Sunday, March 25, 2012

The New Religion

Seasons of light, seasons of darkness

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

There have been times in which the human spirit soared and civilization flourished: the Athenian democracy, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and Age of Reason.

The last two led to the epoch changing declaration sent forth from Philadelphia to the world in 1776, and the creation of modern western democracy.

Seasons of light.

But there are also seasons of darkness. We are in one now.

This is an era in which the powerful exploit the powerless with ruthless impunity — grasping, gouging, cheating and stealing, using and abusing. Democracy was thought to be a check on the descent of humankind into another dark age, but it has not worked out that way.

Democracies, we have learned, can be subverted and devolve into oligarchic tyrannies. Concentrations of wealth lead to concentrations of power that tend to ever more concentration of the resources and wealth of nations in the hands of the few, the arrogant, the self absorbed.

But the memory of the seasons of light lingers in the collective human consciousness, and the purveyors of darkness always feel compelled to offer up some reasons, some philosophy or ideology to explain why darkness is the “natural” and therefore just state of human affairs.

These are excuses for indifference.

In this season of darkness, as millions are reduced to ever expanding poverty and insecurity, and the cherished rights and liberties of Americans are subverted by their government, the powerful justify their privilege with a new gospel: material riches are the measure of all worth, people without such riches are worthless, and their rights are of no consequence.

The new god of American idolatry, exported globally, is private profit, to which every knee must now bend: presidents and prime ministers, congresses and parliaments, and the peoples of the nations.

The most notable prophet of this new gospel is the now dead iconoclastic sociopath, Ayn Rand. But it has been embraced and proclaimed by a host of her disciples, from former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan — chief architect of the expropriation of the wealth of the middle class — to leaders in Congress and a multitude of “post partisan” priests and acolytes positioned throughout American government, business and media to enforce this brave new world of the self-sanctified “Masters of the Universe.”

What is remarkable about the ascent of this new religion is how little resistance it has met from the one it is displacing — Christianity. And I keep wondering, where is the American church in all this?

By “the American church,” I do not mean the pseudo-Christian tribalism of contemporary American politics, left and right. That is no more than majority social custom dressed up as the Law: the long canon of do’s and don’ts appended to the Ten Commandments, laws which God apparently meant for us, but never got around to.

Every generation adds new ones.

Thou shall not dance. Thou shall not have long hair. Thou shall not wear fur or eat meat. Thou shall not occupy public property or public attention.

They lead to absurdities. Thou shall oppose abortion, but support capital punishment. Thou shall oppose war, but support women in combat.

Some are new interpretations of old favorites. In ancient times, an “unruly” son could be stoned to death. Now, for some Christians, it’s the gay son.

And now as then, women are treated as chattel, objects to be controlled.

By “the American church,” I mean the church of the Gospels and the example of Christ — the continuous act of reaching out to the other. The Christian church.

Unlike earlier times in our history, when Christian abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights and peace advocates spoke loud and clear with iron resolve, the Church today seems strangely mute.

Who in the Church now stands to demand, without equivocation or excuse, a government and policies that embrace the absolute and unequivocal equality of every man, woman and child; an equality bestowed freely by the loving God of all, and not dependent on any human authority or institution, or sanctified by material wealth?

To be sure, there are voices raised. But many are secular, and make their case based on the “human rights” said to be inherent in the “Natural Law.” But that is not compelling.

The “Natural Law” is not our refuge. There is nothing benign about nature. A tsunami destroys in its path the just and the unjust alike. The stronger infant must be taught not to take the food or the toy of the weaker. In the jungle, predators kill off the young, old and infirm.

As governments do today.

The Christian Gospels are a call to neither codes of behavior nor nature, but to the example of godliness above both social custom and nature. A call to the light.

Indifference is the heart of the darkness that now threatens the lives, liberty and security of many millions. Christians should be leading by example to the light that overcomes that darkness.

