Monthly Archives: November 2013

General Smedley Butler’s War Is a Racket

 War Is A Racket

By Major General Smedley Butler

 Contents

 Chapter 1: War Is A Racket

Chapter 2: Who Makes The Profits?

Chapter 3: Who Pays The Bills?

Chapter 4: How To Smash This Racket!

Chapter 5: To Hell With War!

Smedley Darlington Butler

Born: West Chester, Pa., July 30, 1881

Educated: Haverford School

Married: Ethel C. Peters, of Philadelphia, June 30, 1905

Awarded two congressional medals of honor:

1.  capture of Vera Cruz, Mexico, 1914

2.  capture of Ft. Riviere, Haiti, 1917

Distinguished service medal, 1919

Major General – United States Marine Corps

Retired Oct. 1, 1931

On leave of absence to act as

director of Dept. of Safety, Philadelphia, 1932

Lecturer — 1930’s

Republican Candidate for Senate, 1932

Died at Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, June 21, 1940

For more information about Major General Butler, contact the United States Marine Corps.

CHAPTER ONE

War Is A Racket

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them  spent  sleepless,  frightened  nights,  ducking  shells  and  shrapnel  and  machine  gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This  bill  renders  a  horrible  accounting.  Newly  placed  gravestones.  Mangled  bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep’s eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor.

The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other’s throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people — not those who fight and pay and die — only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.

There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.

Hell’s bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?

Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least,  is  frank  enough  to  speak  out.  Only  the  other  day,  Il  Duce  in  “International Conciliation,” the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:

“And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war — anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter’s dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.

Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if  not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen months.

Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the “open door” policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.

Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war — a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit — fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn’t they? It pays high dividends.

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits? Yes, and what does it profit the nation?

Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became “internationally minded.” We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington’s warning about “entangling alliances.” We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of   our   fiddling   in   international   affairs,   our   national   debt   had   jumped   to   over $25,000,000,000. Our total favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about $24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been ours without the wars.

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people — who do not profit.

CHAPTER TWO

Who Makes The Profits?

The  World  War,  rather  our  brief  participation  in  it,  has  cost  the  United  States  some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven’t paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children’s children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits — ah! that is another matter — twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket — and are safely pocketed. Let’s just take a few examples:

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people — didn’t one of them testify before a Senate  committee  recently  that  their  powder  won  the  war?  Or  saved  the  world  for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump — or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Or, let’s take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.

There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let’s look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times.

Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.

Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period.

Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren’t the only ones. There are still others. Let’s take leather.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That’s all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

International Nickel Company — and you can’t have a war without nickel — showed an increase in profits from a mere average of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly. Not bad? An increase of more than 1,700 per cent.

American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000 was recorded.

Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.

And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public — even before a Senate investigatory body.

But here’s how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought — and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn’t any American cavalry overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit in it — so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet.

Also somebody had a lot of mosquito netting. They sold your Uncle Sam 20,000,000 mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers overseas. I suppose the boys were expected to put it over them as they tried to sleep in muddy trenches — one hand scratching cooties on their backs and the other making passes at scurrying rats. Well, not one of these mosquito nets ever got to France!

Anyhow, these thoughtful manufacturers wanted to make sure that no soldier would be without his mosquito net, so 40,000,000 additional yards of mosquito netting were sold to Uncle Sam.

There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting in those days, even if there were no mosquitoes in France. I suppose, if the war had lasted just a little longer, the enterprising mosquito netting manufacturers would have sold your Uncle Sam a couple of consignments of mosquitoes to plant in France so that more mosquito netting would be in order.

Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was getting theirs. So $1,000,000,000 — count them if you live long enough — was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers made their little profit of  30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.

Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢ [cents] to make and uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them — a nice little profit for the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers — all got theirs.

Why, when the war was over some 4,000,000 sets of equipment — knapsacks and the things that go to fill them — crammed warehouses on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime profits on them — and they will do it all over again the next time.

There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making during the war.

One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen 48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls. Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.

Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn’t ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well, some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels! Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war profit.

The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than $3,000,000,000 worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635,000,000 worth of them were made of wood and wouldn’t float! The seams opened up — and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed the profits.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself.  This  expenditure  yielded  $16,000,000,000  in  profits.  That  is  how  the  21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The Senate (Nye) committee probe of the munitions industry and its wartime profits, despite its sensational disclosures, hardly has scratched the surface.

Even so, it has had some effect. The State Department has been studying “for some time” methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan  to  spring.  The  Administration  names  a  committee  —  with  the  War  and  Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator — to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn’t suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Apparently, however, the plan does not call for any limitation of losses — that is, the losses of those who fight the war. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing in the scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye, or one arm, or to limit his wounds to one or two or three. Or to limit the loss of life.

There is nothing in this scheme, apparently, that says not more than 12 per cent of a regiment shall be wounded in battle, or that not more than 7 per cent in a division shall be killed.

Of course, the committee cannot be bothered with such trifling matters.

CHAPTER THREE

Who Pays The Bills?

Who provides the profits — these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them — in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us — the people — got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par — and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men — men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face”! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and  advice  and  sans  nation-wide  propaganda.  We  didn’t  need  them  any  more.  So  we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement — the young boys couldn’t stand it.

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead — they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded — they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too — they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam — on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain — with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don’t forget — the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share — at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn’t bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn’t.

Napoleon once said,

“All men are enamored of decorations . . . they positively hunger for them.”

So by developing the Napoleonic system — the medal business — the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn’t join the army.

So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side .

. . it is His will that the Germans be killed.

And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies . . . to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill . . . and be killed.

But wait!

Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance — something the employer pays for in an enlightened state — and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.

Then, the most crowning insolence of all — he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.

We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back — when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work — at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds!

Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly — his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too — as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.

And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering and still paying.

CHAPTER FOUR

How To Smash This Racket!

WELL, it’s a racket, all right.

A few profit — and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation — it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages — all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers — yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders — everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half  of  their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn’t they?

They aren’t running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren’t sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren’t hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket — that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won’t permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people — those who do the suffering and still pay the price — make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn’t be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant — all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war — voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms — to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide — and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can’t go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

1.  We must take the profit out of war.

2.  We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.

3.  We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.

CHAPTER FIVE

To Hell With War!

I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war.

Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had “kept us out of war” and on the implied promise that he would “keep us out of war.” Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die.

Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly? Money.

An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly before the war declaration and called on the President. The President summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his group:

“There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American  bankers,  American  munitions  makers,  American  manufacturers,  American speculators, American exporters) five or six billion dollars. If we lose (and without the help of the United States we must lose) we, England, France and Italy, cannot pay back this money . . . and Germany won’t. So . . . “

Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings, America never would have entered the World War. But this conference, like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a “war to make the world safe for democracy” and a “war to end all wars.”

Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy.

And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.

Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations of arms conferences. They don’t mean a thing. One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?

The professional soldiers and sailors don’t want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of  arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.

The chief aim of any power at any of these conferences has not been to achieve disarmament to prevent war but rather to get more armament for itself and less for any potential foe.

There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this, if it were possible, would not be enough.

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war — even the munitions makers.

So…I say,

TO HELL WITH WAR!

http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

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Naked Capitalism on Deficit Hysterics

This piece from Michael Hoexter, “Loathsome Wall Street Deficit Hysterics: ‘Blame the Old and Sick, Not Us,’” is rather thick but contains some real insight:

Deficit Hysteria as a Diversion from Wall Street Culpability and Fallibility

The timing of the deficit hysteria campaign is not well explained by the pecuniary benefits that Wall Street hopes to gain from a privatized Social Security or other financial “private-public partnerships” that will arise from austerity.  The potential for these benefits have been there for decades, while the deficit hysteric campaign swelled from a preoccupation of a few Washington insiders to the hegemonic position in the Washington elite within a matter of a year (2009-2010).  Peterson and Rubin had already been campaigning for more than 15 years to gut the welfare state in the guise of “entitlement reform” and “fiscal responsibility”.

Rather than the prospective gains that Wall Street hopes to harvest from a Grand Bargain, we need to look to those factors that were present in the period 2007-2010 to understand the campaign’s timing and intensification.  The proximal causes or precipitating events for the deficit hysteria campaign can be summarized as follows :

1)    The Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and immediately following, for Wall Street and some investors, the receding into the past in early 2009 of the “sky is falling” period of late 2008.

2)    Growth of a quasi-libertarian anti “bailout” discourse on Wall Street, just as Wall Street had been conveniently bailed out after the “sky is falling” period had ended.

3)    The rise in government budget deficits and government spending as the economy tanked, tax receipts plummeted, automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance kicked in, a stimulus package was implemented, and, in the US, a new Democratic Administration took office.

