Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Capitalism for us, communism for Wall Street

One day, perhaps history will record that the executives of Wall Street, and their friends and relations, died of a surfeit of free lunch. Unfortunately, before pecuniary cholesterol poisoning overtakes these luminaries, the rest of the U.S.’ economy may be blowing about on the streets of China like an empty plastic shopping bag in a stiff gale.

A matter of priorities

Uncle Sam and Wall Street doxies: A matter of priorities.
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Even as those deficit-warriors in Congress tell us all of “shared sacrifices” (to be shared among those with nothing left to sacrifice) and “belt-tightening” (for people who can no longer afford a belt), and thunder about how the cost of Medicare, Social Security and a decent education for our next generation threatens the nation with bankruptcy, we should look — in articles like this, because the corporate-owned mainstream media somehow don’t seem to report on it — at the shadow economy, constructed for the benefit of those who don’t need the money, that daily hands off “loans” to the ultra-rich. But it is the terms of those “loans” that make them outrageous: minimal to no interest, no guidelines requiring them to be invested in the U.S., all profit to the recipient, and 90 percent of risks to be assumed by ... well, us.

If making such attractive financing available to plutocrats is good for our republic, as corporate spinmeisters assure us, then surely there can be no objection to all the terms being made public. But then, if free money for executives and their cronies were subjected to the same scrutiny as enforcement of environmental regulations or financing for health care, can anyone really imagine it would survive?

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As a microcosm of the way America’s bifurcated economy works, it's hard to beat the NFL.

The billionaires who own every team except the Green Bay Packers believe in capitalism for the fans: Everything associated with the game is an intensely overpriced commodity, from game tickets to team merchandise to commercial time during televised games, and the owners collectively rake in obscene and disproportionate profits from all of them.

But for the team owners themselves, there is a command economy and an equal division of all proceeds. There is no financial incentive to build a playoff contender or even a moderately successful team: Each owner receives an identical share of the profits, whether he’s operating a Super Bowl champion or a team that hasn’t been above .500 in a decade. Meanwhile, the costs of stadiums and associated facilities are assumed by the host cities — which, again, ultimately means us.

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The lesson here is hard to miss, even for those who are ideologically inclined to try: There is a neo-Dickensian, laissez-faire public economy, in which we the people fight each other for increasingly scarce table scraps and snarl at one another for taking more than what we deem fair and proper. And there is a Marxist private economy, whose participants get free money simply by proving they don’t need it.

Originally published as a review of a Rolling Stone article on Wall Street and free lunch for plutocrats.

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