Money Talks in Many Ways: Election-Season Reflections on How the Ruling Class Rules

31/10/12 0 COMMENTS
Truthout, October 26, 2012. A solid majority of Americans has long told pollsters that the wealthy few and their giant corporations and financial institutions exercise too much power in “the world’s most celebrated democracy”[1] the United States. The sentiment is understandable given the nation’s dollar-soaked political system, usefully described by left critics as “the best democracy money can buy” (Greg Palast) and (less humorously) subject to “an unelected dictatorship of money” (Edward S. Herman and David Peterson).[2]

 Some Areas of Elite Consensus

That dictatorship is in fine form two weeks out from the next presidential election. It’s wrong and even childish to say that there’s no difference at all that matters between the nation’s two dominant political organizations and their standard-bearers Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Still, behind the official media story line of an epic contest between two “very different” and “sharply polarized” parties and candidates, the only two officially viable contenders bow to the wishes of capital and defy majority opinion by agreeing, in the words of the left activist Bruce Dixon, that:

  • “The federal government should NOT enact any sort of WPA-style program to put millions of people back to work.”
  • “Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are ‘entitlements’ that need to be cut to relieve ‘the deficit.’”
  • “Climate change treaties and negotiations that might lead to them should be avoided at all costs.”
  • The corporatist investor-rights North American Free Trade Agreement is “such a great thing it really should be extended to Central and South America and the entire Pacific rim.”
  • “Banksters and Wall Street speculators deserve their bailouts and protection from criminal liability, but underwater and foreclosed homeowners deserve nothing.”
  • “Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve ‘energy independence.’”
  • “The FCC should not and must not regulate telecoms to ensure that poor and rural communities have access to internet, or to guarantee network neutrality.”
  • “There really ARE such things as ‘clean coal’ and ‘safe nuclear energy.’”
  • “Oil and energy companies, and other mega-polluters must be freed to drill offshore almost everywhere, and permitted to poison land and watersheds with fracking to achieve ‘energy independence.’”  
  • “No Medicare for All. Forget about it eliminating the Medicare age requirement so that all Americans would qualify.”
  • “No minimum wage increases for you, no right to form a union, no right to negotiate or strike if you already have a union, and no enforcement or reform of existing labor laws.”[3]

As if these and other areas of rich plutocratic consensus (i.e. – the notion that the U.S. should maintain a giant Pentagon system that accounts for half the world’s military spending and amounts to a giant public subsidy for high-tech corporations) aren’t disturbing enough, the president feels compelled in the great theatrical debates to repeat his timeworn paeans to “the free enterprise system” (capitalism, or what he calls “the  greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known”[4]) – this despite the profits system’s long and ongoing record of savage, mass-murderous inequality, epic crises,   empire, corruption, militarism, and  (of special and unmentionable importance within official U.S. election culture) ecocide.

Why is it like this? John and Joan Q. Public and their downscale neighbors Joe and Jane Six Pack deserve an ‘A’ for sensing the plutocratic reality behind the dollar-drenched charade that passes for democracy in the U.S. Ask most U.S. citizens how rich folks’ disproportionate power is exercised, however, and the grade starts to drop dramatically. They will tell you primarily if not exclusively about the role that big money plays in paying for candidates’ expensive campaigns – about the role of campaign funders in the purchase of politicians.

 Citizens Defeated: Frankenstein Eats His Creator

This is a very important point, to be sure. As the prolific campaign finance reform advocates John Bonifaz and Jamie Raskin noted 18 years ago in the Columbia Law Review, American “representative democracy” is subjected to “the wealth primary” – the requirement that viable candidates either personally possess great wealth or enjoy strong funding connections to those with the wealth to pay for ever-more expensive campaigns.[5]  Of course, those with the financial resources required for serious contention and victory in America’s costly “winner-take-all” elections system are hardly in the business of paying for genuinely public-oriented office-seekers who sincerely wish to reflect majority populist and progressive sentiments in government.[6]

