Saturday, May 30, 2020

Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Triumphalism in Religion and Politics

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.


Triumphalism is excessive exultation over one’s success.  That’s a signature trait of Donald Trump, and it’s also a central theme of church doctrine.  The irony is that Jesus opposed triumphalism with his teachings on humble service, reconciliation and sacrificial love for others. Conversely, the church has sought triumphalism based on its popularity and worldly power.

Triumphalism is a corrupting force in religion and politics.  In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer.  Satan has been triumphant in America by doing a convincing imitation of God in the church and politics.  That’s evident in America’s divisive partisan politics.

Triumphalism is where religion and politics intersect, and in foreign policy it’s in the form of American exceptionalism.  That’s the American version of colonialism, the Christian Crusades and Inquisitions--and Islam has its Jihads.  They base their political triumphalism on religious exclusivism (one true faith), which conflicts with the altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus.

American exceptionalism is based on the popular ideal that American democracy and culture are a shining light on a hill that should be replicated around the world.  America’s materialistic and hedonistic culture indicates otherwise; Americans would do well to clean up their own house before attempting to impose their standards of legitimacy and values on others.        

Over 70% of American voters claim to be Christians, and most white Christians elected a triumphalist president in 2016.  Trump exemplifies the moral corruption of American politics and the unrestrained greed of crony capitalism that pervades Wall Street and the Silicon Valley.  In  religion and politics triumphalism has supplanted the altruistic teachings of Jesus in America.

The moral teachings of Jesus are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.  That’s a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims; but in America winning is a supreme virtue, so there is little humility in the church, politics or business.    

In the church triumphalism is based on belief that Jesus Christ overcame Satan’s power of evil with the Resurrection; but after more than 2,000 years, the spiritual victory of good over evil seems wishful thinking.  In 2016 Jesus was crucified once again, this time on the altar of partisan politics when white Christians put Trump on America’s political throne.
           
The primary virtues of popularity, power and triumphalism are so interwoven in America’s culture, religion and politics that it would take a moral reformation to create a church that’s true to the altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus; and even if such a church emerged from the moral wreckage of today’s church, it would never be popular enough to elect a president.


Notes:

Jesus sided with the losers, not the triumphant winners.  He said the last shall be first and the first last (Mk 9:35; 10:31; 10:44; Mt 19:30; 20:16; 20:27; Lk 13:30), and he blessed the poor losers and damned the rich winners in Luke’s Beatitudes. (Lk 6:20-26).  Jesus was critical of worldly rulers and their triumphalism.  He taught that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.” (Mk 10:42-44)  

Jesus taught his followers that the road to life (salvation) was narrow and that few would enter it, while the road to destruction was wide and popular. (Mt 7:13, 14; Lk 13:24)  The church realized that the cost of discipleship (following Jesus) would not be popular and subordinated following Jesus to belief in exclusivist church doctrines that required worshiping Jesus Christ as a Trinitarian god as the only means of salvation.  That enabled the church to become the most popular and powerful social institution in the world.   

Wikipedia defines triumphalism as the attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, religion, culture, or social system is superior to and should triumph over all others.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumphalism.

On churches militant, penitent and triumphant, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churches_Militant,_Penitent,_and_Triumphant.


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and Money Grows on Trees

    By Rudy Barnes,Jr.    


What an absurd title for a commentary on monetary policy--or is it?  Unemployment in America will soon match that of the Great Depression.  Congress has appropriated over $2 Trillion in financial aid and there’s a House bill for another $3 Trillion; and the Federal Reserve has assured investors that it will continue to provide Wall Street with cheap money.  The stock market is booming again while much of America remains out of work.

Is our national debt really a debt, or does money grow on Fed trees?  We are told that America need not be concerned with a default on its debt since it can create new money to pay it.  American monetary policy has produced a dysfunctional form of capitalism.  The stock market is no longer a barometer of the American economy but of the wealth and power of crony capitalism on Wall Street.  

