Our country is no longer controlled by, and for, We the People, but instead by, and on behalf of, international banking and multinational corporate interests. While the gradual, almost imperceptible takeover of our government by this corporate fascism has been evolving by design for many decades, it is a coup d'etat nonetheless and has been disastrous for the vast majority of Americans. This blog is an exploration and discussion of how this occurred, and the damage it has done to our democratic processes.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Corporate New Deal

"For economic shock therapy to be applied without restraint -- as it was in Chile in the seventies, China in the late eighties, Russia in the nineties and the U.S. after September 11, 2001 -- some sort of additional major collective trauma has always been required, one that either temporarily suspended democratic practices or blocked them entirely. This ideological crusade was born in the authoritarian regimes of South America, and in its largest newly conquered territories -- Russia and China -- it coexists most comfortably, and most profitable, with an iron-fisted leadership to this day." ---- The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein
Just four years ago, Naomi Klein's best selling book, The Shock Doctrine, accurately and vividly described what's going on in America today. It was four years ago, but she was able to predict the future; she saw the writing on the wall. What we've been witnessing in Wisconsin the last couple of weeks is the Shock Doctrine -- "disaster capitalism" -- occurring on a smaller scale.  

It's not a coincidence that last week's revelation that the U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war in Afghanistan. The program for CIA psychological torture techniques originally developed after the Second World War and extended into the 1960s. In the U.S., at least two lines of thought converged; one was about how to alter people's minds without leaving marks and scars, and the other was about what was the best way of organizing a given economy. The first grew out of experiments in psychological torture (electroshock therapy). The second came from the mind of Milton Friedman. Both embrace working from a "blank slate" and starting all over again.  

The premise of Ms. Klein's book, brilliant and fascinating, and at the same time painfully simple in its argument and revelation, argues that free market fundamentalism has risen to distinction in some countries because it was pushed through while the citizens were reacting to disasters or upheavals; that some crises may have been created with the intention of being able to push through unpopular reforms in their wake. In other words, taking advantage of a major disaster -- natural, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, or manmade, as with the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- to adopt radical economic policies that the population would be less likely to accept under normal circumstances. The well-rehearsed and carefully arranged attacks on the public domain in the aftermath of catastrophic events, combined with the "treatment of disasters as exciting market opportunities", Ms. Klein coined as "disaster capitalism". 

Public union employees, their friends, families, and students sympathetic to their cause, have been demonstrating for weeks because the newly installed governor, Scott Walker, claimed he needed to deny them their collective bargaining rights in order to balance the state budget -- despite the fact the workers expressed their willingness to concede completely to the governor's wage and benefit concessions. With several budget crises consuming the country, and Governor Walker's own state budget in arrears due to giant corporate give-aways just weeks before, this planted the seeds for the quintessential rock 'em sock 'em, kick 'em while they're down, corporate-government forcible takeover that's so quintessential disaster capitalism. As economist Paul Krugman observed, "What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside." Let's take a peek. 

Aside massive cuts in health coverage for low-income families, there's this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).” In other words, the bill would allow for the selling of state-owned power plants without bids and without concern for the legally-defined public interest. Privatize what's owned by the state...the people...and sell it off.

In other words, Governor Walker took Professor Friedman's legacy to heart, acted swiftly and decisively, and attempted to ramrod a bill through the state legislature that would eliminate public unions in the state and, at the same time, impose by law rapid and irreversible change. It's a microeconomic version of what occurred in the aftermath of the U.S. Iraqi invasion, essentially no different than what happened in the soggy remains of New Orleans after Katrina, and so similar to the predatory capitalist racketeering that devoured the former Soviet Union after its collapse in the early '90s. 

The conservative trademark priorities to eliminate collective bargaining, privatize public-owned infrastructure and commons, and the slashing of social spending to the detriment of those who need it most, is all here. This is how the Shock Doctrine takes control, and unless it's stopped in its tracks and prevented from spreading beyond the boundaries of Wisconsin, you can bet it's coming to a town near you.


Anonymous said...

“the U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war in Afghanistan” Unbelievable is all I can say, sickening.

“you can bet it's coming to a town near you” Hopefully cooler heads will prevail in other states. You have to have a little more faith in people “to do the right thing”. Not all conservatives are heartless.

"disaster capitalism" could be applied to anything. Fear is a great motivator and exploited easily. I’ll have to read the book. I read through the few pages Amazon would allow. I never knew about the privatization of the schools. I will be interested in seeing the academic results.

I’ve had discussions with friends who believe in the voucher program. They are interested in parochial schools for their children and think they should have the option, given vouchers; so much for separation of church and state. I’m a believer in public education. I think voucher systems further the division between the poor and the wealthy; as you might guess, the vouchers aren’t going to be enough alone to send kids to a “quality” school. The argument always seems to be how much less private schools spend per student with better results. What people fail to understand is that the public schools provide education for the learning disabled, behavior problems, and the developmentally disabled. I have a developmentally disabled son and one who is extremely bright. I could easily send my bright kid to a private school, but don’t. And I can tell you it is costly to educate a developmentally disabled student; at least $50k a year. I’d like to see a private school do better.

