Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Read the Strangest Things



Seriously, why would anybody -- not in the mental health business -- read this?

Ronald Reagan and the Commitment of the Mentally Ill: Capital, Interest Groups, and the Eclipse of Social Policy

It’s amazing where you find things about air traffic control.

”After taking office in 1981, the administration set out on a course to alter the (relatively) labor sensitive political economy to be more business friendly. Reagan appointed anti-union officials to the National Labor Relations Board, "implicitly [granting] employers permission to revive long shunned anti-union practices: decertifying unions, outsourcing production, and hiring permanent replacements for striking workers" (102). Reagan himself pursued such a policy when he fired eleven thousand striking air traffic controllers in 1981.”

This is the Republican hero we’re talking about here.

”Regulations designed to protect the environment, worker safety, and consumer rights were summarily decried as unnecessary government meddling in the marketplace (Abramovitz, 1992; Barlett and Steele, 1996). Programs designed to help the poor were also characterized as "big government," and the people who utilized such programs were often stigmatized as lazy or even criminal. With the help of both political parties, the administration drastically cut social welfare spending and the budgets of many regulatory agencies.”

Keep in mind that this is all just background before he gets into the problems with our mental health system. But it’s pretty damning. Mostly, because it’s accurate.

”Thus, to effect a change in the political economy, Reagan was able to win major concessions regarding social policy that continue today. By taking away the safety net, the working class was effectively neutralized: workers no longer had the freedom to strike against their employers or depend upon the social welfare system as a means of living until finding employment. Business was thus free to lower wages, benefits, and the length of contracts. The overall result was that the average income for the average American dropped even as the average number of hours at work increased (Barlett and Steele, 1996; Schor, 1992).”

All that so millionaires and billionaires could rob the American Public blind. Don’t forget, I’m reading the book All the Devils Are Here. The word “rob” is getting easier and easier to use.

From the book: ”The reality was you were screwing people again and again and again,” Bob says.

“Bob” worked for Ameriquest. You remember them, right? And The Money Store. And Washington Mutual? It’s a convoluted story, but Wall Street was taking these sub-prime mortgages, slicing and dicing them into triple-B-minus securities and then -- by magic -- converting those securities into triple-A-rated CDOs. That was important because your pension fund couldn’t buy anything that wasn’t rated triple-A. Yeah, the ratings agencies were in on it too.

It took years to put it all together. It wasn’t a grand plan. It was a process. A process enabled by demonizing workers, the poor and a government that worked for people instead of corporations controlled by crooks. Well, “The Market” was freed from the asylum. The U.S. government was made “business friendly”. (Like it wasn’t before?) How did that work out?

Home values plummet $500 billion

American homeowners will have lost nearly $500 billion in home value by year's end. (2009)

Still, that's a big improvement over 2008, when values fell by $3.6 trillion...


That’s how it worked out.

Don Brown
January 12, 2011

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