Congress is polarized by partisan politics, but both parties support more spending to stimulate the economy. The Fed has acknowledged that the economy is in bad shape, but has predicted a full recovery in a year or two, and in spite of dire economic predictions has assured investors a high return on overpriced stock with a continuing flow of cheap money to Wall Street,   

What’s going on?  Is America facing a pandemic recession or just a pause in its booming economy?  Economists have mixed opinions.  The Fed’s monetary policy remains a mysterious source of new dollars while Congress has run up a national debt approaching $30 Trillion.       

Since 2008 the Fed has kept interest rates low to encourage borrowing and spending to stimulate what was a booming economy--until the pandemic hit.   Artificially low interest rates have discouraged CDs and savings accounts, leaving the stock market the only place to find a decent return on savings, with negative interest rates now a real possibility. 

The illicit partnership between the Fed and Wall Street is increasing disparities in wealth that are undermining the middle class.  While the Fed continues to provide cheap money to sustain mega-corporations during the pandemic, small businesses that aren’t beneficiaries of such Fed largess but that have provided the competition needed for a healthy economy continue to fail.
  
The crony capitalism that now pervades U.S. politics is the product of monetary policy that lacks public understanding and accountability.  It will be difficult to regulate the partnership between the Fed and the mega-corporations that control most of the means of production and political power in America, with their king in the White House and a Congress beholden to them.  

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and money grows on trees in the never-never land of the Fed.  The problem is that only the rich are getting the goodies, leaving an astronomical national debt to encumber America’s future.  In the real world of democratic politics, voters must reform the Scrooge of crony capitalism to make things right.        


Notes:


Brent Schrotenboer has described the process used by the Federal Reserve in “printing” money to save the economy, and noted that some wonder how far it can go.  “In its frantic scramble to save the American economy, the central bank of the United States seems to have the ultimate superpower. It works like magic. With a few strokes on a computer, the Federal Reserve can create dollars out of nothing, virtually "printing" money and injecting it into the commercial banking system, much like an electronic deposit. By the end of the year, the Fed is projected to have purchased $3.5 trillion in government securities with these newly created dollars, one of many tools it is using to help prop up the ailing economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Oxford Economics.  “The way you and I have checking accounts in our banks, that’s how all these other banks have accounts at the Fed,” said Pavlina Tcherneva, an economist at Bard College in New York. ‘All the Fed does is literally credit them. They just type it in.’”  See

Fed minutes show fears of ‘extraordinary amount of uncertainty and considerable risks.  See  https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/20/fed-minutes-released.html.

The Fed is sending mixed messages on its monetary policies.  
On one hand, “Fed Chairman Jay Powell told investors that the central bank’s checkbook remains wide open, strongly hinting that more monetary policy stimulus is on the way.”  See  https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/18/stocks-today-economy-moderna/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most.  

On the other hand, the Fed has warned investors, “the Fed aims, among other things, to make clear that when you put money into the market, you risk losing that money. There is no explicit Fed backstop in the equity market.  ...Since late March, volatility has come down, but remains elevated relative to historical norms, and liquidity remains poor,” the Fed said.  In other words, the stock market continues to be risky.  And this commentary in part seems aimed at addressing the idea that the Fed is basically guaranteeing to investors that stock prices will continue to rise.  The message from the Fed is clear: no promises.”  See

Marketwatch reports Kenneth Rogoff, former IMF chief economist, saying Fed’s bond buying is smoke and mirrors and doesn’t solve U.S. debt problems.  See  https://www.marketwatch.com/amp/story/guid/8E48F008-9A9A-11EA-8B70-DE183C938A05.

While the Fed is providing more cheap money to mega-corporations, Trump has announced an executive order “suspending” regulations impeding U.S. economy.  That’s another dimension of crony capitalism.  https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-press-conference-today-executive-order-economy-regulations-coronavirus-a9523126.html.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Musings on the Evolution of America's Libertarian Democracy to Kleptocracy

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.


