JR'S Free Thought Pages
The Reagan/Thatcher "Trickle Down" Revolution
State Run Corporate Capitalism on Speed- Are we Having Fun Yet?
by Johnny Reb, May 2015
As a preface to this essay, I offer "The Ghost of Tom Joad", a moving Bruce Springsteen song based on John Steinbeck's iconic novel of the Great Depression, "The Grapes of Wrath". Follow the link for a powerful rendering.
Progressive and Regressive Revolutions
Unlike the bottom-up Bolshevik Revolution*, the top-down Reagan-Thatcher Neo-Conservative version has spread like a lethal virus throughout the planet. But the state administered capitalist system of "corporatism", Mussolini's expression for his brand of fascism (a term he also coined) is not a new phenomenon. The California State economics professor Antony C Sutton referred to it as "corporate socialism" which I think ironically and very aptly describes the current system of global capitalism.
*Bolshevism was a protest against not only the oppression of the Tsarist monarchy and attendant feudalism, but also against a colonialist/imperialist Europe that had incited the First World War and the vindictive punitive Treaty of Versailles that followed. The Russian Revolution and subsequent three year civil war against the "Whites" and their capitalist enablers was also a protest against the inevitable future war two decades later that were implicit in that treaty.
This insidious ideology has been the norm for a very long time. If the reader wants to understand war, politics, corporate welfare and much else in our decadent culture of corporatist corruption, you will not go too far wrong by simply "following the money". After all, chasing the almighty in its various psychotic incarnations is our universal cultural zeitgeist. Even the mainstream Christian churches have become nothing more than business enterprises, preaching the "prosperity gospel". Like the corporate welfare bums who pay historically low corporate taxes or simply operate from offshore tax havens, these mega churches pay no taxes either on their vast real estate holdings or huge cash flows from parishioners and other sources.
Consider a few passages from Sutton's well-researched expose titled Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler:
This interplay of ideas and cooperation between Hjalmar Sehacht in Germany and, through Owen Young, the J.P. Morgan interests in New York, was only one facet of a vast and ambitious system of cooperation and international alliance for world control. As described by Carroll Quigley, this system was "... nothing less than to create a world system of financial control, in private hands, able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole" (Carol Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, MacMillan, New York, 1966)
This feudal system worked in the 1920s, as it works today, through the medium of the private central bankers in each country who control the national money supply of individual economies. In the 1920s and 1930s, the New York Federal Reserve System, the Bank of England, the Reichsbank in Germany, and the Banque de France also more or less influenced the political apparatus of their respective countries indirectly through control of the money supply and creation of the monetary environment. More direct influence was realized by supplying political funds to, or withdrawing support from, politicians and political parties. In the United States, for example, President Herbert Hoover blamed his 1932 defeat on withdrawal of support by Wall Street and the switch of Wall Street finance and influence to Franklin D. Roosevelt. (p. 27)
Henry Ford was decorated by the Nazis for his services to the Nazis... In brief, American companies associated with the Morgan-Rockefeller international investment bankers — not, it should be noted, the vast bulk of independent American industrialists — were intimately related to the growth of Nazi industry. It is important to note as we develop our story that General Motors, Ford, General Electric, DuPont and the handful of U.S. companies intimately involved with the development of Nazi Germany were — except for the Ford Motor Company — controlled by the Wall Street elite — the J.P. Morgan firm, the Rockefeller Chase Bank and to a lesser extent the Warburg Manhattan bank.18 This book is not an indictment of all American industry and finance. It is an indictment of the "apex" — those firms controlled through the handful of financial houses, the Federal Reserve Bank system, the Bank for International Settlements, and their continuing international cooperative arrangements and cartels which attempt to control the course of world politics and economics. (p. 31)
On the eve of World War II the German chemical complex of I.G. Farben was the largest chemical manufacturing enterprise in the world, with extraordinary political and economic power and influence within the Hitlerian Nazi state. I. G. has been aptly described as "a state within a state." (p. 33) One of the more horrifying aspects of I.G. Farben's cartel was the invention, production, and distribution of the Zyklon B gas, used in Nazi concentration camps. (p. 37)
If you seek enlightenment about the sordid details of what state supported capitalism, imperialism and war are really all about, read Sutton's aforementioned book and his other offerings. Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler may still be available to be read online here. Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution may be here ,Wall Street and FDR here, The Best Enemy Money Can Buy here and The Federal Reserve Conspiracy here.