Mike Krauss was a pupil of the late Rev. Stanley A. Powell Jr., long time Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Levittown. Email: mike@mikekrausscomments.com

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The new "Untouchables"

Moving on with an election sham

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

Perhaps like you, I’m on the mailing list of all sorts of organizations, whether I particularly agree with their stated purposes or not. MoveOn is one of those. It’s one way to keep track of what’s going on in American politics and government.

I just received another invitation to a MoveOn event, this one urging me to a rally in Bensalem Township this week, to “join us in calling on President Obama to stand with the 99 percent and take on the housing crisis.”

The invitation goes on to explain that “President Obama has the opportunity to be a homeowner hero — by pushing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce mortgages to their fair market value. This will help millions of underwater homeowners and help get our economy back on track.”

It left me wondering, are the organizers at MoveOn hopelessly naive, or hopelessly cynical?

The administration has already taken a stand to address the tidal wave of foreclosures that still rolls across America: protect Wall Street and the 1 percent, whatever it takes.

The protection began when candidate Obama closed ranks with the 1 percent to push the Wall Street bailout through Congress.

The protection continued when President Obama installed Wall Street’s man as secretary of the Treasury, who as chairman of the Federal Reserve in New York had already collaborated with Bush Treasury Secretary Paulson to make sure Wall Street was rescued, whatever the cost to the American people and no matter the magnitude of the criminal fraud that caused the collapse.

Mr. Obama went on protecting Wall Street and the 1 percent when he re-appointed Fed Chairman Bernanke, who showered Wall Street with trillions of almost interest-free money, while Main Street collapsed.

And while Main Street was starved of the credit vital to a growing economy and jobs creation, the Fed pushed interest rates to near zero, in turn destroying the savings of millions of Americans — many senior citizens on fixed incomes, who now receive nothing for their savings, as prices rise.

And for three years, the Obama Justice Department has protected the criminals on Wall Street, as did the Bush administration.

In September 2004, The FBI warned in testimony before Congress that there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud and predicted that it would cause a “financial crisis” if it were not stopped.

It was not stopped, and the mortgage fraud exploded. Then, as noted by former regulator William Black and others, in 2008 the FBI geared up to do its job and go after the frauds, but “the Department of Justice (DoJ) deliberately, and successfully, sabotaged this effort to investigate the major frauds.”

Black, who led the effort that successfully prosecuted more than 900 criminals in the finance industry at the heart of the Savings and Loan Scandal of the 1980s, summed up the heart of the matter of the current scandal — a scandal of a magnitude never before seen.

He wrote, “The elite banking frauds who caused the Great Recession through their looting have done so with impunity.”

The new “Untouchables.”

Not one has been indicted on criminal charges — just a few civil suits and meaningless fines covered by insurance or picked up by shareholders.

Finally, and perhaps MoveOn missed it, there has been an announcement of the administration’s final solution to the housing crisis. It’s a one-two punch to the middle class.

First, the jab. A deal was cut to let Wall Street off the hook in exchange for a $25,000 reduction in mortgage principal for about 1 of 12 million homeowners still “underwater;” and about 750,000 of the many millions who lost homes will get a check for $2,000.

I can’t wait for the photos of members of Congress or mega-bank CEOs handing out checks to joyful homeowners and the now homeless dispossessed, sometime before the November elections.

Well, maybe not the homeless. First, you would have to find them; and second, someone might see them.

Then, the hook. The huge inventory of foreclosed and vacant homes of formerly middle class Americans which the federal government bought at above market prices to protect the big banks’ balance sheets, will now be sold off to “qualified investors” — in bulk — who will rent them back to those formerly middle class Americans.

The 1 percent will grow fatter still on the paychecks of renters, while they wait for the value of these assets to once again appreciate. Then they will sell them at a profit taxed at 15 percent as capital gains, and stuff themselves on yet another massive transfer of wealth from the 99 percent to themselves.

So, is the “team” at MoveOn who sign these invitations I receive naive or cynical? I vote na├»ve.

