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Chapter 16 Reforming and Transforming American Democracy in the 21st Century

Reform Is another Way to Say “I’m Sorry”, but it is not Change

     Ross Perot, a multi-billionaire who ran for president as an independent in 1992 became a bit of a folk hero with his Southern twang, high pitched voice and “simple” way of explaining what was wrong with the American system of government and how he would “lift up the hood and fix it.” Part of his political credo was that even the few good folks who got elected to Congress got corrupted once they got there because “the system” itself was corrupt. We noted pretty much the same view from the book The Ruling Class, also from a conservative point of view in Chapter 11. “The system in Washington is the problem – not the people we send there.” (Perot 1992, 119)

One of the Least Democratic Nations in the

Modern Industrialized World

     Yes, that’s the same “system” invented by the “Founding Fathers.” It’s still chugging along, fouling the political atmosphere of America and the rest of the world, making it impossible for ordinary Americans to get to where they want. Many years ago, Becker compared America’s present system of governance to like having an old clunker of a car that regularly breaks down on you. You replace a spark plug here, and a tire there, an alternator here, a fuel pump there, and it keeps on huffing and puffing along until it strands you again. (Becker 1976, pp. 423-25) That analogy holds as true today at it did in 1976. Nothing has changed except more parts are wearing out. President Obama’s “Cash for Clunkers” program may have sold a few new cars, but it didn’t do a thing for America’s ancient political system.

     This somewhat helps account for the phenomenon that Americans are arguably the least involved citizens in Western democracies. The American voting turnout, percentage-wise, is much less than a majority of eligible citizens, since a large minority of eligibles never even take the time or trouble to register. In presidential elections, voting turnout among those registered voters has been a bit more than half for the past half century or so

     In Congressional elections, about 38% of potential American voters bother to cast a ballot. In state elections of all major officials, it’s about 1/3, and at local elections, including for mayor, the turnout rate of registered is in the 20% range. These are ballpark figures, but give or take a tweak or two, it is obviously nothing to brag about. This is just one other reason why we claim America is about the least democratic nation in the industrialized…and industrializing world. Let’s compare.

     In the 2004 and 2008 presidential and other elections, the turnout of registered voters was higher than in 1996 and 2000. But despite growing voter registration (about 75 percent in 1996 and 2000), the actual turnout at the polling places has not greatly improved. After having varied between 50 and 60 percent since 1968 (and dropping beneath 50 percent in 1996), the much ballyhood “huge” voter turnout in 2008 was somewhere around 60 percent, barely coming out of a four decades long slump…this despite the clever internet campaign of Barack Obama and his drawing record black American voters to the polls. Still, among 37 democracies around the world, from 1960 to 1995, the United States ranked 35th in percentage of eligible voters who turned out for elections…although comparative data show that voter turnout in just about all of the so-called “representative democracies” is in a pretty steady decline.

     So why is this so, particularly in the U.S.A., the self-declared “leader of the free world”? During every presidential election year, we hear a chorus of urging and cajoling voters to vote from the establishment itself. They blare Souza marches, Old Glory is waved and celebrities and governmental leaders all cheer citizens on to get themselves to the polling stations. Americans are reminded time and time again that throughout history people died fighting for this right. Americans are scolded ad nauseum that voting’s an important civic duty one should not shirk. But the American people still shy away from voting in droves. In American political science, we dub these folks: “alienated voters.”

     All kinds of data are collected and analyzed every which way, and it is clear that certain demographic groups rarely vote and others vote at a high percentage of their numbers in the nation. This kind of data are used strategically by political consultants, i.e., to mobilize voters most likely to vote for their candidate(s). But the truth of the matter is that most people who don’t vote do so quite rationally: They know it doesn’t really matter what they think, say or do, as to what the government actually does or doesn’t do. So why should they stand in a long line to pull a lever when they get no cheese? Deep down they know the U.S. is not democratic. They just keep being told it is, but it goes in one ear and out the other.

Reform for the Sake of Reform:

Citizen Perot and the “Contract with America”

     Perot’s public complaints about this system were exactly the same as ones we’ve discussed in earlier chapters and they fell upon many receptive American ears. Thus, he garnered 19% (the most for a third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912) of the presidential vote in 1992 and cost President Bush I re-election to the presidency. Perot became so popular because he presented a long list of what he wanted to “fix” in American government, as though he was going to be a good automobile mechanic.

     That’s a reasonable analogy, This kind of “repair” work on the “broken” machine is generally referred to as “ political reform”, just as the Populists, Progressives, The New Deal, and this latest crop of Republicans believed that they could change the system and make it work better for the American people. At least that’s what they said they believed.

     The truth is, as we’ve tried to make clear throughout this book, that anyone who tries to become or becomes a member of this system (whether as executive, legislator or administrator) – and whose platform was based on a promise to “reform” it, actually is trying to keep its fundamental structure intact. In other words, almost always, they like the “elected oligarchy” just as it is and want to keep it that way by convincing the American public that the parts they replace, or the new doo-dads they add to it – will now make it work much better.—but for whom?

     We’d like the viewer to watch the following video from a website known as “www.matrixrebellion.com,” which we think will remind the reader of what we said in Chapter 7 about the political spectrum. We do not agree totally with this video, but it is close enough to our thinking and well enough produced to help us make our point visually. The video concludes with the question all citizens of all “representative democracies” or “republics” must ask themselves: We know we don’t want dictatorships or anarchy, so which do we really want: an oligarchy or a republic? We just ask the reader to keep in mind that there are two kinds of “republics,” which this video does not discuss. As we’ve pointed out, the American signers of the U.S. Constitution were for the Platonic kind, an oligarchy. They did not want any serious synthesis of oligarchy and democracy, the Aristotelian brand of “republic.” THAT is the real question that we will address in this chapter. How do we move from the original Platonic Republic to Aristotle’s version that empowers the people directly to determine the direction of their polity?

“Government Oligarchy”

     So, as we believe we have amply demonstrated in earlier chapters, if you look at the whole sweep of U.S. history, with all the swapping and changing and adding of new parts to the system the Founding Fathers originally established, what big difference do you see from 1789 to 2010…221 years later? The same ruling oligarchy rules. Congress is still comprised mainly of rich white men whose interests are global in nature. The people of Vermont are as far from being empowered in the central, federal government today as they were when the first Congress convened in New York City.

     The fact that a broader segment of the citizenry (women, blacks, people without property, etc.) can now elect one or another “faction” of this oligarchy simply means that more people are free to vote for various cliques in the ruling class. The outcome of this system, even today, looks like the vast majority of Americans are struggling to survive economically – to make ends meet and/or avoid foreclosures on their homes, much like they were in 1787…when actual citizen rebellions erupted.

     The biggest trick in the American oligarchy’s vial of political bromides is to pour out a few “reforms” that are touted to make a big difference. We call them either “regressive” or “conventional” – because they really keep the same system in place and generate much the same, if not even sometimes, worse results for the vast majority of American citizens. Not convinced? OK, let’s take a look at the most recent set of “reforms” offered by the “conservative” Republican wing of the political spectrum from 1992-2006.

     Candidate Perot (though running as the candidate of the short-lived Reform Party) had a number of ways he proposed to reform the American political system at the national level. By way of example:

* Prohibiting former U.S. Congressmen to be paid by foreign governments to use their knowledge, expertise and contacts among Congressmen they knew to arrange favorable deals for these foreign interests. This was not a total ban. It just meant they had to wait a year or so before they could become foreign agents. He called this “economic treason” on their part. He also considered NAFTA to be a bit treasonous as well, predicting it would produce a “loud, sucking sound” of American jobs going to Mexico. That was in the 1990s. He didn’t realize then that the world’s largest American job vacuum cleaner was going to be China.

* The U.S. government needed to have a “balanced budget” each year, just like U.S. states require in their constitutions. It would take a constitutional amendment to force the Congress and the President to maintain a balanced budget every year…but it would stop them from running up impossible debts for future generations of Americans to pay off.

* There must be a limit on how many terms any Congressmen could serve so that no one could make it a lifetime career as many Representatives and Senators have done throughout American history. He believed, as do many Americans, that without term limits, the Congress becomes an insider club and that term limits (say, no more than 2, 3, or 4 terms in office) would put a lot of “new blood” into power, which was all to the good. Several states passed such laws (mostly by citizens’ initiatives) curtailing the number of years Representatives from their states could stay in Washington, D.C. Some repealed them later and several were declared unconstitutional by their state courts.

* Perot also favored the abolition of the Electoral College, which would allow Americans to vote directly for the president of the United States and which would eliminate the possibility of someone (like George W. Bush) becoming president even though another candidate (like Al Gore) got more votes than he did. In other words, the candidate who got the most popular votes nationally becomes president, not the candidate who wins the most electoral votes. (This, too, could only be achieved via a Constitutional amendment.)

     Just about all of the changes Perot suggested have been supported by many American political scientists and millions of citizens who are Democrats, Republicans or independents for many years now. Moreover, much of what he said about the problems America faced in 1992 have only gotten worse by 2010. Eight years of Clinton, plus eight years of Bush II, plus one year or so of Obama…and what’s changed? Listen to a 1992 CNN Report about Perot’s campaign at that time:

“Perot on CNN ? 1992”

     So, even if you threw in the extra gasoline tax, it would still be nothing more than a bundle of incremental change in how the already established political system performs. That’s why it’s called re-form. Even if they were all adopted at the same time, the system would maintain the same oligarchic super-structure and would reproduce the same relationship between the ruling class and the rest of America. There is no real empowerment of the citizenry in any of them, perhaps with the tiny exception of removing the Electoral College (which remains in full effect to this very day). At least this “change” would allow the democratic ideology of “one person, one vote” to effectively select which oligarch becomes the CEO of the American national government and not let someone with fewer votes of the people ascend to the throne room of the “Elected Oligarchy.”

     A few years later, another conservative figure, Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich from Georgia, helped author a series of proposed changes to the American system of governance that many Republican candidates for Congress agreed to pass as laws once they took office in Congress. This was called “The Contract with America.” They convinced a majority of the American voting electorate that these would change the political culture in Washington, D.C. and make things much better for the American public. Here are some of the more prominent provisos of this “contract.”

* Term limits for Congressional chairman and the Speaker of the House.

* Congressional staffs and special favors to Congressmen would be cut.

* A large accounting firm would audit the U.S. House’s finances.

* The U.S. budget would be balanced.

* The president would be allowed a “line item veto” for the U.S. budget.

* Taxes would be cut.

* Military expenditures would increase.

* All laws that apply to the rest of America would apply to Congress.

* All Congressional hearings must be open to the public.

* Congress would need a 3/5 vote to pass any tax increase.

     Okay, let’s assume all of these “reforms” were implemented by a Republican controlled Congress from 1994-2006, with a Republican president in power from 2000-2006. What have been the cumulative result of these “reforms” in 2010?

     Well, it should be agonizingly obvious that some of these promises were completely inconsistent. As we believe we showed pretty convincingly in Chapter 13, the central “Reaganomics” idea of cutting taxes and increasing military spending (and foreign adventurism and expansionism) has not had the predicted result of balancing the budget and eliminating deficit spending. In fact, it has had the precisely opposite effect of creating this unprecedented-in-the-history-of-the-world U.S. national debt…which is now well over $11 Trillion (remember Ross Perot’s chart in 1992 that showed it at $4 Trillion? Thanks also to Wikipedia for the above photo taken of the “National Debt Clock” on September 15, 2009). Ironically, this “clock”, which went up in New York City in 1989, as NBC Nightly News recently noted in the video below, had to be changed to add a 14th digit to the debt (tens of trillions) – depth of debt recently reached.

“U.S. National Debt Grows Too Large For National Debt Clock”

     So, despite all the promises of balanced budgets and term limits and raising and lowering of taxes, this unsustainable and disastrous national debt is now predicted to climb substantially, more than $1 Trillion per year for at least a significant part of President Obama’s first years in office. The absolutely predictable devastating future effects on this country of this huge pile of poisonous financial sludge are being totally ignored by the American Corporate Oligarchy as it tries to spend and/or borrow its way out of the present economic chaos

     Furthermore, are all Congressional hearings now public? And if they were, who would care? Has Congress been audited? If so, who knows and who cares? Is the House Speaker’s term limited? Who cares? What difference would it make? As Ronald Reagan asked the American people when he ran for president the first time in 1980: “Are your lives better today than they were in 1976?” We would like to ask America today: “Do you think America in 2009 is in better shape than it was in 1976?” We think that most Americans who were alive then and can remember what it was like would say “No way.” And that was when “The Cold War” was still in progress…and America was under the alleged threat of a Soviet nuclear attack.

     Thanks to whichever of these reforms may or may not have been passed into law by this very same ruling elite, America in 2010 is slogging through what even every American economist and economic expert continues to call “the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.” In addition, thanks to whatever “change” these “reforms” have occasioned, America is now bogged down in at least two unwinnable foreign military escapades and has lost millions and millions American jobs to Latin American and Asian countries. The only Americans who can enthusiastically say “Yes” to this Reaganesque question are the top 1 or 2%…who became VERY RICH during that period of time. If you’re surprised, you haven’t been reading this book.

     So, what about President Obama and what he has promised, that is: “Change.” The $1 Quadrillion Dollar Question is: What kind of change? Are they more “reforms of government?” We don’t remember him mentioning even one with any specificity. President Obama has said that he will “redeploy” troops in the Middle East and Central Asia. That’s a foreign policy – not a systemic-reform – and actually a continuation of the aggressive military policy initiated by George W. Bush in the Middle East and Central Asia. He promised in 2008 that he would raise taxes on “the rich”, meaning those who were earning over $250,000 a year. But he reneged on that one even before his inauguration and it, too, is not a “reform” of the system, but a tax policy. He is obviously reorganizing and increasing funding of various governmental agencies to stimulate and regulate the economy far more vigorously than under Republican governance. But this is only a retrograde “back to the future,” which might be termed The New Deal Lite.

     None of the above even reaches the relatively high status of “governmental reform”. It is just a substitution of some members of the ruling class for others as to who has their hands on the steering wheels of the power train. The oligarchs in the Obama Administration believe in ever more governmental spending and debt (much like their Republican predecessors), and any variations in foreign policy seem more stylistic than substantive, e.g., Obama’s “surge” of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan had a vaporous “time line” where Bush’s surge of 30,000 in Iraq did not have any at the time. What is clear, however, is that the position and strength of the military-industrial complex and the “permanent war economy” on American government and the political economy will remain mostly untouched. In fact, the entire system of governance remains exactly the same…with the possible exception of giving even more power to the banking class via The Fed to regulate more of the financial sector. President Obama acts and speaks differently within it, but the old banking and imperial oligarchy remains pretty much intact. Here is an Associated Press video demonstrating the kind of change we can expect from President Obama in the future.

“AP: Obama Appoints Bernanke for Second Fed Term”

     Dr. Ron Paul, who we’ve mentioned before as being a genuine Republican fiscal conservative (actually a Libertarian), put up this statement on YouTube presenting his view, one we share, that this shows that the Obama Administration is adhering to past banker oligarchy rule of America’s economy. Paul has been pushing for a system reform, i.e., Congress assuming the power to conduct actual audits of The Fed so that it would become more transparent to the public. We have not heard the Obama Administration agreeing with this, thus we doubt this will occur and even if it did, we doubt it would be more than just another reform that did little to change the system or its outcomes.

“Texas Straight Talk: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex), August 31, 2009”

     It isn’t just extreme right wing Republicans who see this “no change” policy of President Obama as tilting towards Wall Street and banker bailouts via the reappointment of Mr. Bernanke. Listen to one of the most “liberal” U.S. Senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who used to call himself a “Socialist”) say almost exactly the same thing about this move by Obama. This is very important to remember, not only about this appointment, but how the American right and left have a lot in common about the way they see the system stacked against the American people.

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) Attacks Bernanke’s Reappointment”

Some Reforms That Would Actually Improve Voter Turnout and Broaden the Composition of the Oligarchy

     As we’ve discussed before, one of the major ways to “reform” the “representative” political system in America that is used time and time again, to little avail, has been to change the way political campaigns for office are financed. As we saw back in the early 20th century, several laws were passed to forbid corporations from injecting their tremendous financial resources into the “democratic process”. All these attempts were dismal flops.

     Then, after all the Watergate uproar, as we’ve mentioned earlier, new campaign finance laws were passed in 1974…and others have followed since then…but as far as we can determine, at the national level, none of these “reforms” have worked at all. Plus, there are always loopholes (remember that the lawyer class is drafting these reform laws). There are always ingenious ways around them that the political parties, political organizations, and politicians manage to locate. It seems to have been another American “war” (like the “war on drugs” or the “war on terror”) that can never be won.

“Clean Election Laws”

 Actually, in recent years, there has been a movement at the state level to change the way that elections are financed that seems to be a “reform” that actually has teeth and can bite. It is called “The Clean Election Law” and it seems to be a really a healthy way to actually restructure the campaign financing system by which to (a) improve the quality and breadth of the political discussion during campaigns and (b) broaden the demographics of the kind of people who actually get elected to office. In addition, the way this new system is set up, the people who are elected using this method, are, believe it or not, not beholden to any powerful or well-heeled special interests.

     Four states have adopted the Clean Election Laws up to now. Maine’s legislation (passed in a 1996 referendum and adopted in 2000) is perhaps the strictest and most successful. Basically, Maine allows any citizen who wants to run for the state House of Representatives to solicit $5 contributions from a certain small number of “supporters.” If they get 50 such donors ($250), they qualify for a substantial amount of state money to fund their campaign. Hey, even we could do that!

     If someone wants to run for the Maine Senate, s/he must get at least 150 Mainers to donate $5 to their campaign. So, if this person raises all of $750 through such small gifts, she or he becomes eligible for state funding for his or her campaign. Hey, even we could do that! If several ordinary citizens want to run for Governor, they must obtain 2,500 donations of $5 ($12,500) to earn state funding for their campaign. The only catch: They cannot accept any private money whatsoever for their campaign, and they must limit the amount they spend to what they receive from the state.

     Think about what the Maine law accomplishes. This is the only way to have elections in which the rich or big organizations cannot exert disproportionate influence on who runs for offices and on the agenda of the candidates. Oh yeah, you say, but what if a candidate who runs for an office using only donations from rich people and corporations raises much more than the state-funded, “Clean Election” candidates? The rich or gigantic special interests can outspend them all they want.

     Well, if that occurs, the state then supplements the publicly-funded candidate(s) campaign coffers by matching each extra dollar the privately funded candidate raised with additional dollars of state support. This prevents the publicly-funded candidate(s) from being grossly outspent by the upper class candidates or those in tow to special interests. And this is precisely why successful “Clean Election” candidates are free of “strings”. It also doesn’t pay for the candidates funded with private sources to keep raising the ante, since the state will meet that bet. As a result, the costs of elections shouldn’t keep on escalating to dizzying heights.

     One of the strengths of Maine’s election system is that the courts, thus far, have upheld public funding as being constitutional and in no way “limiting” the free speech of private campaign contributors (remember Buckley v. Valeo?). Privately-funded candidates can raise as much money as they want – no limits. Anyone who opts to receive only public funds does so voluntarily. So there is no “violation” of free speech. The public and its money can talk as loudly as rich contributors and their money, that’s all. Very refreshing. However, all is not clear sailing on this matter, given the highly oligarchic nature of the courts, as we’ve been emphasizing. So, a federal judge held a new Connecticut Clean Election Law as being unconstitutional in 2009—saying it discriminated against third parties—but Connecticut officials are appealing that decision. Good luck.

     So far, a substantial majority of people in Maine seem very comfortable with public funding – as they should. After all, according to an analysis done by the New Rules Project (www.newrules.org/gov/cleanME.html) (a) there has been a great increase in the number of contested elections; (b) over 50 percent of the “clean election” candidates won races against candidates funded by private sources; and (c) roughly half of the Maine Senate has been elected via the use of public funds.

     Similarly, a study by the ultra-conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University found that in Arizona, which has a similar type of “Clean Election” system in place,…in 2002…39 of Arizona’s elected candidates were “clean”: 22 Republicans and 17 Democrats. The state’s voters also elected the first governor with no financial ties to special interests, Democrat Janet Napolitano (who is now the Director of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration). Moreover, and this is quite significant, voter turnout went up 10 percent.

     This later study also found in analyzing subsequent elections in Maine, that the number of elected legislators there had grown to three quarters of the state Senate and half of the state House who had received public funding.” (www.campaignfinancesite.org). This is why we would classify this kind of reform, “progressive,” since even though it does not give the citizenry a power to vote for law (democracy), it has such a rich variety of people running for office who have equal power to project their widely contrasting views, that it engages a much larger segment of the voting public and stretches the content of the debate into an amorphous blob instead of within an elite-defined box.

     Naturally, traditional oligarchic elites don’t take kindly to these laws and are fighting back politically, as well as through the courts. So, when a group of citizens formed “Clean Elections for Alaska” and had such put on the ballot, there was a heavy attack on it as being “state funded” elections, making it sound a tad socialistic. Thus, in the summer of 2008, the proposed law got a thumbs down from the voters of Alaska by a resounding 64-36 percent vote. A similar proposal was even more roundly defeated in California a few years prior to that, but the state legislature, with the consent and help of Governor Schwarzenegger, has put it back on the ballot for Californians to vote on in 2010. And who do you think is spearheading this drive for the new “Clean Election Law” in California? The California Nurses Association. Check it out on this PBS video.

“Votes For Sale – PBS 2009”

Voting By Mail (The Oregon Method) and by the Internet

     As we observed earlier, one of the main symptoms of a continuing erosion of the legitimacy of what is called “representative democracy” is that the number of Americans who decide to vote for electoral candidates continues to hover at astonishingly low levels. And the United States has about the lowest percentages of voters among its citizens compared to just about all other “representative democracies” in the industrialized world.

     Part of the reason for this is that this is fine with elected officials and candidates for public offices in America, despite their disclaimers to the contrary. After all, the fewer the voters, the fewer citizens they have to convince to vote for them. So, the fact that America almost stands alone in only holding elections on a single day, and choosing that day right smack in the middle of the work week, is one reason why so few citizens vote. After all, if several days were allowed for the vote…and the vote took place on the weekend (as is common throughout Europe)…it would be much easier on the working class to wait in long lines, would it not? People who toil during normal working hours find it difficult and/or inconvenient to take off from work or to vote early in the morning or late in the day after a full day’s heavy lifting or paper sifting.

     Thus, if American political leaders and/or government officials really wanted a hefty turnout, they could schedule elections on weekends, couldn’t they? Or they could make it easier on the voter to participate in other ways as well. So, the State of Oregon, again only through a truly democratic citizens initiative, has devised and executed a system of voting by mail that lasts for two weeks for all elected officials.

     What follows is a short video produced by a non-profit organization called “Why Tuesday”, at www.whytuesday.org It was shot near election day 2008…and it makes the point how easy and effective the Oregon system is, not only because of the time element, but thanks to the first class security provided by the U.S. Mail.

“Why Vote by Mail?”

     Priscilla L. Southwell, a political scientist at the University of Oregon, conducted a public opinion poll in 2003 that verified the effectiveness of this method of polling. The Secretary of State’s office in Oregon had long stated that this method had greatly increased the voter turnout and was much less expensive. Southwell’s study confirms this.

     Oregon’s Secretary of State, Bill Bradbury, wrote an article in the Washington Post on New Year’s Day 2005 extolling the many virtues of this method of voting and explaining how every single argument against it (it would suppress voting; it would increase fraud; it would deny citizens the “communal experience” of voting in polling centers) was dead wrong. In his own words: “The answer to the nation’s voting anxiety is not a national standard that imposes new rules on an outdated system of polling places. The answer is a low-tech, low-cost, reliable and convenient system that makes it easier to vote and easier to count votes. The answer is vote-by-mail.” (Bradbury 2005)

     Want further proof that the ruling elite in America do not want to get more voters to the polls? No other state has adopted this method. No national political leader or official has ever proposed it as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution for national offices. No one in the mass media ever mentions it. It is true that many states have allowed for much easier access to absentee voting before election day and even for early voting, so as to take the pressure off the poll workers on election day. Both national political parties encouraged these tactics for the 2008 presidential election in order to “bank” votes before Election Tuesday, and this helps explain why the turnout of eligible voters was as large as it was in November 2008. But those citizens had to brave those very long lines – as seen in the photo above – instead of having the convenience of the U.S. Postal Service, right at their mailbox – shown immediately above.

     As for voting by the Internet, there have been several experiments that have been successful in the United States and in other countries where these methods have proved to work well by increasing turnout and being extremely rapid. Various techniques have been used to ensure that when the Internet is one of the methods to vote being used in an election, that computers have been made easily available to the public in neighborhoods where few computers are owned privately. For example, the Democratic Party of Arizona set up computer/internet stations in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods during its state primary in the late 1990s that were staffed by computer whizzes who helped teach the voters how to vote on the equipment. The turnout for that primary multiplied six fold.

     However, as the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 have warned, there is far too much leeway for electronic fraud, particularly when the electronic voting systems are privately developed and owned, with closed proprietary codes, and used in public polling stations as the exclusive method of voting. Thus, there needs to be a public transparency for any such programming – “open source codes” are a must – which is equally monitored by all the parties to election before, during and after the voting. As a back-up system, there should also be what some call “a paper trail” so that if there are doubts as to the count in any or many districts, independent written ballots will be available for verification.

     It seems strange to us that the American banking system, which relies so heavily on the internet for deposits, withdrawals, and much more complex financial transactions, can be secure enough to trust. Why this cannot be done with elections remains a mystery. Are people more likely to use the internet to commit voter fraud or to steal money? Our guess is that pilfering money would trump political mischief.

     If increasing voter turnout among the young is desirable, and all officials say that it is a priority of theirs, then how come no one seriously proposes and pushes the internet for voting? We would think that a system of User IDs and Passwords, with double checking of some other private information, monitoring by electoral commissions, political parties, nonprofit watchdog organizations, and news media before, during, and after the voting would create a difficult to penetrate firewall against voter fraud. . This should provide a fairly failsafe and easy way to vote. It would be a “reform” that would pay some citizen involvement dividends in the “representative” system… particularly if the candidates were “Clean Election” ones.

     But you do not hear a single major politician or mass media organization in the United States ever bringing any of this to the public’s attention and advocating any of it as methods of making the U.S.A. one of the leading “representative democracies” in the world, much less even a modicum more democratic.

     So has it been done successfully anywhere? Yup. Take a peek at the following video of an incredibly successful deployment of a true Internet Voting System in a small town in England named Rushmoor in 2007. It seems simple enough with a few common sensical rules and the results made it obvious that it is easily duplicatable if government really wanted to get more people involved in elections. This system gave people 8 days. You had to register and get ID and password info. And the turnout of registered Internet voters doubled the turnout of polling place voters.

“Internet Voting Success at Rushmoor 2007”

     We could go on and on about how to improve “representative democracy,” but in all candor, we do not think any of the above do much for authentic democracy, any more than we think any of the other “reforms” (except dumping The Electoral College in a landfill) would help in direct citizen empowerment. We also are positive that America’s elected officialdom, at this point in American history, do not entertain more than the slightest inclination to alter the present system one wee bit. They operate freely within it and presently hope that they can excavate America out of its present and future holes at home and abroad, economically and politically. We doubt that. If “reform” in policy and structure is the name of the game, the score will remain the same. Oligarchy wins, hands down.

Democratic Transformation of “Representative” Hierarchical Governance: The Global Direct Democracy Movement

     So, what can be done? Just as in the previous chapter, where we pointed out that we doubt that the American economy can or will be transformed by government, it is already transforming itself at the grassroots level. Various new ways of decentralizing the system via ESOPs, “quality circles”, co-ops, urban agriculture, local methods of bartering and “currency” are budding as the centralized system of the American Corporate Oligarchy and its buddy The Global Corporate Oligarchy continue to impoverish America and threaten “domestic tranquility” and “the general welfare.”

     Let’s take a look at the following video presented by The McAlnany Financial Company. Don McAlnany is described in Wikipedia as an “American Christian Conservative political and economic commentator.” While there may be some quibbling about his exact numbers, the general trends in the value of American dollar up to this very moment are well within the ballpark of what many “mainstream” American and global investment counselors and media outlets are reporting as well. This video simply underscores and emphasizes what we’ve been saying all along. This is THE MAJOR CRISIS IN AMERICA TODAY AND CONTINUES—albeit on an unsteady course.

“The Ultimate American Dollar Collapse”

     There are not enough increasingly valueless U.S. paper dollars in the U.S. Treasury to buy America out of its present economic quagmire. The Obama expenditures on rebuilding domestic infrastructure and subsidizing failing industries may help out some, and ease the pain of America’s present economic decline in the short term, at best.

     However, it is going to be common ingenuity, determination and grit of the American people working together to develop a new economy and a new economic model of American capitalism. Also, there needs to be a public awareness and movement to send most of the obese global corporations back where they belong, under the tight control of the state governments that charter them – or new federal incorporation laws that legally force the American national and global corporations back to working in the American public interest in exchange for their limited liability.

     We don’t believe that this economic transformation will be facilitated much by the present ruling class through their control of the American “un-representative democracy.” Little of the big government trillions to be spent in the next few years will go to the small farmers, small entrepreneurs, craftspeople, artists, and garage inventors who will be those who truly reinvigorate and restore America’s productive and survival capacity in the Post-Imperial global economy.

     We do believe that this eventual economic transformation will most expeditiously be facilitated instead by the simultaneous transformation of the political system that is presently under way – but hidden from plain view by the mass media and the well established and insulated politician class.

     A democratic transformation is happening now? You bet. It is a global phenomenon, and Americans have been and are well placed in inventing and practicing many old, traditional types as well as innovating new forms of political democracy as well. There’s a lot of real democracy in this world, as well as in America, and it is growing by leaps and bounds. It may have been kept as a well guarded secret to the average reader, but read on and check it out for yourself.

     Caveat: as we describe the many direct and positive democratic developments in the U.S.A. and the rest of the world, and lead the reader to some of them via the Internet, we need to be perfectly clear. It is impossible for any nation state or large political unit (like a big city, province, region or country) to be exclusively a democracy. The people need to be economically productive, raise families, interact socially, nourish their spirituality, and in general “have a life.”

     Thus, some form of institutionalized government that genuinely “represents” the many different values and interests of the general American public must promulgate most laws and rules, interpret them and administer them. That’s the job of a people’s government. It must represent the people’s will and public interest accurately and it must be completely transparent to the people and be held accountable for its mistakes and/or its criminal or unconstitutional behaviors. We believe we have made an extremely airtight case that such is far from the truth about American government—at every level–today

     The question, then, is how to make this “representative” government actually representative of the public will and interests of the people instead of a façade for the rule by an oligarchy, which is pretty much the truth everywhere in the world today to one degree or another (Switzerland being possibly the lone exception to the rule—which we’ll explicate more fully below). This is at the root of so many of the crushing problems facing the entire human population today. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to do this that really work well! That is why we put them into the category of being “transformational.”

     None of them, however, will do the job entirely by itself. What we are about to present will be a menu of democratic practices and projects worldwide that will give the reader a fair sampling of what is actually going on, not as any self-conscious, worldwide grassroots “movement” yet, but that are parts of an “emerging” network that is quickly connecting nodes. Each can serve individually, or in concert with others, as methods to democratize any so-called “representative” system in operation today at any level of government or type of governance (in families, companies, schools, whatever). If you are looking for workable solutions that are real democracy, read on.

Citizen Lawmaking at the National Level:

Initiative, Referenda and Recall – or I R + R

     Back in 1976, at the tail end of The Cultural Revolution, Becker reiterated the value of the ancient Athenian practice and ideal of “true” or “pure” democracy. Placing some important lawmaking power into the hands of citizens, particularly at the national level, will be an important piece of the democratic political transformation needed in the United States today and in the near future. (Becker 1976)

     One of the main advantages of what is redundantly called “direct democracy” is the way it limits the influence of organized special-interest groups. (Knutsen, 2003) Their extensive resources, permanent proximity to decision-makers, and narrow focus enable them to exert political influence way out of proportion to the number of people whose interests they promote. But when citizens make decisions themselves, their interests – the interests of the public as a whole – are accorded a much closer proximity of the weight to which they’re entitled if the system is to be considered “democratic.”. Because a much larger segment of the population makes the decision, a larger number and broader range of individual interests get taken into account, from the very conservative to the very liberal…or occasionally even radical.

     Usually, when such wide and diverse interests have to be considered, the advantages of a proposal have to greatly outweigh its disadvantages in order for it to be approved. In contrast, as we’ve emphasized repeatedly in this book, when well organized, lavishly funded interest groups are able to influence officials’ decisions, it’s a lot more likely that a relatively small group will benefit to the disadvantage of everyone else. So, for example, subsidies to sugar producers

or corporate agribusinesses might result in big profits to them, while the public as a whole pays a higher price for sugar and other foods than it would in the absence of politically-extracted subsidies. This is exactly what Adam Smith warned us against. Such subsidies would probably get a huge thumbs down in a public referendum.

     Earlier in this book, we discussed the putrid state of the American health care system and how Big Pharma, the gigantic health care insurance companies, and HMOs were all profiting immensely at the expense of the general public’s health and welfare—of course with the aid of Big Corporate Media which makes huge profits off of the “medical-industrial complex” TV ads and “infomercials.” We piled data upon data and showed how American public opinion and even that of most American physicians favored a national Medicare-for-all, or a “single payer system,” much like those in wide and effective use throughout the industrialized world.

     If there were to be a national referendum on this issue in the United States, with a truly balanced presentation of fact and opinion, such a universal health care system, IOHO, would prevail by a large supermajority. But President Obama decided to dump this issue into the lap of the U.S. Congress. And look what has emerged: A Healthcare Bigfoot!. The House version of a “reform package” that was sent to the Senate in November 2009 is over 2,000 pages long!!! No wonder that the American public is mighty suspicious of its true intent and its future costs to them.

     Here’s how the Great American Health Care Debate appeared to comedian Stephen Colbert, in the summer of 2009. Great comedy bares the absurdity of real life. This proposed law manufactured by Congress, with its long-winded promises, infinite number of small print provisos and exceptions, and the “debate” it engendered, is a comedy unto itself. Colbert only has to reveal it to get the laughs it so well deserves. The present oligarchic system will not produce a change in a system that benefits itself so richly.

“’Commonsense Health Care Reform Infomercial’: Stephen Colbert, June 25, 2009”

 

     All democratic transformations must exhibit certain characteristics. First, the general public must acquire more of a direct say in what problems should be addressed, in what order, and in what manner. In other words, the public must have a direct say in setting the government’s agenda and priorities. Today, in just about all “representative democratic” systems, politicians and the mass media are the ONLY ones who set the public agenda. Worse, they are excessively secretive and deceptive about them, i.e., “hidden agendas” prevail. Once citizens have voted for their “representatives,” they are largely excluded from the process where hidden agendas are passed as laws by secretive governmental processes.

Recalls Are Not Democracy in Action

     Take a gander at the following video of a speech by Arnold Schwartzenegger when he took advantage of the quasi-democratic practice of “Recall” in the state of California. A certain number of citizens had signed petitions demanding the revocation of the past election of Governor Gray Davis. The economy in that state had soured badly and there were such grievous problems in the system of raising revenue, providing key services like safety and education, that a number of citizens thought that a quick change in “leadership” would solve their problems. So, a photogenic and famed political “saviour” came forth – scattering promises to right the sinking ship if only he were elected Governor. Just look at all those self-deluded people behind and in front of him cheering his call for the government to be “returned to the people.” They cheered. He said “Hasta la vista, baby” They cheered again. He was elected.

     Yes, this brought about a change in California’s budgetary crisis. Things have gotten much worse. Replacing one official with another will never be an answer unto itself. Voting for candidates in today’s political economic and corporate controlled media environment will not bring solutions. It will aggravate the problems—because it is the problem. See for yourselves. Who is setting the agenda here? The people abdicated that crucial democratic role to a Hollywood celebrity.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger Political Lies”

     Second, at all levels of government the public must be able to pass or reject laws and other policies legislated by the political elite that usually controls government. There is ample evidence to show that such a “mixed system” of oligarchy and democracy works and works well – exactly as Aristotle predicted. In many countries around the world, citizens are empowered to make some of the most crucial decisions affecting their country’s direction, from its role in world economic affairs to local matters such as where to put stop signs.

     Thus, the choice between citizen decision-making and decision-making by elected representatives or chief executives is not “either/or.” In fact, most countries that are considered representative democracies, including the United States, have political systems that contain elements of both (though in the U.S. it is only at the state and local levels).

      In general, there are three forms of decision-making in which citizens can take part directly: initiatives, referendums, and the above mentioned recalls. We described the first two at some length in Chapter 7. Recalls do not give citizens the right to set agendas or make laws, they simply allow citizens to speed up elections of candidates, and thus are just a reform and not part of any democratic transformational process.

     To our knowledge, the only country in the world that has a constitutional provision for a recall vote of its president is Venezuela. The person responsible for this proviso in Venezuela’s new constitution is its current president, Hugo Chavez. A short time after he was re-elected to his second (and final?) term, enough anti-Chavez citizens signed a petition of recall to have a new vote. The election occurred. Chavez won a resounding victory against the recall and retained his position.

On Citizen Lawmaking: Citizens Initiatives and Referendums

     Shortly thereafter, he was responsible for putting another constitutional amendment up to the Venezuelan people as a referendum. Guess what it was? It proposed an unlimited term of office for Venezuela’s president. It was soundly defeated by the people in 2007, including many of his own supporters. Not to be deterred, his supporters in the legislature put up another referendum disbanding any term limits for the president (a constitutional amendment), but this time, in 2009, it passed with 54% favoring no term limits. As we noted above, recall is not a true friend of democracy. It is simply another way for citizens to vote for someone else to run their business. All it really does is to advance the date of a regularly scheduled election, or in this case, change the rules of who can run for election. It is part of the “elected oligarchy” system..

     One objection to referendums and citizens’ initiatives – real citizen lawmaking – is that well-funded groups can use the process themselves, bending it to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the public (as though that is not exactly what happens in the “elected oligarchy.”) However, Elisabeth Gerber, who is Director of the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan’s Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, has conducted a study showing that spending a lot of money on trying to persuade the public doesn’t necessarily translate into a lot of influence. (Gerber, 1999) Her study confirms what special interests such as the insurance industry and tobacco companies have learned by defeats at the polls: if citizens don’t like a proposed law, even an expensive, high-profile campaign won’t make them change their minds.

     Gerber did find, though, that economic interest groups have had considerable success using direct measures to veto initiatives that others are proposing. Nevertheless, citizen interest groups with broad-based popular support and significant organizational resources have been quite effective in using referendums and initiatives to pass new laws.

     In the United States, over the past several decades, there has been an explosion of citizens initiatives in many states (24 allow them) that have shown that the people think a lot differently about a wide spectrum of important issues than does the ruling class which occupies the offices of state governance. Thus, we have seen a spate of laws passed through citizen lawmaking that legislatures never would have passed, including the medicinal use of marijuana, term limits on Congresspersons, limits on raising property taxes, physician assisted suicide, bans on certain hunting practices, you name it.

     The data is clear that there is no liberal or conservative bias in the use of citizens initiatives. Some are very “liberal” and some are very “conservative.” That is further proof that the use of citizens initiatives, needlessly called (“direct’) democracy, can pass laws in many directions. It is the democratic process that prevails in every state that uses it, not any particular political or economic ideology.

     So, here’s a TV ad in the 2009 Maine Citizens Initiative that was in favor of banning gay marriage. The state legislature had passed a law permitting same sex marriage. This led to a concerted effort, supported by the Catholic Church in Maine, to put a citizens initiative on the ballot. Here is one of the TV ads that urged a repeal of the law thereby not allowing such marriages in Maine. The public voted to repeal the same sex marriage law by a 53-47% majority.

“Marine Ad Against Gay Marriage”

     Here’s an example on the so-called liberal side of the spectrum. Michigan citizens managed to get a citizens initiative on the ballot to allow marijuana to be legalized for medical uses, just as a dozen or more other states had done in the past decade or so. This is a TV ad in favor of that. This law was passed by Michigan citizens by an overwhelming 62% of the vote in November 2008.

“Michigan TV Ad 2008: Pro Medical Marijuana”

     This explosion of the democratic law making process has made many in the state oligarchies unhappy about the diminution of their monopoly of the lawmaking power. So, there has been both a legislative and judicial counterattack, with many new obstacles put in the way of getting laws on the ballot for citizens to vote up or down. Paul Jacobs, who has worked for the Republican Party and considers himself conservative on most issues, is an outspoken advocate and activist for the citizens initiative process in America. He now runs a nonprofit organization called Citizens in Charge (www.CitizensinCharge.com) and has this video up on YouTube describing the success of the process and the oligarchy’s increasing reaction against its wave of popularity at the state level.

“Initiatives Across America (2009) Paul Jacob”

     The liberal side of the American political spectrum has its own advocates for citizens initiatives as well. One of the most well known is the former U.S. Senator from Alaska, Mike Gravel, who was also a Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2008. He is the founder of a nonprofit called National Initiative for Democracy, or NI4D that is pushing to get citizens initiative at the national level in the United States. Here is a short video of Senator Gravel discussing his views on this at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in December of 2007. If the reader is interested in learning more about this, the URL of his organization is www.ni4d.org.

“Mike Gravel: We Need a National Initiative in USA (2007)”

     Citizens initiatives at the national level? With Switzerland being the only country in the world that has them as a binding part of the lawmaking system (New Zealand has a non-binding variety), it seems like a very long odds bet. However, it remains the key democratic transformational change for the United States in order to make the U.S. a far more democratic country than it has ever been and to once again show the world how a revitalized American democracy can lead to many other transformational changes.

     On the other hand, the growth around the world in using referendums at the national level has been increasing at an amazing rate. In just a couple of decades, the number of countries in the world that feature some form of referendum process has doubled. (IRI, 2008) More than half of all nationwide referendums held since the late 18th century have taken place in the last 25 years. So, the national referendum movement – what we showed to be the purest form of “indirect democracy” in Chapter 7, is obviously building up an enormous head of steam and surging ahead.

     There is a long list of the countries that have and use them wisely. We would like to discuss some of the more significant ones in recent years to make it real clear to the reader that this is a serious power that “the people” use judiciously and, more and more frequently, are at odds with their own power elites – and even with powerful elements of the Global Corporate Oligarchy who have significant leverage in their own home nations.

     A couple of years ago, after lengthy and arduous negotiations among all the delegations to the EU, the EU produced a lengthy and complex EU Constitution that would have created a far more powerful central European government. The EU allowed its member countries to decide how to “ratify” this constitution, and most of the nations in the EU decided to let their national governments, particularly their Parliaments, handle the chore. There was another provision that was also important. All the member nations had to ratify the EU constitution. Any one member nation could blackball it.

     One by one, one and all Parliaments fell in line and ratified the document. But two countries, The Netherlands and France, decided to submit the proposed EU Constitution to the people of their lands via a national referendum process. As we have emphasized throughout this book, that’s called “democracy.” So, the people in both those very important nations to the EU, after long and arduous public discourses on the topic, and with their governmental leaders almost unanimously supportive of this new European central government, rejected them by large majorities. Thus, there is no EU Constitution…because empowered citizens said: “NO!”

     In another part of the world, South America, as we have noted earlier in this book, there is a social revolution that has changed the political elite in power from one that supported the century old wealthy landed and industrial oligarchy to one that had a more people-oriented agenda. Whether it is called “The Bolivarian Revolution” or “21st Century Socialism” – it is very different from The Soviet or Cuban or North Korean model, and closer to the EU social democratic model. Quite clearly and quite intentionally, it is a polar opposite to that sold to them as the previously mentioned “The Washington Consensus/IMF/World Bank” model.

     As these new leaders have won elections and tossed out the old, corrupt aristocracies who held power for scores of years in country after country, they have called “constitutional conventions” or “constitutional assemblies” to draft new constitutions that were designed to redistribute the wealth to the poorer and usually more “Indian” or “native” and lower class segments of the populations, which were always the large majority of the citizenry. It was a “no-brainer”, then, for these leaders to decide to put these new constitutions up for a popular vote via the referendum process, much as was done initially by Chavez in Venezuela.

     Of course, the result was pre-ordained. The large bulk of the citizenry, impoverished and disempowered from the time of the Conquistadores, knew they had nothing to lose and turned out in massive numbers to endorse these new regimes. So, to the firmly entrenched elites in those countries, this was proof of the “tyranny of the majority.” The Federalist Founding Fathers of the U.S. Constitution would probably have agreed with them.

     But to the general public in these countries, this was the “glory of democracy.” Did that make all the poor instantaneously rich? No. Did that mean that all the property of the rich was confiscated and given to the poor? No. It will be a long and difficult process to transform the political economy into one that is more productive for even a majority of citizens – with a few gains here and some setbacks there. In the long run, we believe a lot more health, safety and tranquility will win out. But no one can say that it wasn’t a democratic and peaceful revolution (which Marx believed to be impossible); that the people who passed the new constitution didn’t know what they were doing; or that they have tyrannized the old aristocracy as was done after The French Revolution, which was accomplished violently and without any public deliberation and voting whatsoever.

     As a final example of an important national referendum, let’s take a look at Iraq after 6 years of war and American military occupation. In December 2008, at the last moment, the new Iraqi central government signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States. Without that agreement, the U.N. mandate for American forces in Iraq would have expired and American forces would have been legally forced to evacuate all Iraqi cities and towns and to retreat back to all of its bases. There would have been no internationally recognized for American forces being in Iraq at all.

     However, Iraq’s new government, being much more democratic these days than under Saddam Hussein thanks to his overthrow by the United States armed forces, has many ethnic and sectarian factions within the cabinet and Parliament. Before the Sunni minority would agree to the new SOFA which provided legitimacy for American forces to remain in Iraq until December 2011, they insisted upon, and got, a very controversial and potentially inflammable proviso put into the new SOFA. What it did was to insist that in June 2009, the Iraqi people would have the power to approve of or veto this SOFA by national referendum.

     As we write this final chapter of the first update and revision of this book, we do not know the result of Iraq’s national referendum on the SOFA with the U.S.A. – first scheduled for the summer of 2009 – and then postponed to January 2010. There are all kinds of reasons it might be postponed again. But if it does come to a vote and the Iraqi public votes it down, the United States and President Obama will be in a pickle, since that would mean that the U.S. forces would have to withdraw completely from Iraq within a year – and none of the new Iraqi oligarchs want that. We doubt either the U.S. government, the Iraqi government, the Iranian government, the Sunnis, the Kurds or the Shiites really know how all of this is going to play out. But that is not our point.

     Our point is that the American Corporate Oligarchy has agreed that the Iraqi people can make such a vital and complicated decision involving American foreign policy by a national vote on that issue. Meanwhile, back the U.S.A., the American constitution remains bogged down in 18th century political thought. The American people do not have nearly as much power to control their national destiny as do the people of Iraq!! But that’s just another country with the power of national lawmaking by referendum. For a more complete lesson on how America might transform its national political system into a leading democracy, let’s take a much more in depth look at the real “leader of the democratic world.”

The Best Example of Democracy at the National Level in the World: Switzerland

     We talked a bit about Switzerland’s unique brand of national democracy in Chapter 7. One thing we did not mention, though, was that it is also the most prosperous country on earth. Yes, the Swiss have the highest per-capita income anywhere. In terms of quality of life, Switzerland also consistently ranks among the top ten nations in the world on just about every measure of national health, fair distribution of wealth, education, transportation, and public safety. And Switzerland is far and away the most democratic. (Kendall, 2000) Is this a coincidence? We seriously doubt that.

“Switzerland”

     Indeed, Swiss democratic citizen lawmaking has hummed along well over 150 years and – as we indicated in Chapter 9 – was the model followed by visiting American “progressives” over 100 years ago. Too bad there are so few such “progressive Americans” today.

     What’s the secret to Switzerland’s good fortune? In some part, it may be due to natural resources…since it is a winter and summer tourism Mecca. It’s surely not its homogenous culture, which is a mixture of German, French, Italian and several small minorities, now including about 4% Muslims. It’s not a strong industrial base with an emphasis on exports, despite the fact it does quite well in that regard with Swiss Army knives and its wonderful chocolates and cheeses.

     Size might have something to do with it – since there are only 6.4 million people in the country. But there are many much smaller countries in the world that are beaten down by penury and disease and are, not coincidentally, dictatorships or run by a tiny clique of despots. It can’t be their geography, since there are a number of other landlocked nations in Europe, Asia and Africa that are top heavy oligarchies as well. To our way of thinking, the most likely source of the great Swiss economic and social success is the nation’s political beliefs, attitudes, and institutions, which place ordinary citizens at the hub of public decision-making. Among the foremost of these are (a) its strict foreign policy of neutrality in all wars and (b) its long standing commitment to deep democracy.

     These two features have coalesced to keep Switzerland out of being an official member of the European Union. The population is of many minds on this issue and it shows in the very complex relationship the Swiss have with the EU – there being many referenda on various aspects of Swiss-EU relations over the years. The following video is up on YouTube and will give the reader a better idea of how a citizenry can be deeply involved in minute aspects of a country’s political economy and foreign policy, making it exceptionally nuanced.

“Switzerland: A Stone in the EU’s Shoe or Strategic Ally?”

     Switzerland is about one quarter the geographical area of Ohio, with a population about 50 percent smaller. It’s made up of 26 areas called cantons. The cantons, in turn, are comprised of about 3,000 communes. There is a central government, but it deals with only those matters that concern all the cantons, such as national defense, foreign policy, immigration and customs, and railroads. All other matters – education, labor, economic policy, health, social welfare, and so on – come under the authority of the cantonal and communal governments. So, it is a federal system, much like that of the United States.

     Each canton has its own constitution and parliament, which vary considerably. The communes, which range in size from a few hundred to more than a million people, also have their own legislative and executive councils. The cantonal and communal governments are elected by the citizens who reside within their boundaries.

     One reason governmental power in Switzerland is so radically decentralized is this mixture we alluded to before, but it is of four distinct ethnic groups – Germans, French, Italians, and Rhaeto-Romansch – plus two major religious groups – Catholics and Protestants. After many centuries of often-violent conflict, the Swiss decided that the best solution was to let each group govern itself. Over time, people have sorted themselves into the groupings they are most comfortable with. Over time, some cantons have even divided into two “half-cantons.” Or new cantons have formed. And communes along the border between cantons have chosen to join one rather than the other.

     Because so many decisions are made at the local level, Swiss citizens have both an incentive and an opportunity to participate in the policy-making process. And because different cantons adopt different policies, people can see for themselves which work best. The result is that good policies tend to drive out bad.

     At the national level of government, the legislature consists of two houses. The popular (lower) house, the National Council, is elected by proportional representation under a system of free lists, which allows all shades of political opinion to be expressed (the best advantage of the PR method of the oxymoron “representative democracy”). The upper house, the Council of States, consists of two representatives from each canton (like the U.S. Senate) and one from each half-canton. In most cases, members are elected by a simple majority of the electorate.

     Four political parties dominate the central government. None has a clear majority in either house, and they are all represented in the Federal Council (the national executive cabinet). A different Council president is elected by its members every year. So there is no super-executive as in other parliamentary forms.

 Once approved by both houses, new legislation may be referred to the people for approval. There is a six-month period during which any individual or group able to obtain 50,000 signatures on a petition may call for a national referendum. Imagine that in the United States of America! Why not? Why can the Swiss public have the power to put up any law that Congress passes, by gaining a few million signatures, and then have the rest of the public vote for or against it? If the law is vetoed by a simple majority vote of the Swiss citizenry, it’s not enacted.

     Thus, groups committed to promoting the public interest play an important role at the national level because they’re able to initiate referendums to block legislation. This is one way that ordinary citizens and not politicians control government in Switzerland. The Swiss may also have other aspects of their political economy set up in a way that would be instructive to American citizens as to how the U.S. might better structure its own so as to keep the American Corporate Oligarchy, and the banking elite, from further fouling the American economic nest.

     In contrast to the United States and other capitalist countries (Switzerland, don’t forget, is a proudly capitalist country), the federal government has the sole right to coin money, issue bank notes, determine the monetary system, and regulate exchange rates (much like the powers the U.S. Constitution bestows strictly upon Congress – not The Fed). This authority is exercised through the Swiss National Bank, which acts largely independent of government control. It resists financing public deficits, and maintains a slow rate of growth in the money supply. By federal law, bank notes must be backed by gold and short-term securities.

     The federal government, cantons, and communes levy their own taxes. Each collects about one-third of total government revenues. Most taxes are direct and low. The average Swiss citizen pays about 16 percent of his income in taxes, and company taxes average about 20 percent of profits. The country’s national debt and inflation rate are low. Since 1946, government spending for all three levels has averaged only 22.6 percent of GNP, yet per capita expenditure on welfare and education is high among all the world’s nations, exceeding the U.S.A.

     Switzerland has an efficient, well-equipped army to defend it from foreign invasion (with the help of its natural buttress, the forbidding and unforgiving Alps). National service, whether military or non-military, is universal and compulsory. Defense is financed and controlled by the federal government. But ultimate control of the army rests with the people. Not too long ago, a citizens initiative was launched to dissolve the army. Although the majority voted to keep the army, around 45 percent supported the initiative. Note well: The people of Switzerland had the opportunity and voted on whether to even maintain a military!

     The viability of constitutional democracies depends on limits being set on government authority. In the U.S.A., we are told that it is only the judiciary and the Supreme Court who can do that, much like Plato’s “Nocturnal Council” could do with guarding “The Guardians.” Clearly, as we can now see in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court has actually helped expand the powers of the U.S. federal government into an overwhelmingly dominant force in American society, much like the Anti-Federalists feared and predicted. After all, as we’ve noted earlier, the Supreme Court is a nuclear part of that central government and is a key partner of the ruling oligarchy. This is but another example of what Jefferson warned Americans about back in the 18th century: what happens when the wolves guard the sheep.

     In Switzerland, it’s quite a different system of who reins in the central government in a federal system. It is not the courts that are given the power to watch over the government and keep a check and balance on them. It is the Swiss people themselves. Thus, anyone with eyes to see and a mind to think can understand that this is the correct and most efficient way to maintain control of governmental power and governmental spending.

     (“Direct”) democracy at the national level serves as the most important and the most efficient check and balance by the general public itself – via citizen lawmaking directly or by veto power – on political ambition, abuse of power, and the degradation of the national economy. The ability of the people to vote on so many propositions keeps elected officials aware of their own limitations and vulnerability, reduces the importance of party politics, focuses broad public attention on crucial national issues, and encourages officials to treat the electorate as senior partners in the policy-making process.

     So does that mean that the Swiss democratic system makes everyone there happy? Of course not. Does that mean that the Swiss people would never make a decision that might not trample on some minority rights? Not exactly. In fact, in November 2009, the Swiss people

voted to ban Muslim minarets from being built in Switzerland, even though there were only 4 in the entire country. The Swiss, like other European countries, have anxieties about their culture being threatened by too many, to their liking, Islamic folk immigrating into Switzerland. So, they put this dilemma up for a national vote and it passed with a 57% majority, much to the consternation of its Muslim citizens, visitors, as well as most of the Islamic world beyond.

     Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, and one of his “correspondents”, John Oliver, surely think that this smacked a bit of hypocrisy and authoritarianism. Watch Stewart skewer the Swiss and then Oliver do a bit of a hatchet job on the Swiss Ambassador to the United States in their segment called “The Single Prayer Option” and “Oliver’s Travels”:

“Oliver’s Travels – Switzerland, The Daily Show, December 3, 2009”

     Would this law, had it been passed by Congress or any state or local American government, be struck down by the United States Supreme Court as a violation of The Bill of Rights in America? Undoubtedly. So, isn’t this a defect in the democratic system we’ve described above? Yes. This is a tyranny of a supermajority over a small minority to be sure. But there are equally biased laws in other European nations concerning the perceived threat of “Sharia Law” to their national cultures by Islamic immigrants. France, for example, does not allow Muslim girls to wear their veils to public schools. Although passed by Parliament, a representative body, this law undoubtedly enjoys strong support from the French people. So, it is not a flaw in democracy…as much as religious and cultural biases and tastes found in all societies that are mirrored by the “elected oligarchy” as well as by the people themselves..

     Perhaps the greatest flaw in modern democratic practices comes in the crucial part of the process that involves the processing of the most relevant information and empathetic listening to opposing views. There has been a very recent and innovative development in how the general public can be involved in large-scale, sophisticated lawmaking that addresses this problem to some degree. Via this technique, a small sample of the general public can serve as excellent lawmakers, while involving the rest of the people in meaningful ways in the legislative process. This is a 21st Century invention. It was first experimented with for real in British Columbia, Canada. And it involves the ancient Greek ideal of selecting the citizen legislators by a lottery and then having a well managed public deliberation on the issue involved.

Towards D3: Direct Deliberative Democracy

The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly Model

     Responding to widespread public criticism of British Columbia’s provincial government for its failure to acknowledge and act on the wishes of the citizenry, the Liberal Party in BC promised during the 2001 provincial election campaign to create a citizens assembly to consider changes to the provincial electoral system. It also agreed that the recommendation of the assembly would be put to the entire British Columbia electorate in the form of a parliamentary sponsored referendum.

     Subsequently, the BC Parliament followed through and offered citizens a chance to study and recommend a new system of electing representatives. In 2003, it established the “Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform,” which was composed of 160 citizens selected by lot – i.e., at random – from the voters’ lists. Two citizens (one man and one woman) were to be selected from each of the province’s 79 electoral districts, plus two “at-large.” A pool of 15,800 names was created from the roll of voters. Selection of participants in the Citizens Assembly took several months.

 The task of the Citizens Assembly was to evaluate the existing provincial electoral system and, if warranted, propose a new one. It was empowered and well funded to hold public hearings throughout the province. During the first half of 2004, participants went through a “Learning Phase” in which they listened to presentations by experts and held public hearings to get as much input as possible from citizens as well as experts. In addition, many suggestions were sent via the mail and the Internet.

     In Canada and all its provinces, voters elect representatives according to the principle of “Proportional Representation,” or “PR” To elaborate a bit more on what we described PR to be in Chapter 7, it is a widely used electoral method that is attempts to achieve a close match between the percentage of votes that groups of candidates (usually the candidates of political parties) obtain in an election and the percentage of seats in the legislature they receive.

     PR exists in contrast to “plurality” voting systems, in which representatives are elected from geographically-drawn electoral districts. Plurality systems are also called “winner takes all” or “first past the post” systems – because the winner in an electoral district wins the right to represent all the people in the district, not just the percentage who voted for her or him. The U.S. uses that sort of system.

     In PR, if Party A gets 35 percent of the vote, then roughly the top one-third of its slate (list) are elected to Parliament. If Party B gets 30 percent, then about the top three-tenths of its list become members of Parliament. If Party E gets 8 percent, its top 5 percent might win seats. PR thus affords minority parties a say in lawmaking. By necessitating coalition-building (since it is hard for one party to gain 50+% of the vote), it forces parties to modify their more extreme positions and proposals in order to gain broader acceptance within the electorate.

     In the autumn of 2004, delegates to the BC Citizens’ Assembly deliberated together “to decide if they believed B.C. should have a new electoral system than the PR system that was in place, or retain the current one.” The Assembly decided it wanted a different kind of proportional representative system than the PR system already had in place. After having public hearings in every legislative district in the province, having thousands of comments online from citizens of BC, and deliberating at length among themselves, The Assembly voted 146 – 7 to recommend changing the existing system.

     They came up with a new system of electing members of Parliament by a “single transferrable vote” (STV) system, which lets voters rank candidates within multi-member districts or constituencies (Gastil and Levine, 2005: 277). They have an excellent animation of this online http://www.citizensassembly.bc.ca/public/extra/animations.xml.

     According to the Citizens’ Assembly website, the STV form of PR was selected because it best addresses three values: proportionality, local representation, and voter choice. The site notes that PR-STV is used in several countries to elect officials at various levels of government. “In Ireland, where it has been used since 1922, government attempts to change the system have been steadfastly rejected by voters.”

     As promised, the recommendation of the Citizens Assembly was to put its proposal to the electorate in a referendum held concurrently with the 2005 provincial election. The referendum required approval by 60 percent of all votes cast, plus simple majorities in 48 (60 percent) of the 79 electoral districts. The referendum failed on the first requirement, with 57.7 percent of votes in favor, though it did obtain majority support in 77 of the 79 electoral districts (over 90%). Despite this enthusiastic and ubiquitous citizen support of what the Citizens Assembly devised, the government stuck to the rigid Parliamentary mandate and declared that the proposal for change was defeated.

     The issue did not die with that decision by the BC Parliament. So, in 2009, some of the minor parties of British Columbia decided to put it up for another vote in the Spring elections. The two major parties, including the newly empowered Liberals, were now staunchly opposed, endorsing the ancient “first past the post” system that was still in effect. The minor parties and a number of more democratically inclined citizens put up a concerted TV and Internet battle—exemplified by the two following videos:

“BC-STV: Song With Lyrics”

“BC-STV This Time”

     The united forces of the major parties and their backers fought back with a far more sophisticated TV ad campaign whose message was that the new system was much too complicated and too fragmented, so that people would not really know where their votes would be going. Here’s a sample:

“No STV”

     It worked. The STV issue, voted on by the citizens of British Columbia, was thoroughly flummoxed by the competing ad campaign…and when people are confused on an issue, they usually vote it down. So, a much more “representative” system was defeated even more decisively and the status quo reigns for now in British Columbia.

     However, losing the vote on the results of the Citizens Assembly’s recommendation in no way diminished the success of the Citizens Assembly process and its recommendations being subjected to the vote of the entire citizenry. Some in British Columbia, and around the rest of the world, saw the true promise of genuine democracy being in the deliberative democratic process itself. This short ad on STV by Pedro Mora of the Vancouver Community TV Association makes the point that regular citizen empowerment via this system is pure democracy itself:

“STV Opinion”

     What is well worth emphasizing here is that the BC Citizens Assembly mechanism demonstrates with crystal clarity that direct citizen participation and deliberation can fit into an institutional arrangement in a way that affords citizens the opportunity to exercise substantial influence on issues as fundamental as the electoral process itself. With such a large majority of voters supporting the initial proposal to change BC’s electoral system, and with support so widely spread throughout the province, it was clear to the rest of Canada and to the world that the Citizens’ Assembly had done an excellent job on a very complicated subject. That a slightly better system of “representative democracy” was defeated by the people (twice) was of secondary interest to supporters of the transformational power of real democracy.

     What is more, the effort brought the idea of randomly selected citizens’ assemblies to people’s attention as a way to have a truly representative legislature free from the influence of big money on either an election campaign (since there was none) or on the decision-making process (since the citizens – being randomly selected – were not favorable to any particular special interests but merely to their own personal value systems.) As we noted above, such a method of choosing citizen legislatures was hardly new, of course. Ancient Athens, during its “Golden Age,” chose its legislative assembly, the Ecclesia, in the same way. But the BC Citizens’ Assembly also added that the entire citizenry be allowed to vote on what their “truly representative” legislative body had proposed as a new law.

     All those interested in discussing the citzens’ assembly concept, or keeping abreast of further developments around the world, might wish to go to http://snider.blogs.com/citizensassembly. Jim Snider, formerly the Shorenstein Fellow in Media and Politics at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard, is one of the leading scholars in the world on citizens assemblies. He points out that the research to date on is only in the beginning stages, and he has a number of recommendations on how to improve research on them. (Snider 2008)

     The idea and practice of The Citizen Assembly, having shown how well it worked in a modern context on such a complicated issue as a new form of voting on candidates for office has caused it to enter the realm of extensive use as an excellent way to add a strong dose of democracy to the sclerotic oligarchies that are chalking up such low ratings in almost every country that employs a “representative” Congress or Parliament. Ontario tried one in 2006-07 which was a duplicate in form and substance to its cousin in BC and the Netherlands tried one in 2006, which did not result in a referendum, but a report to Parliament. Thus, the Dutch used this method as a citizens advisory board which would only result in law if Parliament agreed. There are many countries and states within America who are aware of the importance of this new form of democracy with various groups pushing for uses other than electoral reform.

     The success of the Citizens Assembly of British Columbia also materializes and reinvigorates an idea that has been perking for a long time and been the subject of great interest to many who grasp the inherent “un-representativeness” of all elected legislatures…in both houses. These legislative bodies are truly the tool of ruling classes and political elites and/or counter-elites. They are always arenas in which competing factions of elites and interests clash. There are always either whiffs of or full blown scandals over the influence on elections of bribes, bullying, fraud or errors. And there are always serious doubts whether such unrepresentative bodies can ever produce laws that are in “the public interest.”

     Thus, there have been many proposals in recent years that one of the elected houses in any or every state legislature, or Congress, or a national or provincial province, be scrapped in favor of having it be truly “representative” of the entire public by having it selected, much like a jury in court cases, randomly. The citizens chosen would serve, if they agreed, for a period of time and be paid as much as though they were elected legislators. This way, women, minorities, all classes, many occupations, would be represented much like their proportion to their size in the overall citizenry. They wouldn’t be compromised by campaigns and parties and they, like juries, would be doing their public duty along with their peers. (Becker, 1976: 467-510)

     In the American context today, the middle class (not counting the “upper middle class,” the 12-13 percent of households whose incomes exceed, in 2010, approximately $100,000) and the working class – together, the 70 to 80 percent of the population whose household incomes range from $20,000 to $99,000, and whose education, skills, energy, drive, and hard work are the essential ingredients for producing the vast bulk of the wealth American society creates – would see their values, their interests, and their priorities translated into laws and policies to a significantly greater degree than is possible in any existing electoral system.

     Professor Ethan J. Leib, a political scientist and lawyer from Yale University who now teaches at the University of California, Hastings School of Law, presents a convincing manifesto for just such a system, albeit a bit more complicated. What he thinks is needed is a “fourth branch” of government in the United States, which he calls “the popular branch.” This is the main thrust of his theory in Deliberative Democracy in America. (Leib 2004)

     This new arm of our national government would be “composed of stratified random samples of 525 eligible – though not necessarily registered – voters, debating in groups of fifteen…and would take the form of small civic juries occasionally meeting to enact laws…both local and federal questions could be settled by representative samples of citizens.” There would also be “national assemblies” and all this would be fitted into the present system of checks and balances. (Leib 2004, 12-13) Thus, his system of “citizen assemblies” would be permanent, would have lawmaking powers way beyond “electoral reform”, and would substitute for any need for a national citizens’ initiative.

     Alvin and Heidi Toffler, two of the world’s most celebrated “futurists,” advocated this notion of random selection for a citizens legislative function back in the early 1980s in their seminal book, The Third Wave (1980). They had the foresight – the Internet wasn’t even imagined yet – to point out that this randomly selected “house” of the Congress need not even move to the District of Columbia to deliberate and vote on various issues:

“By using computers, advanced telecommunications, and polling methods…[it would be possible to] provide…up-to-the-minute information on the issues at hand…But when the time for decision arrived, the elected representatives would cast only 50 percent of the votes, while the current random sample – who are not in the capital but geographically dispersed in their own homes or offices – would electronically cast the remaining 50 percent.” (Toffler and Toffler 1980, 442)

     Thus, in the fertile minds of futurists, political scientists, lawyers and other thinkers of how to empower citizens the best in modern democracies, the same idea comes up in books and in actual practice…either in addition to citizens initiatives and referenda, or in place thereof: Citizen lawmakers chosen at random to deliberate over time just like the elected oligarchy does. This is actually an ideal and idea whose time has come (once again), just as the Age of Information is upon us, which makes their decision making all the more enriched by the vastest store of facts and expert opinion ever available to any legislature in human history. Moreover, it is supplemented by the Internet’s capabilities of interactive and lateral communications simultaneously or over time across the entire world. The potential for global citizen lawmaking is there for the thinking…and ultimately, the doing.

Citizen Budgeting at the Local Level: The Porto Alegre Model

     Porto Alegre is a subtropical city of 4 million residents on the southern coast of Brazil. The capital of the Brazilian state, Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre has achieved worldwide recognition for its inventive and highly-successful practice of “popular budgeting” (PB), in which a broad range of community groups play a key role in shaping the municipal budget. (Heller, 2000)

     In 1989, the Socialist Workers’ Party won control of the mayor’s office. The new mayor, Lula de Silva (who is currently the president of Brazil), decided that he wanted all the citizens of the city to have an opportunity to play a role in the agenda-setting process – in particular, how the city would spend its money on “capital” improvements like streets, sewers, schools, health clinics, public facilities, and the like. De Silva observed that, like all cities in this world, Porto Alegre had many neighborhoods, a few very wealthy…and many that were much bigger and much poorer. As is usually the case globally, the rich enclaves usually get more than their fair share of the capital improvement money available to any municipality. This is done usually by the mayor, in collaboration with an elected or appointed council and with the help of various technocrats employed by the city, town, etc. And so it was in Porto Alegre, until this.