4)    After the election of a superficially left-of-center (in reality right-of-center) African American President, the old reactionary anti-Keynesian, racist, and crypto-racist Right rolled out an anti-Democrat and anti-Obama campaign of slander and exaggeration.

5)    Pete Peterson’s sale of the Blackstone Group and increase in his already considerable wealth, after which he promised to spend a good portion of it on his decades long anti-welfare state campaign

6)    With the Citizen’s United decision and a Supreme Court favorable to corporate and plutocratic power, a political atmosphere and legal environment of growing permissiveness for elites to manipulate elections and policy debates.

7)    President Obama’s shift or reversion to an anti-Keynesian, anti-stimulative economic policy soon after the implementation of the 2009 stimulus package.

Of these seven precipitating events, President Obama has played a pivotal role in providing intellectual and political support for the deficit hysteric campaign by applying his assumed but unjustified reputation as a liberal, as well as the powers of the office of the US President, to an intent focus on federal deficits.  President Obama had a critical role in the transition from a reluctant “Keynesian” stimulative approach to the economy of early 2009 to fiscal austerity thereafter.  Obama should be held accountable, at least in his reputation and legacy, for his abandonment of an expansionary fiscal policy targeting unemployment and boosting the real economy for policies tailor-made by and for Wall Street deficit hysterics over the last three years.  What would have been a line-up mostly of Wall Street and the far Right was made to seem a leadership “consensus” position via Obama’s measuring his economic performance by reference to reducing budget deficits and sponsorship, among other things, of a conclave of deficit hysterics in the form of his budget deficit commission.

While Obama’s role has been critically important, the primary constituency for his turn towards austerity was Wall Street and not the American people at large.  Wall Street’s sudden concern about governments’ “fiscal responsibility” in 2009 and beyond can be best understood as a combination scapegoating of government for Wall Street’s failings and misdeeds and an attempt to create a “balance of terror” at a very vulnerable time for Wall Street and its business model.

Wall Street had just crashed the world economy in a decade-long orgy of financial irresponsibility, systematic fraud, and predatory financial practices.  Wall Street had helped inflate a huge asset bubble and sold fraudulent financial instruments based on the notion, among others, that asset prices would continue their upward assent indefinitely.  Wall Street had used (private) debt, a.k.a. leverage, to take maximum advantage of the bubble that formed.  As the bubble burst, prominent Wall Street firms had become insolvent and more would have gone bankrupt if the financial system had not been bailed out by the Bush and Obama Administrations.

Via the false deficit hysteric narrative of government’s fallibility, liability, and potential insolvency, Wall Streeters and those who identify with them attempt to distance themselves from the bubble-prone, leverage-dependent nature of their business and exonerate the Wall Street perpetrators of financial mayhem and distract from the systematic fraud at the heart of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008.  While there were and are calls for holding Wall Street accountable and restructuring the private securities business along the lines of the Glass Steagall Act of 1933, the deficit hysteria campaign has been counter-propaganda aimed at the would-be prosecutor and regulator of Wall Street, the US federal government.  The moral and political outrage that should have been directed largely at Wall Street and its enablers in government, was instead diverted or countered by the falsely-premised, “fiscal responsibility” discourse.

The deficit hysteria campaign then becomes compellingly attractive for Wall Street’s representatives when it is employed as a ruse to escape their own culpability and to deny the fallibility of the financial markets upon which they base their living.  Some of them have then poured their money into what is meant to seem a high moral calling but is in fact an elaborate and destructive excuse for their own largely vaporous and toxic contribution to the economy, and, in many instances, to society as a whole.

Deficit Hysterics’ Total Moral Bankruptcy:  Misdirecting the Frustrations of Youth onto the Welfare State and the Elderly

But there is still one rung of moral turpitude below the irresponsibility and opportunism of the deficit hysteria campaign as an evasion of responsibility for the global financial meltdown.  We have seen more recently Pete Peterson’s group “Fix the Debt” and now the Wall Street tycoon Stanley Druckenmiller call for a form of intergenerational warfare in favor of cutting Social Security.  Starting from the premise that there is a fixed amount of money which is then divided between generations, payments to the the old and aging are targeted as the main fiscal and social problem by the likes of Fix the Debt and its front youth group “The Can Kicks Back”.  As with many of the supposedly “popular” initiatives of Fix the Debt and Peterson front groups, the amount of spontaneous interest by the “people” or “youth” is often outweighed by reports of an orchestrated campaign by paid staff.

In a now fairly well publicized and widely condemned speech to Bowdoin undergraduates, Wall Street tycoon and Bowdoin graduate Stanley Druckenmiller, a long-time deficit hysteric and someone who profited handsomely from the subprime meltdown (as a contrarian), decried Social Security as “generational theft”.  Druckenmiller, treated by some in the media as a daring truth teller because he included himself as one of the Baby Boomers who was stealing (via Social Security) from youth, omitted to mention to his audience that the dire outlook for the young has much to do with how he specifically made his billions.  Yves Smith has documented Druckenmiller’s financial career and how he is implicated in severity of the Global Financial Crisis which influences the employment outlook and earning potential of a majority of young people, far more than any payments made by government to the elderly.

The misdirection and moral perversions of Peterson’s and Druckenmiller’s generational warfare campaigns is, in addition, a dangerous travesty of the very real accusations that the current generations of younger people might have against older generations be they of Gen X, the Baby Boom or before.  The young should be angry that older generations have, for one, supported or acquiesced to the neoliberal ideology that has given morally and intellectually bankrupt rich people like Druckenmiller an honored and largely uncontested platform from which to speak to them.  The neoliberal ideology of which deficit hysteria is the latest outcropping, has ideologically elevated and promoted the socially destructive activities of the financial sector, i.e. people like Druckenmiller, Rubin, and Peterson.  In equal measure, policymakers inspired by neoliberalism have helped hollow out the economy of well-paying jobs and downgraded productive work, dispersing that productive work throughout the world to lower wage countries.  Furthermore that ideology, despite heaping lavish praise on innovation and entrepreneurship, has gutted governments’ critical supports for small businesses and funding for innovation more generally.

Mario Piperni on Neocon Bluster

Neocon Motto: You Can’t Ever Have Too Much Blood On Your Hands

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 BY  

John Bolton Reacts to Iran Deal  :   http://mariopiperni.com/

Nothing short of another war in the Middle East will satisfy the bloodthirsty needs of John Bolton and his neocon cronies.

On the November 25 edition of Fox’s America’s News HQ, Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton criticized the deal as ”abject surrender” to the Iranians. Bolton claimed sanctions “were never going to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons anyway” because” sanctions need to be administered by a living breathing president,” and in Bolton’s mind, Obama isn’t capable of success on this front. Bolton added that we must accept one of two propositions; a nuclear Iran, or support Israeli airstrikes.

Kristol, Krauthammer and the rest of the usual suspects are all saying the same, more or less. No degree of diplomacy on the part of President Obama will satisfy the chickenhawks because their only option in dealing with Iran (and every other foreign policy issue) is annihilation.

As for John Bolton, there has never been a war he did not love…as long, of course, as he was not personally involved.

Bolton supported the Vietnam War but enlisted in the Maryland Army National Guard to avoid being sent overseas, and consequently did not serve in Vietnam. He wrote in his Yale 25th reunion book “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy.

These people make it so easy to despise them in every way possible.

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Mario Piperni on the Iran Deal

Surprise! Republicans Criticize Iran Deal

NOVEMBER 24, 2013 BY  

Republican Elephant - Wingers in Space - http://mariopiperni.com/

The biggest nuclear breakthrough to come down the pipe in more than a decade,

The P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China,facilitated by the European Union) has been engaged in serious and substantive negotiations with Iran with the goal of reaching a verifiable diplomatic resolution that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

President Obama has been clear that achieving a peaceful resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is in America’s national security interest. Today, the P5+1 and Iran reached a set of initial understandings that halts the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects. These are the first meaningful limits that Iran has accepted on its nuclear program in close to a decade. The initial, six month step includes significant limits on Iran’s nuclear program and begins to address our most urgent concerns including Iran’s enrichment capabilities; its existing stockpiles of enriched uranium; the number and capabilities of its centrifuges; and its ability to produce weapons-grade plutonium using the Arak reactor. The concessions Iran has committed to make as part of this first step will also provide us with increased transparency and intrusive monitoring of its nuclear program.

…a deal that gives hope to the people of Iran that peace and change in an unforgiving and cynical world is possible,

Iran user: What a great morning! You wake up & facebook is full hope & joy, friends report an agreement. May this happen always.

…and yet, the right, as expected, freaks out on cue,

“Unless the agreement requires dismantling of the Iranian centrifuges, we really haven’t gained anything,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

“By allowing the Iranian regime to retain a sizable nuclear infrastructure, this agreement makes a nuclear Iran more likely,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, the freshman Florida Republican and potential presidential candidate in 2016. “This agreement shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that you can obfuscate, cheat, and lie for a decade, and eventually the United States will tire and drop key demands.”

