Corporate Entitlements and the Bourgeois Morality

Photo Taken by: Mitchell C. Arnold

The last article I wrote on Justice Scalia and his warped sense of Constitutional altruism kickstarted the Rube Goldberg machine which drives my logic and reasoning abilities. As I sat reading, listening and absorbing his acerbic attack against the most fundamental of rights in this country, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “what’s the difference between corporate entitlements and a persons voting entitlements?”

Now, when I speak of “corporate entitlement” I refer to the massive safety net government institutions provide to soften the blow of “market” forces on a corporations bottom line in the form of corporate welfare programs-tax loopholes, subsidies, business incentives,etc.- as well as the body of case law perversely legitimizing the personhood of an inanimate entity. It is not hard to imagine why such a question would be at the forefront of my mind given the trauma this country sustained from the “sub-prime” mortgage crisis and predatory lending tactics of the Titans of Wall Street in 2008. From the repetitive mantra of “too big to fail” to an abject reinterpretation/revitalization of Radian moralism, why are corporate entities “entitled” to so much, while we, the people, the life blood of corporate profiteering, are bequeathed so little?

At the current pace, it is not too hard to imagine a world none too similar to that prolific short story, Roller Ball Murder, by William Harrison, where “[o]ur team stands in a row…in salute as the corporation hymn is played by the band.” Our team, the disenfranchised and economically shackled nouveau proletariat are burdened by the excess of the bourgeois whom engage in a solipsistic grab for short-term gain at the cost of others, harnessing the real power of self-regulating/self-propelling Capital as a supplant for humanistic moralism. Somewhere along the way a psychological fracture occurred creating a chasm between the Real of everyday life and the Imaginary of the guided towers of the corporate elite, a void filled with the ethical perversions and the economic licentiousness of the corporate sociopath.

These sociopaths, these titans of Wall Street sat behind their mahogany desks surrounded by the decadence of postmodern interior design, engineering ways to reign in the chaotic trajectory of Capital, playing god with the financial fate and security of others. In this sense the notion of a self-regulating Free Market is counterintuitive to the notion of self-regulating/self-propelling Capital–there is a distinction which needs to be made here, Capital is the trading of intangible assets like stocks, bonds, loans etc. for a tangible cash value whereas as a free market is predicated on the trading of tangible assets for a tangible value, a stock certificate and corporate shares only have value because of an abject assignment of value, whereas tangible goods, (i.e) commodities which require a means of production, are assigned value due to a multitude of factors aside from abject interpretation of social factors- because no significant financial melt-down ever resulted from the Chicago Mercantile undervaluing or creating a run on Pork Bellies.

This is the fallacy of 20th century Economic Theory, in creating an ontological framework whereby the tenets of free market economics are co-opted and applied to the unseen circulation of Capital for the sake of justifying the ever-growing abject valuation of intangible assets, it dehumanizes the process, reduces it to a few pieces of paper, electronic transmissions, and the push of a button. To the demagogues of Wall Street, the only logical way to rid themselves of the defunct and toxic mortgages weighing on their balances sheets  was to parcel them up, not as a whole but as pieces of the whole, and sell them off to other holding companies and guarantors, who in turn did the same. A perverse shell game in the name of short-term corporate profit. What their sterile assessments failed to account for was the inherent violence associated with what they were doing, the individuals that were evicted from their homes, harassed by collection agencies and so on and so forth;

“…[t]he self-propelling circulation of Capital thus remains more than ever the ultimate Real of our lives, a beast that by it’s definition cannot be controlled, since it itself controls our activity, blinding us to even the most obvious dangers we are courting. It is one big fetishistic denial: “I know very well the risks I am courting, even the inevitability of the final collapse nonetheless….[I can put off the collapse a little longer, take on a little more risk, and so on indefinitely.]” It is a self-blinding “irrationality” stirctly correlative to the “irrationality” of the lower classes voting against their own interests, and yet another proof of the material power of ideology. Like love, ideology is blind, even if the people caught up it in are not.” (Zizek, First as Tragedy Then as Farce, p.37)

That seemingly profitable scheme worked up until the banks, lenders and their subsidiaries had taken on way more risk then they could back and in a last ditch effort, they turned to the Federal Government in the 11th hour. These financial institutions were so consumed with greed, that to them the risk associated with the short-term investment strategies was marginal in the wake of swelling profit margins. Once they had awoken from their glut of lending and speculation, the somber realization occurred that if something wasn’t done, and soon, their existence was about to amount to nothing more than a footnote in the forward march of the Capitalist system. In the perfect mode of Capitalist theory, these institutions would have and should have collapsed, giving birth to a stronger system, more resilient than before, like after the Market Crash of ’28 but something happened, we began to hear the words “Too Big to Fail.”