     “This” was a participatory budgeting process in which each of 16 city districts, or “regions,” conduct face-to-face assemblies in which any citizen can participate. Each regional assembly is given information about the money that was in the previous year’s capital improvement budget (which historically has been roughly 15 to 20 percent of the total municipal budget) and about the problems or deficiencies in various aspects of the city’s infrastructure.

     They are also given a Plan of Investments from the mayor’s office. Then, a regional budget committee proposes spending priorities for the current year. The regional assembly must approve the priorities. They do so through citizens deliberating together and then voting. Finally, each assembly elects the region’s delegate to the Participatory Budgeting Council, which, in turn, is the conduit between the people of the city and its regions and the Mayor.

     Citizens and their delegates expect their recommendations to be binding on the mayor. “He is supposed to respect the autonomy of the participatory bodies (regional assemblies and their councils, and the city-wide Participatory Budgeting Council) [and to] accept and execute their wishes.” (Vitale, 2005 www.auburn.edu/ipd) Citizens’ groups in the regions and throughout the city monitor actual expenditures, and then provide this information, along with citizens’ recommendations, to the next year’s assemblies. This makes the process extremely transparent to the citizenry.

     So, after several years with this system in place, has it made a difference?

     According to Rebecca Abers, a professor at Brazil’s University of Brasilia, over the years the regional budget councils have come to play an increasingly influential role in negotiating both the general aims and the details of the city’s budgetary allocations. (Abers, 1996: 39, emphasis ours) A United Nations report offers some interesting data.

     For example, prior to implementation of this system, only 46 percent of the city’s population was served by the municipal sewer system. By 1996, the number had increased to 85 percent. A similar result occurred in the number of households served by the city’s water supply. The increase was so dramatic that, by 1996, 98 percent of the population was connected to the system. (MOST Clearing House Best Practices Database, www.unesco.or/most/shouta13.htm, 1994-2003)

     The World Bank concluded in 2004 that increased participation in budgeting can lead to the formulation of and investment in pro-poor policies, greater societal consensus, and support for difficult policy reforms. Experiences with participatory budgeting have shown positive links between participation, sound macroeconomic policies, and more effective government. Participatory budgeting processes have been utilized in a number of different countries including Ireland, Canada, India, Uganda, Brazil and Africa. (The World Bank Group, 2004 www.worldbank.org)

     Similarly, in the view of Brown University professor Patrick Heller, popular budgeting has increased citizen participation in public affairs generally. He writes that, before popular budgeting, allocations mostly reflected patronage and were more or less fixed from year to year. The introduction of PB brought with it the principle of community-defined priorities, and in each year since, adjustments have been negotiated to meet redistributive criteria and to expand representation at every level of the budget-making process. 

     In consequence, the range of services now provided by the city has widened significantly. Heller’s colleague at Brown, Professor Gianpaolo Baiocchi, has shown that, since its inception, the number of civil society organizations in Porto Alegre has increased dramatically. (Baiocchi, 1999) In short, participation in the budgeting process has generated new opportunities and incentives for citizens to participate in public life.

      Significantly, Abers notes that the sustained relationship between popularly-chosen council delegates and Porto Alegre administrators has helped bridge the divide between the competing values of technical knowledge and citizen participation. City officials have addressed the relative lack of technical capacity and skills possessed by council representatives and their constituents by aggressively educating them and by assigning them responsibility for learning and understanding budget details. (Abers, 1996: 45) Government officials interviewed by Abers commented on how quickly participants became proficient in mastering the details of the budget. They explained further that constant scrutiny and questioning by citizens had forced officials to improve the budgeting process.

     The news of Porto Alegre has spread far and wide. The UN report cited above notes that, in Brazil itself, “there are at least 70 cities who [sic] are establishing the Participative Budget system, based (upon) the past experience (of) Porto Alegre…” Professor Daniel Schugurensky of the University of Toronto, a leading researcher on this process, has since updated the UN report, indicating that, as of 2004, there were “at least 194…” He goes on to say that three cities in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Rio Cuarto, and Rosario) are also presently using a participatory budget system. In addition, replications or modifications of the system have been experimented with in Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, and Canada.

     Here is a video of the first couple of Participatory Budgeting experiments done in Great Britain, in Bradford/Keighley.in 2004 and 2006 It is obviously a rough translation of the Brazilian version, but as the viewer can see and hear, since it’s all in English, it is true democracy at work right in front of the public’s eye and, wonderfully, something one and all who show up and participate in, can see and enjoy for themselves. What is quite striking about these in particular is the obvious relish that everyone there has for the genuinely democratic process, including all the ethnic minorities who seemed to have shown up in large numbers. Remember: the people there are actually deciding which projects get how much of the money which has been allocated.

“Clearn Green and Safe the Participatory Way in Bradford”

“From Brazil to Keighley – PB in Bradford, Part 1 (2006)”

“From Brazil to Keighley – PB in Bradford, Part 2 (2006)”

     It took a bit longer for PB to seep into the United States of America. However, it has now gained a foothold with a major program at the Ivy League’s Brown University and in Barack Obama’s home turf, South Chicago. The new clearinghouse for information and project networking website at Brown is called The Participatory Budgeting Project and is similar to the University of Wisconsin website on economic co-ops. Its website, which will keep the reader updated on all the burgeoning projects around the US and the world is at www.partcipatorybudgeting.org. Its director is Dr. Gianpaolo Baiocchi and his board of academic co-workers are to be found at Fordham University, The New School, and Brooklyn College (all in New York City) and the aforementioned University of Toronto.

     One project that is featured on the PBP website is a major one being undertaken in Chicago which began at the end of 2009 and will continue through early 2010. The initiative was taken by a Chicago Alderman named Joe Moore, who decided to use this method to distribute $1 Million of the City’s budget for capital improvements in his Ward. Thus, 9 PB assemblies were held in late 2009 where residents came, like in the Bradford videos above, and presented their proposals for funding. Then they selected 80 “representatives” to prioritize these proposals—which included: “community gardens, street paving, murals,bike paths, street lights, wheelchair ramps” and the like. The plan is that after the representatives make their decisions, they will present them to the entire citizenry in a major assembly where the citizens themselves will vote to allocate the final amounts to the various projects. Democracy has come to Chicago…and soon…it will flourish again throughout the United States. After all, this system is hard to corrupt. It works well. It makes a big difference. It gives voice and sinews to the people, who decide what is in “their public interest.” It’s consistent with Aristotle’s definition of a “republic.” It’s truly democratic but interacts well with the elite in administering the people’s will.

The Global Deliberative Democracy Movement:

The Evolution of Public Deliberation

     Implicit in our discussion above is that before citizens – either as part of a Citizens Assembly, a regional assembly, a participatory budgeting process, or in a referendum or citizens initiative – actually make decisions about some political issue or problem, they must (a) know a lot about it; (b) listen to other people’s opinions about it; (c) have time to think about the data, expert and peer opinion, and filter it through their own value systems. This individual…and collective…human exchange is what is known as “dialogue” and “deliberation,” and it is a key part of the democratic process. Two experts in political communications define “public deliberation” as “the process used by juries, councils, legislatures, and other bodies that make decisions after reasoned discussion.” (Gastil and Keith, 2005)

Deliberative Democracy is American as “Americana”:

The Earlier Years

The Chautauqua Movement

     This kind of discussion and deliberation among American citizens has really been the quintessence of genuine American democracy since this country began and it has manifested itself in various ways throughout American history. This is the indigenous kind of American “democratic spirit” and “democratic talk” that struck de Tocqueville and his traveling buddy in the early part of the 19th century, something that was among the missing in the European empires of his time. It infused America and was diffused throughout America as the way in which the people managed to think of themselves as having a meaningful say in what went on in the halls of power, whether that be City Hall or the U.S. Congress. It was sort of “the invisible hand” of democracy!

     As we saw in Chapter 9, periodically when things got real bad for a great majority of Americans, there were “surges” of political “reformism” that swept the nation. But those reforms didn’t come out of thin air. What made the political machinery actually get into gear and make a lot of changes in the way government worked were a network of public meetings and/or assemblies where politicians, authors, political activists would speak and draw large crowds. Perhaps the most famous of this kind of institution of public talk was the “Chautauqua” movement which lasted through the Populist and Progressive movements from the 1870s right through the 1920s.

“Chautauqua 2007: Upton Sinclair”

     So what were Chautauquas? We think they would best be understood by modern Americans as something like “county fairs” or “state fairs”….which were held usually in rural or ex-urban areas mostly in warmer weather. There were buildings and tents and there were a lot of “fun” things to do at them. The first of them was held right on Lake Chautauqua in New York State…and it was widely copied throughout the land. The idea was to bring “culture” and “creativity” together for people who did not have access to it easily in days when there was no electronic communication and public transportation was sparse and difficult.

     So, there was music; there was art; there were crafts; there was theatre. But, and this is the key to them, there was also politics. In fact, one might say that the Chautauquas were really social and political at their nub. The other events and opportunities for entertainment drew the large and diverse crowds, but a big part of them would show up for the political debates, lectures and speeches that were at their heart and soul.

     Remember that the Populists and the farm granges of the late 19th century represented an outpouring of resentment among farmers and small townspeople and the working class against the graft and price fixing and large industrial ravages that they were experiencing first-hand. This gave opportunities for political leaders, and political parties, and political agitators plenty of opportunity to address large congregations of sympathetic Americans and plenty of time to rant and rage against the “monopolists”. For a well done portrayal of one of the country’s leading novelists and avowed socialists of that time, Upton Sinclair, whose novel The Jungle (Sinclair 1906) – disgustingly detailed the evils of monopoly capitalism and big city (Chicago) corruption. Sinclair and other anti-oligarchy celebrities of the time were regulars on the Chautauqua “circuit.”

     So what happened to them? The growth of mass media, particularly the radio at the time, and the growth of the internal combustion engine in cars and busses, and an expanding railroad system, made it much easier for the average American to stay put and listen to “culture” and “entertainment” right at home or go to the bigger cities and towns nearby and see a “movie” or play. Thus, what attracted so many Americans to the central meeting place for public discussion and deliberation slowly disappeared and so did the Chautauqua as a uniquely important part of the American democratic discourse and allure for civic assembly.

     Of course, shortly thereafter, another major political economic disaster hit the United States of America: The Great Depression starting in 1929 with the great stock market crash and continuing on for over a decade. This put most Americans high on “The Misery Index” again and made it necessary for them to get involved in political discussion on a massive scale.

The Forum Movement and the Federal Forum Project

     As the Chautauqua movement was winding down and the mass market of modern electronic communications was gearing up, the American intellectual class, tired of all the political commotion caused for decades, came to a conclusion that “democracy” really didn’t work well in America. Oligarchy needed to be restored and Americans needed to delegate the business of governance to all the new technical “experts.”

     So, by the second and third decades of the century, most Americans had been told repeatedly and in many venues that the country had grown too large, complex, and diverse for democracy of the sort embodied in the New England Town Meeting and even in the Chautauquas. The nation was no longer small enough and demographically homogeneous enough to meet the conditions that both Pericles and Jefferson had assumed were necessary for “pure democracy.”

     Kevin Mattson, The Connor Study Professor of History at Ohio University, thinks otherwise…and he bases his views on certain actual events that demonstrate a continuing movement to develop public discourse in America. In his books Creating a Democratic Public (1998) and Reforming the American Political System in the 21st Century (2002) we find that, in fact, various entities across the country were developing ways to open up government to participation by ordinary citizens in the early part of the 20th century. By way of example, settlement houses (which provided assistance to recently-arrived immigrants), community centers, and other “civil society” organizations in large cities were sponsoring debate clubs and forums. In rural areas, granges continued to provide public places where farmers could discuss the issues of the day.

     One of the new methods of citizen involvement that appeared early in the 20th century was the “open forum.” The open forum movement (later called “the forum movement”) became rather popular, especially in urban areas. The word “open” meant that discussion was open to the general public. One of the most noteworthy of these early deliberative institutions was Ford Hall, established in Boston in 1908 by George Coleman with a bequest from local philanthropist Daniel Sharp Ford. Coleman carried out Ford’s desire to create a site where a diverse audience could listen to speakers and talk about matters of public interest and mutual concern. Nobody thought of such events as instances of direct democracy, but they were consistent with emerging support for expanded political participation.

     In a 1915 article, Rollo Lyman of the University of Chicago recommended that forums be separated from the singing, theater, poetry, and oratory that characterized traditional American Chautauquas. Lyman’s recommendation was well received, and forums spread across the country. In 1920, the League for Political Education opened the Town Hall in New York City, a place where newly enfranchised women could learn about politics and political issues so they could vote in a more-informed manner.

     According to Professors Gastil and Keith, many Americans in the early 20th century blamed the poor state of democratic political communication on the way debate was practiced in legislatures and universities. By the 1930s, speech departments at universities had begun to teach “discussion” courses, which emphasized cooperative small-group problem-solving. Such courses were based on the views of one of America’s greatest but lesser celebrated democratic philosophers John Dewey, and were intended to prepare students to participate in democratic settings where the principles of equal participation, mutual respect, and reasoned discourse would be observed.

     The high point of the forum movement was the Federal Forum Project, initiated in 1932 when the Carnegie Corporation of New York gave a grant to John Studebaker, superintendent of schools in Des Moines, Iowa, to run a two-year series of forums as an experiment in continuing adult civic education. The forums were so successful that, when Franklin Roosevelt named Studebaker U.S. Commissioner of Education in 1934, he set about replicating their success on a national scale.

     Beginning with eight well-funded demonstration forums, the U.S. Office of Education eventually sponsored dozens of forums. By 1938, more than a million people per year were participating in these forums. Although some offered not much more than a chance for the audience to hear a speaker, many allowed for audience discussion amongst themselves as well as with the speakers.

     The goal of these forums was sometimes characterized as voter instruction, but Studebaker and others saw them as efforts, not just to educate the public about issues, but also to foster a habit of democratic talk. He argued that deliberation is important for citizens as well as for legislators. He wrote in his book The American Way that:

“If we are to have that trained civic intelligence, that critical open-mindedness upon which the practical operation of a democracy must rest, we must soon take steps to establish throughout the nation a…system of public forums… We should be as thorough in our provision of educational machinery for the development of civic intelligence among adults as we are in our plans for teaching the three R’s to children.” (Studebaker, 1935)

     In 1932, educational philosopher and forum advocate Harry Overstreet invented the panel discussion, in which experts or topic authorities discuss issues with one another on the stage before the audience joins the discussion. Overstreet knew most people wouldn’t automatically understand and practice productive democratic communication, but he wanted a format that would allow educators to create models of democratic discourse.

     So what happened to these wonderful experiments and incremental progress in American democratic discourse throughout the Progressive era and the Great Depression, when the people were extremely interested in thinking, talking about, arguing about, and collectively solving pressing public problems?

     By the early 1940s, the Federal Forum Project had disappeared as federal spending shifted to the priority of fighting World War II. That’s what happened to the movement to teach and practice widespread public democratic discourse and to mobilize informed, collective public support in the United States of America. WWII did more than destroy lives and property. It set back democratic talk and public based political consensus right up to the present time.

     Nothing on a national scale has taken its place since. Professors Gastil and Keith (2005) believe various other factors undermined deliberative norms and practices between the 1940s and 1960s. One was the fear and intense passions surrounding the government and mass media driven “danger” to the United States posed by Soviet and Chinese Communism, combined with a suspicion that any public discussion about all this was a threat to the American political system. The Cold War, cast as it was in stark terms of “us” versus “them,” “good” and “evil,” helped reinforce a public mentality that was hostile to the exchange of ideas and to a diversity of perspectives.

     Obviously, during the 1930s, there was a lot of talk in the federal forums about Marxist positions…since this was a major political intellectual movement throughout the world because, among other things, there was a worldwide economic depression. But after WWII, the American public clammed up about it particularly with the establishment of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the “witch hunts” of Senator Joe McCarthy in the early 1950s.

     At the same time, mass media and new forms of communication, particularly Television or TV, drew people’s attention away from local-level, face-to-face public discussion and toward celebrated “experts” who addressed a national audience via “The Tube.”. Moreover, impressive strides forward in scientific knowledge and accompanying technological advances diminished ordinary folks’ sense that the experience and wisdom they acquired through living was a valuable source of knowledge relevant to resolving complicated issues of public policy.

     The “quiet tradition of the school board meeting” lost ground to the developing emphasis on efficient and rational governance by technocrats. The whole infrastructure of communication of political information and “talk” changed in the 1950s and 1960s through the seductive passivity engendered by America’s enchantment with TV as the major source of their “news” about politics and the world. Americans became isolated in their homes, captive to the American Corporate Oligarchy’s narrow and self-serving range of political and journalistic self-proclaimed “pundits.”

Many Modern Experiments, Projects and Networks in Deliberative Democracy

     The reaction against this one-way, hierarchical, downstream flow of information and expertise and against the orthodoxy being spewed out by the Cold Warriors and The Hidden Persuaders (Packard 1957) that froze all non-mainstream political dissent for many years finally inseminated the beginnings of yet another “public deliberation” movement not only in America, but in other parts of the world as well. Not surprisingly, a number of these new methods of both face-to-face public deliberation and “multi-media” ones (called Electronic Town Meetings, or ETMs) began during the highest arc of The Cultural Revolution. After all, one of the major mottos of that democratic surge in American history was “Power to the People.”    

“John Lennon – Power to the People”

     One of the reasons for this was that the American Corporate Oligarchy, which was besieged at that time by “sit-ins”, mass protests, demonstrations, and the rock and roll rebellion, kept asking the question: Well, if you don’t like the system we have, what would you have take its place?” Of course, at that time, there was no answer. But the question did stimulate a number of people to begin thinking about “Deliberative Democracy” and “Public Deliberation” and how new technologies and techniques could be used to develop a new kind of public space in such a large country, with such a diverse population, at a time when the mass media was totally dominated by the corporate powers that be.

     Over the past several years, though, “public deliberation” increasingly has been employed to characterize a particular form of political discourse in models of democracy that emphasize participation by “ordinary” citizens in the political process. Definitions vary, but generally speaking “public deliberation” is widely understood to be a pragmatic, inclusive form of dialogue and thought in which citizens collectively – even cooperatively:

* analyze a “problem”;

* establish criteria by which to evaluate public responses to it;

* identify multiple options that reflect different sets of values or value-priorities held by members of the public;

* weigh arguments for and against each option

* and, through an indefinite period of continuing discussion (that may or may not include voting), approach some measure of agreement that (ideally) most participants can accept as a collective “decision.”

     This is much more complex than the Chautauqua, panel discussions and Federal Forum models of yesteryear. One of the first innovations, starting in the early 1970s, was to begin to use one of the new “scientific” techniques of “scientific” public polling and consumer research: “the stratified sample.”

Face-to-Face (F2F) Stratified Samples:

Citizens Juries, Planning Cells (“Planungszelles”) and Other Models

     A major problem to be addressed was how to get “the public” in large societies, to come together and go through such a complicated process as defined above. Could it be done? How would you go about it? How long should it last? These questions were at the heart of the first two major F2F experiments in “deliberative democracy” – Dr. Ned Crosby’s “Citizens Juries” conducted by The Jefferson Center in Minneapolis, MN (USA) www.jefferson-center.org and Peter Dienel’s “Planning Cells” (Plannungszelle) at Wuppertal University (Germany).

     If you go to The Jefferson Center website, you can read about how and why they choose to utilize a random, stratified method of choosing citizens to “represent” their city or state or even nation in the Citizen Jury process. The Chautauquas and the forum process in earlier American times tried to draw in large crowds for good reasons. This is harder to do these days. Plus, those who came to Chautauquas and Federal Forums were what is called “self selected samples,” those citizens who chose to come to such meetings. They are unlike most citizens who do not normally like to go to large, or any, public meetings.

“The PM and Jacqui Smith Attend a Citizen’s Jury on Crime”

     By using random sampling and “stratifying” the sample, the modern organizers of many types of these new public spaces for discussion, deliberation and policy making attract many different types of people that need to be involved. Just like the Citizens Assemblies of British Columbia, there should be 50% women, people from all the main geographic parts of the polity, various ages, various races and ethnic groups, various levels of education, and the like that are in proportion to their numbers in that city or state or country. Thus, the assemblage must be a reasonable facsimile of the population. And the participants must be willing to spend a good deal of time in getting informed and thinking through the issue or problem with the others in a F2F situation.

     Dr. Crosby and his organization spent some 30 years in doing over 30 such experiments mainly in Minnesota to see how to improve on the process. His work became world famous, and there have now been hundreds of Citizen Jury projects all around the world, including Denmark, Germany, Spain, Australia, but in particular Great Britain. In fact, Citizen Juries are thriving in The United Kingdom…and handle many tough issues including how to deal with the exploding crime problem there as well as the health care system.

     The present Prime Minister of the UK, Gordon Brown, is a big supporter of using local CJs being held in some unison around the country in order to get a substantial national sampling of the people of UK to discuss, deliberate and recommend solutions to these problems to his Cabinet. Go to You Tube and search the following to see just how widespread and popular these are today in the UK.

     Dr. Crosby and his wife Pat Benn – herself a lifetime labor organizer – have also decided to try to find a good way to use the Citizen Jury method in the United States, since unlike the British Prime Minister, no president or state governor or even city mayor has so far seen fit to employ any of the new deliberative democratic methods, much less the rather user friendly Citizen Jury, to involve American citizens of our era in the official policy making or planning process…at least not up to this writing.

     One of their ideas has been to use Citizen Juries to improve the deliberative process of citizens initiatives that were discussed above. Crosby discusses this in his book Healthy Democracy (2003) where he observes that the information given citizens by state governments by mail prior to their voting on the ballot issues can be fortified greatly by inserting a media friendly Citizens Jury process into each citizens initiative that will appear on the ballot. Citizens could directly watch the jury questioning advocates on each side and then thinking the issue through. There could even be input via the Internet and the report of the Jury would also be put up on the worldwide web. This would provide an important role for the general public in the entire process other than merely voting on the issue submitted by proponents of the issue. (Crosby 2003)

     Crosby and Benn tried to get this done in the state of Washington and it nearly passed in an initiative process there and they have worked with a group in the state of Oregon to implement this concept there, although they have slimmed down the role of the Citizen Jury to simply having a report of its findings announced publicly and then the results inserted in the information booklet that the state sends to each voter about the ballot issue. See their website at www.healthydemocracyoregon.org for information about it.

     Also, there are several excellent videos on the Washington and Oregon projects, the Washington one (Citizens Initiative Washington, or CIW) and the one below…by Healthy Democracy Oregon in 2009. This is a clear and well produced explanation of how to “put quality citizen deliberation at the heart of the citizens initiative process.” and is clear and convincing demonstration of how advanced this method of citizen dialogue is over the earlier American models.

“The Citizens Initiative Review Process in Oregon (2009)”

     Dr. Peter Dienel’s model in Germany was almost an exact replica of the American Citizen Jury, although neither Drs. Dienel nor Crosby knew of the other’s work during the formative and developmental stages of their respective projects. In fact, the greatest difference was not in small details in how citizens were selected, or the exact length of time it took, or in how the information was conveyed, it came in the political philosophy of Dr. Dienel. He would not just experiment. He needed to have the government involved directly from the outset of the process and at the end when the report was presented to the government.

     Another difference between the Planning Cells and the Citizens Juries is explicit in their names. Dr. Dienel was not interested in having citizens involved in critical policy decisions or lawmaking. His interest in getting citizens involved in this new method of deliberative democracy was to engage them directly and efficiently in important local planning.

     He also was absolutely convinced that there should be no getting citizens to participate unless there was at least a tacit “contract” between the government and the planning cells that the recommendations of the cells would be implemented as the city’s plan, somewhat along the lines of the subsequent Porto Alegre PB process. Although few government planning agencies or officials would actually write that down, the fact that Dr. Dienel’s cells were not just a single event (one cell or jury), but many at the same time in different parts of the city that would (and usually did) attract widespread coverage in the news, put public pressure on them to comply with any consensuses.

     This publicity gave their recommendations extra weight, because if the city refused to implement the citizen cells’ plans, it would have a lot of explaining to do. Also, the Dienel method, since it almost assured citizens that they weren’t wasting their time, was effective in getting citizens to give their time to this deliberative democratic decision making process. (Dienel 1998)

     There are other modern models of F2F deliberative democracy that have been developed in the United States in the past decades that involve citizens, mostly at the local and occasionally state levels, in thinking through plans for their future or solving pressing policy matters concerning health, safety, race, their economic future and the like. They are not as stringent about getting “representative” samples of citizens but they all work extremely well – much like the old time Chautauquas and the Forum Movement. They all involve citizens in sifting through extensive information and expert opinion; they are all professionally facilitated by experts who know how to engage all participants in the discussion and decision making; the process usually results in a large or total consensus; and the participants are almost always extremely satisfied with the process and their product.

     Some of these longest running and most prominent and successful U.S. deliberative democracy or public deliberation projects are:

a. Study Circles, or as it goes by its new name: Everyday Democracy at www.everyday-democracy.org This organization has been around since 1989 and has served over 500 communities in its “dialogue-to-change” process. It handles every kind of issue and problem imaginable with a high rate of citizen and community satisfaction and effect.

b. The Kettering Foundation’s National Issues Forums (NIF) website can be found at www.nifi.org These forums have been held now for over 25 years, and they are a network of local forums of citizens organized by civic associations, churches, universities and libraries that gather self selected groups of citizens to come to their facilitated meetings to discuss several issues of national importance each year. The Kettering Foundation provides the basic information and opinions in sophisticated booklets to stimulate the deliberations, collects and analyzes the results each year and then informs the public and Congress of Americans’ “voice” on these important national matters in a variety of ways.

c. The Public Agenda Foundation can be found online at www.publicagenda.com. Founded in 1975 by nationally known pollster Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, this foundation has been a major player in the development of the national deliberative democracy movement. It has developed unique methods of “public engagement”, some of which are described in Mr. Yankelovich’s book Coming to Public Judgment (1991). The Public Agenda Foundation continually updates its

award winning website that keeps the reader well informed on a multitude of pressing national and local issues including some of their newest projects from its Center for Advances in Public Engagement.

     We could go on and on with an extremely long list, but we’d prefer to stop and let the reader actually take a look at these original and enduring efforts to shape the modern version of American public deliberation and citizen dialogue. The reader may well wonder whether any of these people work together. The answer to that is: Yes.

 There are two major American-based networks that bring many of these and other similar organizations together at conferences and meetings to share their experiences and occasionally collaborate on projects. Each has an excellent website as well. They are The Deliberative Democracy Consortium (DDC) at www.deliberative-democracy.net headed by Matt Leighninger and the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) at www.thataway.org founded and chaired by Sandy Heierbacher. There is also another global network of professionals and academics who collaborate in the broader field of “public participation,” The International Association of Public Participation, or IAP2. Their homepage is at www.iap2.org. Although it has been headquartered outside the U.S. at times, it is currently housed in Colorado. The other two are originally U.S. based, although each has multi-national partners.

     The reader may also question whether American scholars and academics and those from other nations around the world have any interest in developing any theories about this, and are doing any studies about it to show scientifically how well it works or doesn’t work. Again, the answer is absolutely yes.

     There is already a sizable library of books published about the work being done in this important democratic transformation, some of which have already been cited above. And there are two professional journals, both online, which will keep the reader current on various scientific theories, experiments, projects, findings and analyses of deliberative democracy projects and experiments mentioned above and the kinds we will mention below that involve the new Information and Communications Technologies, or ICT. These two online publications are The Journal of Public Deliberation at www.services.bepress.com (edited by Becker) and the International Journal of Public Participation at www.ijp2.com (founded by Briand).

Using Information and Communications Technology ICT) in Deliberative Democracy Experiments and Projects

     When radio became a national phenomenon in the 1920s and TV in the 1950s, both of these new electronic information technologies were heralded as ushering in a new age of democracy in America. After all, they were just about in every home. They were attractive. They told Americans about what was going on in the world. The evening news became instantaneous and national. You could listen to it and you could watch it. Unfortunately, as we’ve already pointed out, they have had almost the opposite effect. Why?

     As we’ve emphasized repeatedly, they are both structurally undemocratic. The people who own the medium control the content. Moreover, it is a one-way system of communication. As for radio, it started out with many different kinds of stations locally owned and operated and staffed…by commercial companies, churches, labor unions, municipalities, etc. But the way it has evolved, it is now almost totally owned by large commercial corporations who use it primarily as tool to make profit through advertising….which is exactly what has happened with American TV….as we described in detail in Chapter 12. The effect on the rather weak form of American “democracy” has been close to disastrous.

     But it didn’t have to take that path. Actually, there were and are opportunities within the American system, and other Western democracies, to utilize these new electronic technologies to enhance the kind of dialogue and deliberation that had characterized the American democratic spirit well before The American Revolution and that is alive and well today, just waiting to be reborn and re-energized through these ICTs.

     We believe that the first person to exploit this opening was a psychologist named Dr. Vincent Campbell. He convinced the National Science Foundation in the early 1970s, again during The American Cultural Revolution, to let him develop a new method of citizen participation by which gave information to self selected samples of the citizens of San Jose, California via brochures which they received if they registered as participants in what he called “The Televote” process. Once registered, they were given Personal Identification Numbers (or PINs) whereby they could vote by telephone – the most widespread two-way electronic communication technology at the time.

     This project, like Peter Dienel’s planning cells, was co-sponsored by a government agency. In this case, it was the San Jose Department of Education. The issues involved the schools of that city. The Board really wanted to get informed opinion from the citizens of San Jose about 9 problems they had to solve and they put forth 9 ballot initiatives on which the registered Televoters were to call in their opinions. Before each, the registered citizen received a packet of information and then they used their PINs to vote and a computer tallied the results which were then forwarded to the Board. It worked like a charm. The Board was happy with it, adopted most of the Televoters recommendations, and so were the citizens who participated. (Campbell 1974)

     In 1978, Becker and his partner, Christa Daryl Slaton, saw how this simple system could be improved and used to help guide the delegates to the State of Hawaii Constitutional Convention (ConCon) of 1978. Instead of just allowing a self-selected sample of citizens register for two Televotes on two major issues of importance at the ConCon, Becker and Slaton decided to use standard scientific public opinion polling procedures, whereby the Televoters would be selected at random by telephone.

     Those citizens who “won” this lottery were asked by the Televote staff if they would be willing to (a) receive an illustrated brochure in the mail that had undisputed facts about these issues; (b) which also contained a balanced set of arguments pro and con about the issue and then (c) be willing to discuss this matter with their families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers before deciding how they would vote. If they agreed to do this, then the Televote staff obtained their addresses and sent them the pamphlet about their issue and made an appointment, usually a week or so later, so that the Televoters could think about the facts and opinions, talk it over with others, and then deliberate on how they wanted to vote.

     This was the birth of the first scientific deliberative poll. Becker and Slaton worked on about a dozen of these experiments over a 6 year period in Hawaii, New Zealand and California and came to realize that citizens of all three polities were extremely excited and gratified to be involved in this kind of decision making process. Through the use of this highly interactive, informed deliberation process that they could do at their homes, they let the staff know that they indeed felt “empowered” just to take part in a truly democratic deliberative process.

     Dr. Dienel was a firm believer that in order to entice citizens into any kind of deliberative democracy project, the government had to bind itself to utilize the results. Otherwise, citizens would not participate since all their work would have no effect. This did not prove to be true with citizens who were recruited into the Televote scientific deliberative polling process. All the Televoters needed to know was that they would be involved in a genuine deliberative process and that the results would be made public and sent to various governmental officials, i.e., the ConCon delegates, the state legislature, The New Zealand Commission for the Future, The Southern California Association of Governments.

     A full detailing of a large number of revealing and intriguing findings of these experiments can be found in Slaton’s book Televote (1992) and in their joint effort The Future of Teledemocracy. (Becker and Slaton 2000)

     Some years later, another political scientist, Dr. James Fishkin of the University of Texas, invented another method of scientific deliberative polling that he calls “The Deliberative Poll.” His poll works quite differently from the Becker and Slaton model. For a full description, go to the website of The Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, where he is now the Director. It can be found at www.cdd.stanford.edu

     What Dr. Fishkin does is to randomly select several hundred people who agree to assemble in person at a large central meeting place (often a university) that runs for several days. All expenses are paid. They are told they are going to deliberate on an important issue and be polled on their opinion before the process begins and after it is over. They also know there will be large assemblies, small “break out” group meetings, that they will get lots of information and hear many different experts, talk with many fellow citizens and that the whole event will be televised.

     The point of all this is to demonstrate and measure exactly how much of an impact this kind of deliberative process has on the public opinion of a scientific sample of the city, state or nation. Dr. Fishkin has conducted over 22 of these projects thus far, according to his website, including national ones in Great Britain, Denmark and Australia among others. The results from them all are startlingly similar. In almost every instance, this particular deliberative process makes a stark difference in the minds of many of the citizens who participate in it. In other words, their views and opinions change radically. (Fishkin and Farrar 2005)

     Thus, both the Becker and Slaton Televote experiments and those of Professor Fishkin are pretty clear and convincing proof of the efficacy of scientific deliberative polling…and by clear inference…on public opinion through impartial, informative public deliberative processes. One of the key elements is that the citizens in scientific deliberative polling – who are always a much more representative sample of the populace than any of their legislatures – learn a great deal by listening to the stories and the views of their fellow citizens. This has been a slowly developing epiphany in the development of American deliberative democracy over the years. Scientific deliberative polling can also have an impact on getting citizens from different countries together for deliberation on key issues as well. Fishkin managed to get the EU to do one of his deliberative experiments in Brussels in 2007

“Europe in One Room”

     The Fishkin experiment is also notable for its employment of TV as an instrument to be used in scientific deliberative processes. Of course, Becker and Slaton had also used TV along with the Televote in New Zealand, California and Hawaii. (Slaton 1992, Becker and Slaton 2000) For Fishkin, however, TV was only part of the “educational” aspect of his process. For others in the Deliberative Democracy Movement, TV is primarily a method of interactive communication that helps empower citizens in their decision making process from the local level to national…and ultimately global.

     Of course, personal computers and the Internet are the other ICT that have come on the scene since the 1990s and they both greatly enhance the idea and ideals of modern deliberative democracy. One of the most advanced methods of multi-media deliberative democracy in use today is another American invention, Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer’s “21st Century Town Hall Meeting” concept that is housed at America Speaks in Washington, D.C.

“Barack Obama TOWN HALL MEETING in Fairless Hills, PA”

 Observe what most Americans, and citizens in other “representative democracies” have come to call “town hall meetings.” These are nothing like the New England Town Meetings and nothing like the Athenian Ecclesia. They are usually a one-person show where the politician or political leader comes and gives a talk, presenting her or his point of view, and then s/he fields questions and gives answers. The citizens only pose queries or stand in line at a microphone and make comments. The photo at the left was the “town hall format” used in the 2008 American presidential “debates.” These have become a national joke of late when American Congresspersons went back to their constituencies in the summer of 2009 and gave their views on health care reform. They did not get the respect that the presidential candidates received, as in the above video. Here is an example of what now passes, according to the American mass media, as “town hall meetings” in modern America.

“Town Hall Meeting Erupts in Protest”

     See how lame these are compared to the Citizens Juries, Participatory Budgeting, Citizens Assemblies, Deliberative Polls? There is NO deliberation by the citizens at all. They are mere props for the politicians. So, how does Dr. Lukensmeyer’s “21st Century Town Hall Meeting”—which gets very little attention from political leaders and mainstream media actually work?

     Well, fortunately for one and all, The AmericaSpeaks process is vividly and visually portrayed in two ways (a) a short, but very well produced video and (b) an excellent slideshow. Both can be accessed by clicking on their homepage at www.americaspeaks.org. Compare this complex interactive process to the ersatz, spurious kind of “Town Hall Meetings” that politicians employ to make their own points to constituents or potential voters in their home states or towns or on the campaign trail. The difference is akin to the difference between night and day.

     The idea of using as many electronic tools as possible to get citizens to interact with government officials to discuss policy issues or planning has gone back a long way. The Los Angeles Televote held on KTLA in the early 1980s; the Honolulu Electronic City Council Hearing in 1987; the Alaska Television Town Meeting in 1980; the Reform Party Electronic Town Meeting on the issue of “physician assisted suicide” in Calgary that bound 5 Members of Parliament to vote the way the citizens wanted – these are all tried and true methods of using TV, radio, newspapers, and computers to empower people to think issues through at home or in a public meeting place. AmericaSpeaks put them altogether in its model and has successfully practiced it in the U.S.A. on a variety of issues like rebuilding New Orleans and health care reform in California, both in 2008.

“America Speaks: Engaging Citizens in Governance”

     One of Dr. Lukensmeyer’s earlier experiments was also one of national scope. It was called “American Discuss Social Security” and was held in the late 1990s. It demonstrated vividly how the old time Chautauquas and Federal Forums could have much larger meetings – of many hundreds or even thousands of people under one roof in one part of the nation – electronically in touch by closed circuit TV with many thousands of true American “representatives” at the same time all over the country, from Los Angeles to Boston…and Cheyenne to Palm Beach. The dream that America can have informed, thoughtful public citizen deliberations about complex policy issues over a relatively short period of time – hundreds of thousands of citizens just like us talking and thinking together all over this nation – is not a dream. It is a reality.

     The problem is not that the American public is unwilling or incapable of doing this…or that it hasn’t been proven repeatedly that it is eminently doable. The reality is not that the American democratic spirit has diminished or disappeared. The reality is that it is stifled and stilled by the way America’s Corporate Oligarchy and their allies in state and local corporate and government elite positions do the public’s business in this nation. They do it behind closed doors. Almost without exception, The American Corporate Oligarch gets “The Closed Door Award” every year. They do not want to share their political and economic power and mass media power with the American people because they know that they are at odds with the good will and common sense of the American public or the people of the states or any county or municipality. They want to make all the critical decisions themselves. They are the epitome of what it means to be a “control freak”. If they were willing to share and if they were willing to relinquish some of their power, America’s future would be very much brighter than it is in 2010.

Who Should Control America’s Future Political Economy: The American Corporate Oligarchy or The American People?

     Deliberative participation in democratic governance is much, much more than a means by which public policy can be made more effective and by which citizens can feel more connected with government. Deliberative public participation is the sine qua non of democracy…whether in the family, in the workplace, in our strategic economic decision making, and in our governance in daily life – whether it be a condominium association, a Kiwanis meeting, a political science department, the town council, PTA, Congress, a Parliament, or even a global negotiation, like the Copenhagen Conference on climate change in December of 2009. Authentic democratic processes remain rare.

     Democracy, in truth, is an indispensable component of human well-being. Hence the form, extent, and quality of democracy throughout any society are of most fundamental importance to Jefferson’s belief that we all have an inalienable right to pursue our own happiness. Those who live or work in hierarchical or authoritarian systems have a high hurdle to overcome in attaining personal self-esteem and gratification in life.

     At stake in the continuing contest between oligarchy and democracy in the United States, as well as around the world, is not just who is at the controls of present day political and economic institutions. What is at stake is who is going to make the most crucial decisions about the future of humankind on planet Earth. As we said at the very start of this book, America will play a key role in the outcome, by what it decides to do or not do, for better or for worse.

     As we are living through 2010, it has become quite clear that our globe has become an exceptionally treacherous place. The United States may be in the worst economic mess it’s suffered through in over a half a century, but every nation is feeling its own sense of pain and potential disaster looming over its own mountains, deserts and seas. Yet, the way America goes is pretty much the way the rest will go too. A gigantic volcanic eruption in one small part of the Earth can change climate around the world for decades. The U.S.A is not “one small part” of this world, it is a massive and global presence. It implodes, it will have the gravity of a black hole.

     So, there are extremely important political and economic decisions that have to be made and soon, right here on American soil. Many will be made by the present U.S. government and its various and sundry institutions. They must be a lot better than a host of decisions that have been made in recent decades which have helped lead America to the brink of economic decay and political suicide.

     In November 2008, the American people entrusted their future to a new Administration, led by a relatively young leader, but one who has surrounded himself with very much the same kind of advisors and officials who advised his predecessors. President Obama has already made it clear that his view of the American political spectrum stops at Republican/Democrat and liberal/conservative. But these are very much the same people who populated American government over the past two or three decades and put Reaganomics and The New World Order into place. At best, then, we can expect “reform” from the top echelons of the power elite…if that.

     But what “choice” for “change” did Americans really have? No matter who they elected, only the faces and some of the attitudes of these leaders would have changed. The same philosophy of governance, both at home and abroad, would have been much the same. The military industrial complex, The American Empire, and the American and Global Corporate Oligarchy are still in charge. Thus, from our point of view, the slope of America’s political economic situation might level off some for a while, or even wobble along with some ups and downs. But the long-term arrows on all the charts will continue to plunge most often and generally downward for some time…no matter how many “happy faces” the mass media cosmeticians and economic artists paint on them.

     The biggest question is not how much “change” the Obama Administration will bring to America’s troubled political economy. The biggest question is whether or when the American people are going to react in ways that are traditional to the democratic spirit of the United States of America. Having e-conversations with President Obama on his “Organizing for America” is hardly the solution. President Obama’s vows of being “transparent” and “engaging” the public will have about as much success under the present oligarchy’s regime as the “Sunshine Laws” had after the Cultural Revolution. Delightful words will let in little illumination. None of what may be said or promised from the apex will come even close to the American and new global concepts of a democratic public decision making process.

     Will the American people finally get fed up with the rule of this greedy, effete and ineffectual political economic oligarchy? How much pain and depression can the mass of the American people take before they rise up en masse in some ways as they have done since before the American Revolution? How much distance must the American public discern between themselves and those of privilege who try to disguise their deep indifference to the public’s plight before they begin to assemble and demand fundamental change? Massive peaceful protests, demonstrations and widespread assembly are as American as “shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy.” Huge ones are taking place in recent years all around the world. These methods, plus general strikes and economic boycotts have a proven records of undermining entrenched elite rule.

     If and when that happens, if American history holds true, and we believe it will…perhaps massive outrage will make itself known before the election of 2012. Perhaps not until then. Perhaps not until after that. No one really knows how bad things are going to get…or how quickly. No one knows how well the Obama “stimulus” package is going to work, or how the “bailout” of failed American financial and industrial goliaths will succeed or fail. No one knows when this unbearable American national debt will become the albatross around America’s neck. No one knows what is in store for America’s doomed empire throughout the world…what new crises will emerge…what new enemies will appear…What we do know is that the longer the Empire continues, the longer the economic wounds will not be sutured.

     So what can Americans do right now other than trust the new faces of the American Corporate Oligarchy to palliate the economic and human suffering in the U.S.A. and around the world? They can get to understand the true democratic history of the United States of America and begin to understand that either the American people begin to think and act together regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen in Washington, D.C. As we believe we have shown in this last part of this book, particularly in Chapters 15 and 16, the real solutions start local and small. But they sprout and they grow. Only later do the forms and connections appear.

“Say a Little Prayer for Planet Earth”

     As we believe we have amply demonstrated in the last three chapters of this book, pragmatic solutions to America’s domestic and foreign problems abound. They have worked in America. They have worked in other countries. They work at the national level. They work in small communities. They are political. They are economic. They are social. They only need Americans to step up to the plate and act as Americans have historically acted in times of national emergency and dramatic change: together, in solidarity. Moreover, today Americans can use the most effective and sophisticated democratic practices of any time in history aided by the most empowering ICTs in humankind’s residence on Planet Earth.

     We have not tried to present an abbreviated encyclopedia of all the ideas, systems, institutes, centers, thinkers, and doers who have paved the way as to how all this can be done. We have only tried to connect some of the larger dots, just enough to make The Big Picture clear. There is no way that America cannot be The Last Empire on the face of the Earth. It already is that.

     However, as The Last Empire, it is also presently Lost…wandering somewhat aimlessly in wastelands it has created, running low on oil and water. The way to regain its senses and its ideals and rediscover its destiny of independence, freedom and a good life is for Americans to begin to realize that they are Americans. And that means embracing and reliving The Declaration of Independence and The American Revolution, albeit in peaceful and democratic ways. That means regaining their strength through numbers…in the workplace….in their governance…through the wonders of democracy as defined ever since it was founded in Athens over 2000 years ago and redesigned and redeveloped in the United States ever since its founding.

     Once America regains its sense and practice of democracy, as praised by de Tocqueville almost two centuries ago, it may be The Last Empire, but it will no longer having lost its bearings. If the American Corporate Oligarchy remain as the ones to decide America’s political economy for the future, America will surely be the lesser and the biggest loser in Post Imperial Times. If the American people can regain their grasp on power and reshape their own and the world’s political economy into a more democratic, decentralized system, it will regain its rightful place as a world leader in Early Post Imperial Times based on its peaceful, practical, collaborative models and not displaced as a despised, autocratic violent Emperor.

     So, it is up to us – all of us – to decide whether the future will bring more oligarchy, and with it more of the distortions, injustices and devastation it creates, or whether it will bring a new stage in the uneven-but-continuing project of improving the conditions of life for all people in the United States and throughout the world. In our conversations and discussions of when, where, and how to admit all citizens into the political and economic decision-making arenas, let us bear in mind that the stakes are of the highest order. Not just democracy, but much more – peace, justice, human solidarity, and even the fates of Mother Earth and of terrestrial life itself – hang in the balance.

     We leave you with one of the greatest speeches ever made in human history about the previous sacrifices made by America’s forefathers and mothers in the cause of freedom, justice and democracy: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863. There are many dramatizations of this speech on the web, but we’ve chosen this one—for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has truly understood the contents, ideas and ideals of this book.

“Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: A Collective Voice of the People of Central Illinois, USA”

     Humanity is now engaged on many battlefields, the outcome as uncertain as it was when Abraham Lincoln spoke these cherished words 147 years ago. But his vision as to what we must believe, what we must remember, and how we must proceed in the future remains as true today as when he shared it with us under equally gloomy and cloudy circumstances.

Questions for Discussion

1. Why do Becker and Briand think that “reform” of the American political system will not be good enough to bring about the kind of changes in policy that they think are desirable and necessary?

2. What are the differences between Citizen Perot’s reforms and those in “The Contract with America”?

3. How do Becker and Briand distinguish “reform” from “transformation”? How would they classify electing the president by the majority of a popular vote of the people? How would you classify it?

4. Do you think that President Obama’s “stimulus package” is a reform, a transformation, or neither?

5. Why might “The Clean Election Laws” be considered as a progressive reform of the “representative democracy” oxymoron? How about Oregon’s “vote by mail” program?

6. What features in the Swiss system do Becker and Briand believe make it by far the most democratic nation in the world today?

7. What is the only country in the world that allows citizens to “recall” their president in the middle of his/her term of office? Does this occur at all in the United States? Would you like to see the U.S. Constitution amended to allow for American citizens to recall the president and schedule a new election before her/his term expires?

8. How would you define “deliberative democracy”?

9. Why did the Parliament of British Columbia decide to establish a “Citizens Assembly?” How did they choose the delegates? How did they empower The Citizens Assembly to actually make it a real and powerful democratic experiment?

10. Do you think Citizens Assemblies would work in the United States? If not, why not?

11. What is “participatory budgeting?” Do you think this would work in the United States of America? Do you think it should be used widely? If not, why not?

12. What institutions in American history were the ancestors to the modern American deliberative democracy movement? If they were so successful, why did they end?

13. What is a citizens jury and how does it work? How does it differ from “The Deliberative Poll?” Can you think of any way that they might be used together?

14. Are F2F and electronic deliberations compatible?

15. What are the indicators, according to Becker and Briand, that the deliberative democracy movement is the next generation of democratic transformation for America and around the world?

16. Do you think that a widespread use of deliberative democracy, along with more actual political democracy, would help America and the rest of the world cope with emerging national, regional and global disasters? If not, why not?

Chapter 15 How Capitalism and Democracy Compliment One Another: Restructuring America’s Hierarchical Economy

     In late 2008, it dawned upon many that the Global Corporate Oligarchy, led by its American planners and CEOs, had led the global economy off the proverbial cliff. This myopic clique, quick to boast of their “New Economics” (i.e., the old “Reaganomics”) that would “raise all boats,” had instead torpedoed the world economic system through their erroneous theories, dubious financial instruments created by physicists and accountants, criminal negligence, egregious fraud, and even through the force of arms. So, now the world is in much the same boat…and it is slipping underneath an ocean of dark and murky red ink. Is there really “recovery” in Asia and the EU in 2010? Statistically, yes, somewhat. In human terms, not really, and even “the recovery” may well turn out to be a fleeting blip on the global economic charts.

 And what about all these “stimuli packages” to banks and industries from debt ridden governments? Who are these brainy and wealthy business folks imploring to rescue them? Governments. Please, oh please, nation states, “bail us out.” Buy up our “toxic debt” with taxpayer money, please. “We’re too big to fail. If we fail, your whole national economy will drown.” One of these global oligarchs, the founder and President of Hyundai in Korea, Chung Mong-koo, was actually convicted of felonious conduct – minor matters like criminal fraud and embezzlement in 2007,– in the way he ran his company. He was actually sentenced to 3 years in prison but was pardoned by the president of South Korea because – according to Reuters – he was just too important to the country’s economy.

     Believe it or not, in 2008, no less than 341,000 South Korean “executives, politicians and bureaucrats” were also convicted of “fraud, embezzlement and assault” – but pardoned because they were “needed to help revive the failing economy.” In Korea, their national oligarchy has a well known, popular name: “Chaibol .” So it is with oligarchies…national or global. They believe they are above the law, more important than other citizens, and if they should fail, others should “bail them out.” We suggest that The American Corporate Oligarchy should have its very own popular name, perhaps using our acronym: “TACO”. Given its love of NAFTA and CAFTA, that seems appropriate.

     By paying the bill for such malfeasance, and buying up bad debts and worthless stocks due to mismanagement and the looting of the companies and industries by those at the top of the hierarchy, this has been called by some critics for what it is: “Socializing the losses and privatizing the gains.” That isn’t what socialism is really about. That isn’t what capitalism is about. That isn’t what democracy is about. That’s pure oligarchy and despotism—with a smiley face on it. That is what a famous American political scientist who taught for many years at Hunter College in New York City, Dr. Bertram Gross, once called, “friendly fascism” (1980).

     We’ve detailed all this before ad nauseum, but just to show how far this has gone, in December of 2008, an article appeared in Bloomberg News, a major American financial newsletter. The headline, both bland and bold, read: “Fed Refuses to Disclose Recipients of $2 Trillion.” This was about the fact that The Fed has been running the government money printing presses 24/7, throwing gobs of cash at every financial institution which had their palms up. There was no accountability to anyone in the government, to the media, or the public. And, obviously, no transparency either. That’s $2 Trillion of taxpayer money (debt) given to all these commercial and banking corporations, guilty of mismanagement and much worse, without anyone (including Congress) knowing who they were, what were the conditions of repayment if any, what was the money to be used for, and on. As some have called them, they are “The Zombie Banks.” Here’s a great animated video from www.MarkFiore.com that will make you laugh while you cry:

“The Zombie Bank”

     This seems like the greatest bank heist up to that point in world history, and no one seemed to notice, or worse yet, care. So how can they get away with it? Well, as we have said throughout this book, such was the basic design of The Federalists from the gitgo: government of the bankers and financial speculators, by the bankers and financial speculators, for the bankers and financial speculators. If they win their bets, they keep the proceeds. If they lose, the citizens lose their homes and shirts.

     Shortly thereafter, when some in the media actually asked some of the bigger banks about this, “None of the banks provided specific answers.” These included Bank of America, SunTrust, Regions, Bank of New York Mellon and JP Morgan Chase. The Associated Press reporter, who investigated this outrage, asked the American people this question: “Think you could borrow money from a bank without saying what you would do with it? Well, apparently, when a bank borrows money from you, they don’t feel the same need to say how the money is spent.” (Apuzzo 2008)

     Where are Jefferson and Jackson now that we need them more than ever? Of course, they’re dead. Also among the unliving, it seems, is their American spirit of defiance and resistance against these financial oligarchs. More untold trillions in “guarantees” are still being sucked from The Fed…in order “to keep the credit markets liquid”…and allow the banks to still lend the American government and people money at hefty profits and keep their CEOs in bonuses and ridiculous wealth and luxury. Go out and try to get a loan from The Glitterati. Tell them that it’s taxpayer money. A lot of good it will do you.

     Another headline, that same day, off the Reuters wire, informed one and all that the IMF has forecast a global depression at least throughout 2009 and into 2010 (Hay 2008). This will occur despite the fact that central banks throughout the world, Europe and China included, are heaping piles of money to rescue many banks and industries as well. Hmmm. We thought that this was supposed to be the Age of the Free Markets and Free Trade. We thought “socialism” was dead. We saw, in earlier pages, that the great corporate visionaries foresaw the obsolescence of the “nation state” and that if only the heads of the global companies could have the world on a string without any interference from national governments that unprecedented world prosperity would reign forever.

     Back in the good old U.S.A., as the Obama Administration and its team of economic sages have taken over, many alleged solutions to the problem are now unfolding. Since this “Economic Dream Team” is mostly comprised of retreads from the Reagan, Bush I and Clinton eras, what they are doing is a mixture of Reaganomics, New Dealism and New World Orderism. After all, they are all Democrats now. But they are also “experienced” in how all this worked before it was shown to be based on fallacious assumptions and reasoning. The team consists of major New York bankers, Fed-sympathizers, mainstream economists, and politicians from the old school.

     Thus, it is hardly surprising that “the solution’ is to throw even more unimaginable amounts of taxpayer debt at the problems. But even as this may well make the system seem to be “recovering”…and boost the stock market for a “breather’…and even tame the effects of this “worst economic crisis since The Great Depression,” it is also pumping more heated helium into the already over-expanded “twin deficit” balloon…but especially the new Government Debt Bubble. This may turn out to be the most gigantic, volcanic “bubble” of all: The Debt of Debts. It will within a relatively short time minimize the value of the dollar to almost zilch which, in turn, will inevitably have other extremely serious consequences. It is a basic law of economics that you cannot spend yourself out of a deepening debt by going deeper into it. Sooner or later, you go bust for good. Yet that is the opening round of the Obama Administration’s fight. It may feel good for a while, but the side effects are going to be equally, if not more, debilitating, just like any opiate or gambling addiction.

     Sure, there will be some money to renegotiate some home mortgages. But the foreclosures keep on a-coming in 2010—at record levels Sure, many more Americans will find jobs in companies and new industries subsidized or partly owned by the U.S. government (but not nearly enough to offset the losses of the past 10 years). Sure, others will find work in government owned construction and conservation projects. But all this is based exclusively on borrowed paper money…much of it, as we have seen, now being owned by foreign interests, some extremely unfriendly to American Empire.

     What is really needed, as we have alluded to before, is for America to rethink and regroup and transform our political economy, not “reform” it in the image of its past glories, as well as past booms and busts. The American contemporary political economy, the one presently enchanted and chained to the military industrial complex, is the wrong one at the wrong time. What America needs, really needs, is to let this deficient and deteriorating system go into its natural extinction and not prop it up with more borrowing, but use that money to (a) ameliorate the negative effects on the public safety and welfare of all its citizens and (b) plan and support the adolescence of a new replacement system that already has many key components of it in the toddler stage. It’s time to take off the training wheels. 

     Actually, to do this would be to use the playbook of one of the most highly regarded political economic thinkers about the dynamics of successful capitalism – according to Adam Smith. The essential idea behind capitalism, in the words of Joseph Schumpeter, in his classic books Capitalism, Democracy and Socialism (1942) and The History of Economic Analysis (1954) is its power of “creative destruction.”

     That is not an oxymoron. That is a paradox. Let us re-emphasize basic capitalism. If certain businesses do not plan well, utilize their resources correctly, do not produce a high quality product, and go bankrupt, then that is all to the good. If another does these things and succeeds, that is good. He believed that enlightened, thoughtful and imaginative “entrepreneurialism” was the engine behind the growth of capitalism. He believed that if capitalism was wedded to any particular technologies that had become outmoded, that it would fail.

     Take a look at a favorable view of how America’s workforce can be reinvigorated through this process – a process that is already in progress – but which is overlooked and even intentionally demonized by the corporate oligarchs and their handmaidens in the mass media. In this view, automation, or machines and robots have destroyed more jobs than offshoring…BUT…also created many more new ones in the process. This is a good visual explanation of the “creative destructiveness” of capitalism….although it minimizes or even ignores the damage done to the American workforce and general economy by the Global Corporate Oligarchy.

“Drew Carey on Creative Destruction: Reason.com”

     It was rising from the ashes of failed capitalistic structures that has kept capitalism fresh and profitable. In the eyes of Schumpeter and many other classic pro-capitalist economists, the abysmal failure of the present dysfunctional and corrupt American and global political economy should be welcomed with glee and visions of future economic Satori. The U.S. government’s role – and that of its cronies in the Global Corporate Oligarchy – in supporting and rewarding those failures is exactly opposite to sound capitalist theory, i.e., “creative destruction.” Government’s only role in such cases is to help sort out the damage and a possible restructuring in bankruptcy court.

     The only reason The Obama Administration is not following this credo is that it has been put into office and staffed by those with personal, professional, and economic interests in shoring up the failing system. The old, decadent oligarchy will do everything in its power to save the collapsing structures and to restore the status quo ante. Now that Reaganomics has proved once and for all to be the root cause of America’s economic downfall, their economic successors, the present Obama squad of economic solons, are determined to duplicate the Keynesian economics deployed with some success from the 1930s-1970s. In other words, back to the future.

     In truth, this will not work. Lazarus will not actually rise from the dead. However, for a time in the early years of The Obama Administration, the hired cheerleaders in the mass media, high luster academics and quasi-academics, and various and sundry financial sorcerors and spoiled kleptocrats will try to make Americans believe that “we’re coming back.” However, the real world that is in a stage of economic metamorphosis during Early Post Imperial Times will nod in fake agreement, throw a few life preservers America’s way, and go about establishing the real new economic order with The American Corporate Oligarchy back-benched, at least for a time.

     So, until America eschews Empire (as we have observed in Chapter 14), regains and reprioritizes the wealth it is squandering on military destructiveness abroad instead of on inventive constructiveness at home, it will remain self-important but isolated as the new global economy takes shape and becomes dominant. The new economic world order needs America to play the role of equal partner, as well as a technology and technique innovator, for America is a central marketplace for the global economy…and could regain a key role in developing new capital through its genius at inventiveness in science, technology and new processes of industry and governance. This is the way America can resurrect its role as world leader and shed its new, but indelible, image as world demon – but it must get serious about “creative destructiveness”: letting “the too big to fail” implode and co-opting the new robotics and ICTs to help working America regain repossession of their economy..

     If huge sums are continually dumped into keeping this system the same as it has been developing since World War II, then America is more likely to be seen as being in a coma, needing to be kept on IVs and worked around, not counted on for leadership. President Barack Obama is obviously a very intelligent person who senses that this is a critical point in American and global history. His words continue to indicate that he understands this critical junction in American and world history.

     However, he remains under intense pressure to come up with conventional, status quo solutions and, probably at the beginning of his tenure, will succumb to that approach. But as the situation remains grave, and a turnaround is slow and unsteady, he may see the way to turn to more progressive and transformative methods. But this would mean that he would have to clash directly with the American system of economic hierarchy that is so deeply planted into the American psyche and its institutional structures. Will he? Can he? Who knows?

     What follows in this chapter are just a few of the type of progressive and transformative economic changes that need to occur for America to have a successful future, and therefore for the world to have a more promising one. We make no claim that any one or even all are failsafe, foolproof, infallible, indefatigable, chiseled in marble, easy to do, or the only or best way to go. Even though they have and do work, there may be others not yet dreamt or concocted that will work better in the context of future exigencies.

     However, before we get to them, we think is wise to review, albeit briefly, some materials set forth earlier, that will keep American history and its strong inertia in vivid perspective. Otherwise, these relatively novel ideas and modern inventions may lose their evolutionary significance.

     There is a long and uncomfortable history of how the American Aristocracy of Manufactures has lived down to De Tocqueville’s fears and resisted any meaningful rearranging of the American economy. A lot of it isn’t very pretty but bears retelling so that it may serve as a negative backdrop to the positive democratic resolutions ripe for the picking.

A Brief Review of the Fundamental Infrastructure of America’s Political Economy

     It should be extremely clear by now, that the American political economy is creating an economic hierarchical system, in its form and output, that it inimical to the “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” promised all Americans by Thomas Jefferson in The Declaration of Independence. As the American middle and working class diminish in size and influence in the 2010 version of the American political economy, the promise of the original founding of America seems further and further from realization for the vast majority of Americans who create the wealth of this society with their blood, sweat and tears. The seeds of this situation were planted early, in the U.S. Constitution, and it is there that the present problems are rooted.

     So, before we take a quantum leap forward, we think it best to review what we said earlier about the original American political economy—but as prelude to what needs to be done to make a permanent change in the presently entrenched American political economic equation. So bear with us as we carry some earlier themes into this chapter as a re-orientation. A lot of this should be familiar by now, but a few things need to be driven home deeply, for example, that class warfare is as American as the U.S. Constitution. Without understanding this, it will be difficult for many readers to shed their illusions about this contemporary variant of the U.S. system and be willing to think about helping make major changes in it..

Class Warfare is as American as the U.S. Constitution

     As we noted at some length earlier, in 1913, Charles Beard propounded what became known as “the economic interpretation of the Constitution. (McGuire, 2001) He argued that the Federalists – the Founders who favored a strong, centralized government – were men whose views stemmed significantly from their economic interests in personal property. The Anti-Federalists, who wanted a more decentralized government, were also motivated by economic self-interest, which derived from the real property they owned – land.

     According to Professor Robert McGuire, Beard claimed that the primary beneficiaries under the Constitution being drafted would have been persons with commercial and financial interests, especially those with public securities (government promises to repay money it had borrowed for the War of Independence). Farmers, people in debt, northern planters, and southern plantation owners would benefit from the more-decentralized government created by the Articles of Confederation. They would have had greater ability at the state level to prevent taxation of their land. For that reason they opposed the Constitution. (McGuire 2001)

     Beard’s analysis of the Constitution was the predominant interpretation until the 1950s. The most influential of the scholarly challenges to his views – which still hold sway today – reject Beard’s conclusions and dismiss an economic interpretation of the motivations that lay behind the Framers’ decisions in writing the Constitution.

 More recently, however, scholars have found support for Beard’s view. Professor John F. Manley at Stanford University, for example, looks at the origin of the Constitution in terms of two theories about political power in America: “pluralism,” which sees society as made up of diverse groups, and “class analysis,” which sees classes as the basic fact of social and political life. Manley contends that the Framers understood American society as consisting of classes with conflicting interests, and that therefore the Constitution is best understood as a product of competing economic interests, i.e., clashing classes. (Manley and Dolbeare, 1987)

     Generally speaking, Manley says, historians think of the United States of 1787 as a relatively egalitarian and homogeneous society of small farmers. A large working class didn’t exist, because America was an agrarian country, not an industrialized one. Most people were independent producers who worked for themselves on the land.

     When the Framers looked at their society, though, they saw not equality, but inequality. They worried about popular demands to reduce this inequality. Because they saw society as threatened with class conflict, containing that conflict and preventing it from tearing the nation apart figured centrally in their deliberations.

     For example, although Madison, the principal architect of the Constitution, granted that the United States did not have the extremes of wealth and poverty found in Europe, he told his fellow delegates, “In all civilized countries, the people fall into different classes having a real or supposed difference of interests. …There will be particularly the distinction of rich and poor.” And in the future, he said, there will be even greater inequality. How right he was.

     The United States has not reached the stage of society in which conflicting feelings of the class with and the class without property, have the operation natural to them in countries fully peopled. …[But in] future times a great majority of the people will not only be without landed, but any other sort of, property. …An increase of population will of necessity increase the proportion of those who will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings. These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former.”

     For Manley, Madison’s message was clear: inequality and property were at risk, and had to be protected. And no one agreed more heartily than Hamilton: In “every community where industry is encouraged,” he said, “there will be division of it into the few and the many.” Divergent interests, especially that between creditors and debtors, are inescapable. “Give all power to the many [and] they will oppress the few. Give all power to the few [and] they will oppress the many.” But which would be worse? The former, because the masses of people are susceptible to the “violence and turbulence of the democratic spirit,” and because from the masses arise “popular passions” that “spread like wild fire, and become irresistible. Hamilton didn’t seem too worried about the passionate forest fires of oligarchic greed.

     The Framers were particularly unnerved, Manley writes, by “Shays’ Rebellion,” which was the latest, and most serious, in a long line of threats to property. Shays was a debtor who lived in Massachusetts. The uprising he led in the fall of 1786 generated fear among creditors and property owners all over the country. Madison, Washington, and others received alarming reports from observers who thought Shays and his followers wanted “the abolition of debts public and private, a division of property and a new government….” (Manley 1995)

 Madison took the warnings seriously. He looked at the “great commotions” and worried about an “appeal to the sword” because the discontented agitators were reported to be as numerous as the friends of the existing government. Madison wasn’t alone. Washington wrote him about the “impending storm” and quoted a letter he had received that described Shays as believing that, because all the property of the United States had been wrested from the British by the joint exertion of all, it “therefore ought to be the common property of all.”

     Even Thomas Jefferson, one of the most resolute proponents of democracy in late 18th century America (and who had written Madison that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”) viewed the existence of class and class-based interests as a fact of social life: “Men by their constitution are naturally divided into two parties. First, those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. Secondly, those who identify themselves with the people… Call them…republicans and federalists, aristocrats and democrats…they are the same parties still and pursue the same object.”

     John Adams (who, like Jefferson, did not participate in the Constitutional Convention) was even more troubled than Madison and Washington by the prospect of open class conflict: “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect, anarchy and tyranny commence.” Adams noted that in every nation the great majority own little or no property, and then asked, rhetorically, whether “…if all [issues of policy] were to be decided by a vote of the majority, the eight or nine millions who have no property, would not think of usurping over the rights of the one or two millions who have?”

     The Framers believed that all people were, from a moral point of view, equal. But Adams and others who opposed strict democracy believed as well that inequality of property (wealth) was the consequence of natural inequality of ability. Adams held that even if wealth were broken up and distributed equally it would inevitably become unequal, because inequalities are a natural aspect of human nature.

     Manley concludes that class considerations openly dominated the Framers’ thinking about how the new national government should be structured. In doing so he buttresses Gordon Wood’s contention that the pivotal battle at Philadelphia in 1787 was that between aristocracy and democracy.

“The pivotal battle at Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 was that between aristocracy and democracy”

Ted Becker and Michael Briand

 And the conclusions of both receive support from a very detailed statistical analysis by a professor of Economics, Dr. Robert McGuire that demonstrates a clear connection between the Framers’ views and their financial holdings. McGuire uses highly sophisticated statistical techniques to analyze the actually recorded roll call votes at both the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and in a number of the state ratification processes as well in his book To Form a More Perfect Union (2003). This helps remedy the problem we discussed earlier about Beard not being a social scientist.

     Thus, by no stretch of the evidence, as Professor Manley says, can the Constitutional Convention be considered a “democratic reform caucus in action.” The Framers were concerned about protecting property rights and the economic interests of people who owned property. For example, when delegates talked about the purpose of society, they expressed the philosopher John Locke’s view that men create government for the protection of property. The Framers saw “the people” as a threat. They needed a new form of government (i.e., government that was not a monarchy), one which gave “the people” a bit role to play…but one that was definitely not democratic.

     What they came up with was a mixed system in which the majority with little or no property would have to be content to coexist with the propertied minority in control. They understood that some of “the people” would succeed in using their rights and liberty to become prosperous – and then be swept up by and sucked into this property-protection system of governance since they would then be members of the property class. But they would be few and far between even while the general population would grow. Thus, the general tendency would always be toward greater inequality of wealth. The Constitution, then, was designed to appear as a balance between democracy and aristocracy. Its intended purpose, though, was to protect the owners of legally acquired property from having their wealth diluted or confiscated by democratic political action..

Voila! The Frenchman Was Right

     A little more than fifty years after the Constitution was ratified, Alexis de Tocqueville was able to discern how the Framers’ blueprint (plus the real democratic overlay crafted by the Anti-Federalists in the Bill of Rights) worked in practice. Although the nation as a whole was benefiting from America’s growing manufacturing capacity, large scale producers of goods had already formed an “aristocracy of manufactures” – a haughty stratum of society whose members’ interests differed from those of the common people, a class in a society that supposedly had escaped the hereditary and pampered class structure that marked European societies.

