by Stefan Schindler
Standing before Michelangelo’s statue of David, the poet Rilke said: “I must change my life.” A Catholic bishop, after reading the Dalai Lama’s autobiography, said in his New York Times book review: “We must change our lives.”
Norman Mailer noted the contradiction at the heart of America’s ethical schizophrenia. As a largely self-defined Judeo-Christian nation, America pretends to worship the Prince of Peace, yet forgets that Jesus chased the money-changers out of the temple. America sacrifices its moral integrity on the altar of a perpetual and frenzied pursuit of profit. Today, the gap between rich and poor is larger than it was in the 1920s.
America’s unregulated banking system was the primary cause of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, causing the Great Depression of the 1930s, the devastation of the European economy, and the rise of fascism resulting in World War Two.
Justice Louis Brandeis said: “We can have great concentrations of wealth in the hands of a few, or we can have democracy. We cannot have both.”
Brandeis and Mailer point to democratic socialism as the only viable way to save America’s soul. Democratic socialism – roughly defined as egalitarian economics and a politics actually “for the people” – was embodied in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” FDR’s “New Deal” included a nation-wide system of Savings and Loans banks prohibited from the stock market gambling so insidiously inherent on Wall Street and resulting in periodic recessions ranging from modest to extreme.
The Savings and Loans were systematically destroyed during the Reagan presidency in what was called the S&L crisis, as part of the Republican Party’s counter-revolution against The Spirit of The Sixties and FDR’s legacy of economic justice.