In the Sinclar’ian jungle of American Captialism, only the strongest of financial institutions/businesses survive. In theory from the ashes of failed ventures rises a newer, stronger and leaner version of what they once were, but something changed, now these institutions feared their own mortality, the longstanding aversion to government intervention and regulation was now supplanted with the moral imperative, “Save Us……because we are Too Big to Fail.” What happened to the can-do spirit of and the “sleek-cool veneer” of the 1980’s? What happened to a self-sustaining and self-regulating industry that didn’t need any intervention from the federal government to survive and thrive? It is inconceivable to think that such a system built on pioneering self-reliance and bootstrapping would need someone to assist them.

Even more telling of the failed ideology of a self-regulating market and it’s incongruence with the notion of self-propelling Capital is the statement Alan Greenspan made when questioned by Representative Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Oversight Committee, on October 23, 2008. During the course of the hearing, Rep. Waxman brought to bear whether or not Mr. Greenspan’s core-ideology of self-regulation and rejection of intervention had caused the collapse and questioned whether it could have been prevented with the aid of regulatory oversight. (Zizek, First as Tragedy Then as Farce, pg. 29)

To this Mr. Greenspan responded:

“I found a flaw in the model that I perceived as the critical functioning of structure that defines how the world works.”(Zizek, First as Tragedy Then as Farce, pg. 30)

So for thirty or so years, we have been abiding by this notion that somehow, those “creative geniuses” whom were suckling at the tete of sky rocketing interest rates, the glut of new loans available because of lax lending regulations and the speculation on future values, would somehow show constraint, and protect the interests of investors and share holders for fear of collapse and bottoming out, because in theory the were helping out the “lazy-ordinary people.”

“In other words, Greenspan conceded that, when a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami” engulfed the financial markets, his free market ideology of shunning regulation was proven flawed. Later, Greenspan reiterated his “shocked disbelief” that financial companies had failed to maintain sufficient “surveillance” of their trading counterparties to prevent surging losses: “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.”(Zizek, First as Tragedy Then as Farce, pg. 29)

This is the point at which the surge in the Radian moralism occurs, when the current administration took measures to prop-up the failing banking system, it was seen as a surge in socialist machinations, punishing those creative geniuses of the business community by propping up the lazy among them. By increasing regulatory controls and oversight while providing financial assistance the business community as a whole began to co-opt the perverse message of Rand, seeing government intervention as a punishment, causing “job-creators” to become frugal: “The achievers are going on strike.”(Zizek, First as Tragedy Then as Farce, pg. 31)

“…The absurdity of this reaction lies in the fact that it totally misreads the situation: most of the bail-out money is going in gigantic sums to precisely those Randian [objectivist] deregualted titans who failed in their “creative” schemes and thereby brought the down-ward spiral. It is not the creative geniuses who are now helping out lazy ordinary people, it is rather the ordinary taxpayers who are helping out the failed creative geniuses.” (Zizek, First as Tragedy Then as Farce, pg. 31)

So in the end, what does this all amount too, intellectual masturbation most likely, but the long and short of it is, we have an activist supreme court holding in contempt the citizens which are the primary reason for the existence of governmental entities. We having a failing economic system where the bourgeoisie exploit the only resource available to them, the people, and we have corporate sociopaths holding out their hands like Oliver Twist saying “please sir may I have some more.”

The logical fracture occurs when the people become ideologically fractured and movements such as the Tea Party arise promoting less government based on the recent economic interventions. Government is here to serve the people, its representatives are public servants, so it is only logical to ask “Where is my bailout, where are my tax incentives for being a good and viable producer in this great society, where is my safety net, and why are we fucking debating the fundamental rights of man.”

Corporations are not people, and we need to stop putting them on a pedestal.

What say you, the people?