Guest Post: What If We're Beyond Mere Policy Tweaks?
Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds
What If We're Beyond Mere Policy Tweaks?
The nation's ills cannot be fixed by thousands of pages of regulation or more policy tweaks. Only a profound cultural transformation can address our problems.
The mainstream view uniting the entire political spectrum is that all our financial problems can be fixed by what amounts to top-down, centralized policy tweaks and regulation: for example, tweaking policies to "tax the rich," limit the size of "too big to fail" financial institutions, regulate credit default swaps, lower the cost of healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare), limit the abuses of student loans to pay for online diploma mills, and on and on and on.
But what if the rot is already beyond the reach of more top-down policy tweaks? Consider the recent healthcare legislation: thousands of pages of obtuse regulations that require a veritable army of regulators staffing a sprawling fiefdom with the net result of uncertain savings based on a board somewhere in the labyrinth establishing "best practices" that will magically cut costs in a system that expands by 9% a year, each and every year, a system so bloated with fraud, embezzlement and waste that the total sum squandered is incalculable, but estimated at around 40%, minimum.
Does anyone really think that the lack of another centralized Federal fiefdom and thousands of pages of additional regulation is what ails sickcare? Of course not. In effect, we as a society have completely lost the ability to honestly admit a problem exists and that the solution is not to paper it all over with more regulation and insatible, ever-rising debt-based funding, paid for by our children, grandchildren, and their children.
Consider the National Security State, busily constructing rectangular mountains of office space to house its vast, unchecked, oversight-free Empire. Does anyone actually know what tens of thousands of highly-paid people are doing in all these sprawling fiefdoms of National Security? And I don't mean the Pentagon or the NSA--the buildings sprouting all over the tonier bits of D.C. and its suburbia are the metastasizing results of the "green light" given to anything remotely connected to GWOT--the global war on terror, the war that by definition can never be declared won or even ended, the war that always requires more funding lest one "event" slip through the cracks.
If nobody in the elected chain of command actually knows where all this "black budget" money is going, what are the odds it's being spent wisely and prudently? "No meaningful oversight" inevitably leads to abuse of budget and power. If we haven't learned that, then we are well on the way to financial and political self-destruction.
Consider the Glass-Steagall Act, at 37 pages in length, and the 2,319-page monstrosity of corrupted Federal power, the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act:" (Source)
Back in December, Nick Schulz helped put the size of the 2,074-page healthcare bill into some historical context by comparing its length to some previous bills that rank among the most consequential in U.S. history, like the 82-page Social Security Act of 1935 and the 74-page Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Now that Congress has passed the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” it might be a good time to compare the 2,319-page financial reform bill (245 pages longer than the healthcare bill) to the previous bills listed below (and see graph) that are considered among the most consequential legislative acts for banking and finance.
1. Federal Reserve Act (1913) – 31 pages.
2. Glass-Steagall Act (1933) – 37 pages.
Though few have delved into the ramifications of this monstrous power-grab, it seems that the Executive Branch has grabbed potentially unprecedented powers with little if any oversight by Congress--all in the supremely Orwellian pursuit of "consumer protection."
If a 37-page bill took care of the problem in 1933, why can't the same 37-page bill be re-instated? Why, indeed. The reason is that the bill impedes the flow of public funds to favored cartels and opportunities for financial looting by these cartels, and so a monster is created that nobody understands and which limits or simply overwhelms oversight by elected officials outside the Imperial Presidency.
The entire financial and political infrastructure is corrupt. Perhaps it is time to note that the most thoroughly, venally, pervasively corrupt nations on Earth all have abundant regulations against corruption.
Regulations don't stop or limit corruption, fraud and embezzlement by magic. Sickcare is beyond being "fixed" by thousands of pages of policy tweaks, limitations and regulations. The financial system is beyond being "fixed" by thousands of pages of arcane regulations that only serve to obfuscate the looting and predation while enshrining another vast Federal fiefdom that harvests the national income while accomplishing nothing of substance.
