To better understand the conservatives, the CorpCons in particular, let's delve back into the misty, musty past to see what they have been up to. Be ready to hold your nose. They are real stinkers.
Well OK, this is not actually a short article. It's a long article. But it's still a short history. And history is very important if you want to understand how America got this way. Alas, Americans are really bad with history. They can barely remember how things were a few years ago, much less assimilate over 200 years of historical ebb and flow. It's really not that hard to get your bearings with the "long-view"; it's just that it is usually presented in such a dry and boring way, everyone's eyes glaze over and they tune out. We will try to be a little more entertaining here, and help you weave your way through some of the highlights and lowlights of American history, much of which you probably never even were presented with in school.
We recommend you bookmark this page and carefully read through at your leisure. Once you digest all of the information below, you'll be very much more enlightened about how the liberal/conservative dynamic has played out... and led directly to where you find yourself today.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
We have seen that there are two major divisions of conservatism: social and economic, represented by the social conservatives (SoCons) and corporate conservatives (CorpCons). These two categories have fared starkly differently over the past 250 years or so. Social conservatism has taken a serious beating, although it continues to proliferate and even dominate in certain areas of America and the world even as its ideology becomes more and more out of step with modern sense and sensibilities. Corporate conservatism has also been challenged by the rise of democracy, egalitarianism, socialism and the various rights movements, but has deftly adjusted in order to maintain a significant percentage of its once unquestioned power. Our story here will mainly consider the CorpCons, as they are the true myth makers and drivers of conservative socio-economic-policital power.
CorpCons have been around since the dawn of civilization. They have sexisted since long before there even were corporations. The CorpCons of today are the AristoCons of yesteryear, the kings and queens of old, the dukes and duchesses, the princes and princesses, the lords and ladies, the pharisees and sadducees, the pontifs and bishops and rajas and sheiks and sultans, plus the more affluent sycophants, parasites and hangers-on of those times when, in the collective mind of the ruling class, all was right in the world. That, of course, was the age of rigid class and caste systems... or we could simply call it the Dominator Hierarchy, in which the professional conservatives sit in wealth and power at the very pinnacle. By "Dominator Hierarchy" we are referring to embedded socio-economic inequality and injustice within a particular culture such as rich, white, male, Christian (or other local dominator religious structure), heterosexual, able-bodied privilege over those who are lower on the power scale. Click Here to read our article which explains the Dominator Hierarchy in full.
The definition of conservative is one who "conserves" (preserves, defends, restores) "traditional" institutions and customs. These invariably involve the Dominator Hierarchy. Conservatives are the self-proclaimed defenders of such institutions and hierarchies, though they avoid using those terms in favor of more palatable words and phrases such as "tradition" and "values" and "heritage" and "way of life." The liberal impulse has forever been opposed to such unfairness. Those who believe that the liberal/conservative dynamic of the modern era is something new could not be more mistaken. Conservatives and liberals have been fighting since before history began. The labels may have changed a bit, the parties have shifted their sacrosanct stances on various issues or realigned in composition, but the battle is as old as the hills, and nothing much has fundamentally changed.
Classically, as the dictionary and thesaurus and current events remind us, conservatives strive to conserve, retain, bolster, promote or attempt to restore "traditional" cultural, political and socio-economic hierarchies, institutions, customs and systems. These, of course, are the "traditional values" they so love... systems which produce social and economic advantages for such advocates.
Liberals are not so enamored by tradition, and are ill at ease with hierarchy. Rather, liberals continually strive for a more just, more free, more open and more egalitarian society. Often times the clashes between conservative and liberal come down to change: progress that seeks to unify, liberate, equalize, educate and help people, progress that provides wider opportunity, and progress that seeks to bring people of many different backgrounds and orientations together in more peaceful harmony. The liberals are always for it; the conservatives are always against it.
We see this dynamic working through the course of history. Socrates was a liberal; the Athenean court that convicted him of corrupting the minds of the youth with philosophy and truth (yes, liberals are always doing that) was conservative. Jesus was a radical liberal, bringing new ideas that flaunted tradition, championed the poor, recognized human equality and dignity even among out-groups, and flew in the face of entrenched religious and social power; the Pharisees who could not tolerate his message encouraging individual connection with the divine and equality amongst people and demanded his crucifixion were conservative. Giorddano Bruno and Galileo, daring to reveal scientific knowledge that would obliterate previous notions of reality, were merely following the liberal pathway of creative, thoughtful, "outside the box," inquiry. But conservaties are the steadfast guardians of "the box," thus the Church that put Bruno to death and imprisoned Galileo and demanded he reject and recant his discoveries was dutifully adhering to conservative principles. The famous American founding fathers considered themselves "liberal," and were knowingly following precepts of liberality in their quest for wider freedom and equality; King George, the British government, and the American British loyalists, the Tories, that wished to preserve the status quo of kingly rule were conservative. Charles Darwin was a liberal scientist daring, as much as Copernicus and Galileo, to refute traditional but erroneous belief; those (active even today) who would deny his seminal contribution to science, the theory of evolution, and re-establish the supremacy of belief over science, are easily defined as conservatives. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, each, in their own time, fighting against the "tradition" of subjugating the black race, were liberals; the entrenched white hierarchy that opposed them was conservative. In each of these cases, someone dared to bring forth ideas that threatened entrenched socio-economic powers and "traditional" values.
(As we note on the homepage, we use the terms "liberal" and "conservative" here, not "Republican" and "Democrat" because political party labels are not always very accurate. For instance, the Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves was a liberal; the Republican president who busted the Trusts in the early 1900s, Theodore Roosevelt, was a liberal; the racist Southern Democrats who lynched African Americans and aggressively opposed civil rights well into the 1960s were conservatives.)
The pattern repeats itself over and over again throughout history. It's actually very simple. Liberals seek liberty. Conservatives seek to conserve an older status quo, perfectly content with injustice and restraints on liberty for those not in the ruling class. Liberals seek equality. Conservatives seek to conserve a hierarchy that by its very definition and intention is unequal. Liberals seek truth and knowledge, thinking outside the box. Conservatives dwell deep inside "the box," seeking to conserve traditions that perpetuate their own advantage. Liberals seek justice for all. Conservatives seek to conserve the tradition of justice skewed toward the wealthy and members of the ruling clan (re: White, Male, Anglo-Saxon Protestants). Liberals push forward. Conservatives pull backwards. This is the way it has always been! When you encounter people telling you that the "modern" conservative/liberal dichotomy is somewhat recent in origin, just know that they are confused about what liberal and conservative really mean. Who you gonna believe? Them? Or the dictionary, thesaurus and the whole of human history? If you get nothing else from this website, get this: Nothing about this basic tension of beliefs has changed in thousands of years.
Now, at all of this, conservatives will scream: "You are wrong!" Usually followed by some spicy epithet. But they have not a fact in their corner. The best they can do is hide from history, or clumsily attempt to rewrite it, claiming for their own a select few heroes that they label conservative, who were, in absolute fact, radical liberals for their day... most defintely including Jesus. Mostly they hope that YOU are too lazy, or too stupid, to understand for yourself the simple difference between liberal and conservative: Liberals seek liberty, justice, equality, knowledge, compassion for ALL. Conservatives seek these values only for themselves. And that, friends, IS the history of the liberal/conservative human drama in a nutshell.
This was back when conservatives mostly had everything going their way. Classes and castes were firmly established, including the institution of slavery, and it all worked out so wonderfully for those at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. And then came a surge of liberalism which threatened to screw everything up for the beloved hierarchy. With their high and mighty ideals about liberty and equality and justice for all, and, of all ridiculous things, Pursuit of Happiness, the liberals ushered in a new phase of consciousness that would sweep across the world. Conservatives have been playing defense ever since.
In the mid-1600s British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, though a loyal subject of the monarch - as was everyone at the time, proposed an outlandish social contract in which he advocated for individual rights, general equality, representative government and other liberal principles. Looking around at the world, which was often engaged in blood-bathing (including a recent Civil War in England), he figured it would take a "leviathan" of a government to actually establish and enforce such a fair and moral society. Such ideas were considered fantasy at the time, and roundly opposed by conservatives who went so far as to warn that such concepts were contrary to God's plan and would lead directly to anarchy. Yes indeed, conservative exaggeration, distortion, hysteria and essential wrongness was present right here at the very beginnings of the modern socio-political-economic debate. Conservatives preferred to "conserve" the rights of the king, bishops, lords and their cadre of elete to run roughshod over the puny "individuals" of the middle and lower classes. They had absolutely no interest in the remotest form of equality. And what could be so bad about bloody wars, as long as the right side eventually won and none of them were killed in the process?
Another British philosopher, John Locke, took off much where Hobbes had left off. Locke is often called the "father of liberalism," and it's not a stretch, though perhaps of "modern liberalism" would be more accurate, as many others much earlier could hardly be argued against being a founding father of liberalism, including Jesus. Locke saw that Hobbes' leviathan government meant to control the worst of human tendencies would itself have to be controlled, and suggested a separation of powers within the government that might help to balance things out, and he was solidly opposed to the conflation of church and state. He urged religious tolerance. Of course, conservatives were against all of this, too, yet Locke's system of checks and balances would soon become the structure for both the British and United States democratice systems. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and others of the American founding fathers were overtly influenced by Locke's writings. In fact, among the most famous words in the lexicon of American democracy, Jefferson's "life, liberty and the puruist of happiness," likely trace directly back to John Locke.
Certainly the conservatives were all for liberty and justice. But only for themselves, definitely not for the common man! Such a state of affairs had never existed. It was unthinkable. "Pursuit of happiness? For the rabble? You cannot be serious, old chap! Who would tend and toil to our fancies?" In the conservative mind there could be only one outcome to such a system of common freedom... anarchy.
So an "Age of Reason," a general "Enlightenment," or rationality for the everyman, was a very dangerous thing according to the so-called "father of modern conservatism," Edmund Burke (1729-1797). Ironically (and tellingly), for his day Burke was rather liberal. Since the Magna Carta in 1215, England had been trending more and more liberal, but in stumbling fits and starts, and with continual and often quite effectual opposition from conservatives. Burke was a member of the Whigs, the more liberal political party of the day. The conservatives in England were (and still are) the Tories. The true conservatives of Burke's era, and their ideas, proved so out of touch with emerging modern sensibilities that no one claims them anymore, even today's Tories, who are themselves more liberal than even was Burke in his day. So with a liberal as modern conservatism's "father," we can see that not just liberals, but also conservatives, have generally become more liberal than they used to be. That, of course, is the arc of history. With greater awareness, higher consciousness, which prompts greater liberty, equality and compassion, the more liberal society tends to become... even conservatives! Why, it could be that 100 years from now conservatives will look just like the liberals of today, but surely will still be saying, "No," to the even more liberal and progressive ideas of that more advanced culture.
And so conservatives, themselves, choose the liberally-evolving Edmund Burke as the start of modern conservativism, not wanting to delve any further back in fear of utter embarrassment at the ranker forms of conservatism they would encounter.
Burke's train of thought was on the right track, but he just wasn't too far out of the station, and was loathe to lose sight of it. Unsurprisingly for his time, he just couldn't break out of the chains of either social or religious tradition. And so his philosophy is starkly at odds with true American sensibilities. He believed fully in clan mentality and its defining hierarchy. He feared the liberal idea of democracy would break the traditional "chain of subordination" that he and all other conservatives felt held civil society together. Burke is sometimes portrayed as "supporting the American Revolution." He did no such thing. He actually decried the separation, and merely supported Britain's not getting entangled in the affair.
Burke represented the professional conservative's deep distrust of the common man. Instead, he believed that a monarchy and its attendant structure of aristocracy and oligarchy of wealthy and educated elites were the natural rulers of any land, that the nation-state was divinely ordained (and, indeed, must be explicitly conjoined with the church), that the momentum of tradition, custom and heritage should not be tampered with (or only when such change was slowly and gently ushered in by God alone), and that the common man should not attempt to reason, or even desire education, but rather should bow to the higher intelligence and authority that would put them in their proper place in society... usually as some sort of laborer.
This system was referred to as the "natural order," after all it was the society depicted in the Bible, in which the Israelites are the idealized clan. Burke's view is in effect an excellent summation of clan mentality, whereby the herd follows stronger, superior leaders. Thus the God-sanctioned clan is superior, and justified in any of its behaviors... including the subjugation and exploitation of other clans/cultures. The Old Testament is replete with such subjugations, including genocide by the Israelites against other cultures in their "Promised Land." In the conservative mind, this is the way it has always been, and should always remain. Strong men do strong things; everyone else bows to their intelligence and strength. To this day this idea swirls through conservative thought and policy. This is the very concept that jumpstarted Donald Trump's popularity and took him to the White House.
"Don't think, conform!" is the undergirding of conservative philosophy... at least as propagated by the clan leaders. The leaders of the hierarchy will do the thinking for you. They will hand down the myths. Your job is simply to believe and follow.
And so we see that a strict hierarchy, and its divisiveness, is inherent in conservative politics, extending to the very heart of its ideology and methodology. Within conservative systems there is a strict emphasis on "order" and "tradition" and "authority," which is simply the hierarchy and its "chain of subordination." Originally this very specifically included religious authority. God's will (as interpreted by the aristocratic rulers), the divine right of kings, and the tradition of a church-state superauthority were pillars of conservative belief, including Burke's. Though arising from common Irish stock, the brilliant Burke presumed himself and his wealthy and powerful friends (as well as the king and his bishops, of course) as the natural superiors within this scheme, while the little people, the subjects, would go about their lives without question and without say (tending and toiling to the things that maintained the status of the elite).
Conservatives of those days (and many even today) saw nothing at all wrong with this. Are not learned, successful and strong men the rightful rulers? This is the way it had always been. Even in the Bible "the people" are an unnamed, ignorant, stubborn, coarse and wayward rabble, which must be "shepherded" by strong leaders. All other societies throughout history were likewise structured. Conservatives have no real imagination or desire for anything other than a strict hierarchy, theoretically ruled by elites.
A superior class, an elite, is first and foremost among conservative political ideals. Next come ways to preserve that hierarchy. And this is where the traditional clan "values" of prejudice, fear and greed come into play.
In Burke's day, traditions and custom were all skewed toward propping up the ruling class, the elite. Many of these traditions and customs involved ways in which the little people could participate in some activity that was seemingly meaningful, like a celebration or feast-day, or by indoctrination in certain political or religious beliefs, but really it was all intended to bind them to the clan, its hierarchy and leadership. It was very important for the serf or merchant to feel that they were full-fledged members of the clan, of the nation, of the empire. In this way they received a vicarious dose of self-esteem, and could feel themselves superior to someone... perhaps a female, or a poorer neighbor or an immigrant, certainly those of another country.
In clan mentality, and conservatism, prejudice is encouraged. Prejudice binds the follower to the clan and its leaders, while at the same time driving a wedge between the follower and all "others." The last thing the clan leaders want is the followers and the "others" to recognize their commonality and unite against their true oppressors, the clan leaders.
So prejudice works quite well for keeping the clan in order. Prejudice is a conservative "traditional value." Another is fear.
A populace in fear turns to the clan and its leaders for protection, again solidifying the clan bond and creating that division with all "others." And no one is more fearful than conservatives. The CorpCons fully understand this, and go to great lengths to maintain a boogey-man, or boogey-country, handy outside the gates or border. These don't have to be real; they can be entirely imaginary, the rabble doesn't know any better, though real ones do offer the advantage of facilitating military adventures and plunder. Even today, this is the twin rationale behind conservative hawkishness and warmongering: maintaining a fearful populace and justification for foreign wars and intrigue. Today's boogey-men are Islamic terrorists, who are real enough; so, too, the not coincidental resource prize of Middle Eastern oil.
At the same time as making the little people feel part of and a need for the clan, the elite strives to keep them occupied and distracted. This wasn't entirely necessary in olden times; if need be, the aristocracy could just murder without fear of rebuke any little people who dared confront them. But this can be very messy and unseemly, so it's best if the folk can be satiated with diversions and distractions. The best such device ever discovered is, of course, religion. And no religions ever devised have been better than the Judeo-Christian-Islamic triumvirate that not only tamed the people by teaching them to stoically accept their sufferings and obey their masters while awaiting the promise of an eternally wondrous after-life, but also reinforced feelings of clanship amongst the believers. Professional conservatives count on religion to pacify and control their constituencies, and go out of their way to encourage and pretend to share these religious beliefs (though few of them really do). Nothing new about this. Yet the modern CorpCons also benefit from other powerful tools that would have amazed and thrilled Edmund Burke. Television, the internet, mobile phones and pads, silly social media, vacuous sports and entertainment shows, video games, plus their very own conservative cable news propaganda juggernaut and virtual monopoly on talk radio all combine to comprise a hazy, dazy time-and-attention sap and maze of useless disinformation that keeps the peons completely bamboozled.
The true-believers become veritable zombies, and the mass of them a "zombie army," willing to support and serve the professional conservative elites who tell them what they want to hear. Pathetically amusing, these zombies think of themselves as "rugged individualists" when they are actually among the most sheepish clones, actually voting against their own best self-interest in their knee-jerk slavish obedience to their latest authority figure (i.e. "elite").
Greed is Good!
Along with conformity, prejudice and fear, the other "traditional value" that professional conservative urge upon their clan is greed. Afterall, what good is a clan that isn't out for some kind of bounty and booty? Greed, of course, implies inequality. Bounty and booty come from the act of plundering, which involves taking away from someone, and then dividing it... usually according to rank. Conservatism has no interest whatsoever in equality... or anything close. As with all clans, the leaders take the bulk of the spoils, and the scraps "trickle down" to the rest of the group. "Trickle-down" (formally known as "supply side economics") is another conservative "tradition" that goes way back. Ronald Reagan didn't invent it; some neolithic warlord did! For the leaders of the clan, the entire world is given to them to dominate and exploit. All of creation is potentially their property. The little people, of course, share a wee bit in this majesterial prosperity, vicariously as the subjects of such illustrative overlords, with the occasional chicken, sheckles, tailoring contract, factory job or political appointment that may dribble down to them. So, most certainly, in the conservative mind, "Greed is Good."
So a brew of conformity, predudice, fear and greed informs traditional conservative ideology, right up to Edmund Burke's philosophy. As he was recommending constraint of thought for the common man, Burke also pontificated extensively on the conservative's sense of entitlement. The concepts known as "property rights," "natural rights" and the "free market" established that a man (i.e. a wealthy man) should have unfettered control over his possessions, including goods for sale, regardless of how his control over those possessions may interfere with another man's rights... or even the common good. As the clan dymanic had always reinforced, it is "natural" that some men are more intelligent, more powerful (and thus more wealthy) than others. The wealthier a man was, the more "property rights" he could expect to accrue, even to the detriment of all of rest of society. By Burke's day, the deer (and everything else) in the forests of England that had once sustained everyone, now belonged to the local lord. The punishment for encroachment upon his "property rights" could be as severe as death.
The peasants could not look to their government for fairness or protection from these "lords." In Burke's England, the government was the tool of the wealthy: the government should not interfere or attempt regulation of such property rights or of the "free market," except in so far as a government might assist such a wealthy man, or collection of wealthy men, to even greater advantage over would-be competitors, particularly those from other clans.
And so emerged a toxic alliance between government, aristocracy and a relatively new kind of organism called the corporation. With almost supernatural powers - it was composed of potentially thousands of individuals, and could be many places at once - this corporation creation quickly proved its worth as a voracious feeder upon resources, and regurgitator of profits. To thrive it only needed a "free market," that is an environment where it was free to do whatever it wanted.
Fittingly, Edmund Burke, the patron saint of conservatives, was a shareholder in the world's first multinational corporation, the notorious British East India Company. This was rather a plaything of the British nobility, including King George, which went rampaging around the world, bullying, stealing, exploiting natural resources, abusing native peoples, even mudering. But its main purpose was to monopolize trade wherever it could, with the full economic, legal and military backing of the British Empire. In this "free market," the East India Company established an early nadir for how truly vile capitalism, as interpreted by a corporation, can be.
The advent of corporations was a seemingly new idea. So you might think that conservatives should have been against it. But actually, corporations were simply a mechanism for strengthening the order of the hierarchy as conservatives gained control of an originally liberal idea: Capitalism.
So, yes, liberals invented capitalism! Although the word "capitalism" is a relatively new term, its essence is an economy based upon private (not state or church or Dominator Hierarchy) control of goods or services in commerce. The simple idea was to trade something to get something else of more value to you than what you traded while the other guy did the same. It was fair trade. Both parties emerged satisfied with the transaction. As early as the Neolithic Age (possibly even the Paleolithic) traders were creating and trading goods while communing across distance and cultures, breaking out of conservative clan-mentality, suspicion of out-groups, and strict control of each clan's economy by some sort of governing hierarchy. Following the liberal impulse to continually create new modes for living which expanded liberty and opportunity for all, while decreasing fear and loathing of "the other," these early traders were the first "adventurers," the first "multi-culturalists," the first "globalists," the first "free marketers" and "capitalists."
Yet as the institutions of "civilization" grew, particularly with the rise of agriculture and cities, the Dominator Hierarchy typically regained its omnipotent power over almost all economies. In Europe, the church-state (and its assemblage of "nobility") wished to strictly control all commerce. In such systems there were typically two classes: the haves and the have-nots, and the haves had everything while the have-nots had basically nothing.
The European hierarchy's attempted iron-clad control of the economy leaked when poor artisans and small, under-the-table merchants dared to find ways to get their wares through the pickets of gatekeepers (every nobleman required a toll or duty to pass goods through their territory) to willing buyers, and then used their profits to slowly but surely build up their small businesses. These producers and peddlers of goods, refusers of their feudal assignments, agitators for shared prosperity, disrespecters of authority and the nobility's "private property," destroyers of the old paradigm, i.e. liberals, became a despised subset of society according to the hierarchical leaders. When coin and currency came into wide-spread use, it was discovered that this "capital," in and of itself, could be used to generate more "capital" through the practice of loans and investments. These "little people" engaged in such activities had revolted against being serfs and servants and lapdogs of the church and nobility. Worse, they slipped in and out of clan territory, communing with "the other" of distant lands where other traders awaited. The hierarchy had lost control of these pipsqueaks, and sought to shut them down.
That proved to be extremely difficult, as even today those trying to squelch a "black market" will attest. (Thought exercise: isn't a "black" market actually somthing close to a "free" market?) As time went by, the hierarchical leaders finally recognized the value of this illicit network of rogue traders importing good stuff that the wealthy desired. Begrudgingly, the hierarchy allowed the merchant class a pinch of legitimacy, and the persecutions lessened. And so, a "middle class" struggled to emerge.
Still, the conservative power structure sought more control. The ideal control, and ultimate professional conservative dream, of course, is a monopoly, shared by a very few of the richest and most powerful. To reach toward this goal and re-establish primacy over commerce, the hierarchical leaders would need to combine their resources and efforts. They would need to merge together as a "corporate" (physical) entity: thus, the corporation. And so, in Merry Olde England, the first multi-national corporation, the British East India Company, was born... and sallied forth to subjugate the world. Free enterprise and capitalism had become corporatism.
Capitalism, in its original form of sole propriety, creativity, entrepreneurship, small business and fair trade, is essentially liberal in its drive to liberate, make equal, fairness and justice, connect and respect, decentralize, and provide a pathway for the pursuit of happiness for all parties involved. Conversely, corporatism is essentially conservative in its determination to establish or strenghten hierarchical values, capture, subjugate, dominate, exploit, and generate maximum profits which are divided in a wholly unequal manner, with the lion's share of profits going to an upper echelon in the hieararchy, and a far lower and often grossly unfair percentage to the people who supply the raw materials and work the hardest to produce the product. Thus the two most important components of the supply chain reap the least in benefits from the profits of the sale, sometimes barely above subsistence levels (sometimes actually below... as with the modern company Wal-Mart). "Buy low, sell high," is the corporatist mantra, that being a paraphrase of the actual formula: minimize costs, maximize profits. That "minimize costs" bit usually involves actual people and lives. That does not matter to the corporate mind. Capitalism need not be non-virtuous; corporatism is non-virtuous by construct.
As one of the first experiments in corporatism, the British East India Company had the world by the throat, except for one problem area: the American colonies.
It seems the great corporation didn't set too well with Britain's most unruly colonists. They resisted. They grumbled and groused and boycotted and smuggled in defiance of the great corporation. When the British government passed the Tea Act in 1773, which effectively gave the East India Company a monopoly over the tea trade in the colonies, as well as encoding the right of the king and Parliament to tax the colonists at will, it all came to a head.
On the night of December 16, 1773, a bunch of very un-conservative Americans - completely disrespecting the sacrosanct conservative principles of strict obedience to tradition and hierarchy, as well as complete disregard for property rights - boarded ships in Boston Harbor and surreptitiously unloaded their cargo of tea into the bay. This tea belonged to the British East India Company (and its shareholders, including conservative darling Edmund Burke). The event came to be known as the Boston Tea Party, and was one of the key precursors of the American Revolution.
The fight for American independence actually begins in earnest with patriots vs. a corporation (which pointedly illuminates the incoherency of the modern "Tea Party" in its slavish loyalty to the rich and corporations. To add to the irony: the British ship sent to put down the original Tea Party patriots was the HMS Romney!)
Edmund Burke was against American independence. So too another so-called "father of conservatism," Samuel Johnson, a real Tory, who wrote that the revolution would end with "English superiority and American obedience." Those conservatives... always insisting on hierarchy and obedience. Oh yes, and also always wrong.
The American patriots and the famous founding fathers (there were some Southern conservative "founding fathers" few have ever heard of) had quite a different ideology than Burke and Johnson. That's because they were not conservative. For their time, they were not just a little bit liberal... they were radically liberal. In fact, that's precisely what the conservative loyalists called them: "radicals." They were also frequently called "terrorists." Hmmm, mull that over.
One of the most influential, and most liberal, of all the voices calling for independence was Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet Common Sense was widely distributed and read in the colonies during the lead-up to the war. He wrote: "The sun has never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent... 'tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected even to the end of time, by the proceedings now. Now is the seed-time of continental union, faith and honour." Paine intelligently and poetically laid out the cause of American independence from Britain and its king and his foibles and loyalties as the only virtuous way forward for the American people. He asked why a tiny island should rule with iron fist over a vast continent thousands of miles away, while not according the people actually working that continent basic constitutional rights. His prose reveals the true liberal, and American, spirit of LIBERATION from bad tradition. And so, the prospect of a nation of people ruling themselves, for the first time in world history, was offered as an alternative to the continuation of being second-class subjects of a far-away king and his minions.
So what did the conservatives in America, the Tories, have to say about this impending world-shaking revolution and upending of conservative "traditional values" during this crucial time in history? Well, of course, their impulse was to CONSERVE. Here is Anglican Reverend William Smith of Pennsylvania, writing under the pen-name "Cato," attacking Paine for a lack of "common sense," and resorting to the old conservative tactic of fear-mongering, to urge loyalty to Britain and the king. "We must be considered as a faithless people in the sight of mankind, and could scarcely expect the confidence of any nation upon earth, or look up to heaven for its approving sentence. On the contrary, every convulsion attendant upon revolutions and innovations of government, untimely attempted or finally defeated might be our portion; added to the loss of trade for want of protection; the consequent decay of husbandry; bloodshed and desolation; with an exchange of the easy and flourishing condition of farmers and merchants, for a life, at best, of hardy poverty as soldiers or hunters... We have long flourished under our Charter Government. What may be the consequences of another ofrm, we cannot pronounce with certainty; but this we know, that it is a road we have not travelled, and may be worse than it is described."
There you have it: both liberal and conservative ideology laid bare at the time of the birth of the nation - one bent on liberation and reaching for the full potential of We the People, the other bound and determined to conserve and defend tradition for tradition's sake, fearful of change, and preferring to remain subjugated by unfair dictates rather than risk radical change that would upset, possibly destroy, the traditional hierarchy.
Whose vision was grander, Paine's or Smith's, liberal or conservative? Whose ideas were more virtuous? Who really supported liberty, while the opposing viewpoint favored continued subordination? Finally, whose predictions turned out to be correct, and who was dead wrong? As always, the conservative viewpoint was proven in gross error in accuracy, virtue and "common sense."
Note that William Smith, the American conservative during those revolutionary days, was afraid of change and predicted a woeful outcome, the scorn of other nations and even from "heaven" (God) if the conservation of the status-quo of British servitude was not achieved. This was the opinion and demeanor of almost all American conservatives at the time. How different from the conservative viewpoint after the revolution was won (no thanks to conservatives), and America became a shining beacon to the entire rest of the world. Now they perceived American independence and righteousness as God-ordained, and America as the new promised land... and appointed themselves as the true guardians and patriots of the very nation that they had viciously opposed.
Thankfully, the leading American founding fathers were fully men of the Age of Reason, seeking greater liberty and equality... societal attributes that conservatism has ever resisted. The American patriots rejected the conservative anthropological belief that there is a "natural order" where only a few people are fit to rule and all others are fit to serve (including as slaves). They rejected the conservative social belief that humans are incapable of self-rule. And they rejected the conservative religious belief that humans are innately sinful. Unlike conservatives, they acknowledged the goodness and capabilities of the common man (well, at least a whole lot more than did the British hierarchy). Where Burke's conservative philosophy feared the violation of ancient tradition and institutions (the king, the monolithic church, the aristocracy, the subjugation of women and poor people), the American patriots were determined to do exactly that: rip the establishment asunder; as an extended political movement it was the greatest afront to conservatism that the world had ever witnessed (up to that time; more, much more was to sweep over conservatism)!