 Indeed, by 1840, manufacturers had already set up a primitive form of the assembly line – the system of production in which workers were no longer craftsmen who constructed the whole of a product, but who made or assembled only part of it. In de Tocqueville’s view, the consequence of workers leaving self-employment (small farmers, local merchants, local craftsmen) to work for wages paid by someone else was that they would soon lose the abilities they needed to exercise their responsibilities as citizens in American style (Jeffersonian) democracy. The worker would become a sort of semi-person whose mental skills and economic “business smarts” would deteriorate because he no longer involved himself in every aspect of planning, production and distribution, but merely performed one menial task over and repetitiously.

     De Tocqueville immediately comprehended that this was an ominous sign for the future of democracy. Such dumbed-down workers would lose their capacity to calculate their own economic and class interests and become incapacitated from making wise political choices…whether voting intelligently for candidates for office or participating meaningfully in New England Town Meetings.

     It needs to be emphasized that de Tocqueville’s analysis and fears along these lines are rarely mentioned in American history and government textbooks when his book is used as an example of a foreigner’s shrewd observations about American democracy. The authors of these texts like to play up his less controversial and more flattering assessments, such as his praise for the American spirit of volunteerism and community mindedness. They ignore his profound and prescient warning about how America’s unique “aristocracy of manufactures” was a menace to the continuation of this authentic democratic self-governance in a future America.

     De Tocqueville knew there was a close connection between people’s work and their place in a democratic polity. He worried not just that the intellectual dullness and drabness resulting from monotonous mechanics would weaken citizens’ political judgment, but that their dependence on their employers would make them too timid, too docile, too unwilling to express their needs and assert their interests.

     As Professor Dana Richard Villa, a distinguished political theorist at the University of California, writes in his recent book Public Freedom published by Princeton University Press, writes: “[De Tocqueville] thought the “art of association” – and especially association for political purposes – was essential if the disempowering tendencies of privatism (or what he called “individualism”) were to be combated. …He surveyed the future with intense anxiety. Even in 1840, Tocqueville sensed the emergence of a new, un-democratic world built on the foundation of industrial. Large, centralized company capitalism. In a chapter entitled “How an Aristocracy May be Created by Manufactures,” he writes: “In proportion as the principle of the division of labor is more extensively applied, the workman becomes more weak, more narrow-minded, and more dependent.” (Villa, 2008: 8)

     How does this “weakness” and “dependence” make citizens more compliant? And is it happening in 2009? Villa continues:

“An ingrained sense of one’s own relative superfluousness in the maw of global capitalism is not exactly a recipe for ‘empowerment…Far more than government, the marketplace throws us back on ourselves …When it comes to the production and reproduction of citizen docility – the phenomenon Tocqueville feared most – nothing works better than the iron discipline and myriad shocks of the labor market. It is to this discipline – and to the perpetual anxiety that underlies it – that captains of industry and all too many government leaders would like to see us subjected, sans intermediaries. A “disciplined” and fearful workforce – one that lacks both the organization and elementary solidarity necessary to assert itself – is no recipe for a self-governing citizen body.” (Villa 2008)

     Dr. Villa continues on about how de Toqueville’s doomsday vision of America’s “democratic” future actually played out at the end of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st:“…A large percentage of Americans have abandoned the public sphere…out of a relentless, daily anxiety about their (and their families’) future. The lesson that everyone is replaceable and, in a sense, disposable, is a lesson taught again and again by…countless individual stories of downsized or outsourced workers. It is increasingly taken for granted – by politicians, policymakers, editorial page writers, and the people themselves – that our “national mission’ is less to realize democracy than to ‘be competitive’ in the international marketplace – even if this means layoffs in the tens of millions.” (Villa 2008)

     This dehumanizing and numbing down of the working class, then, is the direct result of the structure of the U.S. Constitution which enshrined property rights over political rights and empowered the new “elected” U.S. oligarchy to do what was best for them in the name of the American people. It is also in the original genetic fiber of American manufacturing organism, whose human capital infrastructure has been inimical to developing an informed and alert citizenry from its inception in the early 19th century.

     The U.S.A.’s political economic system, then, from its birth and through its infancy has been a class based system in which the upper, wealth driven class has the upper hand and looks down upon and mercilessly uses those in the working and middle classes to provide ever greater wealth and ever larger and more luxuriant lifestyles for themselves. They utilize this ever expanding lucre to give themselves ever greater power in their oligarchic national system to make policies and laws – domestic and foreign – to increase the disparity in wealth in America – at the expense of the practice of true “Democracy in America”.

     In short, the political economy of the United States today has turned into what Robert Solow has dubbed the “now-you’re-on-your-own” economy. It might seem that all the fear and worry that Americans are experiencing in 2009 and beyond concerning their jobs, their ability to pay for health care, education, and retirement, and their ability to hold on to their homes, would motivate them to come together to make common political cause against those who are making the decisions that result in this widening and maddening malaise. But such hasn’t happened…at least not yet.

     Instead, most Americans, in various stages of deprivation and nail-biting anxiety either continue to work harder to cling to their jobs, retreat into the private sanctuaries of family and friends, steer clear of political talk in the workplace other than to discuss which faction of the oligarchy they should elect to office, or pop pills or a wide variety of legal and other consciousness altering drugs (including TV and video games) to alleviate their latent panic. As the American Corporate Oligarchy so well knows, economic insecurity – and the control of the mass media – are two great ways to keep the employed and unemployed looking inward and to keep their minds off of what is going on in that strange, alien country known as Washington, D.C., and thinking contrary to their mutual economic and personal interests.

     Oh, DeTocqueville was a seer alright. Watch this video that quotes directly from the same chapter of Democracy in America mentioned above. It takes quotes and puts an eerie music behind the colorful backdrop to them. If the words pass too quickly on the video, stop it and read it before you finish that segment. You’ll see for yourself how right he was about what might lay in store for America…and, as we explained in Chapter 7, all this because of how the unique (for the time) American economic manufacturing system was being set up.

“Tyranny: Predicted by DeTocqueville in 1840”

Violating the First Amendment Rights of Anti-Oligarchy Political Protest and Organization: As American as John Adams

     As we have noted throughout this book, there have been past times in American history when the American oligarchy has overplayed its hand and created such massive maladies among the laboring class that even the U.S. Constitution, the control of the courts, the control of the media, have not kept American democracy totally at bay. When the “Misery Index” attains certain high levels on the “Acute Pain Meter” and infects a “critical mass” of the American public, a sense of “ oppressed class consciousness” kicks in…and excrement hits the fan. Will this happen in America again? No doubt. When will it happen? No one knows. It will happen rather suddenly and in unexpected ways. It will be certain to rattle The American Corporate Oligarchy and make them change their ways, at least for a time.

     If history is a guide, and it is usually a pretty good one, even before it begins to be clear that there is a national movement, the ruling class will resist in many ways, even unconstitutionally….with the help of their greatest ally…“law enforcement” and its chief colleague, the courts. We discussed at some length in Chapter 9 and 10 about the squashing of the IWW…which was part of a major labor uprising against the American system of manufacturing. Mass movements in American history always begin as some sort of local, narrow interest organizing that networks into separate national movements, which then coalesce into a collective, united front.

     The American oligarchy, of course, from the beginning, has been locally based, and usually begins its resistance to the development of this kind of working (and middle) class resistance at the local and state levels. As we noted in Chapter 9, they used all sorts of anti First Amendment tactics to undermine the farm granges, the early labor unions, the women’s suffrage movement and even had the U.S. Supreme Court make a variety of “conservative activist” decisions to further empower themselves against the pressures exerted by the American “democratic spirit.”

     Thus, even though de Tocqueville was dead on in his prediction about how the American system of manufacturing deadens the public mindedness of workers, it has not kept that genetically inseminated American “spirit” of democracy from asserting itself effectively every now and then. At some catastrophic point, the well anesthetized public is roused from its alienation with a roar and the oligarchy tries unsuccessfully to discourage and then repress it, and if unsuccessful, then calm it down with as little “reform” as they can get away with.

     As we have said, after the relatively successful “Cultural Revolution” in the mid-1960s to mid 1970s, the American Corporate Oligarchy not only laid its plans to change the American public’s mind about the arrogance and self interest of the hierarchical corporate culture, and to “globalize” the economy so as to better enrich themselves and weaken the labor movement, but it also put into effect a set of laws and plans that would better nip any future national mass movement against their class interests in the bud.

 These included the beefing up of local and state “law enforcement” agencies with public demonstration control training and the most modern military and intelligence equipment that could better spy upon and infiltrate any incipient political movements among the masses. The reader might notice that many local police departments now sport American flags on their uniforms. What is that about? The police power is not national, it is local. The reader may have also noticed that local police “SWAT” teams now look like invaders from outer space and use tactics and equipment that have been designed specifically to disrupt and disperse any protests—including peaceful ones–against any official function in the United States of America. Take a look at what happened in September of 2009 when American citizens showed up in protest of the G20 meetings held in the downtown area.

“Police Brutality in Pittsburgh G20 Protests”

     If this was not bad enough, there were protests at the University of Pittsburgh by students and faculty. The campus was not the site of the G-20 meetings. Watch the new Global Corporate Oligarchy’s tactics – employed throughout the world to thwart any protests – right here on American soil. Observe the Darth Vader suits, the unearthly commands coming from the sky; the beating of students who do nothing illegal; the ear damaging sound machines; the tear gas and mace…all to snuff out freedom of speech and assembly at one of America’s top universities.

“Police Attack Demonstrators at U. of Pittsburgh G-20 (2009)”

     Moreover, the establishment of “The American Empire” and its “War on Terror”, the waging of “The War on Drugs” and the hastily passed “Patriot Act” have endowed national, state and local intelligence and police agencies with extra-constitutional powers to “search” Americans in ways that are far beyond the constitutional guarantees against “unreasonable” searches without “probable cause.” Personally invasive screenings at airports, extensive wiretaps and monitoring of email and other electronic communications are now routine. And, as the Congressional hearings of the Watergate era revealed, many legitimate domestic political groups in the United States have been regularly infiltrated before and undoubtedly are right now in 2010. “National security” has come to be more about the security of the power and status of TACO (The American Corporate Oligarchy) than it is about the security of the American working and middle classes.

     This was very reminiscent of what happened during and after the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in the late 1990s. The Seattle Police Department raided the organizers meetings before and afterwards. Legal defense lawyers indicated that there were many illegal arrests and illicit harassment tactics employed. The same was true prior to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. Among other anti free speech tactics used by the Boston police, the protesters were tucked far away from the convention center and penned up into chain link enclosures, called “Free Speech Zones” as though they were prisoners. No one could hear or see them. So much for their freedom of speech and assembly. The mass media didn’t even blink.

“Battle in Seattle Movie Trailer”

 All of this is to note that the American Corporate Oligarchy learned some vital lessons during the Cultural Revolution about how to intimidate and instill fear into any potential political assembly and protest against the slightest manifestation of “the American democratic spirit” – they fear it so. Rubber bullets, nausea gas, stun guns, tasers, water cannons, laser blinding mechanisms are now some of the painful and near-deadly weapons in the arsenal of oligarchy’s resistance to mass public assembly and street protests. Thus, even if the general public and/or the working class finally see their way to come together and protest or organize – which is tough enough given the hierarchical and disempowering structure of the political economy – the tactics and machines to stifle dissent and crush resistance are more sophisticated and scary than ever before.

     The modern version of the American “Aristocracy of Manufactures”, however, has more arrows in its quiver than the U.S. Constitution and their hierarchical industrial and legal systems, as though that wasn’t enough to win their perpetual “class warfare” against the laborers in their factories, oil rigs, mines and cubicles. Early in the 20th century, they found many smart people who were willing to use new methods of social and political science to solidify their grasp on power and to keep the scales of social justice weighted ever more heavily in their favor.

The Modern “Scientific” and Other “Management” of Workers

Dicing, Slicing, and Pricing the American Workforce

     In the production system, profit is the difference between total revenue (what the manufacturer can sell its products for in the marketplace) and total costs (what it has to pay for materials, facilities, transportation, advertising, interest on loans, salaries and wages, employee benefits, etc.). Salaries and wages being one of the largest costs a manufacturer incurs, the lower these labor costs can be kept, the higher profits will be (other things being equal). Conversely, the higher salaries and wages are, the lower profits will be.

     It’s important to understand that the vast majority of workers can produce an output value that is greater than what it costs to employ them. The larger this output value is relative to what they get paid, the more productive they are. Although their wages (for example, $10 per hour) appear on the surface to be based on the number of hours they work, in an economic sense their salaries don’t reflect the full value of what they produce. The reason for this is that what the workers sell their employers is not merely their time, but their capacity for working productively – that is, their potential for producing an output value much greater than what they get paid.

     Imagine a worker who is hired for an hour and is paid $10. Let’s say his employer has him operate a boot-making machine. Using this machine, the worker produces $10 worth of boots (or boot components) every fifteen minutes. Every hour, then, the employer gets $40 worth of output value (i.e., a product that can be sold for $40) and only pays the worker $10. The employer keeps the difference: $30.

     From that $30 the employer has to subtract a portion of the costs of producing boots, such as the leather, the machine, the factory, electricity, shipping costs, accounting costs, advertising costs, etc.). What’s left from the $30 after deducting these costs is the employer’s profit, or the “surplus value” of producing the quantity of boots that can be produced by the worker in an hour. (Note: The worker can’t capture this benefit – the profit, or “surplus value” – directly because he has no ownership in the means of production, e.g. the boot-making machine, the factory, the raw materials, or “capital” – the money the employer uses to pay for the costs of production).

     Naturally, any employer/owner/capitalist wants to maximize profit, and that means minimizing costs. Because the largest single cost in most businesses is the salaries, wages, and benefits they pay their employees, their profits depend to a very large extent on how much they have to pay their labor force. Thus, paying each worker as little as possible while getting him to work as productively as possible is a goal of paramount importance.

     In the 20th century, as businesses got bigger and bigger, with more and more employees doing more and more specialized jobs, the art of squeezing more and more out of each worker became a science. A key element of this effort was the ever more complex and complicated assembly line. An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts (usually interchangeable parts – parts that will fit any one of the standardized product components that comes down the line) are added to a product in a sequential manner in order to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods.

     The best-known form of the 20th century assembly line was designed and deployed by Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1915. Henry Ford hired the leading expert in “scientific management” of his day, Frederick Taylor, to divide the construction of the Model T Ford into 84 separate tasks and “to determine the exact speed at which the work should proceed and the exact motions workers should use.” (Taylor, 1911) What Taylor was after was what the oligarchy was after: making the factory worker into a more robotic part of the American industrial machine. The goal was couched in a phrase coined by President Theodore Roosevelt at that time: the striving for greater “national efficiency.” What that meant was making each worker into a better profit making android. Like R2D2 in “Star Wars.”

     To his credit as a far-sighted American industrialist and businessman, Mr. Ford also reckoned that if he paid his workers almost double the going rate other manufacturers were paying, they would earn enough to buy his cars themselves. He was right. The automobile workers, relatively flush with cash, bought the Model T, and Ford Motor Company made immense profits. (PBS, 2003)

“Ford and Taylor Scientific Management”

     So both the employer and its employees benefited materially from Henry Ford’s introduction of the moving assembly line. But this innovation had a down side as well. The mechanization of manufacturing turned it from a labor-intensive undertaking into a capital-intensive one. (In contrast to manufacturing, consider education, which remains a highly labor-intensive enterprise…until they get “distance learning” down to “pedagogical science”.)

     Thus, to further increase the productive capacity of workers, and thereby to increase profits, more and more money had to be spent on new and better machinery (technology) production methods and worker inspection and supervision methods. Although more workers were needed as manufacturing companies grew in size, the number of workers needed per product (such as an automobile) began to decrease. Thus, even as manufacturing companies were expanding and thriving, workers were becoming relatively less important factors in the production process. (Pro-business advocates are only half-joking when they quip that the ideal company is one with no employees. Metallic robots, which are becoming the most productive part of today’s automobile manufacturing process, require no salary and no benefits…and they never go out on strike.)

     Moreover, as the size of capital-intensive corporations grew, so did the size of the administrative structures – i.e., bureaucracies – that helped them accomplish their main task of maximizing profits for the owner (shareholders in public corporations, individuals or families in private companies). So, not only did the workers have to put up with being disposable cogs in a gigantic production meat grinder that didn’t care about them personally at all, they were now at the bottom rung of a huge ladder with rungs and rungs of supervisors, managers, “bean-counters,” heads of marketing and sales departments, vice presidents for-this-and-that, and so on. What kind of citizens in a democracy would this new factory worker be? One who wanted to go home after work and dowse his brains with alcohol or other consciousness altering substances.

     Corporate capitalism as it developed in the United States through the 20th century and up to 2009, has mostly worked much like the hierarchical military, with decision-making authority and rewards increasing the higher up in the hierarchy an employee is situated. Layer upon layer of “superiors” were introduced, separating the owners from the workers whose labor added value to the finished product.

     Paradoxically, the vast majority of those who actually created the wealth, the workers at the bottom of the heap, became individually less and less valuable to the employer. Just as in the contemporary military, where the low-ranking enlisted men – the “grunts” – were the ones who took the flak and the bullets upon orders of generals far from the battlefront, the workers on the assembly line did the same for management and owners – and hence as individuals became equally dispensable: “manufacturing fodder,” rather than “cannon fodder.”

     For an excellent and amusing motion picture satire on this, watch “Charlie Chaplin’s Critique of Industrialization” from the early 1930s. Also, if you want to see how advanced the Japanese are in this field, take a gander at “Japanese Robot Hottie” and “Japanese Robots 2008”. The American Corporate Oligarchy would dearly love to exchange its assembly line workers of today for a future workforce akin to Star Trek II’s “Commander Data”…no pay, no union, no benefits…just brilliant work and computer programmed deference to authority.

“Chaplin’s Critique of Industrialization”

“Japan’s Humanoid Hottie”

“Japanese Robots”

     Keep in mind that De Tocqueville saw this coming. He foresaw the possibility that this different breed of aristocracy had no sense of responsibility to those who created their wealth as had the old, feudalistic aristocracies of Europe. He sensed that their “rule” would be, as we continue to note, very “harsh.” And given the extreme power in their hands that has accumulated since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the American Corporate Oligarchy – and their brethren in The Global Corporate Oligarchy – have steadily and cleverly found new ways to exploit the massive lower classes in American society both in their economic and political realms. Robotic assembly lines are now the norm in the automobile industry, and with the new Japanese androids ready for mass production…whose job will be safe in the future? Robotic professors in America’s future college classrooms? If today’s corporate robotic boards of trustees have their way: no doubt.

     Naturally, this system has produced “anomic” citizens who are extremely ignorant of American history, the way the American governmental system works, or what the rest of the world is really like. The “free” public education system of K-12, today controlled by the oligarchy, does not teach any of this. It is a clearly a process of socialization into the political economy run by the oligarchy. This “public” system does not train good democratic citizens. It trains diffident employees and materialistic customers.

     As we noted in Chapter 6, the “private” school system from the elementary level to the elite colleges and universities socializes its children into a sense of class superiority, class privileges, and launches them into stratospheric orbits. For the vast majority of Americans, being at the bottom of a well, being disemboweled politically by the Founding Fathers, having their minds twisted like pretzels by management scientists and public relations specialists, being treated like plastic bottles and styrofoam cups is not the way to become concerned, dedicated and alert citizens in a democracy. This system works extremely well, however, for those at the apex. The Federalists couldn’t be more pleased with their handiwork.

The Union and the Spirit of American Economic Democracy:

Down but Not Out

     But even with all this going for them, the American Corporate Oligarchy had other tricks up their sleeves about how to further disempower and remove the American people from deciding anything of real significance in their “democracy”. It was in their interests to squash them deeper into a pit of ignorance about political reality and into abject compliance with their demands and commands. Welcome back to the “proprietary colonies” of America in the 1600s.

 After their “crisis” with democracy during the “Cultural Revolution”, circa 1964-74, as we noted in earlier chapters they came up with new plans on how to roll back the gains made by organized labor during the 1930-70 era. They were aided by a new cohort of social engineers, “empirical political scientists” and a growing army of M.B.A.’s in “globalizing the American workforce” and thus tunneling beneath and hollowing out the American ground upon which it based its last bit of leverage against the oligarchs.

     The American Cultural Revolution however had also shattered the old “New Deal” coalition – which had included the pro-capitalist organized labor unions of American industry as a minority stakeholder on the Oligarchy’s political board of directors. It also brought about the new global corporatist vision, which was appalled by the ideology of that social movement…since the main devil in the eyes of those cultural revolutionaries were: the big corporations and the men who ran them. As we have seen, this inspired their new vision of global corporate control…which certainly included obliterating the organized labor movements.

 As we saw in many of the earlier chapters, it has been a long and sometimes sanguinary and baleful chapter in American history as the American union movement was surely a way that the lower, working classes could show some class solidarity against their economic and political rulers. Uniting against large industrial corporations for a bigger share of the economic pie, or to just stand up to power, has been a key part of the American democratic spirit. The unions, for better and for worse, were a symbol of the power of labor in America. Yes, they sometimes caused inconvenience for the public with their “strikes” and discomfort with the demonstrations and combativeness in their negotiations. But they were a significant resistance movement to corporate autonomy and autocracy. Thus, they had to be pulverized.

     And the plans of the Global Corporate Oligarchy seem to have worked pretty well. It is estimated that “in the good old days”, the early 1960s – when just about everything manufactured in the United States was considered to be top notch (“Made in the USA=innovation and excellence) – unionized non-agricultural labor accounted for about 1/3, or 33% of the American workforce. By the time TACO had decided on its strategy and tactics of eliminating unions, the early 1980s, that percentage stood at around 20%. In 2005, that percentage had dwindled to 12.5% and today it hovers around 9%. Compare this to Italy, where about 2/3s of the workers are unionized and Great Britain, where there has been a substantial decrease since Thatcherism (the British Reaganism) took hold, to around 30% today.

     Of course, some states in the U.S.A. are much different than others concerning the American union. States like New York and Hawaii have heavy union organizations (for the U.S.) – around 25%. The Southern tier of the U.S.A. is notorious for its union busting and intimidation of union organizers (comparable to that of Asian and South American oligarchies) and therefore American unions don’t fare well there. Take a look at the map below. It is revealing in a number of ways.

     First, you can see how it influences the so-called “Red States” (Republican) and “Blue States (Democrats) in recent U.S. presidential elections. The New England and Mid Atlantic States and West Coast are the most unionized and usually vote Democrat. The central West and Southeast are anti-union and usually vote Republican. It resembles a map of who voted for Obama or McCain in 2008.

     In addition, because of the lack of unions, and the benefits they bring to the working class, TACO, in cooperation with its allies in The Global Corporate Oligarchy, are importing heavy industrial jobs into the Southeast so that those companies can make enormous profits by having much lower labor costs to go along with paying less for shipping their goods to American markets.

     This increases the pressure on the remnants of the American unionized working class to not ask for higher wages and to take all sorts of cutbacks on benefits and pensions. Also, the local and state based oligarchs pass laws that give these foreign companies gracious tax breaks, free infrastructure, and even have their states train American workers for these foreign based companies without charge. Moreover, these foreign based companies who relocate to the American South mostly don’t pay health benefits or have long term pensions, which makes them, in the eyes of economists, more “efficient” and “productive” workers. Thus, TACO, with the aid and assistance of their local colleagues are helping non U.S. corporations get an edge on their American unionized competitors right here in this country – in part to continue to make the American union movement disappear.

     American unions may be on the ropes, but like Muhammad Ali in his famous championship fight against George Foreman, they are hanging in there, hoping for a “rope-a-dope” comeback. A few of their own self-inflicted wounds have been that they, themselves, have become equally hierarchical in their organization, bossy to their members, and have rarely sought any kind of worker empowerment on the floor or via stock ownership (to be discussed below) as part of, or as payback for loss of, their benefits. In other words, they may embody the spirit of the American working class but the production workers are not equal to the union leaders…who get disproportionate salaries, outsized perks and hobnob with the corporate and political elites.

Unions on Corporate Boards

     There are two tactics that lead in a more appropriately democratic direction for American unions – where the workers are given more of a stake in the industry or corporation. The first of these is to (a) provide unions/workers with a substantial and permanent proportion of the Board of Directors of the company or corporation and (b) the second, is to institute an Employee Stock Option (ESOP) program, where employees are given stock as part of their salary…and which can increase their percentage on the Board by virtue of their increased ownership. Let’s see how these two progressive changes in labor/worker – management/oligarchy work.

 Why aren’t unions allowed to have membership on the Boards of Directors of major corporations? Well, for one thing, to some ways of thinking, this would be a “conflict of interest.” How can a union guy on a corporate board still be considered a working stiff and understand their concerns? Plus, by fraternizing with “the bosses”, he would come to like Johnny Walker Black Label scotch more than a pack of Bud Lights. Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not.

     If that were true, how come that many of the social democracies in Europe including Germany, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark mandate that a certain percentage of industries must have a percentage of union membership on their Boards? Germany, in fact, requires that half of the Board of Directors of certain corporations must be comprised of union representatives! Germany’s economy remains one of the leading ones in the world, not only in terms of productivity, but in terms of social benefits and higher wages provided to the working class. This is one way to that end that needs to happen in the United States if it is to regain a much more productive manufacturing base.

     It is really common sense. By putting workers on the Boards, the views of workers will not only be heard directly at the top, but in cases where the Board is split on certain matters, it will make a difference in the decision making process. If the unions insist on rotating which union members sit in those chairs, and their pay remains at the same level as the average worker in that factory or industry, there is much less likelihood that the union Board members will be seduced into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The reason that this is not standard practice in the United States is the same reason we’ve discussed throughout this book: the values and practices of The American Corporate Oligarchy, or “the aristocracy of American manufactures.” It is anathema to them.

     However, the first crack in their united front of resistance to this idea that was working so well in Europe came in 1980 when Chrysler first went bust. 2008-09 is not the first time the American auto industry came begging Congress to help them out of their pitiful management practices that resulted in whopping multi-billion dollar annual losses. At that time, just when Reaganism was getting jump-started, it was considered almost unheard of that any giant American private industry would be panhandling the U.S. government for “loans” to stay in business. So, following the growing mantra of not letting companies that were “too big” and “too important to the American (corporate run) economy” fail – the Democratic led Congress agreed. But there was a proviso: Chrysler had to put a (single) union representative on its Board of Directors.

     That was an easy call for its President, Lee Iacocca. He simply put the guy in charge of the United Auto Workers on the Board. Since the UAW is about as hierarchical an organization as Chrysler, and this man was the epitome of the corporate friendly unions in America, it might have been a first, but it didn’t make much of a difference in outcome to the workers. But, as the American expression goes: “It was a start,” albeit a false one.

     However, this tactic as described more fully above it is not yet a big part of the labor movement’s new strategic thinking and has gained only a little traction since then up to 2010. Perhaps the biggest union gain along these lines came in the mid 1990s when United Airlines was having the first of its major financial problems and were asking the pilots union and machinist unions to give back some of its pay raises and other benefits to keep the company from going into the tank. The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) – which is a professional union along the lines of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – and the mechanics saw the handwriting on the wall: go on strike and put all the planes into their hangars. But they understood that a long list of poor decisions from the top were part of the economic problems they saw the airline undergoing. So first they wanted to own a majority of the voting stock of United Airlines, and second they wanted a future say in the upper decision making process. With a 55% majority of the stock in the hands of the people who make any airline actually fly – the pilots and the mechanics – they earned a major say in how the company would be run in the future.

 This was an important step in the empowering of American labor. In this case, the working class was making all kinds of important decisions – not as functionaries or economic grunts just taking orders from a disengaged upper class management – but were in on key decisions about raising capital, new equipment, how to cut costs fairly, and the like. “The pilots’ and machinists’ unions received not only seats on the board, but the right to veto major business decisions and had the final say over the selection of the company’s chief executive.” (Wong and Maynard 2002) Since then, another airline, Northwest, have also given these unions seats on their board but have refused to surrender control of the company to them.

     So, now you must wonder, what effect did this have on the American Corporate Oligarchy in charge of that company? The answer should not be surprising, given their track record. None. The management of the company was still heavily weighted in favor of the ruling class and the pilots and mechanics were no match for them. Thus, not surprisingly, given the behavior patterns of just about all American airlines, the manager class ran it into the ground. UAL declared bankruptcy in 2002 and emerged from it in 2006, with the employees having to relinquish more money and benefits and their relatively toothless power on the Board. The consequence of that move, along with 9/11 and the spike in gasoline prices, was that the quality of the airlines’ service would become even less appetizing. Like most U.S. airline companies in 2010, passengers continue to pay more for what they used to get for free (checked luggage, pillows, hot meals, decent legroom) and the airlines were still bleeding red ink in 2010. Are we saying that if the pilots and machinists and flight attendants were in actual control of the airlines that their decisions on policy and operations to date would have been better? Our answer: could it possibly have been worse?

     Most of the decisions by the oligarchy that still controls the airline industry has kept itself in charge by deep cuts in the pensions, benefits and pay of airline pilots, mechanics, ticket agents, and flight attendants. This is why airline service in the U.S. is at such a low level of quality and why the morale of those workers not yet cut or furloughed is at rock bottom. But the unions continue their struggle to maintain solidarity within its shrunken and shredded ranks. Using YouTube, the American Airlines pilots union put up the following video to rally their members to fight against more of the same.

“American Airlines Pilots – Contract”

     So where do matters stand after a 3 year standoff between the pilots union and American Airlines? Impasse. Yet, in October 2009, American Airlines, deeply in debt and at odds with the people who fly their planes, was reported by the Wall Street Journal to have made a bid to actually absorb Japan Airlines (JAL)…another deeply troubled one…to buy it out. Even the Wall Street Journal was incredulous. The union response will come soon and may well include “sick outs” by the pilots to inflict further losses on their bosses. When highly skilled workers feel disempowered, they have their way to “monkey wrench” any business or industry.

Pretty soon, probably later in 2009 or early 2010, along with just about every other American industry, the remaining U.S. airlines – all beset with the same lack of thinking at the top echelons and desire to gain profits by cutting service and employees – may well be crawling to the U.S. Congress and President Obama, pleading for taxpayer “bailouts” because they are “too big to fail” – and a corporate friendly “Democrat” led Congress would most likely give them what they want and not insist on restructuring their management process to give the workers some real power to make key decisions. The way to progress toward greater productivity, efficiency, quality and transformation is clear. However, the obviously failing American political economic leadership is blind to it. Coming soon to an airport near you: Zombie Airlines.

The Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOPs)

 One of the reasons that ALPA and The International Association of Machinists (IAM) were able to negotiate seats on United’s Board was that they were the majority shareholders of the company. When employees own shares in the company, they are known as “employee owners” or “worker owners”…and such plans where they are either paid in stock, or stock is put into their pension funds…are known as Employee Stock Option Plans, or ESOPs. However, turning even a majority of shares into seats on the Board is still a rarity. But the fact that employees are “owners” does have a number of benefits to one and all.

     For one thing, it stands to reason, some empirical evidence, and some expert labor-management analysis, that if an employee feels s/he is working for her or his own profit, this engenders a sense of proprietorship in the enterprise. S/he is not just an “employee,” but a stakeholder. This is a big psychological step up from the status of employee, serf, and disposable tool. The proof is in the pudding. According to the leading website of ESOPs, The National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) …at www.nceo.org , “data clearly and continually show a strong positive relationship with corporate performance when these plans are tied to a participative management philosophy. More and more companies are concluding that sharing ownership and encouraging employee input makes good economic ‘dollars and sense.’” (Amato 2005)

     So why would even a small portion of The American Corporate Oligarchy be supportive of it if it actually gives the employees a feeling of empowerment instead of enslavement? The answer is money and profits. Greed trumps all. Their bottom lines improve as well because ESOPs provide a variety of tax benefits to companies that use them in the U.S.A. These also increase their bottom lines.

     The mere growth of this sort of “employee-ownership” – not specifically tied to being on the Board, but involving various sorts of employee “input” into operations – is quite impressive. The number of companies that have ESOPs has multiplied enormously in the past few decades in America…and includes some of the largest companies in the country, including UAL, Whirlpool, PepsiCo, Home Depot, and the largest company with more than 50% of its stock owned by employees, Publix. If you don’t think that this makes a huge difference in the way the company operates, go shop in Wal-mart, which treats its employees with indifference at best (although recent improvements seem to show that even Wal-mart is wising up a tad), and then go shop in a Publix. The attitude of the workers and the whole atmosphere of the stores are 180 degrees different. Ask the “employee owners” of a Publix store what they think about their company. Then ask the Wal-Mart “associates” their opinion of their employer.

     Professor Hoyt Wheeler, who is Chairman of the Department of Management at the University of South Carolina, recently wrote a book called The Future of the American Labor Movement (2002). In it, he sees the ESOP movement as being a major force for improvement in the American political economy now and in the future. He agrees with Amato above that the sense of engagement yields greater productivity and profitability for companies that embrace this concept and that it has the extra advantage of raising capital and keeping capital within a company. But the greatest value, from Professor Wheeler’s point of view, is linking it with various forms of employee participation in the organization. Some ESOP workers, like one at Airborne, think this is truly a “paradise.” Listen in to a particularly talented one singing about that.

“ESOP Paradise”

     “This author would add as a third advantage that worker ownership facilitates other forms of participation by legitimizing them. Also, there is rather clear evidence that a combination of worker ownership and other forms of participation has the potential for improving profitability. If, as some critics of worker ownership claim, this will undermine wages and solidarity in other unionized firms in an industry, then the solution is to convert the entire industry to worker ownership.” (Wheeler 2002, 141) Wow! Convert the whole industrial sector to “worker ownership?” Who could actually have enough leverage to do that?

     According to Dr. Wheeler, unions! “Unions are in a good position to spread worker ownership across an industry, or indeed a whole economy.” Why? The unions still have a lot of resources, represent a substantial number of workers in various sectors of the American political economy, and they are still the best representatives of the working class in American society. Since ESOPs are such a great deal for any company to adopt, then this gives the union a lot of whack to get many good deals for agreeing to such a program. Professor Wheeler reels off a number of things for the union to negotiate for, but two in particular seem to be his favorites.

     “Quite importantly for our concerns in this chapter, a union could bargain for employee or union representation on the Board of Directors, and the broadest possible voting rights for employees while their stock is in an ESOP. Wheeler also endorses the NCEO’s position as follows:

“If employee owned companies are more productive and profitable than others, and create more jobs than others, as studies indicate they do, the labor movement could gain a great deal from leading a crusade to convert the union sector of the economy en masse to employee ownership.” (Wheeler 2002, 142)

     Imagine that: Transforming entire sectors of the American economy to worker ownership. Why wouldn’t the unions, or many in Corporate America, be pushing Congress from 2009-2011 to make this part of the “bailout packages” of hundreds of billions, if not trillions in taxpayer monies? Why does Congress allow the finance and other industries to use this bailout money for dividends to stockholders who are not workers, but not to workers who are stockholders? Keep a close eye on the Obama Economic Dream Team, and the new Democrat controlled Congress in 2010, to see if this even comes up at all. If not, by now you know why. This sort of deal would be extremely progressive and even transformative. Of course, not all companies manage ESOP workers well, but when they do, the results are pretty special as this large home improvement store in San Rafael, California shows.

“Jackson’s Hardware: Employee Ownership Nets Customer Loyalty”

 Not only is it doable, it is being done in other countries in the world…some of which you may find it hard to believe. A leading consultant on ESOPs, Frank Amato, claims that in many of the former socialist countries, including Russia and China, that ESOPs are becoming the wave of the future. According to him, due to a change in the CCP’s strategic political economic thinking “Millions of employees are becoming owners of their companies, and both the central and local governments are seriously exploring the idea of large scale enterprise reform through employee ownership.” The same holds true for Russia and many of the Eastern European countries that used to be the Soviet bloc.

     If this “thought” is in play in these countries, given all the problems that the American political economy is going through currently, then it should be a major issue being considered by The Obama Administration and a Democrat Congress, particularly since it has been a very successful and profitable American practice. It is our fervent hope that it is not monopolized and mobilized outside the United States and have the rest of our industrial base end up as third tuba in the globalizing world economic symphonic orchestra. That would not augur well for the American or the world economy. A bad tuba can ruin a good symphony.

Workplace Power for the American Worker

     One of the major points made repeatedly in how the ESOPs can be a primary instrument for transforming the entire economy, if not just that portion that is unionized, is that the there must be a coupling of the stock ownership – which gives a sense of being a stakeholder – with significant, meaningful “input” and/or “participation” in the operational aspects of the company or corporation. But just what might that be, what’s the social psychological impact?

Total Quality Management (TQM): Workplace Power

 W. Edwards Deming was an American business management consultant who had some theories that did not sit well with American CEOs and the owners of huge American companies. One of his favorite maxims was that:

“There is no such thing as a bad worker, only bad managers.” One authority put it this way: “Check today’s managerial buzzwords. Continuous improvement (known as ‘kaizen’ in Japan). Worker empowerment. Statistical process control. All are rooted in Deming’s basic philosophy that bad systems – not mistakes by workers – are responsible for the vast majority of the defects and errors made by the organization.” (Hillkirk 1993)

     Huh? No wonder the American “captains of industry,” CEOs, rich guys didn’t care much for Deming. Of course it’s the workers’ fault, dummies and slackers that they are – unless they are micro-managed to death (Take a look at the Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball videos again. See how silly and clumsy they become despite the stern and “harsh” management.) Here’s Lucy!!

“Lucy, Lucy, Lucy”

     But there were a few exceptions to that rule among The Global Corporate Oligarchy who thought it might pay off to give Deming’s theory a shot. Sad to say, they weren’t in America. They were all in Japan, a country not known traditionally for its deep commitment to democratic values. They still have an Emperor, right, you know, the one Obama bowed to deeply on his first trip to Japan in November 2009?

     “(Deming’s) philosophy has been wholeheartedly embraced by the Japanese.‘ There is not a day I don’t think about what Dr. Deming meant to us,’ Koji Kobayashi, chairman emeritus of NEC Electronics, said in 1991” (Hillkirk 1993) Yes, and that’s why SONY and Panasonic and other Japanese electronics companies drove all the American ones (Zenith, RCA, Motorola) out of the television set business. And that’s why Toyota is driving Ford, Chrysler and GM out of the auto business in their own country.

     If you don’t think this was a huge development in world history, U.S. News and World Report, in a 1991 story, compared Japan’s embrace of Deming’s theories “one of history’s nine ‘hidden turning points,’” comparing it to The Apostle Paul, The Bubonic Plague, Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The key here, in addition to the statistical and logistical parts of Deming’s philosophy, is (trumpets please): “worker empowerment.” What Deming meant by this was that: “People are entitled to joy in their work and a sense of ownership” (Hillkirk 1993).Somehow that doesn’t sound like it would appeal to the “Aristocracy of Manufactures,” does it? Also, this theory of Deming’s added something extra to the “sense of ownership” that ESOP’s carry with them. JOY at work! What a strange dude. He thought workers could enjoy work. Why the U.S. Postal Service even came up with a postage stamp for the guy. That is proof positive that he is equally as impressive an American as Elvis Presley.

 Peter Drucker, a much more hierarchy-friendly business consultant than Deming says that it wasn’t the corporate chieftains who didn’t want to hear, hire or use Deming’s ideas, it was the labor unions who feared Deming’s ideas of forming teams of workers to decide on all matters involving production. According to Drucker, that threatened the entrenched union hierarchy. That may well be true. We’ve observed above that the American capitalistic unions are by and large as hierarchical and undemocratic as their bosses.

     You cannot keep a good idea totally scrunched, especially if it is making money for someone else. Deming’s theory – which came to be called Total Quality Management or TQM – began to seep into the well fortified brain lobes of the American power elite simply because of the huge success the Japanese were having in their competition with their American counterparts who were stuck in the mud. When their stocks and market shares started to dwindle, the money neurons in their craniums began to fire.

     It was the late 1980s and early 1990s that TQM became an American industrial buzz-anachronism. Everywhere you looked, companies were setting up “quality-circles” to discuss and decide important decisions at the workplace. Workers’ ideas about how to make sleep-walking, bug-plagued systems become astute and bug-free became operational drills. Workers contributing their experience, intellectual creativity and individual skills became the norm in these companies.

     Another way of looking at this phenomenon is to examine how effective the old Taylor-like ideas like “work incentives” and “bonus” methods of “stimulus-response” psychology actually affects workers and productivity. American elitists think of workers, at best, like pets. You spank Fido when he’s bad and offer Fido a goody to make him do your bidding. Alfie Kohn, a business writer who has studied this theory empirically, disagreed. In his view, such “positive reinforcement” (i.e., extra money at Christmas for a year’s work well done) really fails to motivate workers to do their best and, conversely, stifles creativity, risk taking, and feeling as though they have a piece of the action in the outcome of the work (after all, it’s quite different than sharing in the profits which is a constant incentive to improve the quality of the product or service so as to improve the profits of the venture).

     “Rewards, like punishments, are basically ways of doing things to people. But success requires that manages work with people, by letting them participate in making decisions about what they do every day…Granted, it seems easier just to manipulate behavior with rewards. But while that may be a sound approach for training animals, it can never bring quality to the workplace.” (Kohn 1993) This is very close to Deming’s view of how managers and workers can truly be most productive and by doing so, earning the most cash. There was ample proof of this, clear and overwhelming.

 As an article in USA Today on business trends put it in the mid-1990s, at the height of TQM’s ascendance among The American Corporate Oligarchy: “TQM…says companies can improve quality by listening to workers and giving them the power to correct problems. No two TQM companies use the same methods (though)…The National Institute of Standards and Technology…studied the stock prices of 11 publicly traded companies that won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award from 1988 through 1993. The study assumed a small investment in each company when it won the Baldrige vs. an equal investment in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index. The Baldrige portfolio rose 92% through the end of 1993 vs. a 33% gain in the S&P 500.” (USA Today, March 17, 1995)

     Similarly, researchers at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the accounting giant Ernst and Young examined about 100 studies of workplace practices at that time. TQM was one of the three factors under their microscope. One example was Edy’s Ice Cream, a national high quality brand.

     “Edy’s…credits its employee management system with reducing inventories 66%, improving productivity 57% and lifting unit sales volume 830%” Astounding, is it not? The report of this study, released by the U. S. Department of Labor, concluded that “Companies whose highly automated production processes require little employee input are unlikely to improve their returns very much.” (Szekely 1995)

     Case closed.

     To add to the scientific studies, there has been a mountain of anecdotal evidence to show how well employee involvement in production decisions makes businesses and industries far more efficient and richer. By forming “problem solving teams” to cut turnaround time in half, Wes-Tex Printing accomplished that goal which had eluded its micro-managing owner for years. This experiment with worker empowerment so amazed the owner that he set up another team to improve “work flow.”

     “Now orders that used to sit in baskets going back and forth between departments for changes or fixes could be acted on immediately. The increased variety made the jobs more enjoyable, giving a boost to morale…And it’s paying off: Wes-Tex expects to see another 5% increase in its…annual revenue this year, the same it saw last year.” (Woodyard 2001)

     Another modern fairy tale of the magic of true worker empowerment is that of the maker of one of America’s greatest mechanical icons, the Harley Davidson “Hog.” Harley, a company falling on bad times, to turn things around during the Japanese economic miracle times of the 1980s, hired Lee Ozley, a pro-worker empowerment business consultant. He helped the H-D CEO “transform the company into one in which workers, rather than merely carrying out edicts from above, took responsibility for decisions that were reached by consensus.” (Andrews 2000) Since that time, Harley Davidson’s bottom line rose, as has its quality of product, making it one of the most competitive of American companies in the global marketplace. Ozley attributes this success to the company’s involvement of workers not only in production decisions, but those of design as well.

 “We have to compete in the global marketplace. The issue here is for employees to be committed versus compliant…In this way of decision-making, you get a much broader base of employees who understand the global competitive situation. They understand costs; they understand what they have to do what they do.” (Szekeley 2000) Oh, in case you’re wondering, yes, HD’s bottom line fell in 2008, but only by about 7%. Compare that to the Big Three U.S. auto makers, who are about 6 times that in losses. And Harley Davidson, unlike other American built vehicles, are a hot item in Europe, Asia and Latin America…even with a global recession in full swing. They had to cut back due to decreased global consumption in 2009, but remain a going concern and have not at this writing asked for any U.S. government bailouts. Their plans include: (a) promoting their superior motorcycles in huge Asian markets but (b) keeping their manufacturing process here in the U.S.A.

     The big difference between just allowing workers to take control of the system of production in order to “constantly improve”, according to strict Deming principles, is the degree of involvement in the entire “paradigm” of production. The workers need to be given knowledge of the entire process and be allowed to innovate. “…to create effective opportunities for empowerment on the factory floor, knowledge development for production workers must move beyond the confines of routine continuous improvement…and reach into the realms of innovation that define the very paradigm of production.” (Ahanotu 1998)

     So, with this kind of new thinking, fortified often by the above kind of hard and soft data on huge success stories in large and small American businesses, and all the financial success of the Japanese companies that still use or improve upon Deming’s’ methods today, you’d think that the American industrial elite would not only have taken the Deming model to heart, a system as American as jazz and baseball, but improved on it and finally surpassed its Japanese emulators. You would be wrong.

Even Though It Works, We Still Don’t Want It

     If anything, there is a raging controversy still going on today…with a strong reversal back to traditional American hierarchical and adversarial attitudes between ownership and management on one side and the working class on the other. Do we think that this is part of the present economic disaster that characterizes the American economy today? Yes we do.

     We do not mean to say that had American industry completely adopted and universally employed the Deming model that all would be well and good today with America regaining its alpha dog status in the world economy. What we mean is that there is a chronic tendency in The American Global Oligarchy to resist change, if not revert to past practices once a particular threat has eased, even if those changes multiplied great value to their financial portfolios and profile. There is a strong reactionary, regressive streak in the American Corporate Oligarchy’s psyche which has brought America into such a deep recession. Not continuing to build and improve upon the Deming worker empowerment revolution, however, is only a part of the problem.

     Another part of the problem was, and remains, the center of the hierarchy, “middle management,” which suffered a great contraction under the use of the Deming model. Whenever a subclass feels its power is threatened by innovation, it will come up with “myths” that will motivate resistance. The two big ones in this case were “I’ll be out on the street,” and “I’ll lose control.”

     A George State University business professor and consultant addressed the second fear like this: “…some managers are seduced by the illusion of control. In the final analysis, we can influence but do not control what other people choose to do. Control is paradoxical. If you are constantly worried about losing it, you are a slave to your anxiety and, thus, out of control.” (Kahnweiler 1994)

     But perceptions, false or not, are more important than realities, or even profitability and productivity in the American corporate culture. So, over the years, since the heyday of TQM…the American industrial system has mostly reverted to its former Social Darwinist, antagonistic, militaristic models of hierarchical management behavior. Or, did it ever really change systematically or systemically? Maybe it was just an occasional aberration or a good “Public Relations” ploy for a time, or a fad?

     In a more recent essay on this subject, economic writer Harriet Rubin observed that “During the ‘90s, I published best selling business books, some…with such subtitles as ‘The preservation of the soul in corporate America.’ I thought these books would improve performance. Instead, all that niceness gave bosses a perfect cover. They set these earnestly titled books out on their coffee tables while carrying on with abuse as usual…But these ‘enlightened’ bosses humiliated subordinates as much as ever, their subordinates told me. The nasty comments got cleverer, the psychic games got more Byzantine and brutal.” (Rubin 2005)

     Sounds pretty much like de Tocqueville’s “Aristocracy of Manufactures,” circa 2005 and just as likely, 2009. But the unions, they are just as culpable, right? They cannot work within a Deming style system since the union leadership, like middle management, would feel as though their “control” over the workers would be lessened, if not abolished.

     Ozley, the Harley-Davidson consultant, disagrees with that. He says that “The union organizations, when they first hear about this, will be a little bit apprehensive, they will be suspicious. But once they got on board and are active participants in the decision-making process, they can be very, very helpful. They are able to help communicate the need, to marshal the collective will of the workers.” (Andrews 2000)

 It is surely possible that American corporations, still adhering to ancient ideas of Taylor’s ‘scientific management’ and in a symbiotic embrace with the old style American capitalistic and hierarchical unions, are being driven out of the very industries they invented. As Chrysler had to sell out to a German company (Daimler, which to return the favor, then sold them out)…and as GM continues to wallow in abysmal losses of billions upon billions of dollars a year and loses more and more market share to Toyota and Nissan, Ford announced in late 2006 that it was laying off half of its workforce – a mere 48,000 unionized workers. (AP, November 30, 2006) The carnage continues as of this day (2010) but the American motor executives continue down their self-destructive path…cajoling the average American taxpayer to go deeper into debt to keep them aloof and unperturbed at the summit of their toppling pyramids of economic power.

     Even in his hayday as an icon of new democratic industrial practices, Deming himself was not optimistic that the American Corporate Oligarchy was up to any deep and broad transformation of its industrial processes and techniques. Not too long before his death in 1993, he gave a talk where he uncannily and sadly presented his view that because of American resistance to transforming the workplace, the United States was doomed to a precipitous fall because of the mental “prisons” that contained the American managerial mentality. Take a look for yourselves. How right he was…and that was in the early 1990s….and the downward trajectory he charted only continues.

“W. Edwards Deming on Business/Societal Transformation”

ESOP + TQM = The Foundation of a Dynamic and

Prosperous Economy

     What should be coming through loud and clear is that there is far superior way of shaping any political economy, but America is our main case in point. It is way past time to end the class warfare between the American Aristocracy of Manufactures, the American Corporate Oligarchy, the power elite…or whatever anyone calls them…and the vast majority of Americans who are ordinary, plain, common, normal or average…but who do the bulk and carry the brunt of the backbreaking and tedious work that creates the wealth of the American nation..

     It is time to end the conflict. It is time to flatten out the structure, not to make everyone equal, which is neither true nor possible, but to materialize Jefferson’s dream of the inalienable rights of every human being to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This means a much fairer share of the nation’s economic wealth to everyone so that this nation can eliminate slums and the plethora of pockets of human illness, poverty and despair that blanket the American landscape and cityscapes.

 Marx believed that who controls the economy controls the government. He was partially correct. Surely, the American system of political economy that we have described would be a good illustration of Marx’s view. But the same is true in the EU, Russia, Latin America, China, anywhere. On the other hand, de Tocqueville saw that the fact that America, unlike feudal Europe, had so many small farmers, homeowners and independent artisans and merchants, and so much political freedom and “democracy”, that these were the necessary and sufficient conditions to bring about the existence of a mass industrialized society. In other words, de Tocqueville saw cultural and political values influencing economic structure. In our view, Marx and de Tocqueville are both correct. The complex truth is that there is a close causal interaction between the structure of an economy and the structure of a government. They are actually interdependent.

     The political economy that has developed in the past hundred years or so in America has generated a tremendous amount of wealth and power for the traditional ruling class and there has been enough surplus to create a large middle class and, up to recently, a reasonably well paid working class. But times have changed. What America faces now, in the transformation of the world economy into a new and truly globalized one, makes the future distribution of American wealth and the future welfare of the working and middle classes problematic, to say the least.

     The challenge is to transform the American political economy before it disintegrates and produces a chaotic political nightmare. It cannot “stay the course”. Have you ever been on a train which had stopped and watched another train move forward which gave you the feeling you were moving backward? Continuing to repeat our past practices as the world charges into a whole new economic paradigm will produce the same effect. Being stalled in past or conventional thinking and solutions will put America into reverse and cause unthinkable disasters for the American people. Processes are already in motion to indicate that is exactly what is in store for the U.S.A. But such a serious consequence is not inevitable; it remains reversible even in 2010. There is yet time to make the appropriate adjustments and get moving in a forward direction. As we have already seen above, there are several American-friendly, tried and true, and well tested methods to propel America forward.

     As we have demonstrated so far in this chapter, those who still hold the reins of power politically and economically seem more likely to make regressive or conventional choices that, in such a time of global political economic transformation, will eventuate in America falling further behind the global curve. There are American thinkers and leaders, however, who are willing and able to seize the opportunity, to meet the challenge and rise to the occasion. America seems to be at a juncture in the next few years where it can print up huge amounts of government fiat “money”, and go into (by far) the deepest debt in its history, to right the economy and keep it from capsizing. This unique expenditure of cash needs to be spent– in good part–on stimulating, encouraging, and subsidizing a quantum leap in worker empowerment in the American economy. It needs to put together the vital and virile movements of ESOPs + TQM to restructure the American political economy and galvanize and amalgamate the pent up constructive force and materiel of the American citizenry and workforce.

     Although we proved our point about the inherent, even genetic, “class” warfare between the American “aristocracy” and what is derisively called “The Great Unwashed”, we do not wish to be interpreted as saying that ALL corporate capitalists feel and act this way. Capitalism, as we have also emphasized throughout this book, does not automatically lend itself to gigantism, hierarchical and grotesquely unfair social and economic structures.

     So, what it really boils down to is individual values, attitudes and behavior. Not all workers are cooperative and thoughtful and diligent, even under Deming’s system. Not all ESOPs make workers feel empowered. And not all capitalists, even those who are clearly part of the American Corporate Oligarchy, are obsessed with nothing but money, power and status and are impervious to feeling at one with their workers, even if they are a faceless crowd. There are many “decent capitalists” in the world and in America….even if they are not explicitly advocates and adherents to “worker empowerment” philosophies and practices. Some may perch in their top floor corner offices but still feel a respect for and a harmony with their workers. Sad to say, they still remain few and far between in the American Corporate Oligarchy, the occasionally exceptional “owner.”

     However, it seems to us, that based on some of the extraordinary motives and activities shown below by this small but outstanding group within the ruling class, that people like this would be an essential part of any effective future transformation of the American political economy into a collaboration between this counter-elite of the natural aristocracy in America and the golden mean of the American working class. But time is running out fast.

“Decent” Capitalism is not an Oxymoron

     We hope the reader recalls what Adam Smith’s view of capitalism was. It was about small time businesses in free competition, with minimal government involvement, and a demand from the public that would be real, not artificially stimulated by experts in inseminating consumers with a ravenous appetite to gorge themselves way beyond their needs or even some modest desires for luxury. The authentic capitalist market is based upon what the public (made up of the aggregation of individual wants, tastes, and needs) demands…and those who did the best job of supplying those various demands who would prosper the most and thrive. Those who didn’t do a good job at that, failed to grow and withered on the vine. That was how “the invisible hand” worked. However, the reward for success was not just “profit” and “making money.” It included such things as knowing that you did superlative work and feeling good about the fact that what you produced pleased so many people.

     So, in our view, capitalism is not synonymous with monopoly (or oligopoly – control of entire markets by several huge corporate entities). It is not synonymous with greed and power. It has nothing to do with hierarchical institutions. It is not the same as large corporations who try to manufacture the public’s desires through massive, deceptive advertising and persuasive public relations. It is not synonymous with empire…or military industrial complexes that obtain obscene levels of profits by controlling the federal government through campaign contributions, lobbying and various forms of jobbery and conflicts of interest.

     According to Adam Smith, it is only synonymous with a free marketplace creating greater wealth for all in any society and having that wealth distributed well enough to eliminate the kinds of poverty and misery he saw in his country, during his time of Earth, due to the imperialistic mercantilism of his day. His capitalist concept is a system that creates a fairer and more decent level of personal satisfaction in one’s own imaginativeness and industriousness and wealth for one and all in any nation that adopted this system. Thus, real capitalism is synonymous with as Adam Smith said “Decent” Capitalism. Let’s look at some recent examples of this phenomenon to prove it’s not just an abstraction, but an inspiring reality.

The Grameen Bank:

The Success of Democratic Banking with the Poor and “Social Business”

     In the American system, as we have seen, banks and bankers have long been a major player in the development of its economy at all levels. Surely they are major players in the development of any community, any business, any state and the United States of America. But bankers themselves produce nothing but profits for themselves from their lending and investments. Through the deposits they collect and protect, they decide who gets the capital (investment funds) to start businesses, build homes, improve farming, build shopping malls, power plants, shipping facilities, factories, railroads and virtually every activity of social value that requires money to accomplish its goals.

     Yet, they are part of the ruling class and share its values…mainly out of their own business and personal interests. (OK, so they serve on the boards of charities too). Rarely, however, do they factor social or environmental costs or benefits into their decisions unless compelled to do so by governments. This is why in many societies, governments strictly regulate, or even own, large financial institutions. The downside of this is that government bureaucrats rarely make good bankers.

     China, for example, has a central bank that is hardly considered a model to follow since it has perhaps the largest percentage of poorly performing or non-performing loans in any society today. Central government owned and run banks do not have a good track record at keeping an economy vigorous and growing…and they seem to create the same kinds of disparity of wealth as privately owned large banking systems. Japan is a contemporary example of this. The Soviet Union was another, and we know how that “empire” came to an inglorious termination.

     Thus, the solution in terms of banking is not to turn over private banking to the government…either directly as in China…or indirectly to a conglomerate of huge banks…like the Federal Reserve in the United States….whose monetary policies since its inception, as we have duly noted, have been one of the root causes of the glut of booms, recessions and depressions in the United States. The solution is, at least partially, decentralizing the American banking system back to what it was originally…a system of community owned banks that, by and large, invest back into its community of depositors.. Throughout the latter part of the 20th century, America has seen a tremendous surge of bank mergers and centralization of jumbo nationwide banks…a trend continuing, if not accelerating to the present (2010)…which has been good for fewer and fewer bankers, but not for America, as by now you should be aware.

     Also, bankers need to transform their value system of ever greater private profits and more and more social power into a value system that befits their community needs…defined by an aggregate of individual needs, not the banker’s view of what is best for the community (or nation). Bankers need to re-order their priorities and move to a better way of thinking that reflects their central role in the social, political and civic health of the communities that host them. Bankers concerned about social needs? Isn’t this another oxymoron?

     Well, if you don’t think this is empirically possible, then you haven’t heard of The Grameen Bank and Dr. Muhammad Yunas. Dr. Yunas is a Bangladeshi who got his Ph.D. in Economics from Vanderbilt University in the early 1970s and then taught at Middle Tennessee State University for a short while before he decided to return to his homeland. What he found there was vast, grinding poverty, a country of the poor and miserable, hardly a monument to Adam Smith’s ideal of a “decent” society. So, after poking around, he found a way to become a banker that has literally changed the lives of millions of human beings for the better.

     His original idea is now called “Micro-Loans.” He realized, from his study of economics, that “The banking system was designed to keep poor people out.” (Ryan 1997) Bankers strongly tend to only lend to those they believe (based on what they consider to be factual evidence) will pay them back, who almost always are people who already have money and/or assets. Before they lend the money, they usually demand some kind of “collateral,” a down payment, some realty, to “secure” the loan in case of default.

 But very poor people can’t afford a down payment. They have no collateral. So they can’t borrow money to start a small business. Yunus’ systematic and rigorous research as an economist revealed that in point of fact, poor people were more likely to repay loans than wealthier ones. (What does that tell you?) So, he decided to start giving out very small and unsecured loans to very poor people, mostly women, to start very small businesses in Bangladesh.

     At first he did this on a personal basis…and almost all loans were repaid with small interest. Finally, in 1983, the government allowed him to actually open a bank, which he called “Grameen”, Bengali for “rural” or “village.” So, what has this to do with “democracy?” Plenty. How? Because although Yunus supplied the capital for the loans, he didn’t decide which loans to approve or not. That’s the kind of thinking one very successful banker used to start an enormous global banking empire.

     “Grameen began by requiring borrowers to form groups of five and meet weekly to discuss each other’s businesses and to pre-approve one another’s loan proposals. If one member falls behind on payments, no other group member may borrow until the debt is paid. “The groups support and protect each other,’ Yunus explained. ‘They elect a president and treasurer. For many, it’s their first experience with democracy,’ Members also follow ‘16 Decisions’ that commit them to improving their own lives and those of their families.” The 16 rules also make the borrowers realize that they are part of both a larger community and of the environment as well.” (Ryan 1997)

     Want to know what they are? There is an excellent set of 16 illustrations of them which can be seen and enjoyed online. Here’s the first of them. The remaining fifteen can be found at: http://www.telecommons.com/villagephone/GBprinciples.html or as a slideshow at: http://www.grameen-enfo.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&Itemid=109

 We’ll wager that you are thinking: “Right, so it works in a small village…and with a few people…but it can’t become much of a force for good to any large extent.” Tut, tut, such cynicism. In fact, the opposite is true. By 1997, Grameen had spread to 36,000 villages. It lent about $1 million per day. It employed 12,000 people. And 94% of those borrowing money for very small businesses were women and, yes, his theory was correct. Grameen borrowers, the very poor, are a much better risk for repayment than wealthier lenders in traditional banking systems. “Yeah, yeah,” we can hear you now…”but that could never work in a country like the United States.” Sorry. wrong again.

     In the mid 1980s, the Ford Foundation…and also a governor of Arkansas named Bill Clinton, invited Yunus to help create a Grameen style program in the U.S. The first of its kind, one that had a similar approach, but one adapted to the City of Chicago, was called The Full Circle Fund. The 16 principles are adapted to fit American and local needs. So, how’s it doing lately?

 According to the New York Times: “An organization that promotes small loans for self-employment projects among the world’s poorest people plans to announce…that it is on track to meet its nine-year goal of helping 100 million of the world’s poorest families by 2005. The organization, Results Educational Fund (www.results.org), will report that as of the end of 2002, more than 2,500 institutions offering small-scale financial assistance, known as microcredit, have reached 41.6 million poor families worldwide. They were made to finance a vast array of businesses, including a Pakistani baker of…bread…a tortilla maker in El Salvador and a lawn-care business in South Florida.” (Semple 2003)

     To top it off and bring this more closely up to date, catch this headline from the Internet on October 13, 2006: “Banker to the world’s poor wins Nobel peace prize.” In giving the award, the Nobel committee awarding the prize noted the relationship that more democracy brings more democracy and greater domestic tranquility, even by bankers:

“Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty…microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.” (Ramesh 2006) It is also reducing poverty in Bangladesh alone at about the rate of 2% a year…not bad for a Bangladeshi economist who taught at Middle Tennessee State who turned himself into a banker. Stay tuned at: www.grameenfoundation.org.

     Other more traditional commercial banks in the United States are taking notes with good results. For example, American Savings Bank, Irvine, California has a CEO and chairman of the board who “revamped his loan officers’ compensation system and developed new standards for assessing…loans…to low income customers. He also opened new bank branches in East Los Angeles and South Central Los Angeles – poor areas other banks had virtually abandoned…A case of fuzzy-minded altruism? Hardly. “American’s loans to low-income borrowers are among the best in its overall portfolio, with one-third the delinquency rate of its loans to affluent borrowers.” (Bollier 1994)

     Seems that Yunas is as good a researcher as he is a banker…and a strong advocate for “decent capitalism”…or as he called it in a meeting with current British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, “social business” – where the primary goal is social good instead of never enough financial gains for the bank….with little regard for the poor, the ecology, or the public welfare….as defined by some replication of the public itself.

“The Nobel Laureate Who Could – Microeconomics Saves Planet”

     “Responsible Corporations”: Bankers and Industrialists Who Recognize Their Workers, Community and the Earth as Stakeholders

     Of course, micro-lending to the poor is not the only way that bankers can help out their communities by practicing “decent capitalism.” As we saw above, financial or industrial leaders do not have to only think of profits or the concerns of their shareholders. There are some out-of-the-box thinkers who realize that there is more to banking and business than profit taking and they find or take opportunities to directly repair serious social and community problems by “good banking” practices. For example, in 2000, a huge wildfire destroyed 280 homes and forced 20,000 people to evacuate their homes in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

     Instead of foreclosures and keeping interest rates the same for rebuilding, standard banking practices, The Los Alamos National Bank, which is a “community bank,” offered “$5,000 zero interest rate loans to anyone in the community (not just its customers) who was affected by the fire…Bank officials (arranged)…to suspend mortgage payments on lost houses.” (Temple-Ralston 2000) For this, the bank got a Baldrige Award in 2000 and, please notice, that “The bank isn’t just a good corporate citizen. It’s balance sheet shows that it’s also a well run operation.” (Temple-Ralston 2000)

     Unfortunately, real community banks, like this, are being swallowed up at a rapid rate by large interstate or global banks, an alarming trend…but one not surprising in recent American times. For a good running commentary on how this struggle goes, see the website of Independent Community Bankers of America at www.icba.org. On the other hand, the 8,000 or so community banks of America have had an excellent business plan that is weathering the current financial disaster in the United States and globally. For one thing, they have rarely indulged in the sub-prime mortgage lending practices and keep up good relations in their communities by investing in them instead of the siren song of huge profits in exotic “emerging markets” and buying up incomprehensible financial instruments that no one understood and that turned into asset depletion quicksand.

     The federal government’s trillions upon trillions of dollars “bail-outs” of the dinosaur brained larger banks and its assistance to them in “buy outs” and mergers to make fewer and fewer of even larger and larger and dumber and dumber and greedier and greedier banks, has put the socially and well performing agile community banks at a disadvantage because they can’t offer certain conveniences and services and discounts that a national or global bank can. Much the same is true of the nation’s credit unions…which also have not been savaged by the present financial crunch…in part due to the fact that they are technically co-ops…which we will discuss below. So, here’s another example of how the traditional, present system rewards incompetence and penalizes those who are in a position to offer viable local solutions, like a more decentralized, community based and oriented banking system to develop more community based productivity.

     A handful of bankers are not the only capitalists who practice “decent capitalism” in the U.S. For example, when Malden Mills, the manufacturer of Polar Tec, had most of the mill’s buildings burned to the ground around Christmas of 1995, it put roughly 3,000 workers out of a job…and their families into a cellar of despair.. The ABC Boston affiliate was on the scene. So who would save them, the National Guard, aid from the federal government? Remember Katrina? No, it was the capitalist owner of Malden Mills to the rescue.

“WBZ 6pm News 12/12/95 – Malden Mills Fire”

“Aaron Feuerstein”

     The owner, Aaron Feuerstein, a multi-millionaire…was deeply devoted to his factory, where it was located in Massachusetts, and to the thousands of hard working factory workers he employed. Feuerstein had, years before, turned down the lure of lower paid workers and tax amnesties from Southern towns in order to stay the course in his own community and keep his faithful workers on the job.

     So, when the fire destroyed his entire plant, his own view of the American worker came into play: “The best profit in the long run…comes from using the best labor to make the best fabric.” (Michelmore 1996) Despite the staggering devastation, and the deadlines for delivering the product, Feuerstein, all the workers and their families, with the help of the labor union (which bent its rules) struggled day and night to rebuild, with the owner paying the salaries (and Christmas bonuses) as though the losses never occurred. Ultimately, all their work paid off and the new factory, replete with a huge American flag emblazoned upon its walls, reopened in Massachusetts…, not Guatemala. Since then, Polartec has undergone several reorganizations and sales and does struggle, particularly in this economy. But this in no way diminishes the saving of the company and the beneficence of the owner.

“Aaron Feuerstein’s Malden Mills”

     This is why Reader’s Digest’s story about him called him: “One Boss in a Million.” (Michelmore 1996) But why should he be such a marvelous exception to such a bad rule? Actually, more and more corporate capitalists are beginning to realize that good business practices that focus on the customer, the worker, and the environment are more profitable…and create a better world.

     In fact, there are a growing number of American companies that, though still hierarchical in nature, manifest a real concern for and partnership with their workers in many ways – other than through, or in addition to, ESOPs and TQM – on a regular basis (health and wellness programs, child care, maternal leaves, flex time in the office). And sometimes, in extraordinary cases, they go to even more extraordinary lengths to show that they consider the local, national and global environment to not be an “externality” to their bottom line. Two highly publicized examples of this have been Starbucks and Patagonia.

 As to the former, the company officially offers full medical and dental benefits, in addition to ESOPs to part-time employees, a first in the American corporate culture. Keeping with its own internal corporate culture, Starbucks calls this their ESOPs “Bean Stock” options. According to an article in Workforce Management, Starbucks has not only been one of the most explosively growing American corporate presences over the past few decades – despite its severe setbacks in this global recession – it is also a model of employee and customer satisfaction One of the major reasons for this is their strong ESOP plus involving their workforce as a key part of the “homey” atmosphere they try to create in their coffee shops as a place for people to relax, socialize and create a sort of local community. The workers are called and deemed to be “partners” and this has resulted in a corporation that has an relatively low employee turnover rate.

