Sunday, November 14, 2021

Civil War Bubbling In The Witches Brew Of Unprecedented Corporate Profits

taibbi |  Compared with how often you heard pundits rage about the “insurrection,” how regularly did you hear that billionaire wealth has risen 70% or $2.1 trillion since the pandemic began? How much did you hear about last year’s accelerated payments to defense contractors, who immediately poured the “rescue” cash into a buyback orgy, or about the record underwriting revenues for banks in 2020, or the “embarrassment of profits” for health carriers in the same year, or the huge rises in revenue for pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, all during a period of massive net job losses? The economic news at the top hasn’t just been good, it’s been record-setting good, during a time of severe cultural crisis.

Twenty or thirty years ago, the Big Lie was usually a patriotic fairy tale designed to cast America in a glow of beneficence. Nurtured in think-tanks, stumped by politicians, and amplified by Hollywood producers and media talking heads, these whoppers were everywhere: America would have won in Vietnam if not for the media, poverty didn’t exist (or at least, wasn’t shown on television), only the Soviets cuddled with dictators or toppled legitimate governments, etc. The concept wasn’t hard to understand: leaders were promoting unifying myths to keep the population satiated, dumb, and focused on their primary roles as workers and shoppers.

In the Trump era, all this has been turned upside down. There’s actually more depraved, dishonest propaganda than before, but the new legends are explicitly anti-unifying and anti-patriotic. The people who run this country seem less invested than ever in maintaining anything like social cohesion, maybe because they mostly live in wealth archipelagoes that might as well be separate nations (if they even live in America at all).

All sense of noblesse oblige is gone. The logic of our kleptocratic economy has gone beyond even the “Greed is Good” mantra of the fictional Gordon Gekko, who preached that pure self-interest would make America more efficient, better-run, less corrupt. Even on Wall Street, nobody believes that anymore. America is a sinking ship, and its CEO class is trying to salvage the wreck in advance, extracting every last dime before Battlefield Earth breaks out.

It’s only in this context that these endless cycles of hyper-divisive propaganda make sense. It’s time to start wondering if maybe it’s not a coincidence that politicians and pundits alike are pushing us closer and closer to actual civil war at exactly the moment when corporate wealth extraction is reaching its highest-ever levels of efficiency.

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