If you want to know what libertarianism is all about, don’t ask a libertarian, because most of them don’t know. A new poll from Pew Research found that only 11% of those surveyed who identified themselves as libertarian were correctly able to identify the very basic meaning of libertarianism as “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government.” Even though that's often an oxymoron, that's what libertarians say, and their followers apparently don't know it.
Weirdly, that same poll found that 41% of libertarians believe that the government should regulate business, 46% of libertarians believe that corporations make too much profit, and 38% of libertarians believe that government aid to the poor is a good thing.
Similarly, of the so-called libertarians polled, 42% believe that police should be able to stop and search people who "look like criminals," and 26% think “homosexuality should be discouraged.”
What happened to limited government and more individual freedoms? Basically, people in America who call themselves libertarians have absolutely no idea what libertarianism is really about.
So, let’s go over it for a second. Back in 1980, David Koch, one half of the Kochtopus, ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate. And the platform that he ran on back in 1980 provides a great summary of what libertarianism is really about.
First, libertarians want to “urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission." In other words, they want to make it as easy as possible for corporations and wealthy billionaires to flood our democracy with corruptive cash and buy even more politicians. They want Citizen’s United on steroids – and then some.
Next up, libertarians “favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.” Instead, they want to privatize healthcare in America, so that their billionaire friends in the healthcare industry can get even richer, while working-class Americans are getting sicker and sicker. In fact, a 2012 analysis by Citigroup found that insurance company stocks would skyrocket if Medicare alone were to be privatized. And Big Pharma would experience a revenue and profit boom, too.
Just look at America’s experiences with Medicare Part D. A report released by the House of Representatives back in July of 2008 found that, two years into the Medicare Part D experiment, American taxpayers were paying up to 30% more for prescriptions under the privatized part of the program. And thanks to Medicare Part D, between 2006 and 2008 alone, drug manufacturers took in an additional $3.7 billion that they wouldn’t have gotten through drug prices under the public Medicaid program.
Meanwhile, the 1980 libertarian platform also says that libertarians “favor the repeal” of an “increasingly oppressive” Social Security system. They want to abolish Social Security, screw over working-class Americans, and take all the money that would go towards Social Security and invest it in Wall Street, so that their wallets can get even bigger. There's over $2.5 trillion sitting in the Social Security Trust Fund right now. Imagine how much money the libertarian banksters could make skimming even a fraction of a percent off the top of that every year.
Similarly, because libertarians want to hold on to their money and get even richer, they also “oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.” They don’t want to have any responsibility for society. Screw society! Naturally, libertarians also think that “all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
According to Demos, in 2010, tax evasion cost the federal government $305 billion. Imagine what America could have done with that $305 billion. But, if you're rich, you shouldn’t have to pay any taxes under libertarianism.
Next up, libertarians want to repeal laws that affect “the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.” In other words, "Screw the workers! We're the billionaires and we don't give a damn about workers!" According to the 1980 platform, libertarians are also for the “complete separation of education and the state” and think that “government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
Who cares about Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia, or Abraham Lincoln’s land-grant colleges? Screw public education! Poor people don't need to know how to read! Only rich people should be going to college, and billionaires can pay for their own kids' education!
And when they’re done attacking public education in America, libertarians want to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. After all, pollution can be so profitable. And who cares if a few million people get asthma or die of cancer? They're not rich people! Screw them. A 2010 study found that between 2005 and 2007, around 30,000 hospital trips and emergency-room visits could have been avoided in California alone if federal clean-
air standards had been met. Instead, those visits led to approximately $193 million worth of health care expenses for the American people. Guess who benefited from that $193 million?
Similarly, the 1980 platform makes it clear that libertarians also want to get rid of the Department of Energy, and close down any government agency that’s involved in transportation. No more standards for our roads, no more standards for our railways, no more standards for our airlines. Turn it all over to the billionaires. They can run it all and make a buck while they’re at it!
And libertarians want to privatize our public highways and turn them all into toll roads too. So, if you want to drive to work you have to pay the Koch Brothers!
Libertarians also want to do away with the Food and Drug Administration and the safety standards that agency imposes, so that Big Pharma and Big Ag can make even more money, while you and I are forced to deal with the consequences. Billionaires don’t have to worry if their food is safe. They can own their own farmland, and hire their own cheap labor to work it!
Along those same lines, the 1980 platform says that libertarians want to get rid of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. After all, if a kid is choking to death on some badly made cheapo toy, it's almost certain that it's a poor or working-class kid. One less moocher!
The 1980 libertarian platform also called for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Right. Workers don’t need protections. Employers can just be trusted to keep their employees who are working for minimum wage safe.
Finally, libertarians “oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs,” claiming that these programs are, “privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient.” Or, in other words, turn poverty over to the rich people. After all, they’ve always done such a great job taking care of poor people...