The wealth primary has long imposed deep plutocratic scars on America’s dollar-democracy, but the problem is worse now than ever. With the 2012 elections on track to cost an all-time record of more than $6 billion, a tiny and disproportionately wealthy slice of the populace (significantly smaller than just “the 1%”) will account for a wildly disproportionate share of the dollars required to feed the burgeoning “money and -media election complex” that has “effectively become the foundation of electoral politics in the United States.”[7]

The problem isn’t just money per se. As the liberal Sunlight Foundation noted in a major campaign finance study titled The Political One Percent of One Percent last year, “It’s the 1 percent of the 1 percent who account for almost a quarter of all individual campaign contributions…. There are very few Americans who can afford to write the kind of big checks that candidates depend on” (emphasis added). Reflecting on Sunlight’s finding, University of Maryland political scientist Jim Gimpel told reporters to “Bear in mind that wealth is concentrated…this donation pattern… reflects the concentration of wealth in this country.”[8]

The problem has been worsened considerably by the legal system. Part of the reason that 2012 is certain to be the most expensive election on record is the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission decision. Passed 5-4 by the high court’s conservative, Republican-appointed majority and opposed by the Obama administration, Citizens United abolished prior longstanding governmental prohibitions against corporations digging into their treasuries to invest unlimited sums in election campaigns. The ruling has opened the door to spectacular new levels of business election spending, giving rise to giant new “Super PACs” that funnel tens of millions of corporate shareholder dollars into “independent expenditures” on behalf of candidates with the undoubted and in fact legally mandated purpose of shaping policy in the interests of corporate contributors.

Prior to Citizens United, corporations already invested massively in American politics and policy. They spent billions on lobbying, ‘issue ads,’ political action committees (PACs), and raising PAC money. CEOs, top executives and corporate board members contributed heavily as individuals to parties and candidates. Still, as Raskin notes in a recent special Nation issue on “The 1% Court,” there “was one crucial thing that CEOs could not do before Citizens United: reach into their corporate treasuries to bankroll campaigns promoting or opposing the election of candidates for Congress or president. This prohibition essentially established a wall of separation—not especially thick or tall, but a wall nonetheless—between corporate treasury wealth and campaigns for federal office” (emphasis added). 

Citizens United blew up the wall. Along the way, it undid two centuries of high court doctrine upholding the special need to restrict corporations’ political contributions by claiming that “identity of the speaker” is irrelevant and an unconstitutional basis on which to limit the “free speech” rights of campaign contributors.” The decision is openly absurd because the Supreme has refused to extend free speech protections to “public employees, public school students, whistleblowers, prisoners and minor-party candidates whose free-speech rights have been crushed by the conservative Court because of their identity as (disfavored) speakers” and because it is unthinkable that the court would “allow and President Obama…[to] order the Government Printing Office to produce a book advocating his re-election” or  let” churches…or Harvard University bankroll…political campaigns.’ [9]

Raskin quotes the important dissenting opinion of Supreme Court Bryon White in the 1978 case First Nat’l Bank v. Bellotti. White noted that U.S. statutory and common law grants private corporations awesome legal benefits—”limited liability, perpetual life, and the accumulation, distribution and taxation of assets”—in order to “strengthen the economy generally.” But a corporation empowered these ways is “in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may, if not regulated, dominate not only the economy but also the very heart of our democracy, the electoral process.” The state, he argued, had a compelling interest in “preventing institutions which have been permitted to amass wealth as a result of special advantages extended by the State for certain economic purposes from using that wealth to acquire an unfair advantage in the political process. . .The State,” White said, “need not permit its own creation to consume it.”[10]

That remains a chilling formulation worth reflecting on as Halloween and the first $2 billion presidential election loom closer. As the Canadian law professor Joel Bakan has shown, the leading modern corporations are giant Frankenstein-like creatures whose managers are legally and socio-pathologically obligated to pursue the maximum possible profitable return for investors at all times, regardless of their actions’ outcomes for others, democracy, justice, and the Earth.[11]