Regulation only functions if the culture and the society have a value system and a will to enforce it. The American people have lost those values and the will. Complicity reigns supreme. Instead we support going through the motions of adding layers of bureaucratic bloat, and listening to Soaring Rhetoric (TM) from bloviated politicos who promise us "prosperity," "recovery" and all the rest without any sacrifice or engagement.
Going through the motions never solved anything. 2,000-page regulatory thickets are one thing, and one thing only: purposeful obfuscation via complexity. ( America Is Just Going Through the Motions (November 19, 2010):
A profound realization hit me last night: America is just going through the motions now--of reform, of healthcare, of everything. America's leadership--both its elected and appointed officials, and its "shadow" Financial Power Elite leadership (the corporatocracy of crony Capitalist cartels and rentier/speculative parasites) are just going through the motions of financial reform. And the American public is resigned to just going through the motions of accepting the travesty of a mockery of a sham that is called "reform," too, even as they understand in their bones that nothing has been fixed and the next financial crisis has already been cooked into their future.
One of our few reliable voice of reason in the world of finance, Simon Johnson, has already laid bare how the the next financial crisis and inevitable bailout of the banking parasites will unfold. His article in The New Republic Way Too Big To Fail reveals how the "too big to fail" banks have shredded the wet paper bag of "reform" Congress went through the motions of conjuring up: they are quickly expanding globally, beyond the reach of any mere nation-state's grasp.
Let's be honest, shall we? There never was any fire for real reform of the financial sector. It was all rote, a foul, stupid play-act, a passionless pantomime of "caring" and fake-"progressiveness" displayed for propaganda purposes.
Real reform occurs when the political class of toadies, sycophants, leeches and cowards is forced by a near-universal public outrage to pass simple, powerful legislation and the budgetary resources to enforce that legislation. For example, the landmark environmental laws of the 1970s. Rivers in America used to catch fire before this Federal legislation; now they don't. There was a true passion and desire in the nation to clean up the industrial pollution that was destroying the nation's commons.
There was no real fire for financial reform in the politico class. All they had to do was wait out the public's outrage over TARP and then get down to the business of collecting contributions from financial players and their armies of toady-lobbyists.
So Washington went through the motions of "reform" and the regulatory agencies went through the motions of "enforcing" existing regulations. But nobody was indicted, no RICO suits filed on behalf of the defrauded, no billion-dollar penalties slapped on those who carted off tens of billions in embezzled, ill-gotten gains, and no perps forced into bankruptcy.
In other words, nothing got done except another layer of useless, overpaid bureaucracy was added to the bloated, overstuffed Federal payroll.
The exact same dynamic is visible in the "healthcare" (a.k.a. sickcare) "reform." 2,000 pages of mind-numbing slicing and dicing of the vast flood of national treasure that flows to the sickcare cartels, and nary a single word on the actual health of the American public, which continues to deteriorate on multiple fronts.
The "reform" is to add multiple layers of bureaucracy and additional costs on a bloated, out-of-control system in which 50% of the money is already wasted on fraud, needless procedures/meds and paper shuffling.
It was all about going through the motions of reforming a system everyone knows is beyond dysfunctional.
The painful truth is that we are far beyond the point where policy/legalist regulatory tweaks will actually fix what's wrong with America. The rot isn't just financial or political; those are real enough, but they are mere reflections of a profound social, cultural, yes, spiritual rot.
This is the great illusion: that our financial and political crises can be resolved with top-down, centralized financial reforms of one ideological flavor or another. It is abundantly clear that our crises extend far beyond a lack of regulation or policy tweaks. We cling to this illusion because it is easy and comforting; the problems can all be solved without any work or sacrifice on our part.
Our complicity in the corruption is never mentioned: our votes for kleptocractic politico toadies who promise us that our share of Federal swag will not be sacrificed, our interest payments to the banking cartel/oligarchy, our acceptance of bogus statistics, bogus "reforms" and ceaseless propaganda as legitimate, and lastly, our silence in the face of destructive deficits, lest our share of the swag be cut.
This is how once-great Empires end: toothless regulations are passed by bought-and-paid-for legislatures for the purposes of perception management, and a populace addled by constant entertainments and staged combats in the Coliseum listlessly pursues their "right" to bread and circuses of distraction.
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