“Iran will likely use this agreement – and any that follows that does not require any real concessions – to obtain a nuclear weapons capability,” he warned.

…and this piece of Goebbels-worthy garbage from Texas senator, John Cornyn:

Dumb.

Really, what the hell is wrong with these people? A negotiated deal with Iran, a year in the making, and the opening gambit in a plan that seeks peace and stability in the Middle East, is now perceived by the right as a distraction from the only issue that matters to them – taking down the Affordable Care Act.

Yes to manufactured scandals (Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi!) and yes to destroying the first real attempt to deal with a broken and dysfunctional health care system in which 50 million Americans are unable to afford health insurance…

…and no to dealing with the problem of nuclear proliferation and diplomatic solutions in place of military action.

Leadership and diplomacy from this president is something conservatives will never accept. We saw it last September when diplomatic efforts on the part of the Obama administration prevented a military strike on Syria and opened up the country to chemical weapons inspectors. In any reasonable scenario that should have been viewed as a diplomatic coup. Not so for Republicans who in the best of times would never be mistaken to be reasonable.

Amazing, Senator Cornyn? Not at all. It’s what smart and effectual leaders do – not that you’d know a whole hell of a lot about that.

Final thought: If President Obama really wanted a distraction from the ACA’s disastrous rollout, he’d actually make neocon’s wet dream of another Middle East war come true. He’d bomb Iran. I wonder what they’d have to say then.

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Mario Piperni on ‘Liberal’ JFK

Conservatives Claim JFK as One of Their Own

NOVEMBER 23, 2013 BY  

Republican politics for Dummies   :   http://mariopiperni.com/

Why am I not surprised by this?

As the nation mourns the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, conservative media figures have attempted to appropriate his legacy and attribute to the beloved former president their conservative ideas and positions. This effort runs counter to Kennedy’s stated positions, speeches, and other historical facts surrounding his presidency.

Is there a shortage of heroes on the right that they now have the need to appropriate liberals and claim them as their own?

What this is really about is that Americans have given JFK an 85% approval rating – the highest ranking among modern day presidents – and there is no way the right could allow that to stand without a fight. In any case, let’s allow the good citizens of Dumbfuckistan the opportunity to voice their thoughts on Kennedy and why they believe he was not really a liberal.

Glenn Beck:

“Who was John F. Kennedy? He has been co-opted by the left…if you could bring back the politician that JFK was, he wouldn’t be accepted by the Republican Party because he would be a Tea Party radical.”

Limbaugh:

“[Kennedy] was not in any way a liberal as you know Liberals today…Kennedy was not a big believer in the Civil Rights Act.”

Some Boston Globe winger:

“Kennedy was no liberal. By any reasonable definition, he was a conservative” and that “Today’s Democratic Party — the home of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Al Gore — wouldn’t give the time of day to a candidate like JFK.”

And on it goes, even though Kennedy was not shy to shout out his liberal creds…or even though a “Wanted for Treason” poster of Kennedy was circulated in and around Dallas in the days before that fateful day in November 1963.

jfk wanted

Sorry guys, you’re going to have to be satisfied with your deluded Reagan heroship. John F. Kennedy was an intellectual who would have been repelled by the sheer ignorance of today’s Republican/Tea Party – a sorry excuse for a political party overflowing with sociopaths and clowns. I’d love to know what JFK would have thought of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin and Louie Gohmert and Rand Paul and Rick Santorum and George W. Bush and Rick Perry and any number of crazies that have turned the Republican party into the laughing stock of the world. I’d think that Kennedy would sooner pluck out his left eye than be associated with any of these dumbasses.

Here’s a thought…any chance that in 2063, Republicans will claim Barack Obama was the country’s first black conservative president?

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Reclaim Democracy: The Powell Memo

This article can be found here: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

 

The Powell Memo (also known as the Powell Manifesto)

The Powell Memo was first published August 23, 1971

Introduction

In 1971, Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and member of the boards of 11 corporations, wrote a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum was dated August 23, 1971, two months prior to Powell’s nomination by President Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Powell Memo did not become available to the public until long after his confirmation to the Court. It was leaked to Jack Anderson, a liberal syndicated columnist, who stirred interest in the document when he cited it as reason to doubt Powell’s legal objectivity. Anderson cautioned that Powell “might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice…in behalf of business interests.”

Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.

Most notable about these institutions was their focus on education, shifting values, and movement-building — a focus we share, though often with sharply contrasting goals.*  (See our endnote for more on this.)

So did Powell’s political views influence his judicial decisions? The evidence is mixed. Powell did embrace expansion of corporate privilege and wrote the majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a 1978 decision that effectively invented a First Amendment “right” for corporations to influence ballot questions. On social issues, he was a moderate, whose votes often surprised his backers.

Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System

DATE: August 23, 1971
TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.

Dimensions of the Attack

No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility.

There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism). Also, there always have been critics of the system, whose criticism has been wholesome and constructive so long as the objective was to improve rather than to subvert or destroy.

But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

Sources of the Attack

The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.

The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by (i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and (ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.

Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.

Tone of the Attack

This memorandum is not the place to document in detail the tone, character, or intensity of the attack. The following quotations will suffice to give one a general idea:

William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the “American lawyer most admired,” incites audiences as follows:

“You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear.”2 The New Leftists who heed Kunstler’s advice increasingly are beginning to act — not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses: “Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists.”3 Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.

A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:

“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of ‘the politics of despair.’ These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans.”4 A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: “Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries.”5

A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: “It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack — not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.”6

Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who — thanks largely to the media — has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans. A recent article in Fortune speaks of Nader as follows:

“The passion that rules in him — and he is a passionate man — is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison — for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. He emphasizes that he is not talking just about ‘fly-by-night hucksters’ but the top management of blue chip business.”7

A frontal assault was made on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system by Yale Professor Charles Reich in his widely publicized book: “The Greening of America,” published last winter.

The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself. There are countless examples of rifle shots which undermine confidence and confuse the public. Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives through changes in depreciation rates and investment credits. These are usually described in the media as “tax breaks,” “loop holes” or “tax benefits” for the benefit of business. As viewed by a columnist in the Post, such tax measures would benefit “only the rich, the owners of big companies.”8

It is dismaying that many politicians make the same argument that tax measures of this kind benefit only “business,” without benefit to “the poor.” The fact that this is either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy is of slight comfort. This setting of the “rich” against the “poor,” of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.

The Apathy and Default of Business

What has been the response of business to this massive assault upon its fundamental economics, upon its philosophy, upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity?

The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors’ and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization. But the net effect of such response as has been made is scarcely visible.

In all fairness, it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it. The traditional role of business executives has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens. They have performed these tasks very well indeed.

But they have shown little stomach for hard-nose contest with their critics, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.

A column recently carried by the Wall Street Journal was entitled: “Memo to GM: Why Not Fight Back?”9 Although addressed to GM by name, the article was a warning to all American business. Columnist St. John said:

“General Motors, like American business in general, is ‘plainly in trouble’ because intellectual bromides have been substituted for a sound intellectual exposition of its point of view.” Mr. St. John then commented on the tendency of business leaders to compromise with and appease critics. He cited the concessions which Nader wins from management, and spoke of “the fallacious view many businessmen take toward their critics.” He drew a parallel to the mistaken tactics of many college administrators: “College administrators learned too late that such appeasement serves to destroy free speech, academic freedom and genuine scholarship. One campus radical demand was conceded by university heads only to be followed by a fresh crop which soon escalated to what amounted to a demand for outright surrender.”

One need not agree entirely with Mr. St. John’s analysis. But most observers of the American scene will agree that the essence of his message is sound. American business “plainly in trouble”; the response to the wide range of critics has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come — indeed, it is long overdue — for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it.

Responsibility of Business Executives

What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for businessmen to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management.

The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.

The day is long past when the chief executive officer of a major corporation discharges his responsibility by maintaining a satisfactory growth of profits, with due regard to the corporation’s public and social responsibilities. If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself. This involves far more than an increased emphasis on “public relations” or “governmental affairs” — two areas in which corporations long have invested substantial sums.

A significant first step by individual corporations could well be the designation of an executive vice president (ranking with other executive VP’s) whose responsibility is to counter-on the broadest front-the attack on the enterprise system. The public relations department could be one of the foundations assigned to this executive, but his responsibilities should encompass some of the types of activities referred to subsequently in this memorandum. His budget and staff should be adequate to the task.

Possible Role of the Chamber of Commerce

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one corporation to get too far out in front and to make itself too visible a target.

The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chambers of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role.

It hardly need be said that before embarking upon any program, the Chamber should study and analyze possible courses of action and activities, weighing risks against probable effectiveness and feasibility of each. Considerations of cost, the assurance of financial and other support from members, adequacy of staffing and similar problems will all require the most thoughtful consideration.

