The period between the end of the Bush disaster and the beginning of the Obama ascendancy is a quiet time and a moment for reflection before we cheer more for the passing of the last year than the coming of the next. A Zogby Poll found, “Americans are overwhelmingly glad to say goodbye to 2008 but are somewhat unsure of the future. Americans are guardedly optimistic about 2009, but many feel that the coming year will be worse or the same as 2008.”
Many of us are looking for guidance from the past, perhaps even from the period when Herbert Hoover bid adieu and FDR waited for his turn at bat. The year was 1932: It was a year of famine in Russia, hunger marches in Britain, Nazis emerging in Germany, Gandhi striking for India’s independence, and 13 million Americans were out of work. A temporary halt to foreclosures had been ordered while working hours and wages were cut.
The worst was still to come.
CARD CHECK: “You have nothing to lose but your chains”
By Mike Whitney
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Global Research, December 9, 2008
Even though the Federal Reserve is now the biggest single participant in the financial system, the myth of a “free market” still lingers on. It’s mind boggling. The Fed has expanded its balance sheet by $2 trillion, guaranteed $8.3 trillion of dodgy mortgage-backed paper, provided a backstop for bank deposits, money markets, commercial paper, and created 8 separate lending facilities to ensure that underwater financial institutions can still appear to be solvent. The whole system is a state subsidized operation buoyed on a taxpayer-provided flotation device which bears no resemblance to an invisible hand. More astonishing, is the massive power grab engineered by the Fed which has taken place without the slightest protest from 535 shell-shocked congressmen and senators. Elected officials have either kept their finger in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing or timidly caved in to Treasury’s every multi-billion dollar demand. It’s flagrant blackmail and everyone knows it. Congressional oversight is an oxymoron.
Anyone who has followed the financial crisis from its origins knows that the Fed’s bloody fingerprints are all over the crime scene. Still, that hasn’t stopped well-meaning liberal economists (Krugman, Stiglitz, Reich) from supporting Bernanke’s increasingly unorthodox attempts to flood the financial system with liquidity (“quantitative easing”) and invoke whatever radical strategy pops into his head. In fact, many of the experts believe that Bernanke should do even more given the sheer size of the meltdown. There’s growing support for a gigantic stimulus package ($700 billion) which will focus on road construction, infrastructure, state aid, extensions to unemployment benefits and green technologies. The Obama camp hopes that government programs and deficit spending will make up for the huge losses in aggregate demand which threaten to drag prices down even further in a self-reinforcing deflationary cycle. Even so, its natural to wonder at the wisdom of giving even more power to the very people who created the mess to begin with and who seem more interested in proving their depression-fighting theories than throwing a lifeline to struggling homeowners, consumers or auto workers. Maybe its time to try something different.