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The Speech Bernanke Should Have Given

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben BernankeFederal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke missed a critical opportunity to tell the truth with the world listening at the annual Jackson Hole, Wyoming economic conference.

Here is the speech he should have given:

We have reached a level of political irresponsibility over the past 35 years, and specifically over the past decade, where we can now quite realistically see the possible collapse of the U.S.-centric world order as the U.S. is allowed to decay from within. If you, the Washington policy-making elite, do not want this to happen, then you must change course in a more fundamental way—in domestic terms--than Washington has done since Lincoln made ending slavery the moral foundation of the Civil War and—in international terms—than Washington has done since Roosevelt defeated isolationism and took us into WWII.

Domestically, you must personally sacrifice your class interests as the representatives of the rich and powerful by reorienting U.S. financial and tax policies to put the interests of the low and middle classes first. This will entail policies that will severely punish non-productive investment strategies, that will strictly regulate with harshly applied criminal penalties both the banking and mortgage industries, that will re-create a highly progressive tax structure, that will heavily tax carbon use, that will make the ownership of expensive vacation homes prohibitively costly, and that will transfer excess wealth rapidly into the hands of the poor. Such a revolutionary set of reforms will obviously be feasible only in an environment in which real political power is transferred from the rich to the average voter, and will thus entail such political reforms as public financing of elections and legislative steps to encourage rather than discourage third parties.

Internationally, Washington policy-makers must accept that their primary job is to manage the U.S. on behalf of the whole population, i.e., to ensure quality education, plentiful jobs doing productive work, a healthy civil society, political inclusiveness, civil rights, universal health care. Their primary job cannot be the pursuit of global empire. The empire must go. The U.S. must eliminate most of the U.S. military budget, cutting back from some 40% of total global military expenditures to perhaps 10% of total global military expenditures, a budgetary shift that will have the enormous benefit of forcing the U.S. to emphasize moral leadership, rather than leadership through force. The global U.S. military base structure will disappear, and wars of choice will no longer be launched by the U.S. against the wishes of the majority of mankind.

The bottom line is simple: either you, the rich and powerful, must agree to go on a diet and live life in the U.S. as part of rather than as parasites on American society or America as we know it will disappear. We, the American people, can no longer afford to pay the bill for your lifestyle.

But of course I am dreaming, because Bernanke would have been called “a troublemaker” and “not a team player.” Then Bernanke would have been fired.


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