Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Criminal Intent

Lewis Powell, Jr.

Do you try to buy from small, craft producers of products, or avoid, if you can (you can't), supporting giant-killer-squid corporations with the disposal of your after-tax income?
I'm not sure it's possible beyond a small scope.  The most common brand of "organic" milk is just a label from a large corporation.  Tom's natural products from Maine (the toothpaste has been around long enough it inspires nostalgia for 1970), as well as Burt's Bees various balms, are now each part of Fortune 500 companies.  The devotion to "Free Trade" that is supposed to benefit every one of us with increasing prosperity is actually all about destroying competition and creating monopoly.  It worked for the robber barons during a previous Republican era, and works even better today.
The advances made during the on-and-off Progressive years of the 20th century were really wearing the patience of the leaders of the largest corporations in the late 60s.  Ralph Nader was saying that CEOs belonged in jail and they were guilty of fraud, poisoning and carelessly selling dangerous products.  And the kids were mouthing off.  Something had to be done.
Eugene Snyder, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, asked corporate lawyer par excellence Lewis Powell, Jr., of Virginia (a year before his appointment to the Supreme Court by Nixon) for his thoughts on a campaign to counter all this for-the-people nonsense going on, and he responded with a memorandum which changed the direction of the United States as much as the Civil Rights and Voting Acts (more irritants, surely).  Entitled "The Attack on the American Free Enterprise System," it advanced the strategy of blasting critics relentlessly and presenting corporations as heroes.
And it worked all too well.
Funded beyond anyone's wildest estimates, lobbyists and "think tanks" were established to defend the "merchants of death" (the tobacco companies, originally) with cover-ups, junk science and a spectacularly successful assault on the evils of regulation.  The Cato, Heritage, Hoover, American Enterprise and hundreds more pretend-scholarly institutions were set up and enriched to dominate every aspect of American life and governance.  They set their sights, based on Powell's analysis, on the articulate minorities in academia, the media and intellectual journals, as well as liberal politicians and those scurvy artists and scientists.  Constant surveillance of textbook and media content worthy of the East German Stasi was developed in order to change public opinion rightward and eventually purge all "left wing" elements (they're still screaming "socialist" and "communist" at everyone indiscriminately despite the fact that first, hardly anyone is, and second, an American liberal is what the rest of the world considers a centrist or even conservative). They used their mastery of advertising to manipulate the public (first as consumers, then as voters).  As evidenced by the backlashes of 1968 and 1980, they have successfully moved large portions of the populace to believe and vote against their own interests.
Bill Black points out that the business leaders conflated unrestrained corporate power with free enterprise.  Market dominance and wealth always allows the cheats to have a growing competitive advantage which increasingly squashes the competition (while cynically sending all our jobs overseas thus pulling the floor out from beneath us).  Only big business, not that Beast, democratic government, has the power to destroy free enterprise and the U.S. Chamber's and Powell's plan was exactly about how to do that.
They missed the irony that a legal system (from the Supreme Court down) that supports them in contravention to the Constitution and a moral code that exalts their greed looks just like the operation of the Communist Party apparatus in the former USSR and its remains in contemporary Russia -- which quickly devolved into organized crime.
Their wholly owned subsidiary, the Supreme Court, has not only finished the job by declaring corporations to be real persons with more rights than us, they have relentlessly supported the deregulation agenda to all of our economic disadvantage.  The deregulation of the airline industry has just about ruined it, for example.  But did you know, way back in 1978, the USSC ended the federal predatory lending law so banks could issue credit cards to almost everyone charging 25% compounded interest (29% on cash advances).  By the way, credit unions were restricted to a 15% ceiling so the banks could run ahead with this one.  Common sense, moral sense, as well as every religion, rejects the abuses of usury, but not the black-robed wise men.  The result of this rapid accumulation of wealth at the top is monopoly rather than healthy competition, of course:  the top three card issuers own most of the game. 
The absurd 25% rate, along with new lower repayment minimums, meant that the original debt would be paid back many times over and indeed will grow until it can never be retired.  But loan-sharking is illegal. Because it is not perpetrated by banks.
If you borrowed today's average credit card balance ($10,679) all at once, in 20 years of minimum repayments, you will have paid $56,660 while still owing $13,016!  Looting is illegal if committed by individuals --  who are of course, less of a person than a corporation.

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