The Three Ring Circus and the Hidden Ring Leaders: The Once Percent, the Banking Crises, and the Rest of Us
Hold on. Stop the tape. This video is quaint and sweet, but unfortunately, it’s terribly outdated.
Granted, the circus metaphor is accurate; like a circus, the US Government is loaded with clowns, freaks, and animals. And, like the US Government, it is supported by two kinds of people: the audience, who is duped into paying exuberant ticket prices to ensure the circus stays afloat, and the investors, who make sure the show gets on its feet, and that the show is one they are interested in.
And, of course, the ring is loaded with advertisements from sponsors.
It would probably be a lie to say the government ever functioned like School House Rock claims, especially not in 1979, when “Three Ring Government” was released. In 79, we were on the threshold of the Reagan era, in which the role of corporate power over government would be greater than ever.
Small Government, Big Business
The Republican platform usually entails lots of screaming about Small Government. A more honest portrayal of the party’s philosophy would be Small Government… Big Business. From the start, Reagan set his sights on deregulating banks, destroying workers’ unions, increasing taxes for the poor and decreasing them for the rich, freezing the minimum wage, cutting federal assistance to local governments, cutting the budget for public housing, raising taxes eleven times during the course of his presidency, and cutting the budgets for Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Education. A busy man, he took a brief break to get shot.
But one of his most coveted pet projects failed: Reagan could not dismantle the Glass-Steagall Act.
The Glass-Steagall Act was part of FDR’s Banking Act of 1933, which tightened regulation on the banking system and prohibited co-pollination between commercial and investment banks. The Ayn Rand Fan’s worst nightmare.
The First Bush – who was apparently so good that America demanded a lesser sequel – failed as Reagan had failed before him.
Elephants and Donkeys Crush Mice
It was Democrat Bill Clinton who would complete Reagan’s work. With the help of Objectivist Randriod* Alan Greenspan, Chair of the Federal Reserve, Phil Gramm, Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and other men in black suits of both Republican and Democrat Parties, Clinton destroyed the Glass-Steagall Act. The banks were suddenly deregulated, allowing Wall Street tycoons to gamble with the money of the Everyman, and loan sharks were given permission to offer housing loans to people who could not afford to pay them back. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (now known as “The Enron Loop Hole”,) was signed into law by Clinton. This allowed bankers to swap credit defaults, futures, and Over-the-Counter Derivatives, and was one of the driving forces behind the 2008 Recession.
How’d these laws get passed, you say? Clearly, they don’t favor working people, the class the Democrats supposedly champion.
The Ring Leaders
The answer is simple. Returning to the Circus metaphor, we have the “three rings” of government: the Legislative Branch (Congress), the Judicial Branch (the Supreme Court) and the Executive Branch (the President and his Cabinet.) But there’s no rings without funding. The lobbyists, corporate lapdogs and corrupt lawyers, are the ones funneling money into the political campaigns. They make sure that their interests are represented, and their interests are the maintenance of their wealth and power.
The government was purchased a long time ago. The economic crash is the result of the greed of the ruling class of business tycoons, hedge-fund managers, and billionaires – the 1%.
The circus goes on. When are we going to stop sucking down coke and popcorn and realize the show kinda sucks?
Solutions, Solutions, Solutions?
Occupy Wall Street (2011-2011, Zombified in 2012-present), did a great job of raising awareness for the issue of wealth inequality, but did little to actually change the way things are done in Washington. I believe there are many reasons why Occupy failed at achieving its primary goal. The media and the political forces in Washington focused on the fringe elements in the organization – the 9/11 Truthers, the Anarchists, the slugs wearing V for Vendetta masks – rather than the legitimate concerns the movement attempted to raise.
Further complicating issues was the admirable but doomed decision to have no centralized leadership, which resulted in numerous voices clouding the message. Every successful movement has either a figurehead, symbolic leader, or a victim to rally around (Consider the famous names and tragic victims connected with the Civil Rights Movement, the gay rights movement, the woman’s liberation movement, etc.) Occupy was barely organized chaos.
And, the ultimate reason why Occupy has not changed anything in the long run, has nothing to do with Occupy itself. It has to do with money, it has to do with the laziness of the general public, it has to do with our comfortable, tolerable lives.
There’s only so much a people can take. Soon – whether in a day, a week, a year, or fifty – the people will be sick of dumb entertainment, of new apps and new phones, of reality TV and lotto dreams, and will be moved towards dismantling the establishment that we no longer control. I only hope it won’t be too late by the time everyone wakes up.
1. The Great American Stick-Up: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Robbing Main Street, by Robert Scheer; Nation Books, Sept 7, 2010.
2. Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at the Government’s Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston, Portfolio Trade; Dec. 30 2008
3. Time Mag: 25 People to Blame for the Financial Crises, various contributors,
4. New Class Society: Goodbye American Dream? by Robert Perrucci, Earl Wynsong, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Aug 10 2007
5. Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It, by Thom Hartman, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, April 28 2007
6. Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream, documentary film by Alex Gibney/PBS. Viewable on Netflix.
7. Distribution of Wealth by Country, Article, Paxton House.
*Note: The “Randroid” hyperlink goes directly to the Ayn Rand Institute. It is my belief that any person of a respectable moral character can read directly from Ayn Rand’s own website and determine the insidous nature of her personality and philosophy.