     Another reporter reinforces this view: “These employee benefits underpin Starbuck’s legendary service, which in turn has attracted a fiercely loyal customer base. By nurturing his most important resource – his work force – Mr. Schultz has reduced employee turnover to two-thirds the average in his industry, specialty retailing.” (Bollier 1997)

     Both internal and external surveys of workers find that Starbucks scores extremely high in employee job satisfaction. The Workforce Management article quotes one employee as saying that she enjoys the job because it gives an “opportunity to work with an enthusiastic team” and “to work in a place where I feel I have value.” (Hammers 2003) In fact, number one on its mission statement is to treat “employees with respect.” Employees are also encouraged to “monitor” all the six missions of the company…and are encouraged, and rewarded, by engaging in local community activities. Starbucks donates “$10 for each hour that an employee volunteers to a nonprofit or charitable organization”

     Another “socially responsible” mission of Starbucks involves its commitment to both the environment and its foreign coffee growers. A senior editor at Fortune magazine had this to say about that in a recent article commending the country’s most admirable corporations: “(Starbucks is) a pioneer in the area of corporate responsibility…It is now forging partnerships with coffee growers around the world that are designed to give growers a fair price for their beans – often higher than the so-called Fair Trade price – and to promote sound environmental practices. Starbucks also seek to become more ‘green’ at the retail level b, for instance, offering a 10-cent discount to customers who bring their own cups.” (Gunther 2006)

     Just so the reader doesn’t think we are getting paid off in free blueberry muffins, frappuccinos and lattes, all is not perfect in the Starbucks labor relations universe. First off, Starbucks was the victim of its own dreams of expansion-forever and had to close several hundred of its coffee shops in The Not-So-Great Depression (still pretty much recessing), laying off many workers in the process. Second, its pro-employee philosophy from the top has run into the desire of some of its workers who don’t feel so empowered, or are paid well enough, or they don’t like the way hours are counted or that they can count on to work, or that they are unable to afford their co-pay for the benefits, or are not allowed, by law, to form unions, etc.

 Ironically, Starbucks has had to deal with the reincarnation, of all things, the IWW, which has already organized a tiny segment of Starbucks labor force. The ownership has put up strong resistance to them and other unions – considering it an insult to its “partnership” mission. This has resulted in a raft of claims against it at the National Labor Relations Board and in courts in the U.S. and abroad. The IWW, as at least the struggling remains of one of the oldest American unions, has always stood for strong workplace democracy in the Deming mode (“The Wobbly Shop” was a precursor to TQM) and the Starbucks partner/monitor/suggestion model does not rise to that level of employee self governance…yet. (Allison 2007) Where does Starbucks go from here in 2010? We shall see.

     If the reader wants to keep up with how the union, Starbucks, and customers feel about it, go Google “Starbucks cutbacks and employee relations.” There are an awful lot of articles with comments from customers and workers about how Starbucks is not living up to what it says it is all about…at least in terms of its management-worker philosophy. There is also a pretty good YouTube about this as well:

“What Starbucks and Wal-Mart Have in Common”

     Another large American corporation that usually ranks among the best of the “decent” corporate capitalist organizations is Patagonia, a California based outdoor clothing manufacturer. The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University did a study on that company and ranked it high along the lines of how to use a caring approach to employees to maintain a high quality product, profitability and a loyal workforce and customer base.

     Patagonia’s ownership is particularly strong in being family friendly to its workforce. For example, “New mothers and fathers get two months of paid child-care leave, and an on-site child-care program lets employees slip in to see their children during the day. Child care subsidies are provided, company buses transport children from local elementary school’s to the company’s…offices, and a school support program allows employees five days off to participate in their children’s classroom activities.” This has resulted in an unusual phenomenon in American manufacturing: more women than men in the workforce…with a turnover rate of “only 3 percent.” (Gardiner 2008)

 However, the founder of the company, Yvon Chouinard, also had as his company’s mission to really allow his employees to be the people they are and to let them decide on how they best serve the company and themselves. Thus there is a high level of mutual trust and freedom between the workers and the company. For example, being located on the California coast, many of the employees are surfers. So, when the Pacific churns up well formed waves, they are free to take their surfboards and boogyboards out and catch enough to their hearts’ content, even during normal working hours. 

     The spirit of this enlightened corporate capitalists’ business philosophy is captured in Choinard’s acclaimed book: Let My People Go Surfing: Education of a Reluctant Businessman (2006).

 Patagonia, however, is even better known for its commitment to environmental sustainability in its materials, production and even distribution practices. When possible, it uses organic materiel. “Low-impact dyes and organic cotton are chosen over cheaper, or more environmentally harmful, raw materials…Through Patagonia’s involvement in “1% for the Planet” initiative, the company has donated 1% of all sales to organizations dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment (totaling over $25 million since the company started in 1985). When a customer is through with a fleece or T-shirt, he can return it to Patagonia to be recycled.” (Palmer 2008)

     The company seems to be doing quite well, even in these hard times, earning the nickname “The Gucci of Outdoors.” It does this even while combining its nourishment of employee welfare with environmental sustainability through its “Environmental Internship Program.” How about this? “Employees are invited to work for any environmental non-profit company of their choice for up to two months, while still receiving full pay and benefits. This can take the form of an environmental sabbatical in which workers immerse themselves in the non-profit work for the entire two months or for just a couple of days a week as a supplement to their work at the company.” (Palmer 2008)

     This article “Corporate Social Responsibility: Patagonia Reconnects with its Roots” can be found in the business magazine Sales and Marketing Management, or its online edition, Manage Smarter and was not located on the Patagonia website. Also, neither of the authors of this book buys from Patagonia or hold stock in it.

We’ve searched through Google and looked through YouTube and really not found much, if anything to contradict what we’ve said above about either Patagonia or its founder and CEO. In fact, Mr. Chouinard seems to remain foremost in the pantheon of “decent capitalists” as illustrated by this recent NBC News profile about him as a unique individual in this world who was “Making a Difference” even beyond his work with Patagonia:

“NBC: 1% for the Planet”

     Thus, nurturing and involving workers in the corporate culture, helping them out financially during emergencies, caring about the community in which it is located, and protecting the environment are all part of a new movement in American corporate responsibility and growth and essential aspects to “decent capitalism.” But these, by themselves, still keep the main economic and decision making power in the hands of the corporate elite, no matter how enlightened and brightened they may be. These precious few among the corporate capitalist class need to also embrace the concepts of (1) ESOPs that transfer decision making power to the workers at the top echelon and (2) TQM at the production level. This triad would truly transform the American political economy ASAP.

     Is this another pie-in-the-sky idea? Or has it been shown to work in practice? We believe that The Global Co-operative Movement is actually where all of this actually is playing out in economic reality, from small operations, through global networks, and even up to and including a mighty global corporate co-op. It is in this economic form where all these ideas and practices come together and serve as an existing and profitable model for the American political economy to emulate. It may not come in time to keep the present system from an inescapable dissipation, but it may be the best way to rebuild the U.S. political economy of the future.

Co-ops: The Economic Mirror of Democracy

     A true business and/or corporate co-operative goes even further than practicing the Deming model of worker empowerment, the United Air Lines model of worker/shareholders on the Board of Directors, and the fair minded capitalist who cares about the workers, cuts them in on profits, and also cares about the community and the environment. It is the modern day equivalent of the old utopian communes, where everyone is an equal partner in the enterprise, everyone can enter any meeting or discussion about all aspects of the business, everyone has an equal vote in the decision making processes, and all share in the profits, at least proportionate to the amount of time they put into the venture and/or the amount they purchase of whatever the co-op produces (goods and/or services). Thus, it is the business mirror image of The New England Town Meeting, the Athenian Ecclesia, or the early Israeli kibbutzim – the general assembly of all citizens and producers who had power to make all laws or veto them.

 That’s the theory of them. Not all work that way or that well. We will discuss a sample that do work according to the theory, just to demonstrate that they, and the whole modern co-op movement, is a living, flourishing and viable alternative to the way things mainly dysfunction in the present day American political economy.

     First of all, in functional co-ops, there is a strong social ethos that goes along with being a member. This includes a sense of mutual purpose, of sharing, of listening to and connecting with others, and being diligent in whatever it is one does within the co-op. In its pure form, it is the economic embodiment of The Sermon on the Mount. The idea can actually be traced way back to hunter gatherer times, but is usually believed to have begun in its modern form in Great Britain in the 19th century where a group of craftsman banded together and established a store to sell foodstuffs that none of them could afford on their own. Within a short time, the store was very profitable and the concept spread throughout the kingdom many hundreds of various sorts.

     The venture capital to start these can come equally from the members of the start-up, either as an investment of capital or as in-kind contribution of work and services.. There is a copious variety of co-ops including housing, energy, and just about any business you can imagine. It is a highly successful way of organizing economic structures all around the world and there a myriad of them that are operational in the Unites States today.

     For an up to date explication of the entire global cooperative movement, including in the United States, the University of Wisconsin hosts an excellent website that will give you a far-reaching oversight and assessment of what going on in terms of what, where, how they’re doing, what kinds of meetings, conferences, and news there is that is right up to date. See www.uwcc.wisc.edu. From our perspective, the U of Wisconsin “outreach” is extremely important to the global development of this economic structure, but even more in the United States of America in this time of extreme economic stress, one which is more than likely to be exacerbated in the foreseeable future. The co-op is a truly important and effective remedy to what ails America – commercially, industrially and agriculturally. Not only does it compete well with its competitors in terms of its quality and profitability, it also serves as a method of starting and developing communities within the present American political economic system that is adept at destroying them.

Individual Co-ops and Networks: Some Modest U.S. Examples

     Just to give the reader an idea about what is going on in the world of co-ops in America today, let’s take a look at some of the “news” about them in the UW website.

* In Utah during the summer of 2008:

 (KSL News) “The Community Food Co-op of Utah has a new walk-in freezer. The UPS Foundation donated the money to buy the freezer, which will make receiving, organizing and delivering frozen food a lot better. Food at the co-op is targeted for low-income people but is available to everyone. Co-op members receive a monthly delivery.

 The most popular package sells for $23 and includes five pounds of meat, seven fresh vegetables, three fresh fruits, a loaf of bread and a pound of grain.”

 

* At the University of California at Berkeley in 2007-2008:

 “Founded nearly 75 years ago with the mission of providing college students with affordable housing, the Berkeley Student Cooperative received 1,877 applications during the 2007-08 school year, up from 1,557 applications during the previous school year. The organization receives applications on a rolling basis…..”I was disappointed because my friends were in it and I wanted to live with them, but there will be other chances,” said Collins, who has since moved into an apartment.

      As UC Berkeley welcomes its largest incoming freshmen class in history, students are finding it more difficult to find an affordable place to live. While increasing the availability of housing is the logical next step for co-op officials, finding affordable property to convert into new co-ops without raising rates is an extremely difficult task.”

* New York City, Summer 2008:

 “To save money on heating costs this winter, consider joining or starting a fuel oil co-op.

 What’s that? When Barbara Troxell started one in 2004, she started by putting flyers in neighbors mailboxes. After getting about 14 people together, she started calling up dealers to see if they would offer a group rate discount. The group negotiated a $40 discount off a $179 annual plan, got downside price protection, with a pre-season boiler check included. Now the group is up to 50 people.

 Through collective buying power you can negotiate a better deal to buy in “bulk” than you can individually.”

* New York City, ABC Eyewitness News, 2009:

 “Child care is rarely a problem with this group.

 That’s because their moms and dads are members of the Prospect Heights Babysitting Co-op. It’s a child care solution popping up in neighborhoods all over   the country.

 Twelve families belong to this one. Everyone takes turns being a babysitter. 

 Requests are posted on the co-op’s special website. The best part is no money is involved. 

 The program works on a point system. 

 Every time a parent sits for another family, they earn points that they can redeem when they need a babysitter. 

 ‘I would be happy to sit for another family if that means I can have a sitter without having to pay out cash’”

* Albany, New York, Summer 2008:

 “The Honest Weight Food Co-Op is taking on the man. 

 The federal government decided to allow the irradiation of certain products is intended to calm consumer fears. Instead, a food educator at the Co-Op believes you should be more nervous. 

 Most meat is already irradiated. Now vegetables are being added to the mix. The concern is that the end doesn’t justify the means. 

 Shoppers patronize the Co-Op because they believe the research is done for them. “I feel pretty confident coming here and I still do read labels, but I don’t have to scrutinize it as much,” Co-Op shopper Carolyn Miller said. 

 The Co-Op prides itself on knowing exactly what goes into the products it sells and where they come from. That’s why staff there is so concerned about the FDA    giving the go ahead to irradiate produce.”

     So these are just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. There are lots more leaves to peel back on this site about the unbelievable amount and types of co-ops there are in America today. Just think about the ones we selected at the top of the recent news. Food banks for the poor; affordable housing co-ops for college students; co-ops to reduce the price of fuel oil; co-ops for baby-sitting so you don’t need to pay for it; grocery co-ops that do research for the customers on the quality and safety of the products you buy. We could go on and on, but think about this: Aren’t all these problems that Americans are going to be facing more and more now and in the future? Aren’t co-ops an obvious solution?

And they don’t have to be micro-coops like those above. There are some mighty big ones, like Land 0’Lakes dairy cooperative and Florida Natural growers’ co-op in Florida:

“Florida Natural”

 Why aren’t all these “bail out trillions” from The Fed and the U.S. Treasury going to “banks too big to fail” and not going to help start, grow and sustain the wide array of co-ops all over the United States? The answer by now should be pretty obvious. Don’t hold your breath for the Obama Administration to start a humongous national initiative for stimulating and subsidizing and starting up co-ops. They’re so….so….so….early American, like under The Articles of Confederation…and the America De Tocqueville so admired. They not only solve economic problems, they solve social and political ones as well.

Co-op Banking

     Given the importance of banking to any economy, and the fact that we have seen that including even “community banks,” that bankers have tremendous power in any political economy in every place they operate in the world to make important decisions that affect just about everyone on the planet, one might wonder if – other than the Grameen Banking Model – whether there are any banks that are run as “co-ops.” The answer to that is: Yes. Are they as “democratic” as the Grameen Bank? Unlikely. Still, they could be, but it is hard to find any that are. (If you find any, let us know on the book blog.) On the other hand, they do differ from the purely commercial, bottom-line driven hierarchical template and that is worth a look.

     In Googling the web, we found The National Co-Operative Bank, or NCB. You can learn a lot about it at www.ncb.coop and you will also find the National Cooperative Banking Association, at www.ncba.coop. If you look closely at these URLs, you will notice that the cooperative movement in America, and worldwide, has recently managed to secure for itself its own internet domain area that separates itself from the dot com, dot net, dot.org and dot.gov world. Now all co-operatives throughout the world have their own internet home – dot.coop – by which they can exchange information and network activities.

 The National Cooperative Bank was established back at the end of The Cultural Revolution by a number of cooperative leaders who realized that the movement needed a reliable, friendly financial resource for cooperatives throughout the nation. They persuaded Congress to charter the National Consumer Cooperative Bank, which in 1980 made $10 million in loans to mostly some housing co-ops in New York City and several natural foods co-ops around the country. One of their first loans, by the way, was to that student co-op at Berkeley mentioned above. In 1981, NCCB became “privatized” (thanks to Ronald Reagan for that) and it, itself, became a “cooperative financial institution,” which is just another kind of co-op: membership owned and “democratically run”. Over time, it slowly transits from only operating as a public sector entity to one that is commercially competitive with the usual type of banking enterprise.

     In 1990, NCB begins to offer its workers ESOPs, since it is now also competing in a free market environment at the national and global level. This is consistent with its member-ownership philosophy. However, we cannot find anything that says that the worker-owners are on the Board of Director of the NCB. To its credit, though, NCB also establishes and now publishes regularly “The NCB Co-op 100” – which shows how profitable co-ops can be and is designed to raise the national visibility of this democratic, community oriented movement. This is a regular feature on their website.

     At this point in time, NCB has reached “its long term goal of providing financing to co-operatives and their members in every state in the union.” It continues to help finance housing coops, retail grocery coops, assisted living coops, has produced a 20 minute award winning video called “What is a Co-op? You’d Be Surprised” that can be purchased online from [email protected] , and it has developed a program called “Food Co-op 500” to help expand the number of community based food co-ops nationally to 500 by 2010. Given the rising price of food and fuel presently and undoubtedly in the immediate future, we think this needs to be closer to 50,000 and would be a great “niche” spending package to help balance the Obama Administration’s penchant to throw taxpayer money to large, centralized business organizations for the benefit of a few shareholders in each.

     NCB is obviously not small potatoes. Its website claims to have “committed” more than $2.5 billion “to impact a vital cross-section of underserved markets.”…including “low-income individuals” and “uninsured” persons “through support of community health centers.” Although it has become a hybrid through multiple interconnections with commercial bankers and outside investors, it remains a co-op. This means, and this is most important, that its profits are redistributed proportionally to its members relative to their investment and use of the bank.

     In NCB’s own words, “…the income in excess of expenses generated by a member’s use of the cooperative is refunded to them. This is called a patronage refund.” Thus, the amount of interest that a member pays on a personal loan, mortgage loan, construction loan, or business loan – which is the bulk of the profit a bank makes – is their share of the total interest they paid which is their share of membership. Thus, that is their share of the profit that is refunded to them. In a credit union, like the ones we belong to, all we get as “members” is a small percent on our savings account. (We hope NCB’s members get a lot more than we do from our university credit unions.)

     NCB continues to say that it is a “democratically controlled enterprise”. However, to be frank about it, we can’t seem to find anything in their website to show how the members actually decide anything. It appears to be more of an ESOP, where the worker-owners get a share of the profits through their stockholding, but do not necessarily participate in any major decision making within the bank. However, to be fair, we did find their “Corporate Video” on YouTube, which would make it appear to be much closer to the co-op model we favor. So, look and judge for yourself. If the video is an accurate portrayal, it seems pretty good to us and would be exceptional for as large an institution as it has become.

“NCB Corporate Video”

The Paragon of Mondragon

 But there is a far better example of a giant globally competitive corporation that is based and operated on fundamental co-op principles and, thus, owned and managed by…its workers. The seventh largest corporation in Spain, one currently with a hefty worldwide presence, and which is a multi-billion Euro operation is called The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation or MCC. Its structure, as is its history, is quite unique in world history. The way it started, its core values, its development and its current operations and problems are instructive as to how truly effective a political economic institution co-ops can actually be in the future of the American and global political economy. All that is needed is the political determination and will. There are plenty of human and capital resources to succeed.

     MCC was conceived and started in The Basque Country of Spain in 1943 by, of all things, a young Catholic priest. The Basque Country had been badly hurt before and during World War II and was in the heart of a country run by a brutal dictator. Despite these horrid conditions, Father Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta set up a simple little school, for mechanics, something Americans might call a “poly-technical” institute. However, it was not just a place to teach some minor engineering. The young priest had a vision. He saw this as the start of something much bigger, something that would transform the Basque Country into a thriving political economy.

     The ideal behind this school and the way it was run was strictly democratic. This Catholic priest believed that Jesus Christ, in his views that all humans were equal in the eyes of God, and that all humans were here for one major purpose, to serve and help each other as they would have them help themselves, should be the core purpose of all political and economic human institutions. Another major principle was – quite to the opposite of the American “Aristocracy of Manufactures”, one that was also espoused by a subsequent Pope, John Paul II, in Laboren Exercens 12 – that capital must serve labor, not the reverse. (Oklahoma City Catholic Worker 2002)

     Thus, his institute, a center of teaching and learning, became a co-op. The priest and the students reinforced this and worked together and ultimately, in 1956, they established the first actual manufacturing cooperative business. It was called ULGOR, an acronym using the first letter of each of the 5 founders last names. What it produced were kerosene heaters and cookers. Each member, as in all co-ops, was a “worker-owner”…actually sharing in all the decision-making and all the profits. Thus, each worker actually rented the capital and made the profit from it through his and the work of others. In other words, there is no “surplus value” in the labor of each worker. The workers absorb the surplus in their sharing of the profits. This was not Marxist thought, it was Christian practice.

     They did so well in this venture that they decided to found a “credit union,” one that they could use to finance some of their personal needs, like any financial entity does, but that would also be able to fund start-ups of other businesses in the area, as long as they, too, were based upon the original democratic and true Christian principles of the original co-op. Actually, co-operative economics is fundamental to the Basque people, so the Mondragon Co-operative “People’s Worker Bank” also invited other local co-operatives to join with them, and help infuse cash into them for further growth. They also “bailed out” other local businesses if they agreed to become co-ops themselves.

     Over the years, many different kinds of companies, particularly Mondragon co-ops, developed throughout the Basque region. The financial institution, the schools, the pension system, the health system – all co-ops themselves – became centrally located on a campus in the beautiful valley town of Mondragon. But all co-ops within the Mondragon co-op network gave various breaks and discounts for buying or using products and services within the company.

     Each co-op was comprised of worker-owners who made all decisions for their co-ops. So, if things got bad for one of them, the workers themselves might decide to take a cut in their profits (their pay) instead of furloughing a number of them to keep their personal profits at the same level. And if one co-op got into such serious economic trouble that there was no way to keep everyone in work, then the central Mondragon co-op would look around to see if they could get the extra workers into another of the system’s co-ops. Full employment was the goal and practice.

     Here’s the way the process of becoming a Mondragon co-op generally works: “A new co-operative begins with a group of friends. Experience in starting 120 businesses over a 40-year period has taught the Mondragon cooperators that the pre-existing bonds of friendship are a good basis for building a productive working relationship. The Mondragon association provides business and marketing research and assistance; their bank provides capital. The workers themselves must invest some of their own money, either as an upfront contribution or as deductions from wages paid over a 2 year period (about $5,000). Their bank sticks with the new co-op until they can go it alone; if the business gets into trouble, interest on their loans is waived, payments may be suspended, and parts of the loans may be forgiven. The group may be assisted into another line of business or work. As a result, since 1956, they have had only one total failure of a cooperative. (Oklahoma City Catholic Worker, 2002)

     Presently, Mondragon has over 260 companies or units, 100,00 workers, in over 40 countries with annual sales of about 16 Billion Euros or $25 Billion – including Mondragon University which has three campuses – within its organization. It also has its own website that is in several languages and has many features, including a section in English: www.mcc.es

     However, due to the globalization of its operations, not all are now co-ops…a problem it grapples with to this day. Also, because it has become so huge in both the number of worker-owners, and is spread across all of Spain, Europe and in other parts of the world, it needs some sort of central organization.

     Thus, it has established a “representative” body called “The Co-Operative Congress”. The delegates to it are elected by the individual co-ops and they meet annually in Mondragon in a “general assembly” which elects a “governing council” that has responsibility for the daily operations of MCC around the world. To those who work in the local co-ops, they refer to this “governing council” – housed in a beautiful modern three story structure on the Mondragon campus – as “Corporate.” From what we could gather in discussions with some of the worker owners of the smaller co-ops, this is not a compliment.

 Many of the rank and file worker-owners also see the incorporation of non-co-operatives as partners in Mondragon as a “selling out” of the core principles of the company for the sake of growth of the corporation’s bottom line. They do not like collaborating with companies that are hierarchical and/or that put labor in the service of capital. They feel it compromises the core Christian and democratic principles for a purely financial agenda.

     There is little doubt but that the Mondragon vision of Father Arizmendiarrieta has surpassed the limits of even his most fertile imagination and spiritual hopes in terms of employing so many of the Basque people in fruitful work, in letting them share relatively equally in the full bounty of their labor, in involving them directly in the most important managerial and ownership decisions of their companies.

     Mondragon also has a very important political agenda that was equally important to this priest, and that was to help The Basque People maintain their culture in the face of Spanish opposition. Thus, MCC has many schools throughout the Basque Country that teach the Basque language and culture to their youth, and Basque is spoken widely throughout the region. However, MCC does not support the “terrorist” organization ETA that seeks to secede from Spain by force…since, among other things, that violates the fundamental Christian tenet of non-violence. But it is a great supporter of the independent spirit and ways of the Basque people within the nation of Spain.

“The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation”

     There are other lessons to be learned in the MCC experience as perhaps the most avid, principled and by far the largest corporate co-operative practitioner in the world. One of these that we experienced in our meetings with top executives of MCC and with worker-owner-managers of local co-ops, was that the younger, more modern worker-owners were not so keen on assuming the responsibilities that are implicit in this kind of organization: faithfully attending and participating in regular meetings to make major business decisions. They earn good money, they have excellent health insurance and pension plans, and they want to spend their spare time enjoying the good life, not poring over statistics, business plans, listening to how to fix glitches in the manufacturing system, and things of that nature. Success in anything breeds its own problems.

     We have not said democracy is easy. The older generation of Mondragon idealists is finding out that with that being the case, it is easier for the younger worker-owners to delegate their powers, to have “representatives” make decisions for them. As we have pointed out earlier in this book, this is not a wise decision to make for one’s self, nor is it a wise one to make for succeeding generations. Making political decisions is what “liberty” is all about and yielding one’s liberty to “representatives” is not something that is easy to retrieve. We’ll revisit this idea in the next chapter on political democracy.

The Dynamics of Economic Transformation

 As we listened to President Barack Obama, a week or so before he was to be inaugurated, we were not astounded to hear what he had to say. He was asked by a TV reporter why he felt so “confident” that his new economic policies could make a difference in the future of America’s political economy. His answer was something along the following lines: Since he had the advice of former Reagan, Bush I and Clinton economic advisors – all in agreement – that he knew that the full range of economic thought had reached a consensus. He would proceed along those lines.

     This confirmed what we said at the beginning of this chapter. President Obama was the Editor in Chief of the Harvard Law Review. He was a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He believes deeply in using precedent to solve difficult problems. It’s the warp and woof of his belief system, philosophy and way of thinking. He deeply believes that if you take such a broad band of past experience and distill it, that it will point the way to a future resolution. The last thing America needs from 2010 into the future is a lawyer-like approach to a looming socio-political-economic-ecological catastrophe. It is also nothing less than a continuation of that odious oxymoron: “Corporate Capitalism.”

     We realize that it will be politically correct and short term expedient for the president to follow this advice and we understand that it will appear to solve some problems. Only a small (but vociferous) ideologically blind minority is going to blame the president for causing the problems and his “honeymoon” period of trying this and that for a year or two may last and perpetuate his initial popularity, although even that seems to waning only a year into his presidency. But the truth of the matter is that the system itself is badly broken and that popping some painkillers and applying Ben-gay to the aching arms may deaden the pain, but it will NOT cure heart disease.

     In fact, it is almost ironic that the titans of American finance and industry – and even a large group of state governors and local mayors are all relying so heavily on the U.S. federal government to salve over their intractable problems. Ah, it wasn’t too long ago that we heard over and over and over again, that old Ronald Reagan refrain: “Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.” Well, Ronnie was certainly right when it comes to American government and these national and global problems. We feel a bit of sympathy for this U.S. Congress and this president that they are saddled with a system that is so sick. Because, everyone is looking to that fatally ill political economy, the cause of the problem, to cure itself by continuing to do what caused it to fail so badly in the first place.

     What is needed is alternative therapy, not doctors trained in the old school. Government and its masters in TACO will not be the catalyst for transformative political economic change. The new ideas that we presented above, all which have proved to work so well in their particular ways, will continue to operate well and expand as the rest of the system continues to contract. It would be almost a miracle for the people in power in America today, those who have the power to print up piles of money at will, to invest in some truly progressive and transformational changes in the American political economy. Don’t look to Washington, D.C. Look around you and on the Internet. Here may be the breakthrough you will find only on the web. We can almost guarantee that you will not access it in the Soviet/Iranian/Chinese style American corporate mass media.

Labor Capitalism Is Not an Oxymoron

     In early November 2009, the Internet came alive with some potentially transformational news that put much of what he have said above into an entirely new perspective. What was that?

     The United Steel Workers Union (USW) of the United States of America entered into an agreement that had been in the making for some time with…are you ready for this?….Mondragon! In other words, North America’s largest industrial trade union combined with the world’s largest co-operative corporation to construct a large union-based Christian democratic model for manufacturing in America! No government largesse needed.

     This was not the first Mondragon style co-op in the United States. There are a few others, but pretty small in size including some bookstores and a solar power company. Carl Davidson, who writes for Zmag online interviewed various officials of the USW and this is their initial thinking.

     “The USW is proceeding cautiously. ‘We’ve made a commitment here…but…we want to make sure we get it right, even if it means starting slowly and on a modest scale.” Thus, this means “that the USW is looking for viable small businesses in appropriate sectors where the current owners are interested in cashing out. The union is also searching for financial institutions with a focus on productive investment, such as cooperative banks and credit unions.”

     Davidson’s article, which can be found in its entirety at www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/23059 is a very instructive essay about how ESOPs and the Mondragon model differ, and how the USW has experimented with the former and is committed to the latter in terms of true worker-ownership. According to this article and others on the web about this agreement, both the USW and Mondragon are also dedicated to developing “Green energy” projects as well. Thus, this new to America industrial model would work towards an integrated solution to the interconnected problems we have been discussing in this part of the book. The USW seems to be the kind of American union that thinks globally, as their Keynote Video at their 2008 International Conference apparently indicates.

“Steelworker Fight Corporate Attacks Globally”

 Our main theme throughout this book has been that the core of a global social, economic and political rejuvenation must come from a reinvigorated American industrial base…making it in America again…and not having its industrial core corporatized, cannibalized and caponized, turning America into a “Zombie Industrial Economy.”

“Are We Making It In America This Year?”

     Thus, the ESOPs, TQM, the broader co-op movement and the USW-Mondragon alliance all seem to be on the right track. Remember: They are not Marxist. They are not Socialist. They are not “Communist Capitalism.” They are all as American as Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson. America is not about rule by corporations or The Corporate State. It is about empowering human beings in their place of employment and encouraging them to develop the comprehensive mental tools necessary to be informed and thoughtful citizens in a democratic form of government. As Ronald Reagan reminded us, government is not the solution. True enough. The solution lies not in any ideological and fictitious objectivism and selfish individualism, but in collaborative self-governance in the economy and the political system.

     So, just as it will be the American people themselves who will be developing solutions to change the economic structure into a more decentralized, truly capitalistic, democratic and cooperative form of human production and service, so it must be the American people who must do the same with its form of government.

     . We will start the next chapter describing the regressive and superficial fixes the American Corporate Oligarchy prescribes, elixirs and tonics to really keep them in power. We will then finish this book by illustrating by word, website and videos, how a new American political democracy is right there in our midst, in the here and now, just waiting for the American people to adopt and adapt to it and become empowered, perhaps as never before in U.S. history. And in so doing, America would, once again, lead this world in practicing a new species of democracy, the only feasible and pragmatic way out of the impending darkness..

Questions for Discussion

1. Does America have a “chaibol?”

2. What does “privatizing the gain and socializing the risk” mean? How does this apply to the Bush II and Obama “bailouts?” What can be done to make this less onerous on and odious to the American people?

3. What would Joseph Schumpeter think of these “bailouts?” What would he recommend instead?

4. Do Becker and Briand think that a repeat or acceleration of “Keynesian” economics is the best way to go for the American economy in 2009 and beyond? Do you agree with them? If not, why not?

5. Who do Becker and Briand believe came up with the idea of “class warfare” before Karl Marx? Where can you find this concept in traditional American political thought?

6. Who was Frederick Taylor and why does the American “Aristocracy of Manufactures” love him and his work?

7. What theory of the American workplace do Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball have in common?

8. How have American unions actually achieved a small degree of empowerment to the downsized American union movement in recent years?

9. What’s an ESOP and name some successful American companies that have use them and profit thereby.

10. Who is W. Edwards Deming and why do the Japanese adore his thinking?

11. Why did some American companies come to adopt and adapt TQM in the 1980s and 1990s and what’s become of that practice in recent years?

12. Why do you think there are not more “decent capitalists” in the United States and that the practice thereof is so exceptional? Do you think it might become more prevalent in America’s future? If so, why?

13. Why do you think that the data indicate that a poor person is more likely to repay a loan than a rich one?

14. How would you compare “community banks” in the U.S. with those in the E.U.?

15. Is a genuine, full fledged co-op really a non-hierarchical way of running a business or industrial or consumer enterprise?

16. Can the co-op model be applied to a large corporation? A global one?

17. From what you’ve read and searched online, do you agree that democracy, capitalism and Christianity can really be compatible for a global corporation’s structure and value system and still be profitable?

18. Why do Becker and Briand think that ESOP+TQM+Co-op=The Best Economic Formula for a Sustainable Economic and Ecological Future?

Chapter 14 How a Transformed America Can Become a Leader in a Sustainable World Political Economy

     We deem it wise to begin this part of this treatise with the words of a Great Man who spoke to America at a time when millions of its young men were fighting ferocious battles on land, sea and in the air all over the world and there was no dreaming the end of it. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was, in our humble opinion, the greatest American leader of the 20th century, if not in the entire world. He was a man of great wisdom, vision and enormous compassion. Late in his third term as president (a feat unprecedented in American history), he gave this illustrious speech called “The Second Bill of Rights.” Listen to about 4 minutes of it on YouTube. It will set the tenor of what we will be saying throughout the rest of this book. We present this not as a historical curiosity, but as a roadmap for America for the future. We will then proceed, section by section, to lay out what it will take to make his vision for a secure America, and a secure world, come to pass.

“FDR’s ‘Second Bill of Rights Speech’ (1944)”

     We believe that FDR would be greatly disturbed at the unsettling domestic consequences of the Reagan Devolution plus its Neo-Con permutation, plus the results of many years of rule by America’s Iron Pentagram on the vast majority of average Americans over the past 30 years. We think FDR would have been disgusted with The Debacle, the misnamed and poorly run “New World Order” which is also at the cusp of disintegration. We think he would have been astounded and depressed to read the following paraphrased headlines from the past year or so, all of which still are relevant as 2010 unwinds:

* “U.S., Japan and Europe in Simultaneous Recession for First Time Since End of World War II”

* “Terrorists Lay Siege to Mumbai;””Wave of Terrorist Attacks in Pakistan.”

* “Russia and Venezuela Sign Nuclear Pact and Stage Naval Exercises Together”

* “U.S. Unemployment Highest Since Great Depression in 2009, Slow Recovery at Best.””

* “Nations, States and Cities Budgets in Record Crises Due to meltdown in Revenues”

* “Over 3 Million Foreclosures of American Homes in 2009)

* “China Has Millions of Cyber-warriors”

* “South America Sets Up New Regional Organization, UNASUR”

* “Iraq to Vote in National Referendum in January 2010 on Whether U.S. Troops Should Totally Withdraw by 2011”

* “Somali Pirates Continue to Kidnap Ships: U.S. Backed Ethiopian Troops Withdraw”

* “Earth scientists say polar icecaps melting much faster than their models predicted”

* “No Military Victory Possible in Afghanistan, so American Attacks in Pakistan Increase”

* “U.S. National Debt at Highest Levels in History…and Climbing; China Warns U.S. About Devaluation of Dollar”

* “Bailouts and stimuli may run as high as $8 Trillion”

* “Value of U.S. Homes Continues Slide. May Bottom Out in 2010.

* “Protests, Riots, Random Violence, Civil Wars, Famines, Pandemics, Revolutions Increase as Economic Conditions Deteriorate Worldwide”

  We could go on and on. But we think these make the point: Reaganomics has led to its predictable economic Armageddon and George W.H. Bush’s “New World Order” is in a bewildering wilderness and melting like a hunk of butter in a hot skillet. The world is in a metamorphosis…seemingly for the worst. If anything, it seems more jumbled and threatening than during The Cold War period, which was an extremely dangerous and costly period of time for the U.S.A. as we have detailed earlier in this book. Yet, there seems no “grand strategy”, only ad hoc nostrums. There seems no certain way that America can ever return to any sort of peaceful and orderly way of life…and surely not as “King of the Mountain.” That’s the way the tea leaves seem to read.

     But don’t you hear the rumbling too? Don’t you feel the ground trembling under you as well? Aren’t you anxious about the future of the United States of America? Don’t things seem to be getting out of hand? Well, good. You’re alive and still alert. What’s coming isn’t like an 8.5 earthquake or an F-5 tornado that’s on you all at once and leaves a wide wake of destruction, fire, and blood. It’s the collapse of the world as you knew it, or thought you knew it, but it will come more slowly…just as those headlines above appeared over months and months, and new scarier ones are on their way.

     So, the greatest challenge facing America and Americans in the 21st Century is to realize, as quickly as possible, that the future is, and will be even more so rapidly, very different from what has transpired in the past and based on totally different ideas of world history than that which directs America even at the present moment. Get over it!! We are no longer viewed as “The leader of the free world,” because the other remaining empire of the “unfree”, The Soviet Union and The Soviet Bloc, dissolved in 1989. Moreover, there is no more “Third World,” since the Soviet “bloc” was the “Second.”

     Without this bi-polar structure (“free”/”un-free”; “capitalist”/”communist”), the world remains in great flux, a vacuum in which there remains one self-professed, but other and self-destructive “hyper-power”, the United States. The rest of the nations of the world have no single, unitary, coherent vision which is clear and compelling. Most, however, harbor a multiplex and varying degrees of derogatory feelings towards the aggressive, hubristic American government and military, and the dysfunctional global institutional remnants of a near century of Western Imperialism (The IMF, World Bank, G-7+Russia, NATO, The Bilderbergers, etc.) We saw in earlier chapters how the reaction to these has begun in earnest….but will elaborate on them a bit more below.

     The covert but cherished American aspiration of “global empire” was exaggerated and muscled up by the Bush Regime of 2000-08, but actually the U.S. had already slowly been moving towards such an over-stretched American international political economic position since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Bush the First was much more diplomatic and subtle about consolidating it than his son (i.e., the “multilateral” approach, “diplomacy”, the “Coalition of the Willing”, etc.).

     It was Bush II, the son, who not only took off the gloves, but the friendly and benign mask as well. After the election of November 2008, if the platform and cabinet selections of Barack Obama are to be a true guide into the future, there is every indication that American foreign, military and imperial policy will hew to more of the Bush I/Clinton tactics in the immediate future starting from January 2009 to the indefinite future. If that’s so, America had best be ready for the mechanical bull ride Obama promised the night he was elected.

     If the Obama “national security team” he selected to start his presidency stays true to their past ways of thinking and action, the disingenuous false face of “multilateralism,” and “diplomacy” may be put back on the visage of American Imperialism, but most of the other serious players in “The Game” will know what truly lies behind it, i.e., a disfigured frontage not unlike that of The Phantom of the Opera. Also, the new American president and administration (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton & Co.) may put a thicker layer of velvet on the iron glove of American foreign policy, but it will feel no less hard on those whom America bombs, mauls, disfigures and terminates. Why do we think this is the most likely scenario for 2010 and beyond?

     Not only do American politicians and the American mass media ignore, if not deride or shun, anyone who dares refer to anything like “The American Empire” (in its many manifestations), they overlook or underestimate – at America’s and the world’s peril – the “Anti-American Imperialism” that is THE fundament of “Post Imperial Times.” This is the political economic reality of today no matter how The American Global Oligarchy wants to evade its inevitable consequences on the future of America and the rest of the world. The more American “leaders” and their subservient media and academic alchemists resist this truth, the worse it will be for the American public and it will diminish, dilute and delay – or even possibly destroy – the positive role America needs to play in this rapidly evolving, perhaps crucial, epoch in human history.

     As we have seen from the beginning of this book, the most dynamic force behind empires over the past 500 years or so has been the nation state system and a competition between a colorful mix of imperial powers. Today, the whole geopolitical conceptual bric-a-brac that drove the imperialist and mercantilist schemes of power-mad monarchs, plutocrats and kleptocrats flounders in the oil drenched, fantic-fed quagmires of the Middle East and Central Asia. Two unbelievably destructive World Wars and the Cold War were its “evil triplets”. No one, besides the United States, the ultimate “winner” of that “Grand Game”, wants to play it that heavy-duty military way anymore.

     Yet, it endures simply because the obese economic and military hulk of the United States remains intent on being, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described America in the mid 1990s, “the indispensable nation.” It lingers due to all we’ve described in infinite detail earlier: an American military presence in well over 100 nations around the world, a military industrial complex that still wields unparalleled and unchallenged power in the halls and mental constructs of Congress and the presidency.

Early Post Imperial Times as an Emergent World Order

  President John F. Kennedy, in a speech given at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on “Independence Day”, July 4, 1962, stated a “Declaration of Interdependence” – a bit paradoxical given the day and place of its deliverance.

  That idea, that the nations of the world had grown “interdependent,” and that the U.S.A. could not by itself provide for international peace and tranquility, was probably much too futuristic for its time. But since the Soviet Union became part of the toxic waste pit of history…it is probably the best way to explain what is occurring in the world today and to get a good take on what lies yonder, just as the setting sun slips beneath the horizon.

     What that is, as alluded to earlier in the discussion about the present state of Geopolitics, is a potential world without one superpower but, instead, a galaxy of overlapping or far flung alliances and regions all interdependent upon each other for international stability and peaceful, collaborative well mediated solutions to serious global problems. If this does not occur, the alternative was spelled out by the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s report of November 2008 that, according to The Times (UK): “The next two decades will see a world living with the daily threat of nuclear war, environmental catastrophe and the decline of America as the dominant global power.” (Reid 2008)

  Thus, in order to avert such a bleak scenario, there must be a quick and serious worldwide partnership on dealing with the impending global environmental disasters that were predicted almost unanimously by the world community of Earth scientists to be a 90% certainty in 2007.

     Sadly, as more and more information is being gathered on the melting and disintegration of the icecaps at both poles, the mathematical models of the global scientific community consistently are proved to have been way too rosy and optimistic. In other words, the more they learn, the more imminent and life threatening the coming climate change is predicted by them to be.

“ABC News Aboard a Coast Guard Icebreaker: Global Warming Data”

     Yes, there are a minority of climate scientists who disagree with the overwhelming majority of their colleagues…and who knows, they may be right. But if you went to 100 doctors and 95% of them diagnosed your child’s problem as nearly terminal cancer and 5% diagnosed it as a problem that could be cured with some pills in a couple of months, what would you do? We know we’d opt for immediate surgery.

     Thus, a whole new kind of global integration is, to our way of proactive thought, a categorical imperative. However, despite lofty words to the contrary by some world leaders up to now, almost nothing of any real consequence toward that kind of global system is being publicly planned, even though a vague outline of an infrastructure to it is emerging on its own. The present day world economic tragedy is part of the problem and therein, partly, gestates a solution…but there, too, there seems to be no real foresight or understanding of the truly global and interconnected nature of the dilemma. Things are moving along with the same old schemata of thought, and the same old players playing pretty much the same old song..

The Unintended but Inevitable Consequences of a Global Central Plan

     What is clearly happening as the “unintended consequences” of the incorrectly titled “New World Order” (NWO), are hardly what President Bush spoke about only a few times at most after the First Gulf War in 1990. His vision of the NWO was anything but what his words made it appear to be. He spoke as though it was supposed to be a multilateral cooperative effort, almost like a continuation of JFK’s “Declaration of Independence.” See and listen for yourself:

“Bush Reveals Plans for a New World Order”

     Great oratory, but old George Bush I often said he wasn’t much about “that vision thing.” He wasn’t, because that particular “vision” wasn’t for real. What it was REALLY all about was unassailable American superiority. The practice of his ideas about “The New World Order” was not as he articulated them. It was truly about the U.S.A. ruling the world with the United States as the puppeteer, pulling strings in the United Nations Security Council, NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, The Washington Consensus and the WTO. Judging from what was actually in the works before President Bush the First let the cat out the bag with that phrase, was a world political economic system that was replete with the rhetoric of “individualism,” “liberty,” “democracy,” “privatization,” “free markets” and all the verbal bric-a-brac of the most recent American ruling class.

     Those words to describe “The New World Order” were excerpted from the classic “Ronald Reagan Revolution” script. See “Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ speech”, in which he accepts the Republican nomination for president in 1980.

     Yes, it’s a bit long and corny, but it lays it out with all due piety and “mom and apple pie” eloquence. Here’s a short video as to how it was used in his 1984 campaign advertising campaign.

“’Morning in America’ Ronald Reagan Campaign Ad 1984”

     Great words by George W. H. Bush and Ronald Reagan about the future of America and the future of the world. Did they really mean them? No one actually knows. But what they really meant was that the 21st Century was going to be America’s Century. It would mean prosperity for all Americans and peaceful stability for the entire world. But look what happened instead.

     The true extent of the “shock and awe” power of the American military—greatly enhanced by Presidents Reagan and Bush–was revealed for the first time as part and parcel of The New World Order by a U.S. president in the First Gulf War in 1990-91. This was, in reality, a Proclamation to the rest of the world of what many now impolitely call “American Hegemony” with the unmatchable power of the American military (plus its cast of proxy armies and mercenaries) starring in the role of the much-despised Darth Vader. This chest thumping over America’s other-worldly technologically superior power of destruction was understandable for a nation already flush from “Victory” over its arch anti-capitalistic rival, The Soviet Union.

     The Second Act of The New World Order was produced and directed by the Clinton Administration in its bombing the capital of Serbia, the beautiful city of Belgrade, “back to The Stone Age” (a phrase coined and popularized by U.S. Air Force General Curtis Lemay urging President Johnson to do the same to North Vietnam in the mid-1960s) without losing a single aircraft. Wow. How could they do that? Those poor Slavs—with all their Soviet era anti-aircraft missiles, were helpless. Even NATO was awestruck. What an impressive performance by the U.S. military arm of the Global Corporate Oligarchy. Bravo! But there were some trenchant critics in the audience.

     This (as it turned out to be counter-productive) macho bravado on the part of the American War Machine was also understandable in the context of a nation that started as a tiny and remote colony of a globe-spanning imperial power. But where Mechagodzilla had been built to fight the Soviet Godzilla…who was a pitiful match…where were the other Godzillas to fight now? Mechagodzilla had prevailed and now was reduced to stomping on fire ants.

     So, what good is it being in first place if there is no league, with no other teams to play? “The fickle finger of fate” (author unknown) had cast the United States of America as the Last, Lone (and increasingly Lonely) Empire on The Face of The Earth. Actually, one unintended consequence of this New World Order was to have this unparalleled solitary ascendancy of the United States become the last gasp of the Age of Western (or any) Empires.

     Most assuredly the rhetoric and reality of American hegemonism has not engendered warm and cuddly feelings from many countries, particularly those recently freed from centuries of mean and nasty Western colonial depravities and economic, parasitic exploitation. It was not a future that they would willingly embrace and, once again, play second, third, or fourth fiddle, or worse yet, the cymbals.

     At the expense of being somewhat repetitive, it needs repeating. China – a civilization of thousands of years – was victimized and downtrodden by both Western European, American and Japanese empires for well over a hundred years. To this day, they refer to this time as their “Century of Humiliation.” Even before the fall of the Soviet Union, a new Chinese Communist leadership saw that it was useless to play the old imperial military game against the United States, Japan and the West. Through the foresight and persistence of one of the original founders of the CCP (Deng Xiao Ping), they decided to take the “capitalist road” to Chinese economic and political power and to begin new alliances and partnerships, economic and political.

  Being as large as China is, that was an earth-shaking decision that is shaping the 21st century in ways no one could have predicted as late as the 1980s…well after Nixon and Kissinger “opened” a modern American-China era. If President Richard Milhous Nixon and his Secretary of State saw great economic relations between the US and China, it would have been the old Western mercantilist dream of the endless and bottomless Chinese “market” for American and Western goods. This unintended consequence, obviously, is that the reverse came to be true. China is becoming, and will become, the worlds’ leading producer and creditor. The rest of the world – but the United States in particular – is its enormous market. Ha ha ha. Turnabout is fair play.

     As we have mentioned occasionally in this volume, The CCP, secreted behind the impenetrable walls of Beijing’s “Forbidden City,” is not an open book for all to read. One has to drink their tea before one can read their leaves. Do not listen to what they say, for they say very little. Just watch what they are doing, for they are doing a great deal.

     American and European mass media don’t look in the right places. They don’t look much at China’s business arrangement with Venezuela to build several refineries in what used to be exclusively American owned and operated oil soaked areas. They don’t have headlines, interviews and investigative reports about the I-P-C pipeline that is in the works…as China pumps billions of American dollars into extracting oil from Iran’s rich reserves and entertain ideas of building a pipeline through Pakistan to China (Iran + Pakistan + China = IPC), to slake its insatiable thirst for carbon-based economic growth (They are currently building one new coal fired power plant each week in China…with India also on the same path).

     China is perhaps the largest investor in a wide variety of natural resource extraction projects in an increasing number of African nations. The list of its strategic gambits goes on and on. No one is putting together the rather large pieces of their global partnerships strategy. They attach no political strings to their economic investments, thus being unlike their American and Western based competitors, whose institutions like The World Bank and the IMF were notorious for imposing their political economic ideology to loans and grants. Debtors do not like to be treated like inferior beings. The unintended consequence here was a world full of hatred toward the imposed ideology (The New World Order) that kept them as economic paupers and political pawns.

  Thus the clever political economic moves of the Global Corporate Oligarchy were not half as clever as they thought. Various “victories” and “gambits” that seemed so prescient and shrewd, their steps towards global dominion actually sowed the seeds of their own destruction and have paved the road with American gold towards several new Emerald Cities, one that seems mostly aptly called Early Post Imperial Times. And who will be the major players in that? Brazil? Yes. Russia? Yes. India? Yes. China? Yes. (Together they’re coming to be known as the BRIC nations) Iran? Yes (thanks to the bungled American Neo-Con “strategy” in the Middle East) The Sunni Arab Gulf states? Yes.

     Of all of them, only Russia is in the G-8 (which is really the old G-7 + Russia). Due to the present economic disaster caused by The New World Order – a new informal “insider club” is being slowly formed and it is called The G-20 – which has had several meetings, most recently to deal with the Global Recession of 2009. None of those other than former Western Empires were in The Trilateral Commission. None are in The Bilderbergers. All are in The Real New World Order, herein known as Early Post Imperial Times…and therefore will have their proportionate say in the future of this planet… particularly a new financial world order in which the dollar is no longer the world’s only or major “reserve currency. This was not what George W.H. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton or George W. Bush had in mind. Early indications are that It also does not seem to be what Barack Obama has in mind either.

     After all, if you add up the square mileage and size of populations of China, India, Russia, Brazil and Iran…they are much larger than the U.S. and the old Western European imperial countries combined. In Early Post Imperial Times, they and their allies will be predominant in natural resources and economic power and strength. This will not be a world order where military power is going to determine the destiny of humankind. It is also not a world order where “The Almighty Dollar” is “almighty,” but instead is just another paper or “fiat” currency…and one growing weaker and weaker as we write. Late in 2009, it was reported in Reuters that the U.S. Dollar had been superseded by a “basket” of the Euro and the Yen. That may have been temporary, but there is no doubt it is the harbinger of the very near future.

  Think about it. What good are a dozen or so mega-expensive world-destroying Trident submarines anymore? One would be more than enough to deter any country from attacking the United States with nuclear weapons. Why does America continue to float twelve aircraft carrier groups? They are incapable of dealing with Somali pirate skiffs and hijacked fishing boats that bring terrorists into Mumbai harbor. Why does the United States spend hundreds of billions on F-22 fighter planes for fantasy wars with Iron man? Does America really need mini-drones the size of bumblebees? Megagodzilla is too big to search caves and fight guys who carry AK-47s and hand grenades and invade 5 star hotels.

     As Sumner pointed out over a hundred years ago, The U.S. military-industrial complex is sapping the lifeblood of America as a country that takes care of itself and its people. And it has become an anchor slowing the progress of the Real New World Order because, given the mindset that still binds American leadership at the dawn of The Obama Administration, the United States is not free to assume a major role in it. It will drag its feet and perhaps sink the rest of the world down with its misbegotten historical assumptions and presumptions of omnipotence and omnipresence. And as The American Corporate Oligarchy continues on its merry way, apparently oblivious to the radical shift in geopolitical power away from American political economic hegemony, it continues to create the human and technological infrastructure of its own undoing.

How the New Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Have Become the Infrastructure of Early Post Imperial Times

     One of the major tools of the Global Corporate Oligarchy’s striving for global control of the future of the planet was their new transportation and global communications systems. Using their private fleet of small jets (Lear, Gulfstream), orbiting telecom satellites, digital technologies, video-conferencing and the early versions of the internet (ARPANET) – they established a mega-system of financial, economic and military networks that allowed them to believe fervently that they, like the woeful Crusaders of yesteryear, had found The Holy Grail of global political, economic, and cultural dominance.

  In many ways, all this worked to the advantage of a new type of global corporate financial, service and manufacturing system that greatly enriched those at the apex of their hierarchies and the professional technical class that helped invent, develop and exploit these systems for their maximum profit. Indeed, there is now a small class of global billionaire families – the core of that Global Corporate Oligarchy – around the world (approximately a thousand or so before the present economic crisis culled their herd)…although most are in North America and Europe. They hobnob and network with all their whiz-bang Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) at their leisure, which they call “work.”

     The metamorphosis of ARPANET into what we now know as the Internet and the World Wide Web (www), was quite a boon to the Global Corporate Oligarchy, since it created a whole new way to create, organize and control global markets and currency flow, as well as infinitely complicated and deeply flawed financial instruments (e.g., mortgage derivatives and credit default swaps), and pilot the movement and placement of low-cost labor. It also created whole new global mega-industries in hardware and software (Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Dell – all originally “American-based”) as well as a way to maximize global commercial advertising and the greed boggling profits it delivered.

  This was the best of all possible worlds for the global power elite. This Global Corporate Oligarchy owns, controls and distributes trillions and trillions of dollars (and gold, and Euros) – and it lives an exorbitant style of The High Life (“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”). Their exclusive, unlimited and non-governmental ICT management of the future was secure. The dream of Global Reach was reached. Or so they thought.

     That all of this was built upon the quicksand of unpayable debt piled upon unpayable debt never occurred to them. When it all began to unravel, they panicked and continue to do so. But these were those pesky unintended consequences of their own creation, those ICTs that also contributed to their present and future decline, if not demise.

     The advent of this new era of electronic telecommunications, a veritable revolution in humanity’s capacity for instantaneous and unlimited flows of and access to information globally, has altered the very idea of what it means to be a nation, to be developed, to be industrial, to be knowledgeable, to be powerful. This revolution has created a virtual interdependence between almost every human being on this planet. This has had an immeasurable impact on the classic concept of “imperialism” and in particular, the American practice thereof. Thus, it has severely punctured the unrealistic stability and killed the immortality and immorality of The Old New World Order – of George Herbert Walker Bush & Sons & Associates.

     Imagine what the world would have thought of Americans if they could have watched video clips on YouTube of the U.S. Army wiping out tiny villages of Native Americans throughout the American West, or blasting its way from Vera Cruz to Mexico City during the war with Mexico, and massacring defiant Filipinos in Luzon, Leyte and Mindanao. What if these mass killings of non-white human beings had been televised around the world as they were happening, with You Tube attachments of them in emails going global instantaneously! What would have been the effect of American soldiers, some of whom were having second and third thoughts about what they were seeing and doing, and then “blogging” about it as it happened?

  But this isn’t just about the defrocking of American “good” imperialism of the past by modern electronic technologies…or for that matter the unthinkable horrors committed by the Belgians in the Congo that Josef Conrad wrote about in The Heart of Darkness. It isn’t just about the slaughters of Arabs and Berbers by the French Foreign Legion; or the extinction and genocide of the Incan civilization or the Creek Indians by the Spanish Conquistadores; or the genocide of Armenians by the Turks. This is about how the world is being integrated in almost every sphere of human activity.

     Imagine anyone thinking, as late as 1990, that complex internal medical examinations in New Jersey could be conducted from Beijing and vice versa? Imagine thinking in 1990 that a global protest against an imminent “pre-emptive war” by the United States of America against a relatively defenseless Islamic country in 2003 could literally roil and roll across the world in one day, involving around 10-30 million people (estimates vary), coordinated by “personal computers” and “cell phones.” Personal computers? Cell phones? No one had any idea of such a contraption as late as the early 1980s. It was as unimaginable just 25 years ago as “time travel” in 2030 would be to us today. Take a look for yourselves as what went on in London…where it is estimated that over a million people came out to stand up for peace….

“Police Helicopter Footage: Stop the War 2003”

…and at about the same time in the shadow of the Hiroshima remains in Japan…

“Hiroshima Peace Park 2003”

…or a more subdued peace march in Sydney, Australia a few days after a massive and somewhat violent one on the day before the Iraq War started:

“Student Anti-War Protest, Sydney, 2003”

But perhaps the largest, estimated to be upwards of a half a million turned out in the U.S. itself, in New York City and it had, perhaps, the funniest of signs:

“Iraq Protest 2003 New York”

     All these are just a montage of a few of the loosely coordinated, but strongly felt sentiments against the Iraq War that were caught on video, transmitted around the world by the Internet, and are still available to people like us who want to show how this is happening in Early Post Imperial Times…a global anti-American Imperialistic War. There were similar outpourings of this anger against American policy in just about every country in the industrialized world, all captured on video and disseminated globally for the historical record and to presage similar ones in the near future on any range of global topics.

     Thus, by all of its “outsourcing” and creating, in their words, “the global village,” and “the global marketplace,” The Global Corporate Oligarchy has simultaneously created the means for a very decentralized informational and organizational infrastructure that is the mirror opposite of what they meant to create The same telecommunications architecture that allows global corporations to communicate, to plan, to organize their many subsidiaries and affiliates in many countries…that allowed for the free and unregulated flow of trillions of dollars of currency transfer and mortgage backed securities and credit default swaps and commodity speculation…also has its downside for them.

  This new ICT system also allows those who would want to construct decentralized but closely coordinated quasi-governmental or community-based systems to resist or undermine centralized oligarchic control at almost no expense. It allows these previously insular or isolated groups to communicate and organize openly (or indirectly, as many young Chinese are learning to do double reverses around the CCP’s web monitors), not only with one another in their own country, but laterally across the planet as well with kindred souls and people of like minds everywhere. The “Iranian Green Revolution” mentioned in Chapter 12, aided and assisted by friends in the West, is the latest example using the latest ICTs. As has been said, “There’s no ‘there’ anymore.”

     Also, going back to classic geopolitics as described throughout this book, it is clear to many key people in Russia and China that they remain the real focal point of “containment” by the American Empire and its coterie of allies (the former Western Empires, clustered into that anachronism called NATO – and supplemented by a neo-Zionist Israel and up-to-now supine Japan). The various and sundry theories and ideas and strategies and tactics of the American power elite, for example, are plastered all over the Internet.

     Do you want to know the right wing thinking of Israel? Go to “The Debka File” online at www.debka.com. Russian and Chinese secret agents do not need to infiltrate the inner sanctums of The Council of Foreign Relations or the State Department or The American Enterprise Institute or The Weekly Standard to find out what is in the minds of those who harbor ill intentions towards them. They’re in pixels for all to see on high definition computer screens…or on Blackberries…or they can read their books on a bus or trolley electronically using Amazon.com’s Kindle.

     In other words, thanks to these new technologies it has not been difficult for the KGB cohort that surrounds Putin or the various U.S. Studies institutes in Beijing or Tehran or Caracas to “get” the “U.S. Military Domination” game – its concepts of endless or “The Long War” – and understand their Western assigned “understudy role” in it. They understand that Iraq, Afghanistan, NATO in the Balkans, American bases in Georgia, the Bush II ploy of proposing a U.S. anti-Missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland (presently back-burnered by Obama), the desire to draw India into the “containment” game, the desired alliance between the U.S., Japan and Australia are all connected. They understand perfectly what we have outlined in Part I of this book. If the two American authors of this book “get it,” THEY get it.

     Thus, the objects of American geostrategic attention are also aware of the essential part played by the new telecommunications systems that tie all of these forays together into a systemic hug. But here’s the rub. Their strategies are to develop systems to deny its effective use to their self-avowed foe, The Global Corporate Oligarchy and The American Empire. Their advantage is that their strategies are unknown until after various tactics are revealed piecemeal. American strategies have long been public knowledge to them, albeit all but invisible to the American public…from whom it is hidden in plain sight. And they can and do follow all the updates, modifications, and new labels and concepts on the web. Not much need for strategic “spies” anymore.

  So, they have not been standing pat. There were developments in 2007-08 that show that Russia and China continue to work in tandem, as formal military allies for the first time in their history (George W. Bush said he wanted to be the “great uniter” – and he has accomplished what no one in history has done before him, making China and Russia uneasy colleagues, but collaborators nonetheless). Each is devising ICT methods and displaying them separately, that indicate the capacity to counter the jointly perceived American threat by co-opting or, if necessary, disassembling or destroying its presently advanced telecommunications infrastructure.

     Thus, early in 2007, as we have noted earlier, China shot down one of its aging communications satellites with a ballistic missile hundreds of miles into space. Why? What was the message? To whom was it delivered? Well, we know that if we know it, and now you know it, the Pentagon and the CIA knew it from Minute One. Whether its implications are fully respected is another matter.

     Here’s the way CNN showed it quite graphically.

“China Test Missile Shot Down Satellite”

     Later in 2007, both The Financial Times (London) and The Guardian (UK) reported successful hacking by the People’s Liberation Army of China into the U.S. Defense Department and the UK Ministry of Defense. Why? What’s the message here? (ABC News 2007) Same one: The American High Tech Hegemon is very vulnerable to Chinese High Tech Mischief.

     Russia and China cannot be contained from global communications power equal – or perhaps superior – to that of the United States government or even The Global Corporate Oligarchy. “The Cold War” was about shadow war games involving planes and submarines. In Early Post Imperial Times, we may see the beginnings of “The Cold Cyberwar”. The Global Corporate Oligarchy better take heed that Russia and China and their allies are breeding grounds of regiments of brilliant young hackers…either under government control, or worse yet, “non-state actors.”

     Another 2007 example came when some Russians, angered by Estonians removing a Russian Army monument in its capital city of Tallinn, jammed all Estonian computer networks so that the Estonian economy totally crashed for a time.

“Russia Today (RT): Hacker Wanted”

(Putin denied it was the Russian government and we all know he speaks nothing but truth). Was that a message to Estonia or to the United States, NATO, and the rest of the Global Corporate Oligarchy? Estonia is a unique, small Baltic country that relies almost exclusively on computers in its business, educational, media and governmental functions…much like the USA does in its military coordination around the world. The Russians and Chinese are making it quite clear that the global military presence of the United States is potentially vulnerable to system-wide sabotage at its hub. (BBC article 2007)

Anti-American Imperialism Drives Early Post Imperial Times

  As we have seen throughout this book, the United States, unique in its political economic thinking, continues this ideological blindness even in the midst of its greatest economic plight since the Great Depression to commit hugely disproportionate shares of its wealth (which is a large share of the global wealth as well) to military spending and world domination ventures. It persists in constructing floating, submerged and land-based military “platforms” and ever more sophisticated, if not diabolical, instruments of war (like The Predator Drone on this book’s cover) – sopping up grandiose amounts of its national wealth in these endeavors to rule the world by military force.

     Imagine if ANY other nation in the world had a military base of its own in Pennsylvania or Arizona or Mexico. Wouldn’t Americans consider that an outrage? Actually, President John F. Kennedy was willing to start World War III, an all out nuclear war with Russia in 1962, if Russia did not remove some of their missiles that they installed in Cuba. At the same time, the U.S. had missile bases in Turkey aimed at Russia. Having a double standard does not matter to an empire.

     Right now, President Obama…Middle East and Central Asia strategy….Coming Soon. This is a good way for America to spend its money while continuing to pile up an even higher mountain of unpayable debt?

     Meanwhile, the rest of the world, well aware of American governmental priorities, is plowing more and more of its wealth into building bi-national, regional and global alliances. These include military, manufacturing, financial and commercial equipment; national and regional telecommunications infrastructures; national and global educational systems of the future; and national/regional/global NGO cooperative associations for protection and redistribution of natural resources, information and advanced technologies.

     One major, but far from only, impetus behind all of these efforts cohering is a new global ideology: Anti-American Imperialism. To repeat: This is far from a hatred of the American way of life. It is not a disdain of American pop culture, although the bloom is off the rose there too (particular in most of Islam). And it most certainly is not a widespread loathing of the American people as a people or against Americans who travel or live abroad. (Although being an American in a foreign country these days, even one very friendly to the Good Old U.S.A, is a very different experience from headier times when being an American was an honor.) Today Americans abroad are, at best, tolerated…and at worst, a random target of a random terror event.

     The Anti-American Empire ideology was an almost reflexive revulsion to the American Global Military Hegemony chiefly promoted, with a healthy dollop of braggadocio, by the Neo-Cons during their 8 year ascendency of the Bush II Era. Although, as we have documented throughout this book, this “imperialistic imperative” has been a strong strand of America’s DNA even from its birth pangs, but its true nature was not revealed to the world at large until the Neo-Cons came into power in 2000. Bad imperialistic Karma would have come about sooner or later, but the Neo-Cons revved up the process, akin to pouring lighter fluid on smoldering embers.

  By way of example, who is America to tell China and Russia that they cannot transfer nuclear technologies to Iran and Venezuela – as long as they are used for peaceful purposes like producing energy? Who is America to say that Iran “really” intends to use their enriched uranium for weaponry – particularly when all its intelligence agencies were convinced Saddam Hussein was hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction? It is true that the UN’s own International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in the spring of 2008 that Iran has not answered numerous questions it has posed that could link the Iranian nuclear enrichment programs to a weapons program, that the Iranian government has been stonewalling the IAEA. It is also true that Iran hid a sunken nuclear facility from the world until the President Obama pulled the plug on their mendacity at the UN in 2009.

     But, as mentioned above, it is also true that the United States’ own National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) – the combined wisdom of more than a dozen intelligence agencies of the U.S. government concluded in 2007 that Iran had ditched its nuclear weapons program in 2003. As of this writing, those agencies are reconsidering this view since the discovery of the hidden atomic plant…but no one but the Iranians will really know (with the possible exception of the Russians and Chinese) But the question remains at the end of 2009: will President Obama continue to “isolate” Iran? We shall see. If so, it will be proof that there is no understanding of Early Post Imperial Times yet among America’s ruling class. There is plenty of reason and room to expect some negotiated settlement if the U.S. and Israel are willing to trust the international team of inspectors and their views, the same group who said they could not find any WMDs in Iraq when the U.S. government insisted and acted on their “knowledge” that the IAEA was wrong.

“IAEA: Iran Gives ‘Initial’ Response to UN Plan (Fall 2009) – Voice of America”

     Even if Iran did produce a nuclear weapon cache, why can America partner with nuclear weapon powers like Pakistan, India and Israel, all of who obtained their nuclear military might under circumstances that were in some violation of international protocols? In fact, Israel officially has never confirmed whether or how many atomic weapons it has (even though ex-U.S. president Jimmy Carter recently stated, after his most recent visit there, that they had approximately 150).

     Let’s also be pragmatic about this. Let’s suppose that Iran actually builds some nuclear weapons, even though its supreme religious leader has publicly said they were immoral – against Islamic Law. Both Israel and Iran would commit mutual suicide by attacking the other. India and Pakistan both are nuclear armed, are sworn enemies, and have been waging active warfare against one another in Kashmir for decades, but no one on either side would even consider using even tactical nuclear weapons. If two arch foes have them, it has been proved over decades and decades to be a mutual deterrent (the best example being the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. during the entire “Cold War”).

     This kind of glaring foreign policy hypocrisy and/or ignorance is out there in the global public media for the global public eye and mind to see and understand…and it is spread exponentially via the Internet. If the American public is deaf, dumb and blind to it via the mass media hypnosis described in Chapter 12, and its political leaders continue to blithely practice foreign policy fraud, so much worse for America’s immediate future. This kind of blatant posturing, pontification and poking people in their eyes, piles more and more kindling onto too many spreading wildfires and flashpoints throughout the globe. These exploding fireballs of Anti-American Imperialism are being fanned by huge gusts of hot air blowing from the areas around Washington, D.C., The Iron Pentagram and the concrete Pentagon.

     As far as political economic theories and models go, many of the countries of what used to be called the Second and Third Worlds, unless they are being hand-fed huge amounts of cash and resources from the United States – usually tied to the sales of arms and weapons – seem to be more interested in the mixed economic models of the European Union or in the Chinese Communist concept of “state capitalism.” The EU concept of “social democracy” seems to have already trumped the American concept of “The Washington Consensus” – now a failed set of policies of Reaganomics + the New World Order. The World Bank and the IMF persuaded many “under-developed countries” to “privatize” their economies and slash social services so they could get more loans to keep them beggared, but are now objects of scorn particularly throughout South America.