And, while it wasn’t explicitly in the 1980 platform, who can forget that libertarians are also opposed to the Title II of the Civil Rights Act which, “prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, or national origin in certain places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and places of entertainment.”
To add insult to injury, they’re also opposed to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex and nationality. Who needs civil rights anyway?
Clearly, Libertarianism is not what most Americans think it is. From wanting to privatize healthcare, to doing away with federal agencies and eliminating minimum wage laws, libertarianism put the interests of billionaires and the wealthy elite first, and the interests of everyone else dead last. And I do mean dead.
Now, ask yourself, is that the America you want to live in? I sure don't...
You and I have the power to end Nixon's failed War on Drugs once-and-for-all. In fact, it's our constitutional right to do so.
Imagine for a second that you've been selected as a juror for the trial of someone like Jacob Lavoro, the 19-year-old Austin, Texas man currently facing anywhere from five years to life in prison for making a pound-and-a-half of pot brownies.
You know that based on the all evidence presented by the prosecution that the defendant is probably guilty, but you and other jurors on the case have serious doubts about convicting him because you know that doing so will ruin the defendant's life.
You're trapped. The law says one thing, but your conscience says the other. So what do you do?
Easy - you use your power of jury nullification. You declare the defendant "not guilty" regardless of the evidence and let him walk free, "nullifying" the unjust or unfair law.
Just like the Supreme Court has the power to strike down laws, you too as an American citizen have the power to reject laws when you're serving on a jury.
If you haven't heard of jury nullification before, that's not all that surprising. The powers that be really don't want anyone to know about it because it represents a direct threat to the status quo. Defense lawyers, for example, aren't allowed to talk about a jury's right to nullify during a trial and saying that you know about nullification is actually one of the easiest ways to avoid jury duty altogether.
In some cases, people who spread the word about jury nullification have even been accused of committing a crime. Just three years ago, for example, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged a 78-year-old former chemistry professor named Julian Heinecken with "jury tampering" for handing out flyers outside a courthouse that informed jurors of their right to nullify.
But however much they try, the authorities will never actually be able to stop people from using their jury nullification powers. That's because the right to nullify is given to us by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, the same part of the Bill of Rights that gives us the right to trial by jury.
Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made this clear in an opinion he wrote earlier this month deciding the case of United States of America v. Juan Agudin Salazar.
According to Smith, when a Texas judge ordered a jury to find Juan Salazar guilty after he confessed in court to drug and gun charges, that judge violated Salazar's right to have a jury decide whether or not he was guilty or innocent. As Smith wrote, "the Sixth Amendment safeguards even an obviously guilty defendant's right to have a jury decide guilt or innocence."
When you really think about it, jury nullification is among the most important rights we have as Americans. It gives us the power and freedom to say "no" to unjust laws. It gives us, "We the People," the final say over what kind of laws we want enforced.
And with Nixon's failed War on Drugs now in its forty-third year, it's never been more important for Americans to understand that they have this immense power
This is costing us billions, if not hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact, according to the Washington Post, over the past 20 years, "Spending on incarceration at the state level has outpaced budget increases for just about every other function of government, including education, transportation and welfare. Only spending on Medicaid at the state level has grown faster."
And because people of color are disproportionately arrested, imprisoned, and charged with drug crimes, the War on Drugs has stunted a lot of the progress we made with integration in the 1960s. Mass incarceration has become such a problem for people of color that sociologist Michelle Alexander now calls it the "new Jim Crow."
Thankfully, Washington has started to wake up to the failure of the War on Drugs. Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, has made sentencing reform one of his major second term initiatives.
But sentencing reform will only get us so far. Each year, hundreds of thousands Americans are sent to prison - sometimes for life - for either possessing or selling harmless drugs like marijuana.
This has to stop and it has to stop now.
Americans need to start exercising their Constitutionally-provided power of jury nullification when it comes to nonviolent drug crimes. In lieu of a law passed by Congress, it's the single best way to stop mass incarceration and end Nixon's failed War on Drugs once-and-for-all.
To paraphrase Nancy Reagan, it's time for all of us to "just say no" to convicting anyone of a nonviolent drug crime.
This past Sunday was the fourth anniversary of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite what we’ve heard from BP, the wildlife, the environment, and the residents of the Gulf are still dealing with the effects of that massive oil spill. A new report from the National Wildlife Federation found that many animal species are still struggling to recover from the 2010 disaster, including Bottlenose dolphins, Bluefin Tuna, sea turtles, and many others.
Residents who live near the spill, and those who worked in clean-up efforts say that they’re still dealing with skin boils, respiratory illness, and depression. Many coastal environments that were once home to birds and wildlife are now just stretches of barren land and dead mangroves. And, just a couple weeks ago, Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials discovered more than 350 tar balls on the beaches of Escambia County.