So, anyone claiming that the American Revolution or the famous founding fathers were conservative is engaging in extreme mythological conjuring. They are turning truth upon its head.
Moreover, the East India Company had taught the founding fathers to be very wary of corporations. Among other things, this wonderful corporate "person" would later go on to instigate the "Opium Wars" in China where the Chinese were forced, against their will, to open up for commerce and to accept importation of and proliferation of addictive opium by the British company. Then it would rampage into India and impose what was, effectively, the world's first true corporatacracy, with a single corporation ruling a nation. From its very birth the corporation has been the seat of abuse of personhood, nature and morality.
Anticipating the gathering power of business and corporations, even in his day, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
How different a perspective from Edmund Burke and the conservatives, and how prescient a warning for us today as predatory corporatism extends its control of American (and world) economics, politics and culture.
Political conservatism has always been about the rich and powerful, who thrive on clannish hierarchy, and deeply distrust democracy. They also dislike the idea of liberty. They dislike the idea that just anyone, much less everyone, has the "inalienable" right to pursue happiness. They absolutely loathe the idea of equality. All of these ideals imply some sort of cultural balance. That is the last thing professional conservatives want. They don't want balance or liberty or equality. They want that chain of subordination, control of systems and people, and they want money, power and justice (the law) permanently tilted toward them and stacked in their favor, just like it had always been.
The democratic American system of governance and its overarching ideals were immediately a threat to the political conservatism of Burke's day. The American Revolution was built upon a panopoly of liberal concepts that intentionally overthrew the old tradition and hierarchy. The original American ideals of equality, liberty, democracy, justice for all, respect for the common man who should be allowed to pursue their own, independent happiness, flew in the face of conservative ideology which proclaimed the supremacy of the hierarchical clan and its tradition of subjugation and control of the common man.
Yet, as we can see through American history, these original ideals have been very difficult to put into full effect. Only little by little have these values gained strength over the past 230 years. And every inch of progress was fought tooth and nail by conservatives.
How Corporate Conservative Ideology Trumped American Values:
The Lakota have a word that describes the greedy white man: wasichu. This word came to denote the white man, who from the Native American perspective was someone who takes more than they need, someone who doesn't live in accord with nature, and who will harm their neighbors to serve themselves. It is the person who wishes to "conserve" a socio-economic hierarchy that empowers them to dominate and subjugate any who are weaker within the hierarchy. It's as good a word as any for corporatism, and the world-view of corporate conservatives, as well as the social conservatives who follow in the wake of the CorpCons to take advantage of their own privilege in such a hierarchy. And it was this ideology - not the original American values - that would come to dominate the new American nation. Though America was founded on principles of liberty, equality and justice for all, corporate conservatives would quickly undermine true American principles (as well as those of all the religions, spiritual masters and great philosophers). The land of the free and brave quickly succumbed to the principles of corporatism, and the stench of wasichu has since permeated American history.
Wasichu ideology - in the form of corporatists, industrialists, bankers, speculators, big planters, self-righteous, bullying settlers, all partaking of the dominator hierarchy, and aided and abetted by local, state and federal officials - stole the Indians land from the Northeast all the way down the Appalachians to the deep South, and then out on to the plains and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. Treaty after treaty was signed, all promising to pay for the land the wasichu wanted, and that the Indians would thereafter be left in peace "for as long as the grass grows and the water flows."
Every single treaty was quickly broken, some within days of being signed, and the Indians were forcibly evicted or killed if they dared to try to stay where their tribe had lived for generations. This was conservativism in action, conserving the "traditional" values and hierarchy (at least of the invaders). It was unadulterated clan mentality, prejudice, greed, might-makes-right, alive and well in the heart of a country that proclaimed the liberal values of liberty, equality, justice for all, pursuit of happiness, respect and love for one another. All of these were denied the native peoples, who never were able to unite to fight their common enemy... and so eventually lost almost everything to wasichu greed.
A Pueblo chief explained, "The whites always have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think they are mad."
They were... mad with greed, encouraged by a sense of superiority and entitlement, prejudice, and indignant righteousness, and put into force with superior numbers and technology, even while dragging along a wholly inferior morality and deep spirituality. The waves of white settlers and speculators swarming from East to West across the continent, so often depicted as virtuous pioneers, were more often ruthless plunderers. It was the gravest of injustice. It was the epitome of un-Americanism and un-Christianity. And, of course, other Americans - black slaves, and women, children, immigrants, workers and poor people - got their own full measure of wasichu treatment.
The irony that the land of the "free, equal and just" emerged from a culture bogged down in the institution of slavery did not escape the famous founding fathers perceptions. They all knew slavery was wrong, but had signed a deal with the Devil - the Conservative "founding fathers" - to condone slavery in return for the Southern colonies full participation in the Revolution. Without the Southerners' support, there may well have never been a United States of America; with their support the new nation started off with moral confliction.
In all of these oppressions, subjugations and exploitations, that old, conservative "chain of subordination" was imposed by the stronger, "superior," members of the hierarchy. So sadly, much of American history involved not the implementation of the worldview of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine but the mindset of Edmund Burke. No longer called "monarchy" or "feudalism" or "aristrocracy" as it had been in Europe; here in democractic America, and increasingly around the world, this brand of corporatism and rampant bullying came to be called "capitalism," or in conservative-speak, the "free market."
The Free Market: it sounds lovely, so much more refined than "feudalism." Who wouldn't be for a "free market?" It combines that American value of freedom with a mental picture of a lively, colorful marketplace, full of happy vendors and customers, a place where people get what they want and need, and anybody can strike it rich. This is the utopian image that CorpCons like to put forth. But it's another very big conservative myth. There has never been that utopian "free" market, and never will be! First and foremost because the primary players certainly do not want the market to be free, or fair. They want to rig it for their own gain. And so they do, time and again. It's actually the farthest thing from "free." The "free market" is just a sales pitch, a marketing ploy, a catchy brand to con people into going along with the scam.
The vast majority of liberals support a capitalist economic system, but insist that it be controlled capitalism, fair capitalism, virtuous capitalism, sustainable capitalism that serves the community and the resource base... not that which exploits resources and workers, profiting very few, while leaving a wake of destruction of people and the environment. For CorpCons, this type of fair capitalism is an encroachment on their religion of greed, and is dangerously oriented to a semblance of equal opportunity. And equality just doesn't work for them. They are already prospering as the big fish in the pond, why would they want to support a system that allows for other fish to grow up to compete with them? Instead, they want corporatism: unregulated capitalism, which is to say capitalism controlled from within, might-makes-right capitalism, predatory capitalism, capitalism that allows for easy usurping or crushing of little up and coming fish... capitalism that promotes the myth of a market free of governmental intervention - except when the marketeers need the government to protect them, or bail them out, or help them conquer foreign markets - corporate capitalism that extracts and exploits and wrings the last dollar out of a resource, workers and customers.
Only two things stand between such vulture corporatists and their dream of unfettered wealth and power: the people and their government.
The CorpCons need only reflect back on their AristoCon heritage to know how to deal with this potential double trouble. The government problem has traditionally been easy: just buy off a critical number of the politicians and officials, who themselves are ever greedy and always eager to wiggle up close to the elite at the top of the economic hierarchy.
Dealing with "the people" is a little trickier, but the basic strategy is always some form of "divide and conquer." And for that, there has never been anything better than the good old divisive clan system. It works perfectly to separate American against American, appealing to the primal emotions of just enough of them to keep them prejudiced, fearful and greedy enough to support a professional conservative elite that is actually using them against their own best interests. You don't need to fool all of the people, just a bare majority of those who actually vote. And that number can be shockingly easy to reach. Generally, about half of eligible voters are asleep at the civic wheel, not caring enough to even participate in the most fundamental duty of a citizen of a democracy. So only a little over a quarter of eligible voters will win many elections. For instance, both Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Bland were elected by just 27 percent of eligible voters.
The government's the problem!
In the face of a democratic governmental system that enshrines notions of democracy, liberty, equality, justice for all, and helping the middle class and poor, professional conservatives had come up with a new wrinkle in their "divide and conquer" strategy. The CorpCons were the government back in the feudal days, so they didn't want the people questioning authority. Back then they preached the "natural order," Burke's "chain of subordination," which required obeyance of the public to the government-church. In the American democratic experiment they've never been able to wrest permanent control of the government. Not often, but occasionally, government does the right thing, representing We the People, and rises up to smack the corporatists around. In response, the conservative subterfuge is to inculcate a deep distrust of government among the populace, at least amongst the quarter of the population they need to win elections. "The government isn't the solution to the problem; the government is the problem," is the mythological maxim that conservatives love to regurgitate to one another. Dividing Americans from their very own government is another stroke of evil genius (just a hair short of treason) they have deployed, and it works best with those who don't know enough about history or government or truth to see right through the deception... and treachery.
So professional conservatives actively and aggressively risk promoting the disintegration of civil society itself by destroying the essential trust in government for millions of people. It's truly a vile and diabolical tactic... and it works like a charm.
But the treachery doesn't stop there...
When professional conservatives come into governmental power, they do everything they can to fulfill their own prophecy that government doesn't work by redirecting priorities, cutting budgets, and stacking agencies with cronies and foxes guarding the henhouse. Indeed, history clearly shows government often doesn't work... under conservative control! Meanwhile, government seems to function much more effectively, and in enhanced support of the vast majority of citizens, when guided by liberal ideology.
The entire George W. Bush presidency was a textbook example of this very dynamic: bungled domestic priorites, bungled foreign policy, bungled economy, bungled debt reduction, two bungled wars, bungled mortgage crisis, bungled hurricane response, bungled Great Recession, bungled bank bailout... all squeezed into eight years of conservative flimflammery.
To take or retain power, the CorpCons need voters who don't realize how bad their record of actual governance is. And, of course, they must completely hide their true agenda: further feathering their own nests. They need to divide and conquer, and capture those who, in some measure, share their distrust of democracy. For this they turn to their own clansmen, the SoCons, and the honey CorpCons offer to herd the bees back to the clan hive and into their thrall is "wedge issues."
Because they are focused laser-like on making money and consolidating power, most CorpCons don't give a damn about the social issues that are so important to the SoCons. But long ago they realized that God, guns, gays, blacks, the poor, immigrants, abortion, patriotism and war are the bait they can use for hooking a mess of half-stupid SoCons. These are the "wedge issues," that they employ to masterfully poke and prod the emotions of gullible, fearful and selfish people who are extremely dependable voters when they feel threatened by something.
Notice that the CorpCons rarely, if ever, get around to solving any of these threats. Indeed, the threat just keeps geting worse and worse, or, when the liberals win an utter victory, the CorpCons quickly shift to a new wedge. There's no shortage of things social conservatives are afraid of. When your defense of slavery has turned to ashes along with the Confederacy, turn instead to promoting and defending segregation. When the communist boogie-man and Cold War has flopped, start a "War on "Terror." When inter-racial marriage is a lost cause, switch to gay marriage. When you've lost the gay issue, go after the transgenders instead. Some wedges are like fashion styles... wait long enough and they may just come back. Today, social conservatives like Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan and Todd Akin want to refight the women's contraceptive battles of the 1960s. They'll get smacked down again... but it all plays well with the conservative base, and helps these guys get elected. SoCons are so confused they never seem to catch on to the parlor trick.
With all of these issues, the CorpCons hope to pit democratic (i.e. liberal) ideology against clan values. They know that their clansmen will rally around the clan values rather than actual American values. And so, the SoCon clansmen become the "zombie army" of the CorpCons, coming to the defense of their hierarchical masters in a doomed effort to preserve and protect the world as they know it: a world of traditional conformity, white supremacy, male privilege and heterosexual exclusivity, pseudo-Christian posing, and dominance over "the other."
Beyond maintenance of the hierarchy, the other big issue that CorpCons and SoCons share is... taxes. As in complete aversion to them. Both want all the benefits that a modern, well-run nation provides, but neither wants to pay for it. Always being against taxes is the ace up the sleeves for CorpCons. It's their evergreen issue. It never goes out of style.
Nobody, liberal or conservative, loves paying taxes. Liberals are just less greedy, more educated, as well as more magnanimous in civic spirit (don't forget your synonyms for conservative and liberal), so they more easily realize their own benefits of paying their fair share of taxes. Liberals are also far more compassionate toward others (including those outside their own clan), so they see the great upside to everyone paying their fair share of taxes. They can also more readliy visualize the downside to not paying taxes. When the lifeblood of a nation runs low... all of society becomes imperiled.
As we have noted, conservatives are afraid of everything.. and many are convinced (rightly) that their world is under assault. It is, by forces far beyond their control. Human culture is changing at an ever-accelerating speed, the world is coming together, knowledge is growing, consciousness is rising, liberty, equality, democracy and justice for all are expanding. Conservatives hate all of this. They pine for the old order where everyone knew their place in the hierarchy. Many envision that some kind of apocalypse is just over the horizon (thus their hoarding and prepping and stocking up on guns and ammo and ready-to-eat meals with a shelf-life of 100 years). Yet they seem to have no clue as to how their own stingy and selfish attitude toward taxes is itself one of the surest routes toward making such "End Times" come to pass. Or perhaps such a "death wish" for America is some kind of unconscious judgment they can levy on the great liberal experiment... in a similar manner as evangelicals blame Hurricane Katrina and American soldier deaths in Iraq on America's supposed support for the "homosexual agenda."
Conservatives can't picture the disastrous reality of not paying taxes primarily because, being inherently prone to the emotion of greed, they are fixated on sugar-plum illusions of the benefits of not paying taxes. "It's your money... not the government's," goes the conservative creed. The conservative idea of low-low, or better yet, no taxes, is as sweet-sounding to conservative ears as somebody whistling Dixie. They come running up slobbering and panting like mangy dogs to any politician promising to toss them the bone of lower taxes (which, even if delivered, almost always ends up hurting the SoCon).
So this is the basic pattern that the wasichu have used for over 200 years to maintain their hierarchy. Buy off the politicians and officials; bamboozle just enough voters - through fear and greed - to keep conservative politicians in office. Through American history the CorpCon Cheshire Cats have stoked the emotions of gullible people to get what they want: wealth and power... driving our democracy to the brink of ruin time after time.
Subterfuge and subversion and sabotage... the CorpCon legacy through American history!
CorpCons - on both sides - stampeded America into the Civil War. The southern planters chafed at northern industrial domination and, as always, were desperate to conserve their own peculiar hierarchy, which in this case centered around the institution of slavery. The northern industrialists, in turn, were not going to allow the products and markets of the south to just up and walk away without one hell of a fight. So in this instance it becomes clear that the oligarchy doesn't always act in concert. Sometimes they will go to war against each other. Oh, wait. Of course, they never go to war themselves... they send others to go to war in their stead. Then as now, most wasichus are chicken-hawks.
The aristrocratic planters ginned up fear and prejudice in the South, dividing the poor whites from the enslaved blacks, and rebel vs. Yankee. They spewed forth patriotic drivel that still echoes today: states' rights (yes, the state's right to allow the owning of people) and the romantic exceptionalism of dear old Dixie, riling up hundreds of thousands of poor farmers and townsmen who never owned a slave and didn't even understand what the hell states' rights even meant. Much the same thing happened in the North as the drive to "preserve the Union" conscripted hundreds of thousands of reluctant citizens to fight for Honest Abe, the nation's first Republican president (back when the Republicans were the more liberal party). United in misery they marched, from the North and from the South, into the most horrible war in American history, one of the first "modern" wars... assuring mass carnage.
Abraham Lincoln was shocked and dismayed by how he saw corporations behaving, on both sides of the war. Echoing the disdain for corporations held by many of the Founding Fathers, he spoke out in frustration and warning:
Lincoln's vision was almost clairvoyant. Though corporations haven't destroyed the Republic yet, it's not for want of trying.
This was not the first war, or the last, that CorpCons would spoil for and finagle America into. War is good business, and whipped-up patriotism a great way to quell domestic dissatisfation. The wasichu wanted to steal all of northern Mexico, and so they did. They wanted to dominate Cuba, so they did. They wanted a canal through Panama, so they rigged a way to get it. They wanted to grab Hawaii, Guam, Samoa and the Philippines, and so they did. None of this had much of anything to do with protecting America, but rather was very transparently about expanding American commercial markets.
These wasichu weren't rich enough. The rich are never rich enough. It's a game, you see, and by nature they are highly competitive and jealous. They always want, indeed crave, more, more, more. And it doesn't bother them at all to go blustering around the world stealing, maiming, killing to further American "business." They felt left out of World War I, and so coaxed Americans to enter a conflagration that made even the Civil War seem quaint. The "Great War" turned out not to be the "war to end all wars," but rather just a set-up for an even larger global dust-up a few decades later. Through it all, CorpCons banged the drums of war. Deceit and propaganda was their constant currency, along with the blood of the native people and American soldiers, mostly poor working stiffs.
All of this was plain old American imperialism, disguised as "opening markets" and "spreading democracy," hardly different from the British East India Company bullying its way around the globe. All along, the conservative cry was, "Keep the government out of capitalism!" What a sham. This kind of capitalistic piracy wants, craves, government as its comely lover... with battleships. And the United States of America has been happy to go right along with its filthy rich suitors, including during our latest government-enabled corporate raids on Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines: still making the world profitable for conservative corporate cronies like Halliburton, KBR, CACI, Titan, Aegis, General Dynamics, General Electric, Exxon, Blackwater, and so on and so on.
Aside from their greed-salivating, blood-drenched warmongering, the other way the CorpCons were weaving their "free market" magic was by using the government as their bludgeon against workers.
A "free market" would imply that not just the owners of business, but the workers, too, would be "free" to affect the economic equation. So too the consumers, don't forget about them. In a truly "free market," workers could unite and bargain hard for their fair share of whatever profit is produced. Unions could be as big and rich as, say, EXXON. And there would be no arbitrary limits on how much consumers could wring out of a corporation's hide for providing shoddy, unsafe or fraudulent products. Now that would be a "free market."
But, oh no. The capitalists certainly don't want that kind of free market. Again, they want it rigged for their benefit only... workers and consumers are mere dupes and pawns in the money-making machine. Corporatists want and need the government wholly on their side, to break up strikes, and write laws that restrict unions, workers' rights, consumer legal protections and lawsuit awards. Thus, in the corporatist mind a "free market" is one where workers work basically for free, consumers are free to shut up and like it, and corporations are free to do as they please.
So when you hear CorpCons talking about the "free market," clearly understand this is quintessential conservative distortion; what they are really referring to is a fully "rigged market." (And guess who is so often the victim of this wicked scam: good old Christian SoCons!)
The last thing CorpCons want is We the People united. Why, that would be, gasp, a union! And, oh, what a terrible thing that is.
Corporations like being the big bully who can take on workers one at a time, when they are at their weakest, not all together whence they have strength in numbers. Through much of the 19th Century, workers were paid less than a dollar a day, often in company scrip, good only at the company store, working 12 to 16-hour days, seven days a week. Oh, and their wives and children were welcome to work, too, at lower pay, of course. Workplaces were hazardous, dark, freezing in the winter and broiling in the summer. If you got sick or injured, goodbye and good luck. Sick pay, or even time off without pay? Vacation? Retirement? Pension? Even a day of rest? All unheard of. Workers even had to supply their own tools. Sometimes they were forced to buy their tools and work clothes from the company! So too, many were forced to live in company tenements. The corporation was employer, supplier, grocer and landlord. Get uppity with the boss, and you'd not only lose your job, you and your family would be kicked out of your home... and you may well be blackballed from ever working in that industry again.
In those days it was too difficult to ship jobs overseas, so they shipped overseas workers here. The cheapest possible labor, that was the ticket. As late as 1890, railroad laborers, doing some of the most dangerous work in the country, were paid $124 a YEAR (while the railroad barons were pocketing millions based on land GIVEN to them by their very own Sugar Daddy... the federal government)! Now those were the days! For corporations it was Nirvana! Foreign labor also brought a very welcome side benefit: different cultures, different languages made it easy to keep the workders divided from each other. Falling right into the clan mentality their rich overlords hoped for, established American workers looked down on the Irish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Slavic and other nationalities flooding into the country. And so that venerable old tradition, the clan hierarchy, was conserved. Divide and conquer.
Industrial workers weren't the only ones unjustly treated. Small farmers who owned their own land faced much the same oppression as industrial workers. It was their risk, toil, time, blood, sweat and tears that homesteaded, cleared, tilled, planted and harvested the crops, but then they faced a gantlet of predatory capitalists who gave the loans for land, seed and equipment, greedy grain elevator owners, and, of course, the railroads, always a monopoly in a given town, who could charge what they wanted for shipping the product. It was a rigged game where the small-time farmer was doomed to eventually lose. The wasichu could bide their time as the farmer went further and further into debt, until a few bad years sent him over the edge, his loans would be called in, the banker would take the farm and the farmer become a tenant, a renter, on land that he had cleared and cultivated, or worse, be thrown off his land altogether. This, also, was the "free market."
But those darned Americans - whether industrial worker, farmer, or recent immigrant - just seem to have this stubborn streak: they actually believe in a sense of fairness. And fairness is the very last thing that CorpCons want. In a country supposedly built upon the worth of the individual, clashes were inevitable.
Poster of the International Workers of the World, circa 1911
Dating back to the Boston Tea Party, organizing to fight corporations is an American tradition if there ever was one!
Organizing unions and going out on strike quickly followed as an All-American strategy of the working class. Indeed, some of the first American "strikes" were by militia men and regulars in the Continental Army smack in the middle of fighting in the Revolutionary War when they didn't feel they were being treated fairly by the rich guys running Congress.
Many workers realized that the only way to defeat the "divide-and-conquer" strategy was to unite, and so they did, at least to some degree, white and black, American and Irishman, farmer and laborer, men and women. Throughout the century of the 1800s and well into the 1900s, labor struggles and strikes were popping off like fireworks across the American landscape, from the east coast to the west coast, from north to south. Farmers joined together, forming cooperatives to break the strangle-hold of greedy middle men and bankers. These were truly heroic struggles, the underdog taking on Goliath sometimes with little hope of winning and everything to lose.
Unfortunately, only rarely did the workers prevail, and earn an extra dime or two a day. Usually the CorpCons, far more wealthy and powerful, holding all the cards, beat them down or wore them out. To the wasichu the idea of bargaining or concessions with such common people, low-lifes in their estimation, was unseemly, beneath them. Government officials either conveniently stepped out of the way, or if the CorpCons' own thugs couldn't control strikers, these "free-marketers" didn't hesitate to beg and cry for the government to help them out... in the form of local police, state militia or federal troops... and the government generally obliged.
So we see that predatory capitalism has two firm demands of government: 1) Get out of our way! and 2) Help!
The struggle for workers' and farmers' rights in America is a story of hundreds of thousands of regular working people bloodied, bashed, maimed and killed as they simply stood up for economic fairness. Not economic equality, mind you, just fairness. They were not asking to be made rich; they were only asking to be treated like human beings, to get a decent wage for an honest day's work.
Even this pittance was too much for the CorpCons. Then as now, fairness is just too close to socialism or Communism for the wasichu. They accused the workers and farmers of being socialists and Communists. Most Americans saw through the demonization and sided with the workers and farmers, but the CorpCons had a paid-off government in their pocket. The "rigged market" would determine who got paid what.
But once in a blue moon, to the consternation of the wasichu, America remembers what it is supposed to stand for.
CorpCons are thwarted from their full objectives whenever We the People - i.e. a critical mass of voters (or a few very determined policitians... usually motivated by a critical mass of voters) - wake up to such true unfairness, and are unwilling to go along with the injustice and immorality any longer.
Riding such popular anger over the abuses of the ultra-rich and corporations, two presidents, in particular, threw a monkey-wrench into the CorpCons' slick set-up. They were both named Roosevelt.
One was a Democrat, and the other, quite shockingly, was a Republican. No one was more shocked and dismayed about either than the conservatives. One offered the "Square Deal," and the other presented the "New Deal." Both "deals" were meant to help the average citizen, particularly the working man or woman. Of course, CorpCons only want deals between the government and themselves. They were adamantly opposed to any fair or square or new deals between We the People and their own government, which tells you just about all you need to know about the wealthy and corporations, who prefer a government of, by and for the aristocracy and its corporate playthings (and usually get it).
Theodore Roosevelt was himself a rich rascal from New York City with a penchant for over-the-top bravado and glorification of war and foreign intrigue (including the Panama Canal adventure), but also at least something of a sense of fairness, as well as a love of nature, these two latter attributes quite rare characteristics in conservative circles. As the son of a wealthy businessman, Roosevelt naturally gravitated toward the Republican Party, which after Lincoln's death had been taken over by the very corporateers that Lincoln, himself, had warned about. But in Teddy Roosevelt, the Republicans had something they had never seen before. The party quickly grew to suspect his real motives early on in his political career. They were only mildly amused by his exploits as a pseudo-cowboy in the Dakota Territory, and then as a quasi-commando during the war in Cuba. They became quite alarmed at how he conducted himself as governor of New York, pugnaciously attacking the Republicans' own machine politics. To remove him from that powerful position they drafted him to run as Vice-President, generally a do-nothing, go-nowhere position, where he could cause little trouble. But those out-to-pasture plans were foiled when the very conservative President William McKinley was assassinated (by an unemployed immigrant); CorpCons looked on dazed and in dread as "Teddy" became the most powerful person in the country. As president, Roosevelt sought "reforms" of economic unfairness. Republicans held their breath.
Teddy Roosevelt asked Congress to curb the power of the big corporations and set into motion policies that would bust some of the monopolists, then called "trusts." His sentiments leaned toward workers, unions and the middle class. He championed consumer protections, prompting enforcement of meat inspection and greater consumer protections for foods and drugs. Roosevelt railed against the "representatives of predatory wealth accumulated by all forms of inequity, from the oppression of wage workers to unfair methods of crushing out competition." He reined in the railroads, giving price controls over to the federal Interstate Commerce Commission.
All of this flew in the face of the Republican Party. The wealthy elite were aghast. They were used to being free to do what they wanted, set their own prices, pay workers a pittance, gouge and mislead the public, sell anything they wanted, including products that didn't work or were completely unsafe... all completely legal in a true "free market."
Teddy Roosevelt, a self-described "progressive," stood against such abuse of workers and consumers, and demanded instead a "fair" market, and a "Square Deal." Roosevelt also became the first real environmental president, creating the National Forest Service and using his authority to establish the first federal wildlife preserves, added great tracts to the national forests and national parks, and guided through a law which allows presidents to set aside historic places for protection. Conservatives were against every one of these new laws.
Yet Theodore Roosevelt, Republican, was fully a capitalist. Much of what he did during his administration was in lock-step with the financiers. The difference between him and most of them is that he saw that rampant capitalism was not sustainable, and actually a threat to national security. Already in the 1890s and early 1900s there were rumblings of socialism and Communism around the world. Roosevelt saw that the greatest defense against Communism was a strong economy that bolstered the middle class, and gave the poor legitimate hope of soon joining it. Roosevelt astutely perceived that ruthless, predatory capitalism, far from being a bulwark protecting the American Way, was actually the surest way toward Communism or some other form of totalitarianism! It was just common sense... which, of course, means that many conservatives just don't get it. Here is a basic truism: capitalism desperately needs liberalism to save it from itself.
Theodore Roosevelt is enshrined along with Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington at Mt. Rushmore, but you rarely hear the Republicans claim him. They can't because he stood against so much that conservatives believe in. Nor are they warm and cozy with the original Republican, Mr. Lincoln, either, that betrayer of clan mentality and all-time antagonist of the South. Indeed, both were liberal Republicans, a rare bird even in those times of old, and presumed to be extinct today.
Roosevelt's spirit of reform or "progressivism" prevailed, in fits and starts, through the first two decades of the 20th Century. President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was the successor of Teddy Roosevelt's legacy. Yet there were a few other Republican "progressives," like Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, who would later call for women's suffrage, greater power for unions, and nationalizing the railroads and electricity companies. Try to get your mind around a Republican clamoring for that! La Follette is another true American hero that conservatives can't claim.
These progressives had realized that for decades the American economy had been one of boom and bust. Through the long lens of history it appears like a quick succession of bubbles, swelling then popping. Through the swelling of each bubble riches flowed (mainly to those already rich), yet each one of those busts was a devastating event to millions of people.
There were major busts in 1837, 1840, 1847, 1857, 1873, 1893 and 1896. Then came the Panic of 1907. Every single one of these was brought on by financial speculation and banking shenanigans!
In 1887 President Grover Cleveland had signed into law the Interstate Commerce Act, which created the Interstate Commerce Commission, the nation's first regulatory body. Its job: to crack down on predatory Big Business. But the Interstate Commerce Commission focused primarily on the big railroads... and do did little to thwart Big Bankster abuse. The Panic of 1907 was one of the biggest yet, and provided the impetus for at least an attempt at strengthening governmental control of banks and the economy. President Wilson ushered in the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the income tax, the Federal Farm Loan Act and other measures as part of a tapestry to tame out-of-control capitalism. At the same time, he signed into law the Clayton Antitrust Act, which, along with the Sherman Antitrust Act, sought to protect consumers and smaller businesses from huge monopolies and cartels by regulating price discrimation and mergers and acquisitions. Wilson signed the Adamson Act, which established the 8-hour workday for railroad workers... soon to be conveyed to other industries.
