FORGET ABOUT THIS FRIDAY’S presidential debate. The real drama of this political season is unfolding on the steps of Capitol Hill. Indeed, the commotion around the Great Economic Crash of 2008 looks more and more like a Sergei Eisenstein movie set piece. As the wobbly baby carriage of the national economy perilously bounces and careens down the concrete steps, hordes of oppressed investment bankers, busted-out brokers, angry arbitragers, enraged Gucci-heeled lobbyists — all led by Hank Paulson’s banner-waving Republican Guard — are wildly charging upward and threatening to seize and burn the Winter Palace.

Look out, Corporate America! Here come the Banker Battalions!

The cratering economy — with our savings, our pensions and, in many cases, our very homes vaporizing before our eyes — has not only consigned free market voodoo economic theory to the dustbin of history, as Leon Trotsky would say, but has also transformed the GOP into the modern incarnation of the Bolsheviks. Let’s speak clearly here: When you nationalize the commanding heights of the economy, when the government buys up nearly a trillion dollars in toxic private assets, with plans to manage and re-sell them, it is instituting what — in the real world — are called socialist measures.

OK, so it’s right-wing Republicans carrying out the deed, but there’s still no denying it. When individuals, tens of millions of individuals are put at risk by the big hairy finger of the market, and when the government intervenes to save them in name of the collective good, we’re talking neither Reagan nor Laffer nor any Neocons. We’re talking Marx, Engels and Lenin.

Indeed, writing on, James Ledbetter notes that “the Bush administration has undertaken the single largest socialist investment in the history of mankind. The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 couldn’t dream of an economy worth $700 billion; the figure dwarfs anything ever attempted by Fidel Castro or the Sandinistas.” Hugo Chavez, compañero, eat your heart out. You bet on the wrong horse and should have joined the Florida Republican Party if you wanted a real revolution.

Unfortunately, like most socialist revolutions, the current Bush-Bernake regime suffers from a hypocritical double morality. The Wall Street nomenklatura will not only continue in business, in one way or another, but will also continue to reap fabulously fat salaries as the taxpayers pick up the tab for the stinking mess. This revolution fully socializes all of the losses and risks while keeping private profit intact. Some deal.

We can also expect the new regime, following earlier revolutionary models, to immediately institute a retroactive amnesty law, absolving all those who sunk us into this sewer from any liability or responsibility. The commentariat insists on speaking of a “complicated credit crisis” aggravated by “the proliferation of sophisticated financial instruments.”

To which I answer with two letters: B.S.

THIS MELTDOWN IS THE DIRECT PRODUCT of 25 years of “trickle-down” economic theory, often aided and abetted by Democrats but zealously championed by the Republicans, especially the Bush White House and the last 14 years of the Gramm-McCain-GOP anti-regulatory Congress. Any sort of market regulation or enforcement or even ­management had become a dirty word, equated — quite ironically — with socialism. A wave of unbridled and even publicly celebrated greed and legalized looting of what some had imagined would have been a prolonged second Gilded Age has mercilessly crashed on the hard beach of reality. You couldn’t bilk all of the people all of the time and get away with it (though the proposed terms of the big bailout seem to defy that assertion).

Neither political party and, therefore, neither major presidential candidate was quite prepared to confront such a catastrophe in the final days of the campaign. In all fairness, however, McCain has responded more or less like a jackass, flitting around the country and reading an ever-changing and jumbled response from 3×5 cards prepared by his staff. His constant invocation of the word “worker” rings with all the inauthenticity of Lyndon Baines Johnson mightily struggling to pronounce the word “negro” instead of spitting out the less elegant iteration to which he was accustomed to using in private.

Perhaps there’s some biblical overtones to all this happening with just about 40 days to go before November 4. The celestial deluge of red ink — feared for many years — has unleashed itself right on schedule and is likely to wash away all that has come before it. Not that you can see as much of an eyelash flutter from the Republican campaign. We are now way too deep, deep, deep down Orwell’s well to glimpse any signs of shame. The de-regulators are now the regulators. The enablers and defenders of organized greed now rail against greedy Wall Street CEOs. The real problem, we’re told, wasn’t the last eight years but rather the eight years before that. Barack Obama has no experience and has only voted “present” except, of course, for his direct role in provoking the entire economic ­catastrophe.

The truth is that the choice now before the American people is as stark as one can remember in modern history. If they make the wrong one six weeks from now, just exactly to whom do they plan to complain when the water is up to their necks?

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