Nicholas Christoff argues in today’s NYTimes that the US has become a Banana Republic. This appears to update our posting Going Bananas on Sept 27th 2010[see below]. You, dear reader, say “what is this monkey business about the US being a Banana Republic”? So lets go to the Wikipedia definition of a Banana Republic:
Banana republic is a term that refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt politico-economic clique. The original concept of banana republic was a direct reference to a “servile dictatorship” that abetted (or supported for kickbacks) the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture, especially banana cultivation.
Hah! this hardly applies to the US.
But wait just a second – lets look at this definition more carefully. Substitute Banks and Financial Institutions for Agriculture Operations and one takes a big step towards Banana-ism because the Financial Sector since mid 1975 has moved from less than 8% of total US Business revenues and profits to
Original Sept 27 post: Going Bananas
Major historical events often do not have a consensus agreement on when exactly they occurred. For example, the exact date when the US emerged from a recession is decided by the NBER-National Bureau of Economic Research . But the NBER waited until September of 2010 to declare that the Great Recession was actually over in July 2009. A recent posting by Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman raises the question of whether the US is becoming a Banana Republic:
… these days one of America’s two great political parties routinely makes equally nonsensical promises. Never mind the war on terror, the party’s main concern seems to be the war on arithmetic. And this party has a better than even chance of retaking at least one house of Congress this November.
Banana republic, here we come.
So how did we get to the point where one of our two major political parties isn’t even trying to make sense?
The answer isn’t a secret. The late Irving Kristol, one of the intellectual godfathers of modern conservatism, once wrote frankly about why he threw his support behind tax cuts that would worsen the budget deficit: his task, as he saw it, was to create a Republican majority, “so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.” In short, say whatever it takes to gain power. That’s a philosophy that now, more than ever, holds sway in the movement Kristol helped shape.
And what happens once the movement achieves the power it seeks? The answer, presumably, is that it turns to its real, not-so-secret agenda, which mainly involves privatizing and dismantling Medicare and Social Security.
Realistically, though, Republicans aren’t going to have the power to enact their true agenda any time soon — if ever. Remember, the Bush administration’s attack on Social Security was a fiasco, despite its large majority in Congress — and it actually increased Medicare spending.
So the clear and present danger isn’t that the G.O.P. will be able to achieve its long-run goals. It is, rather, that Republicans will gain just enough power to make the country ungovernable, unable to address its fiscal problems or anything else in a serious way. As I said, banana republic, here we come.
Now Takethe5th would like to beg to differ with Mr. Krugman and propose the notion that the US has already gone politically Bananas. So the problem for you, dear readers, is to determine when the fruity deed was done.
What It Means to Go Banana Republic
As one would expect, Wikipedia is helpful in providing not a only a definition of the term but also some of its history. Going Banana Republic in politics is “a term that refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt politico-economic clique.” Now some would argue that the US does not qualify because bananas might be big in Hawaii but not in mainland US Agriculture. But then again Agriculture subsidies are no small potatoes in the US Political Economy.
However, on the question of whether the US is ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt politico-economic clique there seems to be a growing consensus that yes indeed there is a case for many of these symptoms – and not just Professor Krugman:
Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by Phillip Johnston
Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Hacker and Pierson
It Takes a Pillage: An Epic Tale of Power, Deceit, and Untold Trillions by Nomi Prins
These are three of dozens of 4-star books on Amazon which investigate not just the Financial Meltdown and Bailout of Wall Street but also some of the root causes behind the economic and political disaster that is continuing to take its toll on America.
So the question is now when did the US officially Go Bananas?
Here is a suggested reverse timeline:
February 2010 – The Republicans in the Senate use the Filibuster rule to stall any legislation they so choose raising the effective votes required from 51 to 60 to pass any Senate Bill. The Senate becomes the clog point for Presidential appointments as well as new legislation from this date onwards.
January 2010 – The Supreme Court affirms that corporations and special interest groups are exactly like individual persons and therefore these collectives can exercise Freedom of Speech rights including the ability to spend unlimited funds on lobbying and campaign contributions.
May 2009 – The Obama Treasury department brings only one financial player to court, Goldman Sachs, while the rumors are that there are several other financial cases awaiting final prosecution decisions. As it turns out, Bernie Madoff and 2 other slam-dunk Ponzi schemes are all the personal liability cases that the Obama Treasury and Justice departments care/dare to pursue.
February 2009 – The Obama administration rejects a truth and reconciliation commission investigation of the Bush Administration’s wrongdoings.
December 2008– Obama administration appoints some of the key players in the Financial Meltdown to Treasury Department and other key economic roles[Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary, Ben Bernanke stays on as Fed Chairman, Larry Summers as Head of Economic advisers]. The markets rally by 300 points on the announcement of Geithner’s posting.
September 2008 – Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson says pass his $750B TARP legislation without amendments or else. As a result his former employer, Goldman Sachs, receives bailouts totaling $20B plus a newly minted designation as a Bank with access to the Feds rock bottom low Fed rate window.
June 2007 – Bush immigration amnesty bill is defeated in Senate on Democrats forcing cloture vote [60 vote majority required].
November 2004 – President Bush win re-election despite blatant voting irregularities throughout the swing state of Ohio. Republican DOJ and Congress refuse to investigate.
March 2003 – Bush attacks Iraq with Shock and Awe bombardment under the pretense that Saddam has WMD-Weapons of Mass Destruction and was yet again tryingto go nuclear. No WMD were found and the purported nuclear/atomic purchases proved false and counterfeit.
December 2000 – The Supreme Court rules that it is not necessary to count all the votes in Florida and so Bush is declared the winner of the 2000 Presidential election.
These are just some of the more obvious banana peels that the US has slipped on its rush to full fledged Banana Republic designation. Add your own in the comments below and also vote for the Big Slip into Banana Republicdum – the decisive slippery slope off point for US Democracy.
Finally when you hear US representatives lecturing Iran or Afghanistan or China or Zambia on election fraud or the need for democratic reforms, do you laugh ironically or just cringe?