by Wayne Roberts
NOW Magazine (Nov.20-26/08)
If truth be known, Bush inherited, as Obama will soon, deregulated financial, agricultural, trade and social policies. Put in place by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, these were the achievement of the 1990s - a period that needs to be understood not, as greens once hoped, as the "turnaround decade," but as the "regression decade."
Clinton's government was the juggernaut behind this decoupling of national and human rights from food. "We blew it," Clinton admitted, speaking to a UN group in New York celebrating World Food Day on October 16.
"Food is not a commodity like others," Clinton said in a widely unreported speech. "It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves," he said, lambasting trade rules that forbid governments in poor countries to subsidize agriculture.
Another Clintonian icon, Alan Greenspan, also admitted to some errors of his ways. Greenspan, appointed chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve by Ronald Reagan in 1987, was regarded as the wizard of high finance until his retirement in 2006.
Greenspan confessed to congressional investigators in mid-October that he was "in a state of shocked disbelief." The "whole intellectual edifice" behind the paradigm leading to unregulated derivative markets "collapsed in the summer of last year," he said.
That was a mild confession compared to the thoughts he blurted out during a mini-crisis in 2002. "There's been too much gaming of the system. Capitalism is not working!" the wizard screamed at colleagues, according to author Ron Suskind.
Bush's final days may be the end of an era, but to become the end of an error, the wild capitalist days of the 1990s will also have to be tamed.