In a recent speech, Noam Chomsky told his audience, "The level of anger and fear in the country (the United States) is like nothing I can recall in my lifetime [and] unfortunately, these attitudes are understandable."
For over 30 years, real incomes for the majority of the population have stagnated or declined, social indicators have steadily deteriorated since the mid 1970's after closely tracking growth in earlier years, work hours and insecurity have increased along with debt. Wealth has accumulated but into very few pockets, leading to probably record inequality. These are, in large part, consequences of the financialization of the economy since the 1970's and the corresponding hollowing out of domestic production.
Thus, when the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with fraud last week, a collective cry of indignation was heard around the world. The SEC charges offered a vivid illustration of what Chomsky was talking about -- and the bluest chip on Wall Street became the target of international anger. It will be interesting to see if Goldman -- which has very deep pockets -- fights to the bitter end, or settles.
But there is another kind of anger stalking the land and its institutions. It is more troubling than the anger directed at Goldman. It found expression last week in a fund raising video produced by the Republican Governors Association. Claiming the mantle of Guy Fawkes, the governors encouraged their viewers to "Remember November" and the day Fawkes tried to blow up the British Houses of Parliament:
This, from the party which claimed that the president's health care bill would institute "death panels;" and which also claimed that the proposed financial reform bill was just a guarantee of more bailouts -- forgetting to mention that the massive bailout of The Street was the work of one of their own presidents -- a bailout they voted for. Interestingly, after claiming solid 41 vote opposition to the bill, the Republicans turned on a dime, saying they could support the legislation if it were tweaked a bit. As Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times, after discovering "a Pew poll that even in a divided America 61% favor financial regulatory reform, the unity pledge in McConnell's pocket was now worth as much as a mortgage backed security."
Fraud, simply defined, is misrepresenting what you are selling. It is a bald faced lie. The Republicans have become very good at selling lies. Or, more precisely, they have become masters of the simplistic solution. For, as H.L. Mencken wrote, "For every complex, human problem, there's a neat simple solution; it's just that it's wrong." An example of one such solution is the one Republican candidate for Senate in Nevada, Sue Lowden, is suggesting (seriously) -- that the way to pay for health care is through a barter system.
The Republicans have anger on their side. They just can't find any wisdom -- and they have very few ideas -- to go with it. And, at the end of last week, the Republican governor of Arizona signed a law which allows police to stop someone on the street -- in this case, Latinos -- and demand that they present papers showing that they are legal residents of that state.
Chomsky and his relatives -- immigrant Jews -- recognize the tactic all too well. It is the equivalent of having to wear the Star of David. Those who support the new law call themselves patriots. That is the biggest fraud of all.