Here’s what we need, more urgently, maybe, than anything else: a secret historian.
Lousy name. Maybe better as a ‘historian of secrets,’ but that too is misleading. It suggests someone whose main job is to catalog the hidden.
No, what we need is someone to write the definitive secret history of America since, say, 1970.
Someone who cares less about theory and more about truth.
Someone who is not willing to succumb to crank theories and over-arching explanations.
Someone who is devastatingly matter of fact.
There is enough scattered now on various economic and defense blogs, in political writing, that one could construct an alternate view of the last 40 years, one that is recognizable as the America we know, but…different. It is clearly not enough to scatter the alternate views and hope people put the picture (or pictures) together themselves.
Some of the questions worth answering, reanswering, tying together with other things, writing so their importance is clear:
1.) President Nixon’s decision to abandon Bretton Woods, and the decision of Arab states to use the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
2.) The actions of Paul Volker 1980-82 in ending crushing inflation, and how much that had to do – or didn’t – with the subsequent economic expansion.
3.) Similarly, what *really* happened during President Reagan’s two terms in relation to the economic recovery.
4.) The role of President Clinton’s administration in removing financial regulations, and what the consequences were.
5.) A careful recapitulation of Republican/conservative beliefs circa 2000, especially the belief that reducing tax rates returns more total money to the government.
6.) Vice-President Cheney’s visits to the CIA and other intelligence agencies in the wake of 9/11 in detail. A thorough investigation of what, if any, doubts were suppressed about Iraq.
7.) The flow of money to Wall Street from, say, 2002 to 2007. One left-leaning economist has put the number at $3-5 billion a day – how did that money change/distort investment vehicles?
8.) The effect of NAFTA and similar programs. It seems clear now that America’s manufacturing base is gutted. What, if anything, did these programs really do to further that? Along the same lines, is there any evidence to support the thesis that unions somehow caused the decline in manufacturing?
9.) Given that somewhat different standards have always applied to business and the wealthy than the rest of us, how much did that gap increase between 1970 and 2012? In other words, are there more things today that are criminal when an ordinary person does them, but are business when carried out by a company? And what are the consequences?
10.) Along the same lines, the criminalizing of everyday life. Are there more moral panics than there once were? Are they more effective?
11.) Was 1973 really the high water mark of the black middle class? What’s happened since then?
12.) Income and class mobility since 1970. A new study that got a little bit of attention showed there is actually less mobility in America than in some European countries. Why?
13.) The level to which the government is now able to track people closely. Same question for private business. And how much is really happening?
That’s off the top of my head, and some of the individual items have a certain tinfoil hat quality to them, but I think they all deserve a serious look, and a careful write up.