     To incite further chaos in the status quo ante, the United States government and NATO have sent a clear message to the world (and a false one to the American people) by setting up logistical operations in the “Middle East” and Central Asia to help, among other things, protect new sources and distribution systems for more and more oil. Even former Secretary of State and elite-insider Henry Kissinger stated matter-of-factly in his new book that Iraq was “about oil.” (Kissinger 2007)

     The SCO and UNASUR are the first two official regional alliances of Early Post Imperial Times (APEC, The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation remains mostly a forum and retreat for elites to meet and eat) and both are responses to this genre of obsolete and self-destructive American imperial thinking and behavior. As we alluded to earlier in this book, the SCO is dedicated to being the main “security” force in Central Asia and ditto UNASUR (who’s intent is to develop an “economic integration and political cohesion” among all nations in South America.) These will not be undone by American force of arms. They are two major regional components of Early Post Imperial Times and America ignores or flaunts them to America’s detriment. Bush II’s response to UNASUR was predictable: The re-establishment of “The Fourth Fleet” – a naval armada – to patrol South American waters.

     Obama’s first responses to it have not been encouraging either. Early in 2009, he agreed to a long term lease of 7 military bases in Colombia, much to the loud groans of dismay by most of UNASUR. Then, he abjured a leadership role when a military coup kidnapped and expelled the elected president of Honduras because he was a Socialist. It took Brazil to come to his rescue and offer him sanctuary in their Embassy there. However, America’s “neutrality” has left another bad taste in Latin mouths.

  Obama’s first response to the SCO was to keep to his campaign promise and send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009…with no clear exit strategy. This is an excellent example of the old American adage: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” But what good is a hammer, or a fleet of warships, when the American “problem” is the declaration of independence from almost the whole of South America to American political and economic dominion? What good are more U.S. and NATO troops in Central Asia when the SCO doesn’t want them there? Indeed, the CCP, which had remained pretty much silent about the Af-Pak “War”, has been sending signals through The People’s Daily that it does not look favorably on America’s continued military “meddling” there. (see The People’s Daily Online in October 2009 at http://english.people.com.cn/90002/96417/6784558.html The more the United States government, under the influence of The American Corporate Oligarchy, fights global anti-American Imperialism through the threat or use of its Extra Terrestrial force, the weaker America becomes politically and economically at home and abroad.

First and Future Impacts on the United States Political Economy

     The first waves of unintended consequences from the domestic and foreign policies of the American Corporate Oligarchy are being felt in the United States in the initial few years of the 21st century. The corporate manipulated “hidden government” (already described in Chapter 11) and the tiny, privileged elite that runs the global corporations (already discussed in Chapter 7) are still mired in their traditionally stilted ways of American thinking, mostly conjured in the 18th century and repackaged in the 19th and 20th centuries. That got The Good Old USA to where it is today. That thinking, however, will not guarantee The Good in the USA will be there tomorrow. It only guarantees to keep it Old.

     Here we are in 2010, and if one looks at what Americans think about the U.S. economy, one would think that the prospects, at least for the foreseeable future, do not look encouraging for the near or distant future….despite the rise in the artificially re-inflated stock market We have discussed earlier how the Federal Reserve System…and its recent policies…in concert with Wall Street…with its disruptive and deceptive investment tricks have been two of the major factors fueling this justifiable pessimism….and they are still playing poker with a very bad hand.

     However, there are those who look at the American economy from a broader perspective and see a glass that is “more than half full.” From their viewpoint, if one looks at the brighter sides of the American economy, it might be said to be “on the right track.” Isn’t it the largest economy in the world? Well, yes, it still is in 2010. Isn’t it the most “productive”? Yes, according to certain definitions, it still is. Doesn’t it continue to attract millions of “illegal immigrants” to work in it because it’s better than the one they live in? Yes. Isn’t it the most “efficient”? That’s debatable. With all the social, educational, cultural and economic benefits that EU citizens receive, it can easily be argued that its system is more “efficient” at providing a higher quality of life for all of its citizens…and feeds fewer pockets of desperation.

     However, as we have seen, at some length in Chapter 13, the Main Street American national economy may well have peaked, and is presently in a rather precipitous fall. As has become painfully obvious, the United States economy is unfathomably deep in oceans of red ink…putting up new records of the “twin deficits” year after year…with Obama promising America years and years of more and more trillions of dollars added to the national debt. As we have also seen, foreign governments (many whom are dictatorships), through their central banks, have been largely financing this wretched excess of overspending by America. But can Americans, themselves, continue to energize this engine?

“Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate on Economics, CNBC, April 2009”

     These creditor countries have at least a temporary need to keep America being “the consumer engine” of the global economy by being an insatiable “market” for their productive capacities, some of which are expanding even in 2010. What happens if/when they decide to stop propping up the American economy, either for financial or political reasons…or worse yet…both? This hasn’t happened to any dangerous degree yet, but America’s economic stability is on life support, one that truly threatens its “national security.”.

The new unemployment lines of 2010.

Notice the number of men in suits.

Thanks to Yahoo.com.

     So, one of the first ripple effects of all these disastrous economic policies is that the American Corporate Oligarchy system of political economy is no longer admired and emulated. It is not seen as particularly clever, efficient, transparent, or a praiseworthy way to a better life for other countries. As we have noted elsewhere, since the Euro was launched in the summer of 2001, its value has gained in strength – though with some ups and downs. In fact, only six years later, by early 2010, the dollar had lost approximately -50% of its value versus the Euro.

     At this point, it is a trend…but even if it tapers off at this level, it says volumes about the American economy and its previous vaunted (but presently tottering) “free enterprise” economic model vs. the EU “mixed economic” social democracy model. Other countries, who can see for themselves, can judge which model works better for their circumstances and cultures.

     Also, as also noted previously, another model that seems to gaining visibility, viability, plausibility and adherents is the Chinese “state capitalism” or “capitalist socialism” model (where the state owns the majority of the mode of production but encourages or accepts a large free market sector). Variations on this are now being practiced in Russia, as well as in other smaller countries in the world. It is a “mixed economic model” (See diagram in Chapter 6) with very limited “quasi-democratic” components, like freely contested elections or open public discussion on key issues

     Worse yet for the American model, the American Corporate Oligarchy, in the name of “globalization,” has already deported millions of major American manufacturing jobs, all essential to the power of any country (telecommunications, heavy equipment, computers, textiles, etc.) to foreign lands. Even the U.S.’s most prized heavy industry, the production of automobiles and trucks, is gurgling under in a sea of debt, unable to compete with foreign competitors on its home turf, close to bankruptcy, going hats in hand to Congress to plead for handouts to keep their factories going. Aren’t they the proud advocates of American free enterprise, of free trade, and haven’t they been among the staunchest opponents of government regulation of the marketplace? And now they are supplicants before a scowling Democrat run Congress singing for their suppers. How do you think this plays out in the mixed economies of the world…or the state capitalist ones?

     Additionally, high quality automobile manufacturing has already been heavily “insourced” into the American marketplace to Korea (Hyundai and Kia), Japan (Toyota, Nissan, Honda) and Germany (BMW, Mercedes, VW). How will these jobs ever become American owned again? They can’t under the present American political economic system. Perhaps President Obama will devise a “temporary nationalization” scheme to keep a large piece of this industry in American hands. Our guess is that the “bailouts” of GM and Chrysler are only partial and that GM will be building autos and trucks in China in the near future. So, unfortunately, thanks to The New World Order “globalization” guys, American manufacturing in general is only a shell of its former self…particularly as it refuses to transform its management and mode of production styles. (How to do this and a few steps in the right direction will be treated in Chapter 15).

     It is all so ridiculous and untenable a model that Onion.com has “reported” on Americans outsourcing their own jobs. This video takes the absurdity of this oligarchic tactic to its logical conclusion:

“More American Outsourcing Their Own Jobs Overseas: Onion Newsroom”

     What is going to replace these lost white and blue collar industrial jobs? A recent article by New York Times columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, an ardent advocate of the “flattening” of the global economy, laments the pitfalls that lay ahead for the United States economy in the very near future. He quotes Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, as follows:

“When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow. In math and science, our fourth graders are among the top students in the world. By the eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations…

The percentage of a population with a college degree is important, but so are sheer numbers. In 2001, India graduated almost a million more students from college than the United States did. China graduates twice as many students with bachelor’s degrees as the U.S., and they have six times as many graduates majoring in engineering. In the international competition to have the biggest and best supply of knowledge workers, America is falling behind.” (Friedman 2005, p. 37)

     About the only industry that remains mostly intact in the United is…of course…the weapons industry…America being by far the largest arms supplier to the rest of the world, as well as its own obese, corpulent military. However, as we’ve emphasized several times above, this has created a whole new world hostile to America. It is a heavy cost to bear permanently in the future and no country can support a system that just manufactures devices and machines of mass destruction based mainly on the use of oil.

     So, this present “great economic crisis” is not just a passing blip on America’s economic radar. It is just the beginning of a steepening downward trend line – with the vast majority of American citizens finally beginning to sense the nation is in the gaping craw of a major economic crisis YESTERDAY!! The corporate run “free” American mass media, even in a scary down economy, keeps itself busy trying to arouse America’s “buy gland,” hawking products as though everyone has an endless supply of money and/or credit worthiness to purchase needless commodities. It knows well how to keep the citizenry parched for real news about what’s happening in the American political economy by dwelling on twisters, ‘canes, crimes, celebrities, cellulite, “elite” marriages and follies, erectile dysfunction and every sport they can get on TV…excluding only strip poker (which would get huge audiences, by the way, so perhaps sometimes on ESPN soon)..

     However, they do not know how to avert an imminent political economic implosion and deal realistically with the realities of Early Post Imperial Times. It is not to their liking. They overlook it; deny it and “manufacture confusion” about it to America’s increasing global disadvantage. They are masters of denial and distraction…not solutions.

     So the first impacts on America of this “system,” as the economic world turns, are a global disdain of or dismay at the American political economic model; a steadfast shedding and shredding of the American manufacturing and financial base to foreign companies; loss of skilled work; broad landscapes of depression and deserted factories. This has engendered widespread denial, confusion, frustration, anguish, mental fatigue and depression as well as related physical health problems among the American people. All of what we have written in the earlier chapters is coming home to roost. And as this is gripping the United States in a tightening steel fist, it is being seen and felt around the world as well. .

     The great American economy, The 12 Cylinder Engine That Drives the World Economy…has already lost its “Mojo”, its universal appeal and much of its near universal appeal with the first (and perhaps only) major global economic “recession” during American economic hegemony. The Reagan Revolutionary and Neo-con takeovers of American economic theory, which seduced and appealed to many shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union…now appears cold, heartless, mindless, mean, gluttonous and corrupt. Who wants an economy run by them? Worse yet, who in the world wants them positioned to run the global economy and to have the world’s most potent weaponry to force it on everyone else?

     Yes, the world is changing fast into a Post-Imperial mentality while America sails on as though it was the night before the Titanic hit the iceberg. A recent poll (April 2005) done by the international polling firm Globe-Scan, in collaboration with the Center on Policy Attitudes of the University of Maryland, asked in their survey of 23,000 people in 23 countries about which nations would and should be a more positive force in future world affairs, the United States or Europe? In 20 out of the 23 countries surveyed, Europe was favored. Our guess is that soon China (on schedule to surpass Japan and the world’s 2nd largest economy very soon) will score very high, if not the highest, in this poll as well.

     The isolation of the United States from the rest of the world will only become greater and greater as the United States insists on advocating and adhering to its philosophy of what is widely called “cowboy capitalism,” which is the economic facet of its continued puerile pursuit of “world hegemony.” There is more and more global annoyance at having the U.S. military based just about everywhere in the world (with recent protests against it from Italy to Okinawa), with the very notion of a corporate New World Order, and equating America’s antiquated “Elected Oligarchy” with what “democracy” really means.

     What we have been saying about the corporate control of American “democracy” may not be taught in the American K-12 educational system, or part of American network news banter, but is well understood among the rest of the world’s elites. They are becoming less and less enamored with American “leadership” and they are striking out in new directions, without American participation or despite U.S. obstructionism.

     In addition to the above mentioned regional alliances that have become a major part of Early Post-Imperial Times, the slowly evolving, but still relatively fragmented, global community has also begun to: (a) form other global governmental institutions (like the International Court of Justice), (b) enforce new global laws of unacceptable human conduct (“Crimes against humanity”); and (c) negotiate and sign international agreements (Law of the Sea, The Kyoto Protocol)…none of which include the United States of America, which refuses to be a participant in any of them. A new global attempt at improving a worldwide treaty to cut carbon emissions dramatically by 2050 (much too little, much too late) came in Copenhagen in December 2009. The U.S. showed up as did all the major carbon emitters, many good words were spoken, many glossy promises were made. With all the carbon hungry nations—America still being the largest–actually dragging their feet, it will more than likely prove to have been way too supercilious and superficial.

     One of the most recent examples of American imperial haughtiness came in May of 2008. At that time, the U.S. government refused to sign a treaty that was ratified by 111 nations, including many of America’s top NATO allies, that banned the use of “cluster bombs” which scatter large numbers of small “bomblets” that much later explode and kill and cripple and blind innocent children and civilians. Unfortunately, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan were also non-signers. (Pogatchnik, Associated Press, 2008)

     One main reason that the government and Global Corporate Oligarchy of the U.S.A. have refused to go along with these new organizations and laws is that it has been deemed as infringing upon American “sovereignty”. The presumptuousness that America’s system of government, laws and legal order are somehow superior to those of other democracies, particularly the EU’s, and that therefore America cannot “submit” itself to such international jurisprudence and collaboration, is quite galling to many friends and erstwhile admirers of America.

     As the growing world community has become more serious about prosecuting “war criminals” and those who “commit genocide” or commit gross “human rights violations”, there have been trials of former government leaders of Chile (Pinochet), Yugoslavia (Milosovic) and Liberian and Congolese leaders in late 2009. To refuse to apply this principle to the massively destructive war the U.S. perpetrated on Vietnam has occurred to many to be a heinous miscarriage of this new kind of universal justice.

     One famous British author, Christopher Hitchins, wrote a scathing indictment of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry S. Kissinger called “The Trials of Henry Kissinger.” (Kitchins 2002) This has been made into an extraordinary documentary film.

“Christopher Hitchens Trials of Kissinger”

     Kissinger, himself, has dismissed this book as bordering on libel, but he avoids Belgium, since it is said that he would be arrested and tried there in Belgian courts should he stray into their jurisdiction.

     However, it has taken the Neo-Cons, and Bush II’s “War on Terror,” to afford a truer picture of exactly what American “democracy,” “law and order,” respect for “human rights” and “justice” were really about. Of course, the EU had a head start on disliking “American justice” by outlawing the death penalty, and throughout Western Europe, America is generally considered to be quite “barbaric” in its continued insistence of having the state execute people – including juveniles – for even the most egregious of crimes. (Turkey had to abolish the death penalty before the EU seriously considered admitting Turkey into the Union as a full member…a goal that Turkey continues to pursue officially, although their ardor for it may be on the wane in 2010).

     However, it took such places and events like “Guantanamo,” “Abu Ghraib,” the CIA’s programs of “extraordinary renditions” – including the kidnapping of European nationals by the CIA and then shipping them off to countries that would torture them – that really riled multitudes around the world. The whole notion of America being the source of many “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” and “torture” is now deeply scathed into “the hearts and minds” of many around the world today. America’ former claim to be an icon of “human rights” is now denounced by many as being utterly false. If the American reader would like to get some idea of just how intense and pervasive these notions are, here are a few recent and present examples, but there can be no doubt there will be a long series of them in post-Bush II Administration times.

     By way of example, In February 2007, 20 some odd CIA agents (mostly Americans, but including the station chiefs in Milan and Rome) were indicted in Italy for kidnapping an Italian citizen of Egyptian descent. After that, it is alleged that they were responsible for a secretive deportation of him to a foreign “ally” of the U.S. that was well known to use “torture” as a means of extracting confessions. Bear in mind: this is Italy, a close ally of the United States in “The War on Terror.” The trial began in May 2008 and as the reader might expect, the U.S. government did not comply with Italian requests to extradite these CIA agents to Italy for trial, so they were tried “in absentia.” (See www.guardian.co.uk, February 16, 2007). In November 2009 all, including some American diplomats, military attaches and the CIA station chief in Milan were convicted and sentenced to 5-8 years. Here’s a British TV report on that conviction with the analyst doubting that the American government would be the least bit cooperative.

“Italian Court Finds 23 CIA Agents Guilty of Kidnapping Egyptian Terror Suspect (2009)”

  Along these same lines, in May of 2007, in an article in Der Spiegel (the most highly regarded news magazine in Germany), it was reported that the German government had filed and received international arrest warrants from Interpol, the international police. For whom? A number of American CIA agents. For what? Kidnapping and illegal deportation of a German citizen for torture in a country friendly to the U.S.A. (Goetz, Rosenbach and Stark, 2007) Again, the U.S. government would not honor the German government’s request for cooperation. A civil trial is in progress on this matter in Germany with a criminal action still pending.

     By ignoring what the rest of the world has begun to see as the two faces of America, one not being decent, honest or consistent, the United States incurs great animosity around the world in the near future for its lack of compliance with global standards of justice and humane behavior. This is an incalculable loss to America, the bitter fruits of which will be harvested in a not very distant future. Americans need to realize that they are responsible for the misdeeds of those who act in America’s name. If America does not penalize those who have done these things, then America will be penalized in some ways at some times in the future as a consequence. What goes around comes around.

     The harder America and its Global Corporate Oligarchs tried to control a centralized world, the more they have inseminated a resistant and evolutionary strain of internationalism, regionalism and new nationalisms – with varying degrees of immunity and impunity to such control. “The New World Order” – as proclaimed by President Bush I – was a mirage. It was as decrepit and disastrous a vision of the future of Planet Earth as Early Post Imperial Times is a distinctly different and possibly viable alternative to it.

     The more American wealth is dissipated through its wild and extravagant military and domestic spending on consumer goods from abroad, the more the American Power Elite stays addicted to the power it has acquired through its control of carbon-based energy, the stronger and more America-hostile these alternative global institutions, laws, and regional military and economic alliances become.

The Global Perils of Early Post Imperial Times

     Unfortunately, helping bring down this American organized and led system cannot be done without causing great economic pain in every corner of the Earth. This may well happen without any further push or shove beyond the global economic crisis that began in 2007 and is still under way . It has been said that when the American economy catches a cold, the world gets pneumonia. Well, what happens to the world if the United States catches The American Economic Flu and it becomes a global economic pandemic, as it seems to be doing in 2010? We are getting a higher resolution picture of that scenario at present. One can only hope it does not lead to global economic pneumonia and embolism.

     It is pretty clear to most around the world, that the present American and global economic recession and/or depression was created and triggered by what are now becoming an obviously unsustainable American economic theory, plus American inspired and constructed institutions and practices. Some may be sorry to see this system turn to dust. But not everyone. Indeed, there are those who see this as a strategic opportunity to “bring American down” and reverse American political and cultural dominance without bringing themselves down as well – or actually gain an opportunity to be what they themselves desire to be, whether America or the rest of the world likes it or not.

     Such an outcome becomes probable if it becomes a strategy shaped by Anti-American elites in unfriendly places. Remember that the recent face of American Imperialism has alienated a huge swath of humanity, i.e., particularly Islam, which stretches from Morocco to Indonesia. This is particularly true, but not limited to, a small percentage of these people (but a rather large number of young, poor and brainwashed ones) who belong to sects dedicated to the destruction of American global power, being seen in Iran as diabolical and satanic and in many parts of the Middle East as “infidel crusaders.”

     In case the reader doesn’t think, or doesn’t remember, it was President George W. Bush himself who at a speech given early in “The War on Terror” that he himself combined those two terms “war on terror” and “crusade.” You can bet that this clip has been used for years now as a highly successful recruiting device for fanatic “suicide bombers” against America and will continue to be used as long as American troops are killing Islamics around the world. This short video clip, apparently showed on an American TV comedy show is, to say the least, not very funny despite the audience’s reaction. The show’s host wincing is more on point.

“The War on Terror as an American ‘Crusade’ Against Islamic Jihadis”

     Remember too that China and Russia harbor long simmering and not forgotten resentments against the United States for its past and present geopolitical transgressions. No one knows how irrational their rulers might be given what they consider unforgivable measures the American Hegemon have in the past and might yet inflict upon them or their allies in the near future.

     For example, it is still “on the table” in 2010 that the U.S. might covertly or overtly sanction an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities or attacking Iran directly under some fabricated pretense (Gulf of Tonkin) or in response to a provoked reaction to some American aggression. (A Congressional Resolution to authorize an American naval blockade of Iran barely lost in 2008). All of these remain as geopolitical possibilities in 2010, particularly with the stable of “hawks” in powerful positions in The Obama Administration. What will President Obama do? Even he doesn’t know right now. His decision to send even more tens of thousands of Americans to wage war in Afghanistan – despite his own Ambassador there, a former general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, warning him to refrain from doing so – means that Bush II policies are still being embraced by the Obama White House.

     But even if these worse case scenarios of an even more severe American or global economic disintegration or even more egregious military adventurism do not come to pass, Early Imperial Times, with its growing sets of regional and global alliances and institutions are humming a familiar and dangerous political tune that could augur great troubles for all the people of Planet Earth. Add to this cacophony the wild card of “non-state” militant “non-conventional guerilla warfare”…as practiced recently in New York City, Madrid, London, Islamabad, Mumbai, or even perhaps Ft. Hood, Texas…or of the audacity and continued successes of the low-tech Somali pirates…plus endless guerilla warfare in Colombia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Yeman….and you begin to see a potential of incredible destruction and volatility…particularly as food and water become even more scarce as the world population grows.

     After all, the exact same people who are waging the new, economically based “geopolitical” war against the United States (Bin Laden has explicitly stated that his strategy against the United States is to bleed it to death “economically.”)…are each following their own national and regional versions of economic growth. This puts even greater reliance upon and use of oil and coal for energy…two of the present day main causes of global warming and climate change. These two interrelated phenomena are sooner or later, but inevitably, going to rudely intrude destructively on humanity without anyone being able to snub them any longer…because the net disaster will be so globally catastrophic.

     After all, what is it that is making Russia so powerful – all of a sudden? Weren’t they supposed to be on the verge of complete national implosion less than 10 years ago? The answer: clever geopolitical thinking, yes, but tremendous proved (and secret?) reserves of oil and natural gas. Russia has suddenly become the world’s #1 oil producer. How? Some say it is due to a new theory of oil. It is their scientific opinion that petroleum is not a “fossil fuel” (the liquid remains of dinosaurs) but instead is an inexhaustible resource being pumped from the earth’s core to the surface, a river that can be tapped by some (not-for-other’s-eyes) purely Russian oil extraction technology. This is called “the abiotic theory of oil.”

     Don’t believe it? Well, there’s a book called Black Gold Stranglehold by Jerome Corsi and Craig Smith (2006) that presents this argument in full and is discussed in an intriguing video that is quite convincing.

“Oil Abiotic Video: Black Gold Strangehold”

     Whatever the cause or source or super secret instruments, Russia under Putin-Medvedev (the latter was CEO of Gazprom before becoming President) has become just about the major supplier of natural gas…and oil…to Western Europe. In addition, China is also becoming one of its main customers, with pipelines being built from Russia (Siberia) to China…albeit it complicated by various geopolitical differences between the two somewhat reluctant and recalcitrant Anti-American Imperialism allies.

  And why are Iraq, Iran and Venezuela so important in Early Imperial Times? Oil. Why has Russia planted its flag directly under the North Pole by using advanced miniature submarines? Oil. Why is Brazil becoming the major player in deep water drilling? Oil. And what is driving China’s economy so quickly and to such dizzying heights? Its own almost inexhaustible reservoirs of coal. Why is Bolivia currently quarreling over who controls the Eastern slope and plains of its Andes? Oil. And why is China so interested in Venezuela? Oil. Why might the United States being considering any kind of “North America Union” with Canada and Mexico? They are two of its major suppliers of oil.

     In other words, the elites of the SCO and UNASUR and The Gulf States and just about any country or alliance that is part of this initial stage of Anti-American Early Post Imperial Times…are making the same mistake as the American Corporate Oligarchy and its Global Corporate fraternity. They are priming themselves for endless, mindless, r and feckless “economic growth” and that is directly linked to the extraction, refinement and use of oil, gas and coal.

     As for the European Union, although it is making perhaps the greatest strides in developing “sustainable alternative energy” for its countries and citizens and emphasizing and enforcing conservation measures…it, too, relies most heavily on coal and oil and natural gas. Some in the EU – particularly France – also bank very heavily on nuclear energy, which has its own problems in terms of cost, low but possibly devastating risk of major disaster (Harrisburg, Chernobyl), and difficulties and risks of storing and disposing of the radioactive waste. Sweden, by the way, is presently about 70% free of carbon energy, having a mix of nuclear, geothermal, hydro, wind and solar, but its intent is to be 100% free of oil, coal and natural gas by 2020, which seems doable…and very worthy of emulation and adaptation.

     So, if Early Post-Imperial Times continues, or exceeds, the pace, the size, and the scope of damage already done to the planet due to “greenhouse gas emissions” (which does not include the far greater and growing threat of methane gas escaping from under the crumbling permafrost in the Arctic and Antarctic), what almost all international earth sciences already predict to be an imminent disaster for humankind unless the use of these fuels is stopped in its tracks (much less being speeded up) will also be the death knell of any positive vision of “Globalization. ”Post Imperial Times” might well become an era of human history known, instead, as The Struggle for Survival of Humanity on Earth.

  These, then, are the two greatest perils manifest in Early Post Imperial Times. One is a worldwide economic collapse that is either caused by the natural laws of economics, or by a series of interrelated political acts, or both. The other is an ecological collapse caused by the stupidity and cupidity of human oligarchic leadership so characteristic of the Agricultural and Industrial Ages. The confluence of global economic and ecological crises will be the final straw for The New World Order and the real beginning of Post Imperial Times…this present intervening period being the “Early” part. Therein, that interval, now, is what will determine Planet Earth’s destiny for humanity as its host for generations to come. Mark our words.

     Insensitivity to the Laws of Mother Nature…who can show her disgust, if not total inhospitality, with humanity in any number of ways at more or less the same time and include: inconceivable storms, biblical floods, the wildfire of wildfires, towering tsunamis, 9.0 earthquakes, millennial droughts, and the as yet unnamed The Plague of Plagues. And, there is the possibility that all of these may occur simultaneously within the relatively short time span of a generation (20 years or so).Thus, they may overlap one another…and they may transpire over a number of years to be seen from a historical perspective as an interconnected reaction by Gaia (the living organism we know as Earth) against humankind. This may result in a severe thinning of the flock if not total obliteration of the species.

     At some point in time in the future, if this unfolding of negative events actually comes to pass, a common understanding…perhaps something akin to what Carl Jung called “the collective subconscious” will congeal. It will be widely understood at a deep level of consciousness, with the assistance of the new global information and communications technologies (ICTs) that will be much more advanced than they are today.

     This new collective subconscious will comprehend that both the former Global Corporate Oligarchy and the new Anti-American nations and coalitions that formed Early Post Imperial Times are together responsible for the conditions that rendered so many human lives, societies and countries wretched and unlivable. The blame will be placed squarely on the perpetrators and therein will lie the resolutions.

     What this will lead to eventually, albeit late in the game, will be some combination of localism, nationalism, nationalization and novel global responses to numerous natural and economic calamities and their aftermaths as they occur and reverberate. This will be facilitated by a heavy reliance on new technologies – currently unthinkable or in embryonic form that will be devised to meet these new challenges and new ways of mass humanitarian relief.

     Yes, it will be much too late to reverse the trends that we see today that will eventuate in this Revenge of Gaia. But it will force the survivors (today’s youth and their children) to reorganize global efforts to combat the common threat in terms of survival of the human race. Thus will begin the initial stages of Post Imperial Times…a presently unimaginable form of post-industrialism. Let’s just hope it’s not anything like the apocalyptic, dystopian visions of Soylent Green (1973) www.imdb.com ; Mad Max (1979) www.imdb.com, Blade Runner (1982) www.bladerunnerthemovie.warnerbrothers.com , or Water World (1995) www.imdb.com

     So, the Global Corporate Oligarchy is beginning to stew in own juices…with inter-related financial collapse…reinforced by its multitude of modern human obsessions: First and foremost among these appears to us to be the seemingly unslakable quest for endless material acquisitions—whether needed or not. This seems to be the deepest cause of all the other major problems, humanity’s almost insane desire to possess an inexhaustible supply of “stuff”. This spike in human consumption didn’t just happen, it was planned and executed brilliantly. How it works and dysfunctions is explained well in this following video put together by a consortium of American foundations. Take a look.

“The Story of Stuff”

     It is this “linear system” of American economics, in collaboration with the corporate control of government that has led to America’s love of: (1) wars galore; (2) its oil and coal and nuclear fetish; (3) Anti American Imperialism run amok; (4) a new quasi-system of strange alliances and coalitions that are run by equally ideologically dyslexic, materialistic and self pandering elites playing very precarious games with the global economy and the global ecosystem.

     To most people on this Earth, the Old New World Order must seem very chaotic and unmanageable. After all, it clearly is. Doom looms. So, publics frown, fret, froth, fulminate, and famish in anger and despair. New positive thinking and steps are needed, and quickly. What follows are several ideas to consider for these Early Post Imperial Times, now, to help lessen the severe turbulence and/or catastrophic potential of Post Imperial Times…or in its worst form, the epoch of humankind’s struggle to continue its existence on Terra Firma. We are neither Cassandra nor Chicken Little. It is time for thinking “outside of the box” or suffocating within its presently toxic walls..

The Three Power Transformations: Preparing For Disaster and Healing the Future

     We have spent most of the above reading the tarot cards that have been laid out for the future of man-and-womankind by those who have hogged the seats of power throughout the 20th and early part of the 21st centuries. The drastic scenes that are unfolding make it imperative that new hands cut the deck and new hands deal them out so that entirely new patterns reveal themselves.

     This must be quite a different paradigm shift from the one still clouding the minds of the very same elites who have caused the problems and from their feeble and misguided answers to the above scenarios which will assuredly add to the toll of human suffering and system chaos bound to occur in a relatively short time. Like an old sagging, starving workhorse wearing blinders, limited to tunnel vision, and driven by a ravenous hunger and yearning for whatever it can devour, the dying nag pulls the world’s wagon toward a yawning crevasse.

  Yes, this pathetic critter is a metaphor for the Putin Gang, the Politburo of the CCP, the Guardian Council of Iran, Venezuela, The Gulf States and any and all other carbon energy corporate states and autocracies who are all to blame – right along with the Global Corporate Oligarchy and its American “leadership”. Together, they are leading billions off the lemings’ cliff. Remember Becker’s Laws? If material wealth, political power and social status are what you love the most and need the most, you will never feel secure in what you have. Thus, heedless excess leads to a bottomless abyss.

     Moreover, psychopaths themselves cannot diagnose psychopathic behavior properly. Worse yet, their psychopathology cannot be correctly diagnosed by those who are hired by them to tell them they are sane. As we saw in Chapter 12, the global mass media plays the happy-faced psychiatrist or sycophantic hypnotherapist today. They keep on hypnotizing and mobilizing, but the precipice draws closer anyway.

     Still, as we also noted in Becker’s Laws, as well as in The Story of Stuff above, there are counter-elites and a counter intellectual and scientific class that is scattered around the world. Although what they say and what they do will rarely get mentioned in that global mass media, or handsomely rewarded in the most prestigious and well funded research centers, their ideas and solutions and experiments have been daringly successful. Mind and spirit boggling economic, ecological, and political resolutions are all around us, waiting to be deployed, employed and enjoyed. They together provide an entirely new conceptual edifice with multiple novel approaches that are actually field-tested and proved out for positive outcomes and hidden defects.

     To our way of thinking, there are three major fields with solutions that need adoption and adaptation, none of which any leaders of today’s political economic systems would readily call their own. The reason for this is simple enough. All of them demand that those with power must yield power…not to any other power…but to transform the very nature of power itself from “power over” to facilitative power. By so doing, they would actually empower themselves to deal with the seemingly intractable problems that they themselves created through the use of the more destructive power-over they heretofore wielded. Obviously, all this is presently incomprehensible, if not reprehensible, to them. They hear sounds, but they do not understand them. Their eyes let in light, but it does not register on their political economic retinas.

  There are three power transformations of which we speak. The first transforming power is in the value of owning up to and accepting, with humility, one’s own Karma. This is especially important for healing one’s Bad Karma.

     The second power transformation that is necessary is that individual nation states must yield some of their sovereignty – not to the invisible, unaccountable, manipulative elite institutions of the Old New World Order (like the U.N. or W.T.O. or Bretton Woods Institutions) – but by joining in a new global legal order already in gestation. This is one that will be more characterized by new, trustworthy and truly transparent methods of conflict resolution, including mediation, restorative justice, and such ingenious processes like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is crucial in order to undo so much of the Bad Karma that remains from 500 years of Western imperialism and colonialism.

  The third power transformation is to recognize the self-contradictory and deceptive nature of “representative” or “liberal democracy.” The kind of elite rule that legitimizes itself by using these euphemisms or oxymorons to disguise the truth of their mostly unaccountable and opaque decision making, must be relegated to the past, where it has had some success, but is now more patently dysfunctional. It must be substantially transformed with new methods of D3, DDD, or Direct Deliberative Democracy in the workplace (economics) and in self governance (politics). The power of collective wisdom being filtered through these new systems will breathe fresh air into stagnant governing systems and inject vigorous, fresh blood and thinking into humanity’s aggregate brain.

     These three power transformations must be synchronistic. They must be employed using one another in order to undo the devastating harm done by the power mongers of the past and the presently stagnant and staggering global political economic systems. Surely one leader in this global transformation needs to be the United States of America for it, sad to say, has become “the belly of the beast.” If America cannot transform itself, being true to its own professed political and spiritual values, then it has the mass and energy, like a dying star, to absorb the light of the entire human galaxy.

     Thus, it is America – a nation which showed so much idealistic promise early on and which has done so much to exalt the human condition and inspire billions–which needs take the lead in: (1) undoing serious psychological, emotional, economic and political damage it also has committed throughout its history and up to the present day and (2) creating the conditions for a safer, saner, more global humanistic future for all humanity. It is America, and America foremost, which must apply the three power transformations along the following lines, which are only a guide, not a plan. Warning: There are only a few grains of sand left in the hour glass.

Transforming Power: Renouncing Empire, Absorbing Blowback and the Value of Sincere Apologies

     The United States cannot transform Early Post Imperial Times into a more positive, constructive, pro-active and advanced stage all by itself, no more than it could be “The Dominant, Unchallenged Military Superpower and Global Hegemon.” The United States, on the other hand, can play a leading role as the Last, Lone Empire in Early Post Imperial Times…along with others who have found ways to make early forays into that future…some successfully, some not so successfully.

  The U.S.A. must become an honest, credible and savvy negotiator and good neighbor at the same time, and lead where it can…so that it can master the key role it needs to play, but in ways almost diametrically opposed to how the present day main players in its ruling class (The American and Global Corporate Oligarchy) have been misleading for the past century or so. Some of these people need to step down or aside or be removed as quickly as possible by various legal and constitutional means. Whether President Obama is of this new breed, remains to be seen, but seems less and less likely as the second year of his administration unwinds. We will monitor and evaluate his every move closely along the following lines in annual updates of this text.

     Taking some pages out of Elementary Theory of Conflict Resolution 101, a field about which we know a great deal – including substantial personal experiences as public mediators and facilitators – we would say that a newly empowered American counter-elite would need to have a broad knowledge of this field and have internalized and practiced many of the cardinal principles of its general philosophy and empirical theory

     For example, those who have mediated even the most hateful and spiteful of interpersonal to international disputes know that a major way to diffuse even long standing and bitter hatreds is to promise change of behavior from admitted past wrongs…toward those who have been injured (including their far removed descendents)…who must be admitted as equal as stakeholders in the conflict resolution process. What kind of behavioral change would this include?

     We noted in Chapter 6 that The Libertarian Party…and one of its most well known political leaders, Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, advocates as a giant step toward restoring America’s greatness would be to remove ALL American troops from all foreign bases as quickly as possible. In other words, America needs to renounce “Empire.”

     This is prerequisite to transforming America’s political system from the imperial ranks back to a policy that respects the individual political and economic rights of all Americans…and those of other peoples and nations around the globe. Not being an empire anymore is not to become or be “Isolationists”. France, Germany and Japan are not empires anymore and none of them can be said to be “isolationist.”

     In a summer 2008 TV interview for “Real News” www.realnews.com (a consumer sponsored independent internet video news service). Congressman Paul notes that “The American Empire” in 2008-09 actually cost in the neighborhood of $1 Trillion a year to maintain. This is obviously an unsustainable drain on all social, educational, health and public assistance programs in the United States at all levels of government. It is also the biggest single factor in America’s incredible overspending that has resulted in the largest national debt ever…and that will be a major factor in the inevitable devaluation of the American dollar and the negative consequences for America’s future.

     He also observes that the U.S. military by itself, in its presence around the world, consumes as much carbon energy as would the 47th largest nation. In previous statements, he has noted that he doubts that any kind of terrorism would be aimed at America if it were not for the U.S.’s continued, expansive military and political interference in the rest of the world. We agree with his appraisal. If America’s military retires from its self appointed role as “Policeman of the World,” Americans would find that they can quit abandoning their constitutional rights at all American airports and begin to enjoy the experience of freedom in air travel again. America could afford all the positive “stimulus packages” – as long as they actually helped the average American instead of giant corporations – without more out of control borrowing. Paul was also quite correct in his analysis of what Americans could expect from a President Obama on the issue of American Empire, which was very little change from the Bush II policies including escalating the war in Afghanistan, no matter what the pretext.

“Ron Paul Says It’s Time to End the Empire”

     This analysis of the interrelationship of the vast sums presently, and projected to be, spent on America’s overseas military installations and escapades and America’s true “national security” is expressed by a number of experts in a documentary presented by the non-profit progressive media organization, The Media Education Foundation. You can find their short documentary on this topic, with supporting data from 2004 – which is puny compared to the data 5 years hence (meaning 2009).

“The Economics of Empire 2004”

     You don’t have to be a Libertarian, like Ron Paul, or a modern progressive, like The Media Education Foundation, to see that America’s imperialistic practices are closely connected to America’s present economic decimation and all its attendant problems of cities and states being strapped for money to pay for schools, police and even prisons. You don’t need to see how the Reaganomics tax cuts on the super rich plus increased spending on wars in Central Asia have contributed to economic chaos in the U.S.A. that persists right through 2010 with no end in sight. You just need to understand, what we’ve said in earlier chapters, about the predictions and reflections of the American Anti-Federalists, Adam Smith, U.S. Grant, William Graham Sumner Mark Twain, FDR, Dwight D. Eisenhower. None of them were like the predictions of Nostradamus. There were no spiritual revelations. It was a future easily predicated upon and predicted by the history of past, crumped empires seen clearly by men of uncanny vision.

  But simple withdrawal from all those bases, and mothballing much of our military hardware is not, by itself, going to change America’s legacy of Empire that has already wreaked so much hardship and police state “security measures” at home. A sudden and complete retreat might be perceived by many enemies and victims of American imperialism as a glaring “weakness” and as abject and “unconditional surrender.” Yes, a massive pulling out could even encourage retaliation and increase hostilities and terrorism against America and American leadership in the near and intermediate future. Many around the world would remain suspicious of American motives, seeing it as some new, insidious way to hold sway over the destinies of billions of the world’s peoples.

     Thus, according to The Theory of Conflict Resolution 101, it would help ease the way back from such battered, blasted, fractured and fragmented places like Iraq and Afghanistan if the withdrawal were accompanied by some sincere apologies for the tremendous carnage America has caused to those countries and literally millions of their countrymen.

     So while, and before, we are at the business of troop, equipment and base withdrawals from around the Empire, it would be very helpful to also apologize formally and sincerely to the millions of other human beings around the world whom the American Empire (from its founding in Jamestown and Plymouth colonies) has aggrieved for resistance to American attempts to seize their lands for economic resources, geopolitical positioning and/or delusions of superiority and grandeur.

  Yes, we hear you. “But we were not alive then, why should we apologize for what our ancestors did?” Well, do you take pride in their courage, determination, and sacrifices for American liberty and property and the promotion of democracy? That’s the good part. What about the bad? You can’t have it one way without the other. If you’re proud to be an American, then you need to be responsible as an American as well. So, in addition to owning up to some of the negative consequences of American expansionism, you may have to share some of the spoils of it as well.

     Ergo, decent reparations might also serve as a bit of a balm as well. Iran and Vietnam are two of the most recent victims of American Empire that come immediately to mind – the most recent targets of Post Manifest Destiny American Empire. Both of these nations have been horrendously injured by American geopolitical and military actions over the past five or six decades. This book has already described the house of horrors American foreign policy has inflicted upon the Iranian people. Frankly, it amazes us that these Middle Easterners have not sought blood revenge against the United States…other than capturing the U.S. embassy in their capital and holding a few dozen diplomats and intelligence agents as hostages for a year or so in response to America providing sanctuary to their ousted, loathed American imposed dictator.

     An even better case can be made to apologize to Vietnam and to assist them economically as well. The U.S.A., for reasons still not disclosed, but which seem quite consistent with the geopolitical theories discussed earlier in this book, killed what is estimated to be between 2-3 million Vietnamese citizens. This is a poor, mostly agrarian Buddhist country. America used unbelievably lethal weapons of war, including napalm (jellied gasoline) bombs and Agent Orange (chemical warfare) against this mostly rural, modern technologically challenged of peoples. But through their gritty determination to keep from being colonized by yet another Western Empire (the French were that for hundreds of years), they fought this high-tech military from tunnels and jungle trails until the American public finally demanded that our Power Elite give it up.

     There has never been a genuine apology from our government to them, much less any understanding from the American people that we, as a people, owe them a lot more than sincere regrets..

     All this was not the fault of those American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. They were doing their duty to their country. It was the fault of the sardonically named The Best and the Brightest (Halberstam 1972)…practicing the worst of “groupthink” in the bowels of American geopolitical power, who were responsible for defining what the soldier’s and airmen’s duty was. But since America “elected” them, it is America and the American people who must own up to their responsibility for these atrocious acts of war against an ancient people who never attacked America and meant it no harm.

     Yeah, yeah, we know, it’ll never happen, just like it would never happen that white women and black men became Supreme Court justices and a black man became president of the United States – all of which were “unimaginable” earlier in the authors’ lifetimes in the United States of America. Why would this be unimaginable given the other harsh realities Americans are beginning to face up to in 2010?

     Taking these steps would go a long way in the eyes and hearts of the people of the world in thinking better of the United States of America as a partner in Early Post Imperial Times and even perhaps a praiseworthy leader among other leaders. It would not make America look pitiful and defeated. It would make America appear to be the true Christian nation it proclaims itself to be. Genuine acceptance of moral responsibility goes a long way spiritually and it helps one live one’s material life with greater strength and resolve to do better in the future.

     Can this really be done or is this pie-in-the-sky dreaming? Well, it is not without a lot of recent successful precedents at the national level. A good example came in February of 2008 in Australia on, most appropriately “Australia Day.” The newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, offered a lengthy and formal apology to all the native Aborigines in front of the Australian Parliament.

     Australian Broadcasting Company, the government’s top quality TV network, aired this nationally in prime time. It was a formal “We are sorry” from the Australian people – the original settlers and their descendents plus all new immigrants – to all the Aboriginal people, from those who were slaughtered centuries ago to those still alive and kicking today. It was a public plea for forgiveness, repeated over and over again, to adult Aborigines, who as children, were forced into settlement homes and were malnourished and mistreated. They are now known in that nation as “The Stolen Generation.” The Aborigines of Australia, who are black, were widely discriminated against for centuries…much like African Americans in the United States have been.

     Parliament was surrounded by many thousands of Australians that day, and it was in a holiday spirit that they listened to the speech being broadcast from inside…an event that marked the beginning of a whole new chapter in the life of that country that has just begun to unfold. This was not unexpected. This official apology was part of the platform that Mr. Rudd ran on to oust the former Prime Minister John Howard, and he was elected by a landslide. You can read and watch his speech and video clips posted on the Australian Prime Minister’s website. http://www.pm.gov.au/media/Speech/2008/speech_0073.cfm.

“CNN Video”

     Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made yet another well publicized public apology to the descendants of British children of poverty who were exiled to Australia for two centuries or so, this plea for forgiveness in November 2009. He said, and this is the importance of a heartfelt, public apology, that the past could not be undone, but he could promise that it would never be done again. So what do these public spectacles of saying “We’re Sorry” actually accomplish materially? Nothing. But what do they say about the government and its view of the future? What does it do for the psychological self esteem of the descendants of the victims? This is hard to calculate, but even harder to deny. Take a look for yourself at this BBC video:

“Australia’s PM Apologizes to ‘Lost Generations’”

     Then later in June of 2008, a similar apology was offered by the new, Conservative Prime Minister of Canada to the “First Nation”. This, too, was a formal apology presented to the Canadian Parliament. However, TV sets were set up publicly all around Canada so all Canadians could watch and, in a sense, participate in acknowledging their collective responsibility for the maltreatment and near genocide committed against the native Canadians – the worst of it well before they were born. If you’d like to see the CNN news story on this go to http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/06/10/canada.indians.ap/index.html.

     In the CNN news article, it describes a similar process of TV sets being set up publicly as the apology is being given as in Australia, but apparently this will only be the beginning of a South African style “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” process that will be held throughout Canada through at least 2009. This is a type of “dialogue and deliberation” process that will be much more fully amplified and illustrated in Chapter 16 – designed to help resolve the long festering bad feelings and karma that have built up over generations due to the heinous behaviors of the past.

     Not convinced yet of the good that emanates when the more powerful recognize and try to redress the grievances of the victims of imperial expansion? Listen to a First Nation chieftain reply to the Prime Minister of Canada’s apology to The First Nation in the Canadian Parliament.

“National Chief Phil Fontaine – Response to Formal Apology (2008)”

     Obviously this kind of process is not easy for any nation with a sense of pride in their history to embrace. It is not painless, and it takes an awful lot of public and private soul searching. It surely could be done by America to Black America, Hispanic America and Native America. And using some of the contemporary electronic and conflict resolution methodology of small to large-scale deliberative democracy, it could be done with the Hawaiians, the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, the Iranians, and the Iraqis…as major victims of the American imperial imperative. However, just having the present American president do this, on his own initiative, won’t do at all…even though he would appear to all these peoples to be brownish, just like them. Such a drastic departure in American political thinking and action would need a major change in the American psyche on America’s collective responsibility for its own precarious situation in the world and at home.

     There is absolutely no way for this to occur in the United States through the mis-named, oxymoronic “representative democratic” models of 18th century thinkers. They are particularly outmoded by the manipulative techniques of 20th century “strategic political communications.” America cannot begin to dismantle its empire and emulate these apologetic initiatives begun in Australia, Canada and South Africa until it understands the need to transform power in the United States political system and to manifest this through joining the emerging new global order of economic and ecological collaboration as well as of transnational conflict resolution.

Transforming Power: Joining the New Global Order of Transnational Global Justice and Transnational Conflict Resolution

     This will not come easy to Americans and America. The global economic crisis that actually began in late 2007 – with the American recession actually beginning in the Fall of that year – continues to devolve in 2010—despite all the delusional optimism of Wall Street in trying to pump up the American “engine of consumption.”. What seems to be actually gestating is the creation of what some are calling a “New Bretton Woods” or “Bretton Woods II” global economic order that will cast America more into a role of collegial, regional super-partner, rather than supreme leader. This will emerge more clearly in 2010 and beyond.

     There is also some chance in the near future that the “dollar” – as it deteriorates in international value due to the ever mushrooming “Twin Deficits” – will no longer be the universal “reserve currency.” The Chinese Central Bank, the largest holder of U.S. Incredible Shrinking Dollars, is lobbying hard for this to happen. There is a huge economic restructuring that will come and the U.S. will be the biggest loser.

     As Americans begin to realize that things are changing drastically for their economic future, they may begin to realize that this is also, in part, due to political blowback for their government’s former political misadventures abroad. There are consequences for violent tantrums, sooner or later.

      Also, as we’ve hinted at above, because of some of the multitudinous atrocities committed in the name of the United States on many foreign nationals, even with the best of intentions or worst of rationalizations, there may well be some severe international legal ramifications that may befall America in the near to intermediate future.

     For example, the nascent global human rights community, through some of its presently constituted institutions, could well decide that it needs to detain, try and punish some American officials for “crimes against humanity.” This is quite a different animal from the prosecutions of some American officials in Italy and Germany and the possibility of such in Belgium. If this international indictment occurs, then the United States of America could stonewall any “summons” and isolate itself politically as a pariah, or it must come down off its high horse and face a world sense of justice and not continue its pretense of being the unassailable godlike figurine of political virtue.

     As we have observed previously, the dominant faction of the American power elite in recent times has decided to follow a “unilateral” path of global dominance and has disparaged a number of international protocols and institutions as not having the power to supersede American “sovereignty.” While we personally believe that the Early Post-Imperial Era will expand the amount of international institutional sovereignty in ways that might impinge on all national sovereignties, this does not mean that the United States would no longer be a “sovereign nation.” Is Chile not sovereign because of the trial of its former president Pinochet? Is Serbia not sovereign because it yielded up Milosovic for an international trial in The Hague? Would the U.S.A. be any less sovereign if it ceded jurisdiction to an international court of justice to try a former president of the United States? Of course not.

     In fact, we doubt that whatever America might surrender in these regards will not even begin to approach the infringements on national sovereignty imposed by American proxy institutions like the IMF and WTO on many Southern hemisphere nations in the 20th century and early years of the 21st as well. As some Eastern European nations formerly under Soviet control came begging the IMF for loans in 2009, it continued playing its old tricks. Some people never seem to learn. Actually, these two institutions of global impunity and impertinence to national sovereignty will probably be curtailed or diminished in their powers in Early Post Imperial Times…since they were under the sphere of influence of the American political economy. Some of the larger G-20 nations are pounding on its doors, demanding to have a major say in how it doles out its money.

     The International Court of Justice, however, is not exactly in their league since it only seeks to have individuals tried for horrific crimes like “genocide”, mass murder, and torture as a policy while they enjoyed the poisonous vapors of authoritarian power. This is about “justice” at an individual level, not wholesale intrusions on national industrial and governmental policies as was the imprudence and arrogance of the IMF and World Bank.

     Thus, should International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors, acting upon information given to them by officials of various nations of the world, decide that American officials who condoned violations of the Geneva Accords or committed “crimes against humanity,” indict former American officials for these crimes, then the U.S. government should immediately arrest and extradite these individuals for a proper and fair international trial. Others may need to be extradited to other countries where they can take responsibility for the unimaginable terrors they have caused…like the kidnapping trials mentioned above already occurring in Germany and Italy, and that await Kissinger in Belgium should he dare show his face within its borders.

     In addition, lawyers from four international NGOs filed “universal jurisdiction” claims of “torture” against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in October 2007 in Paris, (www.ifhr.org) similar to the charges, extraditions and trials for “torture” and executions that plagued General Pinochet of Chile and President Milosovic of Yugoslavia until the days they died. Rumsfeld was there to give a speech for Foreign Policy magazine, the major publication of the principal private organ of U.S. foreign policy run by the American Corporate Oligarchy, The Council for Foreign Relations. This is a good example of what we can expect to see more regularly

     A new kind of leadership in the United States of America must demonstrate clearly to the rest of the Early Post-Imperial world that it does not consider past violations of international norms of human justice by former American leaders to be sheltered from what the world considers to be criminal behavior while in office. It must also show that it has a deep sympathy for the victims of any immoral excesses of American Imperialism as well by joining and pledging future adherence to the international codes and submitting to the jurisdiction of international tribunals that enforce them. We’re talking practicality here, not idealism. No one likes a two-faced bully. It has serious repercussions.

     Considering that all this has been an integral part of what America has traditionally thought to be ethical and legal conduct (since the U.S.A. is a signatory to The Geneva Convention and there are rules against torture in the U.S.’s own Uniform Code of Military Justice), it is not much of an infringement on American sovereignty to hand such people over to international forums of legal justice and conflict resolution. The trials are public and follow strict rules of due process of law. They are based upon the very same rules for trying German war criminals in Nuremberg that were established by the most learned of American jurists after World War II…and a number of prominent American judges have taken part.

     A new paradigm of American leadership in Early Post Imperial Times would have the United States be a champion of genuine regional or global peace conferences where all agendas are “on the table” for authentic negotiation. Let’s use the Israeli-Palestinian endless conflict as an example of what we mean.

     Ever since the United States was the first nation to recognize the new nation of Israel, the USA and Israel have been very close allies. But right from the beginning, there was a war for land in the former Palestine between the Jewish people and the Palestinian Arabs who also lived there. Israel won and many Palestinians lost their land and homes. Palestine became divided between Jewish areas and Arab areas. Millions of Palestinians are living out of their former homeland and in small enclaves like The West Bank and Gaza. There have been intermittent wars between Israel and several neighboring Arab states like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria over “The Palestinian Problem.” It has gone on and on and still goes on and on. The United States has publicly played the role of “mediator” in this continuing conflict, but in reality, the United States is a party to it.

     There is an ironclad rule in mediation theory: one cannot mediate one’s own dispute. The mediator must be a truly neutral and impartial third party. The key to any successful mediation is that each party must have absolute faith in the objectivity and non-bias of the mediator. Thus, although many presidents have tried to intercede as a “fair broker,” they have failed.

     There was one exception to this, and therein lies a partial solution to this lingering dispute that poisons all interactions in the Middle East to this very day. During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, he brought together the Israeli President Menachem Begin and the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

     President Carter did not play mediator however. What he did was to “facilitate” a bilateral negotiation by using the theory and techniques of Professor Roger Fisher of Harvard Negotiation Project fame, as his advisor. The full theory and methodology of this highly successful form of conflict resolution at the interpersonal and international levels are found in the widely acclaimed, short but scintillating book, Getting to Yes (1981).

     Fisher and another colleague Prof. David Shapiro have updated their advanced practices in Beyond Reason: Using Emotion as You Negotiate (2005).

     Deploying such dispute resolution weapons as “principled negotiation” and “facilitated joint brainstorming”….and partnering with The Harvard Project on Negotiation www.pon.harvard.edu/hnp, The Carter Center (see the picture) www.cartercenter.org – as well as The United States Institute of Peace and a plethora of conflict resolution centers affiliated with universities and religious organizations in the United States would be America’s greatest Weapon of Mass Pacification (WMP) and far more effective than those 7,000 or so nuclear weapons The Pentagon still covets and keeps stockpiled and ready to go.

     These techniques and centers have a tough-to-beat track record around the world in helping resolve some exceedingly complex, difficult, hateful, and centuries old hostilities. Their successes include several in Latin America and even South Africa. The U.S. government has not been only limited to being an agent of conflict resolution between Israel and Egypt. President Clinton dispatched former Senate Majority Leader, Sen. George Mitchell of Maine to Ireland to help mediate that many centuries old battle between the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland which was complicated by alliances involving the British Army and the Irish Republican Army (“terrorists”).

     Mitchell did a surreal job which resulted in “The Good Friday Accord” that set up a whole new form of government that was ratified by a transnational referendum held in Northern Ireland and Ireland. The people of both Ireland and North Ireland voted “yes” by huge majorities. That ended it and there is now peace in that land, despite the emergence of “The Real IRA” – a new terrorist organization that demands that all British troops leave North Ireland. Without widespread popular support from Catholics in North Ireland and Ireland, which seem highly unlikely, this splinter group of extremists will not start a new civil war there.

     There is an excellent “Symposium” on You Tube – numerous videos – which is a cooperative effort between the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, the U.S. Department of State and several foundations that describes the ins and outs and ups and downs of that process. It describes how it worked, its difficulties and frustrations, but mostly its success. One of the sections on You Tube is called “A Tribute to Mo Mowlam”, who was a charismatic peacemaker from Northern Ireland in that process. That last video shows, quickly and passionate animosity to a peaceful world. Take a look for yourself. It’s very enlightening…and the U.S. government was central to this harmonious outcome. And yes, it is this same William Mitchell who is President Obama’s envoy to the Middle East. We will see how he does as a negotiator-with-leverage, since in this case, he cannot be a mediator.

“Symposium Section: A Tribute to Mo Mowlam”

     Another excellent example of how to bring an amicable political agreement among perennially hostile religious, ethnic and political factions occurred, in all places, The Middle East in 2008. In this case, the tinder box of Lebanon had just exploded into another near civil war as the American branded “terrorist” organization Hezbollah’s fighters had routed the Lebanese Army in Beirut and was in position to take over the national government.

     This alarmed Sunni states around the Gulf (as well as the U.S.) but there seemed little to do but offer a “mediation” between the enemy factions. Much to everyone’s surprise, Hezbollah agreed, even though they could have overthrown the regime that was, from their point of view, oppressing them. So, a mediation was held in Doha, Qatar and was mediated by Qatar and Turkey with most of the Arab League in attendance. The result: a compromise between Hezbollah and all the other factions that comprised the government of Lebanon. Instead Hezbollah, which is the most powerful force among Shiites in Lebanon and which comprises the largest ethnic group in multi-cultural Lebanon, settled for its proportional representation in Parliament and the Cabinet – BUT – as the largest minority, it would have a veto power over any law that effected them.

“MIR: Turkey and Qatar New Mediators on the Block”

That agreement had led to a relatively calm period in Lebanon up to 2010. As long as all sides act in good faith on it, we believe it should hold together for the foreseeable future, but it shows once again that “You can negotiate successfully with “terrorists” – just as Palestine’s “PLO” negotiated in good faith; just as the IRA negotiated in good faith; just as Hezbollah negotiated in good faith. It’s a myth that Americans have come to believe despite all the actual facts to the contrary.

     Why a nation that considers itself to be “Christian” and is heavily populated by those who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ (“The Prince of Peace”) spend so much of their national treasure on countless WMDs and try to force their political economy on other countries by force instead of using its ample resources of peacemaking remains a mystery to us. We guess it’s that the “imperialism” gene seems to have gotten better of the “Christian gene.” But in order to survive and thrive in Early Post Imperial Times, it also seems to us that it is necessary for Americans to stimulate both their “Christian” and “democracy” genes and begin to encourage them to become ascendant and flourish.

Transforming Power:

Becoming Better Capitalists and More Democratic

     Changing how we act in and appear to the rest of the world in Early Post-Imperial Times by disavowing America’s traditional vision for ever Westward expansionism and global pre-eminence and making amends for the many sordid chapters of this for so many millions of human beings around the world are a few steps that need to occur. Renouncing Empire – and bringing all of our troops home to America at long last – must come first…and with huge parades of triumph up Broadway, ticker tape, confetti and all. This, as Congressman Paul has said so well, will free up…without tacking more trillions onto our national debt… enormous sums of money and natural and human resources for America to begin to tackle some wrenching, worsening, wracking infernal and internal problems by ourselves.

     After that, the newly empowered counter-elite that believes as well in the empowerment of the people throughout America’s political economy and systems of governance, must begin to address how this can play out in modern day America, a country that remains under extreme economic and ecological duress. As in FDR’s New Deal, President Obama’s many new announced and promulgated programs may have begun to ease the traumas of this new era. But much greater change is needed. Old nostrums will not work nearly as effectively as 70 years ago. New ones abound, waiting on the shelves.

     The biggest question for us, then, is what could be done in the United States to change its way of thought, its system of political economy, and its traditional self concept in an interdependent, Early Post-Imperial world? The honest answer is there is probably little that America can do to pull America out of its doldrums.

     There are many different kinds of crashes though. It can be calamitous, with no survivors. It can be severe but cause little bodily injury. There’s an element of luck in it. Our own view favors the role of destiny, however ours doesn’t include any that is “manifest”, which is irrespective of the will of anyone in this world. So what is America’s fate to be in this uncharted journey into the future?

     Who knows? Who knew before the Lewis and Clark Expedition what terrain laid before America’s vision for a new world and life? Who knew before Thomas Edison’s inventions what kind of technological world America would become and lead? America’s past is prelude to its future. There have been missteps and misdirections and some scurrilous acts on the part of the rulers of this country. But there have been many more people who have been constructive and ingenious who have innovated and invented so many ways toward a better life for us all.

     That said, we obviously believe that there are ways for America to change dramatically from its past successful but presently malguided directions, ways that are actually quite consistent with core American values, particularly the ones we call “capitalist”, “Christian,” “daring,” “innovative,” “democratic,” “individualistic”, “free,” “and “decentralized.” There have been and are certain aspects of the American political economy and culture that remain truly capitalistic – according to Adam Smith’s definition of it – and democratic – in the true sense of the Greek word.

     Sad to say, though, they are the exception, not the rule. Still, they are not foreign concepts or praxis in America, like socialism, communism or fascism. None of that trio has fruited well in American sod. But democracy and capitalism are firmly rooted, though sparse and frighteningly wilted at this juncture in American history. It may take a tropical storm of tears to get them to once again bud and bloom like wildflowers in a New England meadow in the springtime.

     However, if America – as a people and as a society – democratically discuss them, by using modern methods and technologies to facilitate an in depth public deliberative process, then this will maximize the chances that The Last Lone Empire can overcome its inertia. America has the wherewithal to reverse its present dimness as a global beacon of enlightenment and reset its ideology to tread a different and higher road in the future that will once again beckon the way to make this a better, more hospitable and habitable planet for all.

     As President John F. Kennedy told the American people in 1962 when he challenged the U.S.A. to put a man on the moon by end of the decade: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

John F. Kennedy (1962)

     It will be even harder to establish a better, generally understood and publicly accepted, form of capitalism and democracy in the 21st century in America than the hidden government and corporate and big banker central economy that we have now. Yet, it is far more important than putting a man on the moon. It may be too late, but not trying is not an option.

     And who should decide what type of economy would be best for America in the 21st century? The American ruling class? The Corporate Global Oligarchy? The leading economists? If we find our economy in a steepening dive, aren’t they the ones who must shoulder a lion’s share of the blame? Weren’t they dead wrong? So, why should they be deciding the appropriate remedies?

     Perhaps it should be our political leaders? The Fed? The Congress? The Imperial Presidency? The Hidden Government? The Iron Pentagram and the Pentagon? The lobbyists who work so well with our political leaders? Perhaps a committee or a commission? No, we already know that all these folks worked in close collaboration with the economic elites that bear the brunt of the responsibility for the predicament we are in. So who?

     Can the people of America do this within the confines of an 18th century political system that was actually set up exclusively by and primarily for the wealthy few? Not even Babe Ruth could hit a homerun in a football game. Yet, there remains within that stodgy superstructure the non-violent method of drastically rearranging the political infrastructure of the United States of America to suit modern needs by either Constitutional Amendments or a new Constitutional Convention. Or, as the Bush II administration proved, the Constitution can be bent nearly totally out of shape to suit the needs of a small group of self interested and villainous elites. Why can’t it be done to suit the massive and real needs of the supermajority? We know there are ways to do that to involve the American people in deciding what Walter Lippmann said was impossible: The American Public Interest in Early Post imperial Times.

     In other words, if the present system is not flexible enough to accommodate a reinvented 21st Century democratic and truly capitalistic 21st century political economy in America, then its own devices that were designated to do so can rearrange it. And if the democratic surge is strong and persistent enough, then that’s the way it will be done…once again.

     However, such things will not come to pass without an integrated political, economic and social movement, one equal to times past in American history, as described in Chapter 9. However, this time, the end results cannot come from laws passed by the politicians who will be running for office and the discussion cannot be part of the insidious, polarizing campaign tactics that have come to define the American “democracy” of recent times. As Aristotle made perfectly clear in Politics (as discussed in Chapter 6)…the people must provide the “direction” for America as it grapples for a new America in the 21st century. The elite’s role is ministerial, at best.

     The multiple ways to do this have already been invented and tested in the United States, as well as around the world. They are called “The Deliberative Democracy Movement” and the methods they employ can inform and educate the entire American citizenry with the help of the new ICT about the problems and solutions available for a more sustainable and productive economy than the one that is crumbling around us.

     So does this mean that there must be no political leadership…that it is counterproductive and inconsistent with a genuine democratic 21st century style movement? No. There needs to be leadership in “deliberative democracy,” just as there is in “democracy” or “indirect democracy.” Unlike all of those, however, the leadership for the future must see power as not something to wield over the people, but as a power to help the public understand the nature and details of the major problems and then help facilitate them in a process of thought and discussion and then decision-making and implementation.

     This is called “facilitative leadership”…and is a role that many people have been developing for the past few decades in law, business, and interpersonal relationships and in experiments on public discussions. It is highly correlated with the mediation and negotiation techniques mentioned above in this chapter. Through this kind of leadership, some of the thoughts, ideas, practices and alternatives for a new national political economy that will be presented in Chapters 15 and 16 may become a realistic alternative to what now are considered to be set in stone.

     That would be the “Space Age” version of the kind of capitalist democracy and/or democratic capitalism envisioned in the minds of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and the views of the Anti-Federalist Founding Fathers. Putting together just some components for the kinds of changes we believe are necessary for America to evolve into the kind of system that will thrive in Early Post Imperial Times, we cannot but revel in the words of Jefferson repeated in many of his myriad of letters that he wrote during his lifetime to friends and compatriots. The future America we envisage would be entirely consistent with several of his most famous quotes along these lines:

     (1) “Because of the imperfections in human nature, evil men will always seek to gain control of the government to further their own ends. In order to prevent this, power must be vested in the people, whose interest it is to prevent the ascendency of evil.” (2) “Democrats consider the people as the safest depository of power in the last resort; they cherish them, therefore, and wish to leave in them all the powers to the exercise of which they are competent.” (3) “I am not among those that fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom…Aristocrats fear the people, and wish to transfer all power to the higher classes of society…The people…are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty”. http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeffcont.htm.

“I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom…Aristocrats fear the people, and wish to transfer all power to the higher classes of society…The people…are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty…No government can continue good, but under the control of the people.”

Thomas Jefferson letters, University of Virginia

     There’s a clever animation on YouTube called Thomas Jefferson on Direct Democracy. Take a look, it’s short but gets at what Jefferson would have really said to the reader should he have been alive today:

“Thomas Jefferson on Direct Democracy”

Actually, the U.S.A. has led the world in the 20th century and in the early 21st century in improved capitalistic and democratic theories, scientific experiments and innovative projects. These new ways of doing “worker empowerment”, “citizen empowerment,” “conflict resolution,” and “deliberative democracy” have been highly successful, some imitated by governments in other parts of the world, but mainly ignored, watered down, distorted or co-opted by TACO, The American Corporate Oligarchy and their handcuffed media. In other words, a new and long-lived American government of, by, and for the people is not just some utopian ideal, but is a reality already in the making.

     The next two chapters will be a primer on how well parts of what we call “Decent Capitalism” and “The Deliberative Democracy” movement actually work. Together, they will show how America can not only survive Early Post Imperial Times, but become the trendsetter in transitioning it to a more integrated, peaceful and pragmatic global society and political economy. (Please note we did not say “global government” or “one world government.”)

Four Kinds of “Changes” in Political Economy

     Below is a chart that explains the four types of political economic change that can occur. It is a 4×2 matrix….with several examples of conventional, progressive and transformational changes being the content we will elaborate upon in Chapters 15 and 16. We will not dwell on the myriad of “reactionary/regressive” policies or structural changes, since such have resulted in precisely the precarious situation the United States and world faces at this critical moment in history. If the reader feels that these latter are the solution, then s/he need read no further. And good luck.

     We hope that the reader will see from the chart, that even what we consider “conventional” or “status quo” changes might appear to the American reader to sound rather “radical” given the present day parameters or outer perimeters of modern American political discussion and rhetoric. Such are the strict and stringent limitations on contemporary American thinking and political talk. These “conventional” changes, if they were all to be brought about almost at once, would do little to result in what would be essential to help America weather Early Post Imperial Times well. They would instead almost insure an abdication of the United States as world leader in any survival mode to the severe global crises dead ahead.

     What is needed is at least many of the progressive changes plus many of the transformational changes ASAP. Yes, some of the conventional ones could also help out as part of the mélange of change that together would sum up as being transformational and species saving.

Political Economic Change: From Reactionary to Transformational 

Reactionary/

Regressive 

Conventional/

Status Quo 

Progressive 

Transformational 

Economic Change 

Regressive Taxes

Deregulation of Industry (Banks, Telecom, Food processing; Pharmaceuticals)

Anti-Union Legislation

Outsourcing jobs from

     United States

More military-industrial “jobbery”           

More progressive taxes (individuals, corporations)

Reform Social Security

Government provide fiscal stimuli to economy (New Deal public works)

Give Federal Reserve more regulatory power over economy

Government bail-out of failing large industries (banks, automobiles, insurance) Quasi-nationalization

The Third U.S. Bank with U.S. issued and backed currency. (Big banks are minority as stakeholders)

Greater government ownership of new industries (wind/solar, new electric power grid)

New electric car plug-in charge stations.

