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Posted by on Jul 18, 2011 in Economy, Politics | 4 comments

All That Money Can Buy

As the dominoes continue to fall in the Murdoch Saga — the latest are Rebekah Brooks and Britian’s top police officer, Paul Stephenson — we are reminded yet again that our institutions, both public and private, have been corrupted by money.

The idea that money corrupts is certainly not new. But perhaps what is new — at least to some — is the idea that more money concentrated in fewer and fewer hands leads to political and social paralysis. If anyone doubts that proposition, consider the debt ceiling debate currently taking center stage in the United States. E.J. Dionne writes in this morning’s Washington Post that, while this debate has been brewing, Congress has not been focused on the real world:

The most obvious problem is unemployment. The best way, short term, to drive the deficit down is to spur growth and get Americans back to work. Has anyone noticed that Americans with jobs can provide for their families, put money into the economy — and, oh yes, pay taxes that increase revenue and thus cut the deficit?

There is no mystery about the steps government could take. Ramping up public works spending is a twofer: It creates jobs upfront and provides the nation’s businesses and workers the ways and means to boost their own productivity down the road.

Instead, the powers that be have been working hard to, as Paul Krugman also writes this morning, “let the bankers walk” because, they argue, not doing so would hold the economy back. But what’s holding the economy back is “the overhang of household debt, largely created by the $5.6 trillion in mortgage debt that households took on during the bubble years.”

Politics — on both sides of the pond — has become a protection racket. Money buys protection for the wealthy, whether they be the Murdochs or the big banks. And, as long as governments devote themselves to the concentration of wealth, it will always be so.

Dionne suggests there is a solution to the problem — if voters are wise enough to figure out that they have been had:

Every member of Congress who got us into this debt-ceiling fight should be docked six months’ pay. They wasted our time on political posturing instead of solving problems. Better yet, the voters might ponder firing them next year. This could do wonders for national productivity.

Owen Gray grew up in Montreal, where he received a B. A. from Concordia University. After crossing the border and completing a Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, he returned to Canada, married, raised a family and taught high school for 32 years. Now retired, he lives — with his wife and youngest son — on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. This post is cross posted from his blog.

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