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Norman Solomon

Norman Solomon

Posted: September 23, 2008 02:46 AM

Too Big to Fail and Too Small to Matter


These times provide a crash course on the corporate state:

If a company like AIG is too big to fail, the government will rescue it. Mere people -- too small to matter -- are expendable.

The insurance industry is too big to fail. A person's health is too small to matter, so -- when it fails due to the absence or loopholes of insurance coverage -- that's tough luck.

The Defense Department is too big to fail. The people it's killing in Iraq and Afghanistan are too small to matter.

The U.S. nuclear arsenal is too big to fail. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, undermined by Washington, is too small to matter.

Overall, the warfare state is too big to fail. The virtues of peace are too small to matter.

Agribusiness is too big to fail. Family farmers are too dirt-small to matter.

The leverage for the U.S. Treasury to subsidize Wall Street is too big to fail. The leverage to subsidize mothers and children kicked off welfare is too small to matter.

The political momentum for bailing out corporate America is too big to fail. The political momentum for funding adequate payment rates from Medicaid to reimburse healthcare providers is too small to matter.

The oil conglomerates are too big to fail. Global warming is too small to matter.

The prison industry is too big to fail. The need for preschool is too small to matter.

Corporate power is too big to fail. The ordeals of working people and want-to-be-working people are too small to matter.

Human worth as maximized by dollars: too big to fail. Human worth as affirmed by humanistic values: too small to matter.

The current odds of pumping at least several hundred billion taxpayer dollars into corporate America: too big to fail. The current odds of launching a massive federal jobs program: too small to matter.

Such priorities and mindsets are in overdrive at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street. But a basic shift in government priorities is possible. That's what happened three-quarters of a century ago, when a progressive upsurge prevented the re-election of President Herbert Hoover -- and then effectively mobilized to pressure the new occupant of the White House.

After campaigning in 1932 on a middle-of-the-road Democratic platform, Franklin Roosevelt went on to become a president who denounced the "economic royalists" and made common cause with working people and the unemployed. People across the country organized for social change. In the process, you might say, the power of progressive movements became too big to fail.

Something like that could happen again.