New government social programs (Medicare for all; government pre-school for all children; vacation and family leave for workers)

Deming workplace democracy 

Any government bailouts must entail mandatory Deming/ESOPs in those industries.

Government funding or tax breaks for all Co-ops. Start up funding for national co-op corporations and networks

Federal funding for local and community farming in urban and micro urban areas. No subsidies for Agri-business

Government funding for personal solar and wind power production from homes.

Third U.S. Bank heavily involved in micro-lending and start-ups of community banks. 

More

Reaganomics

Tinkering with present system (Keynesianism)

Greater citizen influence and benefits (closer to EUsocial democracies)

Maximize worker/citizen ownership and control in free enterprise system 

Reactionary/

Regressive

Conventional/

Status Quo

Progressive

Transformational 

Political Change 

Redrawing legislative districts

More spending on campaign advertising

Make it more difficult for third parties and independent candidates to get on ballot

National ID Card to vote

Keep same number of Representatives in Congress for increasing numbers of constituents 

Term limits for office

Keep ex- Congressmen from lobbying Congress for foreign countries

Extend number of days to vote.

Vote by mail and/or Internet

Bring back “Fairness Doctrine” to the FCC

Proportional Representation of votes by states in Electoral College

Double size of Supreme Court/two sections

New Cabinet Position: Secretary for Environment

     Balanced Budget Amendment to U.S. Constitution

The Third U.S. Bank (like BBC), owned by govt but independent Bd. not controlled by bankers; Power to print and coin money with value backing.

Clean Election Laws (Maine, Arizona)

Repeal Electoral College/Direct Election of President by people.

1 month to vote.

Independent U.S.T.V., like BBC.

Proportional Representation system of voting for Congress/state legislatures (EU)

Non-binding national referenda (EMS) called by Congress or by President (Netherlands, NZ)

HNL Electronic City Council Hearing 

US Constitutional Amendment: Initiative + Referendum + Recall.

Citizens Juries to Pre-Review Citizens Initiatives (Healthy Democracy Oregon)

Citizens Concensus Panels and national ETMs as part of Congressional Process, (DanishTech Boards model)

One House of Congress = Citizens Assembly (Canada model)

Participatory Budgeting (Porto Alegre Brazil model)

National Communal Council Network funded by federal government. (Ven)

Reform Party of Calgary, Canada Constituent Consultation 

Decreases citizen power in “Elected Oligarchy”

Tinkering with system; no extra citizen empowerment

Somewhat more citizen power in “Elected Oligarchy”

Genuine Citizen Empowerment 

Questions for Discussion

1. What are the major causes of the end of The Imperial Era and what does Becker mean by “Early Post Imperial Times”?

2. Where is America at this point in such a transition?

3. What are some of the major dangerous developments for America in this situation and how bad can it get?

4. According to Becker and Briand, what needs to be done in this country as soon as possible to begin to reverse the decline we face?

5. Why do Becker and Briand believe that the reactionary/regressive policies would lead to even more negative outcomes than the ones we are facing in 2009?

Chapter 13 The Return of the American “Desperation Class”: The Intended and Unintended Consequences of “The Reagan Devolution”

     As we have seen, Aristotle himself was of the opinion that a policy that was a top-heavy oligarchy or aristocracy was much more likely to tyrannize the masses than one which was much too democratic.

Aristotle Was Right: The Smaller and More Powerful the Oligarchy, the Worse It Treats the Masses

     Of course, sometimes democracies do tyrannize some rich people as was discussed earlier concerning what happened to “Loyalists” after the American Revolution. Some “patriots” routed some rich “royalists” and confiscated their land for their own use, sometimes with the aid of the new state governments. This definitely would be an example of what Aristotle would have considered “tyranny of the majority” (a series of “crimes” against their class of which the Founding Fathers were well aware). During The New Deal, many old time conservative Republicans considered FDR’s new regulatory regime and wealth distribution to be the moral equivalent of the above. We doubt Aristotle would’ve agreed. Thus, to our way of thinking, America has experienced very little “tyranny of the majority” – at least against the (rich) minority. What happened to the French aristocracy during the French Revolution and to the Russian aristocracy after the Communist Revolution are actual cases in point.

     But as an aristocracy or oligarchy gets into the hands of fewer and fewer and they get richer and richer, tyranny is assured. This has occurred with far greater frequency in American history than the other kind.

     In other words, doesn’t it make sense, and isn’t it a corollary of Becker’s Laws, that the more oligarchic a system gets, the worse it will get for the middle and working classes (the vast majority of any society) economically? Inevitable shifts in political balance produce inevitable shifts in the distribution of wealth. If those at the very summit of power aggrandize too much of the surplus value of the labor of the middle and lower classes, then the resulting malformation of the social order will produce greater social malaise of one kind or another due to the increase of those who are left with nothing, no resources, no hope, what we call “the desperation class.”

     This glum consequence is also the predictable result of rule by the most “individualistic” of the American ruling class. We’ve noted before that Jesus said, “the poor will always be with us.” But the number and degree of desperation of the social “marginals”, during a radical reallocation of wealth upwards by legal and governmental hubris, becomes such a massive and psychologically stressed out underclass that they fester as a breeding ground for organized and random crime, massive and sporadic violence, social deviance, social unrest, protest demonstrations, industrial sabotage and tectonic political change.

     How could Lao Tzu, the Chinese master philosopher, writing over 2,000 years ago in almost total isolation, have foreseen the legacy of the beginning of the end of the lone superpower in the world over two millennia away? As he wrote:

“Act after act prohibits

everything but poverty,

weapon after weapon conquers

everything but chaos,

business after business provides

a craze of waste,

law upon law breeds

a multitude of thieves.”

Lao Tzu, The Meaning of the Tao, #57

Of course, a lot depends on how large and cohesive any counter-elite, which emerges, will be that can appear to lead the inevitable counter social movement towards a more positive social change for “the people” in general. (Becker’s Laws #12, 13)

The Response to the Misery of Oligarchic Tyranny Depends on

Many Things

     It’s a simple theory that history and contemporary times seem to bear out well. The problem is that different cultures, at different times, are more or less responsive to such alterations in wealth distribution throughout the system.

     Some cultures are super sensitive to even the subtlest disruptions. Others can tolerate dramatic changes, or live with grandiose mal-distributions, for centuries and generations…with barely any spike in dissent or level of violence to redress the problem. In these latter, more traditional societies, which are anchored in long standing, very hierarchical class, tribal, religious and ethnic divisions, it must take a huge critical mass of dreadfully unhappy human beings as the precondition for a massive socio-political realignment.

     For example, they could become a formidable movement after a foreign invasion and occupation, a famine or disaster that wipes out a large percentage of the population that can be attributed at least in part to government misfeasance or malfeasance, and not to God or “the way things have always been”. Even then, it may take generations to foment before percolating into a political revolutionary movement. Big changes in government in such societies take a very long time, in part because the counter-elites are few and notorious and they are jailed, tortured and/or murdered or have to migrate to foreign countries (be in exile) until a window of opportunity opens and the time for a sea change is ripe.

     A good, modern example of this are the Shiites of Iraq. Even though they have been the majority of Iraqis (estimated to be at or above 60%) since its founding in the early part of the 20th century, they were maliciously persecuted and kept mostly in deep poverty, compared to the small minority of Sunnis (estimated to be at 20% or less) who monopolized all the levers of the government and owned much of the wealth of the country. There were a few Shiite rebellions that were mercilessly pounded into submission and the leaders thereof decapitated, hung, tortured or forced into permanent emigration.

     It wasn’t until the American invasion in 2003 that overthrew the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein that the Sunni majority lost its exalted status there and a power vacuum was created by American aggression and ignorance. This oppression of the vast majority of Shiites by a small minority of Sunnis has, thanks to President George W. Bush and his Neo-Con strategic brains-in-a-jar, now been redressed, with a majority Shiite run government run by the former counter-elites who lived a good part of their lives in Iran, not Great Britain and the United States.

     We hope, though, that the reader remembers what this war in Iraq was really about. It is about geostrategic positioning and acquiring an unlimited amount of a vital resource to the American and Global Corporate Oligarchy: the second largest known oil reserves in the world. Do you think that this is what the American G.I. “boots” on the ground think they are fighting for?

     The video below has some of the best video footage we’ve seen to date of American military patrols in the Third World environment that they are trying to occupy. Whatever they have been told, their strategic purpose there (and in Pashtunistan) is to suppress an Islamic guerilla resistance to their presence, seen by the locals as “infidel invaders” who want their land, access to oil and who look and act like they are from Battlestar Gallactica.

“War in Irak / Wojna w Iraku”

     A redistribution of the wealth of Iraq is already under way with much more of that to come in the future, particularly after the final departure of all American forces and bases (which according to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) of 2008 is legally scheduled to occur on December 31, 2011. However, part of that agreement was that the Iraqi people were to vote on that in a 2009 referendum which has been postponed and postponed, according to some, by American pressure, because of anxiety over whether the Iraqi people would agree to the presence of the Americans for such a long time. In any event, this new Iraqi government that replaced the old nemeses’ of the Shiites, is hardly the democratic goal the Neo-Cons had in mind. Instead irony prevailed and an Iran-friendly Shiite “representative democracy” has sprouted in Iraq with a consequent downgrading of the former Sunni ruling class. If this new Shiite Iraq is satisfied with its new power, status and wealth and shares sufficient power (and oil revenues) with its former Sunni masters, perhaps a re-eruption of a civil war can be averted there. We hope.

     Afghanistan and pretty much the entire continent of Africa are excellent examples of how oppressed majorities cannot seem to change centuries upon centuries of traditional oppressive rule by small, well armed minorities, warlords and/or militias over vast dispirited majorities. Even the collapse of European colonialism, regular uncivil civil wars, foreign incursions replete with mass rapes and gristly atrocities, ghastly famines, interminable plagues all seem incapable of generating any kind of political change to empower majorities or even ease their socio-economic plight to any significant degree. As Kurt Vonnegut said in Slaughterhouse Five, “so it goes.”

     However, in more Westernized “democracies”, major catastrophes discredit former political economic orders more quickly, and revolution and/or evolution of the political system in response is also qualitatively distinctive. In these societies, counter-elites are more numerous and varied and sometimes – in systems that have “Proportional Representation” (or PR) – they may belong to political parties that already have seats in the legislature and/or are part of the ruling coalition of parties.

     A very good example of this latter point is the one we made earlier in Chapter 6 as to how swiftly the Western European empires and corporate capitalistic systems transformed themselves drastically after their implosion due to the two World Wars from 1914-1945 interspersed with a major economic Depression in the 1930s. This was “political economic system grand failure” – and the intense, prolonged pain felt by the destitute denizens of dozens of countries throughout Europe (and Asia) – spurred massive political economic change…on both continuums (political and economic) in a relatively brief span of time in terms of human history, i.e., 15 years or so.

     It should be mentioned that in all those nations, there were potent Socialist and Communist counter-elites who had been either “enemies of the state” or oppressed as parties in the prior status quo. After the complete collapse of the entire political economic system, they then became popular leaders of systemic transformation.

     Thus, as noted in Chapter 6…and it bears repeating here…the emergence of what is generally defined as “social democracies” was the result…a reasonable facsimile of the Golden Mean between Oligarchy and Democracy and between American free market capitalism and Soviet Union “socialism”. After all, on their Western flank, they were sheltered by American military installations and nuclear umbrellas and financially energized by the U.S.’s wisely conceived and swiftly and deftly executed “Marshall Plan.” On their Eastern flank, they were being directly threatened by an expansive Soviet Union, armed to the teeth, and which was spouting and touting a Soviet Communist political economic model as being “a worker’s paradise”—one they preferred to not enter.

     This lent itself to some sort of compromise system…with cultural variations. The old aristocracies and corporate oligarchs and imperialists had to make substantial concessions to the pro-Marxist counter-elites who were overwhelmingly elected to run their political economies in the 1950s and 1960s. The various and sundry royal families were not hanged or beheaded as in The French Revolution at the end of the 18th century, but were allowed to hang on and around for symbolic purposes. The big manufacturers and mercantile interests, who had financed the madness of that massive European holocaust, lost much power but still retained a great deal as the price for not backing civil wars.

In the U.S.A., It’s the Have Lots vs. the Have Nots:

The Winner Is Always “The System”

     As we saw in Chapter 9, the history of political economic change in the United States itself is also crammed with illustrations of how deep and widespread economic and political despair (and even Civil War) leads to substantial movement along both continuums. These are usually led by latent counter-elites (progressive or reactionary) who emerge and manage to gain and reshuffle power, status and wealth during and/or after particularly difficult times.

     The United States, though, is so different in its historical development than any other country in the world. Imbued with religious, social, economic and political orthodoxies that have been and remain unique despite their European roots, there has never been as radical a shift in political economy since its inception in 1789 as the one 20th century Europe experienced after World War II. Of course, World War II did not touch, much less harm, America’s entire manufacturing base either.

     In any event, America’s economic system has always tilted heavily towards the free market/entrepreneurial side of the economic continuum and the oligarchic side of the political continuum. As we have noted previously, this has held true ever since the historically revised, much misunderstood, but peaceful coup d’état (euphemistically enshrined as “The Constitutional Convention”) against the novel, radical democratic and decentralized first American government: The Articles of Confederation.

     With a large property owning class of small farmers and small homeowners (always much larger than anywhere in Europe), the American “middle class” has most of the time been a wide fulcrum that has not tolerated drastic shifts in the political economic balance. What it takes for moderate readjustments are relatively imperceptible and incremental, but actually substantial, changes in the economic distribution that cause searing discomfiture to a large part of the middle and working classes.

     This great tilting of wealth has occurred several times in American history. It happened during the rapid Westward expansion of the early 19th century, during some of the major economic “panics” and economic growing pains in the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, and of course, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. This last mentioned economic tyranny only ended with the industrial explosion accompanying America’s total immersion in The Second World War…and it resulted in perhaps the greatest political economic readjustment in American history, which we have described at some length before.

     Despite that, we believe it is safe to say that the deep cultural and ideological features of the American economy have slid back and forth only slightly since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. It slid more towards the socialistic pole from the New Deal up to the Reagan Revolution than at any time previously in its history.

     But the extreme right wing of the American power elite (corporate and theocratic) has been remarkably adroit in tacking and making its way back towards the laissez-faire pole in the past three decades (mid 1970s through November 2008). They have been greatly aided in this by their slow but lengthy takeovers of both houses of Congress, the presidency, the federal regulatory mechanism, most state governments, the courts at the state and federal levels and, of course as we just explained, the mass media.

     Indeed, thanks to the invidiousness of the corporate mass media through its diabolical, staging of many televised “debates”, the only candidates for the presidency in 2008 who really talked about any dramatic changes in policy, as well as the system itself (Ron Paul – a moderate Libertarian; Dennis Kucinich – a progressive Democrat; and Sen. Mike Gravel – a hybrid Democrat/Populist) were quickly turned into visual and virtual extremes at the margins of the TV screens. As a “fair and balanced” process, it was perfectly unfair and unbalanced, perfectly suited to avoid the major systemic problems confronting the American people at this key juncture in their history.

     Take the following video as an example of when the field was narrowed to Obama vs. McCain in 2008. Here again, America was in, according to just about everyone and all the economic data, “the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression.” Thus, “The Fed” had failed yet again, as did the entire U.S. government and financial system.

     Listen to the “debate” on the topic. All they discuss is the “bailout” of the “too big to fail” banks by hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money that will add mightily to the national debt. There is absolutely no discussion during this debate, nor throughout the entire presidential campaign, about “The Fed” and even after Obama’s election, more than a year later, there has been no mention of “nationalizing” the banking system in some way, as Great Britain has done to remedy much the same kind of crisis in 2009. Thus, the private central banking system remains pretty much in control of the lion’s share of the U.S. economy – despite its obvious bungling and extraordinary greed – with absolutely no debate on the mass media about a different, more governmentally involved model.

“2008 Presidential Debate”

     In terms of government structure, throughout American history since 1789, it’s been pretty much the same story, albeit with more and more types (major demographic clusters) of citizens being allowed to superficially participate in the electoral system (non-property owners, women, African-Americans) via voting for candidates for electoral offices. The introduction of citizens’ initiatives into the American state and local systems – a true democratization of some state governments – during the early part of the 20th century was probably the most democratic surge of all. Other than that, the “reforms” have been mostly cosmetic with Big Money doing most of the talking and walking and the people being either spectators or complacent as the “silent majority.”

     To elaborate a bit further on what was observed in Chapter 9, during the New Deal, Fair Deal, and Great Society period, what has inaccurately been labeled the more “liberal” part of the American elite, a more social-minded, less Emersonian and Social Darwinist but definitely non-Marxist counter-elite held sway. Its influence and power was felt through a new Democratic Party coalition that was the closest emulation to what European social democratic elites were fairly compelled to provide for their citizens after World War II.

     The way this was done was not through any major changes in the constitutional system, but only through legislation that created a number of new administrative agencies and programs at the federal level. Through a very progressive taxation system on the rich and corporations; more extensive and rigorous governmental regulation of the economy; and numerous and inventive ways of government intervention in stimulating the economy (minimum wages, social security, unemployment compensation, GI Bill of Rights, free state university educations, the Interstate highway system, government backed home loans, etc.) the American middle class grew to record proportions. This created a stable socio-economic situation for what seems, in retrospect, an eon by American standards.

     On the other hand, these measures were accomplished, as we described in Chapter 4, at the same time that the U.S. economy became more and more dominated by the military industrial complex – and related carbon-based industries – that came to rely more and more on foreign oil to expand The American Empire ever westward and ultimately throughout the entire globe. Thus, despite all the new agencies and tax laws and the public safety net, the American ruling class was not made impotent or even less important, it was somewhat contained but not the least bit constrained from actually growing stronger in other directions and linking itself with right wing political and well-organized religious elites at the same time.

 This latter day political development is one reason why the positive pro-social trend of the 1930s-1970s – the same system but with a more socially oriented wing of the American elite at the controls – disintegrated as quickly as it did. There are so many other factors that came into play as well, each difficult to measure and an impossibility to analyze as to their relative impacts. Some may say that the “liberal” Democratic coalition brought about its own demise through imperial overstretch in Vietnam. After all, it was that conflict that drove a stake in the heart of the New Deal alliance between the working class and the more progressive wing of the intellectual class.

     Others think that the “Cultural Revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s was to blame. It spoke of “making love, not war,” “power to the people,” and bashed and trashed the corporate elite. It experimented freely with psychedelic drugs and sexual license, if not licentiousness. It made deep inroads into empowering women and Blacks. All this threatened both the traditional moral values and personal status of working and middle class white males, plus enraged and engaged the extreme religious groups that are a deeply etched part of the American political psyche. Despite their relative weights, they produced a new alliance between a large portion of the white and blue collar classes with corporate and religious extremists wanting to turn the clock back to the Good Old Days of the 19th century…and the 1920s.

     But whatever the causes, and there were many interconnected ones, it is clear that the corporate globalizers heavily financed and weaved together the most extreme elements of the Republican Party with the descendants of the original religious pilgrims and zealots of Plymouth and Salem. Together, they fabricated a New Grand Republican Axis that was extraordinarily successful at birthing a whole new class of “Mega-Rich,” a much fatter 99th percentile, a severely crimped middle class, and an increasingly large, undereducated, unconventional, potentially violent and unpredictable desperation class…which during the pivotal years of 2008-09…began to realize they had been had.

     Even though many of the economic “losers” in this present phase of the struggle of the American “haves” vs. the “have-nots” had, up to 2008, been voting with the winning ruling coalition (the so-called “Reagan Democrats”), they have not really achieved their avowed moral and political agendas. There are many goals of theirs that have not been achieved even after 30+ years of being “in power”. Illustrations abound.

 They have not outlawed abortion. They have not aborted the ever-increasing empowerment of American women. They have neither shrunk the new black middle class nor rolled back their accession to some important political power at all levels of governance, not the least being the elevation of Barack Obama to the presidency. They surely have not broken free of federal governmental interference in their personal lives.

     Given these clear and present failures, it is truly impressive how the American Corporate Oligarchy – with the help of their corporatized religious “fundamentalist” allies – have managed to still get so many Americans to vote against their own clear economic interests. These poor and middle class supporters of the well spun “Reagan Revolution” are only now beginning to feel the true impact of what we call: “The Reagan Devolution”.

     Yes, as Aristotle’s theory predicted, the scions of “The American Aristocracy of Manufactures”, along with some unlikely allies and sinister collaborators, being “extremists” and not what they pretended to be, “conservatives,” just took matters to, well yes, the extreme. The Bush II Regime, carried The Reagan Devolution much too far toward the right hand side of the economic continuum in domestic tax and spending policies, governmental deregulation, and “imperial over-reach.” What follows is an exposition on the results of this disastrous, reactionary move to the right…and what finally jolted a slim majority of the American people out of their mass hypnosis and mental sclerosis and began to mobilize a new coalition for political economic change in the country that might lead to a better life for them and their families in the future.

     So, let’s take an in-depth examination of what their present state of economic desperation has come to be in recent years, right up to the present time, what led to the end of “The Reagan Devolution” and, perchance, the early rumblings of the end of The American Empire.

How to Impoverish the Working Class, Diminish the Middle Class and Further Enrich the Rich: A Manual for Greedy American Oligarchs

     As we noted earlier and throughout this book, an admitted and open target of the American Global Oligarchs was the nation state, particularly its regulatory powers and its power of taxation that funded both the “public interest” regulatory role and a modest redistribution of wealth from the rich down to the middle, working and poor classes, particularly after World War II. After all, this latter, unprecedented achievement of the American “liberal” counter-elites kept the unrepentant rich and the extreme right wing of the American ruling class from amassing even vaster reservoirs of capital to invest in schemes and projects all around the world.

     These “conservatives” (who wanted to conserve the oligarchy of pre-New Deal and pre-Populist times) nourished their hopes and stayed on course, believing in a long-cycle strategy that would put them back into the catbird seat eventually. Thanks to the Cultural Revolution and The Law of Unintended Consequences, they finally found their opening…and their gold plated, tin “hero” to “lead” the way to their own “City on the Hill.” Enter stage, extreme right: Ronald Reagan…a second tier motion picture actor, but a magnificent thespian in his greatest role as: “The Leader of the Free World.”

     This short video shows him at his best…funny, witty, good looking, personable, and able to win the American rural and working classes over to the Republican Party and its American Corporate Oligarchy political agenda. What finesse.

“Ronald Reagan”

     So, the way he and his backers regained power was to convince the American working and middle classes that they were being overtaxed to support a lethargic, unfriendly, bungling government. Hey, they had Vietnam and Watergate as a lot of “proof is in the pudding.” Not only that, but the “danged” federal government had a “liberal social agenda” that was a direct violation of their religious and political morals (pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, anti gun ownership, soft on crime, pampering lazy and shiftless “welfare queens”).

     Once a large chunk of the working and middle class was persuaded that the Republican Party could change all that, The American Corporate Oligarchy began to implement their economic domestic strategy described in Chapter 5. In other words, it was a classic “bait and switch” tactic that worked to perfection. The rest followed easily, since it was largely accomplished through the complex machinations of “the hidden government” aided by the exploding diversions and tempting stimuli for massive material over-consumption served up 24/7 by the corporate mass media.

Changing the Structure of Personal Taxation…

     One of the most efficient weapons in their arsenal was a massive change in the American tax code and its enforcement. Here are some of the main courses on their tax menu:

* Radically reducing the income taxes on the super rich 1% (taxing them at the former rate of the upper middle class).

* When Ronald Reagan (RR) came into office, the top income tax rate on merely wealthy individuals was 70% (it was much higher in the 1960s)…and when he left office it was in the high 30% range. This was (and still is) justified by saying that the extra income will be invested back into the American economy, and thus benefits all Americans. That’s why it’s

* called “The Trickle Down Theory, or “supply side economics” (The rich get a large “supply” of “capital” to invest).

* Halving the tax on capital gains almost exclusively reaped by the well-off). This extra money in the hands of the rich is also supposed to “trickle down” to the rest of us. Capital gains, by the way, are profits made from investments (like stocks and real estate) from buying low and selling higher. This income is now taxed at a much lower rate than income from salaries for making goods and providing services.

* Decreasing the tax on stock dividends (a nearly exclusive prerogative of the “trust fund class”). More so-called trickles. Again, the amount of income from owning stocks in corporations is taxed at a lower rate than income made from salaries and services.

* Lower the corporate tax rate directly or by expanding the cornucopia of deductions they could take. This lifted their profits, and thus capital gains and dividends for shareholders…and lowered the percentage of government revenue coming from corporations and the rich.

     This multi-pronged tax strategy, once put into effect, has had enormous consequences over the years. The data to illustrate this are voluminous, for this book, though, we offer the few exemplary snapshots depicted below. Entire books are available to show the full extent of the damage done.

 Daniel Bartlett and James Steele, two investigative reporters for the Philadelphia Inquirer show revealed how millionaires actual share of federal taxes (not the stated tax rates) declined from 49% to 27% from 1953-1991. During the same time span, middle income family’s share of federal taxes almost doubled. (Bartlett and Steele, 1994) Thus, as the Reagan tax policies were first taking effect, the rich were benefiting and the middle and working classes were not. It only got worse as the Reagan Devolution continued for decades. Nothing trickled. The only drops were in the incomes and benefits of working Americans.

     Another way of looking at this is given by the former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who is a Harvard economist: “In 1979, the top 5% of earners took home 16.4% of total family income, but by 2001, their share had increased to 22.4%. In contrast, in 1979 the bottom 60% of earners took home 31.4% of total income; by 2001, their share had declined to 26.8%” (Reich 2003). Thus, as the Reagan Devolution continued its war of attrition on the average American, yes even including “Democrat” Bill Clinton’s years, the gap between rich and poor has widened in the United States with America becoming the leader in the absolute number and highest percentage of global Billionaires! We hope that makes the reader swell with pride.

     Another ploy to sock it to the salaried classes during the Reagan years was to greatly increase payroll taxes on the lower 80-90% of the population. One of the major “reforms” The Reaganauts managed to weasel through was a huge increase in Social Security taxes on those who toiled for wages, which includes the vast majority of Americans

     Thus, on top of paying a greater percentage of income taxes, the working class (including teachers) now pays another 10% of their gross salary into payroll taxes like Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, those who receive the highest wages do not pay any payroll tax after a certain cutoff point (currently $100K or so). So if you are making $2 Million a year as the CEO of a big company, you only pay social security taxes on $100K…but get the highest benefits Social Security pays out to those who make $100K.

     From Reagan to Bush II, the oligarchs have kept pushing for even more outrageous schemes to disadvantage the working classes vs. the rich in the federal tax structure. For instance, one of their favorites is the “flat income tax” – which would mean that someone making $25,000 a year would pay the same percentage on their income tax as Bill Gates. Another is to repeal “The Estate Tax” – which is a tax on large estates now defined as $2 million or more. This obviously includes only the top 1 or 2 % of American households but would cost the U.S. Treasury a ton of money in revenue losses.

     The American Corporate Oligarchy, by hiring their experts in Public Relations, always comes up with sugar coated names for their schemes. In these last two instances, “the flat tax” which is the most regressive of income taxes (taxing the poor at the same rate as the obscenely wealthy) is called “The Fair Tax”. “The Estate Tax” – levied only on the richest estates in America, is dubbed by the oligarchs’ spin-meisters, and repeated interminably in their press – as “The Death Tax.” Fiendish euphemisms are not their short suit.

     Another one of their tax objectives, one deep in their anti-New Deal hearts, was to “privatize Social Security.” Right on the heels of the clear repudiation of the Iraq War in the 2006 election, which propelled the Democrats back into control of Congress, the unapologetic President George W. Bush made it his top priority for months to hopscotch around the U.S.A. promoting this idea. “It’s your money, not the government’s,” his teleprompter read, “so you should be able to invest it yourselves.”

 The American public, by this time, finally was not snookered by the Reaganite rhetoric. What Bush II and his cronies wanted was to saturate the stock market with a huge new cash flow from the Social Security Trust Fund that would have greatly increased the paper holdings of the super rich. It would also have placed a good part of the Social Security Trust Fund into the turbulent stock market which, as it has turned out, would have left most Americans having their Social Security benefits threatened right now because of the 2008-09 stock market crash. Part of the reason for this is that ever since Reagan got the new heavy payroll tax for Social Security, Congress has been raiding the fund to “balance the budget”…which of course it has failed to do given the size of the budget deficits. Thus, the “social security” crisis crafted for America’s future is pretty close to inevitable.

     All of these tax ploys have accomplished their goal of “redistributing wealth” upwards, thereby creating a deeper and wider rift between the poor, the working poor, the middle class on the one side of it, and the super rich on the other. So what?

     Even Business Week magazine, hardly a haven for closet Socialists, in a cover story called “Inequality: How the Gap Between Rich and Poor Hurts the Economy,” asserts how the increasing mal-distribution of wealth…with a poorer and poorer class of a growing number of indigent people… “is damaging educational levels,” “slowing the growth of the skilled workforce,” and “slows job growth”. See how the groundwork for the economic mess of 2010 was laid many years ago! It also goes on to show that the gap in the ratio of average hourly pay of men in the top 10% of wage earners to those in the bottom 10% increased substantially in the 1980-1990 period in the U.S. while it actually dropped in that time span in Germany and France. (Bernstein 1994).

     And remember: this Business Week story was written about the first 10 years of The Reagan Devolution. It’s been worsening ever since, right up to your reading this book!!

Unfair Tax Enforcement…

     There is yet another way that this tax burden has been inequitably foisted on the wealth-creators (instead of on the financial gurus and CEO class) in the United States in recent years, further aggravating the lopsided imbalances in the tax codes itself. This comes in the actual enforcement of the income tax law by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) itself.

     There was recent evidence that the IRS in the late 1990s had begun to scrutinize the tax returns of those who earned $100,000 or less per year in salary (well over 90% of the population) much more closely and far more often proportionately than were the returns of the very wealthy, top 1%. This caused a bit of a hubbub…and there was some talk about doing something about this particular travesty.

     One of the major reasons for this bias in IRS scrutiny was that the Internal Revenue Service was, as many other non-military government agencies, feeling its budget cut substantially and had to release part of its tax enforcement staff – just as military spending was going through the roof. Being more and more dwarfed, like other federal agencies, it had to reset its priorities.

     One of these was to spend less time on auditing huge corporations and filthy rich Americans since those potentially lucrative targets of audits The Bernie Madoff’s of the world, could afford top of the line accountants who knew how to juggle or conceal assets around the world, making it exceedingly costly and time consuming for the IRS to follow the labyrinth-like paper trails. Thus, the leaner, meaner IRS had to focus on those whose incomes were open and mandatorily reported and thus vulnerable to the newly created tunnel vision of the auditors. In other words, it was a lot easier to check on those American citizens whose salaries were withheld and whose entire income was forwarded to the IRS by whomever paid the wages or consultant fees.

     Charles O. Rossotti, the IRS Commissioner prior to 2005, recently wrote a book revealing how this has worked within the past decade or so. He notes that the “IRS enforcement strategy winds up scrutinizing ordinary taxpayers much more than the rich and powerful, who do not depend on wage income.” (Johnston 2005) Actually, Rossotti compares this policy to be that like “a police department that was giving out lots of parking tickets while organized crime was running rampant.” (Rossotti 2005) Furthermore, the IRS “picks on the little guy” while “largely overlooking an ocean of money hidden in business entities for which the owners, rather than the businesses themselves, were supposed to pay taxes.” (Rossotti 2005)

     So, with all these tax breaks and the newly neutered IRS, do rich Americans really hide any substantial part of their income and/or wealth so that the U.S. government is deprived of what it is owed by law? Do the Chinese like tea? “The Swiss Bank Account” has been the favorite storage place for misbegotten gains by dictators around the world. This is well known…and the Swiss banks have been protected by Swiss law from revealing to anyone who its depositors are and how much is in the clutches of The Gnomes of Zurich.

     But those are dictators; we can expect that from them. Wealthy Americans who already have all kinds of tax breaks and pay among the lowest income tax rates in the industrialized world…surely only a few of the sleaziest among them might salt a small portion away. Dream on.

     Much to our surprise, in November 2008, the United States Department of Justice – not the IRS – lived up to its name, while still under the administration of President George W. Bush. It opened a sealed indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Miami that accused a senior executive of the largest bank in Switzerland, UBS, of concealing a huge amount of money of a large number of rich Americans.

Thanks to Reuters for this photo

     According to Reuters, this top Swiss banker was charged with helping 17,000 members of the American upper class to hide “$20 billion of assets between 2002 and 2007…UBS gained $200 million a year in revenue from the work of (the named executive) and other executives and managers.” (Emphasis ours) The article in Reuters continued: “The indictment alleges the bank trained desk heads and bankers on how to avoid detection by U.S. authorities…it said the bank reminded clients that it had a record since 1939 of concealing client identities from the United States.” (Brown 2008)

     Isn’t that lovely? This means that members of the American oligarchy have been squirreling mountains of money in Swiss banks…even during World War II…so that they didn’t have to pay U.S. income taxes. If the Department of Justice has evidence on the Swiss bankers, let us hope they also have evidence to implicate the entire clientele. It would be a marvelous contradiction of what we have said in Chapter 10 about the American legal system – and what has come to be a scandalous norm of inequitable tax enforcement in the U.S. in the 20th and 21st centuries – to see a few thousand of these white gloved thieves serve some hard time for their economic crimes against their own country. But fear not, this won’t happen. The IRS offered “amnesty” for all those who disclosed their hidden overseas assets and, according to Reuters on October 15, 2009, 7500 wealthy Americans, some who had stashed up to $100 million to avoid paying taxes, “fessed up”…and will face no criminal charges. “Equal Justice Under Law?” Why no prosecutions, imprisonment and heavy fines? Go back to Chapter 10.

The Disappearing Tax Burden on the Giant Corporations

     But the tax battles don’t begin and end with individual members of the American wealthy class. As one might expect, the corporate sector is just as involved in trying to stonewall and stiff arm the U.S. government on taxes. Bartlett and Steels also wrote a book called America: What Went Wrong? In 1993. Using Internal Revenue Service data and analysis they made a number of similarly telling points about the expanding power and wealth of the corporations at the expense of government and of the ordinary American taxpayers.

     During the 1980s, for the first time in American history, corporations were able to deduct more of their tax burden than they paid. Back in the 1950s and 1960s – when America was at its political/economic zenith – corporations only managed to deduct a relatively tiny percentage for interest paid on debt (10-20%), while in the 1980s that soared to nearly 60%. That helps account for the tremendous budget deficits rung up during the Reagan Devolution…, which more than tripled our national debt during his 8 years in office (1980-88).

     Greatly reducing the tax rate on corporate profits in the US was accomplished in a bevy of ways. For a good example of the “reasoning” and “evidence” that the extreme right wing on the American political economic spectrum thinks this is a good thing, take a look at The Cato Institute’s video “Cutting the U.S.’s Corporate Tax Rate

“Cutting the U.S.’s Corporate Tax Rate”

     This video provides a persuasive argument with supporting data for doing so, since as was mentioned earlier, The Cato Institute’s political philosophy is about as close to the “laissez faire” model as you can get. So, after you’ve seen it, think about what was not said, like what percentage of their income do large American corporations actually pay taxes on? Since the onset of The Reagan Devolution began, the legal tax rate has very little relationship to the exact amount of money that large corporations truly fork over to the federal, or even state governments. This is accomplished in many ways, like:

* Off-shoring of corporate headquarters, in countries where there are virtually no taxes to be paid at all (let’s hope against hope that the Department of Justice investigates and indicts American corporations and well as foreign bankers);

* Giant corporations partner with foreign affiliates who pay the much lower corporate taxes – and usually wages to workers in those other countries – thus making large profits that benefit their shareholders (who will pay much less capital gains when they sell their stocks at a great profit);

* By allowing so many deductions that “…more than 60 percent of U.S. corporations failed to pay any federal taxes from 1996-2000 when corporate profits were soaring and that corporate tax receipts had fallen to 7.4% of overall federal tax revenue in 2003.” (Butts 2004)

* By cutting government regulations, and through “creative accounting,” it is relatively easy for these corporations to underestimate income and overestimate expenses with little IRS or SEC oversight.

     If all this is not sad enough, the period of The Reagan Devolution from the early 1990s to 10 years later saw an even more accelerated shift of wealth and power to the largest corporations and away from the manual toilers (including those who spend their lives at computers and in telephone headsets in tiny cubicles), small businesses, and even small to modest sized corporations. Again, according to IRS numbers, the larger the corporation, the smaller their tax rate. So, corporations with assets of $250 million paid about 20% of their profits in taxes while corporations with assets from $25-50 million paid nearly 37% of their profits in federal taxes. (Johnston 2003).

     Worse still, according to Citizens for Tax Justice www.ctj.org (a non-partisan, non-profit since 1979 that focuses on tax policies), “82 of America’s largest and most profitable corporations paid no federal income tax in at least one year of the first three years of the George W. Bush administration – a period when federal corporate tax collections fell to their lowest…level in six decades.” (Citizens for Tax Justice, 2004)

 Kevin Phillips, who was the founder of The Conservative Union, a right wing political organization in the 1960s that strongly supported all those tax policies that eventually came to pass during the Reagan Administration, took a look back at what had happened after Reagan left office. He was so startled and horrified at the hugely negative change in the American economic and social class scene that he felt compelled to write a book about it called The Politics of the Rich and Poor (Phillips 1990).

     In it, he laments the decline of the American middle class, the relative decline of America’s economic power and the looming bankruptcy of the American government. Once again, he proved to be quite the visionary. Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at what Reaganomics has done to America from 1980 right up to now. This is just a sketch of it. We don’t think we need to paint a Picasso sized “Guernica” mural for the reader to get a good mental graphic of the devastation that the American Corporate Oligarchy has brought upon the American people. Aristotle should be proud of his theory that it proves out so well 2500 years after he wrote about the tyranny of oligarchies..

What Reaganomics Has Done to America

     Okay de Tocqueville, Okay Mills – so what if there is a peculiar kind of American aristocracy, which is “the harshest” on all the continents? So what if they control all the major institutional hierarchies that make America what it is today – including our governments at all levels? So what if some of them may hold democratic values more dearly than the majority of the American people? So what if we have a real “upper class” that looks down on the rest of us and uses us as pawns in their economic and military games? What does that mean in terms of how America’s wealth and health is distributed? Does Becker’s Laws of Political Economy apply to today’s American Dream? What do 28 years of Reaganomics, a harking back to the extreme economic philosophies of an American yesteryear, mean to America today?

Help Fight the U.S. Workforce

Stock values equal a

rigged Dow, union busting,

jobs to Asia. Buy Now!

Ted Becker, The Haiku Blues

Constructing the Most Unequal Distribution of Wealth in the Industrialized World

     Let’s take a look at a tiny few of the headlines and stories we’ve been collecting during The Reagan Devolution from the American press that show cumulatively how the American Corporate Oligarchy treats the vast majority of Americans and themselves over time, compared with other industrialized nations in the world. We’ll bring it right up to the present.

“Gap in Wealth in U.S. Called Widest in West” (Bradsher 1995)

According to 1989 data, a comparison with Great Britain shows that the top 1% in the U.S. owned 40% of the wealth compared to only 18% in the much more traditional aristocracy of Great Britain. Not only that, it shows that once Reagan took office in 1980, that percentage, which had lowered after World War II, shot up to historical highs. In addition, the child poverty rate in the United States was 4 times that of Western European industrialized countries.

“The Wealth Gap is Real and It’s Growing.” (Krugman 1995)

According to Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize Winning Princeton economist, using 1994 U.S. Census data: “The truth is that the upper class is pulling away from the middle class. In fact, income is becoming more concentrated all the way up the scale…The widening of inequality is beyond doubt. It has been as firmly established by the evidence as the fact that smoking causes cancer.”

“Middle Class Earners Slip Behind.” (Thurow, 2000)

In 2000, Lester Thurow, an acclaimed professor of economics at the business school at M.I.T., claimed that the loss of earning power of the American middle class relative to the rich was continuing: “the middle class…is slipping sharply when compared to the top earners…In the rest of the industrialized world, the earnings of the 50th percentile households are not declining relative to those at the top or are declining at a much slower rate than what is being observed in the United States.”

“This Boom is a Bust”. (Sklar, 2000)

Holly Sklar, a syndicated columnist for Knight-Ridder newspapers, took a look at the statistics to see what they showed about the “economic boom that just broke the record for the longest (economic) expansion in our nation’s history.” What she discovered was that “Measured in millionaires, the boom has been a bonanza. The United States has 5 million millionaires, up from 1.3 million a decade ago (1990)…Measured in real net worth; the boom has been a bust for families headed by people younger than 55 years old. The typical net worth (assets minus debts), including home equity, headed by people younger than 55, actually fell from between 1989 and 1998.”

We hope the reader is mindful of the 2010 mantra of the Republican Party, now out of power, that continues to badmouth President Obama as a “Socialist” who wants to “redistribute the wealth of America.” Keep reading about the greatest redistribution of wealth UPWARDS in the history of this nation.

“On a New Map, the Income Gap Grows” (Johnston, 2000)

David Cay Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize winner reporter on taxes for the New York Times. He took a look at IRS tax data from 1986-1997…the great boom…and found what he felt was troubling news. During that boom, “average after tax income nearly doubled for the top 1 percent of taxpayers while remaining virtually unchanged for almost everyone else.” In 1997 dollars, then, the income for the top 1% jumped in that period from “$273,562 to $517,700…an 89% increase. Meanwhile, the bottom 90% of Americans saw their income increase from $23,815…way up from the $23,451 ten years earlier. That’s a 1.6% increase over 10 years. At least it didn’t decrease. Talk about “class warfare” and “gusher up” theory, this is it.

“Worker, CEO Pay Gap Way Up” (Knight Rider Tribune Wire Report, 2000)

According to Business Week magazine, “the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay in 1998 was 419:1. In 1990, it was 85:1. In 1980 (Authors Note: The first year of The Reagan Devolution), it was 42:1.”

To give you an idea of just how outrageous and outlandish this is, think of this. In 2010, at Auburn University, an average professor makes approximately $90,000 per year. The office secretaries make probably around $30,000…that’s 3:1. Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? Don’t professors live a much more comfortable lifestyle than office secretaries? Obviously. If anything, the secretaries should be up to around $45,000. And even the 2:1 ratio would make a big difference in lifestyles.

The President of Auburn University makes about $500,000 per year. That’s perhaps 17:1 to the office secretaries…and throw in the free house and perks, let say he gets $700,000 a year. That’s about 7:1 more than the average professor…and the Auburn president lives in high style. But the president obviously has a lot more responsibility and worries than either the average professor or secretary, and perhaps deserves the difference. But he only has 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. Everyone in the university has responsibilities and worries…every day. So, what in the world was 451:1 all about? How can a CEO of any company be worth that much more than even part time janitors?

By the way, after the economic “bubble” burst in 2001, we’ve seen some 2009 data that might indicate the incredible ratio of 450:1 has shrunk somewhat to only about 250:1 under the persisting conditions of one of the worst economic disasters in American and global history. How do they make do? The general public outcry at the huge bonuses being given by some of the bankrupt banks to the irreplaceable CEO bankruptcy-causing “talent” pool is an indication that even the general public is getting the general idea of the gluttonous and twisted values of the American Corporate Oligarchy.

“The Race to the Bottom” (Gartner, 2001)

Actually this is a book review by Gartner of a book called The Race to the Bottom: Why a Worldwide Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade Are Sinking American Living Standards. The author is Alan Tonelson, a researcher at The United States Business and Industry Council. According to Gartner, this book’s thesis is that it is not technology that is causing problems for the American workforce, but globalization and free trade. “As corporations relocate factories to the developing world…competition with low wage workers weakens the bargaining power of American workers, not only in low wage manufacturing, but increasingly in high tech industries as well.” It seems to us that the past 8 years have borne out Tonelson’s prediction, with the situation for the American workforce…in the manufacturing and high tech sector looking bleaker and bleaker. Good forcast.

“Aggressive Job Cuts Squeeze White Collar Workers to the Bone” (Cullen, 2001)

Dan Cullen reviews Jill Andresky Fraser’s book White Collar Sweatshop. Fraser, who is a well-known financial writer and has been an editor at Inc. Magazine and Bloomberg Personal Finance, knows the world of which she writes. What she’s describing is how the descendants of the American Aristocracy of Manufacturers is abusing its white-collar workforce through its increased workloads, stagnant salaries and “blurring the line between job and home.”

In addition to reinforcing the data about the obscene differential between the white collar workers and their CEOs discussed above, she notes the cost to the workforce and general good of the national economy. As to the former, Cullen notes that “The toll on white collar professionals…is writ large in rising stress and job dissatisfaction. She cites a 10-year study finding serious job-related problems made a person five times more likely to develop colorectal cancer and …She notes an estimate that the cost to the U.S. economy of job related stress is “$200 billion a year.”      

“Corporate Wealth Share Rises for Top-Income Americans” (Johnston 2006)

Just in case the reader might think all this above has slowed down some, think again. David Cay Johnston, while analyzing more recent U.S. government data, observes that: (a) “The top (1%)’s share of corporate wealth has grown by half since 1991 (from 38.7% then to 57.5% in 2003”… (b) “For every group below the top 1 percent, shares of corporate wealth have declined since 1991…the poorest fifth of Americans (declined 57% ownership of corporate wealth) from 1.4% in 1991…(to) 0.6% (in 2003).” (Johnston 2006, 21)

“The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age” (Uchitelle 2007)

In a revealing and informative article on the attitudes of the extreme wealthy in modern America (The top .001%), the noted New York Times economic writer Louis Uchitelle interviews many of them and finds out that they truly believe that they are worth every billion they own. Almost none see anything wrong with it, want no change in the tax structure, and sound a lot like those very satisfied with the global and American status quo. Why not? But there are a few naysayers and class traitors among them and their fellow corporate power holders. A few years later, in 2010, there seems to be an outbreak of uncharacteristic contrition among them.

For example, Paul Volcker (former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and a close economic to President Obama) is “scornful” of such an attitude. He notes that “I don’t see a relationship between the extremes of income now and the performance of the economy” or that they (the extremely wealthy CEOs) are “more than others, (are) the driving force of a robust economy…The market did not go up because businessmen got so much smarter…(the 1950s and 1960s) were very good economic times and no one was making what they are making now.” Uchitelle goes on to quote James E. Sinegal, CEO of Costco: “Obscene salaries send the wrong message through a company…The message is that all brilliance emanates from the top; that the worker on the floor of the store or the factory is insignificant.”

     Does all this (and we could add hundreds of other stories and data bases) not describe the “harshness” seen and feared de Tocqueville? Is this not the abuse of the masses described by Aristotle as the result of a devolution towards the rule of a very few? Isn’t all this perfectly illustrative of Becker’s Laws of Political Economy?

The High and (not so) Mighty

High strife, high tech, high

life, prep schooled, low piety,

high debt, high anxiety

Bankrupting America’s Government, or “Starving the Beast”

 All of the above has not only been to enrich the rich, but also part of the reactionary right wing of the American Corporate Oligarchy’s plan to caponize American government, make it completely ineffectual in thwarting their barely hidden agendas. This is what Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman calls their “Starve the Beast” theory…which he defines as a theory “…long advocated by right wing intellectuals: cut taxes, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse for cuts in social spending.” (Krugman 2005) If that was their goal, they were on the 1-yard line with time running out. Time for a goal line stand by the home team! Barack Obama, the team’s new defensive coordinator, can’t just look for a stop; he needs to force a turnover.

     The other major tactic has been to bankrupt the American government system in almost all ways, but to support: (a) a military large and over-equipped enough to maintain both American imperial hegemony and (b) a police state capable of making their organized religious base believe in the illusion that they are attaining their ideological goals (stopping the usage of certain drugs; eliminating abortions: punishing homosexuality.) Aside from the ever-increasing size and scope of the military, with their fancy equipment and urban guerrilla tactical spillovers into the growing police state, these other issues are of absolutely no significance to the American global oligarchs. It has been a marriage of convenience.

 The undermining of the size and efficiency of the United States government to regulate their financial and industrial endeavors, however, is an important goal of The American and Global Corporate Oligarchy as we have reminded the reader throughout this book. This coordinated strategy of decreasing taxes on the rich and the corporations, while increasing federal government expenditures and subsidies for the military industrial, criminal justice industrial, and other politically friendly industrial complexes, has produced an incomprehensible U.S. national debt. Like what?     

     Under Bush II, the budget deficits have set new records (the previous one was $290 billion set by Bush I in 1992). So, like father, like son. By 2004 it was a whopping, unimaginable $412 billion for that year. In early March of 2005, “the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted annual budget deficits of more than $200 billion over the next 10 years…That’s on top of the $7.7 trillion debt we already owe” (Birmingham News editorial, 2005). Unbelievable, isn’t it? Well, guess what? They vastly underestimated the incredible power of Reaganomics…casting its spell over both Bush II and Obama-nomics as well.

     Yes, believe it or not, in 2009 the national debt was already over $12 Trillion dollars and bursting into the stratosphere!! When Reagan, who should be renamed “The Great Bankrupter,” first came into office, it was already at record levels, under $1 Trillion. As Bush II leaves office, the official estimates for the fiscal year 2008-2009 are projected to be more than $1 Trillion for one year!! But wait, it gets worse. President Obama’s first year in office in projected to run a $1.4 Trillion deficit with more of the same to come in 2010 thanks to the first “economic stimulus” and continued bailouts of banks and industries.

     The “conservatives” who wanted to crush American government are smiling from ear to ear. So was the Chinese Communist Party which has become the largest single holder of U.S. Treasuries, or U.S. debt in 2010, with an estimated $2 trillion which they are beginning to say may be diminished by all the spending being proposed by the Fed and the Obama Administration that will be funded exclusively by further national debt. No creditor wants to see a big debtor going much deeper into debt, since they fear a looming insolvency.

     If the reader will look at the figure below, s/he will notice that green 4-year blip….that signifies that the United States government was running a “surplus”, i.e., more income and revenues than money spent. That was a quaint aberration because President Bill Clinton was not a strict adherent of Reaganomics. Thus, the “Starve the Beasters” were not happy with his “balanced budgets.” They worked hard to put in Reagan II, the son of Bush I. His economic policies were just what those Big Boys wanted. Just look at all those yellows and the red bar–which is actually deeper than this early 2009 diagram shows.

     OK, despite the havoc that the CCP, as America’s leading creditor, can cause to the American economy now or in the future, what does that exponentially growing monster federal indebtedness actually mean to the average American? We already know that she and he are paying a much greater percentage of their income than large corporations to just pay the interest on that debt at the expense of important domestic priorities.

     Like what? Back in 1970 – prior to the planning of the corporate globalist takeover and in what some of us call “The Good Old Days” – the United States government spent $41 Billion on K-12 in all 50 states. The national debt in 1970 was so small (a paltry $14 Billion) that the interest it cost to pay it off ate up only 25% of all the spending on educating American children. In 1990, after the American Corporate Oligarchy’s plans had been well under way to beggar the country, although the U.S. spent $199 Billion on education, the government spent 95% of that amount to pay off the interest on the national debt, gobbling up $184 Billion. (Guess which program – public education or paying off the national debt – consumes a larger part of the national budget in 2009? (a) Money spent on interest___(b) Money spent on education___. All those who answered (a) get an A.

     According to no less than the government’s chief accountant, David Walker of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), “…as a result of the existing debt, the United States had less money to spend on infrastructure, technology and education – improvements needed to be competitive in the global market.” (Almond 2008) So, the greater the debt, the more of an impediment to America pulling out of the mess it’s in. With less spent on developing new technologies and education, the greater the disadvantage for the future of the nation and its youth.

     We also know that this national debt owed by all American citizens means that America is getting itself deeper and deeper into hock to other foreign central banks and rich foreigners (as well as rich Americans and American banks)…who finance that obligation by stockpiling dollars, buying long term U.S. government bonds (IOUs) and buying up American assets. Robert Deitz, the business editor of the Dallas Times Herald agrees with the above, but adds the following as consequences:

     He puts it like this: “the federal debt is directly related to productivity and living standards. As public debt rises, more money must go for interest payments…Which means fewer resources available for businesses to invest in new plant and equipment…which means fewer job opportunities…” (Dietz 1991) unless, of course, you want to compete with Indian workers in India, be an “associate” at Wal-Mart, or do the dirty work now reserved for Latin American “illegals.”

     Another big potential problem is that “More than three quarters of the federal budget deficit from March 2001 through September 2006 was underwritten by overseas investors, according to Christian Weller, the senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based, left-of-center think tank.” So why is that a problem? From the other side of the American political spectrum, The Heritage Foundation, comes the answer: “…a country that typically lends money to the United States could begin charging higher interest rates on the loan out of concern for what it sees as an uncertain U.S. financial future…So we would all end up paying more for mortgages, more for cars, etc.” (Almond 2008) Is this the moneybags strategy of the CCP, Japan, The Sovereign Wealth Funds, Russia…as they grumble and mumble about a new world economic order to supplant the American dominated Bretton Woods economic structure? We’ll see in the next year or two.

Want to See the Current National Debt, Deficit and How Much Americans Owe Right Now? Click on the website below to see the Mother of All Debt Clocks!!

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

The Final Solution to the Labor Problem:

The Rise of the American Coolie

     The other part of the global oligarchist strategy, to weaken (or if possible, destroy) Western labor unions in the European social democracies and the U.S.A. has been to export high paying, high social benefit union (and non-union) jobs to what used to be called “Third World” … or even “Second World” countries. In the U.S.A., it’s been to Central America and Asia. In Europe, it’s been to former Soviet Bloc countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

     The American part of this strategy was, in part, institutionalized by NAFTA…and was the beginning of what Ross Perot foresaw as a wholesale deportation of American manufacturing jobs to new factories abroad that were in large part financed by various allies in the Global Corporate Oligarchy…following their leader: The American Corporate Oligarchy..

     One of the first developments along these lines was to place a fleet of American companies in Mexico, many flush with the U.S. border, and have goods assembled there by the very cheap Mexican labor and, naturally, to pay the very low Mexican taxes. These were called the “maquiladoras”. Of course, all the profits went back to the American corporations in the U.S. and to their shareholders. Good for the rich. Not so good for the American workers who lost their jobs…and for whole towns who lost their major manufacturing base…and slid into economic and psychological depressions. You can find wide swaths of abandoned American factories throughout the United States today, it becoming an economic plague during the years of the Reagan Devolution…including the 2 terms of “Democrat” President Bill Clinton.

Photo from Arizona Republic newspaper

Shows small part of formerly American factory jobs now in Mexico

     According to Wikipedia, by 1985 the maquiladoras “had become Mexico’s second largest source of income from foreign exports, behind oil…between 1995 and 2000, exports of assembled products in Mexico tripled.” However, the people who were profiting immensely from this string of “outsourced” American factories saw an even greater source of profit by moving some of these, and many other, American factory jobs to an even cheaper and less democratic and ecologically sensitive places…like Asia…and particularly that new workers idyll, Communist controlled China.

     This new rush to ever more profitability for the rich and a firmer economic chokehold over American organized labor reached its peak after President Bush II came into office when approximately 3 million manufacturing jobs were lost to American workers in his first term of office. Such a drain on the American labor force had the extra benefit to the global oligarchs of putting tremendous downward pressure on the wages of all American labor – organized or not – which is one reason why after almost 20 years of Bull Markets on Wall Street, that the inflation adjusted wages of the average American worker showed about zero gain.

     After all, now American workers had to compete with Asian labor markets that had no independent unions – due to governmental or paramilitary oppression and/or CCP co-optation of all Chinese labor unions plus little to no government mandates to protect the environment. Also, in all of these countries, the standard of living was about as pitiful as it can get (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, and the greatest low wage market of them all, the home of “coolie wages” and the rice bowl standard itself, Communist China).

     In addition, as many Americans have come to figure out, despite all of the immigration laws, there has been a torrential flood of Mexican and Latin American workers who have entered the U.S.A illegally to get work at much less than the Congressionally mandated minimum wage. This, too, has been part of the anti-labor strategy embraced by many huge American industries that rely on such bargain basement labor, at the expense of American citizens who would be willing to do that work at a decent, legal American wage.

     Despite all the bluster about “protecting” our borders, plus the new fences, towers, barbed wire, sensors and increased U.S. Immigration Service, national guard and vigilante group patrols (and we bet soon to be joined by (initially unarmed) “surveillance” drones over the U.S.) …there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million illegal workers in this country (no one really knows the exact number) at present. They do various menial tasks at peon wages, for pennies to the dollar, compressing the labor market for many able bodied, skilled Americans.

     This makes for many unemployed and underemployed Americans and increases the gap between rich and poor in this country while also causing deterioration to the American educational and health systems…which are underfunded due to the loss of its manufacturing base and lower tax revenues from the wealthy and the corporations. Thus, the national debt continues to grow!! The American worker is becoming a Western version of the Chinese coolie…if he or she even can get a job these days. Watch the unemployment and underemployment or giving-up-on-finding employment figures rise—or hover around the 20% mark for years to come ! Watch the average American living standards go way down!

     Thanks to Bing.com for the cartoon on the left. It makes the point that the rich don’t really care. They get cheap domestic help, make greater profits from their own enterprises that use this economically desperate help that is treated as quasi galley slaves, deny these people any hope of unionizing, enjoy their privileged lives of private jets, multiple mansions and penthouses in many parts of the world, and barely notice that ordinary American life is in a nosedive. After all, they earned it making all those calls on their Blackberries, sitting in all those reunions at The Harvard Club, and doing all that drudge work of driving golf balls on luxurious golf courses. They also “earn” their privileges by thinking up new and ingenious ways of keeping the average American middle class family and the worker and coolie classes happy by providing them with what was promised to be endless “credit” to buy their way to material heaven. How did they do that and how that has come crashing down comes next.

America, the All-Time Greatest Debtor Nation: Plan A

     Another feature of this Globalist strategy has been to weaken the entire American economy and merge it into the Global Economy (G7, G7 + Russia, called G-8, but really G7½), IMF, WTO et al) that they and their allies around the world have done their best to centrally “manage”. They have tried to accomplish this, in large part, by using many of the same tools wielded to bankrupt American government, i.e. this time by running up an absolutely massive un-payable debt owed by the mass of the citizenry itself.

     So, by using the same game plan, with the help of their diffident and complicit mass media, they have succeeded in transforming most Americans into “shopaholics,” “mall rats” and “gasoline guzzlers”. But how could they do this at the same time they are not increasing wages, decreasing health and pension benefits, importing armies of illegal workers, and hollowing out America’s manufacturing core?

     The answer: plastic and rubber money. In recent decades, the credit card industry has been running at a feverish pace, sending people batches of “pre-approved” credit cards whether or not they even have jobs. You don’t even have to ask for one. They arrive regularly in the mail along with the onslaught of catalogs from companies you’ve never ever heard of before. Bundles of Visa cards, Master cards, Discover cards arrive courtesy of “bulk mail” rates. So, with these in the hands of the working public which has zero wealth and almost no discretionary cash, people have been ringing up debt like it never needs be paid off.

     On top of that, the mortgage industry – mainly banks and mortgage companies – has in recent years relaxed the formerly rigid (and financially sound) requirements to get a mortgage on a house to providing one with almost, or actually, nothing down. They also came up with a number of schemes to make it “easy” to get a mortgage, like reducing the interest rates to unrealistic lows and then adding on a ballooned rate that would kick into gear a few years down the line (Adjustable Rate Mortgages or ARMs). On top of all that, they made it simple to get “lines of credit” on house mortgages, so that citizens would borrow against the value of their homes until they had no equity left…and an extra large mortgage to pay off coming due in a few years time.

     In other words, like the old “company store” (“Sixteen plastic cards and whaddya get, another day older and deeper in debt.”) that gave the poor workers enough “credit’ to buy the essentials that their wages could not, they kept the workers tethered to the company forever…through deep indebtedness…much like the original British colonists did to their “indentured servants” and settlers in the corporate run towns of colonial America. Now, with this “system” of credit cards and seemingly free mortgages, the average American became so deeply in hock to banks and credit card companies that they are right now truly “drowning” in debt and their mortgages are “under water.”

     These truly unpayable loans are what the gigantic banks (like Citigroup, Bank of America, JP Morgan-Chase) and mortgage companies (like Washington Mutual, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are having to “write down” from assets to liabilities and thereby are going belly-up. Of course, some of them got their cronies at “The Fed” and “Treasury” and in the White House to pony up $4 Trillion in “guarantees” from the U.S. taxpayers of the future and another couple of Trillion in basically interest free loans, so now they are “profitable”, their stocks going up on Wall Street, and a much poorer America is paying their tab.

 What is more, this apparition of an unlimited cash supply fuelling a drunken buying binge by Americans for decades is what the brainless mass media and the corporate economists hailed as “the engine of growth of the globalized economy.” But the hidden agenda in this was for the American economy to ring up a cavernous gap, each and every year, between exports and imports. This is what is known as the balance of payments deficit. If a nation imports more than it exports, it is losing wealth America has been dumping its “wealth” overboard for years and years…thanks to The New World order boys and their allies, The Reagan Devolutionaries. This money has generated real growth of the Global Corporate Oligarchy, creating a new global class of billionaires…but put America on the road to national impoverishment.

     How bad is it for American’s economy at this time? During the 8 years of the Bush II regime, the national debt plus the national balance of payments deficit have risen to a stratospheric $10 Trillion. A very powerful Republican Senator in the 1960s, Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois) said jokingly once: “A billion here and a billion there, soon you’ll be talking about real money.” How about 4 trillion here and 4 trillion there? It may not be “real” money, but it is “real debt.”

     Why is this a problem – since America’s GDP in 2008 was about $14 Trillion? In March 2005, “The current account deficit – the gap in the trade of goods and services that the United States has with the rest of the world – is a threat because it has to be financed with money from abroad.

     “If the rest of this world became less willing to finance that deficit, the dollar would fall and America’s interest rates would rise. The current account deficit for the fourth quarter (of 2004)…is expected to be $182.8 billion, according to Bloomberg News (As we have noted before, a major American financial newsletter). For the year, that would make the deficit a record $659 billion, up 24 percent over 2003”. (Fuerbringer 2005)

     Another effect of non-Americans calling in these loans would be “to constrain growth for many years” (Andrews 2005). Hmmm. This was getting serious in 2005. Let’s delve a bit deeper into it and see where it has left the United States in 2010.

     Looking at the MRI images, what we see is internal hemorrhaging of a major fiscal artery with America’s lifeblood flowing from the United States to other countries. (Isn’t this the direct opposite of Adam Smith’s way of capitalism creating “the wealth of nations”?).

     Since Bush II took office and continued to allow the American economy to stay the Ronald Reagan course (and go “Full Steam Ahead”)…the balance of payments deficit for the United States has become an 800-pound albatross around the neck of the nation. Here is the picture, from the Economic Progress Institute’s annual report – which can be found at www.epi.org in its February 15, 2008 homepage newsletter.

     While all this cannot be blamed on Skull and Bones Bush II, or even his and his Congressional compatriots’ policies (Democrats and Republicans alike), it is most assuredly due to a speed-up of The Reagan Devolution…and its almost total deregulation of the global economy (“free trade,” “no protectionism,” “being globally competitive,” yada, yada, yada). Also, by the way, the Institute that provided this graph, in its analysis, is actually optimistic that the deficit shrunk in 2007 to a paltry $712 Billion. But that’s the good news.

     The bad news is, as we have seen in our discussion of The Fed, due to these very same people running the show, the value of the Once Almighty Dollar has eroded rapidly in the past few years (about half of its value against the Euro in about 8 years time) thus making the cost of American exports cheaper and the cost of imports much, much more expensive.

     Given this near free fall of the dollar (which goes up and down a tad every once in a while, but keep your safety belt tightened), one might have expected imports to decline substantially (since they would cost more) and exports to soar (since American products and services, priced in devalued dollars, would be so inexpensive. One would be looking at the wrong numbers). The right number is the combination of the mushrooming national debt with the ever-hemorrhaging national balance of payments deficit (in large part due to the rising costs of importing oil)… which together is bleeding Americans to death. 

     All this together, as the situation on the ground in 2010 confirms, has made the U.S. the cosmos’ all-time “Debtor Nation” whose feckless (if not inebriated) government spending has been subsidized by mindless federal borrowing and a print-money-out-of-thin-air currency policy of the Federal Reserve run by Alan Greenspan and his disciple, Ben Bernanke. Some sane economists know this double dosed, unprecedented national financial catastrophe as “The Twin Deficits”…and they are scared witless about them, if they care about the future of America.

     But do we worry? No. After all, most traditional economists, not even bothering to glance up from their musty ledgers, reassure us that as long as the double deficits are not over 10% of America’s Gross National Product, they just look bad. Whew, now we can go back to our play-stations. But wait a minute, it has not been the tradition of the U.S.A. to have (1) a completely bankrupt government which (2) is hell bent on spreading more red ink on the balance sheet and (3) having such massive outflows of its debased currency at the same time. So maybe we ought to stop dwelling in our virtual world and return to (ugh) the real world?

     Reality Check: By 2010, there is scarcely any sign of a switchback from any of these alarming curves. The U.S. government continues to heap ever more debt upon its citizens (for instance, that marvelous $150 Billion dollar “tax rebate” in the Spring and Summer of 2008 that was printed up on increasingly worthless paper called ”Federal Reserve Notes”, produced a small dent in the balance of payments deficit even with the price of oil being cut in half in late 2008).

     But the hits kept on a-coming. Since all of the above calamities are the direct and proximate cause of the collapse of the credit markets in 2007-09 (Discussed in Chapter 11 about The Fed) and the ensuing “financial crisis” – which then led to the ensuing crisis in the “real economy” including (a) an almost unprecedented erosion in the value of American homes; (b) an equally alarming erosion in the value of many American’s private pension plans; (c) the worst stock market crash since 1929 – all together which amounts to what most economists have dubbed “The Worst Global Economic Crisis Since 1945”. Was all that still Plan A?

The Selling Out of America to Its Global “Pals”: Clever By Half

     Not exactly. We’ll get to that. But first, there was another part of Plan A that must be clarified. This involves, what Lou Dobbs, the chief financial reporter and commentator of CNN, describes as The War on the Middle Class (2006) and U.S. Senator Byron L. Dorgan (D-South Dakota.) tells Americans in his book about who wants to: Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain Dead Politics is Selling Out America (2006). These are just two of the many well informed, strategically placed and patriotic Americans who see that the American Corporate Oligarchy is well along in its desire (or “plan?”) to sell major American debts and assets to its friends in the Global Corporate Oligarchy…and actually to anyone who holds a lot of American dollars and securities.

     This is done in several ways. The first has to do with what we have been talking about, that is, the huge debts run up by The American Corporate Oligarchy both by its intentional and intended trade and fiscal policies via its control of American government and its dominance in business. After all, debts have to be owned by someone. A lot of government debt is owned by the very same people who ran the debts up: the bankers, insurance companies, and other financial institutions and by the super rich who control the U.S. budget. However, in recent years, with the national debt way above the clouds, a larger and larger share is being bought up by foreign interests in the form of U.S. treasury notes, IOU’s…. with interest.

     Thus, according to the non-partisan, data loaded website Economy in Crisis www.economyincrisis.org: “…as of December 2007, the U.S. owed 53% of its debt to foreign countries and other international interests…and we finance nearly 100% of new borrowings from foreign interests – our competitors are now our bankers.” (E-mail Alert, October 2008) Thus, in 2010, that percentage may grow even larger, particularly as the U.S. government goes hat in hand to them to help avert a full-scale depression.

     The American Corporate Oligarchy’s Prayer 2010:“Please, please Communist Party of China, buy up some more U.S. Treasuries. Please King Abdullah, vacuum up some more U.S. debt. Please, please Mother Russia, we need you to back-up our wars and crumbling economy. Please Central Bank of Japan, we have a yen for your help.” The Twin Deficits continue to grow from Tiny Tots to NFL defensive linemen size. One of them has a hammer and sickle as the logo on the side of his helmet. Another is wearing the headdress of the Royal Saudi family. A defensive end’s helmet has on it the Rising, or is it The Setting, Sun? (Thanks Coach Reagan, we’re glad we named our National Airport after you because it’s where our wealth departs without a security check).

     Another way that America is being “sold out” is that many foreign interests are buying many of its key assets up. Like what? Like real estate. Like companies. Like banks. Formerly owned and controlled by Americans, many major industries in the U.S.A. are now either owned outright or have major or controlling shares by non-American financial, industrial and political interests. Well, is this new? No. But the extent of it in 2010 is unprecedented since World War II for sure and is growing unabated. In other words, to our way of thinking and according to the data, Americans need to wake up and smell the tea.

