As I said, this election and the next few after this cannot simply be a referendum on Donald J. Trump. The Republican Party has been broken for a while, and Trump is just the end result of at leas a half century of fealty. Progressives have to realize that we do not have the luxury of indulging ourselves politicially and holding out for the perfect candidate or the perfect party. It’s time we understood that vitually all of the problems his country faces can be lain at the feet of the Republican Party. And I do not mean George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I do not mean Mitt Romney and John McCain. I don’t even mean Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. It’s the Republican Party and its ideology.
And few things demonstrate the inherent toxicity of the Republican ideology than their views on economy and wealth. There are no false equivalencies to be made between Democrats and Republicans. When a progressive claims that “Democrats do it too,” their ignorance is almost too much to bear. When they claim “Democrats are a tool of Wall Street,” they don’t certify how smart they are, but just the opposite. If Democrats were “bought and sold” to the extent that many progressives claim, then wouldn’t they be winning more?
We would be much better off if Democrats ran everything, economically speaking if for no other reason than the Republican Party’s treatment of the economy has no positives for anyone except the very rich. Republicans don’t care about anything that benefits everyone. A truly healthy economy is one in which everyone is on essentially equal footing, with an equal opportunity to generate the wealth needed to live freely and comfortably, as well as to create commerce on a level playing field. Before you roll your eyes, I am aware that we will never actually have that economy, but, like the “more perfect union” described in the Constitution, just because we’ll never actually be perfect doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work in that direction. Unfortunately, the economy Republicans have created with their daft governmental reign is what can best be thought of as a “lottery capitalism” model.
Under lottery capitalism, which Republicans refer to as a “good economy,” everyone pays to be part of the system, but the only people who are rewarded are people are those lucky enough to “win.” Under the Republican model, not only is there no reward for working as hard as possible, but Republicans do all they can to penalize hard work. Look at their twin positions; on the one hand, they claim that the only way to make it in America is “hard work,” but they also advocate for reducing or eliminating the minimum wage. It is a fact that those who work the hardest in this economy have the least chance of getting ahead. CEOs don’t put in 60-70 hours a week just to make ends meet, janitors do. And no, I am not saying that CEOs and janitors should be paid the same. However, a janitor should at least have a fighting chance to become his own CEO and Republican capitalism precludes such a thing.
As the name implies, the problem with lottery capitalism is the same problem that comes with playing the lottery. In order for someone to win the huge $100 million jackpot, at least $200 million worth of losing tickets must be sold. The elements that make up a successful lottery simply don’t work in a nation’s economy. Put simply, while our economic system used to generate a constant flow of wealth that benefited everyone, Republicans have set the economy in such a way that only a relatively small number of people control most of the wealth and far less wealth actually flows through the system. For most Americans, wealth has been stagnant for decades, with small increases in wealth and income having been more than offset by an inflation rate that we have come to accept as “normal” or even “low,” despite the fact that it’s actually quite debilitating for many.
Since the dawn of the Republican era, which we can peg at 1981, when Saint Reagan was inaugurated, but which I peg at 1968, when certain groups of progressives thought they were smarter than everyone else and let Nixon get elected, everything about our economy has changed, and not for the better. Except for a relatively short time during the Clinton years, the only “good times” we have seen have come courtesy of bubbles, and were not based on real American wealth creation. Thanks to modern-day Republicans, increasing numbers of Americans are one pink slip away from total disaster at any given time. Virtually all employment is now at-will, which means, absent a contract, an employer can fire you for any reason, or no reason at all. The right to form a union has virtually been taken away by Republicans, especially in “right to work” states. Whether you realize it or not, the old “American Dream” of working hard and becoming self-sufficient, or even very rich, has largely become a thing of the past, and today’s GOP is perfectly okay with that. Hell; they crafted this. Consider, in 2010, when Democrats had ended the worst recession since the last depression (also caused by the GOP) in the 1930s, Republicans promised to create millions of jobs. Yet, they have proposed nothing that would create jobs in the subsequent six years. That’s not coincidence.
As a consequence of this Republican-promoted lottery capitalism, the American people have been trained to believe that responsibility is a one-way concept. Consumers have to be responsible when we borrow money or use a credit card, but the lender has no responsibility in the transaction at all. Look at what happened with Wells Fargo over the last few years; that bank cheated millions of people, and the CEO of the company was able to retire with a “golden parachute.” A poor person in an inner city who robs a liquor store to pay for food for his kids gets put away for ten years, but a CEO who oversees a company that steals far more than that from millions of people is allowed to “retire.” Talk about luck
It is that “luck” framework that causes our system to collapse on a fairly regular basis. Republicans have trained us to rejoice during economic bubbles and to accept both the blame and the cost of everyone else’s screw-ups. We’re told that we are the ones who accepted the risk when things go wrong, while those “captains of industry” get off scot-free. In return for the privilege of carrying a card and using it to buy a large-screen TV, we have to accept constant, unrelenting and debilitating penalties as part of our responsibility as a consumer, while those entrusted with our money do whatever they want with it, as if it’s their money personally. This is the Republican way. They speak a lot about “personal responsibility,” at the same time they denigrate anyone who dares even mention “corporate responsibility.”