Not long after America was born as a libertarian democracy, the Civil War exploded that libertarian ideal and ushered in American plutocracy.  The Great Depression and World War II then intervened with 20 years of dysfunction before America’s plutocracy was restored.  Were it not for the pandemic, after 2016 America could well have evolved into a Trumpian kleptocracy.  

The pandemic has blown the cover of Trump and his crony capitalist kleptocrats, but it’s still uncertain what American democracy will look like after the pandemic.  The November elections will give us a preview.  If the Democrats win, the crony capitalists on Wall Street will run for cover.  American capitalism will once again be regulated, if not reinvented.

Capitalism has long been an integral part of American political culture based on its innovation and competition that has balanced the natural greed of capitalists.  But since the 1990s, economic and political power has been concentrated on Wall Street, with competition reduced by mega-mergers. Increasing disparities in wealth now threaten economic justice.

The pandemic has revealed a dysfunctional economy supported by Federal Reserve and Congressional interventions that began in 2008 to save mega-corporations that were “too big to fail.”  Public subsidies have protected Wall Street and Silicon Valley from economic failure since then, and the pandemic has increased those public subsidies for mega-corporations.

Since 2008 public subsidies have favored Wall Street over Main Street.  In downturns small businesses have failed while mega-corporations have been protected from failure with unlimited assistance from the Fed and a benevolent Congress beholden to their patrons on Wall Street.  America has been evolving into a nascent kleptocracy based on crony capitalism.

The pandemic was the triggering event that turned an economic downturn into an economic disaster, with unemployment levels not seen since the Depression.  America was a decadent and divided nation before COVID-19 struck, and after staying at home so long Americans may have forgotten just how decadent and divided they were before the pandemic.

Ross Douthat’s latest book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, was published before the pandemic.  Walter McDougall has noted that Douthat hoped America’s decadence and division would resolve itself into a renaissance rather than a revolution; but McDougall isn’t so sure about sharing Douthat’s optimism.

Whatever comes next remains a mystery, but American democracy will be different after the pandemic--just as it was after the Civil War and World War II.  Will America experience a renaissance and be reborn as a revitalized libertarian democracy, resume as the plutocracy it was before 2016, or will it evolve into Trump’s image of an American kleptocracy? 

Notes

A plutocracy is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income.  See

A kleptocracy is a government with corrupt leaders (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political powers.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kleptocracy.   