Many-Sided Methods of Control

Frighteningly enough, however, even in the Citizens Defeated era, campaign finance is just one among many ways in which the aforementioned “unelected dictatorship” speaks. Other mechanisms of corporate and plutocratic rule abound. The many-sided methods and modes include:

  • The flooding of the nation’s capital and the 50 state capitals and an untold number of municipal and county governments with a gigantic army of corporate lobbyists.  
  •  Massive investment in public relations and propaganda to influence the beliefs and values of citizens, politicians, and other “opinion-shapers” on matters of interest to corporations.
  • Capture of key positions in government regulatory agencies by people who reasonably expect to work at increased levels of compensation in the regulated (and not-so-regulated) industries in the future.
  • “Cognitive” (ideological) capture of state officials, politicians, media personnel, educators, nonprofit managers so as to minimize public actions and sentiments that might harm business profits.
  • The use by businesses of the threat of disinvestment, capital flight, and capital strike – resulting in the loss of jobs and tax revenue – to get what they want (i.e., reduced wages, reduced taxes, reduced environmental regulations, increased public subsidies…the list goes on) from governments, unions, and communities.
  • The systematic destruction and undermining of organizations (i.e., labor unions) that might offer some countervailing power to that of big business in the political and policy realms.
  • The offer of jobs, corporate board memberships, internships, and other perks and payments to public officials and their families and to other “influentials” and their families.
  • Control of education and publishing (a) to filter out, repress, and marginalize “populist” and “radical” (democratic) critiques of the profits system, corporations, and capitalist culture and (b) to identify the public interest and the common good with the business bottom line.
  • Ownership, monitoring, and management of mass media (including “entertainment” as well as pubic affairs news and commentary) for the same purposes.

 

Hearts and Minds for Capitalism

All of this and more functions very much in accord with top corporate attorney Lewis  Powell’s semi-legendary August 1971 memo to the director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Written two months before Richard Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court, the memo detailed what Powell considered to be an unprecedented and “broadly based” assault on “the American economic system” (capitalism) emanating not just from radical margins but even from “perfectly respectable elements of society: the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians.”  By Powell’s alarmist reckoning, a dangerous anti-business uprising led by such “charismatic” threats as Ralph Nader and Herbert Marcuse meant that corporations should undertake a concerted and many-sided public relations and media counter-offensive. “It is time,” Powell proclaimed, “for American business – which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in history to produce and influence consumer decisions – to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.” Powell counseled that the struggle to win back hearts and minds for capitalism should target the universities, the publishing world, and the media, including an effort to place the television networks “under constant surveillance.”[12]

According to the distinguished political scientist Edward P. Morgan, Powell’s “urgent appeal helped set in motion forces that subsequently transformed public discourse in the United States for decades to come.” [13]

It is interesting and instructive that Powell appealed to the business class’s historic advertising prowess in connection with the project of aligning popular sentiments with the needs of the profits system, the mass acceptance or rejection of which he described as a “consumer decision,” not a citizen choice. The brilliant Australian propaganda critic Alex Carey attributed corporate propaganda’s remarkable power in the U.S. to the American business class’s distinctive and longstanding skill at reaching popular hearts and minds through advertising: As Carey noted in his aptly titled volume Taking the Risk Out of Democracy:  

“Commercial advertising and public relations are the forms of propaganda activity common in a democracy. In the United States over a very long time now these methods have been honed by incomparably more skill and research than in any other country. In the 1940s, Drew Dudley, then chief of the Media Programming Division of the Office of War mobilization and Reconversion, not only observed with satisfaction that ‘advertising is peculiarly American,’ but added on a note of (perhaps rather less well founded) pride that ‘Hitler…employ[ed] the technique of advertising during the pre-war and war years, frequently referring to America’s advertising in glowing and admiring terms in Mein Kampf, and later utilizing advertising’s repetitive force to the utmost.’” [14]

Who Will Tell the People?