Think about it; if you buy a $2000 TV on credit and your “at-will” employer lays you off, and you choose to place your health insurance bill ahead of your credit card bill, the bank gets to charge you so much in interest and penalties that your TV ends up costing you $4000. But if the same bank loses half of your 401(k) money through investments in toxic mortgage-backed securities, you assume the risk, and don’t get to charge them for anything. That’s just how Republicans like the economy; good for the very lucky and the very rich, and you can pretty much kiss their blarney stones.
Republicans love it when a few people get really rich while screwing many others. Place your money into a bank right now, and a passbook account will pay you a whopping 0.1 percent, if you’re lucky. Let them keep your money for two years, and that baby might soar to a whopping 1.2 percent. Meanwhile, for the privilege of allowing them to use our money rent-free, they’ll turn around and charge you 6 percent on a car loan, and upwards of 15 percent if you want a credit card. And they will charge you fees. Accidentally overdraft your account, and it will cost you between $30-40 per item, and they will do their best to debit your account from largest to smallest item, and call that a “courtesy,” even tough they collect a lot more money that way. Use an ATM, and you’ll pay the ATM owner $1-$3, and you’ll pay your bank a buck or two as well. And don’t be late with a payment on that credit card. If you’re a day late, they’ll charge $25, and if you’re late twice within the course of a year, they’ll also double the interest rate, because you’re now considered a “high risk.” Yet, when they lose your money, they pay nothing extra, and taxpayers will bail them out. This is the Republican wet dream. They hate regulation of any kind because it makes the “lucky” people in the economy responsible for their actions and that is bad for the Republican brand.
Our Republican-driven lottery capitalist economy, and our all-but-blind obedience to such concepts as “credit scores” has made us debt junkies. But look at who we owe money to, and what they’re allowed to get away with. Why are we required to adhere to some arbitrary “credit score,” while those who have most of the wealth have few or no requirements or restrictions placed on them at all, at least with Republicans in charge. The GOP even tossed aside the basic restriction, “don’t steal the money,” when they passed Gramm-Leach-Bliley in 2000, which repealed Glass-Steagall. And let’s be clear; that is not Bill Clinton’s fault. That bill was sponsored and written by Republicans, amended by Republicans and passed the Republican Congress with a veto-proof majority. Not only that, but what led the economy to melt down had nothing to do with the repeal of Glass-Stegall. The bill created a completely unregulated mortgage after-market and that is what caused the Bush Recession. In other words, if you have set up a false quivalence around Glass-Steagall, you should know that you’re getting that wrong.
Ever since Democrats passed Dodd-Frank in 2010, Republicans have been complaining and threatening to repeal that, because it re-institutes the concept of “don’t steal the money.” One reason bankers haven’t gone to jail in droves is because much of what they did was actually legal at the time they were doing it, thanks to Republicans’ love of lottery capitalism, embodied by Gramm-Leach-Bliley.
Under the lottery capitalist model, those with the least money actually pay the most for everything. If someone gets backed into a corner financially, someone with money gets to “bail them out” and take them for every dollar they can get their hands on. That’s how Don Corleone made his fortune, so Republicans figure, what’s wrong with that, right? Republicans apparently think the solution to organized crime is to just make everything they do legal. Consider that we not only have high-interest payday loans that Republicans refuse to regulate, but we now have other companies that actually CONSOLIDATE multiple payday loans into “affordable monthly payments.” Warren Buffet isn’t taking out these loans, the people who are already paying too much to live in inner city slums are having to do this because their employers and Republicans won’t raise their pay above $8 per hour.
Think about it. People with no problem paying for things pay lower interest rates than you, and they don’t pay all those fees. The rich don’t even invest their own money in the markets most of the time; they borrow the money they invest, and they pay a minuscule interest rate. In the Republican version of capitalism, the people who work and make their employers rich get socked with all sorts of penalties because they’re not rich, while the rich are rewarded for having money.That’s the opposite of a progressive system. We’re supposed to be grateful because we don’t have debtor’s prisons anymore, but don’t we?
It’s time we cleaned up our system. And that means getting rid of Republicans at every level of government. Lottery capitalism has to become history, folks. It’s time for progressives to start taking charge, and demanding change to the entire system, but that won’t happen until Democrats are completely in charge. Lottery capitalism is part of the Republicans’ DNA, while it’s not part of the Democratic philosophy at all. In other words, the solution is easy.