These measures showed that the federal government could actively intervene in "free market" business practices to improve the lot of workers and consumers. Union membership surged. Constraints were placed on the financiers. And not the least bit coincidently, a new middle class was rising.
Following World War I, Wilson tried to establish a League of Nations, an assembly of countries that could settle their differences and disputes in peace, rather than war. Wilson saw the League of Nations as the way forward for the United States and all countries, so that the armed conflict just concluded would truly be the "war to end all wars." For his efforts he was awarded the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. But he and the other world leaders who shared this vision were way ahead of their time. Conservatives in Congress refused to sign on, and the League of Nations never fully took wing. Over a quarter century later the United Nations would be born, vindicating Wilson's dream, but not before the world again clashed in awful violence. "We are citizens of the world," Wilson exhorted. Alas, America has long had trouble perceiving other peoples and their nations as "created equal."
It is quite pertinent to note that throughout history much of the world, Europe in particular, was constantly at war. Then there were two world-wide wars within a few decades of each other in the 20th Century. Yet there have been no world wars since the formation of the United Nations following World War II. We are left to wonder if the League of Nations might have prevented that second great world war, itself. And, of course, we must - at all costs - decry and reject the conservative chant against U.S. participation in the United Nations... precisely the type of ignorant, selfish, greedy, fearful, jingoistic and xenophobic attitude that causes war in the first place!
The horrors of the "Great War" (World War I) shocked, dismayed and sapped the optimism of Americans. As millions of troops staggered home from Europe, Americans had no appetite for anything to do with the rest of the world. And at home things weren't exactly rosy: demobilization was chaotic, the economy hadn't revived from its war footing, farmers got whacked with the burst of yet another real estate bubble, and there were strikes and riots in major cities. One very bright spot at the time was the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which gave women the vote... yet another liberal progression in American history that conservatives fought hard against. Alas, this great step forward followed close on the heels of a real conservative victory: the 18th Amendment, otherwise known as Prohibition.
Post-war malaise, and a country that many regarded as changing too fast, created an opening for a resurgence of conservativism. Professional conservatives saw a pathway to thwart this wave of "progressivism," that had been dominant for nearly three decades. They disparaged Wilson and his "internationalism." They accused him of being a "socialist," an epithet they would continue to throw at any idea that would help the common man. They loathed his idea of a League of Nations (just as they now loathe the idea of the United Nations). The mocked his opposition to Prohibition. Long before they hated Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton and Obama, conservatives hated Woodrow Wilson.
In the election of 1920, America turned back to Republicans, the so-called masters of business, and their ever-enchanting promises of economic prosperity.
So came the three Republican clowns: Harding, Coolidge and Hoover. It was back to business for America. Big Business. The bigger the better. The "free market" had returned.
Before he died in office, Harding managed to enable his cabinet to set the low mark for official bribery and corruption, including the notorious Teapot Dome scandal, the biggest scandal up until Watergate (yes, both Republican abuses of power). Wouldn't you know a favorite Republican corporate sugar daddy, an oil company, was behind the corruption at Teapot Dome.
Silent Cal Coolidge took over for the dead Harding, and famously stated that "the business of America is business." The rich cheered. But really, how alien an idea from the founding fathers who thought the business of America was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! Businesses and corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution. A true insight into the difference in philosophy is that liberals place a high value on happiness of the people, whereas CorpCons are obsessed with making money, and SoCons are focused mainly on conformity.
The "Roaring Twenties" were a decade of great social and economic change. Mechanization and modernization continued even as workers were again squeezed. Following the awful war, there was a determined quest for fun and gaiety, including no shortgage of sheer debauchery, even in the face of yet another really bad conservative idea, Prohibition. But while much of America jitterbugged and swigged illegal liquor, professional conservatives were hard at work. The momentum of progressivism was stopped in its tracks as three straight Republican presidents and a conservative Congress happily rolled back the hard-won gains of unions, working people and consumers.
Leading up to the Depression, the corporate conservatives' double-mantra was put into full force: low, low taxes (especially for the rich) and deregulation of industry and the financial sector.
Taxes were halved. Business and banking regulations were loosened. The Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Reserve were given over to corporate cronies: the proverbial fox in the henhouse took charge. Regulators looked the other way. Corporate profits boomed. Unions were demonized and laws written that caused membership to plummet. Wages decreased, or barely increased even as prices rose. Workplace safety requirements were rescinded, resulting in hundreds of thousands of workers injured or killed. Immigration was severely curtailed, and a vicious racism and religious intolerance re-emerged. The Ku Klux Klan had four and a half million members nationwide by 1924. Wall Street speculation ran rampant. Banks gambled on specious loans and other complicated investment "instruments" that few understood. A housing bubble developed as land and home prices skyrocketed. Just by pushing paper around, people were getting rich overnight in both real estate and the stock market, even while working families across the country found it more and more difficult to survive, and a huge swath of the population was hungry and close to destitution. No matter, said the corporatists; there would always be the poor. If they couldn't save or invest in real estate or the stock market, it was their own fault. Here, again, was the vaunted "free market" of the conservatives, working as it will.
Does this all sound familiar? Then you can probably guess what happened next.
It was all a house of cards, based on blind faith in "trickle-down" mythology, and rife with moral corruption, even if it all was perfectly legal under the new rules of the "free market." As the first signs of imminent collapse emerged, many CorpCons got out of the stock market, but did not bother to warn everybody else. In October, 1929, the card stack fell, and kept on falling. The Great Depression had arrived.
Republican Hoover presided over the carnage (as his ideological descendent, George W. Bush, would do likewise seven decades later). In desperation and grasping at straws, he tried everything, including completely abandoning core conservative ideology and turning toward ideas that his own party labeled as "socialist." That, folks, is the measure of the veracity of conservative economic policy! Well, at least give Hoover credence for backpedaling, recognizing that something significantly different had to be tried... in stark contrast to the radical CorpCons of today who insist on doubling-down when their policies collapse in failure.
But it was too little, too late. Nothing seemed to improve, in fact things just got worse. The American people realized they had been "conned" (literally and figuratively), had no confidence left in Hoover or the conservatives, and couldn't wait to throw them all out.
What they longed for now was a return to the "Fair Deal" and someone like Teddy Roosevelt, who would stand up to the banksters and financial sharks. They got it, and more.
In the 1932 elections, America turned to another governor of New York named Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, fifth cousin to Theodore. But this time it was a Democratic Roosevelt, an unabashed liberal. A wide coalition of Americans: northerners, southerners, white, black, poor, middle class, swept him into office, and broomed the Republicans out. Congress, likewise was transformed by the election. Out went the haggard conservatives whom almost everyone in the country blamed for the Depression. Since they had been in total control for over 12 years, who else could it be?
There are no quick and easy fixes for a bust or a recession, much less a depression. The conservatives had made such a colossal mess of the economy, it would take many years to dig back out. During the campaign Roosevelt had proclaimed, "I pledge you, I pledge myself to a New Deal for the American people... This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms!"
The economy had not quite hit rock bottom by the time Roosevelt took office. A bank panic occurred right around the time of his inauguration, and so came his famous line, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." How different from the continual warning of the conservatives, "Be afraid, be very afraid!"
Ah, but what America could do with a liberal like this leading us once again!
The New Deal involved programs that put Americans back to work immediately on projects like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), remembered wistfully as one of the program's that rebuilt America's infrastructure: roads and bridges, dams and parks that are still in use today. Among the other important New Deal changes was the Glass-Steagal act of 1933 that created the Federal Deposit Insurancy Corporation (FDIC), which insured deposits and eliminated the "panics" that had plagued America for well over 100 years.
The Glass-Steagall act put a bridle firmly in the mouths of the banksters, separating commercial banks from investment banks, and preventing them from using customer savings and their own reserves for speculation. This law helped provide the stable economic environment that would allow for sustained growth of the middle class for the next 50 years. Glass-Steagall gave priority to the rights of bank customers and the public-at-large over bankster profits. In addition, Roosevelt ushered in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and expanded the powers of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), each designed to closely scrutinize and regulate business conduct.
The New Deal also created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The National Labor Relations Act gave the green light to unions across the country to organize, collectively bargain and go on strike. And in a landmark bill, Roosevelt and the New Deal liberals passed what is probably the most popular and uplifting law in American history: Social Security.
All told, the New Deal represented one of the most remarkable transformations of economic priorities in the history of the world: from a conservative ethos of allowing business to run wild to a liberal orientation favoring consumers and the middle class. Of course, CorpCons absolutely loathed every single bit of it!
We all know about Social Security coming out of the New Deal,
as well as protections against financial shenanigans,
but don't forget the New Deal put people to work all across America,
and left these projects in your backyard. Imagine something like that today!
Conservatives would never let it happen.
The conservatives called the New Deal "socialism," even "communism." It could more accurately be called "Liberals saving Capitalism."
The "free market" boom-and-bust cycle of economic chaos that conservatives had long championed had flowed to its logical conclusion, the wreckage of the Depression. With the New Deal, there was no longer any pretense of a "free market," which as we have seen was always just code-talk for a rigged market in which the capitalists could run amok. Now, at long last, the market was somewhat controlled... and took on at least a semblance of fairness.
Socialism was about the last thing it was. The capitalists were still firmly in control. The rich would still get richer. But it would take them longer to do it. And they had to play at least a little fair while they did it. Yet the poor would not get poorer. Indeed, they couldn't get much poorer than conservative ideology had made them in 1932. Slowly, they got back on their feet, and millions upon millions of them would join the burgeoning American middle class. The period from 1933 through the mid-1970s in America would become the largest expansion of an economic middle class in world history.
The CorpCons could barely stand it. Denied their full greed fix, they chafed. They carped. They cried. But few listened to them anymore. The Depression was too fresh. Everyone had heard their lies and distortions and distractions for too long, and knew them to be dead wrong.
Slowly, America pulled out of the Depression. Many economists, then and now, say the New Deal did not go far enough, that government stimulation, and deficit spending, was far short of what was truly needed to address the difficulties. Roosevelt himself was wary of deficits, and in 1936 allowed conservatives in Congress to convince him to pay down the deficit rather than continue to apply steady stimulative pressure in the face of stubborn unemployment. Yet again, conservatives were wrong. This move backfired, and threatened the recovery.
All of this history, these economic data and facts, are entirely ignored by the conservative call today to cut the deficit and shrink the government. As usual, the opposite of what they propose is the more likely route back to a strong economy. Further proving the fallacy of their contentions is what eventually did push America clear of the Depression: the biggest spate of deficit spending in American history... otherwise known as World War II.
So America went to war to save the world again. The nation also went deeply into debt to finance the war. In terms of the national debt as percentage of gross national product (GDP), the World War II decifit was almost double that of today.
As you might expect, conservatives howled and screeched, and prophesized doom. But they were drowned out by an overwhelming sense of patriotism. And that patriotism was put to a stern test. A lot was asked of almost every American citizen. Everybody was involved in the war, and everyone was expected to sacrifice. There was a draft, and 16 million, around 10 percent of the population, served in the Armed Forces. Rations were imposed on a variety of products, including oil, gasoline, rubber, sugar, meat. Taxes were raised, especially on the rich. Ordinary folks were encouraged to buy war bonds to help the cause. The government ordered factories converted to the production of planes, tanks, Jeeps, munitions, etc.
Now stop and think about this for a minute. A liberal Democrat was president. Taxes were sky high on the rich and corporations. Industry was ordered what to produce. And every American was expected to sacrifice for the collective, you could say "socialist," effort. Sounds like a conservative nightmare, right? Yet World War II represents the hey-day of the so-called "greatest generation," a period remembered with misty eyes as one of America's most glorious moments. Everything about the way the "big" government was working was against the grain of conservative ideology.
All of this was diametrically opposed to the way the conservatives of the George W. Bush Administration ran their two wars of choice, actually lowering taxes (twice), especially on the rich, while dumping the whole load of these misadventures on the military and their families, and urging everybody else to "go shopping!" The costs of two Bush's two wars, one of them still ongoing after 16 years (the longest war in American history), is now estimated at over two TRILLION dollars (and counting), all of it put on the nation's credit card... with interest.
The big lesson for the CorpCons following World War II was that they remembered how profitable war can be. It had been over 20 years since the U.S. had been at war... just too long for CorpCon tastes. With the banks still in their New Deal bridles, the wasichu turned to an old friend, the military, for their greed fix. It was a rematch made in heaven for them both.
With the fascists in Germany, Italy and Japan defeated, the CorpCons needed a new boogie-man. And there was one ready to go... the Communists. The CorpCons sensed that this could be the best bad-guy ever! A new term was invented: "Cold War," a potentially cataclysmic war of nuclear proportions that was never to get too hot, never to be fought in earnest, yet ever prepared for, and waged in non-nuclear mini-bites here and there around the globe, well outside the boundaries of the two major players, the United States and the Soviet Union.
CorpCons rubbed their hands. Hey, this could go on forever! Permanent "Cold War" was a delicious dream for the CorpCons... without the messiness of a real war, perhaps, but with never-ending, ever-escalating military spending. Not only were great fortunes to be made, but all manner of clandestine political manipulations could be undertaken with a populace distracted by the ever-present danger and fear of war with a supposedly diabolical boogie-man. All that was needed was willing politicians and a gullible, fearful public to go along with it.
“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home--but not for housing. They are strong for labor--but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights. They favor minimum wage--the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all--but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine--for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing--but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”
Not a damned thing has changed.
CorpCons and military types in America promoted a Communist hysteria (while in the USSR, their conservatives were promoting imperial-capitalist hysteria). On both sides a propaganda barrage emerged. There was a kernel of truth to it all; nuclear weapons are nothing to trifle with. Yet the degree of the nonsense that accompanied the hysteria was truly over the top, and in America veered well into anti-American behavior.
As usual, the bigtime CorpCons stayed well hidden from public view, but they had their stooges. Singular among these was Joseph McCarthy, a Republican, of course. McCarthy perceived communists lurking like ghosts in every corner of America, including inside the government. In 1950, shortly after China went Communist, McCarthy declared he had proof of Communists within the U.S. State Department, labeled the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as doing the work of the Communist Party, and called the Democratic Party guilty of "twenty years of treason." Millions of Americans bought into McCarthy's outrageous claims, fueling rising fears of a Communist takeover of America. As is regularly the case with conservative claim, theory and outcry, hardly a shred of it was true. Not a single actual Communist was ever discovered in the State Department, though hundreds of people with left-leaning sentiments, perfectly within their Constitutional rights (as would be support of Communism, incidently), were demonized. McCarthy is truly one of the poster-boys of the conservative penchant for dangerous demagoguery. The hysteria he almost single-handedly whipped to a frenzy wrecked careers and lives and actually ended in the deaths of some of those he slandered.
Even the conservatives decided he had gone around the bend when McCarthy turned his ire toward the Army, and even his own fellow Republicans. One of those Republicans, Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith, had seen enough. She leveled a broadside against McCarthy that actually could serve as a generic warning about conservatism itself, certainly applicable to our own troubles with conservatives: "I would like to speak about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything Americans hold dear." She admonished the Republican Party for attemting to "ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny - Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear." There you go, a Republican calling out conservatism for its essential game plan, a plan that is fully in effect even today. Margaret Chase Smith would not be surprised.
McCarthy hit back harder, calling Smith and a handful of other Republican senators who sided with her, "Snow White and the Six Dwarves." McCarthy had Smith removed from his committee (replaced by Richard Nixon). McCarthy and Donald Trump would have gotten along swell. They are brothers in demagogery, McCarthy obsessed with Communists, Trump scapegoating Muslims and Mexicans (and blacks, and women, and LGBT people, and liberals, and the press, etc.).
But eventually Joseph McCarthy pushed too far. His four year witchunt came crashing down in 1954 as he was censured and condemned by the Senate, one of the few members ever to receive such a public rebuke.
Yet the suspicions he helped enflame continued on in more subtle, though terrifically damaging means. Even many liberals bought fully into the new national pasttime that McCarthy had sparked of being terrified of Communism. Seemingly, especially, liberals were susceptible, desperate to avoid being labeled as soft on defense. Truman, Kennedy and Johnson would fall right into the CorpCon trap of fomentation of a permanent war footing, allowing their better liberal angels to be pushed aside in favor of conservative warmongering against the ephemeral boogeyman. Even from the vantage point of four decades on, it's difficult to discern how much of the U.S. government's response to the "Communist threat" was based on sincere national security concerns, and what was deliberately trumped to manipulate a restless public and/or to protect American corporate interests around the globe.
President Ike Eisenhower, formerly Allied Commander of World War II, perceived what was developing, and warned against the rise of a dangerous "military-industrial complex" that could threaten our very democracy. Like Teddy Roosevelt, Ike was a true RINO (Republican In Name Only); he was courted by both parties after the war, and he actually turned out to be far more liberal than conservative. He refused to lower taxes on the rich (they were at 91% maximum top personal bracket during his tenure... and it didn't curtail the "job creators" one bit), spent lavishly on the federal Interstate Highway System, in addition to critizing the military build-up and foreign adventures. Therefore, Ike is yet another Republican that the modern party cannot claim as truly one of their own.
Alas, Ike's words of warning regarding the military-industrial complex fell on completely deaf ears. America would tell the military-industrial complex not to back down, but to put the pedal to the metal! Nothing rang sweeter to the ears of military contractors than an "arms race" with the Soviets. Oh, and throw in a "space race" to boot, involving many of the very same contractors. Keep that Communist hsyteria coming!
The "Communist threat" was always more myth than reality. America was never in any danger of being overrun by the Soviets, and eventually didn't really succeed anywhere it tried to prevent real Communist (as contrasted with socialist) revolutions from taking over. "Duck-and-cover" drills and bomb-shelter mania were outgrowths of mere mythology. We might as well have been building stables for unicorns. It would have been just as realistic, and a lot cheaper. On and on the "Cold War" went, for decades, costing untold hundreds of billions of dollars, and much more importantly, tens of thousands of American lives, and millions of dead in the unfortunate proxy countries that were the actual killing fields of this irrational dualism.
Korea, then Vietnam, were the preliminary scenes of actual battle involving American troops. The "domino theory" hysterically proclaimed that if Communism was not stopped, one by one, countries would fall to the insidious ideology. Yet the West clearly had no interest in the people of these countries, only the commercial potential. Southeast Asia, in particular, was rich in natural resources, including rubber, tin and oil. 58,000 American soldiers would die in Vietnam, in vain as it turned out. America's vaunted "military industrial complex" failed to conquer half a third world country in Vietnam, just as it watched helplessly as Cuba, just 103 miles from American soil, went Communist.
John F. Kennedy, a bonfide World War II hero (of PT-109 fame), and son of wealthy Masschusetts politico Joseph Kennedy, squeaked into the presidency in 1960, beating Richard Nixon with what conservatives cried were fake votes in heavily Democratic Cook County, Illinois, and South Texas, which tipped two of the biggest electoral prizes into Kennedy's column. Yet Kennedy's victory was more than a fluke. He was the youngest man ever elected President, but more importantly, the first Catholic. His win signaled that the old guard of Protestant domination of the American political system was changing. Boy, was it ever about to change.
Being erstwhile liberals and not wanting to be depicted as soft on the Commies, Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson jumped right upon the Red-baiting bandwagon. A lean too far to the right caused Kennedy to sign off on the disastous Bay of Pigs invasion, a poorly planned attempt to oust Fidel Castro from power in Cuba. But later Kennedy would channel the steely courage that both Lincoln and Roosevelt displayed when he stared down Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviets in their attempt to place missiles in Cuba. This was the most dangerous point of the entire Cold War, when it almost turned hot. America stood resolute... with a liberal at the helm... and the Soviets backed down. Some historians claim this moment represents the beginning of the end of Soviet ascendancy, and reaffirmation of American governmental and military superiority. Alas, Vietnam would tarnish that supreme assumption.
Kennedy would initiate greater involvement in Vietnam, and Johnson would raise that bet considerably. How things might have evolved in Vietnam if Kennedy had not been assassinated has been fodder for enormous speculation since the Sixties. Both his brother Robert F. Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara later stated that Kennedy planned to withdraw from Vietnam following the 1964 election. But such was not the course of history.
In contrast to his abdication to conservative motifs in upping the ante in Vietman, Kennedy followed his true liberal intuition by taking on racial discrimination back home. To be sure, he was prodded and pushed by the Civil Rights movement, ostensibly led by Martin Luther King, Jr., but nevertheless might have successfully dodged the entire issue as other politicians had managed since the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education established that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional.
As part of his "New Frontier," Kennedy's vision was far reaching... to the moon, in fact. It was John F. Kennedy who set as a national priority sending American astronauts to the moon and back, to be accomplished within 10 years. This would directly lead to perhaps America's greatest achievement. But it would be Civil Rights where Kennedy would most make his mark upon the future of America. Kennedy eventually threw the weight of the U.S. federal government to assist an oppressed minority... a rare thing indeed. Only liberals do that. Conservatives never have, and never will. They love an unequal status quo - as long as they are on top!
Kennedy would not see his landmark Civil Rights legislation enacted. He would be one of the great liberals who would be gunned down during the Sixties, along with King and Kennedy's younger brother Robert. America has never recovered from these crimes against the nation and the world. The country's liberal momentum was effectively blunted, and 50 years later America is still waiting for a liberal champion with anywhere close to the charisma, passion and sense of hope that these individuals brought to American politics.
The task of pushing the contentious Civil Rights laws through would fall to Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, who, as a Southerner, was an unlikely champion of black Americans. Though Johnson was at times anti-union, and allowed anti-Communist hysteria to get the best of him in handling the Vietnam War, on the domestic front he ranks as one of the great liberals of American history. His "Great Society" included the introduction of Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, increased spending on education, and, for the first time ever, turned the nation's attention to addressing urban decay in its largest cities. He initiated the "War on Poverty," which quickly cut in half the number of destitute Americans. He signed bills creating the Head Start and Work Study programs, and initiated both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Public Broadcasting System. And in the wake of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., he also signed the Gun Control Act of 1968. Johnson added to the liberal legacy of protecting America's natural heritage by signing the Wildnerness Act of 1964, which set aside over nine million acres of federal land to be preserved as wild. Johnson carried the torch for John Kennedy's dream of sending a man to the moon, supporting NASA through the dark days after the tragedy of Apollo 1. Kennedy's once dreamy quest would be fulfilled just six months after Johnson left office in 1969.
At the core of Johnson's idea of a Great Society was a completely revamped orientation to race in America. Since the end of the Civil War, segregation was the de facto law of the land. The South, in particular, remained a hotbed of bigotry and discrmination. In a gallant and determined effort to smash the institutions of unfairness Johnson pushed for and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act in 1965; then in 1967 named Thurgood Marshall the first African American on the Supreme Court. Nobody knew better than Johnson, himself, that there would be political hell to pay for his transgressions against the "traditional values" of segregation.
President Johnson discusses the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
THE GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL MIGRATION
The vast majority of Johnson's own political kind - southern Democrats - were aghast. Now again, liberal ideology was remaking America. And once again, conservatives faced the end of their world as they knew it. Remember, this was the era when most social conservatives, especially in the south, were Democrats... the co-called Dixiecrats. Johnson knew there would be severe ramifications. Upon signing the Civil Rights bills, Johnson is reported to have predicted, "We have lost the South for a generation."
A generation? Try forever. In 1965 the Vietnam War still seemed little more than a trifle somewhere off in some foreign land no one had ever heard of, in defense of a people and culture that Americans had little in common with. But the Civil Rights upheaval would prove to be the political earthquake that would remake the American two party system. The Civil Rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 would cleave both major parties, sending conservative white Democrats scrambling toward the Republican Party, and thereby sending almost all black Americans, who had long been loyal Republicans (the Party of Lincoln), fleeing to the Democrats.
So we see how the terms "Republican" and "Democrat" are imminently pliable; they can turn on a dime, whereas the words "conservative" and "liberal" are far more enduring. Conservatives conserve; liberals liberate. When southern and other working class conservatives perceived that their Democratic Party was more interested in liberating black folks than conserving white privilege, the time had come to abandon ship and take up an uneasy partnership with their old adversaries: the Big Business types of the Republican Party.
That truly was a different time. The nation, on the whole, including its politicians were far more liberal than is the case today. As Johnson states (video above), "an overwhelming majority" of both Democrats and Republicans voted FOR the Civil Rights legislation. That was the day of the "moderate Republican." In those days - in the midst of a very long and very successful run of liberal policies - even Republicans often went along with the progressive lean of the country. So who voted AGAINST the Civil Rights acts? Conservatives, of course... both Republican and Democrat. Fortunately, there weren't quite so many of them back then... otherwise we might still have separate (and very unequal) drinking fountains, restrooms, restaurants, hotels... and opportunities for non-white Americans.
The election of 1964 emphasized the liberal mood of America when Johnson, fresh off the signing of the first Civil Rights legislation, obliterated the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, a tough-talking conservative's conservative. Goldwater won only six states, his brand of conservative politics deeply unpopular with the bulk of the country way back there in 1964. Goldwater won his home state of Arizona, however, the other five states were in the deep South, formerly strong Democrat territory. This was an early inkling that Johnson's prediction of the Democrats losing the South would come true. Eventually almost all social conservatives would leave the Democratic Party and become Republicans.
In the aftermath of the 1964 wipeout, American conservatism seemed almost lifeless. It had been thoroughly rebuked by an overwhelming public consensus. The New York Times pronounced that Goldwater's spanking "has wrecked the Republican Party for a long time to come."
Proclaimiing zombies dead is an exercise in futility... as we see over and over again withe conservative ideology.
Yet, deep in the bowels of the zombie ideology, diabolical passion flickered. Conservative "intellectuals" were invigorated. Following the hang-dog defeatism of the past several decades, at last their ideology was taking root. They had finally wrested control of the party from the more moderate Eastern bankers. These "real conservatives" would learn from their mistakes, but Goldwater's essential "America First" stance provided a blueprint for their eventual resugurgence. Even from the ashes of a searing loss, restoring the old status-quo seemed closer than before.
Here's a song originally recorded by the Chad Mithcell Trio in 1964, which captured some of the Goldwater appeal and the enthusiasm of his young followers. Consider how easily Trumpism fits the exact same mould.
"We're the nice young men, who want to go back to 1910, we're Barry's boys;
Goldwater has been called "the most influential loser in American political history." He was reportedly charming, "neither mean-spirited nor racist" according to John Kennedy, and actually quite sensible in some of his convictions. He was an unpure conservative. His strongest conservative bent was his vehemently anti-communist position, which was the crux of his 1964 campaign. To his credit, he might have wooed millions of social conservative votes by making the recent civil rights gains a major point of contention during the campaign, but did not. Goldwater actually held some outright liberal views, and became more liberal as he grew older (refuting the old conservative self-congratulatory saw - often incorrectly ascribed to Winston Churchill, "If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart; if you are not a conservative at 35, you have no brain.") He would later support gay rights and abhored the rise of the "Christian Right." Yet Goldwater had single handedly reoriented the Republican Party much further to the right. The day of the Republican "moderates," like Ike Eisenhower were over. Every presidential nominee since Goldwater has been a staunch conservative, and the truly "moderate" Republican has become extinct.
But in 1964, the Times they were A'Changin', as Bob Dylan sang. For the better, for the most part. Old, worn-out "traditions" were falling, progress was on the march. The thing to remember about this time of great social upheaval is that the government did not invent or initially instigate any of these changes... each came organically from We the People. Politicians simply responded to the pressure coming from "below." And the People weren't finished yet... in addition to Civil Rights, the War on Poverty and the Great Society, the Sixties and early Seventies would bring forth "revolutions" of women's liberation, the gay rights movement, handicapped rights, animal rights, environmentalism, anti-war and anti-nuclear protest, and more. It was, indeed, a cataclysmic era that pulled the plug on many of the sacred "traditions" of earlier America. For the most part, good riddance!
But in the new stew of political turmoil and change, even as they were getting their "traditional values" stuffed down their throats, Republican operatives saw a new/old way forward. The Democrats - with all their "equality" fixation - had given the conservatives exactly what they needed to eventually wrest power back from the liberals. Divide and Conquer would rise again.
By 1968 the Republicans felt they had their "Southern Strategy" well under way. This time they ran a much more moderate candidate than had been Goldwater, selecting Eisenhower's former VP Richard Nixon... the same guy who had lost to JFK in 1960. With the Democrats reeling in disarray, from Johnson's unpopularity due to the war, then the assassination of Robert Kennedy, Republicans expected to sweep the South and win back the White House. But then a Democrat almost threw a monkey-wrench into their works. Ultra-conservative, vehemently segregationist, Alabama governor George Wallace - a Democrat - decided to run as a third party candidate. Wallace actually won 13.5 percent of the popular vote, and snagged five southern states that Nixon was counting on. In the end it didn't matter, as Nixon won enough other states, principally in the West and Midwest, to push him over the top (even though he only garnered about half a million more votes than the Democratic candidate, Vice-President Hubert Humprhey... about the same number of votes that Al Gore would score over and above George W. Bush in 2000).
During the campaign Republican Nixon lied through his teeth in campaigning on a platform of ending the Vietnam War, even as he was double-crossing America by whispering to the North Vietnamese not to negotiate a truce with the Johnson administration, but rather wait for a better deal from the new Republican administration. Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war helped get him elected, but four years later Americans were still dying in Southeast Asia. Vietnam was a complete debacle. Despite the blood and billions that American had spent, that "domino" eventually would fall to the Communists.
