11 March 2016

The banal evil of Clintonomics

Clintonomics is destroying America, especially the Afro-American community, and the world.

This week the European Central Bank reduced interest rates to near zero in a desparate attempt to drive up growth.  That’s pretty much an indication of how bad things are, due to the world’s governments following the Hooveresque Clintonite policies of privatization, austerity, and surrender by governments of control over economic policy to the greed and avarice of the 1% and their agents in the world’s banking and finance industry. 

And yes, I mean Hoover as in Herbert and Clinton as in Bill and Hillary.

(Bill Clinton and friends as he gleefully destroys Glass-Steagall)

The ECB action and the stock market roller coaster in China are signs of what I and what many economists have been saying for years, that the Great Recession never ended, just entered temporary uplift.  Another crash is coming, one that will be even worse than 2008.  Hopefully by that time there will be no Obama to protect Wall Street and the Fourth Branch of American government, also known as Corporate America from the people with the torches and pitchforks.

More racist than Wilson

To find a more white supremacist administration than that of Bill Clinton, we have to reach back to Woodrow Wilson.  Wilson’s administration was actually more racist than that of Harding, who was initiated into the KKK inside the White House.  Upon taking office in 1913, Wilson made segregation official policy of federal civil service and the rest of government.  Two years later, watching 1915’s mega-blockbuster The Birth of a Nation at the first-ever movie screening in the White House, this “progressive” literally wept at its conclusion, saying, “It’s all too true”.

Only in the sense that the Democrat Woodrow Wilson was “progressive” can Democrats Bill Clinton and current presidential candidate Hillary be considered progressive.

More anti-poor than Hoover

The Clinton administration was not only the most racist since Wilson’s, it was the most anti-poor and most anti-empathetically pro-business since Hoover’s.  That adminstration can be accurately said to have begun on a de facto basis with Harding’s inauguration, since as Secretary of Commerce Hoover demanded full control of the administration’s economic policy, a state of affairs which continued under Coolidge, fully justifying the designation of Great Depression homeless camps as “Hoovervilles”.

Clinton called his faction of the formerly great party the “New Democrats” (while yet trying to claim the legacy of the president , FDR, whose legacy they have together destroyed), but I call them what they are, Trickle-down Democrats, both because of their economic policies and because under them democracy has only barely trickled down.  And that assessment includes the incumbent president, Barack Obama.

The “New” Democrats are little more than old, pre-Great Depression Republicans.  In fact, Alan Greenspan, the “supply-side” neoliberal chairman of the Federal Reserve appointed by Reagan and reappointed by Bill, said of him, “I think Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in a while”.


Ronald Reagan’s main assault against the middle and working class and poor people came in the form of the drastic reduction of the top tax rate from its Johnsonian-level 70% to 50% in 1981, his first year in office, then in 1987 to 38.5% and to 28% in 1988, while raising the rate for the lowest incomes from 11% to 15% in the same time frame.

Of course, he also destroyed the old and spectacularly effective GI Bill as well as beginning the withdrawal of funding from higher education and students that has been tuition at public colleges and universities climb 1000% and saddled college and university students with over one trillion dollar of collective debt.

Reagan may have turned the War on Poverty into War on the Poor and changed the struggle for civil rights into the struggle against equal rights, but Bill Clinton made those shifts “cool”.  By “cool”, I mean to liberals, specifically white liberals, along with those Afro-Americans who had already made it into the power structure.  With the Clinton “New Democrats”, dog-whistle racism and denigration of the working class and poor became acceptable.

The Clintons begin

Upon their arrival in Washington, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the real-life Frank and Claire Underwood, began the task of almost completely dismantling nearly every aspect of FDR’s New Deal, from destroying one of its most significant programs for social welfare to dismantling the protections put in place from citizens against rapacious corporations, in the process not only harming vast sections of the American populace but dismantling the long-existing coalition upon which the strength of their own party was based.

* * * * *

Step one was the begin to eradicate the trade barriers which protected American labor by ensuring fair rather than “free” trade, the more accurate term for the latter being “conscience-free” trade.  Reagan dealt organized labor a critical blow with his handling of the PATCO strike (as well as getting hundreds of airplane passengers killed), but it was Clinton who delivered the coup de grace to the back of the head.