The Campus

The assault on the enterprise system was not mounted in a few months. It has gradually evolved over the past two decades, barely perceptible in its origins and benefiting (sic) from a gradualism that provoked little awareness much less any real reaction.

Although origins, sources and causes are complex and interrelated, and obviously difficult to identify without careful qualification, there is reason to believe that the campus is the single most dynamic source. The social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system. They may range from a Herbert Marcuse, Marxist faculty member at the University of California at San Diego, and convinced socialists, to the ambivalent liberal critic who finds more to condemn than to commend. Such faculty members need not be in a majority. They are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence — far out of proportion to their numbers — on their colleagues and in the academic world.

Social science faculties (the political scientist, economist, sociologist and many of the historians) tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that “balance” is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.

This situation extending back many years and with the imbalance gradually worsening, has had an enormous impact on millions of young American students. In an article in Barron’s Weekly, seeking an answer to why so many young people are disaffected even to the point of being revolutionaries, it was said: “Because they were taught that way.”10 Or, as noted by columnist Stewart Alsop, writing about his alma mater: “Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores’ of bright young men … who despise the American political and economic system.”

As these “bright young men,” from campuses across the country, seek opportunities to change a system which they have been taught to distrust — if not, indeed “despise” — they seek employment in the centers of the real power and influence in our country, namely: (i) with the news media, especially television; (ii) in government, as “staffers” and consultants at various levels; (iii) in elective politics; (iv) as lecturers and writers, and (v) on the faculties at various levels of education.

Many do enter the enterprise system — in business and the professions — and for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught. But those who eschew the mainstream of the system often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in.

If the foregoing analysis is approximately sound, a priority task of business — and organizations such as the Chamber — is to address the campus origin of this hostility. Few things are more sanctified in American life than academic freedom. It would be fatal to attack this as a principle. But if academic freedom is to retain the qualities of “openness,” “fairness” and “balance” — which are essential to its intellectual significance — there is a great opportunity for constructive action. The thrust of such action must be to restore the qualities just mentioned to the academic communities.

What Can Be Done About the Campus

The ultimate responsibility for intellectual integrity on the campus must remain on the administrations and faculties of our colleges and universities. But organizations such as the Chamber can assist and activate constructive change in many ways, including the following:

Staff of Scholars

The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system. It should include several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected — even when disagreed with.

Staff of Speakers

There also should be a staff of speakers of the highest competency. These might include the scholars, and certainly those who speak for the Chamber would have to articulate the product of the scholars.

Speaker’s Bureau

In addition to full-time staff personnel, the Chamber should have a Speaker’s Bureau which should include the ablest and most effective advocates from the top echelons of American business.

Evaluation of Textbooks

The staff of scholars (or preferably a panel of independent scholars) should evaluate social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology. This should be a continuing program.

The objective of such evaluation should be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom. This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism. Most of the existing textbooks have some sort of comparisons, but many are superficial, biased and unfair.

We have seen the civil rights movement insist on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools. The labor unions likewise insist that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor. Other interested citizens groups have not hesitated to review, analyze and criticize textbooks and teaching materials. In a democratic society, this can be a constructive process and should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.

If the authors, publishers and users of textbooks know that they will be subjected — honestly, fairly and thoroughly — to review and critique by eminent scholars who believe in the American system, a return to a more rational balance can be expected.

Equal Time on the Campus

The Chamber should insist upon equal time on the college speaking circuit. The FBI publishes each year a list of speeches made on college campuses by avowed Communists. The number in 1970 exceeded 100. There were, of course, many hundreds of appearances by leftists and ultra liberals who urge the types of viewpoints indicated earlier in this memorandum. There was no corresponding representation of American business, or indeed by individuals or organizations who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.

Every campus has its formal and informal groups which invite speakers. Each law school does the same thing. Many universities and colleges officially sponsor lecture and speaking programs. We all know the inadequacy of the representation of business in the programs.

It will be said that few invitations would be extended to Chamber speakers.11 This undoubtedly would be true unless the Chamber aggressively insisted upon the right to be heard — in effect, insisted upon “equal time.” University administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views, indeed, this is the classic excuse for allowing Communists to speak.

The two essential ingredients are (i) to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers; and (ii) to exert whatever degree of pressure — publicly and privately — may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak. The objective always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.

Balancing of Faculties

Perhaps the most fundamental problem is the imbalance of many faculties. Correcting this is indeed a long-range and difficult project. Yet, it should be undertaken as a part of an overall program. This would mean the urging of the need for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.

The methods to be employed require careful thought, and the obvious pitfalls must be avoided. Improper pressure would be counterproductive. But the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth are difficult to resist, if properly presented to boards of trustees, by writing and speaking, and by appeals to alumni associations and groups.

This is a long road and not one for the fainthearted. But if pursued with integrity and conviction it could lead to a strengthening of both academic freedom on the campus and of the values which have made America the most productive of all societies.

Graduate Schools of Business

The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools.

Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.

Secondary Education

While the first priority should be at the college level, the trends mentioned above are increasingly evidenced in the high schools. Action programs, tailored to the high schools and similar to those mentioned, should be considered. The implementation thereof could become a major program for local chambers of commerce, although the control and direction — especially the quality control — should be retained by the National Chamber.

What Can Be Done About the Public?

Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term. The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public. Among the more obvious means are the following:

Television

The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance. This applies not merely to so-called educational programs (such as “Selling of the Pentagon”), but to the daily “news analysis” which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system.12 Whether this criticism results from hostility or economic ignorance, the result is the gradual erosion of confidence in “business” and free enterprise.

This monitoring, to be effective, would require constant examination of the texts of adequate samples of programs. Complaints — to the media and to the Federal Communications Commission — should be made promptly and strongly when programs are unfair or inaccurate.

Equal time should be demanded when appropriate. Effort should be made to see that the forum-type programs (the Today Show, Meet the Press, etc.) afford at least as much opportunity for supporters of the American system to participate as these programs do for those who attack it.

Other Media

Radio and the press are also important, and every available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks, as well as to present the affirmative case through these media.

The Scholarly Journals

It is especially important for the Chamber’s “faculty of scholars” to publish. One of the keys to the success of the liberal and leftist faculty members has been their passion for “publication” and “lecturing.” A similar passion must exist among the Chamber’s scholars.

Incentives might be devised to induce more “publishing” by independent scholars who do believe in the system.

There should be a fairly steady flow of scholarly articles presented to a broad spectrum of magazines and periodicals — ranging from the popular magazines (Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, etc.) to the more intellectual ones (Atlantic, Harper’s, Saturday Review, New York, etc.)13 and to the various professional journals.

Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets

The news stands — at airports, drugstores, and elsewhere — are filled with paperbacks and pamphlets advocating everything from revolution to erotic free love. One finds almost no attractive, well-written paperbacks or pamphlets on “our side.” It will be difficult to compete with an Eldridge Cleaver or even a Charles Reich for reader attention, but unless the effort is made — on a large enough scale and with appropriate imagination to assure some success — this opportunity for educating the public will be irretrievably lost.

Paid Advertisements

Business pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the media for advertisements. Most of this supports specific products; much of it supports institutional image making; and some fraction of it does support the system. But the latter has been more or less tangential, and rarely part of a sustained, major effort to inform and enlighten the American people.

If American business devoted only 10% of its total annual advertising budget to this overall purpose, it would be a statesman-like expenditure.

The Neglected Political Arena

In the final analysis, the payoff — short-of revolution — is what government does. Business has been the favorite whipping-boy of many politicians for many years. But the measure of how far this has gone is perhaps best found in the anti-business views now being expressed by several leading candidates for President of the United States.

It is still Marxist doctrine that the “capitalist” countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.

Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of “lobbyist” for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the “forgotten man.”

Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen’s views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to “consumerism” or to the “environment.”

Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.

The educational programs suggested above would be designed to enlighten public thinking — not so much about the businessman and his individual role as about the system which he administers, and which provides the goods, services and jobs on which our country depends.

But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.

As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts

American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.

Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left.

The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense, has not been inconsequential.

This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.

Neglected Stockholder Power

The average member of the public thinks of “business” as an impersonal corporate entity, owned by the very rich and managed by over-paid executives. There is an almost total failure to appreciate that “business” actually embraces — in one way or another — most Americans. Those for whom business provides jobs, constitute a fairly obvious class. But the 20 million stockholders — most of whom are of modest means — are the real owners, the real entrepreneurs, the real capitalists under our system. They provide the capital which fuels the economic system which has produced the highest standard of living in all history. Yet, stockholders have been as ineffectual as business executives in promoting a genuine understanding of our system or in exercising political influence.

The question which merits the most thorough examination is how can the weight and influence of stockholders — 20 million voters — be mobilized to support (i) an educational program and (ii) a political action program.