The Monsterization of American business and industry.
Big changes to America are coming ahead. So at this juncture, let's take a little break in the political narrative and see how our friends in Big Business were changing right along with the times.
From a conservative political perspective the worst case scenario in Vietnam had occurred. But lo and behold the world didn't end. Again, the conservatives were dead (literally) wrong! Just a few decades later, Vietnam is a great place to vacation, or move your factory to if you're a predatory capitalist "job creator." The Vietnam War screwed both Vietnam and America. But the CorpCons made money fighting the Viet Cong, and now they make even more money doing business with the Vietnamese. See how no matter what happens the CorpCons come out winners, even when conservative dogma is proven to be not based in reality whatsoever.
For the American military-industrial complex, the Vietnam War was not a debacle... in fact, it was just splendid! It allowed for the invention, testing and honing of a host of newer, deadlier products... and America emerged from the Vietnam War as arms dealer to the world. Step right up, and buy your guns, bombs, missiles, tanks, planes... and don't forget toxins! Anyone welcome... who isn't a Commie!
They had no shortage of takers. Over the years they would sell to Israel and to Israel's enemies. They would sell to India, and then to its nemesis, Pakistan, each already with nuclear weapons. They would provide weapons to Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Basically any tinhorn dictator or warlord or "freedom fighter" with a bag o' cash was welcomed as a good customer, so long as they seemed anti-Communist. The Soviet military conservatives had the same gig going, only in reverse fashion, seeking out those thugs who were anti-U.S. The warmongers on both sides had found the "mean mean," a toxic equilibrium, an era of perpetual war footing and immense cash-influx, but without the oceans of blood and destruction of real world war that would sour and weary the citizenry against their craft and trade.
The American Military-Industrial Complex had morphed into a monster through the Cold War and Vietnam, just as Ike had warned. But so too had other industries and business sectors discovered new and novel ways to supersize themselves and their profits.... becoming more and more ruthless and predatory with each passing quarter as their shareholders increasingly clambored for ever more inflated returns. And like the military-industrial complex, other sectors found that the domestic side of business was downright boring compared to the action outside of America. In terms of resources, materials, consumers... and, of course, workers and factories... a global strategy was becoming an imperative in the never-ending chase for increasing profit.
Of course, fueling, literally, the military-industrial complex is the oil industry. They love each other. The oil industry keeps the engines of war running, while the war engines slurp up the fuel as fast as they can. They lovingly dance in full embrace when they both seek to go after more oil in places where the people there don't particularly like us.
The most blatant "war for oil" would be the Iraq war, ginned up by oil men George W. Bush and Dick Cheney through a series of bald lies, then outsourced to oil field crony-companies Halliburton and KBR, mostly through no-bid, sweetheart contracts. This wasichu orgy killed over 4,400 U.S. service personnel, as well as a low estimate of 150,000 Iraqis killed and millions displaced. Tens of thousands of troops have returned maimed, physically or psychically, swamping the Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics. Just as with the Vietnam conflict and Gulf War, the VA expects hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to eventually need health and mental health services for decades to come. The total cost to the U.S. taxpayers of the Afghanistan and Iraq Was is estimated to eventually top three TRILLION dollars! Billions of dollars just disappeared under the incompetent watch of the hack conservative operatives over in Iraq. Indeed, during the height of the wars a veritable pipeline from the U.S. taxpayers into the pockets of hand-picked Republican-backed corporations freely flowed. Once again the people of both Iraq, Afghanistan and America got the shaft, while the CorpCons made billions dealing in shock and awe, death and destruction, deceit and deception.
For decades the large oil companies have engaged in relentless and reckless behavior around the globe, bullying and polluting at will, raking in obscene profits even as they are subsidized by the federal government. And the cherry on their cake is that they often find a way to pay zero federal taxes.
Major oil companies profits... ONE quarter (2012), mind you... and during a world-wide recession!
And still they pay a pittance - or nothing at all - in taxes.
Clearly demonstrating their utter disinterest and disdain for protecting either the environment, other industries, or lives, official response plans previously drawn up by ALL of the major oil companies (and approved by George W. Bush Administration regulators) were inept, even nonsensical, including language that specified instructions for the protection of walrus in the case of a Gulf oil spill! Right, walrus, an arctic marine mammal, in the Gulf of Mexico! This kind of shoddy preparation reveals just how much this industry cares about our very planet itself. This is the only home we have, folks... and the oil companies and other extractive industries are perfectly willing and able to wreck it as fast as they possibly can... all in the name of P-R-O-F-I-T!
Two years later, researchers have discovered that the Deep Horizon well head is still leaking, and serious questions of just how much damage will eventually be wreaked by the oil still out there floating in the Gulf and spread out on the seabed, as well as the chemical dispersents (manufactured by the oil companies) used to break up the surface oil, which some claim may be more insidious than the oil itself. The Sierra Club ranks British Petroleum (BP) as the "bottom of the barrel" oil company. Not that the others are a whole lot better. If you are interested, here's an excellent snapshot of the oily practices of the oil industry.
Big Coal is another big polluter and, if you can believe it, even more careless and reckless with the lives of its employees than the oil industry. The routine working conditions of many mines would make even the most callous oil field supervisor squeamish. That the coal companies get away with this, year after year, death after coal miner death, is testament that the problem in this country is not too much regulation... there's not near enough.
Big Coal has recently engaged in a public relations blitz to convince gullible people that coal is "clean" energy. Actually, there is no such thing as "clean coal." There is dirty coal, and dirtier coal. There are types of coal that are cleaner-burning than others, but all coal is dirty. There are coal plants that have better pollution suppressing technology, but all coal plants are still dirty. Even the "cleanest" coal plants still spew carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury. And here we're simply talking about the burning of coal. There's also the extraction of coal. Rather than underground mines, the coal companies prefer Open Pit and Mountaintop Removal techniques. Why burrow through rock when you can just blow it to smithereens and pick up the pieces? Gouging gigantic holes into Mother Earth, and ripping away entire mountain tops, sometimes whole mountains, Big Coal has re-formed much of the Appalachians, and certainly not for the better. Not only do they leave behind gaping wounds in the body and soul of the locality, they also (conveniently for themselves) leave behind sludge, slag and toxic chemicals used in the extraction process dumped into the valleys, stream and river beds. Despite superficial "revegetation" upon completion, by the time the coal company has exhausted a particular location, only the most unspiritual person could look upon the scene and not grieve for the planet and the wicked soul of humanity. And just like with their murder of miners, the coal companies get away with this flagrant violation of American law and morality as well. We can't do justice to the injustice here. For a better sense of what is going on please visit Mountaintop Removal in Central Appalachia
And if you think that's bad.... Though not nearly as pervasive as the filthy dirty, dangerous and corrupt oil and coal industries, even scarier is the nuclear power industry. Just about the farthest thing from a "free market" endeavor, every nuclear power plant in the world is highly subsidized by tax-payers. None of them would be remotely profitable on their own. Yet behind them sit CorpCons, somehow making fortunes out of public largess. This may not be anything new, but the risk inherent in these palaces of chaos waiting to happen certainly is. Aside from nuclear bombs, nuclear power is the most dangerous "product" on Earth. In fact, it's one of the most powerful and dangerous things in the entire universe. Stars are powered by it. It would certainly be better if we let the stars do the nuclear thing, and instead reap the bounty of their far safer convection heat.
But no. CorpCons shiver at the idea of letting loose a process whereby any old dupe could set out some solar collectors and power their house. Better to keep things extremely controlled, complicated, expensive. In fact, the more complicated and expensive the better (that'll keep the riff-raff out)... no matter that it might destroy the habitability of the planet and ruin the life of every living thing. They will cross that bridge when it collapses!
It should make everyone queasy to think that CorpCons, people with the morals of Lucifer, ever seeking the highest profitability and lowest possible expenses, are playing around with nuclear fission.
The nuclear power industry is barely over 50 years old, and already there have been a raft of mishaps, accidents and near-misses, plus at least two actual, "localized" disasters: Chernobyl and Fukushima. Each of these "contained" (according to nuclear power proponents) catastrophies directly killed no one (as nuclear devotees love to point out), but spewed radioactive poisons far and wide (including the Pacific Ocean), assuring sickness, deformities and cancer among people and animals for years to come, and rendering wide areas "no-go" zones possibly for centuries to come.
Think about it! What a ridiculously horrid price to pay for an energy system that is not competitive even on its own and must be subsidized by the public, a system that trusts fat-cats inebriated by the whiff of profits with the most dangerous substance on earth, a system that is so complicated and sensitive that it practically begs for accidents. In fact, nuclear energy is a prime example of conservative ideological convolution and hypocrisy: solar power and electric cars have to figure out how to pay their own way and don't deserve any governmental assistance, yet nuclear energy is a great investment.
Really? The chances are astronomically high that someday one of these CorpCon-run boondoggles will go off in ways that will make Chernobyl and Fukushima seem like a burping high school science project. Where will that catastrophe take place? India? Czech Republic? Spain? Or perhaps Browns Ferry, Alabama? Palo Verdo, Arizona? Comanche Peak, Texas? Watts Bar, Tennessee? Diablo Canyon, California? Which community will follow Chernobyl and Fukufhima as the next nuclear dead zone?
Proponents like to boast that nuclear energy is "clean," with none of the pollutants involved with extracting and burning oil and coal. Please. It's the dirtiest energy imaginable. With oil and coal at least the worst effects should dissipate in a few hundred years. Not nuclear waste and radiation. No one has yet to figure out how or where to store the nuclear waste products that are produced by nuclear power plants, waste that is highly poisonous and won't be rendered harmless for hundreds of thousands of years. As you read these words, rusting barrels of highly toxic nuclear waste are leaking in Washington state and other places around the U.S. The more rational nations - like Japan and Germany - have announced they will phase out nuclear energy, and so get out of the dead zone lottery. Not so the CorpCon dominated United States. Even the moderate Republican Obama urges full-speed-ahead toward the next Big Nuclear Disaster.
Accoring to a Yale study, the two most prevalent words
associated with nuclear power are "bad" and "disaster."
Closely allied to both the arms and the energy sectors is the chemical industry, which also boasts some of the top predatory companies of history. Among the most profitable chemicals are those that are the most dangerous, so toxic they are illegal for use in America... but not in foreign countries, or in wartime. The Monsanto Company ballooned to super-corp status because of the Vietnam War. Its "products," DDT, dioxins, napalm, Agent Orange, Round-Up, and a wide variety of other chemical weapons, toxins, solvents, pesticides, herbicides and caustic agents are now spread all around the world. It seems spreading death and destruction can be extremely profitable.
Among the lowlights of this industry's pathetic legacy was the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, when a shoddily-run (to save money, of course) plant owned by the American company Union Carbide accidently released toxic gasses that immediately killed 2,259 and eventually killed over 3,700, with another half million - that's right one-half million! - injured. There you go, folks... the "free market." Free to kill at will. The CorpCons at Union Carbide claimed "sabotage," even though a raft of unsafe practices and previous warnings were proven. Union Carbide slunk off after paying damages only amounting to about 1/10th of what they should have, then eventually sold off the company to Dow Chemical, which now claims no responsibility for the disaster at all. Somehow Dow bought all of Union Carbides assets, but none of its liabilities. Only a super corporation could pull that bit of chicanery off.
Relative newcomers to the monster's banquet is the drug industry. Once a rather tawdry backwater of corporate involvement, in fact, more often dominated by rogue quacks and small-time entprepreneurs, over the past half century the makers of chemical-based pharmaceuticals have bloated to giant status, and become among the richest corporations in world history... to a degree that would make the old purveyors of "patent medicines" sick with envy. The efficacy and dangers of many of these modern products are still not fully understood, but no matter... they are insanely profitable. No doubt, some offer needed aid and comfort (even if their manufacturers don't exactly know how), but never doubt for a second that the motives behind their creation and propagation is not the health of the drug company. Indeed, for the company it's better if the product only kind of works. To maximize profit the drug should definitely not completely cure the patient! Meanwhile, these CorpCon pharmaceutical "patriots," whom professional conservatives continually scramble to protect and defend, show their loyalty by charging Americans up to 10 times what other countries demand they sell their products for.
The drug and medical hierarchies in America are commpletely dominated by wasichu mentality. Conservative CorpCons - including insurance companies, hospitals and doctors (some of whom can pull down a million dollars per year by showing up at work a couple of times a week) - have effectively prevented the United States from joining the rest of the civilized world in providing not-for-profit health care systems to their citizens.
Offering the best health care in the world - to the rich - the American for-profit health care system was actually the laughing stock of the rest of nations. Per capita, America still spends double the next closest nation for its health care costs, yet gets far less in return. There are a few words for that: unconscionable, thievery (on the part of insurers) and suckers (for the consumers)!
Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka "Obamacare"), according to the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranked 37th overall in health care efficiency. America was 39th in life expectancy, 39th for infant mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality... and getting worse year by year, while almost all other health care systems are improving. This data, alone, rendered a verdict of utter failure for the CorpCon sponsored, profit-oriented American health care system.
(Pre ObamaCare American Health System)
But the real scenario was much worse. Pre-Obamacare, the American health care system paid little attention to preventative or holistic care, instead focusing on far more profitable drug and surgery options. Most doctors still have little or no training in nutrition, holistic or preventative care. Worst of all, nearly 50 million Americans, including over six million children, had no healthy care insurance at all. Meanwhile, perhaps as many as 100 million Americans think they have good medical insurance, but are actually dreaming. Their friendly CorpCon-operated insurance company will lie, steal and cheat them out of full coverage if it possibly can, and the voluminous small print of insurance contracts (just like mortgages) always include lots of loopholes skewed in favor of the corporation.
Of the civilized nations, only in America could you be financially ruined because you got sick or injured. The majority of bankruptices in America were health care related, almost all of them involving people who throught they had adequate medical insurance. Yep, the "Christian nation" (self proclaimed by SoCons) is the one and only country that had a health care system that would make Jesus angry. And yet, this the system that conservatives would have us return to if they could only find a way to overturn Obamacare!
Meanwhile, both the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors have actively sought to get their tentacles into the food industry. Following World War II, and in ever-increasing manner, the very food that sustains our life has been corporatized. And predictably it's insidious. The profit imperative insists that all manner of totally unnecessary, possibly harmful, but highly profitable crap is added to our essential food and drink. A regular apple is no longer enough; it must be an apple dusted with pesticide and polished with wax. In fact, unless you buy organic, it's almost a certainty that the fruits and vegetables you eat were basted in pesticides. As always, the long-term health effects of these products are unknown. We, good folks, are the guinea pigs for these rapacious profiteers. Meanwhile, milk and meat now come loaded with hormones, antibiotics and preservatives. This way the product is grown faster, larger, stores longer, and yields are greater. The farmer (less and less a family farmer, and more and more a giant corporation) makes more money; the wholesaler (more and more a giant corporation) makes more money; the retailer (more and more a giant corporation) makes more money. It's all a great deal for the suppliers of these products... not so much for the consumers.
Now Godzilla-like predators such as Monsanto (the fine, upstanding company that brought us DDT, PCBs, Aspartame, Bovine Growth Hormones and Agent Orange) are manipulating and patenting the genetic code of common food crops, such as corn, soybeans and cotton. Then they engage in the utterly un-American practice of forcing farmers to use only their seeds. It is surely one of the most diabolical campaigns ever waged by any company or industry to "open up markets." Just Google "Monsanto" for more on this insidious virus of a company.
Not only are we now eating synthesized, biochemical crap, we are encouraged to eat as much of it as we can stuff in our pie-holes. "Don't think. EAT!" is the corporate message. Or "DRINK!" as the case may be. In fact, "EAT and DRINK" as fast and as much as you can! And when you get sick, why some of those very same chemical and drug companies will be there with the remedy. "Buy this to relieve your bloat." "Buy this to lose weight." "Buy this to lower your blood pressure." "Buy this to cure erectile dysfunction." And if that's not enough... they'll be happy to provide lap-band surgery for you.
It all works perfectly well... for the giant corporations. For you, probably not so much. But don't worry your pretty head about it. Hey, look, the McRib is back at McDonald's!
The rapacious, consume-all-you-possibly-can, food industry of today has become a monster of unimaginable wealth, power... and horror. Industrialization, corporatization, and the mad dash for profits, has created a system not just of danger to the health of humans and extremely destructive to the environment... but also of unspeakable cruelty, immorality and irrationality when it comes to the world's animal life.
Turn your eyes away now hypocrites! There is a river of blood that empties right on to your kitchen table. Here are the sad and sickening statistics that YOU are fully and willfully (even if ignorantly, dispassionately and wholly unspiritually) responsible for:
Americans, alone, gobble down over 10 BILLION animals a YEAR! The average American engulfs 2450 chickens, 118 turkeys, 33 pigs and sheep, and 12 cows in a lifetime.
These are intelligent, feeling creatures that are treated with utter disdain and disrespect during their short, suffering lives. One philosopher considers that there may be no sorrier life IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE than that of a human captive egg-laying hen, who has her beak cut off, then stuffed into a cage in which she cannot even turn around or spread her wings, forced to pump out eggs until she is spent, at which point she is ground up into pet food. Dairy cows are similarly used and abused, cyclically impregnated (raped), their calves immediately taken away from them and imprisoned in the veal cage, while the mother forlornly endures painful milking until she is spent, then she is "rendered" into pet food or fertilizer. And those are the "lucky" ones that actually get to live a few years. Countless "meat" animals endure shorter misery before they are marched, as virtual toddlers, to the filthy, blood-soaked abattoire where low-paid, laughing sadists shock, shoot and slit them, watching as they often writhe in horrible torment before expiring on the blood-soaked slab. Some animals are skinned alive, others boiled alive, and male chicks are simply tossed, just a day old, into a grinder.
Meanwhile, corporate fishing empires are yanking everything out of the sea as fast as they possibly can. Fish stocks worldwide are collapsing. There is currently a race to see who will land the last bluefin tuna, which will surely be the most valuable fish ever killed. And all of this to provide ever-growing profit for corporations, and satiate the rampant consumerism of the unthinking, uncaring human, a type of primate that evolved to be mainly vegetarian! This is corporate sponsored gluttony, absurdity, immorality and, indeed, insanity. But, again, where you find death and destruction you often find PROFIT! Where in the stars or in any sacred text, or within our own ethical self, is it decreed that we have the moral right to do this? To exploit, despoil, torture and ravenously consume the divine Creation when we no longer even need to eat meat? If there is such a thing as sin in the Universe, our cruelty to the rest of nature must rank among the most agregious!
Paul McCartney discusses the despicable, barbaric Meat Industry.
How about judges being paid off by said prison businesses to railroad the accused, and even juveniles, into detention? Check, happens. How about the prison businesses trying to buy off lawmakers? Check.
What about the social, ethical and moral cost to such a system? What does it say about the soul of the American people when their federal state and local governments willingly, gleefully, abdicate care of those pronouced guilty (quite possibly by error or prejudice) by the legal system and shunt these human beings off to almost certainly mistreatment by a for-profit corporation? What does it say about America when we lead the world (by far) in prisoners per capita? It says something very fundamental to society is not working in America, and the answer is not more prisons, it's less prisoners!
The for-profit prison is a very slippery slope that a wide range of religious organizations have objected to, as well as almost every liberal organization that has checked in on the subject. It is an unjust, contradictory, self-perpetuating and even self-accelerating system that enriches a few at the expense of society as a whole. OK, we could be talking about any business here, right McDonalds? But here we are trafficking not in junkfood but human beings, and not just poor health and obesity are at stake, but the very soul of a nation. A nation that generates so many prisoners that it must turn to corporations to assimilate them is very definitely not shining on any hill.
Sure, cowardly and/or desperate countries have long turned to professional fighters to do their fighting for them, but the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were the first to feature, in primetime, combat area, roles, American for-profit corporations who would do some of the most dangerous work on the fronts. Not only were conservative corporate cronies like Halliburton and KBR brought in to feed the troops, and build showers that electrocuted our soldiers, but there were corporations hired to do some of the guarding, and, if need be, killing of whomever they deemed appropriate.
This, again, is a conservative's dream. Imagine a corporation that could convince lawmakers that it has the very guys who can best accomplish whatever dangerous mission is at hand. Why risk your own troops? Let us do the dirty work. Where do they get these highly skilled professionals? Simply siphon off some of the best of the government's elite soldiers, all groomed and trained by the government, and sell them back to the government at a highly inflated rate as private fighters. Kaching! Sweet! Oh, and don't call us mercenaries; we're "private contractors."
So you take former Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALS, and other highly skilled military personnel, dress them up in black, and there you go: America's own Praetorian Guard!
These elite private contractors didn't come cheaply. While an Army private might make $100 per day, and a sergeant $200 a day, privateers were hired to guard Iraqi and Afghani U.S. military bases for $1000 per day.
Indeed, it wasn't just guards and fighters who were hired on by the Bush Administration to cavort in combat zones. It was mechanics and drivers, too, all doing jobs that in all other American wars were generally the purview of actual military personnel. Guaranteed salaries soaring into six figures, there was no shortage of military personnel eager to get out of their low-paying positions and sign up with one of the private contracting firms. The most notorious of these, of course, was Blackwater USA, which specialized in some of the most dangerous work, including guarding bases and varous dignitaries. It was Blackwater personnel who made headlines by getting themselves killed (and hung on a bridge) in Falujah and lighting up a busy Baghdad intersection, killing 17 innocent Iraqis, including a nine-year-old boy.
Though it directly affects far fewer Americans, private mercenaries are anathema to everything this country stands for, and threatens to elicit far-reaching and long-lasting doubts about American motives and morality. But this is just a snippet of the privatization plans of the CorpCons. They would like to privatize everything that government has traditionally done itself: war, prisons, police, education, tax-collection, roads, bridges, dams, parks, power grid, even water. This privatization surge, long recommended by CorpCons, supported in theory by many "libertarians" and given its greatest boost during the George W. Bush administration, represents, in fact, the emergence of an absurd and frightening New America. Operating with immunity and impunity unavailable to the ordinary citizen, or even ordinary corporations, this "shadow state" conglomeration of privateers infiltrating all aspects of society is a clear and imminent danger to both America and the world.
And through the "Monsterization" of corporations, how have workers fared? Today, workers and consumers (which includes most SoCons) have taken the place of Burke's serfs and little townspeople within the conservative political system. Being able to vote, they are not as controllable as serfs, but they still do a darn good job of conforming, consuming, idolizing and obeying their leaders, and not thinking very deeply... you betcha! Millions upon millions of American workers and middle and lower class regularly vote against their own best interest with their money and with their actual votes, supporting a system that is wholly dedicated to fleecing them.
Remember Orwell's novel "1984?" It may be late on arrival, but it is coming soon to your town in the guise of "civilian contractors." Yes, corporations in the U.S. have never had it better, and America and the rest of world had best watch out.
Now back to our history:
Through the 1960s and early 1970s business had never been better for the CorpCons in the military-industrial complex, the dirty energy (oil, gas and coal) companies, the even dirtier nuclear boondoggle, the poisonous chemical sector, for the legal (and illegal) drug lords and medical manipulators, the insurance rackets, and Big Food.
Yet as the 1970s progressed, America was gloomy, disenchanted and dispirited. And why not? Everything seemed on edge. All of our buying and spending hadn't made us happy. Faster and cheaper food, non-wrinkle clothes, oversized stereos, electric typewriters, muscle cars, shiny gadgets and non-stop entertainment could not live up to their billing as stuff that would provide happiness. Just a few years after the pinnacle of American achievement, putting a man on the moon (another liberal vision), the hope and promise of the Sixties was six feet under with the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and not a few rock stars. Now even larger swaths of the American public were calling into question all forms of authority. America was brimming with existential angst. Riots and protests accompanied new paradigms of thought, including the women's, gay/lesbian, and environmental movements as challenges to the injustices of the status-quo. America was staring into the bitterness of a first-ever military defeat, not at the hands of a mighty industrial power like Germany or Japan, but from a tiny country of peasants. The war had divided the nation into fiercely partisan camps.
THE DEMONIZATION OF THE WORD "LIBERAL"
In 1972 Nixon ran for re-election against dark horse candidate George McGovern, Democratic senator from South Dakota. Though a decorated World War II veteran (unlike Nixon), the son of a Methodist minister, a solid labor supporter, McGovern had become the face of the anti-war "dove" in Washington. Even before the election McGovern had enraged Nixon by co-sponsoring with Republican Mark Hatfield the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment in the Senate which threatened to cut off funds for the Vietnam War without a deadline for withdrawal (in your wildest dreams can you imagine a Republican doing that today?) So Nixon was quite pleased when McGovern won the Democratic nomination.
The Republican campaign took full advantantage of the strong backlash in America toward the anti-war movement, pulling out all stops to expedite the split in the Democratic Party and exodus of conservatives to the Republican tent. Their tactics included plenty of dirty tricks, including forging letters from liberal Democrats Edmund Muskie and Hubert Humphrey that impugned McGovern. And this was the election campaign during which the Nixon team decided to break into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. Such was the mindset of the conservatives: even during a race they would almost assuredly win, they still couldn't keep from criminal activities.
Conservatives had been trying to tarnish the very word "liberal" for decades, dating back to angst against Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt squelched the catcalls for quite some time; they began to revive against Kennedy, Johnson, and the 1968 Democratic nominee Humphrey. But it was in '72 election that conservatives really began turning up the volume to, at long last, bury the liberal strain in America. The Republicans cast liberals as unpatriotic, unsupportive of the troops, soft on Communism, and tolerant, even embracing, of blacks, hippies, radicals, womens' lib, and, gasp, even gays. Their favorite epithet was accusing McGovern as all about "amnesty (for American citizens who had fled to Canada to avoid the draft), abortion and acid".
What exactly were those liberal ideas McGovern was trying to foist upon the United States of America: 1) Get the hell out of Vietnam as soon as possible, 2) cutting defense spending, 3) welfare reform, which would include a minimum standard of living for all citizens, 4) universal health care.
The conservatives found much fertile ground for their phobias. The fears and prejudices of the "silent majority" of Middle America were fanned to fever pitch. The Cons even got a very unexpected assist from the AFL-CIO, the largest union in the nation, when hawkish leader Ed Meaney declined to publicly support the Democratic candidate. Despite an outpouring of enthusiasm from young voters, McGovern was doomed when union leaders shied away from him as "too liberal." This was an unfair, and mortal, political blow to a man who had given his all for labor during his years in office.
Nixon would go on to win in a landslide. Silent Majority crushed Flower Power. Formerly Democratic conservatives continued to flock to the Republicans, and the proud and noble word "liberal" was now effectively smeared with conservative slime for decades to come. Even liberals would come to veer away from the word, bringing back the old 1890s term "progressive" as a less toxic alternative. Worse, true liberals would slowly fade away from the political scene as the official strategy of the Democratic Party morphed into a move to the center.
The nadir of the decade may have been when the National Guard opened fire on protesting students at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine. Or was it at My Lai in Vietnam where our soldiers engaged in an orgy of indiscriminate killing of innocent villagers? Or was it the day that the President of the United States, a Republican, of course, resigned in shame? Take your pick. For more and more Americans the system itself seemed rotten. What a quick and dramatic collapse of national unity and pride from the days of Eagle on the Sea of Tranquility!
Nixon, still maintaining that he was not a crook, took a pardon and a huge pension with him, and all the other perpetrators of Watergate got off lightly or scot-free. A short time later Americans learned of a further litany of lies, paranoia and crimes of the Nixon adminstration, from the CIA's secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia and Laos to the FBI secretly and illegally spying on Americans.
For all his bungles and foibles, however, the tragic figure of Richard Nixon presents in retrospection a complex political alchemy. He was, by turn, both a warmonger and peacemaker, vainly bombing the Chinese communist proxy state of Vietnam, while almost singlehandedly instigating the progression of our relationship with China from despised Red stronghold to most favored trading partner. Nixon antagonized what was left of the hippie ideology of the 1960s, yet turned out to be nothing less than an ecological saint, creating the National Environmental Policy Act, the Environmental Protection Agency and its SuperFund for ecological clean-up, as well as signing into law the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. For someone who once grumbled that environmentalists "want to live like animals," Nixon wrote himself into American history as one of the greatest environmental presidents.
Alas, he is barely remembered for these great deeds. Certainly his Republican successors have no interest whatsoever in celebrating Nixon's environmental legacy. They'd rather just forget about him altogether (as they would with almost all Republican presidents... except Reagan). The Republican record toward the environment since the aberration of Nixon has mostly been one not of care and concern but outright hostility... a return to wasichu mentality.
Nixon faced other serious issues other than war and the dire environmental concerns of the time. There was also an oil crisis and stubborn inflation, or "stagflation" as it was called. This stagflation had increased during the decade of the 70s, originally spurred in no small degree by Nixon's termination of the convertability of the dollar to gold in 1971. This action is referred to by economists as the "Nixon Shock," and it changed the balance of the entire world economy because the currency of almost all other countries was tied to the dollar. It was a necessary action. The huge, modern, interconnected economy cannot run on gold. But the reverberations were strong. Suddenly, the dollar wasn't worth as much. The man who signed the law causing this was now gone from office. And Republicans figured they cuold pin the blame on his Democratic successor.