India is the latest to contract the noxious corporate capitalist meme that is destroying any democracy that currently exists anywhere in the world. Prior to last year’s national elections there were calls for a Margaret Thatcher-Ronald Reagan reactionary style neo-conservative revolution to fast-track this country towards unfettered free trade, militarism and privatization. The losers, as has been the case elsewhere, are the 99%. Under successive Thatcher and Reagan governments in the 1980s inequalities and government debt have accelerated exponentially in their respective countries and economic growth has been well below that of the previous three decades. With the election in India of an archconservative free market ideologue, the self-indulgence revolution in that country will be fast-tracked. Small family and peasant farms in India and elsewhere produce most of the world’s food that form the bedrock of global food production. Yet they are being squeezed onto less than a quarter of the planet’s farmland that resembles the impact of the Enclosure Acts in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries. The world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of rich and powerful land speculators and corporate agribusinesses. This is just one of countless efforts to corporatize the planet that has been going on for decades.
Traditional manufacturing has been decimated in Britain, most of Europe, the US and Canada as international finance has become the foundation of New World Order economies. Jobs have disappeared in a puff of neo-liberal smoke, the upshot of so-called "free trade agreements" and wage-slave labour economies as corporations have gobbled up public utilities at fire sale prices, the rich got richer and many of British and North American towns and cities in their former industrial heartland became shadows of their former selves. What has happened in Russia since the collapse of the USSR is wanton plunder of the public sphere by greedy oligarchs such as Vladimir Putin and his thieving comrades, communist apparatchiks who became voracious opportunist capitalists virtually overnight. Low paid, insecure, part time non-unionised labour is now the global norm as unemployment and underemployment have become systemic. Destroying ordinary people’s livelihoods was done in the name of "the national interest" and outsourcing home-grown industry to Third World sweatshops was done in the name of "efficiency" and the "invisible hand" of the marketplace. However, the mystical free market is not so "invisible" when mafia-like banks and corporations need government handouts and bailouts from taxpayers.
In 2010, 28 percent of the British workforce, some 10.6 million people, either did not have a job, or had stopped looking for one. And that figure was calculated before many public sector jobs were slashed under the lie of "austerity". Conditions are similar in the USA, Canada and throughout most of Europe.
Today, much of the political and corporate media rhetoric revolves around competitiveness, the need to create jobs, facilitate "free trade", investment and economic growth. This new world order has been a disaster for all but banks, multinational corporations and a tiny parasitic plutocratic elite. The tedious never-ending mantra informing the beleaguered masses to be "flexible", "tighten their belts", work hard for a minimum wage and let the theology of the state supported fraudulent "free" market decide is a fraud. This, we are told is what creates jobs and promotes economic growth. Sadly, it has done neither. What we have for the struggling 99% is austerity, low wages, high unemployment and debt peonage. In addition to historically high consumer* debt, we suffer from an on-going economic crisis and a corporatist dominated state drowning is a sea of national debt, imperialistic wars, and rule by venal profligate bankers and corporate entities all supported by mass surveillance and a police state to keep ordinary people in perpetual fear and economic insecurity.
*I use the word "consumer" rather than "citizen" because we are no longer citizens but rather commodities like the smart phones and other useless gadgets that are turning the masses into unthinking docile zombies, endlessly distracted by trivia, sports and celebrity worship. Forget about the prospect of introducing critical thinking in our schools (which has been an aim of education faculties at universities for as long as I can remember), getting most people to think at all would be an accomplishment.
