By Caitlyn Grant
America’s corporate-controlled media continually reinforce the message that the two major political parties are separated by a vast ocean, giving the electorate a meaningful choice between two starkly different ideologies. But just how true is this? A closer look at several key policy areas suggests that the choice with which we are presented is far less significant than we are being told.
Despite the howls of protest from the right that budget cuts are undermining the security of the nation, our military-industrial complex soldiers on relentlessly in its quest to cow any potential threats to American global hegemony. Barack Obama’s administration has continued in the same vein as his predecessor’s, prosecuting the War on Terror with ruthless efficiency and ever-increasing levels of secrecy. While Secretary of State Clinton lectures the Russians and Syrians about human rights, her own government tortures Bradley Manning and can’t wait to get its hands on Julian Assange. When it comes to the business of death, there is a remarkable consensus in the Federal City.
In perhaps no other area of public policy do we lose our ability to see the world clearly. Mere discussion of returning to the top level of marginal tax rates that applied in the Clinton years – 39.6% – is decried as job-killing self-destruction. The prospect of Warren Buffet’s “millionaire tax” – a small extra levy on incomes over a million dollars per year – is treated as the advent of Marxism in America. Yet only a few decades ago, Republican presidents presided over an Internal Revenue Service that applied top rates over 70% and even over 90% in the Eisenhower years. And I don’t seem to remember Eisenhower being described as a socialist. The difference between the two parties is trivial.
The greatest lie in American politics has been the concealment from the middle class of the Democrats’ love affair with Wall Street. Bill Clinton and his scheming Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, gave Wall Street everything it wanted, cooperating with prominent congressional Republicans like Phil Gramm in the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that had long kept commercial banking separate from investment banking. The collapse of the house of cards that eventually followed is largely attributable to them.
Barack Obama received huge campaign contributions from Wall Street’s biggest players. Surrounding himself with all the usual suspects, he ensured that bankers escaped criminal prosecution and subjected the industry to only token reform. His failure to reverse the financialization of the economy stands as his greatest betrayal of those who voted for “hope and change,” and places him far closer to Mitt Romney than the mass media allow us to know. Whatever happens in November, the banks have little to worry about.