Democrat Jimmy Carter, governor of Georgia, won the 1976 election, temporarily shortcircuiting the Republicans' "Southern Strategy" by carrying the entire South with him, as a native son and, perhaps most importantly, a a "born-again" Christian. But he was granted a very short honeymoon, and no leeway at all by an increasingly unsettled populace. Carter was the unfortunate inheritor of almost a decade of American malaise, mismanagement and betrayal spanning the adminstrations of Johnson, Nixon and Gerald Ford. THe queasy hangover of Vietnam, Watergate, inflation and a less than robust economy dogged Carter's administration. The public was weary of rising prices, which Carter had not seemed able to do much about, indeed, the problem worsened on his watch. Carter would get only four years in office. As befitting one of the shrinking number of southern Democrats, Carter was no real liberal. He attempted to hew a centrist line, and forge a bipartisan partnership with Republicans. Sound familiar? "I don't like to categorize; I don't see myself as a liberal or a conservative or the like," he bobbed and weaved. He bent over backwards to balance the budget, ignored the unions, and even deregulated the trucking industry, the airlines, and oil prices. Yet he was the rare deeply moral modern president who legitimately attempted to do what was best for the nation. As a successful farmer and governor, Carter tried to manage the government in the common-sense fashion of a business. It did not really work. But from the lens of history we can look back and see his era as pleasantly quaint. The national debt under Carter was around $1 trillion; it has risen twenty-fold since then. The national incareration rate was one in one thousand Americans under Carter; thanks to the conservatives' "tough on crime" obsession American now imprisons seven in one thousand of its own citizens, the highest of any country in the world. And despite the "stagflation" drag, the last effective raise in earning power the working class Americans recerived was during the Carter administration.
Jimmy Carter discusses changes in America, and the rise of Trumpism, since his admininstration.
The Iran Hostage Crisis would spell the coup de grâce for Carter's presidency. Perceived as helpless and inept in securing the return of the hostages, Carter's Enraged at the taking of American hostages in Iran (by Iranians who were enraged at America meddling in their country), America turned to a B-rate actor proferring economic magic and promising to restore America's swagger... right along with a dawn of a new era of "free enterprise."
Ronald Reagan rode a wave of American dissatisfaction, and a new coalition of conservative voters, which now included the politically mobilized "religious right." None of the modern Republican presidents has truly been a seriously religious person, but they all have pretended to be. Reagan may have been the least religious, but the actor had no problem swiping away much of Carter's religious contingent, especially in the South; only his native Georgia stood with Carter in a stunning repudiation of a "real" Christian and authenic Baptist Sunday School teacher in favor of wishy-washy, pseudo Presbyterian actor. Reagan's conservative coalition (put over the top by millions of "Faux Cons"... read our article Meet The Conservatives), Reagan crushed Carter in the 1980 election, and a new ideology took hold in the USA... an ideology that even erstwhile liberals would get in bed with.
"Reaganomics" was coming. It would be the dawning, alright, the jump-start of just about everything that ails us today! What was good in America was about to go bad, and what was rotten in America was about to get rottener.
If business was doing quite well already, a new banquet was about to begin. Reagan came in braying that Americans could not trust their government, railing against his predecessor's profligate spending, and spouting the hoary old CorpCon double-mantra: low taxes and deregulation. Reagan wanted to completely remake America into "Trickle-Down" Town.
Reagan sang the old conservative song to an America that hadn't heard it for a long time. Low, low taxes on the rich, and deregulation for corporations would actually lead to more corporate profits, more jobs, and thus more tax revenue, he crooned. It seemed fresh and new. It wasn't. It was classic "supply-side" ideology. The idea is that governmental and tax policy should skewed toward the "suppliers," who are the corporations and their owners and officers. Then, as the suppliers reap higher profits, this profit will trickle down to everyone else. Reagan's more moderate Republican challenger in the 1980 primaries, George H. W. Bush, labeled it "voodoo economics," which was dead-on accurate. Supply-side economics has never actually worked in history. It wouldn't again.
What is American CEO pay now, and how does it compare with other countries?
Though Carter had actually tried hard to rein in spending, Reagan dishonestly painted Carter as a wild and irresponsible spender of the tax payers' hard-earned dollars. In retrospect Reagan's accusations seem the height of hypocrisy. He would make Carter look like a penny-pincher. Reagan would set the nation on the course of willfully digging itself into the hole of national debt we now find ourselves. Indeed, after the record deficit of World War II, the national debt (as a percentage of GDP) had been steadily declining... until Reagan.
NEVER ALLOW CONSERVATIVES TO RUN AWAY FROM THESE FACTS: From George Washington through Jimmy Carter the nation had accumulated a debt of just under $1 Trillion. The conservative Reagan would triple the deficit! Carter left the U.S. as the world's leading creditor nation; in eight short years the conservative Reagan would turn us into the world's biggest debtor!
Read those last few sentences again, and let it well soak in. And this is the one true conservative hero!!!!!
Releasing the Kraken!
Since the end of World War II most industries had been doing pretty damn well. But not well enough, thought Reagan and the trickle-downers. And, in their minds, one industry in particular had been singularly and sorely mistreated by liberal ideology. Yes, the dear old banks.
Remember them? You know, the ones who brought us all those boom and busts, panics and the Great Depression? Yes, those guys. For 40 years New Deal rules and regulations had brought slow, steady growth, with only a few comparatively mild recessions, no real hyper-booms, no busts, no more depressions. But the banks had been chafing in their New Deal bridles, making solid profits, mind you, just not the astronomical haul they remembered from the Gilded Age. They saw other industries - the energy, chemical, drug and food sectors - not to mention the military-industrial complex - racking up staggering profits, and they were slobbering all over themselves to get their share of this unprecendented largess. They were straining at the bit to be let loose... to run free! Ronald Reagan would be their dark knight. He would begin the severing of the tethers that would release the kraken.
First Reagan untied the Savings & Loans. The New Deal had required Savings & Loans to keep their customers' money safe. That was no fun, and certainly a big crimp on profits. Customer-Schmustomer! Let's get this party going! As Reagan signed the bill that deregulated the Savings & Loans in 1982 he quipped, "This is the most important legislation for financial institutions in 50 years. I think we've hit the jackpot!" Indeed. As usual when a conservative makes a bold prediction, what actually happened was the exact opposite.
Well, again... we must differentiate between the CorpCons and We the People. With the deregulation of the S&Ls the public was about to get screwed. As always, the CorpCons would hit the jackpot! The rest of us got to pick up the tab.
The deregulated S&L industry went wild, rushing to sever their state charters and become federally insured, meaning that the U.S. taxpayers would bail them out... regardless of their recklessness. Then they went on a frenzied real estate gambling and spending spree, setting up what would later be described as "Ponzi Schemes,' quickly building up a house of cards that was bound to collapse. It did, shockingly fast. Before the carnage was over 747 S&Ls would fail nationwide. That's right... SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY SEVEN Savings and Loans would FAIL... leaving the American taxpayers with a bill for $90 BILLION (and that was back when a billion was still a big number). That amount, of course, went on the U.S. credit card. And we're still paying it off!
The cascade of the S&L "scandals" should have served as stern rebuke concerning the dangers of deregulation. But not for the conservative true-believers. They just ignore facts they don't like. Besides, the "trickle-downers" were just getting started.
Forget baseball or football, debt was now the national pasttime. Not just for the federal deficit, which under Reagan would triple, but also for families. Americans were saving less than ever, and slipping ever further into the black hole of debt. During the 1970s, Americans were saving an average of 10 percent of their income. That would "trickle down" to near zero under Reaganomics. This reversing of priorities from the more stable times of New Deal economics continues to plague us today.
"Greed is Good," was the mantra of Reaganomics, the idea that hyper capitalism would spawn robust economic growth, jobs and therefore more tax revenue even at substantially lower rates. As utterly predictable from all the previous models in world history, it didn't work. Reagan tripled the national deficit in several ways. He slashed top marginal tax rates from 70 percent to 50 percent then to 28 percent, lower than they had been for 60 years, since right before the Great Depression (accurately foreshadowing bad things to come). The promised increase in revenue due to the reduced tax "burden" never materialized. Not even close. So the deficit ballooned.
Meanwhile, ominous new words and phrases were entering the American lexicon: predatory capitalism, merger-mania, out-sourcing, leveraged buyout. The primary goal of deregulation was to dismantle, piece by pioece, the New Deal protections. As this occurred, through a series of legislation and executive orders, ruthless economic forces were free to wreak havoc. A new economy was emerging alright, and it wouldn't be a pretty sight for the Middle Class.
Meanwhile, Reagan also re-instigated the conservative's love for punitive governance, bringing back the ideology of "let's get tough on crime" with mandated maximum punishments (the "Sentences Reform Act"), even for the smallest of offenses, kind of like back in the days of Prohibition. The percentage of incarcerated Americans skyrocketed, many in prison on simple marijuana possession charges. Court and prison costs added to the woes of the wobbling federal (and state) deficits. The conservatives didn't care; they were too busy pursuing their agenda.
One agenda Reagan and the Republicans were not pursuing was any interest whatsoever in protecting the environment. The fledgling environmental movement, overwhelmingly supported by the American people in the wake of shocking revelations regarding water and air pollution, was itself shocked by the animosity of an American president toward the most important issue affecting each and every citizen's quality of life. Reagan appointed business-friendly zealots to head up the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency. Foxes were now guarding the hen house.
Any money saved not protecting the environment apparently disappeared down some other business-friendly rat-hole. Rather than bringing down the deficit and shrinking government, Reagan actually pumped up the government to unprecedented size. As the deficits mounted, conservatives grew quiet as a mouse on the subject. All the rattling and railing about Jimmy Carter's meager deficit suddenly stopped. With a conservative now running up the deficit in unmatched fashion, the official conservative stance on the subject morphed to: "Deficits don't matter." The idea there was that Trickle Down would magically erase the deficit in good time. We know how that worked out.
Reagan, himself, held to that theory as he tapped the American credit card in a big way by escalating the Cold War. He and his advisors were completely unaware that the good, old Soviet Union, which peaked in energy and strength sometime shortly after Sputnik in 1957, had been slowly but surely unraveling for decades and only needed to peter out organically. Ideologically unchanged by the fact that the U.S. and the Soviets had become more friends than enemies (doing business with each other, and even coordinating space adventures together), Reagan ramped up faux-patriotism by calling out the "Evil Empire," and upped the ante with wild military spending, including billions on the "Strategic Defense Initiative," otherwise known as "Star Wars," which only those contractors reaping the financial windfall ever believed would work (if even they did). It never did work. Another of Reagan's military boondoggles was the Trident submarine, bristling with nuclear warheads and useless for anything other than adding some extra pyrotechnics to mutually-assured annihilation. In the Middle Eastern and "terrorism" wars to come both Star Wars and the Trident super subs would prove as useless as boar tits.
The idea that Ronald Reagan "ended the Cold War" is yet another outrageous conservative myth, again the opposite of reality. The Soviet Union fell due to its own internal liberalization, which undermined its raison d'etre. If anything, the military blustering and spending of hard-line hawks in the West, from Truman on, but especially Reagan, only gave credence and impetus to the increasingly flagging Soviet hard-liners (yes the conservative Communists). The Soviet hard-liners' last hurrah was their invasion of Afghanistan (where we sided with the Mujahidin, which included a guy named Osama bin Laden). When that ill-conceived adventure turned into their Vietnam, the die was cast. The people of the various Communist states, emboldened by liberalization, eventually took matters into their own hands and dismantled the "Evil Empire" with hardly a whimper from the once fearsome, now thoroughly discredited Communist conservatives.
According to a former American ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Keenan, "The general effect of Cold War extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union by the end of the 1980s. We paid with 40 years of enormous and otherwise unnecessary military expenditures. We paid through the cultivation of nuclear weaponry to the point where the vast and useless nuclear arsenal became (and remains today) a danger to the very environment of the planet."
Trillions of dollars in Cold War spending as the Soviet system was winding down on its own, and all we got out of it was a bunch of rusting warheads filled with the most toxic substance known to man. Sweet! But while it lasted, Cold War sure was good for Reagan's friends in the military-industrial complex!
And, as he was spending like a madman on nothing of real or moral value, Reagan kept on slashing taxes. With ideological fervor, by 1988 he had finally whacked the top marginal down to 28 percent! It was like Christmas from January to December for the ultra-wealthy.
To their credit, Reagan and his financial advisors, among them David Stockman, reversed track on certain taxes and fees as, stunned and alarmed, they watched the deficit expand and expand. Supply-side wasn't working the way they promised it would. All told, Reagan would raise taxes 11 times, including raising Social Security taxes and the estate tax, and temporarily doubled the gas tax.
And here's a factoid sure to drive conservatives crazy: Reagan's 1982 tax increase remains the largest tax increase (adjusted for inflation) in American history!
Reagan advisor Stockman makes an excellent point about the Reagan era tax increases: "That (Reagan raising taxes) puts the lie to the current arguments of Republicans that the economy is too weak to bear a tax increase because the next year 3.5 million jobs were created. When the Republicans rhetorically say now, ‘Who would raise taxes in a recession?’ the answer is Ronald Reagan."
(About that, Grover Norquist, head of the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform (and the guy who forces Republicans sign that "No Taxes" pledge) retorts, "This is a different Republican Party you’re talking about. The modern Republican Party does not raise taxes." Right. The "modern" Republican extremists will not compromise, will not reason, will not serve the needs of the nation but rather are shackled by their beliefs, even as those beliefs have absolutely no basis in fact. Such silly, simplistic, selfish, regressive - and wrong - ideology is the very reason why they are unfit to govern.)
Coming into office, Reagan had promised to balance the budget. He not only never came close... he tripled the deficit. Reagan came into office vowing to shrink government spending and the size of government itself. He did the exact opposite, increased spending and created the largest federal government ever... by far. He promised the miracle of trickle-down would stimulate corporate investments and jobs, and thus provide more tax revenue. But the alchemical expectations of trickle-down never materalized... just as they never have in human history. The economy under Reagan was uneven; in his first term he produced far fewer jobs than had Carter (putting the lie yet again to the myth that low taxes for the rich creates jobs), and only marginally more jobs than Carter during his second term... even with the tailwind of the personal computer revolution helping him along with an exciting and lucrative major new industry. Two years into his first term the unemployment rate was over 10 percent! Meanwhile, the deficit exploded. Reagan backtracked on taxes, at least to a degree, but the hole he had blown in the country's revenue stream was never repaired - even to this day. Indeed, it has steadily worsened.
Ronald Reagan's eight years in office produced a frenzy of corporate takeovers, merger mania, savings & loan bail-outs, scandals, clandestine wars, escalation of the War on Drugs, propping up of ruthless dictators, arming Saddam Hussein, arming Osama bin Laden, running up record budget deficits, running up record national debt, running up record trade deficits, giving corporations tax breaks to move jobs, factories and headquarters to other countries, privatization, cut-backs in social services, cut-backs in infrastructure, ignoring the AIDS crisis, and eternally ginning up fear of a boogie-man (back then it was the Soviets; now it's the terrorists). In hindsight, we can clearly see how ALL of Reagan's policies that the conservatives told us were absolutely correct were absolutely wrong!
As Reagan went off into the sunset after eight long (and very dreary for us liberals) years, he had achieved nothing of tangible value for the United States of America. The malaise of the Seventies may have lifted; many citizens may have felt better than eight years earlier... but it was all a mirage. Most Americans were actually going backwards, though they didn't so much realize it at the time. Reagan's true legacy was that he had brought back to the halls of power as official economic creed the ideology of wasichu. Through low, low taxes for the rich and corporations, and by deregulation of consumer and environmental protections, he ushered in the reversal of the long trend in America of a great leveling of opportunity and equality within the economic system. With Reagan, the Gilded Age was returning. The rich would get richer, much richer, while the poor and Middle Class would increasingly struggle. Through it all, Reagan never raised the minimum wage.
Reagan's Vice-President, George H.W. Bush campaigned for the Presidency in 1988 pledging in his convention speech, "Read my lips. No New Taxes!" even as he stared at a deficit that had tripled over just the past eight years. This was the guy who had presciently called Reaganomics "voodoo economics," but now was firmly in lockstep with Reagan's trickle-down ideology... in fact, even more than Reagan, who had committed the cardinal conservative sin of raising taxes. Bush was determined to prove his conservative bonafides by being more pure to the ideology than even the Gipper. One of Bush's economic advisors, Richard Darman, urged the removal of the "No New Taxes" quip from Bush's speech, saying it was "stupid and dangerous." He was right, but other aides, including Roger Ailes (now head of Fox News), insisted that the pledge remain. Coming from well behind in the polls, the strong "no-tax" pledge helped Bush win the election. Now he would have to live with it.
But first, there was a little matter of war. Seems like our old friend, dictator Saddam Hussein of Iraq, whom Reagan had coddled and armed as a Cold War ally, sent along some feelers to the Bush State Deparment. In so many words he asked, "What would you do if we were to, you know, invade Kuwait?" And the answer from April Glaspie, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was a muddled, "Meh! We don't want an economic war with Iraq." And so, with tacit approval from the U.S. State Department, Saddam summarily invaded Kuwait in order to steal their oil fields... in retaliation for Kuwait's alleged slant-drilling stealing of Iraqi oil.
"Outrageous!" bellowed the conservative hawks. "We must go to the rescue of our dear ally, Kuwait." By mid-January 1991, the United States and a handful of allies had commenced "Operation Desert Storm," to oust Iraq from Kuwait. A ground assault began in late February. It was a quick war. The ground troops required just 100 hours to demolish the Iraqi forces and secure a cease fire. Saddam had been routed. Americans were jubilent, and George H. W. Bush's approval numbers were stratospheric. (You see, being more authentically patriotic, liberals can get behind a conservative president... it's just faux-patriotic conservatives that cannot, under any circumstances, bring themselves to support - or even for a moment stop hating - a liberal/moderate president; thus their seething and sustained animosity toward Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. You will never see a Democratic/Liberal president with an approval rate of much more than the high 60s... because the block of died-in-the-wool conservatives (who represent 25-30% of the electorate) will forever and always disapprove of anyone and anything with the remotest hint of non-conservativsm. As they have proven, they would rather wreck the nation than support a so-called liberal.)
The aftermath of the Gulf War was to be the high point of Bush the Elder's presidency. Even as children in Kuwait were being named "George Bush" after their "liberator," many American professional conservatives, though thrilled with the chance to get their rocks off with a spate of real war, were dissatisfied with how quickly the war fizzled out. They had been waiting for this since Vietnam... only to experience a premature ejaculation. They demanded to know why we didn't we go on to Baghdad. Why not take Saddam out for good?
Bush's Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, had a ready answer: "How many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq."
The military brass almost unanimously agreed with Bush and Cheney. If only Cheney, and the military, had stuck to that reasoning 12 years later when Bush the Dumber insisted on invading Iraq in search of those mythical "Weapons of Mass Destruction."
In hindsight, the Gulf War wasn't the glorious victory it seemed at the time. Not only did it set the stage for continued strife with Iraq over the next decade, it provided a pretext for the next Republican-inspired invasion of that country in 2003, and was the original justification for establishing American military bases in Saudi Arabia. It would be precisely these bases, stupefyingly ignorant, arrogant and provocative, placed smack in the middle of the Islamic Holy Land, that Al Qaeda would cite as its primary motivation for the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. So it was actually Bush the Bland who unwittingly set the stage for the highjackers who, in retaliation for Muslim humiliation, would crash planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, thence ensnaring Bush the Worthless in a debacle like America had never seen before.
Meanwhile, back at home, tens of thousands of returning Gulf War veterans reported mysterious illnesses, believed caused by their battlefield exposures to such toxins as burning oil well fumes, chemical weapons, anthrax vaccines and depleted uranium which was used (unconscionably) in American bombs. As usual, the Republican administration downplayed the complaints of returning soldiers and stalled on any action or serious research into actual causes, symptoms and potential remedies. That stalling continues to this day.
By the time the election of 1992 rolled around, Bush the Bland's popularity numbers had cooled considerably. He had reneged on his pledge not to raise taxes. He had to. After Reagan tripled the federal deficit, Bush added another trillion dollars all his own. Voodoo economics, indeed! Trickle-down simply wasn't working at all. The reality, in fact, was the precise opposite of what the conservatives had promised... solid proof again that the conservative supply-side economic ideology is nothing more than a fairy tale. The only responsible thing to do was to raise taxes. And so Bush did what was right for the country. The timing couldn't have been worse for Bush, and he paid the political price. In the election of 1992, he was swept from office by an upstart young governor from Arkansas, Bill Clinton.
Conservatives were stunned. They never saw it coming. With the aberrant exception of Jimmy Carter's four years, the Republicans had owned the White House for over two decades. They had come to think of the presidency as theirs. For some 30 years they had meticulously crafted their political strategies and messages, demonizing "liberals" and warning of Big Government at every turn (even while enlarging the government exponentially under their own watch). They had rectified the brief failure of the "Southern Strategy" in 1976 by toppling Jimmy Carter, then elected Ronald Reagan, and ushered in a Gilden Age of trickle-down, low, low taxes for the rich, and were well on their way toward deregulation of business and industry and chipping away at the New Deal. Everything seemed to be going their way. How in the world could a draft-dodging, pot-smoking, saxophone-playing Democrat from Arkansas, of all podunk places, beat out their sitting President, legitimate World War II hero, and veteran of just about every job in politics? It was all too painfully reminiscent of how their other sitting President and American hero, Gerald Ford, was whipped by the peanut farmer from Georgia in 1976. They seethed (they are always seething about something), declared Clinton illegitimate (as they had Carter), and plotted their revenge.
But Bill Clinton was no Jimmy Carter. For one thing, Carter may have been one of the most moral persons to every occupy the White House (and still the professional conservatives... who actually have little interest in morality themselves... hateD him). Clinton? Well, let's just say he was sometimes as morally challenged as professional conservatives. Yet when he left office he had an approval rating of 68%! Go figure. If nothing else, Clinton is a politician's politician. A master at manipulating and controlling public opinion, he wouldn't be as easily steamrolled by the conservative machine. He also was not anywhere close to being a bonafide liberal, as, arguably, Carter sometimes resembled. Clinton was determined to create a new Democratic Party, a winning party, which in his mind meant a more conservative party. Clinton was, in fact, a "bluedog" (conservative) Democrat, and over the next eight years he would willingly give the conservatives much that they craved.
And still they hated him (and his little wife Hillary, too).
Clinton came into office with a swagger, youthful energy (he was the third youngest president ever) and perhaps the keenest political acumen of any public figure in several generations. His reading of the political winds was that, since Reagan, the country had turned more conservative; even Democrats were going along with it. Why fight the current? Clearly the way forward, to election victories for the Democratice Party, was continued drift toward the right.
This rightward movement within the Democratic Party had its own organization, the Democratic Leadership Council, its own think-tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, and called themselves "New Democrats." The basic idea was that these "New Democrats" would continue to advocate for social equality but seek "innovative, market-based solutions." Hmmm... sounds suspiciously similar to the so-called "Classical Liberalism," doesn't it? Bill Clinton would become the "New Democrats" de facto leader.
Clinton campaigned on ushering in a "New Beginning," but he really came into office willing to compromise, especially on conservative ideas about business, industry and finance. To his credit, he and First Lady Hillary tried to implement a campaign promise, universal health care, early in his first term, but the plan was thwarted by conservatives in Congress, including some of his own Blue Dog Democrats. Clinton accomplished some good liberal things in his eight years in office, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill which increased regulations on handguns, expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers, implemented "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a clunky interim status that was far from justice, but at least ended military witch-hunts to ferret out gay and lesbian service members. Clinton had some worthwhile environmental achievements: strengthening the EPA, cleaning up over 500 SuperFund sites (more than three times as many as Reagan-Bush), permanently barring oil leasing in national marine sanctuaries, setting aside from development millions of acres of federal land, restoring the Everglades, and fighting off perennial conservative efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Clinton lowered taxes on the Middle Class and small businesses, but raised taxes on the rich, from Bush the Bland's 31 percent to a modest 39.6 percent, still far lower than they had been from the 1930s through the 1970s, which - not coincidently - was America's longest period of prosperity and actual good job creation. Conservatives howled like stuck pigs, prophesizing economic doom as their precious millionaire and billionaire "job creators" were punished by this hick of a president. Not one Republican voted for Clinton's 1993 budget. Proving the conservatives dead wrong yet again (for the umpteenth time), the economy, directly in the face of these tax hikes on the rich, jumped to life. Aided in no small part by the energy of the internet boom, Clinton's eight years would create 23 million jobs, more than the 12 years of Reagan/Bush combined (and a stunning 60 times the number of jobs that the eight years of his Republican successor, George W. Bush, would produce).
Clinton's liberal agenda, however slight that might have been, hit a wall in the fall of 1994 when the "Republican Revolution" in the mid-term elections broomed out Clinton's semi-friendly Democratic majority in Congress and installed a Republican majority for the first time since 1953. The conservatives seized eight Senate seats, 54 House seats and 10 governerships to radically overhaul the political balance of the United States. Gingrich became Speaker of the House.
This Republican Revolution primarily emerged from the House of Reprentatives: Congressmen Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay were the most visible leaders. In the heat of the election the Republicans outlined a set of objectives (written by the notoriously mistake-prone conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation) which they called the "Contract with America." Clinton called it the "Contract ON America," a conservative manifesto proposing to double-down on the already clearly failed ideologies of trickle-down and deregulation.
The contract sought to bolster the rights of corporations and weaken the rights of consumers and the public. It called for an even more stringent anti-crime package than even Reagan had advocated. It proposed to radically change the relationship of the United States to the United Nations, including cutting funding for UN peacekeeping operations. It also sought to weaken the nation's welfare system which assisted poor people. Most of all it sought to throttle back the size of government... with cuts aimed particularly at environmental regulations and protections, consumer protections, welfare, and Medicare and Medicaid. The contract emphasized balancing the federal budget as its very top prioity... a goal spectacularly missed by the past two Republican presidents: Reagan and Bush.
Some of this agenda Clinton would go along with, including welfare "reform." And compromises with the Republican Congress actually led to annual budget surpluses the last four years of Clinton's presidency, the first surpluses since 1969.
But Clinton held firm on Republican assaults on Medicare, education, the environment and public health. that wasn't enough for Gingrich and the Republicans. But then there was Bill Clinton, the conservative. Egged on by Wall Street insiders such as Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, bluedog Clinton cheerily went right along with a slew of conservative financia ideas, and signed them into law. Though he raised taxes on the rich, Clinton allowed other components of trickle-down Reaganomics to continue unabated. The Republican war on drugs and demonizing of the poor marched on, as did, in sum, deregulation. Indeed, Clinton became one of the lead chanters of the deregulation mantra. He signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and entangled the United States in the travesty that is the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Worst of all was Clinton's siging of the "Financial Services Modernization Act." Now who could be against such a common-sense law, right? Certainly not Republicans. They were salivating like weasles in the henhouse. This was the Big One... the change to America's economy that conservatives had been dreaming of for over 60 years. Now at long last it was in sight. Also called the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act for the three Republican weasels who penned it, this bill repealed the important parts of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. Remember, the act that bottled up the banks, securities companies and insurance companies who had created the Great Depression? On November 12, 1999, Clinton signed the bill that allowed the conservatives to destroy what had been one of the jewels of the New Deal, Glass-Steagall, the strong chains that had restrained the kraken of Wall Street for 60 years! And now, thanks to Republican pirates -- and their good buddy (whom they wanted to impeach) Bill Clinton -- the kraken could take full flight!
Imagine a Democrat just giving away one of the most important protections of the New Deal, perhaps the signature accomplishment of the Democratic Party! But who knew? After all, 66 years was so long ago. The full name for Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the bill that brought the death knell to Glass-Steagall, was the "Financial Services Modernization Act." Who could be against "modernizing" the economy? Glass-Steagall? What the hell is that? Nobody remembered. Did even Clinton remember? And anyway, for nearly two decades the conservatives had been harping about the magic wonders of deregulation. Maybe it was time to go full bore. Perhaps such was the thinking of this "New Democrat" as well as, sadly, most of the Democrats in Congress. Only eight senators voted against the bill, seven loyal Democrats and one lone Republican with some common sense.
Gramm-Leach-Bliley removed some of the last safeguards to the public from a predatory financial sector. Now banks were virtually free to wheel and deal, to dabble in bank and savings accounts on one hand, while the other hand was playing fast and loose with investment shenanigans and trickery. At long last, conservatives had managed to fully set the table for another Depression!
Forget the Monica Lewinski scandal. The real scandal of Bill Clinton's presidency was his abdication of the fundamental role of the more liberal party to protect the citizenry and the commons from the robber-barons of Big Business. In this solemn duty he utterly failed. As a "New Democrat" willing to go along with Reaganomics, Clinton handed the conservatives the magic plum they had lusted after for 60 years, and still they hated him.
YOU MUST WATCH THIS: This is Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat, North Dakota) railing against the Gramm-Leach-Briley Act in 1999... and the portents of the Great Recession nine short years later are uncanny!
Senator Dorgan recalls the Gramm-Leach-Briley Act with Rachel Maddow in 2009
More information on 'Who Killed Glass-Steagall?'
