THE BLOG
03/23/2008 08:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Profiteering, From the Civil War to Your Wallet

Through my ever so slightly teary eyes, let me find the stop button on Senator Barack Obama's speech that I've watched for the 13th time on Youtube, and get to the gooseberries of something that will affect our lives in a non-gender/racially oriented, your sandwich is going to cost more, we're at war, and your government just gave your kid's imaginery college money to JP Morgan sort of a way. You can't make this past week up, but I'll try.

J.P Morgan made his first fortune during the Civil War by purchasing defective rifles from the Union for $3.50 and reselling them (defective) to the Union for $22. Last week, in the midst of the ongoing mortgage crises, he bought Bear Sterns at 2 dollars a share, when a year ago it was trading at $170. Amusingly enough, he would be 170 years old today. Even more amusing is the Federal Government's 20 billion dollar backing of the purchase, coming at a time when JP Morgan books closely resembled that of Bear Sterns. I bet the members of JP Morgans accounting department are thanking their preferred deities that their quarter ended in December, and that the government backing avoids their having to validate the value of their assets in this current market. They're probably also thanking their friends at the Federal Reserve (described as a "white knight" by the New York Times last sunday) who created "a 200 billion dollar lending program for investment banks and a 100 billion credit line for banks and thrifts." Apparently, the public discourse has drifted from the morality of bailing out banks with predatory lending practices to the Federal Reserve creating a facility specifically for that purpose. A bank has been created to more efficiently dispense money (printed on the promise that we the people will repay it) that will aid in the foreclosure of millions of American homes. To cheer myself up as I contemplate this, I imagine a magical North Pole-esque type setting where outsourced Indian elves print dollars day and night, and freshly manicured giggling investment bankers of all ages push around personalized bronze plated wheel barrows while snorting cocaine and quoting Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.

Of course, most Americans are expected to not notice this as they sit in their living rooms pondering what they'll do with their $600 refund checks from the Internal Revenue Service. Most of us will probably spend it at Wal-Mart, further propping up the Chinese economy. I received my Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 Payment Notice in the mail on Wednesday, a sheet of paper that explains how easy it is for me to get my 600 dollars while conveniently omitting the fact that they're just borrowing it from our unborn grandchildren. I say unborn grandchildren, because with the Bush tax cuts and the continuing Wars on Menacing Nouns, I can't imagine throwing my stapler at our 9 trillion dollar national debt. Usually, if you get offers of easy money in the mail they're either: A. a scam or B. a scam.

The answer is C, it's a huge scam. If you went up to my Mom and just offered her $600 bucks, she'd probably say "Oh no, what did you break?" The Federal Reserve can print up fresh debt as fast as our Democrat-controlled Congress can subtly nod in the direction of President Bush and mumble under it's breath "Yeah, what he said, but I want a receipt and change back. Actually, forget the receipt. Are you going to eat all that?" Our economy is being run by a man with family business ties to the Bin Ladens who couldn't manage a baseball team in Texas, and by the time my refund check gets to me it'll cost $12 bucks for a small coffee in Mexico. The more money they print, the greater ability they have to finance the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the more the value of the dollar plummets, the more they give to government contractors like Halliburton/KBR that received a no-bid 385 million dollar contract to build Immigrant Detention Centers. According to Market Watch, this contract "provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to expand existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs." Here's a company whose fortunes were molded while the Vice President's foot was still in his office at the Pentagon, engorged with money from no-bid Iraq/Afghanistan contracts that has moved it's headquarters from the United States to Dubai, and they're building prisons in the United States with the money that you haven't even earned yet. Hope you don't experience any direct irony with that one.

The truth is, you see the symptoms of it everyday in more benignly sinister ways. The price of gas. The cost of a gallon of milk. The price of a decent hotel room and anonymity in New Jersey. These things are all interconnected, and they quickly add up to your quality of life. I don't intend to diminish the value of an obviously monumental speech by Barack Obama, when I suggest that instead of asking a presidential candidate about comments their aides/supporters have made, we should be analyzing the specifics of their platforms. We should be asking Obama, a Chicago community organizer and leading recipient of Wall Street campaign donations (Wash. Post) who's top contributors over the totality of his political career are Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan (according to OpenSecrets.org), whether he will stand up for us and not continue bailing out a Wall Street that gambles with our livelihoods and loots hardworking Americans savings and pensions. We should ask him to clarify his stance on government/defense contractors because it directly pertains to his stated aims of ending the war in Iraq. How can you legitimately claim a desire to end an illegal war without explicitly denouncing the use of 196,000 defense contractor's like Blackwater that outnumber 181,000 US military personnel? We should ask him how his stated desire to increase the size of our military sends a message of peace and hope to the world. What peace loving nation spends over 1 trillion dollars on warfare? We should ask him how his support of a National ID Card and re-authorization of the Patriot Act makes safe our civil liberties and privacy of information. Habeas Corpus has yet to be re-enshrined, and we've been living with a Democratically controlled Congress since last November. This isn't about race, gender, or what our pastor or family member said. It's about not yet imagined American children inheriting an ever larger growing cycle of self-funded economic, social, and state violence. We are all in the same boat and if we don't start asking real substantive questions, we're going to end up even more broke with an angry old fighter pilot in 1984 Oakley sunglasses who graduated at the bottom of his Naval Academy class and can't discern Iran from marshmallow peeps. My apologies, Senator Lieberman just whispered into my ear that it is actually Shiite, not marshmallow peeps. Let us hope that when McCain is 170, our children won't be reaping his benefits. Let us also hope that when we and Obama champion the word "change," we're all using the same definition. Personally, I say give me back the value of my money, give me back my constitutional liberties, end these corporate mercenary wars against the working people of the world, and keep the change.

Last Monday, my corner deli displayed this sign:

TO ALL OF OUR VALUABLE CUSTOMERS, WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT DUE TO THE RISING COSTS OF FLOUR AND MANY OTHER ITEMS, WE WILL BEGIN RAISING THE PRICES OF OUR ITEMS THROUGHOUT OUR STORE.