By THE EDITORS OF SOCIALIST ACTION
Cascading bankruptcies of multibillion-dollar corporations and catastrophic plunges of the stock market forced the official front-man for American capitalism, President George W. Bush, to try to offer some reassurance about “business morality” in a special speech July 9.
After all, people might get the idea that our wonderful “free enterprise” system was a crooked card game. So “W” had to promise to bring the super-wealthy sinners back to God: “Go thou and sin no more.”
Unfortunately for Bush and his corporate flock, the general decay of capitalism has gone hand in hand with the decay of capitalist politicians. Thus, the current sleazy standard bearer for U.S. capitalism has hardly any more credibility than the bankrupt corporation officials who are trying to bail out of collapsing enterprises with “golden parachutes” worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
In general, the big business press, no less anxious to defend the honor of capitalism than Bush, was not impressed by Bush’s moralizing. To his presumed discomforture, his preaching drew unwanted attention to his own business practices and to those of his brothers.
In an article in the July 11 San Francisco Examiner, entitled “The Bush Smokescreen,” Jim Mohr even quoted the matron of the dynasty, Barbara Bush, as saying that her son Neil could not be balmed for his crooked business dealings because he has an “ethical disability.”
Neil was director of the Silverado Savings and Loan Corporation, which was bailed out by the taxpayers to the tune of a billion dollars. A court judgment of $26 million against him was paid by the head of a consortium of bankers lobbying for bank deregulation.
Some reporters also looked in W’s own dealings and found evidence that he indulged in some the very practices he condemned in his speech about the honor of capitalism. That is, he took a huge loan from the Harken Corporation, of which he was an officer, and sold a huge block of the company’s stock on the basis of inside information.
In her column in the July 11 Examiner, Molly Ivins noted that the problems Bush had to respond to are not a result of a few crooks among the capitalists but the system itself: “Stiffer penalties for what is already illegal are not helpful when the problem is what is ‘legal.'”
Ivins also expressed pessimism about the outlook for the economy: “We can look for the situation to get worse. We are already seeing a major pullout from U.S. markets by foreign investors….
“A few years ago, about one-third of the world’s financial markets collapsed. A few citizens who were paying attention managed some thoughtful analysis of the problems, including the critical role of capital flight by foreign investors.”
In the “casino economy” of today’s capitalism, a trillion dollars a day cross the financial market gaming tables, enormous sums beyond the ability of any central bank to control. In these great waves of paper values, millions and tens of millions of working people are tossed about increasingly like shipwrecked sailors in a stormy sea without even life preservers.
How long will the people who create all the real wealth let the capitalist gamblers play with their lives?