Individual corporations are now required to make numerous reports to shareholders. Many corporations also have expensive “news” magazines which go to employees and stockholders. These opportunities to communicate can be used far more effectively as educational media.

The corporation itself must exercise restraint in undertaking political action and must, of course, comply with applicable laws. But is it not feasible — through an affiliate of the Chamber or otherwise — to establish a national organization of American stockholders and give it enough muscle to be influential?

A More Aggressive Attitude

Business interests — especially big business and their national trade organizations — have tried to maintain low profiles, especially with respect to political action.

As suggested in the Wall Street Journal article, it has been fairly characteristic of the average business executive to be tolerant — at least in public — of those who attack his corporation and the system. Very few businessmen or business organizations respond in kind. There has been a disposition to appease; to regard the opposition as willing to compromise, or as likely to fade away in due time.

Business has shunted confrontation politics. Business, quite understandably, has been repelled by the multiplicity of non-negotiable “demands” made constantly by self-interest groups of all kinds.

While neither responsible business interests, nor the United States Chamber of Commerce, would engage in the irresponsible tactics of some pressure groups, it is essential that spokesmen for the enterprise system — at all levels and at every opportunity — be far more aggressive than in the past.

There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders, the Marcuses and others who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.

Lessons can be learned from organized labor in this respect. The head of the AFL-CIO may not appeal to businessmen as the most endearing or public-minded of citizens. Yet, over many years the heads of national labor organizations have done what they were paid to do very effectively. They may not have been beloved, but they have been respected — where it counts the most — by politicians, on the campus, and among the media.

It is time for American business — which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions — to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.

The Cost

The type of program described above (which includes a broadly based combination of education and political action), if undertaken long term and adequately staffed, would require far more generous financial support from American corporations than the Chamber has ever received in the past. High level management participation in Chamber affairs also would be required.

The staff of the Chamber would have to be significantly increased, with the highest quality established and maintained. Salaries would have to be at levels fully comparable to those paid key business executives and the most prestigious faculty members. Professionals of the great skill in advertising and in working with the media, speakers, lawyers and other specialists would have to be recruited.

It is possible that the organization of the Chamber itself would benefit from restructuring. For example, as suggested by union experience, the office of President of the Chamber might well be a full-time career position. To assure maximum effectiveness and continuity, the chief executive officer of the Chamber should not be changed each year. The functions now largely performed by the President could be transferred to a Chairman of the Board, annually elected by the membership. The Board, of course, would continue to exercise policy control.

Quality Control is Essential

Essential ingredients of the entire program must be responsibility and “quality control.” The publications, the articles, the speeches, the media programs, the advertising, the briefs filed in courts, and the appearances before legislative committees — all must meet the most exacting standards of accuracy and professional excellence. They must merit respect for their level of public responsibility and scholarship, whether one agrees with the viewpoints expressed or not.

Relationship to Freedom

The threat to the enterprise system is not merely a matter of economics. It also is a threat to individual freedom.

It is this great truth — now so submerged by the rhetoric of the New Left and of many liberals — that must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom — ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism, as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas, such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor, and indeed of the public generally. But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.

In addition to the ideological attack on the system itself (discussed in this memorandum), its essentials also are threatened by inequitable taxation, and — more recently — by an inflation which has seemed uncontrollable.14 But whatever the causes of diminishing economic freedom may be, the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible. As the experience of the socialist and totalitarian states demonstrates, the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights. It is this message, above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.

Conclusion

It hardly need be said that the views expressed above are tentative and suggestive. The first step should be a thorough study. But this would be an exercise in futility unless the Board of Directors of the Chamber accepts the fundamental premise of this paper, namely, that business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.

Footnotes (Powell’s)
  1. Variously called: the “free enterprise system,” “capitalism,” and the “profit system.” The American political system of democracy under the rule of law is also under attack, often by the same individuals and organizations who seek to undermine the enterprise system.
  2. Richmond News Leader, June 8, 1970. Column of William F. Buckley, Jr.
  3. N.Y. Times Service article, reprinted Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 17, 1971.
  4. Stewart Alsop, Yale and the Deadly Danger, Newsweek, May 18. 1970.
  5. Editorial, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 7, 1971.
  6. Dr. Milton Friedman, Prof. of Economics, U. of Chicago, writing a foreword to Dr. Arthur A. Shenfield’s Rockford College lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” copyrighted 1970 by Rockford College.
  7. Fortune. May, 1971, p. 145. This Fortune analysis of the Nader influence includes a reference to Nader’s visit to a college where he was paid a lecture fee of $2,500 for “denouncing America’s big corporations in venomous language . . . bringing (rousing and spontaneous) bursts of applause” when he was asked when he planned to run for President.
  8. The Washington Post, Column of William Raspberry, June 28, 1971.
  9. Jeffrey St. John, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 1971.
  10. Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly, “The Total Break with America, The Fifth Annual Conference of Socialist Scholars,” Sept. 15, 1969.
  11. On many campuses freedom of speech has been denied to all who express moderate or conservative viewpoints.
  12. It has been estimated that the evening half-hour news programs of the networks reach daily some 50,000,000 Americans.
  13. One illustration of the type of article which should not go unanswered appeared in the popular “The New York” of July 19, 1971. This was entitled “A Populist Manifesto” by ultra liberal Jack Newfield — who argued that “the root need in our country is ‘to redistribute wealth’.”
  14. The recent “freeze” of prices and wages may well be justified by the current inflationary crisis. But if imposed as a permanent measure the enterprise system will have sustained a near fatal blow.

*One of our great frustrations is that  foundations and funders who prefer a democratic republic to corporate domination have failed to learn from the success of these corporate institutions. They decline to invest in long-term education and culture-shifting that we and a small number of allied organizations work to achieve. Instead, they overwhelmingly focus on damage control and short-term goals. This approach stands no chance of yielding the systemic change needed to reverse the trend of growing corporate dominance.

Patient nurturing of movement-building work remains the exception to the rule among foundations that purport to strengthen democracy and citizen engagement. The growing movement to revoke corporate personhood is supported almost entirely from contributions by individual (real) people like you. Please consider supporting the work of groups like Move to Amend, Free Speech for People and Reclaim Democracy! that devote themselves to this essential movement-building work, rather than short-term projects and results demanded by most foundations.

Addenda:

  • Washington and Lee University has created this archive (pdf) of significant follow-up communications to the Powell Memo.
  • On the occasion of the memo’s 40th anniversary, Bill Moyers’ website posted useful background and commentary.

ReclaimDemocracy.org focuses on long-term movement-building and systemic change, striving to shift energy and funding from reactive work against individual harms caused by corporations to proactive efforts that seek to revoke corporate power systemically. Our ultimate goals involve Constitution-level change

Naked Capitalism on the 40-Year War on American People

The Skunk Party Manifesto

class-war-1

The best political system that money can buy is doing a great job for its customers and a lousy job for the rest of us.

Most Americans do not realize that they are on the losing end of a 40-year war against them. On August 23, 1971, former Nixon Supreme Court Justice Lewus Powell circulated what came to be known as the Powell memo. It set forth a detailed program for reshaping American institutions and values to favor the interests of corporations over those of ordinary citizens. The success of this initiative has been so complete that it has not only rolled back many of the bulwarks created by the New Deal and the Great Society, but it is also in the process of pauperizing ordinary workers in order to increase record business profits even further. The fact that the campaign has also produced rampant political dysfunction, curtailed civil liberties and helped cement an out-of-control surveillance state is of perilous little concern to powerful elites as long as their plutocratic land-grab continues.

One of the perverse accomplishments of this campaign has been to place all major branches of government in thrall to the capitalist classes rather than the popular will. Both major parties are in broad agreement on policies that are hostile to the public, such as deficit reduction when unemployment is still high, preserving a higher education system that turns increasing numbers of young people into compliant debt slaves, “reforming” as in cutting Social Security and Medicare while preserving a bloated military, and damaging local water supplies via fracking. A “law and economics” movement and aggressive targeting of elected court positions has produced an increasingly pro-business judiciary that has issued rulings that our forefathers would consider absurd, such as treating corporations as having Constitutional rights. Regulators are at best ideologically captured and at worst responsive to what amount to bribes via the “revolving door” of trading on their contacts and knowledge once they leave government service. And a lapdog media for the most part plays the role of Dr. Pangloss, celebrating this march towards neofeudalism as inevitable, even virtuous, and relegating critics to the fringes.

Promoters of this new order reassured the public that regulations were just unnecessary speed bumps that held back commerce, “innovation,” and progress. We’ve seen what self-serving bunk that has turned out to be. Efficient markets produce meager returns. Businesses understood that less regulation would produce higher profits, via lower transparency and more concentration, which means more pricing power. And they’ve increasingly used those profits to extract not just more waivers but also more direct subsidies from government at all levels.