Regarding the Chinese, I think the revolution is coming. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/04/workers-china-power-strike-communist
Let’s hope they can keep it up, if not, this country is really screwed.


Anna Van Z said...

This afternoon, on a local radio station, a caller with obviously baglican leanings griped about union dues paid for by public employees, saying that this was actually forcing taxpayers to support union-endorsed candidates. Aside from the fact that it simply is not true - dues can't be used for any political activity*, I find it astounding that these baglicans are apparently not at all troubled by publicly-bought utilities being signed over to private, for-profit corporations - or the billions now being poured into American politics for the blatant purpose of manipulating government - no, they're all in a snit over union dues! Sweet Jesus this country is full of idiots!

*Separate PACS are formed for political activity, and donation to these is strictly voluntary. No one is "made" to support any candidate at all.

Anonymous said...

Jefferson's Guardian:

Are you a member of the ISO (International Socialist Organization)? If not, what is your opinion of them?


Dion said...

Naomi Klein rocks my world. Speaking truth to power rocks my world. If the Irish read The Shock Doctrine, they'd certify her an oracle.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Yes, disaster capitalism could be applied to anything, and fear is a great motivator, but what Ms. Klein reveals is how this was the modus operandi used by Friedmanites to push through neoconservative economic reform. It was initially used September 11th...of 1973, in Chile, to install Pinochet and immediately privatize the entire nation. It's their "9/11". Yes, I wholeheartedly recommend Klein's book. It, and Hartmann's Unequal protection are the two most important books I have read in the last ten years.

From The Shock Doctrine: "Within 19 months after Katrina, the New Orleans public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. Before Katrina, the school board had run 123 public schools; now it ran just 4. Before that storm, there had been 7 charter schools in the city; now there were 31."

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Yes, Anna, I agree with you. It seems as though if the conservative propaganda machine says it, and says it enough, it becomes the "truth". Shades of Fascist Germany.

"...Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist...

...Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Yeah, Dion, Naomi certainly does rock! So does the "other" Naomi...

Twilight said...

"Disaster capitalism" is one way things can go, after a mini-crisis or an illusional one. But after a real honest-to-goodness crisis, disaster e.g. World War 2, politics in devastated Britain went the other way, and the left-wing Labour Party took over.

What it'd need in the USA (Fate-forbid) is a war on this soil, to make any proper change or even bring back balance to the political scene. Would it be worth it though, in these days of weapons too horrendous to even contemplate?

Anonymous said...

"...Then Richard Trumpa came for me "to join" the trade union, and I didn't speak out because I was afraid of getting my leg broken ...

...Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me."

All workers should have the FREEDOM of choice of whether to join a union or not.

Dion said...

Trumka and broken limbs aside, in today's economy, anyone offering a career that paid a living wage with basic benefits would cause a stampede of hopeful applicants.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

I'm with ya', Dion. Aside from jobs as "associates" in big box stores or other dominate corporate retailers, pushin' coronary thrombosis makers as fast food jockeys, or selling insurance or Mary Kay, there's not a lot out there anymore.

We used to have a manufacturing base that fostered a middle-class second-to-none, until the dismantling began some thirty years ago. Ronald Reagan was the beginning of the transition that succumbed to corporate dominance, pushed "We the People" to the back of the bus, and now the effort is well under way to throw us out and under the bus. (But first, they're going to steal our wallets and purses and rummage through our luggage and belongings.)

Anonymous said...

The only way to have good manufacturing jobs in the US again is for China’s workers to demand better pay and working conditions, and that goes for other developing countries as well. We need to compete on a global basis. It’s the only way.

I like to think Reagan had the country’s best interest at heart during his reign. I don’t think it was his administrations intent, or that they could have foreseen the effects of their policies. Perhaps I am naïve, but I’m not convinced Reagan was really a corporate pawn, or that he was trying to stick it to the average American. I just never saw him in that light. Maybe he really was a good actor, who knows.


Jefferson's Guardian said...

Joel, the nonpartisan Multinational Monitor disagrees with your perception and recollection of Ronald Reagan, as do I. Not to mention that the consolidation of the media, in addition to the shredding of The Fairness Doctrine, began in earnest under number forty.

Dion said...

Our girl's been talking. Sam Seder interviews Naomi Klein, 2-24-11

Anonymous said...

Thomas Jefferson is rolling over in his grave at having someone with such marxist views as "Jefferson's Guardian" associating themselves with him and blogging their warped views onto the internet!

Jefferson's Guardian said...


Sure I'm a Marxist! Isn't everybody?