So what might the future hold for our children and grandchildren? Unfortunately, more of the same - and very likely much worse.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presently being negotiated between the EU and US is intended to be the most ambitious trade deal in history. The EU and US together account for 40 percent of global economic output. The European Commission sells the deal to the public by claiming that, like was claimed by corporations and their pimp politicians for the previous free trade deals, that it will dramatically increase GDP and entail massive job creation. Workers know what happened with them - the rich got richer and corporations now dictate to governments as the rest of us race to the bottom.
However, these claims are not supported even by its own studies, which predict a growth rate of just 0.01 percent GDP over the next ten years and the potential loss of jobs in several sectors, including agriculture. Corporations are lobbying EU-US trade negotiators to use the deal to undermine food safety, labour, health, environmental human rights standards. Negotiations are shrouded in back room secrecy, driven by corporate interests and neo-liberal ideology. And the outcome will likely entail the circumvention of any democratic processes in order to push through corporate driven policies. Like the infamous free trade agreements that were rammed down the throats of the masses in the 1990s, the proposed agreement represents little more than a corporate power grab.
It should come as little surprise that this is the case. Based on a recent report, the European Commission’s trade and investment policy reveals a cabal of unelected technocrats who care little about the desires and aspirations of ordinary people and negotiate on behalf of the corporate sector, big banks and financial elites. The Commission and its corporate shills have fervently pursued a corporatist agenda and have argued for policies in line with the interests of big business. It is effectively a captive but willing servant of a corporate agenda. Big business has been able to translate its massive wealth into political influence to render the European Commission a “disgrace to the democratic traditions of Europe.”
This proposed trade agreement and others like it being negotiated across the world are based on a firm belief in "the free market" (a theological ruse endorsing greed, exploitation, corruption, cronyism, nepotism, subsidies for the rich, deregulation, convenient bailouts for market gambles and other failures, rigged markets and cartels) and the intense dislike of state intervention and state provision of goods and services. The "free market" doctrine that underpins this belief attempts to convince people that nations can prosper by having austerity imposed on them and by embracing neo-liberalism and free’ trade. This is a smokescreen that the financial-corporate elites hide behind while continuing to enrich themselves and secure taxpayer handouts (an inverted "socialism for the rich"), whether in the form of bank bailouts or other huge amounts of corporate dole. Free trade, with checks and balances in place, could be a beneficial phenomenon - if we actually had it.
In much of the West, the actual reality of neo-liberalism and the market is stagnating or declining wages in real terms, high levels of personal debt and a permanent underclass, while the rich and their corporations to rake in record profits and salt away wealth in tax havens. We in the West are ruled by governments of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. Full stop.
A recent Oxfam Report revealed that by 2016 the wealthiest 1% on this dying planet will have more wealth than the remaining 99%. According to Forbes, the 100 richest people in the world have a whopping $2.3 trillion and are mostly American, including 7 of the richest 10. Family wealth is evident with the Koch brothers tied for sixth ($86 billion) and four of the Walton family in the top 12 (Christy, Jim, Alice, and S. Robson with $161 billion). Half of all American wealth is also inherited, perhaps not surprising since money has been at the centre of the "American dream" (it's a "nightmare" according to the late George Carlin) since its inception. Kurt Vonnegut elegantly restated this notion from Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 Democracy in America: “Want a taste of that great book? [de Tocqueville] says, and he said it 169 years ago, that in no country other than ours has love of money taken a stronger hold on the affections of men.” Indeed, money, greed, raw power, careerism, opportunism and connections are the impetuses behind today’s democracies, not ethics, compassion, common good, equality, convictions and public service. Let's not mince any words - all wealth throughout history was acquired by theft, including all the land on which we reside in North America.