The time has come for ordinary people to demand to be heard. We are hardly alone in calling for radical change; the recent weeks alone have seen robust debate about the need for revolution. Not surprisingly, pundits and spokesmen of the Vichy Left have worked hard to stuff that impulse back into a box. But the irony is that these “revolutionary” views aren’t even radical. They enjoy considerable, often majority, popular support. They just happen to be inconvenient for our incompetent elites and looting plutocrats.

Thus we are not trying to found a political movement as much as galvanize and focus popular views that the policy elites have marginalized and describe concrete solutions. Look at the anger expressed over long-standing, long-ignored grievances when ordinary folks get a platform for expressing their views. The runaway success of “#askJPM” shows how citizens are mad as hell about predatory banking; the humor and vitriol of the questions stands in stark contrast with the media finger wagging at JP Morgan. Yet in the face of  overwhelming evidence of well-warranted outrage at corporate and government misconduct, the experts prefer to talk about the PR bungling.

Since humor seems to be the only way to get forbidden topics, like the continued criminality of major banks, into official discourse, we encourage you to become a card-carrying member of the Skunk Party!

Why Skunks?

Unlike “liberal,” “libertarian,” “progressive,” and pretty much every label used in politics these days, everyone knows what a skunk is

Predators are afraid of skunks and treat them with respect

Skunks could care less what you think about them

Skunks have nice personalities and go about their business unless they are threatened. Even then, they give plenty of warning before they attack. Skunks fight fairly

Skunks have no interest in having private jets, sitting on public company boards, getting seats in the skybox, seeing their name in the newspapers (or buying them), owning lots of houses, or collecting art

Skunks are cute and telegenic, which is important in American politics

Skunks are winners! As Muriel Siebert said, “Never get in a pissing match with a skunk.”

Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias will not want to be called skunks

What are the Big Problems the Skunk Party Needs to Address?

Um, aside from the fact that our system is rotten to the core, not that much.

Government at all levels is failing. It has met industrial and post-industrial capitalism and lost. Once upon a time, special interest groups and the wealthy merely helped themselves to biggest part of the cake. They’ve now decided to grab it all for themselves, and get ordinary people to do their dishes for them too. For instance, we had a global financial crisis that did so much damage to the economy that Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England prepared an analysis that showed that even nationalizing the big international banks wouldn’t begin to pay for all the damage they do on a regular basis. So what did we get? Dodd-Frank, which was weak tea that is being further watered down in lobbyist-dominated rule-making, plus the continuing bailouts known as ZIRP and QE.

And government isn’t just failing in terms of making a credible pretense of serving its nominal constituents. It is also failing on the level of basic competence. Forty years of demonization, attacks on regulators’ budgets and authority, and letting corporate-funded think tanks do most of what passes for policy study will do that. The Federal government came close to defaulting because a fringe movement decided to use it as a way to grandstand. Obama let health insurance lobbyists write Obamacare. While the media has been agog with fact that it’s hard to build a website that can navigate a Rube Goldberg machine, the bigger failure, which is being revealed as the program rolls out, is how much of a looting opportunity industry incumbents designed it to be.

Anglo-Saxon finance-driven capitalism is failing. Capitalism comes in many forms, but this one is well on its way to being a bungled experiment. Adam Smith would be among the first to disown it, for he was vigorously opposed to monopolists, rentiers, and businessmen who conspired to suppress wage levels.

If you have a system that requires that people sell their labor as a condition of survival, yet fails to provide enough opportunities to sell labor to go around, you have conditions for revolt. In the past, the solution was deficit spending to make up for capitalists’ reluctance to moderate their profit-taking and invest enough to assure sufficient job employment, along with social safety nets to buffer the impact of business cycles. The solution that is now being put in place is authoritarianism and militarized policing so as to make revolt impossible. But we know from the USSR that authoritarian systems are too costly in terms of the amount of resources and effort that go to the surveillance and control apparatus. They eventually collapse. But what passes for our elites are either in denial or have convinced themselves it won’t happen on their watch.

Corruption is the biggest single problem. Until we tackle that, frontally, it will be impossible to get any good solutions or even viable interim measures to the long and growing list of problems we face. Conduct that would have been seen as reprehensible 40 years ago, like foreclosing on people who were current on their mortgages, or selling drugs even when the company knows they increase heart heart attack and stroke risk enough to be fatal for a meaningful percentage of patients, barely stirs a raised eyebrow today.

Solutions need to be commensurate to the size of the problem. It’s insane to treat gunshot wounds with Band-Aids, yet that happens every day in Washington as well as London and Brussels. Timid, incremental fixes to rotten systems won’t save them.

Political parties are not the good conduits for fundamental reform. While we call this effort the Skunk Party out of convenience, this endeavor does not aspire to be a political party.

The US has managed to have a number of major reform efforts that achieved lasting change when they were applying pressure to the two-party system. The Populists, the early 20th century Progressives, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the Ralph Nader-led consumer product safety effort, and gay activism all achieved significant results. Some of these initiatives (labor and civil rights) were met with considerable violence, more from private parties than the state. But these movements became toothless when they joined a major party. The Populists were defanged after 1896. Labor was much more effective when it was a threat outside the party system than after it joined the Democrats. By contrast, gay rights activists, even though aligned with the Democrats, continue to be effective because they operate a bloc willing to withhold support if its demands aren’t met.

We may be past the point where similar large-scale change can be achieved without more revolutionary methods. Yet the USSR collapsed with so little in the way of protests that the CIA didn’t see it coming. But it is also worth keeping in mind that revolutions, as in the kind that completely tear down the existing governing apparatus, do not have a great track record. If you look at France, it took nearly 100 years, till the Third Republic, for the democratic government form of government to become durable. But the flip side is when you consider the American post-Civil War sharecropper system, which used debt to reduce nominally free white and black farmers to de facto slaves, revolution (had it been possible in a rural setting) might well have been a better alternative than enduring generation-spanning oppression.

The effort to convert Americans from citizens into economic agents has been almost entirely to their detriment. Over time, the media has come more and more to describe Americans as “consumers” rather than “citizens.” That’s no accident. We’ve been reduced to being economic agents, but “consumer” emphasizes the supposedly fun part, shopping, and hides the not-so-nice part, selling your labor. And not only is the “one dollar equals one vote” model of economic power contrary to the “one person has one vote” model of democracy, designing a society first and foremost around economic considerations is detrimental in other respects.

Citizens are most effective when they are part of stable communities, since they then have a vested interest in the long-term consequences of political decisions. Having at least a significant number of residents be well rooted also means the investment of time to participate in civic affairs is not unduly costly relative to the potential benefits. Separately, virtually every study of mental health shows that people with large and diverse social networks (as in they participate in multiple social groups, as opposed to are deeply involved in only one) are happier, more resilient psychologically, and live longer. And bad health effects aren’t limited to middle and lower income people. High levels of income inequality take a toll on the health of all, even the rich.

By contrast, the economists’ ideal of “labor market flexibility” treats humans as corporate cannon fodder. And the results actually haven’t worked out so well in economic terms. Companies see workers as disposable. Despite pundit hand-wringing over the need for a highly-skilled work force, all education can do is confer general skills. Much of the knowledge that employers value comes via on-the-job training. Yet with job tenures short (between four and five years), most corporations simply aren’t willing to train new hires. Short job tenures also means workers can expect to suffer more unemployment over their lifetime. This impedes their ability to save for emergencies and retirement, buy a home (how can you have any confidence of being able to make mortgage payments?), and support a family. And de facto longer work weeks due to the requirement that many employees be on call, plus greater odds of needing to move in search of employment means less civic engagement and shallower social ties generally. But that sort of instability and frequent interruption of work, ironically, also hurts producers themselves, since it reduces consumer incomes and makes them rationally more cautious about making significant economic and personal commitments.

Skunk Party Principles

So far, we’ve focus on what isn’t working. What principles do we need to bear in mind going forward?

Concentrations of power lead to abuse. Lord Acton was right: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Unfortunately, capitalism tends to produce concentrated economic power, and industrial and post-industrial capitalism, even more so. America’s founding fathers understood that danger and devised a system of checks and balances to limit the power of each branch of government. But those protections have weakened considerably as a result of sustained, 40-year assault.

The fact that wealthy interests can subvert democracy therefore means that:

More egalitarian societies are less corruptThey also produce better social outcomes: less crime, longer lifespans, lower levels of mental illnesses, higher attainment in mathematical competence and literacy, lower incidence of childhood deaths and teen pregnancies. Highly unequal societies are bad even for the rich. Yet they are perversely attached to them. Even Emperor Napoleon recognized the value of making sure that capable people from modest backgrounds could attend the most elite educational institutions and assume influential positions. Our wealthy, by contrast, are happy to squander talent and waste lives in order to preserve their privileged positions.