For all of his give-in to conservative ideology, including handing them last vestige of Glass-Steagall on a silver platter, Clinton got back not a shred of love from the Republicans (a fact Barack Obama seems to never have heard about). In fact, Republicans spent years and millions of dollars in tax-payers' money trying to impeach him. In December, 1998, the House of Representatives voted to impeach, but the Senate didn't follow through. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton became only the second president ever impeached (Republican Andrew Johnson was the other; he also was acquitted by the Senate). In retrospect, perhaps the Republicans would have done us all a favor if they had gotten rid of Clinton in 1998. Then Al Gore would have become president, and perhaps defended, like a good Democrat, the Glass-Steagall component of the New Deal... and perhaps, as a sitting president, survived the challenge of the boy terror, George W. Bush. (But then, without the Bush debacles perhaps we would not have had the Obama presidency... so this kind of speculation seems to run in circles).
As the election of 2000 drew near, wasichu greed and arrogance was once again, for the first time since the 1920s, basically unfettered, and feeling its oats. Potentially standing in the way was Vice-President Al Gore, another "New Democrat," but with an unsettling (for conservatives) penchant for environmentalism. The last thing Big Finance and Big Business and Big Industry and Big Food wanted was a president who might muck up the works trying to protect consumers or the environment.
Gore was odds-on favorite to succeed Clinton, and keep the White House in Democratic hands. But he ran a lackluster campaign. Greatly irked at Clinton over the Monica Lewinski scandal, Gore refused to allow the still very popular president to campaign for him, anywhere, even in New Hampshire where Clinton remained popular, or in Arkansas, Clinton's home state. As it turned out, Gore won the nationwide popular vote by half a million votes, and if he had won one additional state: Arkansas, New Hampshire, his home state of Tennessee, or any other state, he would not have even needed to win Florida to become president. But he didn't win any of those, so it all came down to voting in the state of Florida.
Now imagine this bizarre scenario: What kind of ballistic conniption fit do you think conservatives would throw if a conservative candidate won the popular vote for president... BUT then it came down to just one state, where the vote was razor-close, to determine the winner... BUT that state happened to have a governor who was the BROTHER of the liberal candidate, and without allowing a recount, the secretary of state of the key state (who was appointed governor BROTHER of the liberal candidate) declared the liberal as the winner of the state... BUT the hue and cry went up from conservatives for a recount... so a LIMITED recount was reluctantly allowed by the secretary of state (remember, appointed by the BROTHER of the liberal candidate)... BUT the recount was disorganized and mangled, so another, wider recount was ordered by the state Supreme Court... BUT before that recount could be completed the liberals managed to get the Supreme Court of the United States, which happened to have TWO justices appointed by the liberal candidate's FATHER, to intervene and, by a 5-4 split decision (along party lines), and in complete defiance of their own sacrosanct ideology of state's rights, stopped the recount. Thus effectively, the liberal candidate's BROTHER's minions interfered with the key state's voting process, and then the liberal candidate's FATHER's Supreme Court apppointments hijacked the democratic process and hand-picked the President of the United States!
Ha, ha, ha! That couldn't happen, right? Wrong! That's exactly what happened... except in reverse. And so conservative Republican George W. Bush became the first truly illegitimate president in U.S. history.
CorpCons all over America breathed a sigh of relief. They had their man, not a Democratic tree-hugger, back in the White House. In their minds, the illegitimate presidency of Clinton was over, and a Republican, a Bush even, was back in charge.
But this Bush was very different than his father, who despite his political wimpiness was still a man of great experience and intelligence. George W. Bush claimed during the campaign to be a "compassionate conservative," and a "uniter not a divider." Add two more myths to the conservative ledger. In his eight years in office Bush Junior would rarely exhibit the slightest compassion for anyone - certainly including the American service personnel and innocent Afghans and Iraqis killed, wounded or displaced during his two misbegotten wars - and would become the most divisive president since the Civil War.
George W. Bush would emblemize conservative ideology/mythology, putting the pedal to the metal on policies that Ronald Reagan had first instigated, and Bush's father and Clinton had condoned and continued.
With all four quadrants of government - plus the Fourth Estate (the media) - on his side, Bush would double-down on Republican dogma both at home and abroad. His narcissistic goal was to surpass his father (not a difficult challenge), and perhaps even Reagan, as a conservative hero. He had processed their lessons and mistakes (at least from the conservative point of view), and was determined to avoid them. But as a true believer he never saw the perfect storm of conditions that conservative ideology had unleashed over the past two decades. That storm had been quietly building, and now was about to crash over the nation... and the world. As the Bush presidency represents the inevitable culmination of conservative dogma, let's take a close look at how the whole house of cards came tumbling down.
Bush was not only a fake candidate and president, he was fake at just about everything. He was a fake Texan, a fake oilman, a fake major league baseball executive, a fake Christian, even a fake social conservative. A spoiled, shallow, crass, back-slapping fratboy and baseball fanatic at heart, Bush had no core conviction, conservative or otherwise, other than to use his family's wealth, connections and privilege to score whatever gains he could, preferably with as little effort as possible on his part. That strategy worked like a charm as he was continually bailed out of real-life problems and propped up again in plum positions that no one else with his actual lack of talent would ever find themselves in.
After using his Harvard Masters in Business to bankrupt two oil companies, Bush Junior was rewarded by being handed the general managership of the Texas Rangers baseball club... prior experience in professional baseball: ZERO! No experience, but straight to the top for Junior! See, that's how the conservative "meritocracy" (more accurately known as cronyism to the rest of us) works! Why can't we all get such treatment? Simple: Your father ain't rich and powerful enough, sucker! In baseball Bush immediately worked his black magic, maintaining the Rangers as one of the worst teams in the American League, trading away future home-run sensation Sammy Sosa, and casting the lone "No" vote on the expansion of the baseball playoffs... which became wildly popular and profitable for the sport and fans. Amongst real professional baseball people, Bush Junior was a joke.
But budding, ruthless, character-assassinating, "boy-genius," Texas political consultant Karl Rove saw past Bush's innate ineptness. Rove figured Bush might be stupid, but he had the right swagger, and, more importantly the right-sounding family name, one still respected by millions of conservatives. So Rove wooed him to run for governor of Texas. Lo and behold, Bush won! Rove had been absolutely right: Junior, himself, may not have had the right stuff, but the name was a winner. Post-election surveys established that thousands of Texas voters had thought they were voting for the more famous George Bush, the ex-president. After six years of messing with Texas, during which Bush turned the Lone Star state into the most polluted state in the union, Rove convinced the governor that he had a shot at the presidency. Even the Bush family itself was stunned at Georgie Junior's proposed run. "Jeb's the smart one," Poppy Bush, the former president famously quipped.
Though he came in braying about being a "Compassionate Conservative" and a "Uniter not a Divider" (both self-descriptions admission that such creatures are quite the rarity), Bush would succeed in becoming one of the most polarizing presidents in U.S. history.
Whether Bush the Lesser really had the Freudian obssessions with besting his father oft attributed to him by armchair (and some real) psychologists, he certainly acted like it. Coming into office, the one thing that Bush the Dumber knew upon assuming his Supreme Court awarded office in January of 2001 was that he wouldn't make the same mistakes his father had made. First and foremost, no matter what, he would never raise taxes! Other than that, this being president stuff should be a breeze... while he kicked back and watched baseball, his coterie: Rove, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleeza Rice, Bill Kristol and the rest of the NeoCons could figure things out.
NeoCons. Now there's a term we haven't explored yet. They come into play most prominently during the Bush the Terrible reign, which for Bush's eight years was essentially managed by NeoCons and their ideology. This mongrel breed of CorpCon had coalesced into a coherent group, ideology and policy recommendations in the mid-to-late 1990s, at one point prodding Bill Clinton to invade Iraq. He didn't take the bait, but Bush gleefully would. Their signature accomplishment of the 90s was to put together their manifesto, which they called "The Project for the New American Century."
The NeoCons bemoaned the "incoherent" Clinton foreign policy that flatly refused to go blustering around the world. They officially stated that their goal was "a new century favorable to American principles and interests," and urged the "need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in perserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity and our principles."
This rhetoric was all code for: America taking what it wanted under the guise of "spreading democracy." And with the gullible Bush in the White House, the first thing the NeoCons wanted, in particular, was the oil fields of Iraq.
But how to make that happen? How to "spread democracy" to the world's second largest pool of oil? Hmmm. Maybe we should look in that manifesto for an idea. Oh yes, here it is in Section V: "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor."
A "new Pearl Harbor." Yep, that's what the NeoCon Manifesto, written in 1998, was hoping for.
Bush's first months on the job as president were spent stumbling and bumbling. First off, he gave away the entire Clinton budget surplus on tax cuts to the rich. Four years of hard-won surpluses that put the country on course to eliminating the national debt (that Reagan and the first Bush had run up): voila, poof, gone! Conservatives rejoiced. Forget Clinton's surplus. The Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think-tank predicted the tax cuts themselves would completely eliminate the U.S. national debt by 2010!
The Heritage Foundation (founded by the very un-democratic Paul Weyrich... see video above), what a joke! Have they ever been right about anything? As usual (are you in the least surprised by now?), the conservatives were 180 degrees wrong! The first round of Bush tax cuts (yes, there would be a second round, as well) pushed the country deeper into the deficit hole, and there hasn't been a budget surplus since. Nowhere even close.
Then Bush went on vacation!
Then the conservatives got the "new Pearl Harbor" they had dreamed of.
Though the out-going Clinton administration warned the Bushies that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were the No. 1 terrorist threat, the Bush administration dawdled. Obsessed with finding an excuse to attack Saddam Hussein, the Bush Administration had not yet convened serious security meetings on more real terrorists threats before Bush took off to Texas for a month-long vaction just seven months into the job. Apparently dreaming of war in Iraq, doling out tax cuts for your buddies and playing baseball video games all day long in the bowels of the White House really tuckers out a feller.
While Bush was on vacation, the White House received a Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Still there was no sense of urgency. The administration considered this "old news."
Ever since Bush's inauguration, Richard Clarke, the National Security Coordinator, had impatiently awaited a serious conversation with Bush regarding world terrorism threats, including bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Clarke had provided several memos to Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney urging the highest priority of discussion and action, even warning of an imminent threat of attack, but he was rebuffed. Earlier in the year Clarke had met with Condoleeza Rice, and found that she did not seem to know who or what Al Qaeda was. Other top Bush officials seemed not to understand Clarke's obsession with Al Qaeda. By the time of Bush's Summer 2001 vaction, he still had not made time to carefully listen to his own National Security Coordinator's warnings.
The Bush Administration was already focused on an invasion of Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein, and steal the Iraqi oil fields. They had no interest in Al Qaeda. Or... if we read the NeoCon's manifesto carefully, perhaps it's not that they had no interest in Al Qaeda, but rather had no interest in stopping Al Qaeda from attacking the U.S., and thereby providing their "new Pearl Harbor," which would then allow the Bushies carte blanche to get the U.S. military back in action in a big way (always a top priority of conservatives).
The first serious meeting by the Bush Administration about the Al Qaeda threat was held on September 4, 2001... 226 days after George W. Bush was inaugurated president. Seven days later, 2,997 people would be dead following the worst-ever terrorist attack upon the United States of America. After being warned by the outgoing Clinton Administration that Al Qaeda was the No. 1 threat facing America, despite the U.S. Intelligence community's multiple warnings of imminent threat in the months prior to 9/11, despite the pleas of its own National Security Coordinator to address the issue, the Bush Administration in the end did absolutely nothing that might have prevented the attack.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the NeoCons tried to pin the attack on Saddam... based on no evidence whatsoever, just their hatred of Saddam and lust for the oil fields. Intelligence sources quickly overruled the politicians, and within a few days America's seething rage was directed toward Afghanistan, whose thuggish, fundamentalist, Islamic regime known as the Taliban, played congenial host to Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist organization.
If the Bush Administration had bungled catastrophically in failing to prepare for, or possibly prevent, a domestic terror attack, that was child's play compared to how it was about to stumble like a crazed elephant into the morass of not one, but two of the longest-running wars in American history. America was about to embark on its most ill-conceived foreign policy misadventure ever. The George W. Bush regime would willfully sacrifice American blood, treasure, trust, integrity and morality in a reckless and greedy attempt to combine revenge with ruthless imperialism.
Bin Laden and his al Qaeda buddies must have watched from afar in delirious delight and amazement as the Twin Towers pancaked, and the vaporized remains of two other airliners smoldered in front of the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field. At that point they had no idea what was coming... but if they could have written their own script they couldn't have dreamed up a better plot, in their favor, than what was about to transpire. As they packed up their meager belongings and disappeared into the wild, cave-spangled mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, bin Laden's boys might have wondered if they would ever get the Americans on their turf to pick off, one by one, two by two, three by three, by rifle, mortar and Improvised Explosive Device (IED), or how much more America would run itself into debt chasing their shadows for years, or maybe even decades, or how much more America would inflame the rest of the Islamic world by invading sacred Muslim territory, or how much America might disgust the rest of the modern nations in its blood-and-oil lust and willingness to sacrifice its very own principles to satiate its own unbalance. The answers would soon come. While they should have calmly, coldly, calculatedly, patiently, efficiently assigned a select few CIA operatives, Navy SEALS and Army Rangers to locate and in the dark of night quietly take out bin Laden and his henchmen, Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld mobilized the entire gargantuan United States military apparatus in response to 19 guys with box-cutters, who might have been stopped at their flight schools had American intelligence agencies been talking to each other.
Just as the NeoCons had predicted, the "new Pearl Harbor" provided the ideal excuse to crank up American militarism that had stalled during the Clinton years. Then, as Americans (including liberals) rallied around the president during this time of profound national sorrow and anger, 9/11 would also would provide the perfect cover for a raft of domestic policy changes that allowed the Executive Branch sweeping powers. Among these was the hurriedly passed "Patriot Act," a Machiavellian-named law which was anything but patriotic... more like despotic. The Patriot Act gave the U.S. government broad new powers to spy on Americans, as well as to detain and imprison anyone it considered a "terrorist." The definition of "terrorist" was loosened so that it might include drug traffickers, environmental activists, and other law-breakers and/or civil disobedience in a much elevated state of legal jeopardy. Overnight, America had become decidely more fascist!
A new normalcy settled over America. Rights and privacy formerly taken for granted were no longer guaranteed. The terrorists had already won more than they had hoped for. They had rendered the Great Satan into the Great Paranoid. The "War on Terror" had begun... a "war" that conservatives hoped would rival the Cold War in its long-running benefits to themselves.
And those benefits were potentially many. The NeoCons' political strategy calculated that renewed war in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, might deliver the following wonderful gifts into their lap:
Their diabolical, almost-perfect, plan just left out a few small ingredients: real American values... and morality.
Not just Fox News and the raft of riffraff conservative radio and television shock-jocks, but erstwhile mildly liberal media outlets, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, joined in ramping up for the twin wars (good for business, you know), and firmly suggesting that dissent be kept to a minimum. Objective journalism, for all intents and purposes, died in the mainstream media... sterling proof that the "liberal bias" of the overall media is yet another conservative whopper.
Military intervention commenced in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001... less than a month after 9/11. A key opportunity was lost early on when the main group of Al Qaeda fighters, possibly including Osama bin Laden, slipped away from almost certain capture or annihilation in the Tora Bora Mountains along the Pakistani border. Rather than sending an elite team of special ops forces in to wipe the terrorists out, the Pentagon opted to allow anti-Taliban Afgani fighters to do the dirty work. They bungled it, and the terrorists escaped across the border to Pakistan.
Predictably, as more and more American personnel and equipment poured into Afghanistan, the United States and allies found themselves fighting not so much Al Qaeda but the Taliban. The Taliban had had nothing directly to do with 9/11, and condemned those who perpetrated the act (as did almost all other Islamic groups around the world). So the American-led NATO mission quickly morphed from retribution on those who had planned and implemented the 9/11 attacks to regime change and nation-building in Afghanistan, a big switcheroo that the American public had never actually signed on to.
But even this expanded action was becoming boring for the NeoCons. Some months into the Afghanistan campaign, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously grumbled, "There are no targets in Afghanistan." Fighting a dodgy and obscure enemy in the arid mountains of Central Asia was no fun. Rumsfeld and the NeoCons longed to get back to their real obsession: Saddam Hussein. "There are good targets in Iraq," Rumsfeld continued. Under the cover of the "War on Terror," now was the time to ram through the case for starting a simultaneous, second, war.
We don't have time here to go into the litany of lies, distortions, obfuscations and craziness that led up to the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. Suffice to say that nothing - NOTHING - the NeoCons claimed in order to trump up a cause to oust Saddam Hussein turned out to be true. Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. Iraq had no Al Qaeda affiliations (in fact Saddam hated Al Qaeda). There were no "weapons of mass destruction." Saddam had no nuclear weapons program. Saddam had no real chemical weapons program. The war in Iraq would not last "weeks or months.". Iraqi oil money did not pay for the war.
Saddam was, in fact, a shell of his 1980s pugnaciousness (which itself was coddled by Reagan), yet still remained the "strongman" who kept a lid on the witches brew of hatred and potential violence seething deep within his own Sunni-Shia-Kurd population. When the strongman was eliminated, the toxic brew spewed out.
Iraq turned out to be a bigger quaqmire than Afghanistan. With Saddam removed, a veritable civil war sparked inside Iraq, and in came pouring the very terrorists that Bush had vowed to root out but who weren't even in Iraq until America put out the welcome mat. Suddenly American soldiers found themselves in a sectarian crossfire, dupes in an extremely high stakes (and illegal) gamble that the NeoCons had concocted. In the end, the light show of Shock and Awe turned out to be a spotlight on American hubris and non-virtue, with the lasting images of our rampage into old Mesopotamia the stark and dark spectres of torture at Abu Ghraib prison, the mutilated bodies of four Blackwater contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah, and the bloodied forms of so many American soldiers maimed by IEDs.
Today the gigantic ($1 BILLION) American embassy, the largest and most expensive in the world, stands as a white elephant in the heart of Baghdad (still safely nestled in the heavily guarded "Green Zone" where it is semi-safe to tread), testament to a superpower's blundering over-reach. Truthfully, it wasn't mere overreach, it was stunning ignorance, greed, malice and actual evil.
To compound the ignorance and damage to the country, Bush never raised taxes to support his twin wars. This was a first in world history! Every nation at war MUST raise taxes to pay for it! Not Bush. In fact, he LOWERED taxes during the wars! It was an incredible leap of faith into conservative dogma... that, of course, immediately backfired as the National Debt soared.
It is estimated that the NeoCons' twin wars may eventually cost the American taxpayers three TRILLION dollars when the last wounded warrior has at last gone to meet his/her maker. One trillion, three trillion, what's the difference? It's all funny money to the Cons. They don't give damn what the bill is they are running up. Someone else will pay it... maybe. Though, of course, they scream like harpies when a non-conservative is in charge of the budget.
Sadder still is that most intelligence experts now say that the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars have actually served to increase terrorism. Al Qaeda was not in Iraq before America invaded. It's there now. We did not bring lasting peace or real democracy to Iraq. We did not "stabilize" the region; we destablized it, tipping the ancient Iraq-Iran power balance completely to Iran's favor. American atrocities revealed in both Iraq and Afghanistan galvanized a whole new generation of potential terrorists furious at the Great Satan, which perfectly lived up to that moniker in willfully deceiving its own citizens, and then engaging in torturing, displacing and denying justice and compassion to Iraqi and Afghani citizens.
Lawrence Wilkinson, former chief of staff in George W. Bush's Justice Department, is one of the few Bushies to come clean on the entire enterprise. He acknowledges that the reasons given for the wars were smokescreens, not the primary goals. "They (the Administration) took the intelligence and cherry-picked it, reinforcing the idea that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. There are several reasons. President George W. Bush wanted a stellar victory. Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush are both oil men and wanted to ensure 300 billion barrels didn’t stay in Saddam’s hands. The Israel lobby and [former Deputy Secretary of Defense] Paul Wolfowitz wanted to get rid of Saddam. There is no singular motivation. There were many wanting to send a message to all concerned after 9/11 that said, very forcefully, 'Don’t mess with America.' We wasted a ton of money. It went into people’s pockets, like Halliburton and Lockheed Martin and Bechtel — and a lot of Iraqis like Ahmed Chalabi" (Bush's hand-picked Iraqi president).
It is interesting to note that Lawrence Wilkinson, a Republican insider privvy to all that went down as America was lied into twin ill-conceived wars, believes that Bush and Cheney should be charged with war crimes.
It seems certain now that history will regard both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars as colossal failures for America and the few other Western powers that agreed to participate... while it now appears to have been a complete and utter victory for the terrorists and anyone else who hates America. The 9/11 attacks now seem the perfect trap set by a few wily Arabs living in caves that a dozen so-called "modern" nations fell right into like deaf, dumb and blind ogres. That "coalition of the cloddish" was, of course, led by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Bill Kristol, NeoConservatives all, who foolishly gambled their own citizens blood, taxpayers' capital, and their own nations' integrity in pretending to chase down a handful of angry radicals while actually wishing to steal billions of dollars in oil. They lost the bet.
Or did they? Of course they didn't lose the bet. They are the CorpCons; they never lose. They came out just fine... with billions of taxpayers' dollars safe in their bank accounts. We the People lost their bet. We American, British, Italian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Bulgarian citizens who lost friends or loved ones, or watched them come home damaged in body and/or spirit, and witnessed our country's dignity and reputation dragged through a web of lies and the negative vortex of torture chambers and sporadic willful murdering sprees. And that's just the perspective from "our" side... we can hardly bring ourselves to think about the perspective of "other" side, the innocent peoples of the nations of Afghanistan and Iraq who discovered that American "liberation" and "democracy" came with a price almost too high to bear. Only time will tell if they really were liberated in any real sense, and perhaps we will never know if they wouldn't have eventually achieved that liberation on their own, anyway. It is a very sad state of affairs to know that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in Iraq, now more dangerous and divided than ever, many of its most important cities in the hands of terrorists who make Al Qaeda look like altar boys, now pine for the days of Saddam when relative peace within Iraq's borders prevailed under his sometimes ruthless iron grip.
The NeoCons were proved to be stupendously wrong. In fact, you would have to look long and hard at not just American but world history to find such error and ineptness. Were they chagrined and humbled? Not in the least. As both Afghanistan and Iraq turned increasingly nasty, they doubled-down on their ideology, calling for ever more troops and treasure to be dumped into the twin black holes. And why not? Though their dream of capturing the oil fields and setting up permanent puppet regimes in both countries was rapidly fading, many of their objectives were being realized: They WERE pumping billions of taxpayer dollars directly into the pockets of their cronies; they WERE successfully diverting the nation's attention from their rigging of domestic affairs to further enrich Big Business and tilt electoral configurations in their favor. They DID pump up oil prices, a veritable election campaign promise of Bush's to his oil industry supporters. They DID "starve the beast" (cut back on federal programs) at least insofar as liberal programs were concerned. They DID get Bush re-elected in 2004, but just by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin; Bush carried on the winning tradition of sitting "war" presidents, though he came the closest to getting the boot. Voting manipulation in Ohio may have been the factor that pushed Bush over the top; if Bush had lost Ohio, John Kerry would have become president.
So despite whiffing on the big prizes they were after, the NeoCons still did quite well for themselves through the Afghanistan and Iraq twin debacles. They didn't even have to wear the egg on their faces for too long. Conservative commentary deftly pivoted from gullible rah-rah, "Go for It," exhortations, to stunned silence as things just kept getting worse, to today's revisionist rhetoric that attempts to frame them as "Obama's wars." The wimpy moderate Democrats, predictably, have failed to demand any kind of responsibility-taking for this colossal heist from and betrayal of America itself. Certainly in this failure, the stage is set for the exact same thing to happen again in a decade or two.
Is this all too dour to delve into for you? Did you have a loved one or friend who sacrificed in Afghanistan or Iraq and find it hard to swallow that their honorable service was encompassed within Bush's and Cheney's gigantic, rotting burrito of non-virtue? You are not alone. Yet if we don't come face-to-face with our own demons, and those who would unleash them upon the world, then we are doomed to repeat them. Conservatives, of course, are the worst in the world at learning the lessons of history. In many ways, Afghanistan and Iraq were Vietnam redux. Once again, conservative ideology rushed to make war on a supposedly vastly technologically inferior population, but on the enemy's sacred ground... they found real victory elusive.
Perhaps worse, the never-learn-the-lesson-if-it-conflicts-with-your-dogma NeoCons are panting to start everything over again... this time against Iran. Consider Republican Lawrence Wilkerson's warnings against this resurgent tide in his own party: "There are three components of this push for war with Iran. The NeoConservatives feel the only way to settle the problem is to destroy the current Middle Eastern governments, and they will turn into democracies in 30 years. The second reason is Israel. We have come to the point where we blindly follow Israel. Congress recently gave multiple standing ovations to Benjamin Netanyahu. If Middle Eastern countries are in chaos, they can’t unify against Israel. The third reason is there is a regional power struggle between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council [a union of gulf states] and the United States. These other governments don’t want Iran in power. They want Iran isolated. But if we attacked Iran, they would go nuclear. If we attacked Iran it would take 500,000 troops, 10 years and trillions of dollars. Alexander the Great almost died in Iran. You don’t want to invade Iran. Iran has 75 million people. It’s the most stable country in the region."
Go HERE for a quick look at maps depicting American service personnel deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sadly, America itself was deceived, used and abused by the NeoCons through the Bush years. No one moreso than American service personnel and their families. If you consider yourself a true patriotic American and aren't incensed by this colossal breach of trust by these professional conservative gigolos, you really have your head stuck deep in the sands of denial.
(For much more on the Bush Wars, be a good liberal and do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Conservatives... you've already been told what to believe, so, as usual, you don't have to do any thinking for yourself.)
But military disasters were not the extent of CorpCon failure during the Bush era. Oh, no. On the home front a lot of dicey things were happening, as well.
Bush slashed taxes twice, in 2001 and 2003, each time regurgitating the conservative mantra that lower taxes would stimulate the economy. It didn't, once again (how many times is this??)!
In fact, Bush's tax policy failed as stupendously as his foreign policy. The economy was actually horrible through Bush's eight years. In eight years, only a net of 375,000 new jobs were created (and the majority of those were GOVERNMENT not private sector jobs). It was the worst jobs-creation record of any modern president! And get this: Bush actually skedaddled out of the White House just in the nick of time; if he had held on for another month he would have gone out having a NEGATIVE jobs-creation record! The economy he left to his successor would bleed jobs for months to come.
The horribleness of the Bush economy, however, was camoflaged by some clever (and lucrative) financial trickery. Like the Reagan and first Bush administrations before them, the George W. Bushies noticed early on that their tax cuts were not having the predicted affect (Surprise, Surprise!). In answer to what the average citizen could do to support the War on Terror, Bush famously quipped, "Go Shopping." He was serious. Consumers needed to get to spending to prop up his flailing economy.
To grease the skids, the CorpCons came up with a grand scheme that would make everyone think they were richer than they really were: the easy loan. Come one, come all... you can afford a nicer home than the pit you're living in now! It's a great investment!! You'll get rich as your home goes Up, Up, Up in price... as they always do!
If you like your home, well we've got an offer for you, too... refinance and take that big vacation or buy that new car you've been wanting! Don't worry about not being able to afford it! Remember that your home's value is only going to go Up, Up, Up! You can take this money out of your house now... and take more money out next year!
And don't worry about bad credit or inability to make your payments... we don't care about that anymore!
It was perfect. Low interest rates and easy qualifications were the bait. This scheme really spread the money around. The real estate agents made money. The real estate brokers made money. The mortgage brokers made money. The banks made money. And the consumer was given free money. Sure, everybody (except the consumer, themself) knew that many of these people (some very quickly) would get in over their heads and not be able to pay their new mortgages with these low and easy get-in terms but high and hard interest rates as time went on. So what? The banks knew to turn these loans over to somebody else as quickly as possible... it was a game of "hot potato"... get rid of them before they explode. Better yet, bundle them into a big group, call them something innocuous, like "collateralized debt obligation," and shuffle them off to somebody else who might just pay big money for a stinking bag-o'-crap. Or you can play it another way, insure the hell out of it and hope it explodes! Companies like Goldman Sachs were playing the whole ponzi scheme both ways. It's amazing that it went on for as long as it did.
Here's the basic scheme:
And here's Bush, himself, pushing scheme.
Click Here to read Ron Suskind's evaulation of George W. Bush on the even of the 2004 election.
But even with this degree of voter angst directed at the Republicans, the public had little clue as to how precarious the economic situation had become. Not so, some of the more savvy Wall Street manipulators. Players at a few banks, such as Morgan Stanley, and not a few of the craftier hedge firms, had long understood that a crash was inevitable - even while the majority of Wall Streeters were lost in a trance of delusion that growth, profits and their various ponzi schemes could go on forever. The only question for the more astute investors was when the crash would happen. By 2006 they saw that the bubble was ripe for popping.
So what did they do? Warn everyone else? Oh, please! We're talking about some of the most ruthless, greedy, spiritless and immoral people on the planet! (Actually, there were a few voices who pipped in warning, but their cries were carried away on the gales of rosy projections of eternal growth and profits.) Those in the know actually could barely contain their exictement. When a financial bubble explodes, there is incredible money to be made. Where there are stupendous losers, there are stupendous winners!
The craftiest of the crafty, of course, is Goldman Sachs... the poster child for those who stealthily helped write the laws and loopholes that would lead directly to the crash of 2008... but came out of it all shiny as gold (literally). Goldman Sachs, and a few other key Wall Street players, modified their investment strategy around 2006 and began betting against the economy... dumping and/or insuring their toxic assets which they continued to peddle as "Triple A" quality. The ratings agencies - Standard & Poor's, Fitch, and Moody's - backed up these claims. Goldman knew for sure, and the ratings agencies should have known, that these "assets" weren't anywhere close to Triple A quality; they were closer to Triple F crap. Indeed, Goldman knew these bags of investment "instruments" were about to explode. Hyping them as safe and secure, they sold these ticking time bombs to pension funds, insurance companies, labor unions, foreign institutions, individual investors... anyone they could dupe.
