Time to Overthrow Our Rulers

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ January 8, 2018

 

Is it time to bring a monarchy to the United States? Or is it time to end one?

The New York Times recently ran a fascinating article [3] by Leslie Wayne putting forth arguments from the International Monarchist League [4]. Summarizing them, Wayne wrote, “Their core arguments: Countries with monarchies are better off because royal families act as a unifying force and a powerful symbol; monarchies rise above politics; and nations with royalty are generally richer and more stable.” 

What the author misses is that we already have an aristocracy here in the United States: rule by the rich. In fact, much of American history is the story of the battle between the interests of the “general welfare” of our citizens, and the interests of the #MorbidlyRich.

Here’s where we are right now:

  • A billionaire oligarch programs his very own entire television news network to promote the interests of the billionaire class, with such effectiveness that average working people are repeating billionaire-helpful memes like “cut regulations,” “shrink government,” and “cut taxes” – policies that will cause more working people and their children to get sick and/or die, will transfer more money and power from “we the people” to a few oligarchs, and will lower [5] working-class wages over time.  
  • A small group of billionaires have funneled so much money into our political sphere that “normal” Republicans like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker point out that they couldn’t get elected in today’s environment because they’d face rightwing-billionaire-funded primary challengers. 
  • The corporate media (including online media), heavily influenced by the roughly billion dollars the Koch Network, Adelson, Mercers, etc. poured through their advertising coffers and into their profits in the last election, won’t even mention in their “news” reporting that billionaire oligarchs are mainly calling the tunes in American politics, particularly in the GOP. 
  • Former President Jimmy Carter pointed out [6] on my radio show that the US “is now an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery,” in part as a result of the right-wing Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. 
  • Nobody in corporate media, even on the “corporate left,” is willing to explicitly point out how billionaires and the companies that made them rich control and define the boundaries of “acceptable” political debate in our country. 
  • Thus, there’s no honest discussion in American media of why the GOP denies climate change (to profit petro-billionaires), no discussion of the daily damage being done to our consumer and workplace protections, and no discussion of the horrors being inflicted on our public lands and environment by Zinke and Pruitt, the guys billionaire-toady Mike Pence chose to run Interior and the EPA. There’s not even a discussion of the major issue animating American politics just one century ago: corporate mergers and how they damage small business and small towns. 

It’s been this way before in American history, though not in our lifetimes. The last time the morbidly rich had this much power in American politics was the 1920s, when an orgy of tax-cutting and deregulation of banking led to the Republican Great Depression. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped up to challenge those he called the Economic Royalists, explicitly calling them out [7]. In 1936, FDR said: 

“For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital—all undreamed of by the Fathers—the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

“There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit…

“It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. 

“They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. 

“And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.” 

Roosevelt, then the president of the United States, even explicitly called for the “overthrow of this kind of power”:

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. 

“Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. 

“In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. 

“Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.” 

The American people overwhelmingly agreed with FDR, particularly after they’d seen how badly “dictatorship by the over-privileged” worked out for us in 1929. The result was that from 1932 until 1980 American politicians knew how important it was for government, representing the best interests of both our nation and all of its people, to hold back the political power that the morbidly rich could marshal with their great wealth. 

This was such conventional wisdom in both parties that Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote to his brother Edgar [8] in 1956:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. 

“There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

And business knew it, too. Big corporations and wealthy businesspeople largely stayed away from politics from the 1930s onward, not wanting to draw the ire of the American people.

Until 1971. In August of that year, Lewis Powell, a lawyer who largely defended tobacco and the interests of Virginia’s upper classes, wrote an apocalyptic memo [9] to his neighbor and friend who was the head of the US Chamber of Commerce. In it, he suggested that America itself was under attack from “leftists” and people on “college campuses.” 

The solution, Powell proposed, was for a small group of very, very wealthy people to reshape American public opinion through think tanks, funding of universities and schools, and an all-out assault on the media. Take over the courts and at least one of the political parties, he suggested, and wrest control of our economy away from government regulation. 

As I noted in The Crash of 2016 [10]

Powell’s most indelible mark on the nation was not to be his fifteen-year tenure as a Supreme Court Justice, but instead that memo, which served as a declaration of war—a war by the Economic Royalists against both democracy and what they saw as an overgrown middle class. It would be a final war, a bellum omnium contra omnes, against everything the New Deal and the Great Society had accomplished.

It wasn’t until September 1972, 10 months after the Senate confirmed Powell to the Supreme Court, that the public first found out about the Powell Memo (the actual written document had the word “Confidential” stamped on it—a sign that Powell himself hoped it would never see daylight outside of the rarified circles of his rich friends). Although by then, however, it had already found its way to the desks of CEOs all across the nation and was, with millions in corporate and billionaire money, already being turned into real actions, policies, and institutions.

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During its investigation into Powell as part of the nomination process, the FBI never found the memo, but investigative journalist Jack Anderson did, and he exposed it in a September 28th, 1972, column titled, “Powell’s Lesson to Business Aired [11].”

Anderson wrote, “Shortly before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. urged business leaders in a confidential memo to use the courts as a ‘social, economic, and political’ instrument.” 

Pointing out that how the memo wasn’t discovered until after Powell was confirmed by the Senate, Anderson wrote, “Senators…never got a chance to ask Powell whether he might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice and to influence the court in behalf of business interests.” 

This was an explosive charge being leveled at the nation’s rookie Supreme Court Justice, a man entrusted with interpreting the nation’s laws with complete impartiality.

But Jack Anderson was no stranger to taking on American authority, and no stranger to the consequences of his journalism. He’d exposed scandals from the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and later the Reagan administrations. He was a true investigative journalist.

In his report on the memo, Anderson wrote, “[Powell] recommended a militant political action program, ranging from the courts to the campuses.”  (Continued)

(To read entire article, click HERE)

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