The North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) of 1993 which was pushed through Congress with support from the Republican Party despite opposition from Clinton’s own Democratic Party and organized labor, this legislation paid the way for outsourcing of American jobs, downgraded standards of living for working people in both the USA and Mexico, and set up means through which financial and commericial interests became superior to national governments.

* * * * *

The gunsights of the Clinton administrations aimed next to start dismantling the Great Depression era laws and regulations protecting consumers and citizens and the national economy from the unrestrained greedy speculation which helped cause the crash of 1929.

Step one in this line of attack destroyed one of the basic foundations upon which many of the other protections were built.

The Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 abolished the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 prohibition against a bank holding company in one state acquiring a bank headquartered in another state.  This action laid the groundwork for the mergers and acquisitions of the 1990s and 2000s, but since commercial and investment banks still remained separate, the mergers stayed within those lines for the time being.

* * * * *

Reagan’s major legislation on violent crime, particulary drug crime, came in two pieces of legislation.  First was the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which established mandatory minimums for drug crimes, including a 100:1 disparity in length of sentence between crack cocaine and power cocaine, the former mostly sold and used by blacks and the latter by whites.  Second was the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which provided cover for law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country to seize untold millions of dollars in assets even without a defendant being convicted, or in some cases charged, of a crime.  But never in his wildest dreams would the Gipper have thought to have inflicted upon the citizens of the United States the onerous provisions contained in the Omnibus Crime Bill, of which Bill and Hillary are both so proud.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, written by Clinton ally Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and sponsored by Rep. Jack Brooks (D-TX) reaffirmed and expanded several provision of Reagan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Acts, eliminated higher education for inmates, prohibited Pell grants and other education assistance for felons, increased money for new prisons, prohibited felons from residing in public housing even if their families lived there, gave money to states for keeping prisoners inside longer, supported the private prison industry, and allowed for states to pass three-strikes laws. 

The economic devastation to the black community this one act alone has caused the black community makes me wonder why effigies of the Clintons are not being burned in Afro-American neighborhoods from sea to shining sea on a regular basis.

* * * * *

The next bit of tinkering by Clinton with legal protection for consumers from a rapacious credit industry may not have taken direct aim at FDR, but it was in that same spirit.

The Truth in Lending Class Action Relief Act of 1995, sponsored by Clinton ally Rep. Bill McCollum (D-Fla.), eased regulations on creditors and made it more difficult for clients to sue firms for securities fraud.

This was a foreshadowing of Clinton’s bill to restrict the ability of consumers—i.e., non-1% citizens—to avail themselves of bankruptcy protection.

* * * * *

The Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, sponsored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), loosened supervisory regulations over financial institutions and lessened creditor liability, to the significant disadvantage of clients and consumers.

A Republican bill, it nonetheless had the support of the Clinton administration.

* * * * *

Another assault against the economic well-being and justice for average Americans came wholly from the Clinton administration, though doubtless the faux Democrat consulted with his Republican allies ahead of time.

The same year as Shelby’s bill became law, the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, which is part of the executive branch, added to its regulations the Preemption Rule of 1995 overruling all state laws that regulated savings and loan credit activities. 

Because Reagan’s de-regulation of the S-and-L industry had worked out so well in the 1980’s.

* * * * *

The Clinton administration’s most profoundly vicious attack against the nation’s most helpless and defenceless came in the one single promise Bill kept from his 1992 campaign.  But then, the progressive in Arkansas who nicknamed him “Slick Willy” could have predicted that.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, introduced into Congress by Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) with support from the Clinton administration, destroyed the New Deal era Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) by placing a lifetime limit on welfare benefits, devolving responsibility for welfare to the states, instituting a punitive, demeaning “workfare-for-welfare” program, and greatly restricting the food stamp (now SNAP benefits) program in addition to adding similar “work” for the people receiving those, “public service” (chain gang) and “job search” requirements.  The destruction of AFDC also resulted in many citizens losing their Medicaid covereage as well.

Never in their wildest dreams of avarice and casual cruelty had any Republican president thought it possible to destroy so completely one of the most basic bedrock protections of the New Deal.

Both Bill and Hillary touted this atrocity as good for poor and working people.  Their version of saying they had to destroy the village that was raising the child in order to save both.

* * * * *

The next piece of legislation does not so much play a part in the economic devastation which the Clintons inflicted on the country as it shows their willingness to bully minorities to score political points, though it did cause around 10% of our population economic as well as emotional and spiritual hardship.