Hidden behind all of these financial shenanigans was what is now referred to as the "shadow banking system," a loose confederation of financial institutions and (free) "markets" that are unlicensed and operate outside of most regulations. Many of the "instruments" and "paper" that Goldman Sachs and other slick operators were wheeling and dealing prior to the Crash originated from or were channeled through this "shadow banking system."
As these shadow "instruments" and "papers" proliferated throughout the worldwide banking system, hundreds of millions of everyday people - working folk, retired people, the elderly - unbeknowst to themselves, were being placed - intentionally - at higher and higher risk. Only a tiny number of people understood how this house of cards fit together. The vast majority of financial planners and so-called "experts" were clueless. Stock advisors and fund managers of mutual funds and investment accounts who bought into these shady instruments thought they were buying safe and secure "Triple A" quality assets. The ratings agencies said so. Instead, investment and retirement accounts, worldwide, were about to be torpedoed.
Meanwhile, the final pump-up of all the garbage, as well as legitimate assets such as real estate, stocks and commodities, was on. When real estate prices bogged down and began slowly drifting backward startting in 2005, many investors jumped into commodites, including oil, copper and nickel, which soared well into 2008. Goldman Sachs, implicated in the oil price run-up, and the other insiders who foresaw the coming calamity just smirked and rubbed their hands together in greedy anticipation. A windfall was coming their way.
The house of cards began seriously tottering in March of 2008 with the sudden collapse of massive global investment bank Bear Stearns, which was heavily invested in sub-prime loans. The Bush Administration watched in stunned horror, seemingly paralyzed to do anything in response. Eventually the Federal Reserve stepped in to "bail out" the bank simply to leverage it through bankruptcy. Big predator bank JP Morgan Chase gobbled up the Bear carcass for pennies on the dollar, paying $10 per share for the remains of Bear Stearns, shares that had sold just a little more than a year earlier for $172 each. (Goldman Sachs was involved in Bear Stearns' demise, refusing to participate in Bear's derivative deals shortly before its collapse, and thus intensifying growing concerns about Bear's ability to cover loans.)
With Bear Stearns' demise the writing was on the wall, and it was just a matter of time - a very short time - before the next cards would fall.
Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank in the U.S., was next to suddenly perish. Gagging on its banquet of leveraged sub-prime mortgages (and dicey balance sheet artistry) Lehman filed for bankruptcy on September 13, 2008... and the crash of the American - and world - economy was on.
Upon word of Lehman's bankruptcy, the stock market immediately fell over 700 points, its largest-ever one-day plunge. It continued to That all of this was happening during the 2008 presidential election, and the final days of the George W. Bush regime, was horrifyingly karmic in its sublime irony.
"The economy is sound and in good shape," Republican presidential candidate John McCain proclaimed in late Summer of 2008 as the stock market was sagging and banks were tottering. This disconnect with what real Americans sensed was now happening probably was the final straw that doomed his candidacy, even more so than the discomboblated reach of selecting woefully unprepared Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.
The surly mood of the American public toward conservative economic steerage, first vented in the mid-terms of 2006, now reached a fever pitch. So incensed were a majority of Americans toward the Republicans that they rejected war-hero McCain and voted into office a black American named Barack Hussein Obama.
As sunset fell on the George W. Bush regime, the economy was crashing in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, his party's nominee was being crushed by an unbelievably unlikely political upstart, his administration's economic gurus were embarrassingly, desperately turning to liberal solutions, and the nation continued wearily into the sixth and seventh years of not one, but two, wars with seemingly no end in sight, with almost every single claim the perpetrators had made about the urgent necessity of the wars turning out to be complete malarkey.
Bush the Lesser left office with a final approval rating of just 22 percent, the lowest of any president since such polls have been taken. History will undoubtedly be even more cruel to him. It will have no trouble whatsoever tabbing him as the worst U.S. president ever. A simple summary of the trail of destruction proves there is no one else even in his league. Woe to the country if George W. Bush is ever worsted. Alas, the conservatives are trying hard. The election of Donald J. Trump may well prove to be the most calamitous in American history, making Bush's foibles look simply ignorant and foolish while the true charlatan Trump dips into vats of pure evil.
Immediately following Obama's inauguration, Bush slunk out of Washington D.C. and back to Texas without much comment. To his credit, unlike his bombastic vice-president, Dick Cheney, who has remained a non-credible incendiary within the conservative movement, Bush has remained mostly silent ever since. One wonders if this man indulges in any kind of introspection, remorse or regret for how badly he and his party's ideology failed the nation, or whether, lost in his new-found painting obsession, and bolstered by the still cheering 22 percent, he easily pushes that all aside in his non-inquiring, traditional, conformist, CorpCon mind.
The stunning nature of the 2008 election is fading in memory. As always, current reality is quickly assimilated as taken-for-granted fact and becomes the new normal. Shocks and surprises, good or bad, become the new facticity and set the ground level for a new awareness. The old reality becomes only hazily recalled by many, including those who were right there when it happened, and, of course, not at all by those too young to remember. It is now some years since that monumental election, and it is worth recalling in all of its important implications.
The election pitted Obama, a self-made "elite" (in mostly good ways) if there ever was one, against yet another Republican spoiled, rich kid (elite... in mostly bad ways) who rode his daddy's coattails to prominence. In this case it was John McCain, whose daddy and granddaddy were both admirals in the Navy. McCain, the "Maverick," is actually an arrogant and reckless brat. He trashed three Navy planes, and would almost surely have been kicked out of the military if the two paternal admirals in the family weren't looming over the picture. Finally, he disobeyed orders and got shot down over Vietnam, ending up as a P.O.W. McCain apparently didn't learn any humility lessons while a prisoner; he came back to America as much (or more) a jerk as ever (among other things unceremoniously dumping the wife who had waited dutifully for his return from the war for a younger, prettier - and much richer - woman). McCain battled against Bush the Lesser in the 2000 primary, succumbing to some dirty tricks by Bush's handler, the venomous Karl Rove. McCain kept his carping about that to a minimum and by 2008 he was the heir-apparent as Republican standard bearer. He won by default over a typically lackluster Republican field, which included Mitt Romney (next up in the spoiled brat brigade). In the general election, McCain ran a stilted campaign, lagging into late summer behind in the polls. Even with a "war hero" candidate, conservatism had fallen so low in public opinion it was losing to a black guy with a middle name of "Hussein."
McCain's campaign team went looking for a "Hail Mary" running mate, and came up with Alaska governor Sarah Palin, at the time the most popular governor (within their own state) in America. What apparently went unnoticed by the campaign operatives was that Palin's popularity was not due to any great statesmanship skill on her part, but rather her hostage-taking of the oil companies in Alaska until they agreed to pay more in royalties to the state's citizens, a demand certain to bump up one's popularity, and certainly worthy of praise in any socialist circle... but hardly the orthodox conservative stance on how to coddle big corporations. No one would more rue the day they rushed to invite the not fully vetted wildcard into their campaign than the very advisors who hand-picked her. One quick conversation with her, and old Edmund Burke might have instructed McCain's handlers that this person belonged out in the fields with the serfs and not anywhere close to political power, not simply because she was a women (Burke would have certainly adamently objected to that crazy idea) but because she was simply no "elite" in any way, shape or form.
But McCain took the polar plunge, and the shock temporarily energized his campaign. Palin thrilled the base that was going to flock to vote against Obama anyway, but she quickly revealed how unprepared she was for the Big Time, flunking interview after interview until she was muzzled by the campaign team. In the end, Palin turned off moderate voters, and simply became yet another example of McCain's clumsiness and poor judgment. If he couldn't get picking a running mate right, how could he be trusted on far more serious issues confronting the nation, most certainly including the twin wars? McCain did not burnish his chances when he stated that the U.S. would be in Iraq for "a hundred years."
McCain's and Palin's many gaffs and pratfalls contrasted starkly with Obama's smooth-talking, smooth-running, inspiring, and money-vaccuming political machine. McCain, the Republican, big corporation-licking, presidential candidate fell so far behind in fund-raising that he tried to dupe Obama into agreeing that they would both opt to use public campaign funds only. Imagine that! A Republican hoping to level the field by going the "socialist" route. In a public-funds-only political race, each party gets the exact same amount of money to spend -- all of it from public funds; no private funds allowed. Almost all liberals believe ALL elections should be financed this way, permanently getting private money out of politics. But with the somewhat rare situation of a Democrat crushing the Republican in fund-raising, Obama didn't take the bait. During the 2008 campaign, he would raise more money than any candidate in history.
Still Democratic supporters held their breath as the election loomed nearer, wondering what tricks Rove and other Machiavellian conservative operators had up their sleeves that could thwart victory. How would Republican governors in Florida or Ohio finagle the votes to deliver the presidency to McCain? Turns out the numbers for Obama were just too great. The McCain-Palin ticket conceded defeat early on election night, and a very unique American historical moment was secured.
The 2008 election taught us much about America, though it is quite surprising how many people have yet to assimilate the lessons, including academes whose business is politics itself. Vast swaths of America, as well, remain ignorant of these important truths revealed by that exciting election.
No. 1: The election of a black man named Barack Hussein Obama informed us that America is not as racist, nor as xenophobic as it may have previously been considered. "Hussein?" Could there have been a more unfortunate middle name (maybe only "bin Laden") for any person running to be President of the United States in 2008? And could there have been any worse skin color than black? In one of their proudest moments, Americans, at least temporarily, shattered unvirtuous stereotypes and the presumption of deep racism amidst the populace at-large. No doubt such prejudice was (and still is) out there, but on this day it was the mindset getting stomped.
No. 2: The 2008 election showed that America is certainly not as conservative as conservatives, themselves, have led us to believe. Obama campaigned as a raving liberal, out-liberaling his Democratic primary opponents, including the very popular Hillary Clinton. His key points of emphasis were 1) the wars, Iraq in particular, were unnecessary and ineptly handled, and he would end them both; 2) the economy was rigged and unfair, and he would work to level the playing field; 3) the U.S. health care system was entirely broken and required a complete overhaul which would better and more efficiently protect the health of Americans; 4) regulations that protected Americans from the worst of capitalism had been systematically dismantled or diminshed; he would restore them; 5) America's honor and standing with the rest of the world had been badly stained, and he would repair it.
That massive numbers of people and almost unprecedented surge of hopeful energy coalesced around this person and his message, eloquently espousing basic liberal ideology, is inarguable evidence that a huge swath of America is hungry for a liberal champion! It should go without saying that the liberal base in America is not strong or numerous enough to produce this kind of wave; it required the participation of millions and millions of "moderate" voters, those who politically reside in the "squishy middle," those who may actually think of themselves as somewhat conservative... these are in reality the "FauxCons" (see Meet the Conservatives for more info), and they, too, are awaiting a true liberal to take charge.
No. 3: Alas, the 2008 election showed that there remains a significant chunk of Americans who are probably hopelessly stuck in conservative dogma and delusion, steadfastly refusing to accept the painful intellectual truth or to take personal responsibility (as a voter) for their party's clearly failed ideas. No fact or cascade of facts (like failed wars, a crashed economy, or airhead running mate) are enough to awaken them from their stubborn stupor. Indeed, instead they prefer to double-down on wrongness, including a suddenly renewed proclivity toward racism. Certainly not all supporters of McCain-Palin were/are racists, but the sometimes overt flow of racism during the campaign (and thereafter) was hardly disabused by the parties (political and social) who stood to gain from its poisonous influence. Sadly it is clear that the 22 percent who make up the conservative base will tolerate almost any behavior to "conserve" their dominator hierarchy, and racism is as good as untruth in that ever-more difficult quest.
No. 4: CorpCons always come out smelling like a rose! As polling throughout the general election showed Obama consistently ahead of McCain, CorpCon money began flowing the Democrat's way. Despite some anti-corporate rhetoric on Obama's part during the campaign, the Corpies knew they could win friends and influence people with their money, even if Obama wasn't their first choice. Among the corporations donating over a million dollars to Obama was our good friends at Goldman Sachs. Other bankster donators included JP Morgan Chase, CitiGroup, UBS and Morgan Stanley. Ironically, the top donor to Obama's 2008 campaign was the University of California Employees group, whose investment portfolios had just been ravaged by the aforementioned banksters.
It turns out these banksters knew better than the idealistic voters who Obama really was. They knew they were getting not a real liberal challenger to their systems but yet another "New Democrat," a Clinton-like clone, who would spank them softly, it at all.
In all fairness, perhaps no one could have lived up to the hope and hype that Obama, himself, helped generate. And laying in wait was the abject hate and determined resistance and obstruction that the conservatives would mount to defend their woebegotten ideology.
If Obama had gone valiantly forward, as the liberal he pretended to be during the campaign, if he had truly attempted to usher in "Change we Can Believe In," even if he had at last been vanquished by conservative intransigence, he would have sealed his place as an American icon. As is, he will likely be remembered as a symbolic novelty, but yet another corporate moderate, willing to accept baby steps as a compromise with the Devil, and seemingly happy to play the political money game at which he, like Clinton, excelled.
Obama dismayed many of his more astute followers a month before his inauguration when not a single true liberal was named to his initial cabinet. Proclaiming Abraham Lincoln's "team of rivals" cabinet as his model, he selected two actual Republicans to sit as his closest advisors, including Bush holdover Defense Secretary Robert Gates (in his second term Obama would also name another Republican, Chuck Hagel, as Defense Secretary). Nothing like trusting a guy from the party that lured us into twin military debacles to carry on with the projects. The president-elect tabbed Republican Ray LaHood to take over as Secretary of Transportation. Obama wanted to select another Republican, Judd Gregg, for Commerce Secretary, but fearing his loss in the Senate Gregg's own Republican cohorts talked him into withdrawing from nomination. Perhaps worse even than these moderate Republicans, Obama turned to some of Clinton's "New Democrat" retreads to guide his economic team, bringing in Robert Rubin and Larry Summers as advisors and their young protege Timothy Geitner, a former CitiGroup CEO, to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. The team that had confidently advised Clinton to dismantle Glass-Steagall and helped run the economy into a dangerous bubble was back in the White House. Hooray! Obama also named General Electric's CEO Jeffrey Immelt to his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Sure, why not cozy up to the executive for one of America's largest corporations... that often skips out on paying any taxes whatsoever?
Then Obama selected as Attorney General, Eric Holder, yet another Clinton retread. The two of them would decide to let both the neocon war criminals and the terrorist banksters go scot-free.
For the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Obama appointed as senior advisor Michael Taylor, former vice-president of Monsanto. Within a year Taylor would be promoted to Deputy Commissioner of Foods for the FDA. Really, Barry? Monsanto, one of the most nefarious corporations in American history?
Then, of course, Obama rounded out Team Retread by reclaiming an actual Clinton, Hillary, to be Secretary of State.
None of this was "Change We Can Believe In." Rather, immediately after the glory of a once-in-a-lifetime campaign, it was right back to business as usual. The writing was on the wall before he was even inaugurated. Consensus, not real change, would be Obama's true quest.
As for the Republicans who sat on their hands while al Qaeda was planning its attacks, then lied us into war with trumped up allegations, and then broke international law by torturing, the Obama Administration had no taste for the slightest chastisement... though such was sorely needed, indeed morally and ethically required as a warning to future would-be copiers. But there would not even be an official inquiry, heaven forbid any actual charges... even if such would certainly have been thwarted by the conservatives. "Let's move forward, let's look ahead, not back," Obama explained. And so true justice, responsibility and reprimand for some of the worst and least virtuous governance in American history, was aborted. And the stage likely set for something similar (or far worse) to happen again someday.
On the financial side, yes, the Securities and Exchange Commission perp-walked too-greedy-for-his-own-good Bernie Madoff, but the economic terrorists who plunged the world into chaos, loss and despair got a light pat on the butt, a few meaningless fines, and then, simply, more sweet whisperings from the Treasury and Fed, with hardly a hint of further serious repercusions from the Justice Department. Holder then turned his ire toward his own Public Enemies: pot smokers (quite the hypocrisy from the administration of a former pothead) and whistle-blowers (in yet another slap to the face of truth and justice).
How different might things have been if Obama had selected Franklin Roosevelt as his model? After all, it was Roosevelt, not Lincoln, who, like Obama, inherited a conservative-wrecked economy. But there would be no thundering, Rooseveltian "I welcome their hatred" directed at the banksters and perpetrators of dangerous and destructive conservative myths. Oh no, quite the contrary. Obama made it duty No. 1 to just try to get along and not make anyone mad. All his life he had been a conciliator, been liked, and made progress. What could be different now?
People on his side wanted to believe. Obama, a black man who just got himself elected President of the United States, is a lot smarter than we are, went the hopeful meme. Besides, who better to get us out of the wars, or the economic crisis, than some of the very people who got us into it? Gulp!
It turned out Obama was not smarter than many of us, who could have told him "I told you so," when his many efforts at friendship and bipartisanship across the aisle during his first term were greeted with derision, or an actual bite. "Our primary goal is to make Obama a one term president," glibbly quipped Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. This wasn't the diverse but friendly group at the Harvard Law Review Obama was dealing with now; it was the poisonous vipers of the U.S. Congress. One can imagine Roosevelt rolling his eyes from the grave.
Maybe it's a clever trap, some liberals thought of Obama's curious strategy. He's going to allow the Republicans to show the American public how thoroughly disingenuous and despicable they are, and that will put the final nail in their ideological coffin. Oops! In the midterms of 2010, the conservative party many commentators had called "dead" in 2008 rose like zombies to wrest control of the House of Representatives (to go along with their control of the Supreme Court).
By the 2010 mid-terms Obama's magic was gone. The squishy middle he had lit on fire in 2008 had evaporated, sitting on their hands as the madder-than-hell conservative base roared back to outpoint the liberal base, retake the House, and hand the Democrats a stinging defeat.
It was well deserved. For two years Obama had just looked weak and pathetic, even with a semi-friendly Congress (though, do recall that his "Democratic" majority was razor thin and included a number of Southern "blue dog" Dems more likely to side with Republicans on many issues). Obama tried everything he could to bring a single Republican on board... on anything. The Repugs, however, remained united in their utter disdain for this black, Kenyan, Muslim, socialist lacking a legitimate birth certificate. No president has ever suffered such an onslaught of humiliation (and there has been a lot of humiliating of presidents over the past 230-plus years). Like a good black man, Obama has taken it without angering. But it was, obviously, a losing political strategy for mid-term 2010, and likely that of 2014, as well.
As his flimsy Democratic majority in Congress departed, the door had officially shut on Obama's ability to serve justice to the party that so well deserved it. There would be absolutely zero accountability for lying us into the twin wars, or for the malfeasance and immorality, if not plain criminality, that precipitated the economic crash and Great Recession. There would not even be a rebuke of conservative dogma in a spirit anywhere close to that of the 2008 campaign.
This whiffing on a once-a-century "teaching moment" should haunt Obama and his team forever. When justice is not served, the crimes serve as template for others to emulate. Turns out it is possible to lie the American public into supporting otherwise unsupportable war, and it is possible to make millions, or billions, crashing the American, or even world, economy, and come out of it smelling like a rose.
The major political battle of our era is that between We the People and the Corporatocracy, with a complete takeover by the Corpies looming ever closer. Beyond his steely 2008 rhetoric, Obama has steadfastly refused to truly join the fight, instead staking out a dancing circle in the untenable middle, winking at both his voting block and his corporate suitors. This is the real legacy of Barack Hussein Obama, no significant foe of the CorpCons.
If most CorpCons have little problem with Obama, the social conservatives are a different story. Of course, they are the people Obama whom has most sorely offended, as they knew a black, "socialist, Muslim from Kenya" would (even as his policies might very well benefit many of them economically and socially). From their vantage point at the right extreme of the known universe, Obama does indeed look like a socialist standing as he does way back there a pace or two left of center. He vindicated their most dire suspicions in three ways, the three ways Obama will, not coincidently, likely be most fondly remembered by posterity.
No. 1: Before his congressional support was overturned in the 2010 mid-terms, he wrangled through a compromise: a clunky, originally conservative, idea that even in its mitigated incarnation overturned a deeply flawed, inefficient, unjust and morally reprehensible American health care system. The American Affordable Care Act (ACA), dubbed by the conservatives "Obamacare," swept aside sky's-the-limit costs, pre-exisiting conditions, bankruptcy by illness, unequal costs for women, yearly and lifetime maximums, unlimited bonuses for insurance executives, rate increases whenever, boondoggle policies, chronic and rampant denials of claim, as the law set out to not only tame health care costs, but bring essential care to 40-something million Americans with no health insurance at all, as well as protect upwards of 100 million with "junk" policies that would eventually blow up like a stink bomb.
Since the passage of the ACA, conservatives have conveniently forgotten that what they got with "ObamaCare" was the compromise. It wasn't the "public option" Obama had claimed during the campaign was the bare minimum necessary, and it sure wasn't the "single-payer" system favored by most liberals. Indeed, Obama quickly gave up on both of those chips in a backdoor deal with insurance companies that kept them fully in the game. American health care is still very definitely a corporate endeavor. In exchange for a potential 40 million new customers - dependably paid for largely by the government - the insurance companies agreed to have a collar put around their neck. Much of the worst of what they used to get away with was banned, and that accomplishment is nothing to scoff at. Not a single Republican voted for the act, yet conservatives will eventually rue the day they labeled it "Obamacare," forever associating this liberal expansion of rights and benefits to the average American citizen with the president they hated so much.
So the American health care system was fundamentally changed for the better. Yet it remains one of the few health care systems in the modern world with the profit motive still firmly embedded - at every level: physician, clinic, hospital, drug and device manufacturer, and insurance company. Someday America will join the rest of the world in engaging in loftier rationality and morality in removing the profit motive from such an essential aspect of human endeavor and the welfare of its citizenry (a crucial national security interest if there ever was one), and conservatives will continue to fight that all the way. Given America's conservative recalcitrance, the ACA may be the best we can do for now. We will never know if Obama might have driven a much harder bargain; he gave up so quickly and easily on single-payer and the public option to secure this compromise. Remembering the disastrous system that the Republicans tried so hard to defend, we'll take it, and remain hopeful about what the future shall bring.
No. 2: Obama has been the best friend gay, lesbian and transgender citizens ever had in the White House, as he has semi-reluctantly participated in a unique era of "civil rights." Again, as with health care, while he had a friendlier House of Representatives, in 2010 Obama pushed through legislation which repealed the Clinton era "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy which continued the ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in the military. The clunky policy, which at least did end the witch hunts that were prevalent before it was enacted, had long grown stale as society as a whole had moved toward much greater acceptance of gays and lesbians. The President and Defense Secretary Gates (a Republican) certified that the military was ready for this significant change in policy in 2011, and this ignorant and unjust state of affairs in American history was rectified. The next big LGBT issue was same-sex marriage. A few states were miles ahead of Obama on this issue, who had calculatingly campaigned as being against same-sex marriage, though in favor of civil unions/domestic partnerships and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). By 2012 he said his views "had evolved" (coincidentally along with rapidly changing public opinion) and now was in favor of same-sex marriage. This announcement, six months before the November elections may have marked the high point of Obama's presidential courage. It was a bold move, and the right move, but not without political risk. He backed this announcement up by claiming that DOMA, which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex unions (even civil unions) from other states, was unconstitutional, and his Justice Department would not longer defend the law in court. The 1996 law was introduced by conservatives in Congress, but widely supported, and signed into law by, you guessed it, Blue Dog Bill Clinton. Republicans were outraged by Obama's refusal to defend the law, and determined that the House of Representatives would hire a lawyer to defend it themselves. But in June of 2013, the CorpCon Supreme Court surprisingly struck down DOMA. Ironically, the two laywers who argued for the Court to end the law were Republican Ted Olson and Democrat David Boies, who had opposed each other in the landmark Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore.
Much work remains to be done on the LGBT front. Same-sex marriage remains illegal in most of the 50 states, though, embarrassingly for conservatives, those state constitutional amendments prohibiting such marriages they rushed through "to protect the sanctity of marriage" are being unceremoniously junked by the court system. Reportedly, the "sanctity of marriage" is hale and hearty as an onslaught of gays and lesbians head to the altar. Yet another Conservative Myth is exposed for its utter ridiculousness.
Meanwhile, it is still illegal for transgender citizens to serve in the military, even though there are an estimated two thousand, at least, currently clandestinely serving. Discrimination is still rampant against transgender people in the fields of education, housing, employment and health care. Full civil rights for the LGBT community are yet to come, but Obama will go down as the first real LGBT presidential champion.
No. 3: The world was warned in the 1980s by scientists about global warming, or "climate change" as it has been cowardly recoined. ("Climate change!" What does that mean? The climate's always changing. Sometimes it gets colder and sometimes hotter. Global cooling would also be a serious problem, but that's not the particular problem we're facing here folks; it's global warming!) Ronald Reagan ignored it. Bush the First ignored it. Bill Clinton ignored it. They could get away with it; the predicted effects were not yet noticeable, and the time-frame for the worst effects safely beyond their own terms. By the time of George W. Bush, ice caps were melting faster than predicted, storms were becoming more freakish and prolonged drought had descended upon wide swaths of the American south, midwest and southwest. A devastating heatwave killed 35,000 in Europe in 2003. Yet Bush Junior chose to ignore it all, too. Of course he would. The No. 1 cause of global warming, according to the experts, is the burning of fossil fuels, an activity close to the heart of both Mssrs. Bush, as well as the Republican Party and conservative ideology. Nothing smells better to a conservative than the smell of oil or coal burning. That's the smell of money in the pocket, boy! The No. 2 producer of greenhouse gasses is factory farming. Hey, a good-old-boy from Texas ain't gonna mess with the cattle bidness either! Bush did worse than ignore the situation; he encouraged proliferation of the conservative meme that, at best, there is scientific disagreement on the subject, and at worst, the whole thing is a liberal hoax. He backed the U.S. out of the Kyoto Protocols which would have sharply curbed greenhouse gas emissions, then refused to institute any restrictive measures on such gasses (principally CO2 and methane), and pressured American scientists at NASA and NOAA to suppress and censor discussion of global warming, while taking climate change talking point advice from executives at Exxon! As badly as he screwed up the wars and the economy and America's honor, George W. Bush may well be most reviled by future generations for being the utter jerk-ass president who did all he could to ensure that global warming would happen... with a vengeance.
Obama got the U.S. off the dime, at least, renewing U.S. participation in international efforts, and bypassing the gridlocked Congress by signing his own executive orders that sought to significantly cut carbon pollution from power plants, and mandating significantly higher standards for new plants. His economic policies have also spurred solar, biomass and wind energy to unprecedented heights, as well as creating expanding viability for electric cars and trains. All of this has ensued even as the oil business has boomed on his watch (what a terrible communist he is). Obama is also the first American president to draw up preparations for how to deal with global warming. Imagine: over 30 years of dire warnings about global warming, and the U.S. government never before bothered to even draw up a plan of action! This information will provide a needed guideline for federal, state and local governments, as well as for businesses and individuals as the inevitable warming trend deepens.
Importantly, Obama also raised vehicle fuel-efficiency in America. Those cars boasting 44MPG; you can thank Obama for insisting that more of those hit the roads. Even higher efficiency is mandated for upcoming years.
Whether or not the paltry measures that have so far been generated by the world community to curb greenhouse gasses will morph into a more serious effort remains to be seen, as does whether or not it is already too late to stem a ferocious planetary response. As the largest (by far) historical contributor to global warming, and the current No. 2 polluter, the U.S. is the big ape in the room. Why should the other newcomers to the gas-spewing binge (China, India, et al) tighten their gas bags when the big guy won't do squat? Obama is the first president to significantly address this issue, but even the President of the United States is a bit player in this planetary dilemma. Only a united, concerted worldwide effort will in any way mitigate the potentially disastrous effects of global warming. This is both a crisis, and a great opportunity for all of humanity to come together to work on a massive project with dire implications for almost every living human. Obama has at least gotten us off the pot.
Alas, that is a grand overstatement. The biggest teeth in Dodd-Frank allows the government to seize corporations that have managed to get themselves into a financial crisis that may imperil the economy. That's pretty significant, and may give some big banks and insurance companies pause before engaging in such unruly behaviour as led to the 2008 meltdown. Wouldn't it be absolutely invigorating to see a giant bank temporarily nationalized and most of its thug executives unceremoniously dumped on their asses? Well, we can dream. But a rule in the bill that reinstated the Glass-Steagall provision that depository banks could not engage in investment schemes was stripped in the Senate. The big banks got to enough senators to deny the return, in any form, of their hated Glass-Steagall. The eviscerated law passed in the friendly Congress, but did not address the root causes of the 2008 economic fiasco. There are fewer banks now than then, and they remain "too big to fail," and their executives "too big to jail." Here's a good synposis of what really happened in this attempt at financial reform: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-wall-street-killed-financial-reform-20120510
Perhaps the most important component of Dodd-Frank was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the idea of Elizabeth Warren. Why has it taken so long to have such a thing? The government has sure done a bang-up job for decades of protecting business. Think about it. Aren't the consumers of America synonomous with We the People, which the government is bound to protect? Finally we regular people have such an ally in the government, and it has some teeth.