“The Selling Out of America”

     So, who do you think will be conducting those “National Security Checks” – and in the meantime the Gulf emirates have bought up major stakes in more U.S. financial institutions, helping raise the value of their stocks in late 2009. Now do you feel more nationally secure?

     Let’s take a look at some data accumulated by Economy in Crisis www.economyincrisis.org along these lines:

* “Wholesale sellout of core strategic assets to foreign acquirers: according to official figures, more than 16, 613 U.S. companies have been sold to foreign corporations from 1978 to July 2008 for trillions of dollars;

* “Decline of vital industries through bankruptcy, foreign predatory practices, and foreign acquisitions: examples include steel, publishing, textiles, machine tools, automobiles, electronics, movies and more. Here is a list of some major American domestic industries which now are more than half owned and controlled by non-American interests:

Foreign Ownership Of Selected U.S. Industries

Industry

Percentage Foreign Owned

Sound recording industries

97%

Commodity contracts dealing and brokerage

79%

Motion picture and sound recording industries

75%

Metal ore mining

65%

Motion picture and video industries

64% 

Wineries and distilleries

64%

Database, directory, and other publishers

63%

Book publishers

63%

Cement, concrete, lime, and gypsum product

62%

Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment

57% 

Rubber product

53%

Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing

53%

Plastics and rubber products manufacturing

52%

Plastics product

51%

Other insurance related activities

51% 

* “Insourcing of foreign manufacturers destroys our domestic industries, takes profits and taxes overseas, and provides mainly low-skill jobs for American workers: foreign manufacturers operating in the U.S. accounted for over 20% of our exports and manufacturing assets, and a large percentage of our employment in 2006.

 The Southeastern part of the United States, with its traditionally fierce opposition to American labor unions, has been particularly eager to attract major EU, Japanese and Korean heavy industry to their neck of the woods. Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, and Kia have all become rooted there in the past decade or so. The various states in that area compete heavily among themselves by offering foreign owned corporations such goodies as: building the infrastructure (roads, interstate interchanges, sewers, power lines, railroad spurs), providing free training of their workforce and handing out incredibly generous tax breaks. In order to get Mercedes to build its new SUVs in Vance, Alabama, the state government forked over approximately $200,000 for each of the 1,500 jobs promised.

     To top it off, the state of Alabama has lured the German steel company Thyssen-krupp (a merger of two of the major industrial supporters of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party) to that state in 2008, with much the same package of freebies. Wouldn’t Ford, or new car companies, or new or old American steel companies also be attracted by such enticements? Ooops. They have the United Autoworkers Union—verboten..

     To be fair, this is not limited to the Southeastern states, although they seem to be a most desirable hunk of American property, given their world reputation as union baiters and haters. The problem is national in scope.

     If all this isn’t enough to make at least a prima facie case that at least the American Corporate Oligarchy doesn’t care whether or not America loses its identity as a major industrial power, or is substantially overtaken by foreign or globalist political economic interests, there is the issue of selling off large chunks of America’s government built (a necessary Adam Smith government role in capitalism) capitalist infrastructure to foreign governments and companies. How about its highway system?

     In an article written by its editor Richard McCormack for Manufacturing and Technology News www.manufacturingnews.com, we find out that in 2005, the State of Indiana leased its turnpike to a consortium of two foreign companies, Australia’s Macquarie Corporation and Spain’s Cintra for 70 years in return for $3 billion. Indiana also agreed to not improve any roads within 10 miles of the now “privatized” toll roads, so these global corporations could be guaranteed hefty profits. (McCormack)

     A few years later, the State of Texas leased State highway 121 outside of Dallas to the same global consortium. The Australian firm, Macquarie, also purchased 42 small newspapers along Interstate 35, which is projected to become a key link in a controversial “super highway” from the Texas border to Canada.

     Many in Texas fear this a crucial part of a super secret plan for what some call “The North America Union”, or NAU, that will become the North American counterpart of the EU…replete with a new currency called “The Amero.” According to many in the American political right, this is in the cards, but is being camouflaged by a dull sounding name to cover the real design, i.e., The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SSP. It has its own website at www.spp.gov and an attractive logo.

     The way this is being spun and done is as a bureaucratic exercise that precedes an informal political integration process, with the publics of all three countries being left out of the discussion, as each piece is being produced and assembled. The ruling oligarchies and corporate elites of the United States (both parties), Canada and Mexico (pretty much a one party state) are meeting in high style, making pronouncements about “the harmonization” (George W. Bush’s word), “security”, “prosperity,” “getting rid of regulations,” “the challenges of globalization” and the usual litany of buzz words. Meanwhile, the “Iron Pentagram” in Washington is busy at work as are their counterparts in Mexico City and Ottawa.

     Whatever it may be called, what is at stake here is the U.S. Constitution and the sovereignty of the United States. If this is what is in the works, this would not be a piecemail “selling out” of America…, as much above seems to indicate. This would be wholesale.

     If you’d like to see the official line online, go to the above website. If you’d like to see how Lou Dobbs, the “conservative watchdog” media monitoring group “Accuracy in Media” (or AIM) www.aim.org, and how a Canadian TV station reports on the latest meetings of the top leaders of this putsch, here are three interesting videos on YouTube that should pique your interest in at least two ways.

“CNN Lou Dobbs Amnesty Bill’s Worst Provision NAU”

“Lou Dobbs and SPP”

“Lou Dobbs: States Fight North American Union”

     First, it will raise your awareness about the subject matter itself. Second, it should make you wonder why America’s national political class and mass media are almost totally silent on this astounding development involving the very existence of America in the future. One also has to ponder how they can be mute despite the fact that since late 2008, at least a dozen state legislatures are debating and/or passing resolutions against this “harmonization” proceeding any further.

Search YouTube: “Security and Prosperity”

                  “Lou Dobbs Reports on North American Union and SPP”

                  “Lou Dobbs: States Fight North American Union

Is There a Plan B or Has Plan A Just Flunked Out?

     Thus, the policies and goal of the American Corporate Oligarchy seem to be within reach…unless, perchance, The Law of Unintended Consequences has trumped their plan. Could it be that they miscalculated? Could it be that things have gotten out of even their control? Has the New World Order turned into a New World Order Not of Their Making or Liking – a New World Disorder? How is the American Corporate Oligarchy going to fund Mexican infrastructure when they can’t fund U.S. infrastructure and state governments are crumbling under huge debts…even closing rest stops on the Interstate system?

     Although these deep and brilliant thinkers did want to bankrupt the U.S. government, it is hard to believe that as arrogant as they are that they wanted the United States of America to be at the not-so-tender-mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, The Friends of the KGB, the despots of Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Qatar and the modern Japanese version of financial samurai.

     But, alas and alack, that is where it stands today. These “Sovereign Wealth Funds” of the Middle East, which are now believed to hoard over $3 Trillion in American dollars and securities, are being gratuitously pumped back into American banks to keep them solvent and to keep America from plunging into a deeper economic depression. Got to keep those saps buying gas and various gizmos (that don’t work or that poison them) from China.

     Yes, who would have thought it? The Great American Empire is beggaring for funds to keep its war machine oiled. How did it come to pass that the American Global Oligarchy, smart lads that they are, have let themselves come to depend on the CCP, on Vladimir Putin & Company, on some Middle Eastern emirs, princes and potentates, to keep from going bankrupt and to keep on making ever more sophisticated obsolete Weapons of Mass Destruction (one of the last industrial sector in which America still excels)?

     What happens if any of them want to pull the plug on the American economy? Many of the top CCP central bankers have been repeatedly warning the United States since the Spring of 2009 to stop printing dollars as though it were Monopoly money or else…and at the same time, a special U.N. committee is urging the “dumping” of the dollar as THE world’s “reserve currency.” If these are our friends and allies, who really are our enemies – some extremist Islamic head cases with AK-47s and RPGs whose bodies live in tents, caves and thatched huts and whose brains live in feudal times? Why should the reader actually expend energy worrying about these ancient warriors making a nuclear attack on the United States when a futuristic financial and economic nuclear attack would be equally, or even more, devastating and is much more likely?

     At least, at this point in geopolitical terms and times, there is good reason to think that the Chinese do not want to call in these loans – or dispose of their U.S. Treasuries (since the depreciation of the dollar has made their ever swelling cache, at the $1.7 Trillion mark in 2008, worth less) on the global market place. For one thing, blatantly and sharply shedding dollars would cause global economic havoc by further devaluing the dollar and dump Americans into a much more pronounced economic slump. Being that the U.S. remains China’s major market for its chintzy, defective and sometimes toxic goods (thanks to Wal-Mart and other discount retail chains) it would put a tighter crimp on the Chinese “economic miracle,” and China itself would, would face a sharper economic decline that it, too, is experiencing in the current global economic crisis.

     Thus, most economists and American investors in China do not worry about such an occurrence, since they focus exclusively on the economic side of the political economy. Why would China injure its own economic growth and the CCP have to face an even larger legion of newly unemployed workers, adding to what is already a politically troubled domestic situation for the CCP? Good political economic question. Now here’s a plausible political economic answer.

     The CCP has its own political strategy in Asia and the rest of the world, one that is just about opaque (Those “inscrutable Chinese” are…well…inscrutable.) No one knows what their strategy is, although one can guess that a key component of it in the long term is, for sure, to get the United States out of Taiwan…and probably South Korea as well. They understand full well that these are the last two remaining American rooks on the Chinese-containment East Asian chessboard…besides Japan (which is still pretty much American’s black knight in Asia…although even a future détente with China-Japan is possible too).

     Why else are they spending hundreds of billions of dollars to upgrade their military with ultra-secret submarines and other missile launching platforms, particularly opposite Taiwan? Why else did they run joint military exercises with Russia, for the first time in all of history, almost within eyeshot of Taiwan in the summer of 2006? Why are they in a covert space race to put the first human colony on the moon?

     Why did they show the world that they had the missile technology to shoot down space satellites? Why else are they perhaps among the leaders in “cyber-warfare”? Why else are they rapidly diversifying their production and markets throughout the world through what they call “soft power” so as to minimize their dependence on the American market? And if it comes down to who can sustain a prolonged economic depression better, the Chinese or the Americans, we would put a lot of money down on the Chinese to win, place and show.

     As we noted earlier in this book, the American long-range strategic plan is still out there for one and all to see, if one wants to take the time to read it all. It has not been officially repudiated by The Obama Administration, and it has strong adherents well placed throughout the military industrial complex. The average American may be in denial or not give it a first thought, but not the strategic planners, international relations scholars and graduate students in Tehran, Moscow, Beijing, Caracas and other places definitely hostile to American hegemony – political, economic and/or cultural.      .

The Final Act of the Reagan Devolution:

Another “Mission Accomplished”?

     The evidence is staggering and indisputable that in the past three decades or so that huge amounts of wealth have been aggregated in the bank account of large global corporations; in the holdings of the top 1% or less of the American population (but most vividly among the top 1/10th of 1 percent of the population); in a noticeable shrinkage in size and status of the middle class; in extremely harmful psychic and economic traumas on the working class; and the still unchecked in 2009 malignant growth of what seems to be a “desperate class” that far exceeds the more or less normal 20% of the citizenry (which includes all those “illegals”). These are all consistent with Aristotle’s predictions about oligarchy’s tendency to excess and the likelihood that it will squeeze the masses as hard as the masses allow.

     The control of “the hidden government” by these large corporations and their owners and CEOs has taken a progressive income tax system and mutilated it so horrifically that the exorbitantly rich pay a woefully smaller percentage of income taxes than those struggling to survive. Ayn Rand must be grinning somewhere. The Social Darwinists must feel smug about how well their theory works. The global corporations who envisioned this Material Nirvana of their own making, should feel a great sense of “Mission Accomplished”. How else can anyone explain how unashamedly they accept multiple billions of dollars in annual bonuses when their companies are close bankrupt and are on bended knees milking The Fed for trillions in credit and the U.S. government for trillions in handouts? Meanwhile, according to their general plan, the nation continues to sink deeper, deeper, and deeper into a sea of red ink…running up ever larger negative cash flows under Bush II and the self-styled “conservative Republicans.”

“Original Mission Accomplished Clip (May 1, 2003)”

     So, what we saw and are experiencing in 2009 is the Final Act of The Reagan Devolution. This comes in the shape of a large feedback loop between a ruling class in collaboration with the right wing of the power elite that gained near absolute control over America’s political economy, which is headed towards a more oligarchic system (and ever closer to tyranny).

     This system of “cultural hegemony” – inspired and reinforced by the mass media and Hollywood – has falsely exalted Emerson’s theories of “self reliance” and “individualism” and Sumner’s “Social Darwinism” and some of the earliest thinking and business practices concerning American free enterprise. This would include the “proprietary colonies” and “corporation towns.”. It would exclude the more egalitarian society also envisioned by Paine, Franklin and Jefferson, and the one that came about as the result of the Great Depression and Second World War. That one lasted up to the end of the American and global “cultural revolutions” of the late 1960s and early 1970s…These visions and practices of the “American Democratic Spirit” have been projected on the TV and movie screens of the American collective subconscious as fuzzy black and white old-style movies that are quaint and outmoded ideas.

     Despite the obviously tattered and frayed public sector’s schools, parks, and many social services, as the 2008 presidential campaign was being waged, we could still hear the Reaganite/Bush parade’s serenade, with patriotic music and tanks rumbling through our minds, about decreasing the role of the federal government in regulating industry and commerce nationally and globally, belittling labor unions, scoffing at the necessity and moral imperative of government helping out the poor and disabled, overlooking the widening Grand Canyon in wealth and power between the upper classes and the vast majority of citizens, and the use of government to bail them out of their failed greedy and fraudulent schemes.

     Aristotle would see this as leading towards greater and greater social instability. DeTocqueville would see this as the harshness he would have expected to see from the rule of the “Aristocracy of Manufactures.” C. Wright Mills would see this as the inevitable result of growth of institutional power in American society and its dominance and interaction of those at the top of those hierarchies. Domhoff would be seeing this as the consequences of a smaller, more powerful and more socially self-cognizant “ruling class.” Dye and Ziegler would have no problem with this as long as these “special” people continued to embrace their relatively narrow concept of what it means to hold “democratic values.”

 But just like George Bush II standing on the flight deck proclaiming that the U.S. Navy was to be congratulated for a “Mission Accomplished” when the truth was that a great national disaster lay in wait for us in the deserts and plains of Iraq for years to come, so are the ruinous consequences on America of The Reagan Devolution’s “Mission Accomplished.” now being felt acutely…among all demographic groups in the United States, even for the richest among us, though to a much lesser extent. What lies ahead is an equally harsh political, economic and ecological reality…of a politically, militarily, economically, morally and ecologically shrunken America. The Reagan Devolution’s mission may have been accomplished, but the real costs are rippling through America and the entire world in 2010 and who knows how many more years to come?

     Among other “costs” has been the impoverishment of much of the rest of the world as the American Corporate Oligarchy, in charge of The New World Order, has created equally inequitable, unjust and downright unhealthy conditions for billions of people. Yes, hundreds of millions of “jobs” have been created, but the vast majority of those are for “coolie” wages, no benefits, and not far above the previous penniless existence those workers had in their farmlands that have vanished or become impoverished for a wide variety of reasons, some linked to the functioning of The New World Order. After all, the “harshness” of the American Corporate Oligarchy is echoed by the Global Corporate Oligarchy as well…whatever their nationality, for which they hold no special allegiance. After all, they are – in their megalomaniacal minds and prose – “The Masters of the Global Universe.”

     Since the idea of the Global Corporate Oligarchy is to spread their vision throughout the world, and includes the wealthy and powerful from North America, Asia, Japan and parts of Latin America…it is also not shocking that the American kind of mal-distribution of wealth has increased throughout the world despite the fact that globalization has actually increased the gross amount of wealth globally.

     The Economist is probably the most widely respected political economic journal in English in the entire world. Its business editor, Matthew Bishop, notes that this much greater wealth is being concentrated quite unequally in the hands of a relatively small group. His conclusion? “The world is getting both wealthier and less equal. Whether that is a good thing is increasingly up to the rich” (Bishop 2003, 3-4). Whether or not is “good” may be up to the rich, but whether it will continue will not be up to them.

     This Global Corporate Oligarchy, led wildly astray by the Neo-Con wing of the American Power Elite, continued on that path since he wrote that article in 2003, but his conditional prediction that there might be “a revolutionary backlash against (this kind of capitalism) in some poorer countries” (Bishop 2003) seems to be already well under way. Is there not a latent, if not patent, unrest and desire for major change in The World System throughout Islam, Latin America, and Asia? That “Pink Tide” in South America has just about totally washed away all remnants of American economic dominance there and is only putting down its roots.

     Given what you have already read in this book, does this seem to have been a good idea to you? Is this what the American Global Oligarchy and their European associates intended in their plan? We do not think so. We think that their goals and plans were avaricious, malicious, unachievable and have backfired and set America – and the rest of the world – on a path to great economic, environmental and political decline. When we searched Bing.com Images for “The End of American Empire”, this cartoon came up. Seems like a fair historical analogy to us.

     The Reagan Devolution led America to historic new heights of its imperialistic urges but in the end it has led to the beginning of its dissolution as well. A new global era is emerging and America has become The Last, Lone Empire in an ancient regime. The Real New World Order, of which America will someday belatedly join, is Early Post Imperial Times, and since Japan, China, Russia and the Middle Eastern “Sovereign Wealth Funds” are becoming huge creditors, America’s future fortunes are intertwined with them, helped along, in large part by the final stages of The Reagan Devolution and its legacy of restoring too huge a Desperate Class of Americans – with billions of downtrodden, bitter souls throughout the rest of the modern world.

“’Big Box Mart’: An Animation from JibJab.com”

The Election of Barack Obama and Its Immediate and

Durable Consequences

     The election of Barack Obama in November 2008 was a truly historic event. It had several immediate, profound and durable consequences for America’s and the worlds’ political economy….no matter how successful or unsuccessful his presidency.

A Final Repudiation of Reaganomics by the American Electorate?

     With millions Americans unemployed (the official and undercounted number predicted to rise to hover somewhere around 10% in 2010); with millions of American homes foreclosed and more to come in 2010; with the balance of wealth between the bottom 20% and top 5% as badly skewed and screwed as in the prior “Gilded Ages” of the 1890s and 1920s; with the country’s national and personal debts at astronomical highs and personal savings rates just beginning to get out of negative territory for the first time in decades; with the dollar’s value on a sharp downward slope towards devaluation; with a record high of national assets in foreign hands…a slim majority of Americans finally revolted against Reaganomics.

     In November 2008, a slight majority of the American electorate washed their hands of the past, present and future of it by voting for: its first African-American president, an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, and abstract but inspiring campaign promises for “changes” in the U.S.A.’s foreign and domestic political economic philosophy and policy.

     It’s ironic that it took 8 years in office of the last of the Reaganauts, George W. Bush, to make things so bad for the average American that they would finally “throw the bums out.” After all, it was his father, George W. H. Bush who called Reaganomics, the very idea of cutting taxes while raising governmental spending to new highs “Voodoo Economics.” It took his son, a true believer in it, to put a pin into that effigy and kill it once and for all. No one ever said that “true believers” are rational or efficient. Reaganomics was the root cause of the economic malaise and dysfunction of America in 2008. It was at the core of why its great champion, The Republican Party, suffered such huge electoral losses in that year.

     However, the election of Barack Obama may have come too late to restore America to its pre-Reaganomics international political and economic pre-eminence. It may not too be late to undo some of the domestic damage and get America back into playing the role of a global political economic innovator and inspiration in the future, leading by creative, constructive example instead of destructive force. But as Obama himself said the evening of his election, it will be a long, hard and steep climb.

“President-Elect Barack Obama in Chicago”

The reasons for this will be discussed in Chapter 14.

     Nevertheless, there are several critical shifts in America’s global and domestic dynamics that have come about through the election of Barack Obama to the American presidency, shifts that are permanent and that will have a positive impact on America’s future – no matter what he and his administration does or doesn’t do as president between 2009-13. There is no doubt that the man can really talk the talk and he most assuredly seems sincere in his beliefs.

     The doubt is whether he can walk the walk. But even if he cannot, this election will have positive and unerasable consequences for the United States of America for a long time to come.. How so?

Changing America’s Global Image Forever

     Worldwide, America has been almost universally considered to be a “racist” country. Of course, a lot of that has to do with its history of slavery; the near genocide of the Native American people; its “gunboat diplomacy” in Asia and Latin America; the legal segregation of the American black race throughout the Southeastern part of the country well up into the 1960s;and the fact that every American “shooting war” since World War II has been and is fought against non-white countries or groups.

     And what percentage of the world’s population is non-white; what percentage is “Caucasian?” The answer depends a lot on how these terms are defined. For example, why is Barack Hussein Obama considered to be “black” and not “white”? He’s 50% each. He’s actually tan…. like coffee with cream. But by global conventional views, since he does not look as though he is exclusively of European descent, he’s considered to be “black” or “colored”.

     So what percentage of the world’s population looks like him? Oh, we’ve seen estimates anywhere from 75% to 90%. Whatever the actual number, it doesn’t take a team of ace demographers to know that Barack Obama is the first American president, or the first European leader, to look like most of the rest of the world in terms of skin color (Asians and Islamic people are various shades of beige too).

     Therefore, the mere fact that America elected someone who does not look Caucasian for the very first time in history goes against all the nasty stereotypes of Americans as staunch racists. This fact alone will change the entire world’s perception of America forever. Moreover, the fact that he is such an obviously brilliant, articulate, young and good looking “tan” or “colored” man as well, will eternally change America’s geopolitical image and reality as well…all to the good for America and the world.

“Ebony and Ivory – Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder”

Changing the Psyche of Black Americans Forever

     In the popular puppet show on America’s Public Broadcasting System “The Muppets,” there is a character named Kermit the Frog. One of his most famous songs is “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.” Well, in America, it’s not been easy bein’ black, brown, or tan. As we’ve shown throughout this book, black America has had a hard time of it…250 years of slavery plus another several generations of semi-slavery…takes a toll on the DNA of any ethnic or racial group.

     In addition, even after the end of official segregation in the 1960s, there have been all sorts of institutional racism, whether in being denied mortgages (before the “subprime” scam was invented), the creation of black ghettos in all major cities due to “white flight,” or the fact that around 90% of America’s gigantic prison system’s inmates are black, brown or tan. All major studies show that Black America scores much lower on average income, educational levels, and health measurements…and higher in negative categories like getting harsher treatment in the criminal justice system than white Americans.

     While it has been undeniably true that, since The Cultural Revolution discussed in Chapter 9 and subsequently in this book, black Americans have made remarkable strides in all areas of society, strong imprints of the historic black experience have remained deep with the American black psyche. How could this not be? This has endured despite the incredible growth of the black professional and middle classes and that prominent black Americans have been elected state governors and U.S. Senators, and appointed as Secretaries of State and as Justices of the United States Supreme Court…all in the last few decades.

     The election of Barack Obama to be President of the United States, however, trumps all of these combined. If ever there was a reason for every single black American to now believe that ANYONE can become president of the United States, even a black man born in very humble circumstances and who was raised in the most remote state of America (Hawaii), this is it. This changes everything deep inside the psyche of Black America, and it’s about time. It may be relatively imperceptible at first, but over time, it will make a tremendously positive difference, particularly since within a few decades, America will no longer have a majority of white citizens. The election of 2008 was the beginning of the end of America, The White…and the beginning of America, The Piano Keyboard (see video above).

     Black America never thought it would live to see this day. We never thought we’d live to see this day. The rest of the world never thought they’d ever live to see this day. But no matter what, it came.

     This changes everything. Everyone in America and the rest of the world realize that President Obama has inherited a hurricane, a tornado, a tsunami, an earthquake and the whirlwind…all at the same time…from the first day he even set foot in The White House as president. Although things must get worse before and if they get better, Barack Obama’s unlikely personal victory is a victory for America in those two ways and that aura will continue forever.

President Obama: Deformer, Reformer or Agent of Transformation?

     However, despite all of these benefits and the tremendous opportunities that this kind of positive feedback loop has created, the inauguration of President Barack Obama will not, cannot, alter the historic changes that have already taken place in the 21st century – all to the disadvantage of the United States of America and its traditional political economic expansionism and political economic philosophy. This did not go according to The American and Global Oligarchy’s Plan A and there wasn’t any Plan B. “The World System” they constructed to last a long time did not. It has been in a state of disarray and on the verge of collapse since late 2007 and continues to decay to this very day.

     President Obama, even with a somewhat supportive Congress:

* cannot change history;

* he cannot easily alter America’s deeper political economic genetic code of expansionism and missionary overzealousness;

* he cannot dislodge the American Corporate Oligarchy from its unassailable constitutional perch;

* he cannot neuter the military industrial complex;

* he cannot stop global warming and climate change and their inexorable calamities;

* he cannot “bail out”, borrow and spend his way out of a failed “American corporate capitalism” model at home (via some weird hybrid of Reaganomics, The New World Order and the New Deal);

* he cannot disrupt the gathering momentum of a global political economic meltdown and for an emergent replacement that will greatly diminish the former American financial and economic supremacy of Bretton Woods and the Old “New World Order”.

He, his cabinet, and the whole U.S. Congress cannot (and would not have the political capital to) do any of that in his first year in office and probably not in his entire term of office, especially if that ends in 2013.

     The global political economy is undergoing an implosion of the entire “American-as-world leader” paradigm. President Barack Obama, promising “change”, has surrounded himself with men and women who will definitely reverse a lot of what the Bush II presidency did. However, in seeing that the vast majority of his inner circle is from the Bush I and Clinton presidencies, it seems that the “change” will be of the sort that aims to re-establish America’s position circa the fall of the Soviet Empire. This is impossible to do since much of the damage done by Reaganomics, The New World Order and the Neo-Con times is irreversible. The change Obama needs to embrace should be 21st century, not 19th and 20th century.

     So, as in the words of that hoary fairy tale about a huge egg that fell off the wall and split asunder:

“All the kings horses, and all the king’s men, could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

     In other words, President Barack Obama cannot rewind the first stage of “Early Post Imperial Times”…and cannot rewrite the denouement of a presently lonely, but definitely last, world empire…most decidedly not in the early stages of inexorable climate and economic change. Too many genies are out of too many bottles. But there are lots of wishes he can make that those genies may grant to make the passage easier…and he can help America start to make better bottles, inhabited by more powerful, positive genies, than the world has ever seen.

     What President Obama has to face up to is what we have laid out in Chapter 14. If he is to bring “change” that is novel, constructive, futuristic, and transformative, he then needs to begin to adopt and adapt some global options that will present themselves and not try to revert to what worked well for U.S. “indispensability” and privilege in the past. Early indications are in 2009 that he will try to reform the American operating philosophy and system – by drawing on the kinds of actions that worked during The Lincoln Administration, The New Deal and The Old New World Order – and not transform America into being a collaborative and creative participant in The Real New World Order, or Early Post Imperial Times.

     Early indications are that “Obamanomics” and his foreign approach rely too much on what America accomplished (and failed at) in the past than on the inventive, daring and spiritual part of American character. How else can one explain his adherence to pretty much the same strategic thinking and reflation of the big bank sector of the economy of Bush II?

     We will monitor these political economic trends or trend reversals regularly in the blogging section of the website of this book at www.last-lost-empire.com The need and way for transformation and not reform of America’s and the global political economy will be explained in some detail in Part IV.

Questions for Discussion

1. What do Becker and Briand mean when they say that “Aristotle was right” about his views about the extremes of oligarchy and democracy – as that applies to “The Reagan Devolution”?

2. What do Becker and Briand mean when they say that wherever major changes have come about in the U.S.A. since the founding of the U.S. Constitution, that “the system” is always the winner?

3. Who was the person who became the leader of the American Corporate Oligarchy’s plans which came into being in the mid-1970s? What was the Republican Party’s strategy to bring this person into power?

4. Define “Reaganomics.”

5. What are three of the major tax changes that were implemented from 1980 up to the election of President Obama to help bring about an upward redistribution of wealth? Were they successful?

6. How are they related, if at all, to the 2008-09 American and global recession?

7. What other tax strategies were used to accomplish the goals of the American Corporate strategy?

8. What other global economic tactics did they use to achieve their ends?

9. According to Becker and Briand, who were the biggest losers through the economic and tax policies of Reaganomics. What relationships can you see between the success of these tactics and the “greatest economic disaster since World War II”?

10. What have been the “unintended consequences” of this strategy and tactics of The American Corporate Oligarchy? What wasn’t that they didn’t realize and which has come to squelch their plans?

11. What are the emerging elements of “Obamanomics?”

12. Why do Becker and Briand doubt that President Obama can successfully reverse the major structural factors that are in the way of his desired “changes?” Do you agree or disagree with them…and why?

13. What significant changes do you see in Obama’s first year in office from Bush II’s last year in office in his strategic foreign policy and domestic economic policies?

Chapter 12 The American and Global Mass Media: Where Power Talks and the People are Hypnotized and Mobilized

     This chapter is about how the American mass media (TV, radio, press groups, newspaper chains) are extremely adept at getting the American public to believe, first and foremost, that the U.S. mass media is “The Fourth Estate,” or another “branch” – though unofficial part – of the American system of governance.

The Official Ideology of the American “Free” Press as the “Fourth Branch”: The “Watchdog” on the Government for the People

     After all, the American system, according to The Federalist “Founding Fathers”, was set up to minimize the potential for “tyranny” by the central federal government over the citizens of this newly dubbed “Republic.” The key to accomplishing this feat was their “separation of powers” doctrine that set up three branches of government to “check and balance” one another thereby minimizing “tyranny.” Their theory was that it was highly unlikely that any “faction” of the American elite…or worse, of the people…could gain control of all three branches of government at once, as had been the case under the rule of the King of England, who was commonly believed at the time of the American Revolution to be the very personification of a Tyrant.

     As we have observed in other contexts in this book, according to that system, as amended by the First Congress, the people were to be protected by The Bill of Rights against abusive government and American democracy was to be supported, via the will of the people, through the guarantees of free speech, freedom of assembly and petition, and a free press. The press had railed against the British monarchy and Parliaments oppressive taxes and military occupation. These opinions espoused by its own writers and those of the readership exposed the oppression and exploitation of the system and helped rouse the citizenry against such a repressive and exploitative government. Thus, it is an unofficial but sinewy power against a tyrannical government, separated from the three official ones. That is the “official ideology” of the American system of its oxymoronic “representative democracy” pertaining to the “free” press.

     However, like the other pillars of democracy – free press, free speech, free assembly, freedom of and from religion – they needed to be protected through the interpretation of this “supreme law of the land” by the federal judiciary. Without the “check and balance” of the courts, no freedom or democracy could be assured against the legislature and executive branches working hand in hand to manipulate and squeeze the masses. And, as the American system has worked out in real life, this complex notion of the separation of the “four” branches of democratic governance has been only somewhat successful. But it is, and remains, one of the essential components of the American ideology and mythology of why America is a leading democratic light.

     The next video expands on the problems with that. It is an audio on YouTube of a very famous speech given by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 about freedom of the press and the responsibility of the press to be a major unofficial part of American democracy. There are many YouTubes on this speech that are inflammatory about his emphasis on the perils of “secret societies” in America. This misses the main point of the speech which is a ringing endorsement of a free press in a democracy…but that means Telling Truth to Power. Give a listen:

“JFK Speech on Freedom of the Press in America”

Not Always a Free Press in American History: The Early Times

     There have been occasions when this complex form of American “democracy” has not worked as idealized. In other words, sometimes in American history various press freedoms have been suspended or curtailed for a period of time, usually during situations perceived by the powerful, and sometimes by most citizens as well, to be a “crisis” for the national security.

     We have already observed earlier in this book that it didn’t take long for this to occur, with the passing and enforcement of the clearly unconstitutional Alien and Sedition laws to protect the Republic against a perceived French threat to the country’s very existence. As noted, The Federalist president John Adams prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned many anti-Federalist editors and publishers of rival newspapers for their criticism of President John Adams and his Federalist foreign policies.

     As also noted, the federal courts, under Federalist Party control, did not serve as a bulwark against the federal government’s British-like “tyranny”. The so-called “separation of power” and court guardianship of the Bill of Rights did not work as claimed by its authors. In fact, a number of the Federalist Founding Fathers and their allies clearly violated democratic theory that was at the foundation of this so-called democracy. The First Amendment, which they had passed as a condition of the Anti-federalists allowing their Constitution to be ratified, was ignored and trampled upon by their one-party control of the Congress, the presidency and the courts. In a very real sense of the term, the American federal government had become a dictatorship right out of the starting blocks.

     So, as written earlier, what or who came to the rescue? Yes, it was the Anti-Federalists, again playing “Democratic Hero.” None other than Thomas Jefferson himself, organized another party, which he called “The Republicans” (more of the Aristotelian variety), who were incensed and motivated so strongly against this new American “king” that they ran Citizen Jefferson against the Federalists for the presidency in 1800. These anti-democratic laws and the imprisonment of newspaper publishers galvanized enough Americans to make it a major policy issue of the presidential campaign that led to the repudiation of the Federalist oligarchs and the elevation of Thomas Jefferson as president of the United States in 1800.

     One of the first things on his “to do” list, with the help of his allies in the new Congress, was to repeal most of the laws that were used against the newspapermen. The First Amendment was vindicated. Newspapers could freely criticize the government without fear of the slammer. But it was not the U.S. courts that were its saviors. It was a new political party representing a strong democratic social movement and inaugurating a true democrat as President. In fact, by having the Congress and the Presidency in the hands of one party, particularly if it is the party of the rich and powerful, has led several times to curbing the freedom of the press in the U.S.A. with the courts going along meekly.

     The next major national assault on America’s press and its constitutional guarantee in the First Amendment came during the Civil War period. The anti-freedom of the press villain this time was none other than President Abraham Lincoln, who was dealing with perhaps the greatest tragedy in American history, the Civil War.

     To be sure, there were many newspapers in the North that were against the war itself, against Lincoln’s handling of it, and against the tremendous carnage it was causing in both the North and South. Many American citizens in the North were vehemently opposed as well…some of who were important local, state and federal officials. It is known that Lincoln had many arrested, suspended the writ of habeas corpus 8 times (which meant that the government no longer had to bring detainees before a court quickly after imprisonment and prove there was just cause for arrest to the judge), and was to some degree responsible for the closure of approximately 300 newspapers.

     According to one analyst of Lincoln’s letters and papers, “Lincoln suppressed several anti-administration newspapers such as the Chicago Times, arrested dozens of editors, and censored military reports after mid-1862” (Maihaifer 2001).A more recent book (“Lincoln’s Wrath”) observes that Lincoln was directly involved, not indirectly as some historians believed, in the crackdown on a venomous press during these times and was well aware that Union soldiers and pro Civil War mobs were attacking and/or imprisoning them (Manber and Dahlstrom 2006).

     However, in an article reviewing this book called Lincoln’s Wrath, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R Stone brings up a very important point about the lack of freedom of the press in America, particularly during times of “war”, that is just as deleterious to a “free society” as the military’s jailing dissident editors and publishers.

“‘Lincoln’s Wrath’ explores the often-cozy relationship between journalists and politicians during the Civil War. Publishers snuggled up to powerful politicians to gain access to information and patronage, and politicians sidled up to publishers to get positive news coverage and editorial support. Manber and Dahlstrom demonstrate that such coziness destroys the independence of the press.” (Stone 2006)

Twentieth Century Repression of American Free Speech and Press

     This latter point, the sometimes-incestuous relationship between the American press and American government officials, will be discussed in much greater detail later in this chapter, but there are several other major examples of where the U.S. government definitely crunched dissident political views by imprisonment in direct violation of the First Amendment. This was always done with the assistance of the federal court system as an equal partner in crime. Perhaps one of the more egregious illustrations has already been referred to previously in this text, and that is the extermination of the principal Socialist labor union in the nation, the IWW, or “The Wobblies”.

     To remind the reader, the IWW was at one time the largest union in America, including much of the organized working class, i.e., lumberjacks, miners, factory workers, tenant farmers…and it was avowedly Socialist/Marxist in its ideology against the capitalist system. Thus, it used the ire of The Aristocracy of Manufactures and big landowners – particularly huge mining and lumber companies…whose workers were organized and imbued with Marxist thought by the IWW throughout the country, at all levels of government, there were assaults and arrests against the IWW – who were not the least bit hesitant about fighting fire with fire.

“Politics of the IWW”

     There were many pitched battles, many acts of industrial and agricultural sabotage by some in the IWW as well. It was a virtual class war. But in this war, the government – local, state and the Feds – was on the side of The Power Elite. How could it not be? They were one and the same and in Marxist ideology, this was exactly as it should have been.

     The IWW was not shy about its views. There were newspapers, posters, pamphlets, and all manner of written materials, artworks, photographs that made their point well know amongst the American people. They agitated for an overthrow of the American capitalist system. However, their biggest flurry of literary pique and quarrel against what they correctly called “the ruling class” in America came with America’s entry into World War I. One of the major political issues and activities of the IWW became their determined opposition to America’s entry into that War of Empires in Europe and the Middle East…and their opposition to the imposition of a draft lottery of American citizens into the American military to fight that war. You win. You get a free trip to France. Uncle Sam loves winners.

     Thus, The Wobblies did their level best to deter people from even registering for the draft by posters, pamphlets, books, letters to the editor, protest marches, etc. This gave the U.S. government what it really needed to make a frontal assault against the IWW by prosecuting its entire leadership for violating “The Espionage Act.” of 1917…which made it a crime to “convey information” that would in any way impede the US effort in World War I.

     Of course, “conveying information” is exactly what freedom of the press and speech is ALL about, is it not? But due to the intense pressure by those who stood to profit handsomely or accumulate international power from this war, the government went into action to destroy this Socialist bunch of labor sub-humans. The law…as invoked by the U.S. Department of Justice and interpreted by federal courts became the death knell of the IWW, its newspapers and pamphlets, and all of its formal publications.

     One way in which this was accomplished was, by one of the more unlikely government agencies to be involved in censorship, the U.S. Post Office. For example, a socialist magazine called The Masses was not allowed to be mailed through the U.S. Post Office because of the anti-war articles that were printed in it. And remember, there was no direct threat by Germany or the Austria-Hungarian Empire or the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) against the territory of the United States, that is, no serious military danger to America’s “national security.” This was solely a political issue about America coming to the aid of several other empires (England, France, Russia) against other Empires (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey).

     So, in 1918, the U.S. government, with the help of a private group of vigilantes known as the American Protective League, indicted and prosecuted 100 IWW leaders in a single trial in a single courtroom in Chicago for violations of the Espionage Act. The trial lasted for 5 months, yet it only took the jury about an hour to convict all of them and send them all to prison for long terms (10-20 years mostly). So much for freedom of the press and speech in the United States of America near the end of a war that in no way menaced American soil.

     Much the same happened to the Communist Party of the United States in the 1950s. The Smith Act, which was passed in 1940, made it a crime to teach or advocate the violent overthrow of the United States government. This law, which was eventually declared to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1957, was used as the basis for a number of trials of U.S. Communist Party leaders in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Of course, they were convicted simply because they believed and wrote articles and pamphlets that incorporated the ideas of Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto that specifically says that the only way that a capitalist class will yield its political power is by the use of massive, superior force against them, i.e., a violent revolution.

     Thus, in a real sense, this law drafted by Congress and passed by Congress made using and teaching that world famous, globally influential, widely read, albeit highly controversial, book a felonious act. In addition, there was a serious effort made by The American Power Elite at the time to rile up the citizenry of the U.S. against the Communist Party of the United States as being a “clear and present danger” to American liberty. For the time, it was a very effective mass media campaign. Take a look at the next video, which shows some of the techniques used to scare the American public into a gnawing fear of the Communist menace right here in the U.S.A.

“He May Be a Communist”

     With so many frightening images, it’s no wonder that a number of Americans were convicted under the Smith Act of being Communists and went to prison…and although it is now an invalid law, it remains on the books and the Communist Party of the United States is pretty much defunct. Isn’t it ironic that American corporations and banks currently invest huge sums of American capital into the largest country in the world, one tightly controlled by a Communist Party (The CCP, or Chinese Communist Party)…but unconstitutionally suppress one in America…via government, through the educational system, and through the mass media?

     Don’t think so? Have you ever heard a Communist invited to discuss any public issue in the American mass media? How about an avowed Marxist? When John McCain and Sarah Palin repeatedly accused Barack Obama of being a “socialist” in their campaign of 2008, did any American TV anchorperson or political commentator correct them – or even ask them whether they knew what a “socialist” actually was.(If you forgot, go back to Chapter 6 and re-read the section on Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” and Das Kapital) Barack Obama is as much a

”socialist” as we are professional football players. But the beat goes on. Keep In mind, as you watch this “Breaking News” Fox video that “redistributing wealth” was advocated by Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin—way before “socialism” was ever invented even as a theory.

“McCain; ‘Sneak Preview’ ‘Obama’s Socialist Policies’ or Communist?”

     Thus, the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and free press are hardly invulnerable. They are relatively easily outmaneuvered by the Congress, by states, by the U.S. Department of Justice and by the federal courts to imprison, or threaten perceived political enemies with prosecution, particularly those so dastardly and blasphemous who would dare to question, or even worse challenge, the very nature of the American political economy. It should be noted that the Constitution of the Soviet Union also guaranteed freedom of the press and freedom of speech. However, anyone who would have spoken out publicly in favor of capitalism or invoked the name of Adam Smith would not have been allowed on Soviet TV, or printed in Pravda, and would have ended up much as the IWW, Socialists and Communists in the United States: in its prison system, known as “The Gulag.”

     Through all of this violation of the freedom of the press (and speech), the mainstream American newspapers and electronic media were almost always on the side of the government, whether it was in the time of John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman or Dwight D. Eisenhower. Just because some other writers, editors, publishers, newspapers, books, or pamphlets were being suppressed by government did not bother them at all, particularly if the views and opinions of those being oppressed were different from the mainstream press at the time. Thus, their role as a “fourth estate” or a “watchdog” or “a check against governmental power abuse” was that of a toothless Chihuahua, too fat and spoiled to even bark (which is very unusual for Chihuahuas).

     This is not to say that American newspapers and radio and TV are not critical of governmental policies, of various political leaders, and even of presidents, the courts, and Congress. They certainly have played that role many times in American history…and you only need to watch television today or read newspapers to find a great deal of criticism of the U.S. government and many of its policies. But the spectrum of criticism is usually limited to differences in policy and to that of the two major parties; unless circumstances force them to look elsewhere for answers.

     For example, the press, at some midway point in the Vietnam War, became a major part of the anti-war movement in the late 1960s. The press also became a belated actor in the long process of removing President Nixon from the White House during the Watergate scandals in the 1970s. And even recently, there was no shortage of brickbats and tongue wagging and finger pointing at how President Bush and some of his Neo-Con buddies suckered the U.S.A. into the war in Iraq and how “the occupation” had been bungled since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue. President Obama himself is hardly immune from a heavy barrage of insults incoming from the right wing fortress known as Fox News + “Talk Radio.” Right wing pundit, Dr. Michael Savage (search “Savage Nation” on Google), repeatedly refers to the president of The United States as “Chairman Obama,” “Comrade Obama,” and as being the devil incarnate. Rush Limbaugh, the foremost right wing edutainer, has publicly stated to millions of Americans that he “hopes Obama fails.” We’re sure the Communists agree.

     So, in sum, we can say that America does have, to some degree, a “free press” that does play a role in checking or at least critiquing government power…some of the time. On other occasions, it does not do its job…and is the partner of the government in the unconstitutional use of power against those whom The Power Elite wishes to silence, marginalize, or trample under foot.

The Professional Purveyors of Objective Information and the Important “News” of our Time

     Embedded in the American theory of the importance of having a “free press” in a democracy is the notion that the press, as a small club of literate people, is the best public method of purveying the “news” about public, economic, social and political events so that the general public can determine which political leaders and parties will produce the best laws and administration in the public interest. In other words, they have “no hidden political agendas” and are, as Fox News is fond of saying, “fair and balanced” in their choice of what to report and how they do so.

     Of course, this does not mean that the mass media, in all its forms and personages, must not have any personal or political or economic or social opinions whatsoever in the content of their programming. Actually, that runs quite contrary to the actual history of the American press. In point of fact, almost all American newspapers in the 18th, 19th and through a good part of the 20th centuries were well known to be very opinionated in what they published as “news.”

     There were many “Democrat” newspapers and “Republican” ones. There were labor newspapers, religious newspapers and pamphlets, Socialist newspapers, “Commie” papers (like “The Daily Worker which was featured in a video above), and newspapers with an incredibly broad panorama of eccentric viewpoints. It has only been in the 20th century that the idea of a “neutral” and “objective” professional style news media has come to become enshrined in American political mythology.

     Everyone should know that “neutrality” and “objectivity” is nigh onto impossible in human affairs. However, the modern American mass media (much like the Supreme Court) claim that they are indeed that – or strike such a pose by their formats and delivery. They admit their own point of view only when they have a special page for it, in newspapers that are called “Editorials” or “Op-Ed” sections. In the present day corporate run electronic media, they broadcast “political opinion” shows where various and sundry “pundits” and “analysts” pontificate, ventilate and bloviate, fulminate and cogitate regularly in a variety of ”talking heads,” “panels,” “interviews,” etc.

     In other words, if it’s an opinion show, the reading, listening, and viewing public will know it. The “News” however is just “the news” – “just the facts, ma’am”, no opinion. Moreover, according to mass media’s marketing of itself to the American public, all shades of American political opinion will be presented either equally, or more realistically, to the extent that it exists proportionally to the political opinion that exists in America itself.

     All of this is pure bunk and hocus-pocus. Bill Moyers, a former press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson and a highly regarded TV news journalist quotes Edward R. Murrow (equally respected as a TV news journalist in the 1950s) as saying: “No one can eliminate prejudice…just recognize them.” (Moyers 2008)

     The mass media in the United States, in recent times, has come to the unhappy state of affairs that almost all mass media is owned and operated and controlled by a very few huge, some global, corporations (like Rupert Murdoch’s “The News Corp.”). This is very much like the automobile industry or the military industrial complex, where several large corporations dominate the entire marketplace. Such a system is called an “oligopoly” (which is much like a “monopoly”, except that a precious few control almost the entire market share instead of one, i.e., oil, autos, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, et al.).

     Small wonder, then, that in this mass media environment, there is a 100% favorable bias towards corporations qua corporation today, not any particular one of course, but towards the very idea of what a corporation is and what power the corporations do and should have in American society. This does not mean that, every once in a while, the mass media will not focus on some horrid corporate excess.

     For example, when a giant corporation is revealed to have committed some egregious act of negligence (The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska), some horrendous fraud on its stockholders (Enron), or a series of horrendous scams on the American public (the home loan scandals in the late 1980s and the subprime mortgage lending scandals that came to light in late 2007 and whose damage to the entire global economy continues to spread and deepen) – that the mass media will completely ignore them. Indeed, the mass media love a scandal involving giant corporations and industries almost as much as they as they love lurid tales involving celebrities or individual power mongers. The way they are focusing so heavily on the bonuses being given the top executives of AIG, Bank of America, and J. P. Morgan Chase in 2009 is another example. The reason for this is simple: these stories attract a large enough audience that rakes in the profits.

     So, now that we know who actually controls the American mass media, and what is their slant on things in general, thus the question becomes: how do they use their power?

The Covert Agenda of America’s Mass Media

     The reader may recall, from Chapter 7, what C. Wright Mills had to say about “celebrities.” For emphasis, let us repeat ourselves. It was his view that they served two functions: (a) to distract the public from the realities of politics and economics and (b) to stimulate the public’s appetite for consumption. Both of these two jobs are vital for the kind of corporate run political economy that is in place and the mass media, along with the legal system, are really where the rubber hits the road.

     After all, if The Power Elite control both the legal system and the mass media, along with the supposedly “representative” government, the “democratic” ballgame is rained out. The oligarchy is behind and on top of everything and the public is there to be anesthetized and hypnotized. As Walter Cronkite, the famous CBS anchorman of yore droned somberly at the end of each and every one of his nightly newscasts, “And that’s the way it is”.

     Doesn’t this help explain the two major obsessions of the American mass media: the personal stories and viewpoints of Celebrity-dom and selling things via advertisements, product placements, infomercials, and the like? It isn’t just about making money. It’s about changing American culture from what made it into the country it was, a nation of pioneers, settlers and small farmers, small business owners, people who saved money until they could afford something they wanted or needed and could help their children to a better life than they had led.

     Once upon a time, America was a nation of hard workers and craftsmen and small farmers and industrial workers. It was a nation that became the world’s largest innovator and producer of technology and equipment to make just about anything. It was a nation that had struggled to increase the amount of power the common person could have in this “elected oligarchy.” It was a nation in which large masses of people had taken to meeting halls and the streets to demand essential change in the political economy no matter what the government and courts were saying. As discussed earlier in this book, the last of these great democratic outpourings came in the late 1960s and the early 1970s as an American Cultural Revolution. It was the last time, before the presently emerging one, when the American people will have stood on their hind legs and have forced the “elected oligarchy” to change course for the public good, in stark contrast to the smug but wrong-headed visions of the rich and powerful.

     However, as it has been clear in American history, heady victories by the people at one or another time in American history do not end the struggle. The oligarchists do not quit and they have immense power at their disposal to reverse these changes, or to outflank or overwhelm them at some later time. As observed in previous chapters, the top people in the American Multi-National Corporations (or MNCs) were displeased with the advances made in the cultural wars of that time and they were displeased with their share of the materiel pie, which although quite large for their small number, wasn’t nearly enough for each. As Becker’s Laws point out, when one, or a group, is enamored of money/power/status, there is no limit to their avarice. 

     So these folks began to think about a new era when they would have even more money, more status, and even greater power over the fate of America, or even the entire world, than they had enjoyed prior to the mid-1960s. Thus, the gears of “strategic planning” for a new age of corporate power began whirring…and there were many fecund minds and a piles of money to support and develop their dream of a Global Corporate Oligarchy that had its HQ in the financial and governmental centers of the United States of America.

     To these men (and they were just about all men), the force of such a mass movement that had compelled them and their minions in government, much against their will, to alter their way of doing things, was intolerable to the max. One of the many ways they began their plan to reorganize the American and world political economy…as discussed in Chapter 5, through the prism of a global order under their domination…was to take over old organizations and establish new, chummier ones that would be used to accomplish their objectives. As mentioned in Chapter 5, one of these was called The Trilateral Commission and it was an amalgam of top financiers, corporate heads, lawyers, academics and media moguls from North America, Europe and Japan (thus, trilateral).

     One major item on The Trilateral Commission’s agenda at that time was the U.S. mass media, which they had previously thought they had under their corporate thumb. However, due to various circumstances that were not under their command, the Vietnam War was lost, President (“I’m no quitter”) Nixon had to resign, and the American public was aghast and agape at the corruption (a large part being corporate sponsored) in the American political system.

     One of the main culprits behind this series of defeats, in their eyes, was the American mass media. Something had to be done about that in the future (post mid-1970s).Thus, the TLC (an interesting acronym, yes?) came into being in 1973…and in 1975, after thorough academic research by teams of “experts”, it released that “Report” mentioned earlier in this book, but which bears repeating because of its severe significance, The Crisis of Democracy. (Crozier, Huntington and Watanuki 1975)

     The problem, from their exalted point of view, was “the governability” of American democracy. One of the principal authors was Dr. Samuel Huntington, a chaired professor (super high prestige) of government at Harvard and a strategic thinker and consultant in the pay of various major U.S. governmental agencies like the Departments of Defense and State. (He subsequently became president of the American Political Science Association). What Huntington and his other academic associates said was that the media really needed to be taken by the throat and strangled because they provided the fuel for the explosive popular movement that made the ruling oligarchy change course and force-fed political crow

     Here are some of the lines you must read between. First and foremost, according to “The Report,” there must be a “Restoring (of) a balance between Government and Media”. Hmmm. Was there an imbalance? Isn’t the mass media supposed to be the “watchdog” on government for the people? Isn’t that what they finally did in Vietnam and during the Watergate mess? It wasn’t the media who stoked the anti-Vietnam War protests. It was the vapidity of the people who dreamed up “The Domino Theory” and got us more and more deeply involved in an anti-colonial, nationalist revolution…and drafted American citizens to go die for a lost cause.

     Actually, it took the American mass media years of reporting the phony baloney picture being given them at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon by the military before they finally grasped the harsh realities by going into the field. By breaking free of the military propaganda, they began to “bring the war home” by TV so that the American people could really see what was going on there. Actually, the top CBS news commentator, Cronkite, decided to go there himself to see whether there was any chance of “winning” and came to the conclusion that it was a truly hopeless and lost cause. He went on national TV one night and gave his opinion on that score, and that was when the American public came to the same conclusion, as did President Lyndon B. Johnson. Watch the man who was widely acclaimed as the best news anchor on TV for about 25 years review those tragic events.

“Walter Cronkite Remembers His Tet Offensive Editorial”

     This similar situation is something that the American press corps cannot grasp in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan…because the media is confined to the Green Zone, the “permanent” city-sized bases, the “forward position bases, or to patrols within armored vehicles for the all too realistic fear of instant death or kidnapping if they venture out and actually try to look around the villages and towns in the countryside for themselves. So, as during the Vietnam War, what balance in reporting the news on Iraq, Afghanistan and/or Pakistan is there to restore? Is it the same “balance” that Fox News conveyed day after day after day about Saddam Hussein having Weapons of Mass Destruction? Is it the same “balance” that beats the drums louder and louder for more unwinnable and interminable wars on the World Island rimland so the U.S. could better contain Russia and China (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan) militarily and economically?

     What kind of balance had to be restored after Nixon was forced to exit the presidency for all the unconstitutional things he did as president? “Watergate” was not just about the president of the United States covering up a botched burglary of Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C. It was about corporate corruption of the electoral process, illegal bombing of Cambodia, and other conflicts of interest and unconstitutional behavior by a presidency well above and beyond the law…and other practices that were in a gray enough area to warrant serious investigation by the press and even Congress.

     Yes, the press had finally come around to peering into these smelly government dumpsters and then reporting on all of the false stories and obstructions of justice emanating from the White House. What balance had to be restored? Was that not precisely what a “watchdog” for the people should be doing?

     True enough, the mass media had been reporting on the views of the Black Panther party, the opinions of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the ideas of those who opposed corporate “crime in the suites”, the new Environmental Movement, and various other ideas and organizations that were repugnant to the ruling class that were very vocal and clever in attracting the attention of the mass media during this Cultural Revolution. The American mass media would have had to be legally blind to not see it and professionally culpable if they did not put it on TV and in the newspapers.

     They neither incited nor helped organize mass marches (like Fox News did with “The Tea Parties” in 2009) nor did they encourage civil disobedience and they did not spur on the many police over-reactions to large public demonstrations that a national “blue ribbon commission” labeled as “police riots.” What balance had to be restored there? The American Corporate Oligarchy had been a key target of all this anti-corporate and anti-hierarchy vitriol and they didn’t like it one iota. Why should they? So, they decided to “shoot the messenger”. How?

     All of the above – simply good reporting – is classified by Huntington, et al, as “advocacy journalism” – a great danger to democracy and “significant measures are required to restore an appropriate balance between the press, the government and other institutions of society” (Crozier, et al 1975, 181). Like what? Well, for one thing, there is a “need to assure to the government the right and the ability to withhold information at the source” (p. 182). Oh, that is definitely a way to solve “the crisis of democracy”…to cede to the government new ways and power to keep the American public in the dark about what is going on. That appears to be the TLC’s new meaning of the word “transparency”.

     And if American journalists can’t stop from writing about the bad things that government and “other institutions in society” are doing, by some serious self-censorship, well then, “The alternative could well be regulation by the government” (p. 182, emphasis ours). Indeed, that should certainly “restore the balance” in American democracy…in favor of the Global Corporate Oligarchy…who comprised the exclusive membership of the TLC. At least they, like the ones who spilled the beans to Barnet and Muller in 1974…were not shy about revealing their thinking and their plans

     So, what we have is the anomaly of the corporate oligarchy that pretty much owns the American press – newspapers, radio, and TV – complaining that there was too much “freedom of the press” during the Cultural Revolution and some serious changes were essential to curtail this freedom to restore the balance in “governability” of America. Strange? Not really. As we have seen earlier, American government is run by one or another faction of the ruling elite and in some circumstances, the dominant faction of that elite decides that American press freedom – in control of another faction of the ruling elite – needs to be grounded.

Controlling the Message and the Democratic Discourse

     Thus, a new strategy had to be devised by the Global Corporate Oligarchy during its crisis in the early, mid 1970s. Since the corporate elite had been trashed by the countercultural counter-elites, with the mass media duly reporting these anti-corporate opinions, and corporate profits had been a decade long funk, much had to be done to rewire the mass media and get them to think more like The Global Corporate Oligarchy. Also, a lot had to be done to change the minds of Americans…and to change the economy so that the rich could get richer at the expense of this newly empowered and nasty mass. This wouldn’t be an easy job, but it had to be done. Thus, we can look to an article in Business Week in 1974 by J. Carson-Parker who wrote:

“It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow – the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more. Nothing that this nation, or any other nation, has done in modern economic history compares in difficulty with the selling job that must now be done to make people accept this new reality.” (Carson-Parker 1974)

     So what were the tactics to bring about a whole new way of thinking by the American public about these big corporations, about a redistribution of wealth and power to the rich through changes in government, the media, and a whole new way of looking at political economic policies? Dr. Peter Dreier, who was a sociologist at Tufts University at that time (he’s now Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and Director of Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental College in California), studied their plans as they themselves revealed them to be over a period of time in a variety of venues.

     Remember: if the Global Corporate Oligarchy could get a critical mass of key American reporters, editors, managing editors, and publishers to see things The Global Corporate way…and not be an alert and hungry watchdog howling warnings that made Americans mad at the Global Corporate Oligarchy…then there wouldn’t be any need for “government regulation” (a muzzle and harness), i.e., government control of the media. It is much simpler to pretend the oligarchy is a democracy if the watchdog falls asleep because it is so content that it doesn’t go hunting for scraps of information that could be, well, embarrassing…or even lead to indictments and impeachments…or worse yet, social movements by broad swaths of an alarmed public.

     What Dreier found was a loosely coordinated, but thoughtful, series of moves to accomplish a transformation of the American mass media into an ally of the Corporate Oligarch’s view of a brave new future America and the world. If successful, they would be able to reconfigure the American public’s consciousness to make it more compliant with the policies and systems The Corporate Oligarchy wanted, all of which were exactly harmonized with the interests of this small but powerful .01% of the population.

     The general idea was to use the core values that the American people themselves already held dear, the “common sense” of the American people, but to interpret them in a different way, one more compatible with the interests of the few than the many. The goal, the strategic aim, was to “capture the common sense” of the people and gain a “cultural hegemony” over American society through the mass media. Thus, the mass media would become a compliment to and/or replacement for the public education system and the main conduit of conditioning citizens to be more complacent about the hidden agenda of The American Corporate Oligarchy..

     One key tactic was to get the American press to equate such treasured American concepts as “liberty”, “private property”, and “freedom” with the global corporations agenda of diminishing the regulatory power of American national and state governments and the political power of organized labor. Thus, the enemies of “freedom” and “private property” and “free enterprise” became: “bloated government,” “wasteful spending,” “bureaucracy”, “labor unions” and “cultural elites” – all of which became the negative code words attached to the cultural counter-elites who were such a major part of the Cultural Revolution.

     And what kinds of policies would be friendly to those cherished American concepts? Why: “privatization of government,” “free enterprise,” “free trade,” “small government,” “freedom from taxes” and the like. Remember, Carson-Parker warned it would be a long, hard struggle. But those who have the money and power have unending time, limitless patience, and bottomless resources to pull it off, and pull it off they did. But how?

     Through free spending and a lot of ballyhoo and “voodoo economics” (a phrase coined by George W.H. Bush to describe “Reaganomics”), they began to construct, around the United States, a network of centers and institutes, some free standing and some implanted into major universities, which were populated by highly skilled researchers and professors…in many fields (Communications, Journalism, Political Science, Government, Business, Sociology, Economics, Public Relations, Education, etc.).

     Top stars in these fields were recruited as extremely well paid “endowed chairs,” “executive directors” and the like, and they could hire like-minded, or readily co-opted academic stars and experienced publicists to write books, articles, essays, research reports, op-ed pieces, that would be published by prestigious publishing houses, academic presses, newspapers, around the country. They also produced a wide variety of certification courses, seminars, and conferences, which invited publishers, editors, and reporters to attend.

     These were held all around the country (and still are), but usually at very posh 4 and 5 star hotel resorts and conference centers, in extraordinarily picturesque spots (again, just like with the judiciary). All expenses would be paid (and still are). Each media participant would be treated like a big shot and get a high profile item on their resumes for good measure (and still do). After haute cuisine meals and well boozed receptions, they would sit in well appointed rooms and listen to high quality, highly biased sets of data and opinions designed to (subtly, of course) reshape their consciousness and underlying value systems.

     Ever so subliminally – they would be bathed in anecdotes about the truly beneficent nature of the corporate world, the selfless (not selfish) mission of the Global Corporate Oligarchy (The New World Order, Globalization, etc.) and how the press had such a key role to play (and still does). The worlds of big business and high finance was highly glamorized to them, made to be seen as inevitable and prosperous, even sexy and fun, for all. And all of this was in the name of “liberty”, “freedom,” and “prosperity.” How could they not succumb to such a seduction? And they still do.

     Dr. Dreier shows us the results that were observable almost instantaneously (the early 1980s)…all of which (and more) can still be seen as dominating the American mass media to this very day:

“Within a few years…newspapers across the country began to increase dramatically the size and staff of their business sections…every major newspaper in the nation has either started or increased its business section…For the most part, the expanded coverage of business and economics is uncritical.

Much of it is a simply boosterism – glowing stories of new investment plans, fawning profiles of corporate executives, optimistic summaries of quarterly and annual corporate reports. Stories about personal finance, how to start a new business, where to invest your excess savings and problems of finding a second home – take up most of the remaining additional space. There is almost no investigative reporting and little good is said about unions or consumer groups.” (Dreier 1982, 128)

Sounds pretty “balanced”, doesn’t it?

     Another extremely successful part of this campaign to capture the American citizens’ subconscious support of their globalist and anti-government agendas was the development of a very insidious type of corporate propaganda called “advocacy advertising.” (Remember how The Trilateral Commission falsely criticized what it called “advocacy journalism”? Well, they have in reality substituted “advocacy advertising” in its place).

     This kind of “advertising” in newspapers, newsmagazines, radio, TV and the Internet is omnipresent even in 2010. It is not designed to sell any particular product or brand in a truly competitive, capitalistic economic marketplace. It isn’t about the quality of the corporation’s or industry’s product or services, or about its convenience or price. What it is about…is to get you to like (have a positive emotional feeling about) that corporation, or that particular industry, and to trust it to do what is good for the economy, for the environment, for your family, for your community, for the future of America, and for the good of the entire world.

     Just leave all the problems that are plaguing you and your locality and your country or the world to that corporation, or that corporate run industry, or that segment of the American Corporate Oligarchy. It will solve the problem because it is made up of “people just like YOU” and who have “YOUR interests at heart”.

     Examples abound right up to the present time. Keep in mind, if you are under 35 years of age, that these kinds of advertisements, which are really Public Relations ploys (and remember that the first two letters of “propaganda” are PR)…were designed before you were born and they are not something that you are taught to be aware of in high school, or even college. They fly under your radar, right under your defenses against being “conned.”

     So, leave it to British Petroleum and Shell Oil and Exxon Mobil…the “energy” companies”…to come up with, develop and profit by alternatives to America’s reliance on gasoline. Leave it up to the Weyerhaeuser Company to keep our forests in tact…because they are “the tree growing people” and will replace all those treacherous forests with friendly “tree farms.”

Let’s go, Ma, and milk some trees

     And while you’re at that bar drinking your Bud Light and having beautiful women hanging all over you because you have such good taste (“real” product ads), leave it up to your state electric monopolies to supply you with sustainable and environmentally friendly energy because they are “the energy experts”. Leave it up to the banks to regulate the economy and to decide the “developmental plans” for your towns and communities. Hey, those banks’ interests are your interests because banks hire tellers just like you and us.

     These kinds of “advocacy ads” are omnipresent in the newspapers, on TV, on the radio. But how are these advertisements for the products or services they are in business to provide? Where’s the competition? Who’s their real competitor, a competitor who cannot advertise any alternatives? The answer is: Your local, state, or national government…or non-profit and community organizations…or the American people themselves. None of these usually have the power and/or resources to put on competing ads to counter all this political propaganda that passes itself off as “advertisements” but which is nothing more than highly controversial corporate political propaganda. It’s made to look like advertising but it’s just an invisible and monolithic way of letting you let them usurp public powers.

     Consider this following video, which is an encore performance of the Medical Industrial Complex’s public relations campaign to nip any government health care insurance plan in the bud. They used this same formula successfully in the early-mid 1990s to poison Hillary Clinton’s health care plan. Now, it is a device to make – in this case – Big Pharma – seem like they really want to cure the ills of America’s health care system. Just notice, though, that one thing they don’t mention is how to get the prices of brand name pharmaceuticals down for Americans – one of the larger costs that Americans have to pay to save their health or even lives, and one of the larger payments Medicare and Medicaid must disperse….to the benefit of Big Pharma and limiting the health care provided by government..

“Harry and Louise ‘Get the Job Done’”

     The next video is an excellent illustration of an even more subtle bit of corporate style “advocacy ads.” The Weyerhauser Corporation, the world’s largest lumber company, after destroying much of the virgin forests of Northwest America for timber, has moved into Canada, into lands populated by the people of Canada’s “First Nation.” They continue their rapid timber operations, much to the unhappiness of the locals, who are trying to gain public attention to these culture destroying practices. So, watch the following video, which is a superb example of how Weyerhauser is responding by not responding, but by diverting attention to a small project it is co-sponsoring with a local government and housing development.

“Best Practices Winner – Mint Farms Development Project”

     The people of the “First Nation” can’t compete with the massive PR efforts of Weyerhauser to make itself look like a great steward of North America’s forests, but they do have YouTube. So, here is a short documentary by them.

“Free Grassy Narrows”

     So who do you think is going to reach deeper into the American people’s consciousness or subconsciousness about what kind of “best practices” the largest lumber company in the world is doing and how to feel about them? “Advocacy advertising” is one side of the story. What is needed in the American mass media, is a truly more “fair and balanced” presentation of fact and opinion.

     Back when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was an effective government regulator of the mass media, they enforced a regulation that was called “The Fairness Doctrine”…which required all radio and TV stations to have a counter argument of equal time for any “controversial” political materials that they would broadcast. President Ronald Reagan, “The Great Communicator” (as he was often fawned over by the mass media during his presidency) of the Global Corporate Oligarchy’s plans, had his FCC appointees revoke that doctrine, so it no longer is in effect. If it were, and there were Federal Communication Commissioners who believed in enforcing it, they would allow Greenpeace, The First Nation of Canada, various municipal power companies, labor unions, consumer groups, etc. to have free and equal time to debate these advocacy ads – and be given free time and adequate video production facilities to do so – and thus stir up some vigorous and rigorous democratic argument about the Global Corporate Oligarchy’s agenda. But we don’t have anything near to a democratic mass media in America anymore.

An Autocratic, One Way, Downstream Autocratic, Propaganda Model of Political Communications

     Thus, in much the same way that the Founding Fathers envisioned an enlightened elite controlling America in the guise of a democracy, they would have applauded the apparent success of the American Corporate Oligarchy’s takeover of the American mass media – just as John Adams tried in the 1790s. They wanted to monopolize all the newspapers and eliminate competition to their political agenda. A controlled press was not something that The Federalists abhorred. It was something they adored.

     What’s new is that our present day system of media is vastly larger and more complex…but the structure of the vast bulk of the system now in place can be described quite simply as a “one way, downstream, autocratic, propaganda model of political communications.” That is exactly the opposite of a democratic system of political communications. (We will explain in detail what a truly democratic system of political communications looks and acts like in Chapter 16.)

     One way this has come to pass has been the slow, but inexorable, concentration of power of the American mass media into the hands of a very few huge corporations that own a tremendous share of the entire political communications system in the United States. In 2010 they include: The News Corporation, Viacom, General Electric, The Disney Corporation, Time Warner, Clear Channel, Gannett, The New York Times, Inc, Media General, and a few others.

