corruption-is-now-our-way-of-life

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Systemic corruption and the implosion of the social contract have consequences: It’s called collapse.

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Social and economic decay is so glacial that only those few who remember an earlier set-point are equipped to even notice the decline. That’s the position we find ourselves in today.

Many Americans will discount the systemic corruption that characterizes the American way of life because they’ve known nothing but systemic corruption. They’ve habituated to it because they have no memory of a time when looting wasn’t legalized and maximizing self-enrichment by any means available wasn’t the unwritten law of the land.

If you don’t yet see America as little more than an intertwined collection of skims, scams, frauds, embezzlements, lies, gaming-the-system, obfuscation of risk and exploitation of the masses by insiders, please read How Corruption is Becoming America’s Operating System. (nakedcapitalism.com, via Cheryl A.)

Here on oftwominds.com, you might want to read No Wrongdoing Here, Just 6,300 Corporate Fines and Settlements. (May 2015)

When JP Morgan Chase engaged in fraud and was fined a wrist-slap $1 billion, nobody went to prison because nobody ever goes to prison for corporate fraud and criminal collusion: JPMorgan to pay almost $1 billion fine to resolve U.S. investigation into trading practices.

Simply put, corruption is cost-free in America because most of it is legal. And whatever is still illegal is never applied to the elites and insiders, except (as per Communist regime corruption) for a rare show trial where an example is made of an egregious fall-guy (think Bernie Madoff: whistleblowers’ repeated attempts to expose the fraud to regulators were blown off for years. It was only when Madoff ripped off wealthy and powerful insiders did he go down.)

There are three primary sources for the complete systemic corruption of America. One is the transition from civic responsibility for the social contract and the national interest to winner-take-most legalized looting.

This transition is visible in the history of empires in the final stage of collapse. The assumption underlying the social order slides from a shared duty to the nation and fellow citizens to an obsession with evading civic duties: military service, taxes, and following the rules are all avoided by insiders and elites, and this moral/social rot then corrupts the entire social order as elites and insiders lean ever more heavily on the remaining productive class to pay the taxes and provide the military muscle to defend their wealth.

That corruption is now everywhere in America is obvious to all but those adamantly blinded by denial. The JP Morgans pay fines as a cost of doing corrupt business, while “public servants” game the system to maximize their pensions with a variety of tricks: colluding to boost the overtime of the retiring insider; finding a quack physican to sign off on a fake “heart murmur” so the insider pays no taxes on their “disability” check, and so on in an endless parade of lies, scams, skims and insider tricks.

The excuse is always the same: everybody does it. This is of course the collapse not just of the social contract but of morality in general: anything goes and winners take most. Insiders look the other way lest their own skims and scams be contested, and elites and insiders view those who aren’t skimming and scamming as chumps to be pitied.

The second dynamic is that financialization has completely corrupted the American economy, and that corruption has now spread to the political and social orders. Once the financial sector conquered the real economy, it began siphoning 95% of the economy’s wealth to the top .01% and their toadies, lackeys, apologists, enforcers and technocrats.

As they hollowed out the real economy, distorted incentives and made moral hazard the guiding principle of the American way of life, the recipients of financialization’s domination gained the wealth to buy political power from the pathetically corruptible political class.

The corruption that we call financialization corrupted democracy and undermined the social contract by eviscerating the value of labor and creating a pay-to-play political order that’s a mockery of democracy.

The third factor is the decay of America’s institutions into fronts for personal gain. While Higher Education insiders are masters of self-serving PR, the truth is they’re not concerned about their debt-serf “customers” (students) learning the essential skills needed in the tumultuous decades ahead–they’re worried that the revenues needed to pay their enormous salaries and benefits might dry up.

“Education” is nothing but a front for the corruption of self-enrichment by the elites and insiders at the top.

The same is true of “healthcare.” The concern of insiders isn’t the declining health of America’s populace, it’s the decline in revenues as fewer “customers” come in for the financial scalping of emergency care.

“Healthcare” is nothing but a front for the corruption of self-enrichment by the elites and insiders at the top.

Thanks to the Federal Reserve’s endless free money for financiers and endless federal borrow-and-blow deficits, the unstated belief is since there’s endless “money”, my petty frauds and skims won’t even dent the feeding trough–there’s always another trillion or three to skim and scam, and there will never be any limit to the feeding trough.

There is no limit until the system implodes. Then the collapse becomes limitless

Ironic, isn’t it? The oh-so convenient belief that America’s wealth and power are eternal and godlike in their glory fosters the crass corruption that has weakened America to the point of no return: systemic fragility and brittleness.

American Exceptionalism has been turned on its head: America is now as perniciously corrupt as any developing-world nation we smugly felt so superior to, and with extremes of wealth and income inequality that surpass even the most rapacious kleptocracies. This destabilizing “exceptionalism” is now the defining characteristic of the American economy, society and political order.

Systemic corruption and the implosion of the social contract have consequences: It’s called collapse, baby, and the rot is now too deep to reverse.

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My recent books:

A Hacker’s Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook coming soon) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World


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Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

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