Sunday, September 25, 2005

Looking For An Evil Capitalist

The pump-price of gasoline has edged beyond three bucks, which is what it is and might even prove to be acceptable, if it weren’t for the fact that oil companies are making record profits.


Capitalist_1America loves a profit, but only certain profits.  We have no conflict with blue jeans, that farmer-pants phenomenon that swept the world, selling $2.50 dungarees for two hundred bucks.  Does anybody even say dungarees any more?  And we somehow seem to live with music CDs at $14.95 that don’t make any money for the artist, but pay for Malibu beach houses for record executives.


So, we’re selective about our evil capitalists.


The current rage among consumers, a wave of anger that thunders (as all waves of anger do) against the seawall of the United States Congress, has two primary villains; (A) that bloodsucking group of domestic oil companies and (B) the credit-card industry sharks, circling in the bloody waters of circumstance. 


So, we’re gonna get ‘em, gonna call out a congressional investigation or maybe two, perhaps six if all the committees that would like to investigate are allowed to do so.  Down with profiteering, so long as it isn’t the kind of profiteering we care nothing about, like farmers’ pants, Iraq war goods and services or the psychic cost of keeping Paris Hilton on everyone’s horizon.


Now I’m not a fan of the oil companies, not on their payroll and I think they operate as unconscionably as most other huge American business enterprises. No more, no less. And I think the credit-card industry is in serious need of federal oversight, not because they gouge us (which they do), but because they gouge us in unfair proportion among the poor.  Very Dickensian, those credit-card moguls, throwing the poor into the streets and bringing the wrath of the poorhouse to defenseless widows and fatherless children. 


But Congress is going to have a major problem investigating, because Congress is the instrument that has allowed Big Oil its monopoly over pricing.  It is also the instrument of newly stiffened bankruptcy laws that inordinately protect credit-card issuers at the expense of consumers. 


How did that happen?


Petedomenici_1Well, it happened to the benefit of the oil industry behind Dick Cheney’s famously closed doors, the doors that ushered in what later became known as the Energy Bill. "It's not a bill for today or necessarily tomorrow -- it's for the future," said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici from New Mexico. Is that clear to you?  Does it even make sense as a sentence?  But Pete got away with that muddle of words at the signing ceremony about six weeks ago. A chief sponsor of the bill, Pete didn’t specify whose future the bill enhanced, but being from New Mexico, we can guess.


SengrassleyAs for the credit-card industry, just five months ago Congress passed the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act.  Don’t you just love that name?  Senator Grassley sponsored this to protect consumers by crunching low-income working people, single mothers, minorities and the elderly, meanwhile removing a safety net for those who have lost their jobs or face crushing medical bills.


Grassley saw fit to keep you and I and his fellow Iowans from using (or in his mind, abusing) bankruptcy courts, but didn’t see any reason to keep credit-card companies from charging 36% per month on past due accounts.  If it wasn’t for that usury, we probably wouldn’t go bankrupt as often and wouldn't have needed the legislation.


So, the necessary thing is to first identify the Evil Capitalists, so they can be brought to justice.  It’s our primary mission, prioritized above all others.


Without that, we are destined to flounder around from crisis to crisis, trying to pin the tail on various and always-changing evil-capitalist donkeys. We need a one-size-fits-all donkey, someone who is on the payroll of all these evildoers, who time after time after time sells us down the road of their own short-term gain, who has until now been immune to punishment and sees fit to put themselves above us all.


I nominate the Congress.
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