21st-Century Feudalism

By Grigg, William Norman | The New American, August 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

21st-Century Feudalism


Grigg, William Norman, The New American


What might Nero have done if he had possessed a 757-200 jetliner? On July 1, in a display intended to rally the GOP-aligned "NASCAR dad" demographic, Dick Cheney buzzed the Daytona International Speedway in Air Force Two at an altitude of 1,000 feet prior to the Pepsi 400 stock-car race. After taking a leisurely lap around the course in a black SUV, the vice president posed in front of a giant American flag with the event's 43 drivers arrayed behind him as a backdrop.

Allowing for some creative anachronism, it's easy to imagine Nero conducting a similar flyover of the Circus Maximus in Rome, then forcing the charioteers to pose with him in front of the Imperial Eagle as he harangued the masses while distributing sparsiones (imperial gifts of grain and money) to the crowd.

Extrapolating from current economic trends, I'd wager that a fair number of those who witnessed Cheney's Bread and Circuses stunt are probably separated from economic disaster by a paycheck or two. Many have probably taken out adjustable rate mortgages and face the prospect of being turned "upside down" as interest rates rise and a contracting real estate bubble undermines the value of their homes. And most probably find it increasingly difficult to meet household expenses as wages remain static while price inflation rages.

As an architect of the Iraq War that has contributed to vast and expanding deficits and triggered a dramatic spike in the "risk premium" incorporated into oil prices, Dick Cheney has done more than his share to pauperize our struggling middle class. According to the July 2 issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, Cheney is positioned to profit from the economic ruin that will most likely result from the official profligacy he has abetted.

Examining the vice president's recently released financial disclosure statement, Kiplinger's concludes that Cheney and his financial advisers "are apparently betting on a rise in inflation and interest rates and on a decline in the value of the dollar against foreign currencies." Cheney has salted away between $10 million and $25 million in American Century International Bond, which "buys mainly high-quality foreign bonds," primarily in Europe.

Reacting to the Kiplinger's report, economic commentator Mike Whitney exaggerates little if at all in concluding that "we're sinking fast and Cheney and his pals are manning the lifeboats while the public is diverted" with peripheral political squabbles and extravagant public spectacles. While the elites bail out, they're leaving to the rest of us an "insurmountable debt that will be shackled to our children in perpetuity, and the carefully arranged levers of a modern police-surveillance state," concludes Whitney. …

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