For anyone looking for a bit of historical context for the financial meltdown beyond the Bush administration and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Robert Parry's new column over at Consortium News does the trick nicely: As the United States begins to assess how the nation got into its trillion-dollar bailout mess, a true understanding must go back three decades or so when Reagan deployed his well-honed communications skills and the Republican Right mastered the dark arts of propaganda to get the American people to shed the annoying strictures of rationality. At its core this crisis really doesn't have that much to do with George W. Bush's reign -- its legislative/deregulatory origin is older, deeper and more depressing than that. The real culprits - free market ideologues - set the stage for this ever-enlarging mess decades ago: Before Reagan, corporate CEOs earned less than 50 times the salary of an average worker. By the end of the Reagan-Bush-I administrations in 1993, the average CEO salary was more than 100 times that of a typical worker. (That CEO-salary figure is now more than 250 times that of an average worker.) The era’s financial imbalances had other effects… The super-wealthy finance industry kicked back money to both Republicans and Democrats – as well as to friendly think tanks – to ensure that “free-market” ideology flourished and regulatory “barriers” were removed in the name of progress.
Jeremy Gantz is an In These Times contributing editor working at Time magazine.