The fact that “ordinary” Americans tend to focus on election funding alone when talking about how and why the nation’s political system is unduly controlled by concentrated wealth does not mean that they are stupid or unduly ignorant. The campaign finance dimension is critical. Going deeper into the mechanisms of plutocracy requires research and reflections that only relatively privileged Americans have time, energy, and (in rare cases) inclination to undertake. And everyday working citizens do not get much help on the matter from reporters, pundits, professors, high school teachers and other comparatively comfortable intellectual workers, few of whom seem interested in seriously and critically analyzing the many-side bases of corporate-capitalist power or in communicating the dimensions and dangers of that power to the rest of the populace. Journalists’ abject failure in this regard was one of many disturbing themes in William Greider’s classic 1992 book Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy, dedicated among other things to showing readers that the organized bribery called campaign finance was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how big corporations and financial institutions dominate U.S. politics and policy. “The effects of [campaign] money are real enough….but the debilitating impact [of corporate wealth and power] on democracy would endure, even if money were magically eliminated from politics,” Greider determined. [15]

Insiders/Outsiders

A recent front-page New York Times report relates a curious way in which corporate and specifically corporate communications power has penetrated the current White House. It tells the story of Anita Dunn, a close Obama confidante who is both a leading White House campaign advisor and a top corporate strategist. Ms. Dunn has played key roles in helping get Obama ready for his debates and in plotting the attack on Romney, particularly in regard to issues of gender and health care. She is also a leading partner at SKDKnickerbocker, a communications firm that has “built a growing list of blue-chip companies — food manufacturers, a military contractor, the New York Stock Exchange and the Canadian company developing the Keystone XL pipeline — willing to pay handsomely for help in winning over federal regulators or landing government contracts.”

The company offers corporations what SKDK partner and leading Obama ally Hilary Rosen calls “help in navigating the political landscape in Washington.” Thanks in no small part to Dunn and SKDK’s close ties to the administration, the Times reports, the firm has recently doubled in size to 60 employees and “hired a dozen Washington insiders tied to the Obama administration or the Democratic Party, including Ms. Rosen, a former lobbyist; Jill Zuckman, a senior Transportation Department official; and Doug Thornell, a former senior aide to House Democrats. And it took on corporate clients including General Electric, AT&T, Time Warner, Pratt & Whitney, Kaplan University and TransCanada, which is developing the Keystone XL pipeline…The firm has also helped run industry coalitions seeking to influence federal policy on particular issues, working with lobbyists and other media specialists that represented companies like Oracle, Google, Disney, Pepsi and Microsoft.”

In one particularly ugly episode, SKDK helped food manufacturers and media companies “block [Obama administration] guidelines intended to curb food commercials for unhealthy products like sugared cereals that are aimed at children.”  The White House “dropped the proposed limits, after the coalition [assembled by SKDK] successfully pushed lawmakers to oppose the plan.”

Other shining moments in SKDK’s noxious history include “helping the New York Stock Exchange seek [administration] approval for a merger with a German exchange” and “representing a business coalition seeking to reduce tax rates on about $1 trillion in offshore earnings.”  The latter assignment included direct communication with the Treasury Department.

According to Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and Eric Lipton, “Ms. Dunn’s dual roles show the limits of Mr. Obama’s attempts to change the culture of Washington. Even as he pledged to curb the influence of special interests in the capital and has restricted the role of lobbyists in his administration,” Lichtblau and Lipton add, “the president and his top aides continue to rely on political operatives like Dunn who also represent [corporate] clients seeking to influence public policy.” Obama may have opened a few more White House records to public scrutiny and at least slowed down the revolving door between the lobbyist sector and the federal government, but the administration’s “rules…do not apply to the army of consultants, advisers, communication strategists and others who represent clients with federal agendas. Unlike lobbyists, they are not required to disclose their activities, clients or issues, a freedom that has allowed them to become even more influential in recent years…” 

