February 21, 2012

Yet Another Appeal to Non-Existent Gods

A few years ago, in a series of posts about the economic unraveling of the United States, I cited Mike Whitney a number of times. Whitney was very perceptive about many aspects of what was happening and why. To put it informally: I'm predisposed to like the guy's writing.

But as the ruling class's grip on those who are not favored by wealth and power grows constantly tighter, as the ruling class throttles the little remaining life out of those of us struggling merely to survive, laments of this kind grow more and more wearisome. Whitney begins by describing the latest outrage:
Under the terms of the 50-state mortgage foreclosure settlement, US taxpayers could end up paying billions in penalties that were supposed to be paid by the banks. That’s the gist of a front-page story which appeared in the Financial Times on Thursday, February 17. The widely-cited article by Shahien Nasiripour notes that the 5 banks that will be effected [sic] by the settlement — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial – will be able to use Obama’s mortgage modification program (HAMP) to reduce loan balances and “receive cash payments of up to 63 cents on the dollar for every dollar of loan principal forgiven.”

And that’s not all. If borrowers stay current on their payments after their loans are restructured, the banks could qualify for additional government funds which (according to the FT) “could then turn a profit for the banks according to people familiar with the settlement terms.”

How do you like them apples? Leave it to the bank-friendly Obama administration to turn a penalty into a windfall.
Whitney sets forth additional details of this scheme to make the wealthy and powerful still more wealthy and powerful, and then writes:
It’s also worth reviewing what this case is all about, which is industrial-scale fraud directed at millions of people whose lives have been ruined by the banks.
After explaining that "industrial-scale fraud" a bit more, Whitney states the question which appears to remain a burning concern for him:
So, why are we talking about “mortgage foreclosure settlements” instead of criminal prosecutions? Why hasn’t anyone gone to jail with evidence this compelling?
And he repeats the point in his concluding paragraph:
Forget about the mortgage-foreclosure settlement. It means nothing. Someone has to go to jail. That’s what matters.
The title of his article emphasizes the question: "Why Hasn't Anyone Gone to Jail?"

The question assumes that "the law" exists in a manner separate and independent from particular actors in our corporatist-authoritarian system of government -- that "the law" will in some unspecified manner root out wrongdoing and punish it. That particular assumption will reliably be found in fifth-grade civics textbooks. It has no place in discussions conducted by adults about politics in the real world.

To conceive of "the law" in the fashion Whitney does is to embrace the State's own propaganda. As I have recently discussed with regard to this entirely false conception, "The Law Is a Lie." This brief passage from another recent post is to the same effect:
For the ruling class, "the rule of law" isn't a means of protecting you or your liberty. It's a means of enforcement, a critical way of protecting their own power and wealth.
This particular example of State propaganda goes back to the founding of the United States, as I pointed out several months ago:
What killed "democracy" in America? What gave the government over to the wealthy and powerful?

The Constitution. Of course.

The American Change in Management (formerly known as the "American Revolution," and we should work to make that "formerly" an actuality in usage) surely ranks as one of the more effective propaganda triumphs in history.


The Constitution created a government of, by and for the most wealthy and powerful Americans -- and it made certain (insofar as men can make such things certain) that their rule would never be seriously threatened. The most wealthy and powerful Americans were the ones who wrote it, after all.
After a lengthy discussion of these issues, that post set forth two examples of invocations just as futile and pointless as Whitney's: Chris Hedges' plea for "a return to the rule of law," and Glenn Greenwald's entirely erroneous claim that the law "has been completely perverted." I briefly explained why both those writers were fundamentally mistaken:
What we have today is the rule of law -- the rule of law as conceived and implemented by the ruling class. As is true of the State itself, the law will always be conceived and implemented by someone -- and those who conceive and implement it will be those who have the most power. This should not be a difficult point to grasp, certainly not for those who regularly write political commentary.
The law has not been "perverted." The truth is exactly the opposite. "The law" is serving the precise function for which it was designed -- to serve, in Greenwald's own words, as "a weapon used by the most powerful to protect their ill-gotten gains, strengthen their unearned prerogatives, and ensure ever-expanding opportunity inequality." This is what history tells us repeatedly, as set forth in Bouton's book and other books on the same theme.

Moreover, this must be true if we are talking about "the law" of any State at all. (See "The State and Full Spectrum Dominance" and the detailed discussion here, as well.) It is again the most obvious point that seems to remain entirely invisible: The State and "the law" will always be devised and implemented by those with the most power: that is why they are devising them and not you. To expect the powerful to erect a system that will strip them of every advantage they possess fails to comport with the lengthy testimony of history, or indeed with human nature itself.
I recently set forth some ideas about how those of us opposed to the criminality of an attack on Iran might fight against the massive wall of propaganda erected by the State and its willing enablers in the media (and its perhaps unwitting enablers, as well). I will take this opportunity to suggest that a similar campaign could be devised to take a message directly to the American public about the actual nature of "the law," and how "the law" is used by the ruling class to make itself ever more wealthy and powerful, and to systematically impoverish, brutalize and destroy the rest of us.

But it appears that no one who enjoys a platform with a large audience is interested in advancing my suggestions in a way that might lead to the realization of a campaign of that kind -- as well as to the further possible results that I described. I was trying to help, but I now think that I myself was quite foolish.

We all tend to cling to fables that give us hope, however faint it may be. I think I should be prepared to give up mine. I still have hope, but it's of a very different kind and lies in another direction, as I'll be discussing soon.