Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Oligarchs Strike Back

War Declared on Populism

Or maybe it would be safer to say that a surge has been declared in a war on the ordinary people that business has been waging pretty much since the American Revolution. Here's the item that has me upset, from TPMMuckraker.
Alarmed at the increasingly populist tone of the 2008 political campaign, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is set to issue a fiery promise to spend millions of dollars to defeat candidates deemed to be anti-business.

"We plan to build a grass-roots business organization so strong that when it bites you in the butt, you bleed," chamber President Tom Donohue said....

Although Donohue shied away from precise figures, he indicated that his organization would spend in excess of the approximately $60 million it spent in the last presidential cycle. That approaches the spending levels planned by the largest labor unions....

"I'm concerned about anti-corporate and populist rhetoric from candidates for the presidency, members of Congress and the media," he said. "It suggests to us that we have to demonstrate who it is in this society that creates jobs, wealth and benefits -- and who it is that eats them."
I'm bewildered. What 'candidates deemed to be anti-business' could Lord Donohue be referring to? All of the front runners of both parties are clearly bought and paid for. Sure, John Edwards has declared a desire to reduce the power of the biggest multinational corporations, but the furniture stores on Main Street don't have to be afraid of anything. In fact if you look at the Saudi princes who are the biggest beneficiaries of tax breaks to Exxon, Enron and others, maybe the 'U.S.' chamber of commerce should consider changing their name. Besides, Edwards isn't doing that well. So do you think Ralph Nader is poised to make a miracle comeback? I think the concern about anti-corporatist rhetoric is misplaced.

So, I've written an open letter in response to Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

I think it's time for a reality check Mr. Donohue. Is there any validity to your complaint that you're not getting enough input into the political process?

Current campaign laws combined with the dubious principle of Corporate Personhood make your donations to candidates and your third party political ads to be 'free speech.' Imagine that - a corporation that speaks. Not only that, but the major media are owned by corporations - so you also have the power to stifle the free speech of anyone whose ideas you don't like, as Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul know only too well. The synergy of this is awesome to behold. The candidates have to toe your line to get advertising dollars, which you just get back in revenues at the television and radio stations you own. Pretty slick.

You've created a special industry of over 30,000 lobbyists, the vast majority working for corporations to make sure your point of view is always on the agenda of every elected representative in the country between election cycles. It would seem on the surface that your influence on the political process is overpowering. And you have the nerve to begrudge the common man his input for the less than a minute he spends in the booth every four years? It just doesn't pass the laugh test.

OK, reality check part 2: While you're busy whining about how hard done by your ultra-wealthy membership is, how have you been doing on advancing your agenda?

Well, the percentage of government revenues coming from taxes on business has steadily declined over the last half century. Environmental regulations have been weakened, and those still left are no longer enforced. The heads of regulatory bodies under the Bu$hCo regime are themselves from the industries they are supposed to police. Likewise, business-friendly labor laws have weakened the unions, who now have a much smaller fraction of the workforce on their roles than they used to.

Antitrust laws haven't produced a meaningful lawsuit in some time. There was a significant judgment against Microsoft over Windows 95, but it was never enforced. Hell, Exxon still hasn't paid any fines over the Valdez oilspill in Alaska. CEOs salaries are off the charts, golden parachutes assure that there is no accountability. The most recent outrage is this story about Stanley O'Neal - whose stewardship of Merril Lynch cost the company $15 Billion in write-downs, but left him with a handsome $101 million pay-out. That's pretty hard to swallow for the working stiff who can't even cope with the rising cost of just about everything or the possible loss of his job or home.

Reality check, part 3 - What are the electorate seeing as the result of your success at getting your own way?

Globalisation has allowed you to outsource to other countries, increasing your profits, decreasing the taxes paid to the U.S. government - all on the backs of your workers, many of whom are now your ex-workers. Unemployment is up by 5%, but that should make you happy because it drives the cost of labor down domestically. Who cares how many people lose their homes over it? Or that the result is a nation-wide recession? The fact is the top 1/10th of 1% have been strip mining the American economy since the Reagan years, and this is the result. You've got yours, to hell with anyone else, right? I swear your overall objective is to bring back the Dark Ages under a system of Corporate Feudalism.

As for who it is that creates wealth and benefits for society, it is and always has been the 'little guy' whose input into the political process you so fear. I'm calling you on that bullshit Mr. Donahue. If you want to call your beloved corrupt Republican party "the party of Lincoln," perhaps you should heed what he had to say on the subject:
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.
Capital is only the fruit of labor,
and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed.
Labor is superior to capital,
and deserves much the higher consideration."
-- Abraham Lincoln --
That must sound like Marxism to your ears. In fact, I would almost guess old Karl may have read Lincoln when I read this.
"Capital is dead labor,
which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor,
and lives the more, the more labor it sucks."
-- Karl Marx --
And speaking of Karl Marx and Corporate Personhood, don't forget he also said,
"In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality,
while the living person is dependent and has no individuality."
-- Karl Marx --
Sounds pretty prophetic to this LIVING, BREATHING person. Have a nice day, Mr. Donahue. On second thought, don't bother. Frankly I found that threat about biting me on the butt kind of distasteful.

Further Reading:
John Edwards: My Plan to Stop Corporate Abuses
Corporate Media Trashes Edwards
Alicia Morgan: Neocons fear Populism

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