The Deficit Commission

by Linda Beale

The Deficit Commission

Ever since Alice Rivlin spoke here at Wayne about her role on the upcoming Deficit Commission and her belief that we must cut entitlements, I have been worried. This seems like the same center-right coalition to undo the New Deal that has been rampaging in the country for four decades now–reaganomics, and with no heart.

Digby, reprinted in the Huffington Post, commiserates, at We (meaning you) Must Tighten Our Belts“. It is “interesting” to see that many millionaires feel quite at ease talking about the need to cut back on wages (blaming unions for the fact that owners have taken their businesses overseas where they can pay slave wages), delay social security benefits, tighten medicare requirements. But if you talk about taxing the rich, the response is always that this will “kill competitiveness” and “make the country poorer because there will be less investment.”

Funny, the bigger businesses get, the less competitive they seem to be–they become more like monopolies able to extract whatever they want from the consumer. Have you tried to order flowers for Mother’s Day? Every florist in a small town in Texas where my mother lives has the same national flower sales arrangements and pricing–so you can get an $8.00 azalea for $50 (plus $15 delivery). What a scam. It’s the thought that counts, but that thought costs more and more every year. Then look at the banks. I have a savings account with not a little cash in it at one of the big national banks: it pays so little interest that the bank probably spends more on tracking the interest than it does in paid interest. But their spreads are good–we lend money to them for practically nothing, but they charge an arm and a leg to lend it to the community. And Comcast–don’t get me started on them.

My problem, you see, is that I watched the movie Wall Street for the first time tonight. Made in 1987, the Wall Street of Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” was full of evil blokes who broke up companies because they felt like it and could make more millions doing it, no matter what it did to the workers. But that Wall Street, with the LBO guys tearing up firms, was tame compared to the Wall Street during the Bush regime where groups of smart traders lived to suck the lifeblood out of their customers to make themselves rich.

I have a friend who married a Goldman banker. When the crisis broke, she was terribly offended that people thought the bankers shouldn’t get their huge bonuses. “We earned it” she practically screamed in her email to me. “Why shouldn’t we get it when we worked for it.” I remember thinking then, that something different had happened on Wall Street when even the relatively little fish in the big banks had that absolute sense of entitlement, but were quite ready to heap piles of scorn on the “welfare queens” and all those ordinary little people who had some sense of being “entitled” to Social Security in their old age.