Social Darwinism, the silly capitalist distortion of Charles Darwin's Evolutionary Theory is nothing more than a fraudulent pseudo-scientific faith, not unlike that of a meritocracy and the self-made man "hypothesis. It's the "survival of the fittest" notion that wealth and material success are measure of one’s success as if they occurred by "natural selection". This subterfuge continues as the standard bearer of American social and political ideology despite its obvious disastrous malfunction in redressing the imbalance created by a corporatist world whereby profit overrides everything including the survival of the planet. This insanity needs to stop if we want to live in a more human-based egalitarian society based on caring and decency that attempts to solve the problems of our times and our shared existence. A government of the people, by the people, for the people? I think not Sadly, it's more like one man, one billion dollars, one million votes. Trickle-down thinking and trickle-down democracy is a step into a failed past of authoritarian familial entitlements and cliques, plutocracies and unethical self-interested policies.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were the instruments of wealth and corporate power, their agenda designed to destroy subversive or social democratic movements within their respective countries designed to dismantle the post-1945 Keynesian consensus based on full employment and gains in social democracy, fairness and a robust welfare state. Their ideologies were also a harsh conservatism, a reactionary response to the liberalism, rise of labour, social activism, civil unrest, disobedience and subsequent gains in social democracy of the 1960s and 70s. They tilted the balance of power further in favour of traditional elite conservative interests and prerogatives infused with Christian fundamentalism, embarking on a pro-privatisation, anti-trade union and anti-welfare state policy program. Sections of the unsuspecting public regarded Reagan and Thatcher as strong leaders who would get things done, where others before them had wavered and been weak. But "get things done" in the interests of whom? They both drove their respective countries into debt with tax concessions to big business and the wealthy, massive military build-up and imperialistic escapades.
Ronald Reagan tripled the US debt in his eight year term as US President and by the time George H W Bush completed his four year term, US public debt had quadrupled. The spiralling debt continued under the eight year reign (2000-08) of his village idiot son, George W Shrub.
When Reagan was replaced by George H W Bush, their corporatist policies continued into the 1990s with Bill Clinton with more "free trade" agreements that in reality had precious little to do with free trade. Rather they were concerned with loosening regulatory barriers and circumventing democratic processes to allow large corporations to exploit labour and the environment with impunity, destroy competition and siphon off wealth to the detriment of labour and smaller, locally based companies and producers.
Presently, the world's super rich comprise an oligarchic global elite. It is not a cohesive elite, but whether based in the USA, Canada, Britain, China, Russia or India, its members have to varying extents been incorporated into the Anglo-American system of trade and finance. For them, the ability to move capital wherever profit can be maximized is what matters, not national identity, sense of moral obligation, common good, democracy or the ability to empathise with workers scratching out a living on unliveable wages who happened to be born on the same geographical location. To facilitate the free movement of capital throughout the world is now the primary function of government which has become so venal and corrupt, it is now beyond redemption or reform. Reform and humanizing capitalism has been tried by social democrats whenever and wherever they had some political influence and it has been a massive failure. The Reagan/Thatcher revolution and its ideology of neo-conservatism/neo-liberalism has completely reversed any past efforts and minor successes to put a human face on capitalism.
After forty years of relentless repetition of the neo-conservative meme whereby people have been reduced to sociopathic self-interested self-serving zombie automatons is now deeply embedded in social ontology of the West and spreading throughout most of the rest of the world. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher didn’t end social repression; they found an effective deception for explaining it away. The outcome is the full recovery of unapologetic social repression by emerging fascist police states. The United States has already arrived with its gulag type prison system and gun happy police who shoot unarmed citizens with impunity. The recent murder of Walter Scott who was shot several times in the back as he was running away from another trigger happy "serve and protect" cop has struck a chord even with the hard-line law and order conservatives who cannot help recall the dreadful accounts of Rodney King repeatedly and aggressively attacking the truncheons of the Los Angeles Police with his head.
The increasing global takeover of agriculture by powerful agribusiness, the selling off of industrial developments, utilities and services built with public money to serve the public interest and strategic assets and secretive corporate-driven trade agreements represent a massive corporate heist of wealth and power across the world. The world’s super rich regard nation states as merely targets for exploitation and their populations holding centres, mere commodities stripped of democratic agency to be exploited and dehumanized as cheap labour. Profit before people and the natural environment is their depraved ethos. Whether it concerns rich oligarchs in the US or India and Russia's billionaire businessmen, corporate profits and personal gain trump any notion of the dreams, desires and democratic rights of the masses.
