POSTED ON OCTOBER 20, 2010:
How to Save American Capitalism
Advice Obama has to ignore
American capitalism is broken. So is the Democratic-Republican duopoly that supports it. Neither can be fixed. The system is collapsing. A power vacuum is beginning to open.
As murderous as our dying system is, it still features a veneer of sanity. What comes next will certainly be worse. It will probably be Very Bad. Dictatorship? A 21st century po-mo variant of fascism? Warlordism? A Christianist Taliban-style terror state, as depicted in Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel "The Handmaid's Tale"?
Before moronic right-wing tyrants seize power, I urge in my new book "The Anti-American Manifesto," the left should do it first. Well, first they have to become a big-L Left: organized, and with a program the people of the Soon-to-be Former United States of America can get behind.
Readers and critics agree with my analysis of the situation. But, they complain, my "Manifesto" doesn't contain that political program.
That's intentional. The "Manifesto" is a call to arms. Everyone, left to right, is invited to join the revolution. Our common enemy -- corporate leeches and their political lapdogs -- is mortally wounded but still vicious. This isn't the time, as the Chinese would say, for splittism. Besides, at 288 pages it's already too long for a manifesto. With a detailed program it would have been 500.
Still, people keep asking me: What would you do, Ted Rall?
Maybe it's perverse, but my best answer is to list what I'd tell Obama to do if he wanted to save himself, the Democrats and the capitalist system.
Don't worry. He won't.
His bosses won't allow it.
If I were Obama, my first act would be to shut down the banking system and securities markets for a week or two. Why? To prevent the capital flight that might follow what comes next. I'd announce that any attempt to transfer money or securities overseas during this period would be prosecuted as an act of treason.
Next I'd order an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, contractors and sub-contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and all foreign military bases around the world. We're an overextended empire inviting blowback all over the place. No more.
It would be moral. The world would be happy. It would make us safer. However, my primary motivation would be to stop chucking hundreds of billions down the military rathole while Americans are losing their jobs and their homes -- $4-6 billion a week on Afghanistan and Iraq alone. Can anyone explain why we still have thousands of soldiers in the DMZ between the two Koreas? Or in Okinawa? Bring the 600,000-plus men and women in uniform, and the millions of support personnel who aren't, home.
Obama doesn't need congressional approval. He can bring the troops home by executive order.
Next up: nationalizations. "Tough on crime" shouldn't be limited to individual citizens. Rob a 7-Eleven and you go to prison for many years. If it's your third felony, for life. You lose everything. Companies deemed "too big to fail," many of which are run by criminals whose monstrous deeds make Charles Manson look like a piker, should get the same treatment or worse.
Jail the executives. Seize their personal assets. And nationalize their companies.
Citigroup alone is worth $14 trillion. That should pay for some extensions of unemployment benefits.
BP's North American operations? Ours. Sell off the assets. Use the cash to pay for the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico and to compensate the victims.
Too harsh? Corporations can easily avoid this awful fate. They can obey the law.
Once the U.S. government has added BP, GM, AIG, Goldman Sachs, and other miscreants to its portfolio, trillions will be rolling into the treasury. China will start borrowing money from us.
What to do with all that loot?
Well, we'll have a bunch of unemployed soldiers and military contractors. Between them and those who lost their jobs during the last few years we'll need to create between 10 and 20 million new jobs. So we will. Let's build the high-speed rail system the U.S. should have created 40 years ago. We'll be able to afford true healthcare reform, a.k.a. socialized medicine. That means more hospitals, more doctors, more jobs.
Let's rehab the 20 million abandoned homes nationwide so that the world's richest nation can finally house its homeless. Let's repair and update long-neglected infrastructure.
Oh, and let's put an end to the insanity of home foreclosures. Not only do evictions speed downward mobility, empty houses ruin neighborhoods. If you can't pay your mortgage or rent because you lost your job, don't worry -- we'll work out a solution.
After all, we the people will own your bank -- and thus your note.
The U.S. economy is broken. But the U.S. remains spectacularly rich.
Let's stop pretending we're poor. All we need to do to save ourselves is unlock the wealth being hoarded by corporate pigs.
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