     Do the people at the summit of these corporations ever get together to discuss mutual concerns and make deals? Yes, they do…at least annually…at a “private” (i.e., highly secure place all by themselves) gathering at Sun Valley, Idaho. A major investment bank in New York City sponsors it and even though certain important reporters or news anchors are invited, they are pledged to secrecy. Thus it is not known whether deals are actually signed there to further concentrate media power, but there certainly has been greater concentration in recent years as these meetings have continued. Does anyone believe down deep that this is only a Boy Scout encampment where they tell stories around the fire and giggle in their bunks?

     Below is a Bloomberg News story, from Sun Valley, on a very recent conclave. Obviously the big business friendly name recognition“Bloomberg.com” has gained some rare access and been allowed to reveal a rarer detailed agenda and menu of deals that are cooked up at these ensembles. Put them all together and they spell: American Corporate Oligarchy in Action, with their focus honing in on the mass media.

“Day 1: Sun Valley Media Conference”

     There are some commentators in the American mass media world who are actually chagrined by this concentration of media power, they write about it…and, believe it or not, their stories are occasionally published in the mass media itself. For example, the late William Safire, a very conservative Republican columnist in the New York Times (he had been a speechwriter for Richard Nixon), explained how this integrated system of political communications really works:

“You won’t find a movie nominated for an Oscar with the heroine – fighting to expose the dominance of media conglomerates in the distribution of entertainment – crushed by the giant corporation that controls film financing, distribution and media criticism. You won’t find television magazine programs fearlessly exposing the broadcast lobby’s pressure on Congress and the courts to allow station owners to gobble up more stations and cross-own local newspapers, thereby to determine what information residents of a local market receive. Nor will you find many newspaper chains assigning reporters to reveal the effect of media gigantism on local coverage or cover the way publishers induce coverage-hungry politicians to loosen antitrust restraints.” (Safire 2003)

You won’t and you don’t.

     From the other end of the political spectrum, what might be called “the liberal” viewpoint, there is was Molly Ivins, an acid tongued columnist for The Texas Observer who was syndicated in many newspapers. She wrote a column about a story in a Eugene, Oregon newspaper written by a local lawyer who took the time to do research on local talk radio in that area. The results of his analysis are exactly what we hear in Alabama and Colorado, Georgia and Florida talk radio during all our Interstate Highway trips.

“The spectrum of opinion on national political commercial talk radio shows ranges from extreme right wing to very extreme right wing – there is virtually nothing else…There are 80 hours per week, more than 4,000 hours per year, programmed for Republican and conservative talk shows, without a single second programmed for a Democratic or liberal perspective…Political opinions expressed on talk radio are approaching the level of uniformity that would normally be achieved only in a totalitarian society.” (Ivins 2003)

To punctuate this, Ivins points out that a global NGO called “Reporters Without Borders” ranks the United States as 17th in the world on the amount of “press freedom”

     This bend towards a conservative, pro-corporate, pro American hegemonic dominance in the world is a direct consequence of the success the Oligarchs have had in kidnapping government regulation of the mass media, which has given them total “freedom” to author the content of the programming and “advertising” of their well disguised political agenda. According to Safire in 2003, and it has gotten much more severe since he wrote this:

“Back in 1996, the two largest radio chains owned 115 stations; today, those two own more than 1,400. A handful of leading owners used to generate only of a fifth of industry revenue; now these top five rake in 55 percent of all money spent on local radio…Yesterday’s programming diversity on the public’s airwaves has degenerated to the Top 40, as today’s consolidating commodores borrowing public property say ‘the public interest be damned”. (Safire 2003)

But their total freedom of the use of their property to make profits and turn minds has only increased right up to 2010. “Free enterprise”, you know.

     Yes, we know what you’re thinking. If this be so, how come Bill Maher, The Daily Show, and Keith Olbermann are allowed on Cable TV? What about National Public Radio? They’re all “liberals” and stay on the air. True. Now go add up all their hours on the air and compare to the total amount of information and opinion broadcast in a year on “Talk Radio” nationally. Hmmm. About 0.0001%?

     Of course, since all these together enjoy a nice sized audience, they are well known. Let’s assume that in total they get about 5% share of households. That’s about 6-7 million people. Good sized market to make money, but small potatoes in the world of politics. But the weight of the bias on the rest of spectrum, which is 95% of the audience share, is overwhelmingly pro corporate, pro “conservative”. Permitting a tiny amount of dissent is a perfect “democratic” happy face to put on a stern dictatorial system.

     Professor Noam Chomsky of M.I.T. is perhaps the best known analyst of what he calls “The Propaganda Model of Democracy” and describes it as the way that the American Corporate Oligarchy controls public uprisings against its hidden agendas via cleverly perpetuating a “myth of the liberal bias in the media.” This complements the oligarchy’s permission to allow “the real news” to be aired on a comedy show and a few “liberal” pundits who are allowed to vent their spleen on sparsely viewed cable channels. Here’s the way Professor Chomsky summarized his views on the corporate controlled media recently.

“The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of Democracy”

     As we will see shortly, other autocrats and oligarchs on Planet Earth have taken notice of what an efficient method of containing vast public dissatisfaction with the status quo ante and molding public opinion has been invented and deployed in America and have begun to imitate the American oligarchs’ ingenuity..

First, the Kidnapping, Then the Castration

     If it wasn’t bad enough that a small pro-corporate oligarchy now dominates the content of programming with a tremendous bias towards their view of political reality, and that the system’s structure is an undemocratic one-way system, there is also the problem of outright corporate censorship of some of the unapproved opposition that sifts through their filters. Let’s take a look at some serious mass media censorship (which is the same as government censorship, i.e., if government owns the media and keeps dissent off the air it is censorship. If large corporations own the media and keep dissent off the air, it is censorship.) A few examples will suffice for the here and now – but there are a slew of other ones.

     Professor Robert McChesney of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the author of some 16 books, has recently written one called The Problem of the Media. (2004) Some of his major points can be found on a video he made called “Employees Expose FOX NEWS Distortions.” The examples are simple and clear cut and are illustrated extensively by short clips taken from Fox News itself. There are also brief comments from major American news media figures and various interviewees, as well as many former Fox News people, as to how this is done as a top-down (Rupert Murdoch & Co.) daily set of “themes” and “talking points” that all “news” staff either follows, or goodbye. Fox network, of course, is only the most blatant and flagrant example, however.

“Employees Expose FOX NEWS’ Distortions”

     Want to see how it actually works – and get a good laugh as it’s explained? Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” shows how Fox does it by planting a “seed” of their story by one of their “pundits,” then repeating it verbatim as “news”, then covering a so-called “Town Hall Meeting” where the exact same words are yelled from the audience and applauded, then covering that raucous outburst as “news,” and urging people to act. What’s so funny? In politics, as well as “Daily” life, you’ve got to have a good sense of humor to get a life.

“Jon Stewart on Fox News ‘The Crank Cycle’”

     A complementary kind of distortion and one-sidedness has been going on for some time now…either by the major TV networks themselves or in collusion with the “two party” system. In 1992, for example, Ross Perot was the anti-Republican and anti-Democrat candidate…with his Reform Party platform including: anti-NAFTA, for a balanced federal budget, for term limits on Congressmen, against ex-Congressmen being lobbyists in Congress for foreign governments, and on and on. He had been polling over 20% in some national polls when the mass media and the two big parties decided to exclude him from the nationally televised Presidential debates. He couldn’t even use his billions of dollars to buy a half hour ad on national commercial TV (like Barak Obama was permitted to do in the latter part of his campaign of 2008). They refused to sell it to him since he was not a Democrat or Republican. Is that not pure, unadulterated, authoritarian censorship through a partnership between the two major political parties and the mass media owners?

     The same held true in the 2000 election when Ralph Nader was the candidate of The Green Party. Even though he was polling somewhere between 3-5% in some polls, and despite his fame as probably THE major anti-corporate consumer advocate in America, he was excluded not only from being in the nationally televised Presidential Debates, he was even kept out of the building as a spectator for fear that the cameras might actually show him there.

     It needs also be noted that prior to and during the early years of the new corporate attack on the mass media, that the presidential debates had been sponsored by and moderated by The League of Women Voters…a well known and highly regarded non-profit, non-partisan political education organization. However, out of sheer disgust with how the Democratic Party and the Republican Party insisted on making these debates into a masquerade of a full political debate, they made the following official announcement in 1987 as to why they could no longer stand to be part of the “debate fraud” being perpetrated on the American people:

“The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates…because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their litany of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” (Emphasis ours).

To be sure, this withdrawal was reported one day, and then forgotten. It surely did not rate the kind of coverage worthy of Michael Jackson’s scandal filled life or death or of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky…or the latest child abduction and serial murderer.

     More to date: The campaign of Ron Paul in 2008 is but the most recent example of how the mass media marginalize and finally exclude critics of the two right wings of The Corporate Party of America (We owe the famous novelist Gore Vidal an attribution for that observation). Watching the so-called presidential primary debates in late 2007 and early 2008, it became clear that Congressman Paul’s views against the American Empire and the Federal Reserve System were not going to be given any credibility or attention by the Republican Party (much less the Democrats) or by the media commentators who were supposed to be objective moderators and give everyone equal time.

     This was a clever, soft censorship, but effective nonetheless. There was no way that the big TV networks, like CNN or NBC or ABC or Fox, whose boards of directors are well populated by CEOs of companies who are part of the military industrial complex or dwell at the ethereal level of the American high finance system, are going to allow someone like Rep. Ron Paul to be shown on TV as a “viable candidate” for the U.S. presidency. He was usually put at the far end of a long line of candidates (“the potted palm” method of placement on a stage), asked a few questions and then totally ignored by the other candidates and the moderators. This is nothing but soft, but firm, corporate censorship.

     The American public, however, is not oblivious to the results of this super concentration of power in the hands of a tiny group of “media tycoons”. The Wall Street Journal did a national scientific public opinion poll recently on that subject and the results were so startling that even they couldn’t spin it any better than: “Harris Poll: Big Business, Media Have Too Much Political Power” (April 10, 2002).As they themselves had to summarize the clear results: “Americans overwhelmingly believe political activists, big business and the media have too much power and influence in Washington.”“…87% of respondents feel small business is being left out.” “Public opinion also is seen as shortchanged, with 75% of the respondents believing it doesn’t have enough influence.” The Harris Poll people noted that these results were consistent with polls they did back in the mid 1990s.

     Want more up-to-date proof that the American people perceive this new model of American mass communication negatively? According to the international news service Reuters, a scientific public opinion poll held in October 2007, found that “70% of respondents described media concentration as a problem.” (Vorman 2007) Large majorities of the national sample wanted to see the FCC step up to the plate and begin to limit the trend of media mergers that have become commonplace in the past few decades, as just one part of the comprehensive strategy of the Global Corporate Oligarchy.

Another Piece of the U.S. Propaganda Model

     But there is another aspect to this control of the mass media by the corporate elite…and it harks right back to Mills’ view of the composition of The Power Elite that he conceptualized back in 1954. It is the close interconnection of the corporate elite with the government elite, an “interlocking directorate” of the institutionally powerful. So, as that part of The Power Elite who controls the mass media is also influential on Congress personally, and on the programming of the large media companies, which in turn influences the government…there is another, even more lethal loop being closed to make this system even more top-down and autocratic, the total opposite of a democratic system of communications..

     We are referring to how the presidency and various executive branch agencies of the U.S. government itself are using the media, and duping the media, to present its opinion and mobilize and hypnotize the American people into going along with its “top secret” (from the American people) aims and covert plans and tactics. This holds particularly true when it involves American foreign policy.

     The reader may recall that one of the key players in the beginning of the overseas American Empire was William Randolph Hearst, perhaps the owner of the largest newspaper empire at the turn of the 20th century. His newspapers were screaming for war on Cuba…printing many stories of atrocities against defenseless Cuban children by the Spanish. Once the U.S. battleship Maine exploded and sank in Havana Harbor, the drumbeat of “Remember the Maine” was splashed all over the Hearst chain’s papers clamoring for war…stirring their deepest emotions, mobilizing the consent of the American people for something to be done to avenge this terrible crime against America. (Actually to this day no one really knows what actually happened to sink that ship).

     Yes, the American mass media have made tons of money covering American foreign wars in the 20th century. Foreign wars are big-ticket items for the American mass media. And obviously, there has to be a very close cooperation between the reporters who are on the scene in the war zones and the military. Still, the press is supposedly “free” to cover the war as they see it. They are not employed by the military. But the military does not like reporters to roam free, not because they are trying to protect their life and limb (after all, the “war correspondents” have volunteered for the assignment and are adults who understand the risks), but because they are trying to have the final say on how the war is being reported and interpreted by the correspondents.

     Who defines success and failure, victory or defeat? In the military’s eyes, it is the military that has the best judgment on this. To the reporters, and newspaper and TV analysts in the field who get a chance to talk to the “G.I.’s” and “grunts” ( the privates and sergeants fresh from the battlefield) and not just the colonels and generals (at HQ), it is their independent reportorial judgment that counts. This has presented the U.S. government with a dilemma that they have been working on ever since Vietnam, when the press corps there came to the ultimate conclusion that it was an “unwinnable” war (including Newscaster Numero Uno, Walter Cronkite, as shown above)…and its reports helped inform public opinion in the U.S., which then turned into a demand for it to end no matter what the consequences.

     Those readers of this book who were not alive then, or were too young to remember, have undoubtedly had the experience of watching the American media run-up to the Iraq War and how the media and government meshed so well in presenting an airtight case to the American people that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction (gas, biological, and probably nuclear) that were a mortal threat to the very security of the American homeland. Almost all the TV analysts and consultants were generals, ex-generals, admirals, ex-admirals, national security experts, Middle East experts, politicians…about 99.8% of whom agreed with this assessment.

     All this media “shock and awe” made the newspaper stoking of the fires of the Spanish-American War look primitive by contrast – which is was. The media frenzy about WMDs was not “Yellow Journalism,” it was Flaming Red Journalism. We could provide a crowd of somber experts describing this in mind numbing detail on YouTube. Search for yourself, if you want to see and hear it again. Here, instead, is a somewhat amateurish but amusing TV video from YouTube that satirizes President Bush’s justification for the Iraq War. It’s for the reader’s enjoyment, but within it is more than a kernel of truth about how “the enemy” and the “avenger” were being portrayed by the American mass media. The technical terms for this “We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys; We’re Godly, they’re Satan” is “manechism.”

“Bushzilla”

     Somehow, all those military and Middle East and national security experts who did not agree with this were never seen on national TV. Their views were either ridiculed or buried in the next to last column at the end of the story. It was a hypnotic experience for the American public whose consent was manufactured through an intimate nexus between the Pentagon, the White House, Congress, the military industrial complex and the U.S. mass media.

     But even with all this incestuous cooperation, we have recently found that the U.S. government had actively recruited and trained a number of these so-called independent mass media consultants and analysts. Thus, it was not just a confluence of interests…the Bush Administration and the Neo-Cons wanting this war so badly…and the mass media eagerly thinking of rising ratings and increased advertising revenues during war coverage.

     It was a government sponsored strategy to herd the so-called and self-deluded “Independent” mass media journalists into thinking it was using fair and objective analysts and consultants, not trained propagandists for the U.S. government. Worse yet, a number of these latter “experts” were also in the pay of a wide variety of corporations who were contractors for the Department of Defense, i.e., a felonious conflict of interest. (Barstow 2008 www.nytimes.org/2008/04/20/washington/20generals.html)

     Since then, we have also learned that the Bush Administration has pioneered this sort of manipulation of an already compliant mass media by the development of what are called VNRs, or Video News Releases…not just for the military, although the Pentagon uses them as well…but for many agencies. Talk about covert government propaganda! At least 20 U.S. government agencies, like the Department of Energy, The Census Bureau, FEMA, Department of Transportation and Department of Agriculture…hire former TV news professionals who go out and “cover” stories that are favorable to some programs that agency is funding or sponsoring or operating.

     The Federal “news” people are there taking background shots, interviewing citizens, showing the government at work, interviewing the head government official responsible for this program. Then they take it back to the agency’s production unit and produce TV news clips that are sent to every TV station in the country. Many local stations, in order to make more profit, have already cut back on reporters and production staff, and then they get these very professionally produced propaganda pieces, and they play them as though they were the product of that local news organization with no hint as to the real source. (Barstow and Stein, 2005)

     This is nothing but pure government propaganda posing as “news.” So, let’s take a look at the main content of America’s mass media under the mentorship of America’s Global Corporate Oligarchy and get a good feel for what is OK and what is verboten!. And remember, this is only a part of the menu. There are daily specials and a wine list as well.

The American Global Corporate Oligarchy’s Mass Media Menu

From 1975 to Early 2009 (Some substitutions since end of “Cold War”)

(Please post on every Station Manager’s door)

No criticism of American corporate capitalistic system (No Socialists, Communists, Libertarians, von Mises types, or Greens need apply).

* Government is corrupt, inefficient, bloated and a waste of taxpayer money. Promote “downsizing,” “privatization,” and “outsourcing” to private enterprise.

* Cut back on hard news gathering (size of staff, eliminate foreign and DC bureaus.)

* More entertainment and sports programming.

* Much larger percentage of program time given to commercial and corporate advocacy advertising, infomercials and edutainment;

* Promote “free enterprise” domestically and “free” trade internationally.

* “Globalization” is good for America and inevitable. “Resistance is futile”.

* Less government social and educational spending is necessary and more money is needed for military, police and prisons, which need to expand indefinitely.

* The “War on Drugs”, “War on Terror” and “Long War” must continue indefinitely

* The press must submit to Pentagon control in all war zones (reporter pools, canned information, embeds, monitoring of all dispatches and blogs)

* Blur lines between news and entertainment.

* Blur lines between government propaganda and news.

* Demonize all resistance to American military invasions and occupations (terrorists, insurgents, militants, enemy combatants, drug lords, war lords, tyrants, dictators, etc.)

* Never mention the phrases “New World Order” or “American Empire.

* All “experts” are to be former military or corporate officials and all academic “experts” must come from elite institutions and agree with the above agenda

* Avoid all mention of possible criminal activities in the “financial meltdown” of

2008-09.and do no investigative reporting on where all the taxpayer trillions of dollars went.

* Never mention any geostrategic motives or tactics of the United States around the world. Keep all announced operations separate. Do not connect the dots.

     While it is true that the disgrace of “Wall Street” and the failures of American inspired capitalism throughout the globe from 2007 to the present has tempered the anti-government message somewhat, the American mass media menu remains pretty much the same in 2010. This is not the way a democratic political communications system must be structured and programmed. It is the structure of an autocratic, or certainly oligarchic, political communication system with content more reminiscent of Brave New World and 1984 than that of the American Revolution.

How the American System Compares with Some of the World’s Best and Worst and Why

     So how does this new American Global Corporate mass media compare with the mass media in the rest of the world? Well, there are a number of organizations that actually measure and rank various countries on the degrees of freedom and democracy with at least a semblance of objectivity and precision. We previously mentioned one of them before, Reporters Without Borders www.rsf.org, a French based NGO with offices and correspondents based around the world including the U.S.A. They recently had the United States ranked as high as 17th on freedom of the press…but in a very recent ranking, the United States had fallen to #55.

     There are about 170 countries in the world today, so that’s not too bad. At least the U.S.A. remains in their top 1/3. Of course, that means America is tied with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga, but at least it remains a step ahead of The Dominican Republic. France, by the way, also had a precipitous drop to #35.

     Actually, the reason the U.S. is as high as #55 is mostly because they are comparing all countries, including a majority with extreme dictatorships throughout much of the rest of the world. Their major indicators of a lack of press freedom include such things as (1) the absolute number(s) of murder, prosecution and imprisonment of reporters by the government and (2) clear official governmental censorship of the news media…despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press. Both of these are rare in the United States, even under the regime of the Global Corporate Oligarchy, who is comparatively more sophisticated and subtle in their forms of reportorial intimidation, professional obliteration, and covert unofficial censorship. For a number of quite shocking American examples, though, read Kristina Borjesson’s book Into the Buzzsaw: 18 Tales of U.S. Media Censorship, 2002) about blatant mass media corporate censorship.

     Americans, however, are taught to think we’re clearly #1, Numero Uno, regarding a free press because The Anti-Federalists insisted that freedom of the press be grafted onto the Constitution by the First Congress, who complied by doing that but immediately buried it into the ground by the Sedition Laws. So, as discussed above, no constitutional guarantee is an absolute freedom and (as we shall see is the case elsewhere today) it has been squashed throughout history by various presidents and Congress…and through decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court…almost always because of some kind of “national emergency.” Under those conditions, reporters have been imprisoned in U.S. history, they have lost their jobs for printing various investigative reports, and there has been overt censorship.

     As for the latter, during World War II, there was total government censorship of the press, the radio, and even the U.S. Mail. “National emergency” is a compelling motivation for governments to ration what information should be made public or not. WWII was total war for national survival and unbridled governmental censorship was something the American people were willing to tolerate under that peculiarly frightening circumstance…but only until the war was over and done with.

     However, control by a small corporate elite for their own financial gain and to collaborate with a hidden government and its hidden agendas, no, that is not a “national emergency.” That is a national cancer for the United States, one we are living with at the present. On the down side, it could spread and kill off all of American democracy in the future. This is not a sickness with which to trifle.

 On the other hand, all we’ve said above in this chapter is not the reason for the much lower ranking. Our guess would be that it probably has more to do with how the military is dispensing highly biased and finely vetted information about the ongoing American imperial wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Colombia and a few isolated cases of reporter prosecutions for not revealing their sources in domestic matters…a consequence of The Patriot Act and actions taken by the Office of Homeland Security.

     We’re not going to use any other quantitative measurements to put this present day American system of corporate controlled mass media in comparative perspective with other countries. Instead, we are going to give the reader our intuitive take on how the U.S. mass media in its present day configuration compares with two clusters of countries on our qualitative scale of being a “democratic political communications system.”

“RWB Press freedom in the US”

The Social Democracies

     Interestingly enough, the Reporters Without Borders numerical ranking – based on responses to annual questionnaires sent out to other NGOs concerned about press freedom around the world and to over 130 or so foreign correspondents stationed about the globe – reinforces our own impression that social democracies (which fall within the inner circle of Aristotelian Republics shown in the diagram in Chapter 7) all have higher scores than the U.S.A. For example: Norway is tied for first place. No European country, plus Canada, NZ, and Australia, is anywhere near as low as the U.S.A. Spain ranks at #41, probably because it is in a genuine civil war with a home grown Basque terrorist group (ETA).

     What accounts for this? Most importantly, we think it is fair to say that there is a high correlation between the degree of real empowerment of the people within a “PR representative democratic” system and the amount of democracy there is in the political communications system. As discussed in some detail in earlier chapters, having a proportional representation (PR) system that gives multiple political parties with vastly differing ideologies and policy positions power in the government (the legislature and the executive branches) is more than likely to be reflected in the structure and actual political content of the political communications system. For one thing, such systems need to accommodate far greater diversity of opinion than the American two party systems with its current narrow range of discourse and its allegiance to the Global Corporate Oligarchy’s point of view and covert agendas.

     In addition, all of the social democracies have some form of national referendum system that they at least use for occasional important national issues. (In June 2008, for example, the Irish public turned down the latest EU Constitution which had been reworked because the previous one had been turned down a few years ago by the French and Dutch people in national referenda).

     Having national referenda on major national issues is a big step towards the democratization of the representative governmental system. Imagine how it would effect the American people if they were the final say on whether to stay in NAFTA, whether to ban abortion, join the alleged “North American Union” and adopt “The Amero,” whether to build 50 new nuclear power plants, what to do about immigration policy. Then give numerous political parties and private advocacy groups’ free and equal time on the airways to express their views. Such a system would provide a very broad and deep national debate that ends with the people voting one way or another.

     The political communications systems of the social democracies are designed to accommodate this robust discourse. Free airtime for all parties? The American mass media electronic system (other than the Internet) is nowhere close to opening itself to this kind of genuine democratic dialogue, deliberation and citizen power.

     Au contraire, as presently owned and configured, the U.S. mass media is designed to crimp the debate to the acceptable parameters of the ruling elite. There are no Socialists, Communists, Greens, or Libertarians who are even vaguely visible on the American political mass media spectrum today. But they are lively participants in the politics of the social democracies, even though that varies from country to country.

     Thus, we find in 2009, that the Socialist Party of Spain controls the national government; the Socialist Party of France lost the 2007 presidential election in France by a relatively close 55-45% vote; The Socialist Party of Italy barley just lost the most recent presidential election in Italy; The Green Party wins enough votes in most social democracies to hold seats in national parliaments and a decent bloc in the EU Parliament as well.

     There are active Communist Parties throughout the social democratic world and many hard-core right wing parties as well, some considered highly nationalistic, racist and/or fascistic. Far right wing anti-immigration parties, too, have a loud voice and seats in Parliaments in Denmark, in the Netherlands, and other social democracies. A very right wing party in Switzerland just got a very controversial initiative on the ballot about naturalizing citizens that ended in a close vote in June of 2008. This kind of diversity of opinion has no place in the American electronic mass media and is hardly ever mentioned in the national or large local newspapers…and has no power in government.

     It was not always so in America. Indeed, in the 1930s through the 1950s, the Communist Party’s The Daily Worker could be found in big city newsstands and Socialist viewpoints were to be found in columns in many daily newspapers and on the airways, particularly those radio stations owned by labor unions and municipalities. Of course, the CPUSA still exists…as does the Socialist Party (whose leaders got 2.8% of the presidential vote in 1912 and 2.2% in 1932…compared with Ralph Nader’s run for the Green Party in 2000 which garnered 2.8% and helped Bush defeat Gore for the presidency). The right wing Libertarian Party also field’s candidates and gets somewhere around 1% of the vote in various elections in the United States.

     But did you see any ads for any of them on commercial American TV? Are they part of the actual presidential debates on TV? On the radio? Do you see them mentioned in any newspaper stories? Are they part of a true democratic discourse these days? Rarely, if ever. They are, at best marginal specters on the American mass media…thus efficiently bound and gagged and unseen, in a political dungeon. But not in the social democracies…which is a huge reason why America should rank much lower than any of them on any scaling of a democratic political communication system…in addition to the lack of any serious, broad based political discussions about referendum issues that must be eventually decided by a popular vote. The American people are oblivious to this serious “democratic deficit” in their traditional, but outmoded, system of “elected oligarchy.”

     Another aspect of the social democracies having a far deeper and more balanced and substantive public deliberation in politics comes from their belief, one that was shared by the American system before the ascendancy of the Global Corporate Oligarchy and its Chief Apostle, Ronald Reagan, was that government should guarantee this by law and regulation. Remember the late, and mourned by some, “Fairness Doctrine?” The social democracies take the attempt by government to guarantee a fair democratic debate many steps further.

     First, in all them, there is competition between a strong governmentally owned, but editorially independent, TV and radio network and privately owned corporate TV and radio stations and networks. The most notable of these are the BBC (British Broadcasting Company), the Scandinavian broadcasting systems, and RTF (Radio Television France), CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) and the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company). Being government owned means that their mission is to inform the public fairly on political issues, as well as to present programming that educates, preserves and improves the society and its culture. Making profit is not part of its mission, although most of these also put on entertainment shows and try to find ways to pay their bills other than through legislative grants (like selling merchandise and their programming overseas).

     BBC, for example, relies mainly on a license fee that every citizen must pay. (Currently, the Brits pay about $280 US annually).Yes, it is a tax on every TV owning household in the United Kingdom to support non-profit making public interest, mind and soul healthy programming. The fare is not chock full of advertising either…thus, you are not forced to allow all kinds of solicitors in your home in order to watch so-called “free” TV, like in the U.S.A. Why should everyone pay for this? Why should everyone, including those without children, pay taxes for public education?

     Almost all the other social democracies fund their government stations and channels through their national budgets…finding it cheaper and more efficient than by collecting a special tax for it. Thus, much of the time on TV that Americans passively watch genuine advertising for products, or the phony “advocacy advertising” (i.e., propaganda) for the American Corporate Oligarchy, is spent watching educational and cultural programming in the social democracies. This is a Mississippi River of political discussion compared to the trickling creek that is American political “debate” on its corporate mass media.

     What about America’s PBS and NPR? They are a reasonable facsimile of the kind of programming that is a major part of social democratic model, yes. However, their funding is nowhere near what the national public systems receive in the social democracies, and they have to resort to begging the public to donate, as though they were a charity, through the same methods charities in the U.S. utilize on TV, i.e., “telethons.” With such sparse income, and threats from the Global Corporate Oligarchy’s servants in Congress to “zero fund” them (one of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s pet taunts to the “too liberal” PBS), American “public broadcasting” is a thin thread compared to the much denser fabric of a truly democratic system of political communications in all the social democracies.

Comparison with Obvious Dictatorships

     In any event, all of the above are part of the reason why the U.S. system is rated below all those practicing a social democratic model and perhaps helps an American reader understand why the U.S. is closing in fast on The Banana Republics. So, now let’s look at how much the American system is superior to some of the abysmally low scorers in the most recent Reporters Without Borders ranking.

     Out of 168 nations that were analyzed: Iran = 162; China = 163; Russia =147. How so? Well, in each of them, being an owner of a print publication or electronic medium, comes with an official Warning: “Any opinions or news you express that are contrary to the wishes, or hurt the feelings, of the ruling leaders will very probably be very hazardous to the health and safety of you and your family…and darn painful too” In other words, baby, watch out for hooded men with guns or sharp objects. This isn’t The American Way. This is the Russian, the Iranian and the Chinese Way. Hence, their basement dwelling scores.

     Each of these three political communications system can be described, in a nutshell, as a one-way, downstream flow of information and opinion that contains the hidden agenda of the ruling elite and that socializes the masses into a similar worldview as the ruling class proclaims. Those who have opinions contrary to that will not get any airtime on the government controlled media in those countries since there is no competition with that worldview on the mass media. Thus, they are effectively muted and peripheralized.

     Hey! Isn’t that what we just said about the new American mass media controlled by the American Corporate Oligarchy? Isn’t that pretty much the same communications structure? Almost any American government textbook, or any on the American mass media, will agree that: the American mass media pretty much controls the political agenda in this country; that it socializes the public into the core values of those who own the media; that the mass media are run for the interests of the ruling class which are hidden from plain view. In the American context, that would be to make gargantuan profits and strongly influence the political attitudes of the American people…while extending American Empire politically, militarily, economically and culturally around the world. Let’s examine how these obvious dictatorships work along these lines.

Putin & Co.

     In Russia, the mass media is almost in total control of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party…and his appointed successor as President, Dmitry Medvedev. Russia is, effectively, as it was under Communist Rule, a one party state and that party is closely connected to a “private company,” the Russian natural gas monopoly, Gazprom.

     It was in April of 2001, “The Kremlin-connected gas giant Gazprom took control of Russia’s lone independent nationwide television network Saturday, tossing out resisting journalists and installing a new, pliant team during a nighttime takeover…The takeover ended a two week standoff over NTV – the only national network not controlled by the state – in which rebel journalists refused to recognize the Gazprom-appointed management…by the 10 A.M. newscast, an anchor loyal to Gazprom was on the air” (Atlanta Constitution, 2001).

     Shortly thereafter, the leading independent news magazine, Itogi, was taken over by Gazprom as well. Why? Well these were the two remaining news media that had opposed Putin for president, opposed his war in Chechnya, and “resisted the drive to stamp out diversity of opinion” (Lipman 2001, 36).

     Today, all the independent TV, radio stations, newspapers and magazines, that were anti-Putin and his KGB (secret police) inner circle, no longer exist, and if they do, they have a tiny market share and have to fear for their very lives. The values of this new Russian government-corporate monopoly that are branded into the Russian people are heavily nationalistic and materialistic and extremely respectful to government authority and policies. After all, brutal autocrats have for centuries dominated the Russian people, i.e., generations of Tsars and 70 years of Leninism-Stalinism. They have no democratic culture deeply embedded into their history like the United States.

     So, what is the Putin-Medvedev-KGB-United Russia agenda in Russia today? It is clearly slanted against the United States and NATO, and to some degree the European Union, although the latter is not considered a security threat as is the former, since the EU gets a major percentage of its energy supplied from Russia through pipelines running through Eastern Europe. This gives Putin-Medvedev great leverage to be major players in Europe’s future, with their ultimate strategic aim probably being to displace the United States’ influence there and perchance become a major country in the EU as well and have NATO disbanded.

     The Putin-Medvedev agenda is also in concert with that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through their alliance via the SCO, which has been from the start, very vocally opposed to “American Hegemonism”. It also intends to unofficially reorganize the Soviet Union by maintaining a series of political economic alliances with as many countries close to its sphere of influence (what it calls Russia’s “near abroad”) as it can.

     The Putin-Medvedev strategy is to attack the United States economically and bleed it to death through America’s own excessive militarism, the same way Reagan bled the Soviet Communist Party to death. Domestically, their intent is to maintain a Russian oligarchy in power that allows for large corporations allied with the government to keep a greatly disproportionate percentage of the wealth of the nation. They get support from the youth of Russia who see this strange form of “state capitalism” as being truly the way Russia becomes a great world power again. Nationalism remains a powerful opiate for the masses. The great wealth being acquired by the new Russian oligarchy gives many young Russians hope that they, too, can strike it rich. It’s the “American Dream” in Moscow – a newly embraced “Russian Dream.”

     All these ideas and ideals and hopes are inhaled through the new Kremlin controlled mass media, which has copied modern entertainment and sports programming, to make the people giddy over how much better off they are now compared to how they fared under the Communists and the more anarchic system of “democracy” imposed after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is a delirium similar to the one being spewed out by the American mass media to the American people about how well off they are because America is The World’s Greatest Military Behemoth.

     As long as the minor parties are permitted to remain on the Russian scene (including the widely despised Russian Communist Party and the colorful but ineffectual Greens, each of which presently retain a few seats in the Duma – the Russian Parliament)…and some minor papers or magazines remain on the street that dispute the official dogma to a small segment of the public…Putin and Medvedev can claim that Russia is a “managed democracy” that tolerates some political gnats at the margins just like the American Corporate Oligarchy does. However, the American Corporate Oligarchs who run the mass media might learn a thing or two from Putin about political euphemisms. “Managed democracy” sounds pretty close to what The Trilateral Commission was advocating in the mid-1970s and sounds a lot better than what the American (and Russian) system actually are: “elected oligarchies.”

CCP News

     As for China, its Constitution, like Russia’s and the U.S.A.’s, also guarantees “freedom of the press.” This has the same legal punch as sayings in a fortune cookie. Unlike the Soviet Communist Party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not collapse and become a hollow shell of itself, replaced by a shaky, unrealistic “democratic” substitute. It did transform itself, however, away from the total “dictatorship of the proletariat” that owned everything (as it is in North Korea today)…including all media…into another form of “state capitalism”, but one that is more blatantly Socialistic than its Russian counterpart. This is, in part, manifested by its openly strict control over all electronic media throughout China including TV, radio and the Internet.

     Once again we find a one way, downstream mass media, this time brazenly dominated by the CCP, whose avowed mission is to set the public agenda, to screen all news, to socialize the people into the norms decided upon by the CCP and to punish severely anyone who dares challenge the CCPs omnipotence in China. But it is also true that China has thriving printing press books, newspapers, magazines…some of which are CCP organs but many of which are not. So, at least part of their mass media is privately owned and therefore not controlled by the CCP, right? Wrong.

     What happened was the democratic uprising in China in 1989. The democratic reform movement that had burgeoned after the capitalistic “reform” period started by Deng Xiao Ping had gone much too far for the comfort of many hard-liners in the top ranks of the CCP, particularly at the apex, The Politburo. The Tiananmen Square Massacre and the crushing of the democratic revolt began a reaction against even this small but flourishing “free press” of books, pamphlets, and posters. From then to now and for the foreseeable future, laws and regulations were passed making sure that every non-party publication had to be registered with the government, that each had a specific area which it could address (business, entertainment, health) and that everyone understood that the inside thinking and decision making of the CCP was never to be made public by any publication…at the risk of severe “re-education.”

“BBC News – June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square Massacre”

     This video ends with: “Tell the World.” But what? Tell the world that no information and no discussion of CCP business was actually the public’s business? Tell it that all the party organ newspapers and magazines were not only to serve up the Party line, but were to serve an intelligence gathering function for the CCP, sort of media spies on the people? Didn’t the world know that already? This “massacre” of unarmed civilians protesting was just a strong message to the world of this fact of life in modern China. “Get Used to It.”

     As for the electronic media, it is as top down as any system in the world: TV, radio, and to a large (but potentially diminishing) degree, the Internet simply say as they are told. If anyone goes public against the CCP “party line” – in any medium – lengthy and harsh imprisonment is a likely fate. A more pleasant one is permanent exile. So, what is that “Party line?”

     It is, like its Russian ally’s, extremely nationalistic, with some very powerful enemies in its crosshairs, particularly the same one as the Russian one: “American Hegemonism” and America’s diffident Asian ally, Japan, its arch foe. The theory and practices of China’s foreign political and economic strategy and policies have been mentioned before when we discussed the SCO, as well as the separate military alliance with Russia, plus an informal alliance between China and Iran.

     But China now has been courting and recruiting many friendly nations around the world, cultivating them with a “soft hand”, by investing heavily in them without interfering in their internal affairs (making it clear to them that China is not like the U.S.A., the IMF, and the World Bank…who stipulate all kinds of conditions to loans, aid, and investments). Thus Chinese influence is spreading throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. All the Chinese mass media applaud this approach, and herald visits from foreign leaders to Beijing bearing praise for Chinese investments and partnerships.

     Although the CCP now uses Western style TV production values, the spruced up news on national TV and in The China Daily does not ignore the tremendously widespread local corruption of local CCP bureaucracies with land developers and industrialists that has enraged Chinese citizens across that vast land. In 2007, there were an estimated 78,000 violent demonstrations throughout China involving this kind of oppression and the cultural, social and economic damage caused by it. The Chinese mass media does its best to say just enough to cover occasional arrests and firings of low level CCP officials, helping keep a lid on the extent of the rot and its resultant unrest. How long this will succeed remains to be seen, particularly with the return of somewhere between 20-40 million newly unemployed factory workers back into a jobless countryside in 2009.

     Similarly, any Chinese citizen living in the northern part of that country is acutely aware of the very toxic atmosphere they breathe, and the widespread pollution to both the ground and water as well. To keep the people’s mind diverted from all this corruption and pollution, The CCP controlled media extols the great surge forward of the Chinese “state controlled market economy”…emphasizing all the new wealth generated among a rapidly growing, but still relatively small, middle and entrepreneurial and professional classes. Glitzy new malls, fancy new cars and robots, and Hollywood style high end housing developments are given lots of media space…creating a sense of hope for those who cannot share in this new CCP produced bounty.

     The truth is actually a very harsh reality that the new entertainment and sports content is designed, as in the U.S. and Russia, to divert attention away from the endemic failures in the system. In a country of 1.4 billion people, this great new wealth is extremely mal-distributed. The number of extremely poor peasants in the hinterlands beyond the growing, but still isolated industrial and commercial centers, remains enormous…probably three times the entire population of the United States. Think of what would happen in the U.S.A. if 800,000,000 people were living in or at the edge of poverty! (The entire U.S. population is just under three times that number). That is the gusher that the CCP is trying to cap.

     It is not an easy job for the CCP controlled media to contain such a large pot of boiling oil. So, they focus on the positives (like the Olympic Games in Beijing in the summer of 2008) and China’s growing power and influence around the world – politically, economically and socially (the national pride card).

“Were the 2008 Olympics (China) the 21st Century Version of the 1936 Olympics (Germany)?”

     Impressed? You should be. That was the intent of the CCP – to impress the world with China’s collective nationalist spirit and discipline and innovation while at the same time mobilizing and hypnotizing its own population so as to gain support for their short and long term geopolitical and domestic strategies. If we go back 72 years, and watch the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, there are some eerie parallels. Under Hitler, there was a new one party state that emerged, with a command economy that mixed nationalized industry with capitalism and where there was, in retrospect, a geopolitical strategy well underway. The idea, then, was to impress the world with a resurgent German know-how, massive collective discipline and innovation. Take a look, and aside from the far more modern techniques, look for the striking similes. Unelected, dictatorial oligarchies are particularly good at staged events meant to motivate their publics and send piercing geopolitical messages to the world.

“Fest der Volker: Opening Ceremonies of the 1936 Olympics”

     Aside from their whiz-bang techniques, The CCP’s main method of getting the Chinese people to buy into and sacrifice their personal well-being for the good of The China of the Future, is to zoom in a lot on American militarism and the Neo-Con and/or New World Order philosophy of ruling the world along with its obsequious Asian partner, the loathed Japan. They focus on how the Western media are making China look bad because of a renegade province like Tibet…in order to minimize the crowning achievement of the CCP in getting the Games to Beijing and in the huge construction projects that will make Beijing at least the equal to any great capital in the world.

     There is one major difference, though. Unlike the U.S. corporate controlled media, the Chinese mass media has not pushed massive domestic consumerism as heavily. This is because the CCPs economic plans are to keep China chiefly as a low wage paying, export driven economy– for the time being. Thus, there is a lot of fun and games these days on CCP TV to divert the people from their mass misery. The CCP is allowing more and more advertising for a wide variety of products and services as (a) a source of revenue for many things in order to preserve the Party’s reserve funds and (b) to start to stimulate its domestic markets, particularly as the world plunged into a global recession in 2009. It has become a much more user friendly Communist propaganda and reality diversion machine…except if you poke your nose into CCP’s party business…or talk about making China a more Western style democracy. That’s asking for big trouble.

     Look at it this way. The CCP is pushing an ideological agenda onto the Chinese masses via the mass media. It is still a Communist system, with the CCP and the Red Army owning almost two thirds of production and services in China. But they are currently on their “capitalist” road. The Politburo, which is composed of 9 men…NINE MEN…really runs the show and decides the future of 1.4 BILLION PEOPLE. Hardly a democracy, is it? They decide. No dissent tolerated. Violators are brutalized. Dictatorship of the proletariat? Yes. But withering away of the state? LOL!.

     Through this heavy centrally dominated system, with the CCP owning all TV, radio and a network of newspapers and publishing houses, the CCP crafts a culture of nationalism among its people. It both manufactures consent and smashes dissent. This is a good thing, the people are told, and the proof is that modern China is once again becoming one of the greatest powers on Earth. It is a proud one party state…with no referendum system, no balance to the ultimate power, the Politburo of the CCP. So it’s very unlike the American two party political system…, which is why it is ranked so low in the Reporter Without Borders rankings (and why we doubt they have an office in Beijing).

     But let’s not ignore the similarities: A very small percentage of a very small super elite (The Politburo and the U.S. Corporate elite) control the agenda of the news. They are socializing the masses into their value system (Communist guided “capitalist road” or “corporate capitalism”) and its vision for the future of their country (its foreign political and economic policies and alliances) through this one-way downstream system of political communications.

     They both try hard to shield the people from mounting economic, social and environmental difficulties via their controlled media, through a liberal use of entertainment, sports and cultural shows (“Beijing Opera” in China, “American Idol” in America). Both systems use advertising as a revenue stream to fund their operations. Both have a very intimate relationship between the mass media and their military and space programs (The Red Army and the Pentagon). Neither system has any direct empowerment of the citizenry in policy or lawmaking. These are not superficial likenesses…and perhaps that is why the CCP and Corporate America are finding it easier to do business with each other.

     For example, Rupert Murdoch removed the BBC from his Asian Star satellite network because some of the documentaries were critical of the CCP. The CCP threatened to jam all his programming, but Rupert Murdoch is a man of principle (“Geld uber alles” or “What’s more important than money?”) and kowtowed to The Politburo’s demands. Bye bye “The Beeb” in China. Then there are the American Internet giants.

     As we will soon see, the Internet is a lot more difficult for pure, stern and strict dictatorships to censor, or even monitor, than TV, radio, and print media. However, since China is now so heavily invested economically in global trade – which is the source of its economic boom – they need the Internet and are part of it. Although the CCP actually owns ALL Internet servers inside China, it still relies heavily on foreign, mostly American, Internet corporations (hardware and software)…and actually needs their cooperation to maintain the domestic blackout of various websites and file sharing that the CCP considers taboo. The American companies (Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Yahoo foremost among them), following Rupert Murdoch’s guiding light, collaborate with the CCP in its squelching of the freedom of speech, thought and the press via the web.

     In April of 2006, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, rationalized his company’s mercenary motives in collaborating with the world’s largest Communist dictatorship as follows: “We’ve made a decision that we have to respect their local laws and culture. So, it’s not an option for us to broadly make information available that is illegal.” (PBS, April 16, 2006 at www.pbs.org/newshour) In other words, since the market share in Hell is much larger than that in China, whatever the Devil decides is Satanic Law is something Rupert Murdoch and Google will help enforce.

The Mullah News Service

     Then there is Iran. The U.S. mass media would have Americans believe that Iran is a dictatorship run by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took office in August 3, 2005 after a heated election. The U.S. mass media portrays him as an unkempt, pugnacious little “dictator” whose obsession is the physical destruction of all Israelis, if not all Jews, and that he is the driving force behind the hostility Iran displays towards the United States. As events in that nation during the presidential election of 2009 show clearly, that image is mostly fiction.

     Actually, as we have noted in earlier chapters, Iran is a country which has been attacked repeatedly by the United States, in various ways, over the past 55+ years…Although the methods were different in each case, the same reasons have been involved: oil and Iran’s unique geo-strategic placement on the map.

     It bears repeating that the first time was a CIA led coup in the early 1950s when the U.S. government help overthrow Iran’s elected prime minister and replaced him with a pro-American puppet government (The Shah of Iran) for about 25 years. The goal here was to help “westernize” Iran, keep it from allying itself with the Soviet Union, get sweetheart deals on cheap oil, and sell the Shah enough “Made in the U.S.A.” high-tech military weaponry to make Iran one of the best equipped armies in the world at the time. The reader can see how this fit so well into American geopolitical strategy during the Cold War period .It was also a boon to the U.S. military-industrial complex…just as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been.

     The Shah’s regime, being a total dictatorship, was as all totalitarian regimes, quite vicious to any Iranian citizen who would be at odds with the government. Those who resisted or conspired to resist suffered prison, torture, maiming, and/or death. The lucky few, who escaped, lived in elsewhere. There were many enemies of the Shah’s regime hiding at home and abroad, including those who wanted a genuine Iranian constitutional monarchy (not a U.S. pawn), Socialists, Communists, moderate Islamic, and a large faction of those who wanted a fundamentalist Islamic state. This latter group included an exiled Ayatollah, Ruhollah Khomeini – who was plotting ways to dump the Shah while living in hard to reach places.

     Finally, after a galaxy of atrocities and mistakes, great turmoil roiled Iran in the late 1970s which culminated, due to a host of intended and unintended consequences, in the collapse of the Shah’s regime in a relatively bloodless, but noisy and massive “revolution.” When the crowds went home, what rose was an “Islamic Republic”…one ruled by fundamentalist clerics led by, none other than Khomeini and his most loyal admirers and adherents.

     The Shah, who was dying of cancer, sought and ultimately found refuge in an American hospital. This so enraged the more hotheaded of the revolutionaries that they swarmed over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took dozens of American diplomats, military attaches and CIA agents, the latter who were there “under cover”, as hostages, which precipitated an international crisis for about a year. This situation, plus an American mass media that cast the United States into the role of being an innocent victim of crazed lunatics, plus a torrid inflation, cost Jimmy Carter his presidency…and propelled Ronald Reagan into The Oval Office. But the ill will between Iran and the United States was just heating up.

     The next stage in this persistent American geopolitical game of “regime change” for Iran was to arm and support an Iraqi dictator named Saddam Hussein, who was a Sunni Arab secularist (actually a pan-Arabic socialist). The last thing Saddam Hussein wanted was this new and powerful Shiite Persian power on his border. It was also the last thing the CIA wanted. So a war broke out between Iraq and new Islamic Republic of Iran.

     The Iran Chamber Society, which appears on its website to be a relatively non-partisan NGO dedicated to Iranian culture (See www.iranchamber.com), provides the following well documented, chronological information on the Internet about how the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East became more and more supportive of Saddam Hussein’s side as the Iraq-Iran progressed from 1980 until its end in 1988.

November, 1983. A National Security Directive states that the U.S. would do “whatever was necessary and legal” to prevent Iraq from losing its war with Iran.

November, 1983. Banca Nazionale del Lavoro of Italy and its Branch in Atlanta begin to funnel $5 billion in unreported loans to Iraq. Iraq, with the blessing and official approval of the US government, purchased computer controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods for Iraq’s missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.

October, 1983. The Reagan Administration begins secretly allowing Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt to transfer United States weapons, including Howitzers, Huey helicopters, and bombs to Iraq. These shipments violated the Arms Export Control Act.

November 1983. George Schultz, the Secretary of State, is given intelligence reports showing that Iraqi troops are daily using chemical weapons against the Iranians.

December 20, 1983. Donald Rumsfeld, then a civilian and now Defense Secretary, meets with Saddam Hussein to assure him of US friendship and materials support.

July, 1984. CIA begins giving Iraq intelligence necessary to calibrate its mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops.

     The death toll on both sides has been estimated to be approximately 1 million dead. The final score was: a draw…with untold suffering and misery…but the United States government had lost another shot at making Iran an American client state. The American mass media hardly mentioned this war at all (since American troops weren’t dying there) and surely didn’t inform the American public that Mr. Nice Guy, Ronald Reagan, was providing Hussein with “mustard gas” and other WMDs and thereby violating U.S. law as well.

     If all this was not enough to make the Iranian people and the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran insanely paranoid (“even paranoids have real enemies”) about America’s ill will towards them, the U.S. military managed another atrocity in July 1988 when a U.S. missile cruiser (U.S.S. Vincennes) in the Persian Gulf “mistakenly” shot down, for the first time in U.S. military history, an unarmed Iranian jet passenger plane killing 290 passengers (250 who were Iranian citizens).

“US Shoots Down Iranian Jet”

     While it was undoubtedly human error, there were all kinds of semi-apologies and regrets and a ton of explanations…but the crew of the U.S.S. Vincennes were welcomed back in America, according to the U.S. media, as heroes, a few months later. Eventually, the U.S. government offered to pay somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 for each person on that plane. ABC News, some years later, though, in an isolated investigative report, noted that actually this event was an unintended consequence of the “secret” and “undeclared” U.S. war against Iran. http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jksonc/docs/ir655-nightline-19920701.html

     Now America, thanks to the same kind of thinking that has prevailed in Washington, D.C. for over a century, is encamped in a series of “permanent” military bases in two countries that border Iran: Iraq and Afghanistan. (Take another look at the map of “Containment of China” and see where Iran sits) Plus, in the summer of 2008, the U.S. had two huge aircraft carrier groups sitting right off the coast of Iran.

     So where does President Obama stand on this issue? He has talked “tough” about Iran’s U.S. alleged nuclear weapons program (even though the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 said Iran had dropped that program in 2003—but is rethinking it after a hidden nuclear plant was found in Iran in 2009). Will he drop “sanctions” against Iran? Perhaps. Will “all options” (including nuclear attack) stay “on the table.”? We’ll see. Early indications in the Obama presidency are that he may see value in Iranian help to destabilize The Taliban in Afghanistan, since the Iranians dislike the Taliban intensely.

     Meanwhile, what is this “Islamic Republic” that the Neo-Cons under President Bush II wanted so badly to replace?

     First and foremost, Iran is totally unlike the USA, Russia or China. It is a theocracy, pure and simple. In other words, it is a dictatorship not of the proletariat, or of the corporate capitalists, nor of some bizarre combination of the two (like China), but of a holy priesthood and Koran scholars of Shiite Islam. Actually, there is only one (1!) official Supreme Leader (Putin is “unofficial”) in Iran, and his title and name is, much like his predecessor Khomeini, is Ayatollah Khamene’i. He is the personally appointed heir to such absolute rule by the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini himself – which gives Khamene’i immense and nearly unassailable stature and authority in the eyes of most Iranians.

     In the Iranian system, The Supreme Leader chooses “The Guardian Council” of 12 men (no women allowed in Islam). Six of them are holy men. Six of them are scholars of the Sharia, or holy law, sort of a supreme court of religious lawyers. Thus The Council of Guardians, or The Guardian Council (in Platonic terms), is like a mixture of America’s Cabinet and Supreme Court – all learned man of great virtue– according to their own ideology. In Islamic fundamentalist nations, the holy men who interpret the Sharia, and control the police who enforce these laws, are the most powerful men. They also control the foreign and global strategy of Iran mainly against The American Empire (“The Great Satan”) and its designs in the Middle East.

     They are the ones who, for good reasons, see the nation state of Israel as a pawn of the American goal to checkmate them and once again subjugate their sovereignty to the strategic and economic interests of the United States. They are the ones who envision Iran as becoming perhaps THE major player in their own region of the world and getting the Americans out forever. They are the ones deciding to make alliances with China, Russia and Venezuela…and supporting resistance to America and Israel in Iraq, in Palestine, in Lebanon. President Ahmadinajad was mostly a figurehead thus hardly a dictator. He has some power, but nothing compared to The Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council. Thus, the American media is just playing him up as a demon for popular consumption. Actually, the election of 2009 in Iran demonstrated that Ahmadinajad had forged a close political relationship with The Supreme Leader, but we think he is mostly a second banana.

     Obviously then, it is The Supreme Leader and The Guardian Council who control the mass media of Iran. Actually, The Supreme Leader of Iran is in many ways a very modern man. He is much in favor of his Islamic Republic being a scientific and technological leader in the Middle East and Central Asia. He personally is in favor of stem cell research and cloning (contrasted with the fundamentalist Christian theocrats in the United States, including ex-President Bush). In fact, on the stem cell issue he is in synch with President Obama. And as we learned in the 2009 presidential election, he has been a good student of modern ways to rig an election.

     Thus, it is at least plausible that the Iranian claim that they are developing nuclear technologies to gain social status in Islam and to provide a future energy replacement for oil is at least compatible with this mindset of Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i. A nuclear energy strategy would also free up more oil for export, the most important part of the Iranian export economy and would provide them with much greater financial resources to combat the Israeli “entity” and the “imperialistic Americans” in their part of the world.

     Their political system, albeit a theocracy, is actually a lot more complicated and “democratic” than the Western and American mass media give it credit for being. Although The Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council have a final say on just about everything, like the Chinese Politburo and Putin’s Inner Circle…there is more leeway for “reformers” and dissidents to do things that are not in accord with what the real “dictators” of Iran would approve. For one thing, there are elections of both the President and a Parliament (as in Russia and the U.S.A.). The “conservatives” – which is the majority fundamentalist faction in Parliament…and which would like to control the presidency – are much along the thought lines of the tiny elite at the top.

     But the elections do not always go that way. There is a substantial “reform” presence in Parliament…and up until Ahmadinejad, who represented, at first, sort of a “populist” faction of the Iranian public, a “reformer” was president. So does that mean Ahmadinejad was supported by the conservative clerics? The top clerics in Iran are part of something called “The Council of Experts” which is located in Qom, the holiest of Shiite cities. Some of them favor “the reformers” and some favor both the president and The Supreme Leader. He is neither a member of the major, reform group or the conservatives at the top. He is a bit of a loose cannon by Iranian standards. Compared to present day Russia and China, Iran seems to have a system that is actually more diverse an oligarchy than Russia or China at the peak. Thus, President Ahmadinjad –– can hardly be, as he is called almost universally in the U.S. corporate controlled media: either “a dictator” or “tyrant.”  He’s a second tier oligarch with a big title and big mouth.

     So how does this somewhat chaotic “Islamic republic” relate to the media? Is there a lot of control or is there actually more “freedom of the press” there than in Russia? China? The U.S.A.? Well, although Reporters Without Borders ranks Iran below Russia and China on its “freedom of the press” roster, we’d say it’s hard to judge precisely. They are all complicated but seem to us to be roughly the same. Here is what a web based data base on world media around the world called Press Reference has to say about Iran and its print media:

“There are many conservative publications in Iran such as Tehran Times, Joumhouryieh, and Resalaat. However, according to the 2001 World Press Freedom Review, a conservative editorial stance does not mean freedom from censorship and other forms of government control.

Reformists hold Islam in high esteem and want religion to maintain a prominent role in Iran. Reformists also desire freedom of association, freedom of the press, and a more open society: they believe a free press means a free people. Many reformist publications exist in 2002— for example, Iran Daily, Hayat-e-No, and Iran News – but all are frequent targets of censorship, confiscation, suspension, fining, and banning.

Journalism in Iran was a dangerous profession in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, particularly if an individual worked for a reformist publication or adhered to a journalistic ethic of truth regardless of personal fate, which could mean threats, arrest, imprisonment with or without formal charges, accusation of espionage, isolation, or even torture, lashes, banning, murder, and execution.”(See www.pressreference.com/Gu-Ku/Iran.html)

     Thus, what we see in contemporary Iran’s print journalism is yet another near total control of political communications by their power elite, despite the fact that Iran’s Islamic Constitution guarantees “freedom of the press” – as long as it is consistent with Islamic principles. And who determines that? Those in government (who cannot be criticized). The Committee to Protect Journalists (a New York based NGO founded by American foreign correspondents at www.cpj.org) estimated that in a period between 1997-2001, the Iranian government had closed some 52 papers and journals. This is surely one primary reason why Reporters Without Borders ranks Iran so low.

     As for the broadcast media, there are a number of TV and radio stations which the government directly owns and which have a wide audience. These operate much like those owned by the KGB clique in the Kremlin, the American corporate mass media, and The CCP: They are top down, broadcast the party line exclusively, brook no independent judgment, socialize the people into the value system of those in charge, and attack those who don’t knuckle under.

     According to the BBC, “There are no private, independent broadcasters allowed to operate inside the country…The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting controls TV and radio.” (Usher 2006)

     Thus, pretty much all domestic Iranian TV and radio espouses the superiority of Shiite Islam and the glory of the Persian people to fulfill their destiny in that part of the world. It is a cheerleader for an independent nuclear industry, for scientific and technological achievements, for the destruction of “the Zionist entity” in Palestine, against American imperialism, pro Chinese and Russian investments in Iran, against Westernization of Iranian culture, etc. After all, this is the fundamentalist Islamic Party line.

     Thus, whether from the government sources, or from the highly censored and pressured “independent” private sources, there is little difference between the political communications systems we have examined above and that in Iran: It is highly dictatorial, manipulative, deceptive, nationalistic, and heavily larded with the policy decisions made in secret by a very small number of men.

     However, even fundamentalist Islamic despots have learned a lot since the days of Hitler, Stalin and Mao about how to use television, in particular, to get “the people” to watch and even enjoy the propaganda. The way the U.S. system works so well at capturing the “common sense” of Americans is not lost on The Guardian Council on how to capture the “common sense” of Shiite Iranians. Some of this entertainment and sports programming has the same major purposes: distraction from the economic difficulties and harsh life the vast majority of Iranians feel and to avert many eyes from the strict enforcement of Sharia, which is probably not the way most Iranians want to live their lives. But they have even picked up on more subtle ways of getting their political strategies across to the Iranian people as well…just like in…say…American soap operas.

     Recently, an expert on Iranian media, Famaz Fassihi, wrote a story in The Wall Street Journal about a most captivating soap opera on late night TV in Iran. It is based on a true story of an Iranian diplomat in France falling in love with a French Jewish woman…during World War II…and the trials and tribulations of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis. It stars Iran’s top heartthrob and was drawing record audience shares.

     According to Fassihi, this has several purposes for the chief of Iranian TV, none other than Ali Khamein’i himself. It points out possible dissatisfaction with the President’s denial of the Holocaust, but emphasizes that Iran is not anti-Semitic, just anti Zionist. Whether true or not is beside the point. What is true is that there are splits among the Iranian elite, as among America’s and Russia’s and the Chinese as well. It is who controls the TV at any time that has the advantage in getting their points across to their own people – to hypnotize and mobilize their support for their faction’s grip on power and their faction’s polices. Fassihi goes on to explain even more about Iranian TV:

“Iran has long used TV to shape public opinion, where newspapers and the Internet are seen as media for the elite. The state’s control over radio and television is enshrined in the constitution. Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, is not only head of the armed forces and the judiciary, but also the national broadcast authority.”

“The regime appreciates the fact that to appeal to the masses, both in Iran and the Muslim world, television is the most important outlet,” says Kari Sadjadpour, an expert on Iran at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

On any given day, the country’s seven state-run channels broadcast a mostly drab offering of news, sports, cooking shows, soap operas and religious sermons. Political propaganda is constantly fed into the mix. Dissidents such as students or reformers are routinely paraded before cameras to read confessions after stints of solitary imprisonment. (Authors’ Note: The above photo is the “trial” of some of leaders of the massive protests against alleged fraud in the presidential election of 2009)

A slick documentary-style program recently aired long interviews with two Iranian-Americans who were detained on allegations of working to overthrow the regime. The interviews – in which the pair blandly admitted to meeting with Iranian scholars and dissidents, but not to attempting to topple the government – were intercut with provocative scenes of demonstrations in Ukraine, where the U.S. encouraged groups that eventually staged the successful Orange Revolution in late 2004.

In July, Iran launched a 24-hour English-language satellite news channel called Press TV, joining the ranks of the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera. Its Arabic news channel, Al Alam, has been broadcasting news with an Iranian slant in the Arab world for several years.” (Fassihi 2007)

     Observe that Iran is now beginning its own English language satellite news channel to add to its Arabic satellite news channel. This is partly in response to the fact that CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and many Iranian TV stations – and radio stations – and websites – and emails – based abroad and on the Internet are broadcasting and narrowcasting into Iran on a daily and nightly basis…24 hours a day…with Western and Islamic voices that do not share the opinions of the Iranian clergy about Islamic Republics. So, although the Iranian government may have a monopoly of TV and radio inside Iran, and though it may have a state of the art Internet monitoring system – it still has nowhere near a monopoly on the programming that Iranians can easily pick up on the Internet or their satellite dishes.

     This lack of control over electronic media images of the massive demonstrations in Tehran in the wake of the 2009 election was made clear by the use of cell phones with cameras and a variety of texting and on-site “Tweets” being sent outside of Iran by the protesters to Western media outlets. One can imagine the fury this caused the control freaks in the Guardian Council The following video on YouTube captures all the fury of this uprising, and features images that must have enraged the Iranian theocratic censors: the murder of a beautiful Iranian woman by the secret police for just being there.

WARNING: This video has some very disturbing content.

“Deda Agha Soltan – Killed 20.06.09. Presidential election Protest Tehran”

     By the way, the same is true in Russia and China. Both of them are deluged with foreign-based mass media that are at odds with the Putin and CCP Party lines. With all the jamming devices and with all the attempted control of the Internet, these countries are awash with foreign-based counter-information and counter-viewpoints. They are also, including Iran, awash in Western culture including the cell phone and Internet cultures of texting and twittering and cameras everywhere – a citizen journalism that would be incredibly difficult to crack down on. After all, their populations are being imbued with rising economic expectations and yearning for the kind of materialistic goodies that are commonplace in the United States and Western Europe, Asia and Latin America: cell phone with cameras and Internet connected keyboards—the bane of centralized media control.

     So, although these three very large nations grow and gain geopolitical power, their systems continue to maintain extremely wide distributions of wealth, health and comfort between, as George W. Bush puts it, “The Have Mores” and the “Have Almost Nothings”…who are the vast majorities of their populations. The Ruling Elites are well aware of the potential for “great turbulence” if they do not narrow the gap a great deal in the near future. Even President Obama has shown an awareness of this growing problem in the U.S.A. early in his administration.

The American System of Stealth Censorship

     Sad to say, but this kind of external, counter penetration into the consciousness or sub-consciousness of a national population by the media of other countries does not hold true with the United States of America. Don’t believe us?

     Well, just try to get foreign TV or radio on the American airwaves or through your satellite stations or cable. With the exception of BBC, it is just about impossible. Every once in a while, at some odd hour on some odd cable of satellite channel, you might chance upon a half hour of BBC programming, but that’s about it. It’s almost accidental and surely episodic, not systematic. Al Jazeera is trying to get its English language channel into the American mix of news programming. Good luck Al Jazeera. And if you should tune in, don’t be surprised if somewhere, somehow, Homeland Security or the Pentagon’s “total knowledge” network is keeping an electronic record of your being in touch with that point of view.

     So, in that way, the American non-governmental “silencing” of foreign media and of anti- American Corporate Oligarchy or anti-American Imperialism messages is probably superior to the Chinese, Russian and Iranians – and this is done without any governmental intervention. In other words, the American corporate controlled mass media does a better job of keeping out foreign counter-propaganda than the Chinese Communist Party, Putin and his KGB cronies and the Iranian mullahs. This is surely one of the reasons that the American masses are probably the most xenophobic, uninformed, hypnotized and mobilized of any industrialized nation in the world…making mass trancing and military mobilization an invisible and subconsciously accepted norm in the U.S.A.

     What this control over the American mass media has done is to keep the American public in the dark and without a clue about what is really going on in the American political system, as well as what its military is actually doing around the world. It is as efficient a method of thought control as any devised by the human mind to create mass hypnosis. The disastrous effects of this concentrated mesmerization over the “common sense” of the American people has had extremely negative results for the poor, the working class, and the middle class for quite some time now. However, due to the clearly disastrous results finally being felt by the American people as a whole have only recently made them somewhat restless, if not uncomfortable with the harsh economic and political realities that are manifesting themselves from 2008 to today (to be described in detail in Chapter 13).

     As P.T. Barnum, a master American huckster adept at mass entertainment once said: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” As 2010 plods on, reality bites the American populace and they will finally understand that “reality TV” is not real and TV itself diverts them from actual political economic reality…, which is getting harsher and harsher.

     So, it is not a question of whether, but when these new economic and social realities will propel the American public out of its mass media induced enchantment and torpor…aided by stealth censorship and superficial, highly biased, heavily vetted “news.” After all, the American Corporate Oligarchy refuses to give any post-hypnotic suggestions to the general American public about how to break free and how to change “the system” in their favor for the future. The options for change that are presented by both the mass media and the “hidden government” remained very limited, if non-existent, even during the extremely lengthy and verbose 2008 presidential campaign.

     Let us conclude this chapter with a short video on YouTube of an excerpt from a speech by Bill Moyers, a former White House press secretary and globally esteemed TV analyst as he addresses “The National Conference on Media Reform” in Memphis, Tennessee in 2007. We think this summarizes pretty well what we’ve been saying throughout this book and this chapter. You can find his entire speech online if you want to hear it, but we think these 5 minutes say it all for and with us:

“Bill Moyers: What’s Wrong With Big Media (2007)”

     Paradoxically, the output of this corrupted corporate oligarchic system has presented more than enough “necessary” conditions for dramatic change, i.e., the next round of democratic political transformation in American history. Let’s examine the intended and unintended consequences of their greatest achievement, The Reagan Revolution, or what we think should be renamed “The Reagan Devolution”.

Questions for Discussion

1. Why is the free press referred to as “the fourth branch of government”? What is “the watchdog function”?

2. 2 What were the times in American history that the national government ignored The First Amendment “freedom of the press” and oppressed it? What was the general rationale? Do you think that it is a good one?

3. What do Becker and Briand and many other observers of American mass media think is the greatest threat to the freedom of the press in America today?

4. What, according to the authors, is the “covert agenda” of those who rule American mass media today?

5. What was The Trilateral Commission’s view of “freedom of the press” in America during The Cultural Revolution?

6. What did they mean by “advocacy journalism?” What did they recommend as solutions to the problem? Were their recommendations implemented?

7. According to Dreier, what were the specific tactics they used to accomplish their strategy?

8. What is “advocacy advertising”? Give a few examples of what you have seen on TV in recent years that are examples of it.

9. 9, What are some of the issues and problems that you will never see on American TV or radio and read in American newspapers? What political parties and viewpoints are totally silenced or dismissed quickly with ridicule or insults?

10. Which is worse, government or corporate censorship. Why do you say that?

11. According to the authors, why does the American mass media of recent vintage glorify all American “wars”?

12. What is the argument that the European style social democracies have a far more vigorous practice of freedom of the press than the current American model?

13. 13 Would you be in favor of a large, government owned but independent US Broadcasting System (along the lines of the BBC) to compete with the corporate TV networks in America? Are you in favor of restoring “The Fairness Doctrine”? What are the reasons behind your views?

14. What is the major reason that Becker and Briand consider the contemporary American mass media model to be very poor contrasted with the social democratic model and too close to the Russian, Chinese and Iranian models?

15. What have the Russian, Chinese, and Iranian oligarchies learned from the American method of mass media hypnotism and control?

16.   What is there about the new electronic communications technologies that give some hope that all these oligarchies can be moved along the political continuum towards becoming far more democratic systems?