You may have noticed that more and more social critics are looking at the future and seeing very few smiley faces. Here’s Frank Rich’s take on the end of the world as we know it:
What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they “are burnt and purged away.”
Nicely put, but I wonder if Rich is hip to the implications of the sentence I bolded or merely reminding us he used to be a drama critic. If the former is the case, then he’s saying that the likelihood of bringing to justice the Wall Street crooks who trashed the economy is slim to none; that politics as usual will continue until the crimes are burnt and purged away in an orgy of violence.
We expect a violent resolution in Hamlet because the drama is studded with a succession of serious crimes — murder, incest, treason, and so on — that leave the players weighed down with feelings of hatred and guilt that obviously will persist until the stage is crowded with corpses.
Is Rich forecasting this for America, or is he expecting something less extreme despite his Hamlet allusion? The prosecution and jailing of the crooks and the carving up of their financial empires would be a good place to start resolving things, but Rich knows Obama is joined at the hip with the crooks. His justice department will never prosecute them.
As Rich sees it, one likely outcome is that Obama will be turned out of office by voters disgusted over his coddling of billionaires and his subsequent failure to deliver on promised jobs programs. And now we have his odious decision to put Social Security and Medicare “on the table” during discussions about the debt ceiling.
But what happens after these and other austerity measures (for the poor) kick in, stripping Americans of more and more basic protections from destitution?
I wouldn’t bet against widespread unrest, if not actual burning and purging, regardless of whether the next president is Obama or his counterpart from among the Republican corporate stooges.
Footnote: The difference between Shakespeare’s time and ours is that Claudius at least had a conscience: “O, my offense is rank it smells to heaven.” The Wall Street banksters who own both major parties don’t worry about heaven or hell. To them, hell is life with no government bailouts.