On Tuesday, February 6, 2018, Elon Musk took one small leap for fame and one giant leap towards becoming the poster child of our age. According to reports, his giant PR stunt involved shooting a model of his new Roadster to Mars. I suppose Elon’s point was for the Roadster to remain in orbit as a perennial reminder that Tesla is the pioneering corporation of our times, boldly taking us into a new and enlightened future of its making.
It failed. As of this post, the Roadster overshot Mars orbit and is headed towards either a date with a head on collision with an asteroid, or will continue to sail out into the dark night of the universe.
Coincidentally, this week has also marked the largest drop in the Dow since the 2007/2008 financial crisis. As seen on CNBC yesterday, money managers are panicking and finding every conceivable reason they can think of as to why it IS different this time. For them, the market shooting to all-time highs was a sign of the times; that they were the socio-econo-political masters of the universe, and if we would just buy in, we too can be wealthy like them. Free money equals prosperity for all.
What do these two occurences have in common, you may ask? Both are massive monuments to the waste of human industry and innovation by our modern, neo-liberal corporatocracy.
In Tusk’s case, the monument was part pride, part PR stunt and part tone-deafness to the financial realities of the average citizen of this country. It still isn’t clear how much, exactly, this launch will cost the company. Of course, they insist that it was a test of their new rocket and PR, all in one package. Yet, if they had to incur the cost, why not send something useful into space like a small satellite bringing free internet to an impoverished country? Or maybe a small, innovative research project that might launch development of new ideas? Instead, we got a monument to pride, a costly and meaningless shrine to the wastefulness of our society. Out there in the void of space, a good number of individuals’ time, effort and investment has been wasted. This is what we get when we give laurels and enormous amounts of capital to eccentric billionaires who are convinced they are our future Messiahs.
In the case of the financial services sector (and by extension, the market), it is responsible for the last ten years of economic devastation, and its solution of money for nothing (that, conveniently, benefited it and allowed it to blow equity bubbles that are now melting down) has set us up for another possible date with financial destiny. We have saddled our children and our grandchildren with mountains of debt — and I don’t just mean the national debt — as a result of this failed experiment.
Unable to force open the channels of enormous amounts of capital held by the wealthiest, corporate sponsored government servants printed money like there was no tomorrow at no interest. Corporations used this opportunity to buy back their own stocks, drive up earnings-per-share, and to also soak consumers with mountains of low interest products (students, for example) that will eventually sour as interest rates rise. ZIRP also allowed the government to take more debt onto its books, and it too will have to face the music of a rising rate environment. Debt, as a national stock and trade, is life, and like Musk, it is a monument to waste as it shackles the creativity and freedom of the average citizen, and it will certainly limit the political and economic options of our offspring.
You cannot serve God and Mammon, Jesus tells us. The simple lesson, I think, is that God demands our highest loyalty. What Jesus forgot to include is that you can’t serve God and Mammon because Mammon will eventually devour all his children.