Since the bailouts of predatory banks and corporate criminals in 2007-08, the purgatory of the last seven years has forced assertion of economic contradictions that more closely approximate theoretical incoherence. The phony economic recovery fuelled by printing money and creating stock market bubbles throughout the world has been a non-starter for all but a tiny elite of financial parasites. The massive public bailouts of corporate pirates and professional financial hucksters and subsequent economic recovery hoax has been an economic bonanza for the rich and ongoing misery and increasing pauperization for everyone else.
The farcical aggressively bland, quasi-academic, economic snake oil could be taken as a circus side show were it not for its implications. The Federal Reserve in the United States and its policies are being framed in populist terms, as salvation for the fifty million people receiving food stamps and the overwhelming majority of citizens living payday to payday, two weeks from living on the street to join increasing millions already there. The inside scoop is that bankers have re-taken the economy to the point where any effort to "normalize" economic policies and conditions for the masses would quickly send the plutocratic financial institutions into crisis. The "wealth effect" of rising financial asset prices and bloated stock markets fuelled by QE (printing of trillions of dollars and shipped to Wall Street where it goes no further) is the old ruse called the "trickle-down" theory of economics, aptly described by the late Robin Williams as "someone pissing on you".* It's the old ruse that the rest of the working class peasants, if we do all the right things like work on a PhD and graduate in theoretical physics or pure mathematics with $200,000 in debt, we have the right to apply for a job as a yacht cleaner, chauffeur of a slumlord's Rolls Royce, waiter in an upscale restaurant or waving a sign in front of Georgio Armani in New York City to entice the uber-rich into spending some of their billions.
*William Jennings Bryan, the three-time American presidential candidate, perhaps better known for his obtuse religious views in the Scopes monkey trial, his attempts to wean the United States from gold to silver, and the creation of the Federal Reserve, is credited with coining the “trickle-down” moniker, stating that “if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through to those below.” The late great Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith fittingly characterized the mechanism behind the real workings: “The less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.” Father to son, husband to wife.
In the realm of politics, George W Bush’s clueless eight year country bumpkin cowboy routine has satisfied the American predilection for reckless foreign and domestic policies and escapades which has been followed by a more polished slick snake-oil shyster to restore nanny state-sponsored capitalism. Barack Obama restored the façade of intelligence, decorum and competence during his twice won election proving him up to the task of effective misdirection and mismanagement. Between bank bailouts, big auto golden parachutes, scam mortgage relief programs, the disastrous Affordable Care Act, illegal surveillance, militarization of the police, "humanitarian" interventions and trade agreements intended to undo labour laws and environmental agreements, Obama proved himself a capable steward of smokescreen restoration. The same calamitous culture of neo-con greed is occurring in Canada under the rule of Christian fundamentalist cabal under the self-proclaimed monarch, his royal lowness Stephen Harper.
The depth of Obama’s cynicism was placed in calculated relief by professional apologists through assurances in the lesser of the evils theory that the Republicans are even a worse disaster. For the next election in 2016, the principal candidates are a continuation of one of two even equally doomed divine right of kings dynasties and corporatist state seat warmers, the (Jeb) Bush or (Hilary) Clinton regimes. The bank bailouts have restored corrupt and predatory financial reptiles, the automaker bailouts restored obscene executive salaries and bonuses while cutting working class wages, the mortgage relief programs preyed on desperate homeowners for the benefit of bankers, the ACA brought new customers into the most expensive and least effective health care system in the developed world and Obama is busy reversing his environmental policies with trickle down trade agreements. Needless to say, each of these policies has been given the patina of necessity by the very-same pathetic pundits now perplexed by economic policy inertia. With Democrats so openly representing the interests of the financial plutocrats of the elite corporatist class, Republicans have no direction to go but on the insane path of Christian fundamentalist fascism.
And Stephen Harper, a pal of the Texas hick and village idiot George W Bush, is promoting his own wet dream agenda that will transform Canada into an American clone, the nightmare "American Dream" described by the late great George Carlin here.
Are we having fun yet?