Other top Obama advisers who combine their administration roles with corporate careers include Eric Smith and Broderick Johnson. The former is the “founder of a communications and issue advocacy firm whose current and former clients include Citigroup, Ford, Delta Air Lines and Genentech.” The latter is a senior White House aid and former lobbyist who has “a consulting shop promising ‘a wealth of public and private relationships’ that corporate clients can use ‘to secure useful intelligence.’”[16]

Beyond the Quadrennial Extravaganza

The corporate-state insider-outsider game has defined the Obama administration from day one, [17] consistent with Obama’s previous record as a “deeply conservative” conciliator of the corporate and financial sector.[18] If he loses the upcoming contest with Wall Street darling Mitt Romney (and there is a more-than-marginal chance that he will), part of the explanation will be the demoralization and demobilization of his “progressive base” that has resulted from the seminar his presidency has given those who care on who really rules and runs the nationbehind the manipulative populist-sounding rhetoric he and other Democratic politicians bandy about at election time: the wealthy corporate and financial few.

We should not doubt that a Romney victory would be a disaster for the nation and the world, particularly if it is accompanied by a Republican victory in the Senate. Many progressives will understandably vote “for” Obama to block Romney in the relatively small number of states (nine by TIME magazine’s count[19]) “in play” this November. Still, one of the more unpleasant prospects of an Obama victory would be the significant extent to which it will validate smug corporate Democrats’ “pragmatic” insistence that those who raise serious issues of social justice, equality, peace, and environmental sustainability must “sit down and shut the f*&#  up” in the name of political “realism.”  

At the same time, it should be realized that the quadrennial big money-big media-candidate-centered and mass-marketed “electoral extravaganza” is itself a critical mode whereby the money power rules. Eight years and three days ago (I am writing on October 24, 2012), the great American left intellectual Noam Chomsky noted that:

“Americans are encouraged to vote, but not to participate more meaningfully in the political arena. Essentially the election is yet another method of marginalizing the population. A huge propaganda campaign is mounted to get people to focus on these personalized quadrennial extravaganzas and to think, ‘That’s politics.’  But it isn’t. It’s only a small part of politics. ..”

“[George W.] Bush and [John F.] Kerry can run because they’re funded by similar concentrations of private power. Both candidates understand that the election is supposed to stay away from issues. They are creatures of the public relations industry, which keeps the public out of the election process. Their task is to focus attention on the candidate’s ‘qualities,’ not policies. Is he a leader? A nice guy? Voters end up endorsing an image, not a platform.”

“The regular vocation of the industries that sell candidates every few years is to sell commodities…. [and hence] to create uninformed consumers will make irrational choices.”[20]

As we prepare for a final 2012 voting decision likely to be determined more by superficial personality factors, race (Obama is far behind Romney with white voters and decisively lost the white presidential vote even in 2008), and marketing than by any real policy and ideological distinctions, Chomsky’s depressing observation seems no less accurate today than it was two election cycles ago – this even as the nation and world continue to the struggle with the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s and the evidence becomes ever more incontrovertible that the officially invisible problem of anthropogenic climate change is creating an environmental apocalypse for current generations and not just “our grandchildren.”

Intersecting with a national tradition that predates the rise of the modern advertising and public relations industries, the “quadrennial extravaganza” sells the false notion ‘that,’ in the late radical American historian Howard Zinn’s rightly mocking words, ‘the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two mediocrities who have already been chosen for us.”

