Lou Uchitelle had a great piece over the weekend on the Return to the Gilded Age brought on by our current economic and trade policy, with a special focus on the very richest Americans like Citibank's Sanford Weill.
These days, Mr. Weill and many of the nation’s very wealthy chief executives, entrepreneurs and financiers echo an earlier era — the Gilded Age before World War I — when powerful enterprises, dominated by men who grew immensely rich, ushered in the industrialization of the United States. The new titans often see themselves as pillars of a similarly prosperous and expansive age, one in which their successes and their philanthropy have made government less important than it once was.
“People can look at the last 25 years and say this is an incredibly unique period of time,” Mr. Weill said. “We didn’t rely on somebody else to build what we built, and we shouldn’t rely on somebody else to provide all the services our society needs.”
This is pretty tough talk for a guy whose titan status relied on having his buddies in the Clinton administration and Congress help him compete by changing U.S. laws to favor his group. The self-reliance myth is a total joke: corporations like Citibank rely on extensive government coddling. The latest instance of this? The provision in the government-negotiated Peru FTA that gives the green light to Citibank demands for taxpayer dollars if their "investment" in Peru's privatized social security system fails. Aren't we supposed to allow the free market to punish investors that make stupid investments? Oh, that's right: we don't have a free market; we have a market for the benefit of the rich with the coddling by the government, by any means necessary.