Walter A. McDougall has noted, “Douthat describes the symptoms of our national decadence in four pithy chapters. The first symptom is economic stagnation resulting from the demographic aging of the population, runaway national debt, the collapse of educational standards, and the surprising loss of American technological dynamism. The second is sterility resulting from the natural drop in the birthrate of a wealthy information-age society, but also from feminism, abortion, divorce, the decline of marriage, and the soaring cost of child-rearing. The third is sclerosis most obviously displayed in the paralysis of a gridlocked government that used to win world wars but today cannot even pass a normal budget. The fourth symptom is repetition, being a lazy lack of creativity reflected in Hollywood’s habit of making “remakes of remakes.” 
McDougall recommends readers to pair Douthat’s The Decadent Society with James Kurth’s new book The American Way of Empire: How America Won a World—But Lost Her Way. “Among much else, Kurth describes the “preferred domestic public policies” as well as the foreign policies of three American plutocracies. The first rose to power in the 1880s and 1890s on the strength of industrial sectors such as coal, steel, railroads, and oil. Its captains of industry, or “robber barons,” wanted a political system that seemed bracingly democratic, but in fact ensured that both political parties would do their bidding by supporting the gold standard, protective tariffs, a big navy, and foreign markets through the “Open Door” policy. The second American plutocracy that arose in the 1920s and 1930s was split between industry and the financial sector which rose like a rocket during and after the Great War. Wall Street favored free trade and internationalism and thus quarreled with the industrialists of the Middle West. When the Great Depression hit both were hurt badly, but did not succumb to populist or leftist movements thanks to Franklin Roosevelt, World War II, and Harry Truman.
The third American plutocracy is dominated by the financial sector, which hollowed out American industry, not only by promoting free trade overseas, but by promoting multinational corporations after 1960 and globalization after 1990. So we have our plutocracy to thank for the Rust Belt with its abandoned working class. The most scandalous proof of its power to manipulate public policy is Washington’s response to the Great Recession caused by the greed of the financial sector beginning in 2008. Nearly all the “too big to fail” financial institutions were awarded generous bailouts funded by ordinary taxpayers or else tacked onto the national debt (which doubled under George W. Bush and doubled again under Barack Obama).
...Meanwhile, the new billionaires of the tech industry—who were already “woke”—not only joined the plutocracy but contributed to it the means to anesthetize the “deplorables” in the hinterland. Not that the founders of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and the rest of those veritable sovereignties intended to exercise dystopian social control but, having done so, are not about to let go of their algorithms.
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, what may happen next is a mystery. But Douthat thinks a radical revolution in the United States is extremely unlikely given that its population is much richer and older than those of say, late Imperial Russia or Weimar Germany, and is atomized and tranquilized by the internet. Instead, he hopes for a renaissance inspired, perhaps, by simultaneous scientific and religious revivals, because “there can also be a mysterious alchemy between the two forms of human exploration. And nothing will be a surer sign that decadence has ended in something like a renaissance than if that alchemy suddenly returns.”
In How the Irish Saved Civilization, his little classic on the so-called Dark Ages following the fall of the Roman Empire, Thomas Cahill quotes cultural historian Kenneth Clark to the effect that “Civilization requires confidence—confidence in the society in which one lives, belief in its philosophy, belief in its laws, and confidence in one’s own mental powers…. Vigour, energy, vitality: all the great civilizations—or civilizing epochs—have had a weight of energy behind them.” Can Americans recover that confidence and display that energy after this emergency has passed? Will a critical mass of them come to realize (as Robert Pirsig wrote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) that the decadence of a technological civilization lies in its worship of Quantity over Quality?  
I believe we shall know that postmodern America has begun to exit La D├ęcadence only when her people embrace faith, hope, and charity, and begin to create beauty again.”  See

Robin Wright has asked: Is America’s ‘one nation indivisible’ being killed off by the coronavirus?  “The existential but conflicting issues spawned by the pandemic—the right to life and physical health versus the right to liberty and economic health—have provided the perfect vector for new fissures in America. The gun-toting protesters may be a minority, but polls show that the President’s positions on the role of the state during the pandemic have solid public backing. In the midst of Trump’s skirmish with Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, his job-approval rating soared by six points, to forty-nine per cent, according to a new Gallup poll released on Thursday. It tied for Trump’s personal best in Gallup’s polling data. Forty-seven per cent disapprove. America is a country evenly and bitterly divided. But Americans should remember, ...“there won’t be any blue or red rooms in heaven.”  See



Saturday, May 9, 2020

Exposing the Corruption of Crony Capitalism

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.


Crony Capitalism is the illicit relationship between big business and government.  Since the beginning of the pandemic the mega-corporations on Wall Street have received vast sums from the CARES Act and the Federal Reserve to prevent layoffs and continue their operations, but they have since laid off thousands and are paying generous dividends to attract investors.

The deceit is now exposed.  After the stock market crash in March, the stock market is booming again with investors once again clamoring for overvalued stock despite unemployment being at an all time high and the economy failing catastrophically.  It’s clear evidence of crony capitalism, with Wall Street attracting greedy investors with stock buybacks and dividends.

The money for the buybacks and dividends has come from Congress and the Federal Reserve,  Congress made sure the CARES act provided a loophole for its patrons on Wall Street, and the Fed continues to provide them with billions in cheap money.  Wall Street is awash in cash.  It has all it needs to attract investors with public money.

