|Japan devastation/AFP image|
I’ve been glued to my TV and computer all weekend watching the horrors unfold in Japan. I don’t know very much about the Japanese budgetary situation, how much the clean-up is going to cost, etc. But I know that no one in Japan right now is worrying about the Japanese budget deficit, or whether there is any waste in the emergency services departments of local or national governments, or whether the emergency shelters holding millions of people could be provided any cheaper. At times like this, people are desperately hoping that someone can save their friends, family, and make sure that supplies move to people who need them.
And in all the footage of people being saved, I haven’t seen one mega-bank rescue anyone. I saw help from a lot of volunteers, firemen, rescue workers, doctors, nurses, etc. But not one bank. And that was true during snowstorms in North Dakota, the floods in New Orleans, and the earthquake in Haiti. Oddly, though the banks are sucking up enormous amounts of our budgetary resources, they don’t own rescue helicopters, they don’t track earthquakes, they don’t study tsunamis, and they don’t deal with radiation poisoning.
According to Simon Johnson, roughly 40% of the increase in privately held government debt over the past few years is due to the financial crisis caused by these mega-banks. Yet, the Federal budget debate is centered on slashing spending on things that we actually need, things that, when a crisis happens, saves our lives.
Instead of taking back the money spent on these bailouts, the new “tea party” Republicans are instead trying to slash funds for the agency that warned our West Coast of the tsunami. How many millions of dollars did NOAA save by giving us due warning and letting us protect property? We’ll never know, just as the Japanese can’t know how many hundreds of thousands survived due to a strong infrastructure and well-funded preparations.
I don’t mean to pick on the Republican leaders, though actually, yes, I do. Just cutting government programs sounds good, until your friend or family member is hanging on a rooftop somewhere praying for a rescue, a rescue that would have had to have been planned and pre-funded years before since helicopters can’t actually be wished into existence upon demand. But let’s be clear, the dynamic that is starving our government of revenue is one that the Democrats created from 2008-2010, when they allowed and encouraged the big banks to feed on the government trough. This bipartisan corrupt racket, where Democrats help banks loot and Republicans give the bill to the rest of us, needs to end.