These invitations are written with all the eagerness of a freshman preening for an invite to the senior prom. They want so desperately to believe they have not been jilted.

And to prove they have not been jilted, they are eagerly helping to orchestrate a program of bought federal elections that will change nothing.

If there is to be a restoration of the prosperity of the American middle class, it will not be led by anybody or any organization now in Washington or party to this election sham.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Future of the GOP and Democrats


Do the GOP and Democratic Parties have a future?

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

Let’s have some fun, get out the crystal ball and predict the future of the Republican and Democratic parties.

The GOP is easy. It doesn’t have a future.

This is not because its leading candidates for president are (in order) hopelessly artificial, a religious fanatic and a swollen vanity — although that doesn’t help, of course.

The death of the GOP can be read not in a crystal ball, but in the tea leaves, or more precisely the demographics. Demographics are destiny, and the GOP has for decades been the party of the old, white America. And it is going.

Now, as I am one of those — an older, white American, descendent from the German and English speakers who first settled most of the original American colonies — you might think I find this cause for alarm, but I don’t.

The population and birth rates of American racial and ethnic groups have hit critical mass. The former white, mostly north European mainstream will become but one of many tributaries that feed the current, shift the mainstream and cut a new channel in history.

Get over it.

And more, the new America is younger and able to swim in the deeper end of the gene pool, and finds differences of race, religion, culture and social custom less of a threat than many of the older Americans — the GOP base — wading in the shallow end.

This if itself should not have been the death of the GOP. But unlike political parties with a future, the GOP never made an outreach to the future, never made any accommodation with reality. Instead, beginning with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” and the exodus of southern whites from the Democratic and into the Republican Party, the GOP has bet on the past.

Nixon was a shrewd politician. But his short-term electoral strategy sealed the fate of the GOP. George Bush tried to make the outreach to the fastest growing population of the United States — Hispanics — but he was beaten back.

Now the party is in its death throes. Interestingly, the GOP has decided not so much to circle the wagons for one last stand, but rather to go out guns blazing in one last suicidal, Picket’s Charge.

So the GOP in Congress opposes any compromise, makes no deals, doubles down on its shrinking base and produces a leading candidate for president who surely knows better, plus the afore mentioned fanatic and a puffed up ego.

Mr. Obama is easily the luckiest man to ever run for president. Which brings us to the Democrats.

Clearly, this is a party with a future, if only by default. But wait, what do I see in the crystal ball?

Mr. Obama has built his presidency on the alliance made by Bill Clinton with Wall Street and the 1 percent, and because his party in Congress is as dominated by Wall Street and the established interests of the 1 percent as is the GOP, the Democrats are losing the younger voters that flocked to the Obama banner in 2008.

You’ll find them at Occupy meetings and Ron Paul rallies, because they have no jobs, may never own a home as their parents did, and see the U.S. still chasing after war all over the world as ever more Americans move down the ladder of social mobility. They know they’ve been had.

The Democrats have a civil war on their hands. The party may have a short future.

Professional Democrats like the organizers of MoveOn are trying desperately to move Obama away from his sponsors and paper over the divide, but I don’t see it happening. Although I must caution, as any carnival fortune teller can tell you, the future is murky.

The GOP, in its last charge, is hitting first at the Democrats’ supply lines, trying by any and all means to disenfranchise as many young and non-white voters as possible, and also a lot of senior citizens. (That last makes sense if you want to gut Social Security and Medicare, as the GOP does.)

So the party further narrows its base from older, to older and well-to-do whites. The GOP will fail, Mr. Obama will be re-elected, and nothing will change.

No, wait. I see something.

There is something unclear. I see people who have taken a beating. A lot of them. Is there someone in your past called “middle class?” They are almost all white. And they are angry.

But, it doesn’t matter. I see another market crash again sometime shortly after the November election, all hell will break loose and the elections of 2014 will see the emergence of a new political party in the United States.

Or not.

As I said, it’s murky.

That’ll be two bucks, and thank you.