Corporations need to be put in their place, and that means well behind natural persons. Corporations are creatures of the legal system. They cannot and should not take priority over humans. The bizarre notion that corporations have free speech rights is a sign of judicial insanity and corruption. Similarly, the preference for prosecuting companies, as opposed to their executives and officers, perpetuates bad conduct by making sure that no one who is influential is held accountable.

It thus follows that effective regulations and anti-trust enforcement are essential. Saying that because regulation is hard and is not often done well and therefore we shouldn’t do it is logically equivalent to saying bringing up children is hard and often not done well and therefore we shouldn’t do it. Feral children are dangers to themselves and society and feral corporations, even more so.

Citizenship creates responsibilities as well as rights. Corporations and the wealthy curiously manage to get the advantages of being “persons” without having corresponding duties, like paying their fair share in taxes.

Initial Skunk Party Policy Ideas

We are past the point where passive resignation or gnashing of teeth will do.

Our motto is “It’s time to clear the room.”

Here are some ideas for how to accomplish that.

Treat corporate welfare queens like government enterprises. Companies whose profits depend significantly or entirely on government subsidies are not private enterprises. They should therefore be held to much higher standards of accountability to society at large than businesses who really do make their own way.

At one extreme are the large financial services companies. The big banks depend on the interbank payments system, Fedwire, which would not be viable without Fed backstopping. FDIC deposit insurance is widely recognized as being underpriced and hence is another subsidy. Over 90% of mortgages originated in the US are government guaranteed (and that’s before considering the huge “get out of jail almost free” card of Federal/49 State mortgage settlement, which got major banks out of chain of title liability that almost certainly exceeded their collective net worth). These corporations need to be regulated like public utilities.

While large financial services companies are an obvious example of firms that could not exist in their current form if government props were removed, many other businesses are also heavy users of the taxpayer drip-feed, such as Big Pharma, by virtue of substantial government funding of research and development, and companies in extraction industries that operate on public lands.

The degree of accountability to the public would be determined by a dependency ratio, which would measure how much of their pre-tax profits resulted from government subsidies (note since this will vary over time, the notion is not to come up with precise measurement but a good approximation)**. For instance, Walmart, McDonalds, and many other national retail businesses pay workers less than than a living wage. This underpayment imposes a cost on taxpayers because those employees make use of food stamps, Medicare and other social safety nets to make up the difference. The difference between wages paid versus living wages, plus other subsidies (like state and local tax breaks for building new stores in particular locations) would then be totaled (for other businesses, these also include government-funded R&D, like the value of National Institutes of Health-funded research to drug companies).

To illustrate how this could work in practice: A company that received more than 20% of its pre-tax profits in these subsidies would have compensation to its employees and board members capped at 50 times the full-time equivalent of lowest-paid worker pay (including contractors), including deferred compensation and stock options. Companies who received more than 10% of their pre-tax profits through subsidies also be required to have labor and community representatives as board members in same ratio. Companies over the 20% subsidy level would be required to cut managerial and executive pay and benefits in the same proportion as any cuts imposed on low-level workers. These companies would also be prohibited from increasing managerial or executive pay in any year during or immediately after a headcount reduction.

Note this approach also has the advantage of providing good incentives. Executives, particularly of large companies, are keen to pay themselves well. Docking their pay because they are unduly on the taxpayer dime will induce them to change their operations so as to reduce reliance on public support.

End looting. Looting takes multiple forms. The best known is when companies that enjoy government support borrow too much money, take a lot of risk, pay executives and insiders too much, and sooner or later go bankrupt. The “treat welfare queens like public enterprises” effort should go a long way in addressing this problem. But looting has also depended on enablers, like compliant accountants and lawyers and weak boards. We need more aggressive prosecution of executives and employees who engage in predatory practices, but we also need to prosecute outside advisors who provide their liability shield.**

Similarly, the legal profession has actively participated in abuse of the legal process in foreclosures. Partners in foreclosure mills across the country have yet to be disbarred. Complaint judges have also played a role here, yet a comparatively simple remedy, that of New York’s courts requiring that attorneys certify the validity of documents submitted to them, has gone a long way in curbing this abuse. But that measure stands in sharp contrast to bank-friendly behavior in the rest of the county, and shows the need for a concerted effort to take back the judiciary from business.

An even more pernicious form of looting is taking place via privatization or reckless use of formerly public resources. This is the modern analogue to the enclosure movement, a key step in the early days of capitalism in which peasants were deprived of the means of producing for themselves. Land that had been commonly held was pasture used for grazing. But when those fields were enclosed and deeded over to well-placed aristocrats, court placeholders, or members of the emerging merchant class, most families could not longer keep their livestock, which were critical to their livelihood. Game laws were passed around the same time restricting their right to hunt. Dispossessed farmers moved in droves to cities.

Today, we see a similar enclosure movement in the field of intellectual property, with laws being used in unheard of ways to pauperize the middle class: efforts to patent genes,*** creative extensions of drug patents through inconsequential changes (like reformulation for 24 hours dosage or clinical trials to validate additional uses), and governments allowing price-gouging on publicly-conferred communications monopolies and oligopolies (American broadband services are as a result both low in quality and high in cost relative to not only advanced but even developing economies). We also see other irresponsible use of scarce resources, such as the destruction of potable water via fracking.

Public resources need to be managed with the public first in mind, not private profit. For instance, net neutrality is both in the interest of the general public and promotes innovation; the folks that are against it, naturally, are oligopolist wannabes. Plant and animal varieties were similarly not privately owned; you could own a particular Thoroughbred or breed a new plant variety and profit from its direct “output” in terms of race winnings and progeny (stud fees, sales of new seeds). But the agriculture privateers want to go well beyond that. The idea that GMO technology can be used by companies privatize what used to be agricultural commons is not simply an aggressive form of rent extraction, but an uncontrolled health experiment on performed on the public at large without its informed consent. GMO labeling should be an uncontroversial means to let individuals opt out. Letting private companies take and hold a choke point on a resource critical to the public as significant as grains and other agricultural staples is guaranteed to lead to extortion. It needs to be restricted for that reason alone.

Pay for clean government. You get what you pay for. The result of undercompensating government employees in critical positions is crappy government. The reason we have corrupt government is we haven’t been willing to pay for better. As we wrote earlier:

If you pay cops terribly, you’ll get cops who take bribes. If you pay members of Congress or regulators way less than first year law school graduates in large New York or DC law firms, you’re going to get members and regulators who take bribes. If you cut health care subsidies for Congressional staff, you’ll get lobbyists writing the laws. It’s not that all poorly paid cops are corrupt, it’s just that it’s more likely for corruption to flourish where the public sector is radically unequal compared to the private sector. That’s just the way it works.

So we need meaningfully higher pay levels for people in key positions in Washington, such as the heads of regulatory agencies, their deputies, enforcement and compliance chiefs, as well as Congressional staffers, and government “worker bees” generally. The people at the very top need to be paid at the level of high caliber private sector professionals, such as law or accounting firm partners. Other staff members in important roles need to be paid at a high enough level that they enjoy a comfortable middle class lifestyle and have it be a viable career. They require that level of compensation so that needed curbs on post-government work can also be imposed, such as a prohibition from taking a job that would have them trading on their government Rolodex in any meaningful manner for a five year period after leaving government service.

The government also needs much tougher internal audit functions. Inspectors General units vary tremendously in vigor across the Executive branch, but even the more aggressive ones are not terribly tough. The Inspector General function either needs to be reformed to make it more bloody-minded or replaced with a better set of overseers.

Have government intercede when the private sector fails. Businesses promised that deregulation would lead to higher incomes and more growth. There’s been growth, for sure, in top executive incomes, in profit share of GDP, and in unemployment.

Capitalists have been abjectly failing to do their duty. Even in the Bush expansion, they were saving rather than investing. In this phony recovery, large companies have borrowed boatloads of cash, and are either sitting on it (which in many cases means speculating in their corporate Treasuries) or buying back stock. Smaller companies are shell shocked and most report no interest in spending.

So until capitalists are willing to do their job, government need to intercede. One approach would be to tax companies aggressively on excessive cash holdings to discourage hoarding and encourage investment. A financial turnover tax would also discourage major corporations to keeping funds stashes for the purpose of speculation (many industrial companies now run their Treasuries as profit centers).

Perversely, our terrible infrastructure makes for a good jobs program. The fastest and most straight-forward way to go about fixing it would be to reinstitute revenue sharing, first implemented by Richard Nixon. The Federal government gave grants to the states, based on the premise that the national government was more efficient at tax collection but state and local governments were the better judge of priorities in their area. State and local governments were also hit very hard by the collapse in tax revenues produced by the financial crisis. Restoring service levels would also provide a boost to employment.

Curb the surveillance state. The NSA has no business hoovering up data on ordinary Americans. It should be defunded entirely in its current form and any new authorization should be on narrowly-defined programs, with far more emphasis on defensive measures (as in protection against foreign hackers, which surveilling citizens does not address) and bona fide foreign threats (versus the current use of “terrorists are in every woodpile and under every bed” claims to justify total surveillance strategies).