The corruptions of crony capitalism are obvious.  Wall Street controls most of the means of production in America and has bought Congress with their contributions.  They have avoided regulation and received a large chunk of congressional pandemic aid for business--even small businesses; and they have been receiving cheap money from the Fed since 2008 as well as a continuous flow of cash from 401(k) plans.  They don’t need to make a profit to attract investors.

The pandemic has exposed crony capitalism as a cancer on America’s economy.  The sums are staggering.  Wall Street franchises were treated as small businesses to qualify for Cares Act funding, and the Fed has increased its flow of cheap money to Wall Street.  Before the pandemic the unrestrained greed of corrupt capitalism went largely unnoticed--but no more.

The pandemic has closed many small businesses that were providing a measure of competition for the mega-corporations of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and many will never reopen.  Most of the aid for failing businesses has gone to Wall Street and Silicon Valley.  They were never in danger of closing, but happy to get the cash and eliminate their competition.

The stock market represents the heart of corrupt capitalism, but not the economy. Investors in stocks that offer generous returns bolstered by buybacks and dividends made possible with public funding from Congress and the Fed are a part of the problem.  They are collaborators with crony capitalists in sharing the fruits of their unrestrained greed.  

The obvious solution is to regulate big businesses and restore the competition lost in mega-mergers.  The problem is that Congress is beholden to crony capitalists who fund their campaigns and are reluctant to provoke their patrons with unfavorable legislation.  But voters have the final word.  They can make it clear to Congress that they must end crony capitalism.


Notes:

Zachary Karabell has noted that “Stocks are recovering while the economy collapses.  ...On March 23, U.S. stock markets closed the day after a multi-week plunge of nearly 30%. Since then, the U.S. economy has been in free-fall, with more than 26 million people filing for unemployment, waves of retail stores on the edge of bankruptcy, energy and oil companies teetering on the brink, travel grounded, and the GDP was down 4.8% in the first quarter and this quarter is likely to be much worse. The stock market? Overall, stocks are up across all indices more than 30% from that low point in late March.
What is going on? How can it be that stocks are soaring when the economy is crashing? Market movements are often head-scratching, but in this case, the answer may be relatively simple: because of moves by the Federal Reserve, financial markets are awash in money, vast, water-hose supplies of money. Since March, the Fed has committed to lend or buy trillions of dollars of financial assets, which by some estimates might end up exceeding $8 trillion dollars by the time all is said and done. No one knows how high that figure will climb. By way of comparison, during the last financial crisis in 2008-2009, the Fed ended up adding about $3 trillion over the course of several years.
And it’s not just the Fed. Congress has allocated almost $3 trillion in economic aid; the Bank of Japan is doing much the same as the Fed for the world’s third largest economy; the European Central Bank is not far behind, and multiple governments around the world are following suit.
The result is that even as real-world economies freeze and implode in the short-term, financial markets are buoyed by a tsunami of liquidity.
That troubles many investors, who see either sharp spikes of inflation or dire reckoning ahead for stocks and bonds. Respected investor Jeffery Gundlach, one of the most influential bond managers, warned this week that markets will soon head south fast and the people should be more “wary of panaceas.” Analysts at Bank America posit that the recent market strength is simply a dead-cat bounce like what happened in 2008 before a more intense crash later that year. Others believe that all the liquidity in the world cannot compensate for the collapse of real-world economic activity and these moves by the Fed and governments are the equivalent of flooding a drought stricken area with water for a few days. It feels like a relief, but if there is no rain in the months after, it does little good.”  See

Paul Krugman has observed: “What’s bad for America is sometimes good for the market.  Stock prices, which fell in the first few weeks of the Covid-19 crisis, have made up much of their losses.  They’re currently [April 30, 2020] more or less back to where they were last fall, when all the talk was about how well the economy was doing.  What’s going on?”  Krugman first emphasizes that “the stock market is not the economy,” and notes that while “since 2007 productivity growth has slumped..,stocks have done very well.””  Krugman defends the Fed’s low interest rates and quantitative easing to support Wall Street with cheap money, and aid from Congress derived from more government borrowing to stimulate the economy.  He admits that “I have no idea where the market is heading.”  See Paul Krugman, N.Y. Times, April 30, 2020.