“Would I support one candidate against another?” Zinn asked. “Yes,” he answered, “for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. But before and after those two minutes,” Zinn added, “our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools…..”[21]

We would do well to recall that last year was “the year of the protestor” (TIME) from Tunisia, Cairo, and even Tel Aviv to Madrid, Athens, Madison, Wisconsin, lower Manhattan (Zucotti Park) and then across more than 1000 U.S. locations. Millions were in the streets, united by what the leading liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz calls “a common understanding that…the economic and political system had failed and that both were fundamentally unfair…There are moments,” Stiglitz is inspired to comment at the beginning of his latest bookThe Price of Inequality, “when people all over the world seem to rise up, to say that something is wrong, to ask for change.”[22]

It was unsettling for America’s rich to hear so many citizens openly and angrily discuss  how the American economic and political system is set up – rigged, for all intents and purposes – to serve and protect the wealthy few. The capitalist elite could not have enjoyed the wide and initially fairly positive media coverage given to activists who criticized the nation’s savage disparities and plutocracy[23] and the rising attention given to economic inequality. It could not have been pleasant for the financial and corporate bourgeoisie to see so many Americans show that they did not think they’d been given a remotely adequate voice in public affairs.

It has certainly been a relief for the masters to see the elite-managed, narrow-spectrum presidential contest moved front and center a year later. By the late summer this year, one could almost hear the great authoritarian sucking sound of the latest quadrennial election spectacle, moving up the decibel chart in the wake of the London Olympics. The din is now at peak, deafening intensity. We might think of it as a kind of citizen-dispersing sonic cannon, designed to keep the population managed, divided, distracted, depressed, and deluded.

Let us look forward to the passing of the current “election frenzy” (Zinn) and the hangover that always follows. Hope resides in a return to the more serious political action that matters most: popular movement-building for a democratic and participatory society in which elections among other things (including no less relevantly the organization of work and the broader shape of socioeconomic life) might seriously align with popular wishes and needs. That project requires hard and detailed organizing every day, not just once every 4 years. That work should be informed by an understanding that the nation’s de facto dictatorship of concentrated and organized money never sleeps in its relentless, many-sided assault on democracy (what’s left of it), justice, and a livable Earth.

Selected Endnotes:

[1] This phrase is used with some irony in Michael Scherer, “Blue Truths, Red Truths,” TIME (October 15, 2012), 26. Scherer documents endemic lying and deception on the part of both the Mitt Romney and the Barack Obama presidential campaigns. “So it goes,” Scherer writes, “in the world’s most celebrated democracy: another campaign day, another battle over the very nature of reality.”

[2] Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Riding the ‘Green Wave’ at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Beyond,”Electric Politics, July 22, 2009.

[3] Bruce Dixon, “Closer Than You Think: the Top 15 Things Romney and Obama Agree On,” Black Agenda Report (August 29, 2012). Dixon elaborates on the false assumptions behind these shared positions and on  how most of what passes for differences between the two parties on these issue amount to contrasts of style, not substance. See also Bill Quigley, “15 Issues This Election is Not About,” Black Agenda Report (September 24, 2012).

[4] Joseph Kishore, “The Obama-Romney Debate: Questions Unasked and Unanswered,” World Socialist Website October 18, 2012).

[5]  Jamie Raskin and John Bonifaz, “The Constitutional Imperative and Practical Imperative of Democratically Financed Elections,” Columbia Law Review, 94-4 (1994): 1160-1203.

[6] National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), ‘The Wealth Primary’ – Legal Theory” (n.d.). “In the middle decades of the twentieth century,” NVRI explains, “the U.S. Supreme Court heard a series of cases that addressed efforts by white communities in southern states to exclude African -Americans from the franchise. In the first of these cases, which have collectively become known as the ‘white primary’ cases, the Supreme Court struck down all-white Democratic Party primary elections that were authorized by statute (Nixon v. Herndon, 273 U.S. 536 (1927)), reasoning that primaries were so critical a part of the electoral process that they should be subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.” The “wealth primary” refers to the discriminatory de facto barrier to full and equal democratic political participation faced by non-affluent candidates and voters “who are left behind in the fundraising process because of their lack of money and access to money.”

[7] Robert McChesney and John Nichols, “The Bull Market: Political Advertising,” Monthly Review, Vol. 63, No. 12 (April 2012).

[8] Sunlight Foundation, The Political One Percent of One Percent (December 13, 2011).