Restrict private sector snooping on ordinary Americans. Communications providers and information gatherers like credit bureaus should be subject to a “big data” tax on information they collect and sell. Exchanges directly with content providers, such as cookies, would be exempt, but any transmission of data about an individual to third parties is subject to a levy. This would need to be formulated as a “one vendor” rule so that if Amazon allows another vendor on its site, that vendor would pay a tax on any customer-specific information it obtains from Amazon.****

* * *While the Skunk Party may simply become a Naked Capitalism inside joke, I hope readers see it as having enough merit even in this first approximation to see fit to circulate this post to friends and colleagues. We intend to develop a more streamlined version in upcoming weeks based on reader input. Please note that getting the principles right is the most important focus. I included policy ideas to show that some of the implications go beyond standard “progressive” thinking.

The basic message is simple: We can’t rely on the current political parties to stop corruption. It has become part of their business model. But we also need to remember that they are only a symptom of an overall societal problem, that the old ethic of noblesse oblige and propriety as curbs on elite behavior, has been supplanted by a “might makes right” value system that gives a free pass to looting and the exploitation of vulnerable populations and resources.

One illustration of the rot: Economist Dean Baker had to devote an entire post to tutoring the press as to why having former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner become head of private equity firm Warburg Pincus clearly was an example of the revolving door:  Geithner lacks both economic and investing acumen, having missed the looming financial crisis, nor does he posses any experience or expertise in private equity. He’s clearly there for his connections. The fact that Baker need to go patiently, step by step, through an explanation of what ought to be obvious is a sign of either willful blindness or deep cynicism among the elites. The examples of questionable behavior that the press gives a free pass are so numerous that it is well nigh impossible to catalogue them, let alone debunk them.

So that duty increasingly needs to be taken up by the public. One encouraging sign was how much a comparatively small group of people involved in Occupy did to focus attention on the underlying issue: that of the concentration of power and wealth in the unaccountable and too often predatory top social stratum. While there may be some members of that cohort who are distressed at the change in values in this country, they have yet to stand up effectively against the decay. The fact that those who felt implicated by the Occupy’s 1% charge rallied so quickly to crush the movement is a sign that they recognize that their dominion is not secure. Given the festering discontent at their failure to act as responsible stewards, that means large-scale change is both warranted and possible.

I hope you’ll help me advance this discussion in future posts.
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*  EBITDA would be a good “pre-tax profit” figure for most industries; for financial services firm outside the big banks, you’d need a different measure, since interest is typically part of their cost of goods sold.

**As mind-boggling as it might seem, the only party that can sue outside advisors that provided information that misled investors or other parties is the client of those advisors, meaning the probably shady company itself.

*** Genes from natural cells are still exempt from patenting, but synthetic genes are fair game. The question of whether molecules or proteins can be patented remains open.

**** Note that France is studying how to implement an Internet tax to make sure digital-based businesses pay their fair share.

Texas Tea: Bought & Sold

Oil and Gas Industry Advocates Launch Surprise Attack on Texas Environmental Science Textbook

(From TFN Insider: tfninsider.org)
When the State Board of Education‘s public hearing on new science textbooks for Texas public schools finally began late Wednesday night, it became clear that creationists were unable to mount a real attack on the biology textbooks. So all looked to be going well — until it became equally clear that oil and gas industry interests had decided to attack the only environmental science textbook up for adoption by the state board.

The last person to testify, Becky Berger, who identified herself a geologist and oil and gas professional, insisted that high schools shouldn’t even teach environmental science classes. She proceeded to attack the environmental science textbook from publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH). Berger claimed that the textbook is filled with factual errors on topics like pollution potentially caused by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and the problem of carbon emissions (which the vast majority of scientists say is the primary cause of climate change). But she provided no actual written documentation to back up her claims. None. In fact, she didn’t even provide a list of the alleged errors so that the publisher could respond to her claims.

The state’s official review teams had not identified any factual errors in the HMH textbook. In fact, one of the reviewers included this comment in the official review document:

Overall, the book is well put together and offers several case studies to put learning in context and some good online resources for labs and research (EcoZine articles). The formative assessments are not necessarily formative, but that is more of a pedagogical arguement [sic]. Far superior to other, on level books that I have seen, and very similar to the Miller text used by AP Environment Science classes.

Nevertheless, some board members decided that Berger — who had not been part of the review process — apparently was more credible. They expressed shock that the textbook had factual errors — errors that Berger had claimed but not documented. And they made clear that the textbook’s adoption was now in question.

The entire episode showed just how easy it is for special interests, at the last minute, to hijack the textbook adoption process in Texas. We’ve seen it happen again and again.

In another twist to this story, Berger didn’t bother to tell the board that she is a Republican candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry. Was she grandstanding in an attempt to gain support from anti-regulation tea party activists and oil and gas interests deciding whose campaigns to fund? That seems a reasonable question for board members to ask.

Moreover, Berger was a late addition to the list of testifiers on Wednesday. Throughout the day, conservative activists and websites had been urging activists to call on the state board to reject the science textbooks up for adoption — especially the environmental science textbook. From the Women on the Wall website:

This week the State Board of Education (SBOE) decides whether the next generation of Texas public school students have textbooks that teach 21st-century/Common Core science which is filled with  Global Warming/Climate Change propaganda that demonizes the oil/ natural gas industry. If these textbooks are approved Texas’ oil/natural gas industry will eventually be destroyed. The oil/gas industry drives our Great State’s economy and provides thousands of jobs–we must protect it.

Call write, tweet, facebook do what ever it takes to let them know you do NOT want them to adopt the proposed Science text books.

Women on the Wall is run by Alice Linahan, who has her own for-profit political outfit Voices Empower. Voices Empower posted the same call to reject the science textbooks. (Linahan has also helped lead the right-wing witch hunt against CSCOPE, a curriculum management system used in hundreds of public and private schools in Texas.)

So what happens now? The publisher (and Texas Education Agency staff) have asked to see a list of the alleged errors and documentation to back up the claims. The question right now, however, is whether the lack of such documentation will matter much to politicians on the State Board of Education. Stay tuned.

Obamacare Plan Cancellations: FAQ About What to Do Next | New Republic

the best of the internets

Insurance companies have cancelled policies for several million Americans, causing widespread confusion and anxiety. Here’s an attempt to explain what’s happening and why—and what you can do if you’ve received one of those letters.

I JUST GOT A LETTER FROM MY INSURANCE COMPANY, CANCELLING MY HEALTH POLICY. WTF?

Sorry to hear that. It’s pretty scary. Most likely it’s a by-product of the Affordable Care Act—you know, “Obamacare.” You can get a new plan, but you may not find one just like your current policy. The price might be different, too.

I THOUGHT PRESIDENT OBAMA SAID I COULD KEEP MY PLAN IF I LIKE IT. I’M PISSED OFF.

That’s fair. The vast majority of Americans get their health insurance from large employers or from government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Not much is changing for them. But the law is reorganizing the “non-group” market. That’s for people who buy insurance on…

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Mario Piperni on Dropping the Big One

Harry, This Is Getting Ridiculous

NOVEMBER 20, 2013 BY  

Republican Ahead Xing Sign  :   http://mariopiperni.com

My favorite political writer guy, Charles P. Pierce, on the nuclear option.

It’s time, Harry. Really, it is. I was on the other side of this issue for a very long time because I didn’t want to confront the possibility of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with the unlimited power to do anything that President Scott Walker wanted. That kind of thing still gives me pause. But this business with the judges has long passed over the International Fk You Line. One of the reasons we elect presidents is because we approve en masse of that president’s philosophy toward the law. This means we elect him so that he can appoint federal judges who will be sympathetic to that philosophy to the federal bench. For going on 40 years, we have seen a long march of conservatism in the federal judiciary, especially at the appellate level, where nobody’s really paying attention until, say, Janice Rogers Brown or someone hands down a decision making thumbscrews legal if the police are acting in good faith. It is not a great stretch to argue that this president was elected (twice) at least partly to reverse the results of that long march. That he is not being allowed to fulfill that part of his mandate does not merely obviate the power of the popularly elected majority in the Senate, it obviates the stated wishes of the entire nation by obviating the power of the popularly elected president of the United States. This is mucking around with two of the three branches of the federal government in order to work your will in the third. Moreover, it hamstrings future presidents who might share that judicial philosophy by blocking the career paths of like-minded judges. And does anybody seriously believe that the Republicans will not do exactly the same thing if a seat on The Big Court comes open? Please.

It is a blatant defiance of popular sovereignty, and the Republicans have grown so comfortable with it that they’re not even trying very hard these days to concoct decent lies about why they’re doing it.

[…]

Do it, Harry. Drop the big one. This is getting ridiculous.

If you’re not reading Charles P. Pierce every day, you should be.
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