The Credit Card Act of 2009 was an effort to roll back some of the more egregious predatory habits of the credit card industry. The law sought to help reduce the complexity and opaqueness and "gotcha" tactics of credit card agreements (those pages of tiny type that no one ever reads, but contain some sneaky practices of the credit card companies as they skew the entire relationship between themselves and you, the borrower, in their favor.) It required credit card companies to apply payments to the portion of your bill with the highest interest, rather than toward the portion with the lowest interest. It banned retroactive rate increases, ended late-fee traps, required customer opt-in to over-limit fees, limited fees of gift cards, and restrained unfair "sub-prime" fees. The law increased penalties for credit card company violations, and held regulators accountable for enforcing the new law. Obama and the Democrats tried to establish a maximum credit card interest rate of 30%, but the Republicans refused even this high rate, preferring to keep the sky-is-the-limit potential for their credit card company buddies.
The Credit Card act has alleviated some of the worst of credit card company abuses for millions of customers. It is a shame that this achievement of Obama's is not more widely recognized.
In his 2012 re-election bid, Obama faced Mitt Romney, who not even the Republicans wanted as their nominee, but they couldn't find anyone better. Romney made for a deeply flawed candidate. Yet another Daddy's Boy (continuing the tradition of the Republican "Born on Third Base" brigade), a Massachusetts "liberal" according to his more conservative Republican challengers, the second-worst job producer in the nation as governor, a chronic flip-flopper on the issues, a bumbler-stumbler, foot-in-mouther in his rhetorical approach (also nothing new for Republican presidential candidates), a vulture capitalist who padded his fortune by stripping corporations of their assets... and people, and a Mormon, the first to ever rise to such national prominence, Romney was no one's ideal candidate. To make matters much worse, the signature legislation of Obama's that Republicans were slobbering the hardest to fight over, "ObamaCare," started off in Massachusetts as "RomneyCare." As his primary challengers never failed to taunt, "Romney is the last Republican who can argue against ObamaCare."
In the primaries, Romney posed as "severely" conservative, confident that few would understand he was a severe corporate conservative, far less of a social conservative. One by one, those pretenders who would try to outflank him on the socially conservative side shot themselves in the foot. Like McCain four years earlier, Romney was the last guy standing.
Still the Republicans were confident. Romney was a handsome white man running against a black man whose 2008 magic had faded. Romney knew he had all conservative voters on his side; they would vote for Lucifer, himself, if running against Obama. And he figured the corporations would not be so enamored of Obama this time around, so he should be able to win the fund-raising game. Winning was just a matter of scooping off enough of the squishy middle. Surely there would be enough of them to kick Obama out of office.
Since the same black man had already beaten a white man (a "war hero", no less) for the presidency four years earlier, the most interesting historical, sociological note to the 2012 election was the fact that a Mormon won a major party's presidential nomination. Yet this stunning fact and the further strangeness of waves of evangelical Christians suddenly (and likely temporarily) throttling their animosity toward Mormonism in order to support someone/ anyone who was not Barack Obama was virtually ignored by media of almost all stripes (again confirming the overall conservative lean of the media). The rush of evangelicals and other conservative Christians to flip-flop their values and disregard the deep contradictions between Mormonism and the rest of Christianity was truly a humorous sight to behold. Eventually the media may want to reexamine the profound sociological implications of this phenomenon.
Despite snaring the bulk of the "Religious Right" that had crowed that it was responsible for both of Bush's elections, again it wasn't enough this time. Though entirely lacking the novelty, energy and excitement of the 2008 campaign, Obama still handily defeated Romney, and won a second term. A final precious moment was on election night itself, when pundits on that bastion of untruth, Fox News, kept predicting a Romney win. The boy genius himself, Karl Rove, even insisted after Ohio fell to Obama and networks were declaring his victory that there must be some mistake in Ohio; this wasn't possible. Hmmm, didn't the voting machine manipulation work out in Ohio as planned, Karl?
Whether hoodwinked by Fox News into a false sense of certainty of victory or not, Obama's re-election came as a shock to conservatives. The defeat was in some ways more devastating than the first time around. In 2008 the country was roiling with anti-Republican fervor after eight years of Bush screwups, and grumpy McCain and airhead Palin made for a better comedy team than serious contenders for the prize. In 2012 the Republicans had their best and brightest (such as that is), Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee Chair and "intellectual leader" of the party, who had endeared himself to both wings of conservativism (CorpCon and SoCon) with his whack-the-hell-out-of-liberal-programs budget proposal. The gravitas of the ticket far surpassed that of 2008's cantankerous old coot and looney .
But to no avail. Romney and Ryan got whipped nearly as badly as McCain-Palin (The electoral vote count for Obama in 2008 was 365-173, and in 2012 332-206). Once again, the American voters turned out to be a lot more liberal than in the conservative fairy tale. The 2012 election gave the Democrats three out of the last four in winning the popular vote for president (including Gore's popular vote win over Bush in 2000).
In the aftermath of the 2012 rout, conservatives nationwide were forced into long needed soul-searching. Many Republican pundits admitted that they didn't see it coming; they thought Obama was a goner; but the nation had changed; they had lost the gay issue, and were seriously behind in courting the Latino vote. Perhaps worst of all, women didn't like them. Their solutions revealed two camps. The "establishment," (i.e. CorpCons, wary of inheriting a block of useful idiots who can't win the presidency) advised a toning-down of the nastier rhetoric and moving back toward the political center. The other camp, the Tea Party (i.e. SoCons... albeit with certain CorpCon masters) advocated the exact opposite: double-down on the craziness, go even more extreme; the reason both McCain-Palin and Romney-Ryan lost is not because they were too conservative but because they weren't conservative enough! So far it appears that the radical right still has the upper hand in the party.
THE 2014 MID-TERMS
The conservatives came roaring back in the 2014 mid-term elections. Well, sort of. What was described as a "wave", a "shellacking," a "mandate," was really nothing of the sort. The national turnout was 35 percent. Some "wave" or "mandate!" A full sixty-five percent of eligible voters sat on their hands during the mid-term. This is lousy even for a mid-term election, which are always notorious for low turnout. As usual, conservatives feast on low voter turnout. As we have already discussed, the angrier party always has the advantage, and that's usually the conservatives who are perennially mad at the world. The lower the voter turnout, the fewer of the angry are needed to swing the election. While the squishy-middle (the FauxCons) became squishy-slackers sitting on their duffs watching reality television or glued to their cell phones, the angry, white vote helped the Republicans grab control of the Senate, extend their lead in the House, and pick up some governorships (from which they can play havoc in the 2016 elections).
The conservatives are crowing loudly, delighted with their "shellacking" of the Democrats, but they should be alarmed that even with all the momentum of a dud election, they still barely won in some of the elections in key battleground states. This bodes very ill for them in the 2016 election when a much higher percentage of voters will actually vote. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the voter turnout, the lower the chances of victory for the conservatives.
So now Obama faces an ever more hostile Congress than he has so far. And that's saying something. The hate, vitriol and intransigence will now only escalate. The Republicans have stood their ground so far, why change now? Change is not for conservatives, except to change things back to the way they used to be. That's what they think they have done in 2014, and will do even more signficantly in 2016.
Meanwhile, watch for a great deal of grandstanding from this mutant Congress. Though the House of Representatives has already voted to repeal Obamacare 500 times or something, the Republican Congress may now push through a full bill repealing the ACA. Of course, Obama will simply veto it. But they will continue to snipe at Obamacare, desperate to derail it before it becomes too popular among the populace.
A large and loud segment of the social conservatives are demanding that their representatives in Congress impeach Obama, their imagined "worst president in history" (though they really can't point to a single impeachable offense). Look for this to be a continual meme for the next two years, with the "moderate" Republicans (appearing so only in juxtaposition to the crazies out in the fringes of lunacy) continually trying to rein in the radicals from committing a self-inflicted shot to the head.
The "failed presidency" of Barack Obama that conservatives continually whine about is primarily a failure of the expectations that he himself set and that his supporters fully bought into. In reality he's been a decent president considering the bad hand he was dealt, and the soft way he chose to play it.
He certainly is nowhere close to the "worst president ever" as conservatives bray. That's just more projection on their part: trying to blame the other side for your own transgressions, in this case attempting to occlude a clear view of the real worst president ever, Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush. Conservatives so wish to hide the entire Bush debacle by blowing smoke all over Obama.
History will certainly judge Obama as a successful president. The facts are clear: Obama has cleaned up Bush's immediate messes pretty well. The stock market was plunging to frightening depths when Obama took over. The entire, connected world economy was wobbly. Jobs were hemorrahaging (nearly a million jobs were lost in Bush's last month in office alone). The economy, stock market and jobs have surged back under Obama. Far from being a "job killer," Obama has run circles around Bush in terms of nationwide job-creation, even while fighting the undertow of the extreme recession that he inherited from Bush and slashes to public jobs by conservatives nationwide.
A factoid not well enough known: most of the paltry job growth that took place during Bush's languid eight years were PUBLIC SECTOR jobs! But Public sector growth was effectively blocked from Obama's ledger (at the state and local level mostly) by Republicans. Thanks much, you jerks! Even so, over FIVE TIMES as many jobs have been created in America under Obama in five-and-a-half years compared with Bush in eight years. (You can keep check on this by going here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobs_created_during_U.S._presidential_terms.
So on the economic and financial scene, under the "socialist" Obama, the capitalists have continued to make out like bandits.
On the other two big Bush messes, Obama has methodically unwound us from both the Iraq and Afhanistan wars. No real skill involved with that; anyone but John McCain would have done the same; McCain, of course, promised America would be in Iraq for 100 years. Yes, Obama did get pressured by the conservatives and military into trying yet another "surge" in Afghanistan which didn't work at all, but even through that tactic he was resolute to get us mostly out of these countries, while the neocons clearly intended to keep us in them as long as possible. Otherwise why build a billion dollar embassy, the largest in the world, in Baghdad? Only when the Iraqi government demanded that the Americans leave did Bush, not Obama, sign the agreement to withdraw all troops by 2010, a timetable that Obama was only too happy to keep.
By contrast, Bush had no plans to get Americans out of Afghanistan; the "forgotten war" as it was called at the height of the Iraq conflict, apparently perhaps forgotten by Bush as well. Not really. One of the basic tenets of neocon ideology is that America should have military bases all over the world, and Afghanistan is a prime, strategic location - right there next door to Iran, and a short hop from Russia and China. Obama claims we will be mostly out of Afghanistan by early 2015. With Obama in office, we can be fairly assured that we will leave; if a Republican was president we could be fairly assured he would try to find a way to stay.
Both Afghanistan and Iraq were stupid, unnnecessary wars that never should have happened. Tactical and strategic strikes at specific targets (like the effort that nabbed Osama bin Laden) would have worked much better, and spared us much of the civilian "collateral damage," the animosity of those who were erstwhile U.S. supporters, the run-amok private contractors, the torture, thousands of American KIA and hundreds of thousands wounded physically and/or psychically, that type of thing. Instead we rampaged in and stirred the hornets nest in both countries, uncorking all the festering hatred in each region. The "spreading democracy" meme of the neocons was always just a ruse to play with weapons and secure (or steal) oilfields. It will be a long, long time before that area is ready for real democracy, and, sadly, both the Afghan and Iraqi people will bear the likely very violent brunt of the slow transition. Back at home in the USA, we can try to forget abuot it all, and now just have to worry about paying the bills for the neocon's two wars.
And yet, wait! Do the conservatives ever learn a lesson? No! With the abrupt and alarming emergence of the terrorist group ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant), conservatives are again howling for "boots on the ground," a return to conventional war in the Middle East. Well, that went so well last time, why not try it again? A mere (estimated) THREE-FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS, a spent military, with thousands of KIA and psychologically damaged U.S. soldiers the by-product of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz insanity, who wouldn't want to rush right back to the scene of high crimes?
God almighty, save us from these morons with a 15th Century mentality... and we're not talking about Islamists.
The LAST THING America should ever do again - until the end of the world - is return to ANYTHING that the George W. Bush regime thought was a good idea. All the Bush years will be recalled sadly by posterity. From his coronation by the Supreme Court to his idiotic twin tax cuts to September 11, 2001 to Iraq and Afganistan to the Shuttle Columbia disaster to Hurricane Katrina to doing nothing about global warming or immigration or spiraling health care or education costs to the collapse of the Republican Economy, the whole era was a bummer. That era symbolically came to a close with the election of Barack Obama, even if the deep problems lingered.
The historic, symbolic and idealistic value of the election of Barack Hussein Obama was in those elections themselves, not his governance. No doubt, Obama's story is inspiring and thoroughly American. His election is proof-positive that the dream of liberty, equality, justice for all and pursuit of happiness is still alive, if not overly abundant or consistent, in the United States. That a poor, interracial kid from a broken marriage could find a trail to the White House is, indeed, as laudable as it is remarkable. Obama's intelligence and resilience deserve praise (and stand in stark juxtaposition with the rich, daddy's-boy ease with which recent Republican presidential candidates have been handed on a silver platter their rendezvous with destiny, or infamy as the case may be). And he couldn't have done it without us, We the People, who threw aside old prejudices and old traditions to elect this black man, twice. Every American who has an ounce of true American values flowing in his or her blood should be thrilled that this could happen... even if they disagree 100 percent with Obama's political stance. Anyone who cannot do this can simply look in the mirror and see a racist staring back.
The sadder legacy of Barack Obama will be that he failed to ride the incredible mandate, energy and moral high ground he held in his hands following the 2008 election to take the whip to conservative ideology in all of its demented aspects... most particularly that of the CorpCons who have so thoroughly corrupted both the political and economic fabric of America... and the world. The titanic struggle of our day is but a new refrain of an ancient dichotomy: the ultra wealthy and powerful vs. the rest of humanity and the biosphere. At that crucial crossroad in 2009 when Obama took the presidency, he had it within his power to lead the nation, and the world, on to a more just, virtuous and sustainable pathway. Indeed, not just in America but around the world, people were looking to him as the real deal agent of change. But he took a pass, and played it safe. The disappointment of Barack Obama is that he took on the hero's personna to get elected, with thunderous liberal oration; a wave of people became true believers and were ready to propel him forward toward truly great liberal achievement. But then he put away the hero's cape and soaring rhetoric and donned the lawyer's cloak.
Rather than taking the brave and virtuous pathway, Obama stooped to pick up the worst of the CorpCon perps, dusted them off and sent them on their merry way, calling out to them, "Let's do lunch." Then he looked across to the seething tide that hated him and everything he and his black, "liberal" skin stood for, and smiled and waved, inviting them to tea and crumpets so as to chart a path, together as equal ideologies, right on down that very same, conservative, road to ruin. Just when the Republicans had done everything they could to de-legitimize their own party, Obama threw them a lifeline and hauled them back onboard as "bipartisan" partners. They grabbed the lifeline, climbed back out of the ocean of irrelevancy, and spit on their very savior. Loyal to party over country, the Republicans would do everything in their power to derail Obama, and the nation, to win back the office they consider rightfully theirs.
All the gnashing and whining of the SoCons about the "radical" black president they so wish to discredit, and even impeach (what a joke!), is revealed to be utter nonsense, based upon nothing other than their own ignorance and prejudice... and, as always, a passel of myths.
We liberals wish Obama was anything remotely close to what the Tea Party says he is... well, the socialist liberal accusation, anyway... not the looney-tunes Hitler-Stalin-Mao Muslim from Kenya nonsense. Alas, Obama is not the liberal he campaigned as; he's moderate by nature, and the only truth revealed by Tea Party antics is how un-American and un-Christian - and completely wacked- they really are.
As this chart clearly shows, far from being a Nazi-Communist, Obama has done little or nothing to slow the CorpCon tide of increased economic disparity as bad as was in the 1920s. Only a return to high taxes for the rich and corporations and the regulatory protecitons of the New Deal, the very mechanisms that allowed the Middle Class to flourish through those decades of the big "U" on the chart, will reverse this foreboding trend.
A true-blue liberal would have grabbed that golden teaching moment and shoved right down their throats everything that conservatives have conspired to do over the past 230-plus years to attempt to derail true American values. He or she would have clearly delineated the line between greed and virtue, and delighted in publicly reproaching, even humiliating, the idiot ideology that has reduced the great American Middle Class, that liberal economic policies created, to a whimpering shell of its former glory. They would have taken war criminals and bankster terrorists alike to the woodshed for a damn, good verbal spanking, the very least they deserve, if actual jail-time couldn't be arranged amidst a stampede of conservative subterfuge.
Instead of "Change We Can Believe In," we got the Great Compromiser, or rather the Lost Compromiser, because it's quite hard to compromise when there is nobody left in the room to compromise with, the Republicans having departed for SoreLoserVille and RacistAdelphia before Obama finished setting up his bipartisan, Lincolnesque cabinet. Do you recall any other "Great Compromisers" in history? Nope, because the greatest deeds, and the greatest positive change, comes from those who are quite unwilling to compromise when it comes to an unvirtuous system. Compromising with the Devil only guarantees you'll burn in hell. The compromisers of history become all too forgettable. The country had reached the nadir of conservative ideological karma upon Obama's election, and he rushed to include and comfort the karmic transgressors, thus thwarting the true justice this sour ideology fully deserved.
How much more refreshing and healthful for the Republic it would have been if Franklin Roosevelt 2.0 had roared into town and started rhetorically slicing and dicing the intransigent half-wits. No doubt the intransigents would have just further stiffened, but the bulk of the public - liberal-leaning as it is - might well have positively responded to such a show of strength, truth and virtue by the president and more resolutely done its part to ram through the change that is desperately needed in this country. And so the Change that should have happened, did not.
That day will come, perhaps soon. But it won't be Obama, we know that now. We should have known from his own history. Despite his soaring speeches, he has always been a conciliator, a compromiser, a policy wonk, a good people person, certainly a guy with a good heart. That's all laudable. He wants to do the right thing, but he's constitutionally not a game-changer. The "change" he apparently was talking about was a snip here or there around the edges, not the complete overhaul America needs to wash away nearly four decades of conservative political and economic idiocy.
THE CONSERVATIVE SUPREME COURT
The corporatocracy not only survived under Obama; it thrived (as it always seems to). And why not? Not only did it enjoy the petting touch of Obama and Holder and an ever-doting Fed, it had the backing of the usual, motley collection of paid-off politicians (Republican and Democrat) in Congress, as well as the most powerful CorpCon political force on the scene today: The Supreme Court.
This court is perhaps the most extreme Supreme Court in U.S. history. This court has done everything in its power to return the U.S. to the Gilded Age, when the rich and corporations reigned supreme. In some ways, that glitzy era would look jealously at how the system has been re-rigged, largely by the Supreme Court, to favor the One Percent.
The most aggregious ruling, of course, has been the case known as "Citizens United," in which the court, by a 5-4 count (all the Republican-nominated justices voted for; all the Democrat-nominated judges voted against), effectively codified the notion that corporations are people with their own right of free speech. At issue in the case was whether a nonprofit corporation, the conservative group "Citizens United," had the legal right to run commercials for their political documentary, Hillary: The Movie, a hit-piece on Hillary Clinton, smack during the 2008 presidential primary in which Clinton was running. Back up a few years: the group Citizens United had tried to unsuccessful to stop Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 from playing in movie theaters and being advertised during the 2004 election campaign. The Federal Election Commission rejected Citizens United's claim, stating that the Moore film was a legitimate commercial enterprise with intent to make a profit not just make a political statement. With that ruling, Citizens United decided it, too, would become a film-maker. The group created a couple of documentaries, and in 2008 produced the Clinton film. The U.S. District Court banned advertising for the film during the campaign, ruling that the film was really nothing more than electioneering, with "no purpose other than to discredit Clinton."
The case ended up at the Supreme Court and the monumental ruling that lifted the ban on corporations, nonprofits and unions with regard to spending on political "electioneering" communications. Like individuals, corporations are still limited as to how much they can donate to a particular politician or official campaign group, but the sky is the limit when it comes to spending or donations to outside groups or projects. This ruling reversed over 100 years of legal understanding. In fact, until the late 1970s, corporations were banned from ANY involvement in federal election campaigns. The remaining restraints on corporate election spending were flushed down the toilet with Citizens United, and, instead, a back-flood of corporate cash directed at political action committees (PACs) and "Super PACs" gushed into the public discourse, a significant majority of that cash emanating from conservative sources in favor of conservative politicians and policies.
Of course, conservatives will be quick to declare that this ruling is fair and square, working both ways, with unions, usually liberal-leaning, able to fully participate in the free-spending just like corporations, the vast majority of which trend conservative by nature. That's quite the laugh, as unions have never had anywhere close to the cash and clout of the combined might of conservative corporations... AND for the past 30 years conservatives have done everything they can to DESTROY unions, and have largely succeeded in doing just that! So the true effect of the Citizens United ruling was to even more drastically tilt the playing field in favor of conservativism, at least corporate conservativism, which is the most dangerous form of this selfish ideology.
The Supreme Court followed up Citizens United in 2014 with another stunner. In "Burwell v. Hobby Lobby" the Court basically ruled that corporations not only have the rights of free speech, they can have "religious rights," as well! The conservative corporation Hobby Lobby objected to having to pay for ACA-mandated insurance provisions that provided contraceptives to its female employees. The Supreme Court agreed (again by the same 5-4 margin; Republicans vs Democrats), allowing Hobby Lobby to opt out of these provisions, allowing, in effect, the corporation to force its "religious rights" on all of its female employees - real life, actual persons - whether or not they held those same beliefs. So, in the conservative Court's opinion (again by 5-4, conservative/liberal vote), the "religious right" of the corporation trumped the coporation's employees right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.
Yes, folks, we have entered the Twilight Zone of zombie capitalism.
And so here we stand today. The Battle Royale is, indeed, class warfare... and the upper class is certainly winning (as usual). On one side of this conflagration is that majority that work hard but can't seem to get ahead as the entire system seems ever more rigged against them, and on the other side stand the very few who have grandly succeeded at concentrating ever more wealth and power into their hands, aided and abbeted their enablers: the sheeple who stubbornly, ignorantly support these narcissistic charlatans.
It is critically important to CorpCons to be able to fully leverage their significant money advantage to influence governmental policy. Their overall policies primarily serve their own tiny minority of the rich and powerful, and so will never achieve widescale public support. So they are left with the tactics of lies, distortions, obfuscations and fear-mongering to hoodwink just enough voters to help elect their hand-picked goons, and the systematic buying-off of other elected (and unelected) officials so that their policy requests find friendly ground in the halls of local, state and federal governmental bodies and agencies.
The "Citizens United" case drew back the curtain on this nefarious system. The conservative Supreme Court affirmed that Citizens United is just the start. A hyper-corporatist Supreme Court plans on ever tightening the screws of the plutocracy upon the common American citizen and the commons.
Filthy rich and influential CorpCons such as the Koch Bros, Sheldon Adelson, Art Pope, Paul Singer, Peter Thiel, Richard Uihlein, Robert Mercer, Robert Rowling, John Ricketts, Thomas Jordan, the Perenchios, Virginia James, the Klarmans, Ronald Firman, Sean Fieler, Robert McNair, and many others are thrilled with their Supreme Court buddies and their decisions. Money has never gone further in American politics.... and, make no mistake, the lion's share of that money skews conservative. Why? It's simple logic: most billionaires and millionaires are greedy corporatists, and greedy corporatists are best served by CorpCon policies.
Yes, (somewhat surprisingly, and proving that even the very rich can have empathy and virtue) there are filthy rich liberal donors, but they are easily outgunned by the Cons. For instance, of the 10 richest Americans, eight are confirmed, activist conservatives, and the other two (Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) are centrists, typically shunning political spending. Meanwhile, the two Koch Brothers control $100 Billion. In comparison, George Soros, the billionaire boogeyman that conservatives put up as the counter-balance to the Kochs, has a paltry $24 Billion in his pantry. In the 2012 election, the top 33 billionaire contributions (to open sources) tallied $129 to conservatives and $44 to liberals. Who the hell knows how much they contributed to "dark money" organizations that do not have to release information on their donors. Unions? Thirty years of constant degredation by conservative policies have left them a shell of their former selves. In 2012 the Koch Brothers spent more ($412.67 milllion) than double the top 10 unions combined ($153.47 million)! In the 2014 mid-term elections, the Kochs are expected to spend as much as $290 million (that's equal to the average LIFETIME EARNINGS of 145 Americans) to elect conservatives to offices nationwide, most of that money funneled through a complicated web 17 "dark money" or "shadow" orgnanizations they have set up (thanks to Citizens United).
All by themselves, the conservative Koch Brothers outspent the Top Ten Unions by over 2-1.
Is any of this really new? Haven't the rich always thrown their weight around in American politics? Yes and no. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. That's been going on for thousands of years. Buying off politicians and finding ways to influence legislation and judicial verdicts has long been a game that the wealthy regarded as exclusively theirs to play. But it hasn't always been so darned easy. Tellingly, during the times when the Middle Class was growing, when workers' unions were strong and taxes were high, the rich had some push-back to a significant degree.... and lo and behold the economy was healthier than ever! But that counter-balance is in shambles now, and the rich and their corporations have NEVER had it this soft and fluffy. They now have virtual carte-blanche to at least attempt to buy each and every election, every year and on every level, local, state and national, and hardly anything stands to vigorously oppose them.
Except one entity: We the People!
Our nation is more perilously close to being taken away by the oligarchy and their corporations than ever before. Over the past 34 years, CorpCons ideology has gotten its way. The Holy Trinity of the CorpCons is always 1) Low Taxes, 2) Little or No Regulation, and 3) Little or No Supervision of How Wealth and Power are wielded to conserve and continue the advantage of the hierarchy. Today every one of these elements is firmly in favor of the CorpCons.
That's the bad news. As of now the economy is almost wholly in the hands of the CorpCons, and their modus operandi is directed solely by greed, not at all by what is best for the "general welfare" of the United States of America.
And here's just one of those terrorists right here: Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli. This creep bought out a company providing a drug for cancer and AIDS patients, then promptly raised the price FIVE THOUSAND PERCENT! He says his only regret was not being able to raise it higher! Listen to the Logic of Modern Predatory Capitalism, right here. "The goal is to go to 100% of the 'profit curve' as we're all taught in MBA class." Unsaid but implied: "Regardless of the damage to humans, humanity or the planet!"
The good news is that continuously through the history of America the SoCons have been taking a beat-down. That has continued right on through the recent re-hijacking of the economy by the CorpCons. While the Corpies have reaped record profits, consolidated their gains, institutionalized their influence within governance, and puffed themselves up to "Masters of the World" proportions, the SoCons have witnessed a winnowing of their numbers, their influence and the tenability of their "traditional values" in the modern world. Or we should more rightly say "post-modern" world, which is busy "deconstructing" each and every "traditional value" to ascertain its real value, and in many cases determining, correctly, that it has no value at all... and thus deserves "de-valuing" in the greater scheme of things. The entire worldview of social conservatives is now at risk, as never before in world history.
This phenomenon is most dramatically evidenced in recent decades by Gay Rights. Social conservatives drew the line on this issue, throwing all of their weight into manning the barricades on every level. This so-called "abomination before the Lord" (but carefully read the full Leviticus text before you start throwing stones) has steamrolled the holy rollers, and it now seems certain that gay marriage and other LGBT rights will be the law of the land in all 50 states in relatively short order. This stinging defeat to tens of millions of SoCons has been dealt by a relatively small, scraggly, barely organized group of American citizens, the LGBT community, the majority of them actually hiding in silence. But they had something on their side that the SoCons did not: true American (and Christian) values. And, in the end, it seems these values find a way to prevail.
This just the latest in a long, long series of SoCon defeats over the course of American history. In general, SoCons have opposed EVERY inch of progress in our nation's stumbling effort toward a more perfect union. And current demographics don't bode well for their woebegotten worldview. Even their own children are abandoning it in droves.
That's not to say that the danger from social conservatives is past. Indeed, as they feel more and more embattled, further pushed into their untenable corner, their world and myths crumbling before them, those true myth-believers remaining may become ever more rabid and potentially violent. We've been down this road before in American history. A lone maniac can wreak havoc upon the nation. A perilous journey lies ahead as we attempt to coax these wayward citizens, and brothers and sisters, back towards more virtuous truth and more authentically American and Christian values.
The myths of the SoCons are being exposed for what they are: myths, not truth, not liberty and justice for all, not equality, not love, not virtue. The myths of the CorpCons are still holding sway, mesmerizing just enough of the electorate to keep winning elections and hold on their precious hierarchy.
Yet one must wonder for how long the CorpCons themselves can continue their myth-spinning wizardry in their castles in the sky. The actual facts, real data, supporting their myths are nowhere to be found. They don't exist. As more and more citizens awaken to this, which is already happening, the CorpCons will find fewer and fewer believers. At the same time, as social conservative myths continue to be exposed and their numbers shrink, as they become less and less influential in the body politic, as they, themselves see the light of how they have been manipulated by CorpCon ideology, and how it has actually, all along, been the hated LIBERALS who were trying to help them out economically, the Corpies will inevitably lose their "Zombie Army." And without those conservative "useful idiots," the CorpCons have no true power base.
So it seems certain that true American (and Christian) values will some day prevail even against the Masters of the Universe. A liberal, assessing all the available data, calculating the arc of history, as well as factoring in the ever-accelerating rate of change, would wager that this time is coming soon.