Jan 22, 2011

January 22, 2011: The Dictatorship of Capital, Paradise Lost, Silence of the Lambs

“Where once we feared the dictatorship of the Proletariat; we now embrace the dictatorship of Capital.”

From the “Quotations of Chairman Joe”

My brother, who in an earlier incarnation was a regional Vice-President of the Machinists Union will tell you, if you ask, “the truth is that capitalism doesn’t work, communism doesn’t work, what works is a combination”, in a word a hybrid or what used be called a “mixed” economy.

In high school my old government teacher instructed us that what made America great was that we refused to adopt ideologies. The concept of “isms” are foreign to us. The litmus test, as it was then applied, was not whether an action was ideologically correct or pure, right or wrong but whether or not it worked. To that end we in the United States, as in the liberal democratic states of Western Europe, went about constructing in the twentieth century democratic societies with decidedly hybrid or “Mixed” economies. This arrangement combined a free market economy with a vigorous regimen of corporate regulation, anti-trust actions, graduated income taxes worthy of the name, and a host of state-sponsored entitlement programs. Known generally as the “Welfare State”, in Gunnar Myrdal’s terminology, the new order provided a more level playing field, a more healthy distribution of wealth, a better education for nearly all citizens and a so-called “safety net” for those who fell through the cracks. Meeting the demanding standard of “does it work?” the greatest generation came home from war and built a social order that brought peace and economic progress to every class of Americans—including the wealthiest Americans.

The emerging consensus wrought by the New Deal gave us, a robust and growing middle class. Prosperity in the form of the “boom” years of the early 50’s and the 60’s was a near universally shared experience with all classes benefiting by the improvements in economic production and therefore wealth.

The great unraveling began with the emergence of Barry Goldwater in 1964 spawning in his wake a cadre of determined disciples who would, in ensuing years, labor in the political vineyards and the conservative stink tanks to launch a determined assault on paradise. After nearly 40 years of Republican and Republican-lite we are left with a situation wherein we begin to resemble to classic Banana Republic, where even our national elections are monitored by international agencies.

Just a few salient facts: Today the middle class commands less of the national wealth than before 1929. Six of our largest banks control 66% of the economy. The top ten percent controls 60% of the national wealth; conversely, the bottom 50% controls a mere 1%.
With organized labor representing a mere 12% of the workforce, a fraction of the laboring class less now than before the Wagner Act was passed in the 1930’s the scales have been heavily tipped in favor of Capital. To many of us who have watched with dismay the developments of recent decades our fears have not been unfounded. With the Supreme Court decision last years in the Citizens United Case, in which the Court, overturning long established legal precedent, held that Corporations and Unions can spend unlimited amounts of money, the specter of near corporate monopoly of political discourse becomes palpable. It did not take long to confirm our worst suspicions as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, soliciting tens of millions of dollars in foreign contributions, spent heavily to engineer a right-wing take-over of the United States Congress. Karl Rove’s political action committee raised millions from a handful of fat-cats. Similarly the Tea Party shenanigans were funded by a relative handful of billionaires funneling money through Dick Army’s political action committee.

As the unions decline in relative strength, the tepid efforts of those on the so-called “progressive” side of the argument pale by comparison and will, in all likelihood, fall far behind. It’s not because we on this side of the aisle don’t have right on our side, its that we don’t have near the money. Soon nothing will be left but the echo chamber fashioned by capital to worship its own reflection

On that note yesterday Keith Olbermann left MSNBC and his “Countdown” program is no more. Olbermann had built the program into a serious challenge to Fox Noise, leading MSNBC past CNN to second place in the cable news business. Evidently this is not a market decision but a political one taken by the corporate paymasters. The press release said that it was a mutual parting of ways, but the network had all too quickly announced its new programming line-up. Sources close to the scene say that he was almost fired last fall for contributing to three democratic campaigns and that one of MSNBC’s executives who had protected Olbermann was leaving. Both departures, it appears to this commentator, have everything to do with the pending purchase of NBC by Comcast, who evidently have no interest in a “countervailing power”. “Let us silence this bleating of the sheep” said the corporate paymasters. Corporate America has, once again, spoken. Capital has Dictated.

Welcome to the Dictatorship of Capital.

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