[9] Jamie Raskin, “’Citizens United’ and the Corporate Court” (September 13, 2012), The Nation (October 8, 2012).”

[10] “Katrina vanden Heuvel and Jamie Raskin on the Pro-Corporate Supreme Court,” Moyers and Company (September 14, 2012)

[11] See Joel Bakan’s widely read 2004 book The Corporation: the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (which inspired a powerful film documentary titled The Corporation). Noting that the U.S. judiciary essentially defined corporations (e.g. U.S. Steel and Standard Oil) as legal “persons” by the end of the 19th century, Bakan asked: “what kind of a ‘person’ is the modern corporation?”  His answer: a psychopath. It’s not only or even mainly about “corporate outlaws.” It’s about standard and fully legal – indeed legally mandated – operating procedure. The corporation’s legally defined command is to pursue relentlessly and without exception its investors’ economic self-interest, regardless of any harm it may cause to others and the common good along the way. Bakan asked Dr. Robert Hare, a psychologist and internationally acclaimed expert on psychopathy, to evaluate the modern corporation against his acclaimed Psychopathy Checklist. The results were chilling: ‘…Hare found there was a close match. The corporation is irresponsible, Dr. Hare said, because “in an attempt to satisfy the corporate goal, everybody else is put at risk.” Corporations try to “manipulate everything, including public opinion,” and they are grandiose, always insisting “that we’re number one, we’re the best.” A lack of empathy and asocial tendencies are also key characteristics of the corporation, says Hare – “their behavior indicates that they don’t really concern themselves with their victims”; and corporations often refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions and are unable to feel remorse: “If [corporations’ get caught [breaking the law], they pay big fines and they continue doing what they did before anyway. And in fact in many cases the fines and penalties and the penalties paid by the organizations are trivial compared to the profits they rake in.”….Finally, according to Dr. Hare, corporations relate to others superficially – “their whole goal is to present themselves to the public in a way that is appealing to the public [but] in fact may not be representative of what th[e] organization is really like.”  Human psychopaths are notorious for their ability to use charm as a mask to hide their dangerously self-obsessed personalities. For corporations, social responsibility may play the same role.’Joel Bakan The Corporation: the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power (New York: Free Press, 2004), 56-57, 136-137.

[12] Edward P. Morgan, What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Failed American Democracy (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2012), 165-67.

[13] Morgan, What Really Happened to the 1960s, 167.

[14]  Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy” Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 14.

[15] William Greider, Who Will Tell the People? The Betrayal of American Democracy (New York: Touchstone, 1992), 26.

[16] Eric Lichtblau and Eric Lipton, “Strategizing for the President, and Corporate Clients Too,” New York Times, October 19, 2012, A1.

[17] Paul Street, “Whose Black President? Getting Things Done for the Rich and Powerful,” Counterpunch (July 30, 2012); William Greider, “Obama Told Us to Speak Out, But Is He Listening?” Washington Post, March 22, 2009, B1; Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (New York:  W.W. Norton, 2012), x, xix; Ron Suskind, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (New York: Harper Collins, 2011); Paul Street, The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2010), Chapter 1: “Business Rule as Usual;” Kevin Baker, “Barack Hoover Obama: The Best and the Brightest Blow It Again,” Harper’s (July 2009).

[18] Larissa MacFarquhar, “The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama Coming From?” The New Yorker (May 7, 2007). According to MacFarquhar, “In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative.”

[19] Scherer, “Blue Truths, Red Truths,” 26. The 9 contested states this year are Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida,Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada.

[20] Noam Chomsky Interventions (San Francisco: City Lights, 2007), 97-98.

[21] Howard Zinn, “Election Madness,” The Progressive (March 2008).

[22] Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (New York: WW Norton, 2012), ix-x.

[23] Anthony DiMaggio and Paul Street, “Occupy Wall Street, Mass Media, and Progressive Change in the Tea Party Era,” Economic and Political Weekly [Mumbai, India]  Volume XLVI, No. 47 (November 19, 2011)

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

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