The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 defined marriage as between one man and one woman, thereby necessarily prohibiting same-sex marriage and giving legitimacy to bigots. 

Hillary vociferously defended the legislation as late as 2004.

* * * * *

Among some good provisions, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 included Title 3 which allowed for media cross-ownership (broadcast media companies being allowed to buy print media and ice versa) ad deregulated broadcast and telecommunications markets, leading to the current situation of all media in the U.S,A. being owned by just four corporations.  The effects of that situation on our freedom of choice, on our right to be accurately informed, and upon our economy shoudlbe readily apparent.

* * * * *

The next year, Clinton pandered to his Republican allies by bringing to life one of their long-term talking points and at the same time attacking a significant Great Society program.

The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 required a balanced federal budget by 2002, cut Medicare by $112 billion.

This set the stage for every government shut-down fight of the current century.

* * * * *

While Republicans had talked for decades about privatizing vast swaths of the federal government, it was Bill Clinton who put some of that talk into action, but few Americans know just how deeply this could have impacted were it not for a certain blue dress.

The would-be Privatization of Social Security and Medicare Act of 1997, at least initially on a partial basis, nearly came about as a result of a secret agreement between President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but plans were aborted by the outbreak of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Bill’s subsequent impeachment.

What state, I wonder, would Social Security and Medicare be in this year, 2016, had those two programs been subjected to the same forces released by Clinton era laws that caused so much devastation to so many.

* * * * *

Sponsored by Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), the next legislative initiative nonetheless had the full support of the Clinton camp.

The Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 repealed the remaining provisions of Glass-Steagall that distinguished between investment banks and commercial banks.

Glass-Steagall was the centerpiece of FDR’s legislation regulating the banking and finance industry from corruption and uncontrolled speculation.  Its loss set off a wave of megamergers among banks, as well as insurance and securities companies, reduced the number of separate institutions to six and created the “too big to fail” monsters that brought on the market crashes of 2008 through 2011 and sparked the Great Recession, which many correctly argue is still ongoing, except for the 1%.

* * * * *

The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 deregulated OTC (over-the-counter) derivatives trading.

This gave rise to the Enron debacle, and opened the door to an explosion in new, unregulated securities, including the credit default swap.

* * * * *

The American Homeownership and Economic Opportunity Act of 2000 made it harder for consumers to get out of lender-required insurance accompanying mortgages.

This is usually much more expensive than that which consumers can acquire on their own and often means the institution is double-dipping into consumers’ pockets.

* * * * *

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), made it far harder for consumers (but not businesses) to discharge debts through declaration of bankruptcy.  The first bill was initiated by the Clinton camp in 1997, but when it was finally passed in 2000, then First Lady Hillary, with an eye on her race for a seat as a Senator from New York, convinced President Bill to pocket veto it.  When the same legislation came up for a vote the next year, Sen. Hillary voted affirmative, though it failed due to opposition from other Democrats.  It is listed here because as passed in 2005 it is essentially the same as that drafted in 1997, and because of Hillary’s reversal.

* * * * *

Bill Clinton was not content for his political philosophy to destroy the social welfare protections of American citizens alone.  He enlisted Tony Blair of the UK’s Labour Party and Eric Schroeder of Germany’s Social Democratic Party to help spread his “Third Way”, which is the cause of global inability to deal with the Great Recession the way that FDR and his political allies world-wide dealt with the Great Depression. 

William Jefferson Clinton was the second coming not of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but of Herbert Clark Hoover.  Bill’s “Third Way” equals Greenspan’s neoliberalism, equals Reagan’s supply-side economics, equals Hoover’s trickle-down economics, equals the 1890’s horse-and-sparrow economics. 
This is the “sick and detested status quo “which Hillary, along with Bill, symbolizes, because more than any First Lady before or since, she was at the heart of every major action of Bill’s adminstration just as much as the fictional Claire has been at the heart of the fictional Frank Underwood’s.  It is the same status quo which led to the fictional Democratic Senator Jay Bulworth (see the movie Bulworth) to take out a contract against himself out of guilt over and disgust at what he and his fellow Democrats had become.

Should Hillary gain the nomination and win the subsequent election, this is the status quo for which those who vote for her will be approving, and she will no doubt be, in the eyes of Greenspan and his ilk, the “best Republican president we’ve had” in the 21st century.

The lesser of two evils is still evil, no matter how banal and mundane.

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