Popular Economics Weekly
Are we at the beginning of an era of Greater Lawlessness, or nearing the end, with the greatest law breaking we may have seen in our lifetime? And are we at the beginning or end of the greatest wealth accumulation by the wealthiest, of another Gilded Age that last happened in 1900, at the beginning of the Industrial Age?
In a potentially bombshell report, CNN reported Wednesday night that the FBI has information that suggests members of President Donald Trump’s team may have colluded with Russian operatives to coordinate the release of damaging information in an effort to torpedo Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
FBI Director James Comey had already testified in televised House hearings that the Trump campaign team was under criminal investigation for collusion with Russian intelligence operatives in trying to undermine the legitimacy of US elections and democracy in general.
Such interference by Russian and even Wikileaks has led to the election of possibly the most corrupt President in US history, with his refusal to divest himself of his assets that are creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as blatantly ignoring the emoluments clause of the US Constitution that prohibits presidents from being compensated by foreign governments.
How did the US, leader of the free and democratic world since WWII, become so weak and vulnerable that Russian hackers could help to elect Donald Trump, an openly pro-Putin ally who wants to implement the Kremlin’s own foreign policies and subvert those of the democratic western world?
We have had major lawbreaking by Presidents before with Nixon’s Watergate, which was a break into Democratic National Committee headquarters to steal their election plans. Sound familiar?
Then there was President Reagan and the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1980s, which entailed the secret shipping of some $8 million in weapons to Khomeini’s Iranian government to aid them in their Iraq war, and more than 250 criminal convictions of Reagan era office holders for law breaking.
This was in part because President Reagan considered government the problem, and therefore its laws and regulations to be subverted or ignored when inconvenient to his goals.
What were those goals? It’s in fact a long story, but one that can be summarized easily. Such a greater lawlessness of elected representatives and presidents in particular, began with the concerted push to transfer greater wealth to the already wealthy begun in the 1970s and catalogued best in Jacob Hacker & Paul Pierson’s Winner-Take-All Politics. It was the beginning of massive tax cuts, and gutting of labor protection laws, the backbone of middle class prosperity, which weakened labor’s ability to both organize and bargain collectively, and resulted in the massive globalization of the labor force.
These policies were implemented under the rationale that self-interest trumped the common interest championed by governments, and therefore those laws that supported public interest should be subordinate to private interests. Its ideologues and supporters advocated an economic program called trickle-down economics that maintained the owners of capital knew best how to run a country and create the greatest prosperity for all with only the most minimal government regulations and protections, in order to maintain US leadership as a world power.
This led to the abuses of the housing bubble and wholesale loss of middle class wealth from overleveraged Wall Street, a shadow banking system, and failure of financial institutions such as Lehman Brothers that bankrupted millions of ordinary workers.
It led to the Great Recession, which did as much damage to the US economy as the much longer Great Depression, but without the leadership of an FDR and Francis Perkins, his Labor Secretary, who created most of the modern social safety net, including social security and the Fair Labor Standards Act, the first minimum wage and overtime laws for American workers.
It has also led to the greatest income inequality since the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, which in turn led to the polarized electorate we have today. There is very little left of the middle class created after WWII that grew due to New Deal legislation that protected unions and collective bargaining, funded early education and government research that gave US the technological edge.
Under the aegis of a revolt against globalization, we have instead elected those who believe healthcare should be restricted only to those that can afford it, a government so diminished that it no longer is able to protect the environment, educate all in public schools and tuition-free public universities, or protect the public from Wall Street excesses, (which means another recession is inevitable).
All this could only have happened with the greater lawlessness we have today that a president and White House make no attempt to hide. President Trump seems to believe in the Mafia code, a code that trusts only his family and closest associates, where the only honor is the honor among thieves, some of whom are turning out to be Russian oligarchs whose stolen wealth he is more than happy to launder in his various real estate holdings.
CNN, basing its report on unnamed U.S. officials, said the evidence is largely circumstantial and is not yet conclusive, though the investigation is ongoing and is now focusing on the possibility of that collusion. The FBI’s information is based on “human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings,” CNN said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) went a step further Wednesday, telling MSNBC “there is more than circumstantial evidence now” of collusion with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
So is this the beginning, or the end of an era of rampant lawlessness that began almost 50 years ago, and that few of the lawbreakers have paid for, from Presidents to Wall Street financiers?
Maybe the various investigations will help is to understand what has happened to the no longer United States of America?
Harlan Green © 2017
Follow Harlan Green on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HarlanGreen