Peter Whoriskey has noted, “Since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, Caterpillar has suspended operations at two plants and a foundry, Levi Strauss has closed stores, and toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker is planning layoffs and furloughs. Steelcase, an office furniture manufacturer, and World Wrestling Entertainment have also shed employees. While thousands of their workers are filing for unemployment benefits, these companies rewarded their shareholders with more than $700 million in cash dividends. They are not alone. As the pandemic squeezes big companies, executives are making decisions about who will bear the brunt of the sacrifices, and in at least some cases, workers have been the first to lose, even as shareholders continue to collect.”  
...William Lazonick, an emeritus economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, has been one of the leading critics of companies that distribute cash to shareholders through stock buybacks and dividends rather than reinvesting the profits into employees, innovation and production. For companies that are continuing to do buybacks and issue dividends during the crisis, he said, it is business as usual.  “In a downturn like this, the first thing a company should do is give up any distributions to shareholders,” Lazonick said. “But in a crisis, companies will differ. Some will care … and some will rob the workers, who should expect that their continued employment will be the company’s first concern.” See 

In an earlier article, Peter Whoriskey reported that “Public companies received $1 billion in  stimulus funds meant for small businesses.”  He also noted that “Some of the companies that   

“The fear of missing out has played a role in recent market movements but that’s “not a good sign,” according to Andrew Harmstone, head of global balanced risk control strategy at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.  “The fear ... of missing out, or another term for that traditionally has been greed, right? It is definitely playing a role in the current market,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday. Markets saw a relief rally in April, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average posting their best monthly performances since January 1987. But the surge came after the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic and a historic plunge in global equities in March.  Harmstone argued that the gains came as investors denied the “damage that’s actually been occurring to the global economy.” He explained the behavior indicated that “people still think that things are going to go back to normal, or what they were recently, quite quickly.”
Investor optimism has been fueled by the prospect of authorities lifting lockdowns and relaxing other restrictions intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Those measures had taken a huge toll on global economic activity.
But the real extent of that damage will become “visible” in the next phase, beginning with “actual bankruptcies” or at least downgrades of companies, Harmstone said. The market is likely to respond accordingly, he warned.  “The key element here is that volatility remains extremely high,” Harmstone said. With the markets seeing big shifts in either direction every day, a 1% move is comparatively “small” nowadays, he added.”  See https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/07/investor-fear-of-missing-out-not-a-good-sign-for-the-markets-morgan-stanley.html.

For earlier commentary on crony capitalism (April 17, 2019), see  
http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/04/musings-on-legitimacy-of-crony.html.


Saturday, May 2, 2020

Politics, the Economy and Religion in a Brave New (Post-Pandemic) World

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.


Brave New World is a dystopian novel written by Aldous Huxley in 1931.  Dystopian fiction is akin to apocalyptic literature in that they both speculate on the future.  It’s interesting to consider dystopian politics, the economy and religion in America’s post-pandemic world.

A demagogue like Donald Trump and the crony capitalists of Wall Street fit Huxley’s dystopian vision of politics and the economy in a post-pandemic America.  Joe Biden, not so much.  I had thought that a world-wide crisis like the pandemic would force America to reset its overly materialistic and hedonistic values.  I was wrong.

We’re only three months into the pandemic and our politics and economy are already in disarray.  Trump and Wall Street are the primary beneficiaries when small businesses can’t do business.  America is evolving into a kleptocratic democracy ruled by crony capitalists with one of their own in the white House and with a Congress they have bought and paid for..

