse redistribution of wealth from the needy to the greedy is not only acceptable, but also was necessary. In justifying the bailout, we heard President Bush, Secretary Paulson and their sidekicks say “the stability of the global economy,” “the unfreezing of the credit market,” “millions of jobs,” “systemic instability,” and “the survival of the free-market system” are at stake.

These mavens, with MBAs and  PhDs in physics, mathematics, statistics, and IE&OR from reputable schools, without creating any real wealth, created an illusion of prosperity people saw only on the computer screens of their accounts. By the time they got their paper copy, it was gone!

Of all the GOP campaign rhetoric this election season, the one on redistribution of wealth came across absolutely hollow. In the end, both the gilded and the ragged were standing with begging bowls.

Ironically, in the true meaning of the much-derided socialism, now, the US government is a part owner of banks, like in Russia, China, and other despotic rich countries like Saudi Arabia, and Brunei.

In the last twenty-five years, GOP was taken over by unfettered market ideologues, imperial might-is-right foreign policy neocons, and social/religious conservatives. The three simply could not gel into cohesion, but came together out of unenlightened self-interest. By not accommodating dissenting views of moderates within the GOP, these ideologues greatly damaged their own party and the nation as well.

After the WW II, the world was divided into two Super Power camps: The US led the Capitalist West with western Europe, Japan, and a smattering of anti-Communist despots as allies. The Soviet Union led the Communist East with eastern European nations and anti-American despots in tow. The two camps engaged in Cold War with heavy military buildup. There was a lot of sabre rattling, but without actual wars for the most part. Only skirmishes. The wretched Third World countries that did not want to be in either camp were caught in the middle. 

The Cold War ended with the socialist Superpower, the Soviet Union, imploding because of its rigid Marxist dogma. Twenty years later, the remaining unbridled capitalist “Sole-Super Power” US is seriously weakened right in front of our eyes because of hubris and greed.

The lesson? Extreme Right-Wing dogma is as damaging to society as the extreme Left-Wing dogma. An unbridled economic system based on unenlightened self-interest with no ethical compass, in the end, does more harm than good.

When the world finally recovers from this mess, new economic paradigms will evolve in many parts of the world. Each nation or region will accommodate the unique social and cultural ethos of the populace in its economic model providing protection from future implosions as this one. This global economic meltdown has shown the destructive nature of the unfettered greed-based Free-Market ideas, which was the creed in the post-Reagan America. It is not coincidental that the laissez-faire capitalism died in the US.

The economic implosion of the US will force the US government to put its own house in order. This will, by necessity, constrain America’s global political machinations and military muscle working in tandem. See the  highlights in the box on Page 6. Given the worldwide financial mess we are in, that may not be bad for the US. Or for the rest of the world.  — END


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