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The big question: What went wrong?

By Kjersten Jeppesen

What went wrong?

That's the question filling the air-waves and print media since September '08.  As usual, the media projects the official line: that the crash was a complete surprise. There may be temporary outrage but it's directed toward their usual "culprits" and away from essential information.

It echoes Bush's assurance that "the economy is essentially sound."

Like many of us, independent economists are not that sanguine. Through independent media they are drawing the curtains back and exposing the fraud.  Creative "innovations" (derivatives, credit-default swaps, hedge funds, etc.*) in investing and lending were actually schemes or scams capable of bringing unbelievable rewards to the perpetrators and their associates while creating havoc in local communities.

The response from the mainstream becomes, "It's not the system, (or "capitalism") it's people!"

Warning signs were there all along.  Anyone old enough to remember "the great depression" could recognize that the concentration of "wealth" at the top of the population is not, and could never be, sustainable.

And outside the mainstream media, many voices cried out against the takeover of our lives and our system by multi-national corporations under the guise of "freedom from big government."Among the many voices of dissent was Tony Clarke, head of the Polaris Institute in Canada. In the preface of his book, SILENT COUP**, he writes of a 1994 Clinton gala for heads of state from North and South America.  This commemorates the first Summit of the Americas on the expansion of free trade throughout the hemisphere. Also present were chief executives from some of the largest corporations in the U.S., and/or the world.

Two Mexican journalists asked David Rockefeller, "Mr. Rockefeller, you were present back in the 1960's, during President Kennedy's Alliance for Progress Summit with the leaders of Latin America. Can you tell us what, if anything, has changed since then?"

"Well," he replied, "back then, businessmen like myself, were sitting on the sidelines, watching the negotiations unfold.  But now we're sitting in the driver's seat, and we're writing many of the documents ourselves."

In the book's text, Clarke runs through the steps in which Canadian legislation handed control of government to corporations. In reading the narrative, anyone who paid attention to U.S. congressional actions would recognize and remember the same legislative steps having occurred earlier in our own country.

Yet, we see that the government solutions are geared to preserving the institutions that allowed or perpetrated the scams. In their gut, most of us are thinking, should "our money" continue to go to crooks that've ripped us off?

Independent economists like Joseph Stiglitz fault the shift to de-regulation of the financial institutions. Along with us, they recognize that our elected representatives have ignored their responsibility to us, their constituents, and as Molly Ivans once said, "they danced with the guys what brung `em."

That means bail-outs for failed businesses and cut-backs in services to communities and the needy. It means more unemployment, and more need for food banks and presently unavailable low cost housing.

It means an increasingly deteriorating infrastructure, and increasing costs to the environment and ecosystem, more poverty and thus more crime, more stresses and anger resulting in more scapegoating of perceived enemies. It means possible new wars to supply perceived needs.

So where does that take us?  Does the Green Party have some answers? 

Well, let's look at our ten key values: Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equality, Ecological Wisdom, Non-Violence, Decentralization, Community-based Economics and Economic Justice, Feminism, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, Future Focus and Sustainability.

Which system would you expect to do a better fix? Better still, would a GREEN economy have created our present problems?

*Stiglitz includes what he calls "liar loans" with the other "innovations" and quotes Warren Buffet's labeling of derivatives as "weapons of mass destruction."  VANITY FAIR, Jan., 2009. **Tony Clarke, SILENT COUP, Confronting the Big Business Takeover of Canada, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, and James Lorimer Ltd.  1997.