Some younger readers might need a refresher course in the workings of a thing called the Soviet Union. Republican apologists for Wall Street are doing their best to provide one.
Before 1991, the United States was not the planet's sole superpower. There was one other: the Soviet Union or USSR. Centered in Russia, the USSR was a repressive, totalitarian dictatorship that had no free press, no freedom of assembly or speech, and routinely rewrote history to serve the interests of the sitting government in Moscow.
When I say they rewrote history, I'm not using a figure of speech. Books, journals and texts containing historical facts that had become inconvenient to the Soviet regime were routinely edited after publication to scrub away bothersome reality.
Photos, posters and paintings were retouched, and images of celebrated persons who were later deemed enemies of the state disappeared from group photos long before Photoshop existed to make the job easy. Encyclopedias were amended with replacement pages and readers commanded to tear out and destroy the old to replace with the new. Defeats in war, evidence of economic chaos or social unrest -- any story that painted the ruling power in anything less than a brilliant light could be and was wiped away. The Soviet state was serious about rewriting historical facts to serve its message.
The USSR collapsed, but its practices are alive and well today in, of all places, Republican politics. Where the Soviets erased words so as to pretend that its own victims or failures never existed, GOP congressmen are today busily scrubbing the record, wiping away any mention of the guilty.
Today, the arena is the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a bipartisan investigation into the causes of the financial crisis of 2008-2010. The ten-member commission has for a year subpoenaed witnesses and documents by the thousands, its final report to appear January 15.
To the surprise of nobody who has been paying any attention, commission findings illustrate the crisis was mainly caused by a securities bubble based upon packaging of shady residential mortgages, a bubble that Wall Street aggressively inflated, locking in billions in short-term profits while leaving investors around the world holding the bag when reality caught up and the bubble popped.
Because these historical facts pose mighty contradictions to the standard free-market deregulatory claptrap peddled as gospel by Republicans for the past thirty years, the commission's four GOP members have moved, Soviet-style, to wipe away all mention of the words "Wall Street" from the report:
Frustrated in part by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's chairman, Phil Angelides, and the tenor of the panel's preliminary findings, the Republicans are choosing to ignore the five Democrats and lone independent and issue their document ahead of the commission's Jan. 15 release..
During a private commission meeting last week, all four Republicans voted in favor of banning the phrases "Wall Street" and "shadow banking" and the words "interconnection" and "deregulation" from the panel's final report, according to a person familiar with the matter and confirmed by Brooksley E. Born, one of the six commissioners who voted against the proposal.
Under-regulated capitalism is not a single-party problem. One look at the president and his economic team will tell you that Republicans are not alone in wishing that Wall Street's record of economic terrorism could be wiped away. But how ironically fitting is it that the GOP -- the spiritual home of red-baiting -- would step forward as the censoring comissars ready to actually do it?