With millions of jobs lost and many small businesses shut down, future prospects look dim with shortages of consumer goods and the short tempers of consumers.  Surprisingly the stock market has ignored this economic tsunami and regained most of its losses from the March crash, thanks to Wall Street receiving massive injections of cash from Congress and the Fed.   

Wall Street is thriving in the pandemic, but its mega-banks and mega-corporations were caught with their hands in the cookie jar of government aid intended for small businesses.  It’s just another example of how crony capitalism continues to be the primary beneficiary of the largesse of Congress and the Fed--and that suits investors just fine.

Ever-increasing deficits have created a massive national debt that defies repayment.  Keynesian economists tell us that’s not a problem, but what if it requires a devaluation of the dollar?  The crony capitalists would do just fine, but those of us who rely on savings would be at the mercy of a Congress controlled by crony capitalists.  So much for libertarian democracy.           

What about religion?  Most Americans still claim to be Christians, but they ignore the altruistic teachings of Jesus and favor the self-centered and materialistic values of Ayn Rand’s objectivism and the prosperity gospel.  They have displaced the altruistic values taught by Jesus that were once at the heart of America’s civil religion.

We’re well into the pandemic and Congress can’t get its act together, leaving the President in charge.  The Fed tells us that the economy is in dire straits, but the stock market continues to rise thanks to the Fed.  Is there something wrong with that picture?  Will Americans ever be able to reclaim control of their political and economic future from crony capitalism?

Don’t hold your breath--but we will have an opportunity for change in November.

Notes:

Wall Street’s mega-corporations were caught with their hands in the cookie jar of government aid when public companies received $1 billion in stimulus funds meant for small businessesThe Washington Post has reported that “Publicly traded companies have received more than $1 billion in funds meant for small businesses from the federal government’s economic stimulus package, according to data from securities filings compiled by The Washington Post.  Nearly 300 public companies have reported receiving money from the fund, called the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the data compiled by The Post. Recipients include 43 companies with more than 500 workers, the maximum typically allowed by the program. Several other recipients were prosperous enough to pay executives $2 million or more.  After the first pool of $349 billion ran dry, leaving more than 80 percent of applicants without funding, outrage over the millions of dollars that went to larger firms prompted some companies to return the money. As of Thursday, public companies had reported returning more than $125 million, according to a Post analysis of filings.  Other companies have said they plan to keep the funds, saying the loans had been awarded according to the program’s rules and that they would use most of it to pay workers, as required, in order for the loans to be forgiven. 
The Small Business Administration has refused to release the names of companies that have received the loans, despite having released such information on its loan programs for years.  Some of the companies that received the loans were large in another way: Their CEOs have been making millions.”

The Pandemic has caused Americans to hoard more than toilet paper.  Americans are hoarding cash.  Savings rate hits its highest level since 1981, CNN has reported  “Americans are so nervous about the state of the economy that they are stashing cash in the bank at a rate not seen since the first year of Ronald Reagan's presidency. The United States government's Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday morning that the savings rate surged to 13.1% in March -- up from 8% in February.  That's the highest savings rate since November 1981. Americans had $2.17 trillion in savings last month.  Consumers are putting more money away at a time when bank savings, money market accounts and Treasury bonds are yielding next to nothing after the Federal Reserve slashed rates to zero last month and launched numerous lending programs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Fed chair Jerome Powell was asked about what savers should do since rates are at zero. He conceded that for people "really just relying on their bank savings account earnings, you're not going to benefit from low interest rates."
America's economy just had its worst quarter since 2008.  Still, consumers may be saving more because they are spending less -- a lot less, in fact. The BEA also said Thursday that consumption expenditures fell 7.5% last month, led by a nearly $935 billion drop in spending on goods and services. Much of that is probably due to the widespread closure of businesses.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/30/investing/savings-rate-federal-reserve/index.html.