The oil isn’t gone. The environment isn’t restored. Residents’ lives aren’t back to so-called “normal.” Yet, BP continues to claim that they fixed the Gulf and reports that show otherwise are just “political advocacy – not science.” The fact is, there was no way to completely clean up the 210 millions of gallons of oil that spilled in the Gulf, and there’s no way to bring back the millions of plants and animals that died as a result of that spill.
We should have learned our lesson from earlier oil disasters – like the Exxon Valdez in Alaska – but instead, even after these massive events, we just keep drilling for toxic sludge. Four years after the BP spill, we’re still repeating the same mistakes. We can only hope that there won’t be a bigger, more deadly disaster before we finally end our addiction to fossil fuels.
Thanks to the “super food” debate that has raged over the past several years, we’ve been led to believe that these and other types of grains, fruits, and veggies are the key to living a long and healthy life.
From classrooms to media campaigns, we’ve been told that if we eat the proper portions of fruits, grains, and veggies each and every day, we’ll be on the road to a life of optimum health.
But, since the dawn of the agricultural revolution, and particularly over the last 100 years, we’ve been changing the nature of the food that we produce and consume, and as result, removing the vital nutrients from our diets that were once staples of our ancestor’s diets.
Studies published over the last several years show that our current selection of produce is remarkably low in phytonutrients, the compounds that reduce the risk of health ailments like cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
We've been systematically stripping phytonutrients from our diet ever since we stopped hunting and gathering wild plants thousands of years ago and started farming our food.
For instance, since our ancestors first began to farm, bitter plants have typically been avoided, because they don't taste as good as starchy, sugary plants.
But, research has shown that some of the most beneficial phytonutrients are in plants, vegetables and fruits that have bitter tastes.
As one example, take a look at corn.
Today, we typically only eat the white and yellow varieties of corn. These types of corn have 1.54 and 70.2 milligrams respectively of anthocyanins, a type of phytonutrient, per 100 grams of dried corn.
But, blue corn, which is nearly impossible to find in any produce section today, has a whopping 99.5 milligrams of anthocyanins per 100 grams of dried corn.
Next, check out greens.
Today, we think that spinach is the healthiest green around.
But there are only .89 milligrams of antioxidants per 100 grams of fresh spinach. That's less than one!
In comparison, wild dandelion greens, which were once staples of Native American diets and which today are considered common weeds, contain a staggering 6.89 antioxidants per 100 grams. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find wild dandelions at your local grocery store.
Finally, look at apples.
Everyone loves a good Granny Smith or Red Delicious apple, but these varieties of apples only contain 205 and 108 milligrams of phytonutrients per liter of juice.
On the other hand, a Siberian crabapple has 4,606 milligrams of phytonutrients per liter of juice. And, Sikkim crabapples come in even higher than that, at 7,181 milligrams of phytonutrients.
But once again, good luck finding those in the store. They're not as sweet, so nobody wants to buy or eat them.
Prior to the agricultural revolution, indigenous hunting-gathering people lived daily in the hands of Mother Nature. If they didn't understand how she worked, how to sustainably hunt and gather, they wouldn’t survive.
Over millennia, they learned which plants and grains, fruit and veggies would provide the nutrition that they needed. They lived off the Earth, and with the Earth.
But then we began intensive agriculture about 7000 years ago, and everything changed.
Instead of everybody being involved in hunting and gathering food, now only a small number of people managed our food production and remained connected to nature. The rest of us disconnected ourselves from nature, and even began to see nature as our enemy rather than that which gives us life and sustains our lives.
Today, that disconnection has gone on steroids. Food production is controlled by giant transnational corporations like Monsanto, that care more about making a profit than providing nutritious foods to the you and me.
Their goal isn’t to produce foods that contain the most phytonutrients; it’s to produce foods that will help create the largest profits.
And it's making us sick – and making our planet sick – which is why it needs to change.
During World War II, we had “Victory Gardens” where people all across the nation were encouraged to grown much of their own food in their yards. Today, we instead use more water on our grass than we do on our crops.
We need to reclaim our plant heritage, take back our heirloom seeds for all of humanity, and start planting gardens in our green spaces. We need to reconnect with Mother Earth. And we need to use out government to break up the big food monopolies that threaten not just our small farmers and our health, but threaten our entire planet as their genetically modified genes escape into the wild.
Let's wake up and take back control of our food supply!
Far right Conservatism has become a cult, and Rush Limbaugh is its leader.
By definition, a cult is a group or sect bound together by adoration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
A cult promises you redemption. It tells you that if you do what it says, and as it believes, you will be protected from the evil people that are out to get you and the rest of society.
A cult purges the non-believers. And it actively tries to vilify all those who are not part of the cult, saying that they're doomed and destined to go to hell.
So how did Limbaugh become the leader of such a large, and influential, cult?
Like with any cult, the power that Limbaugh has over his flock as grown over time.
Right wing radio started out in conflict with mainstream society, and outside of mainstream politics.
What was once a little cult guided by Limbaugh has transformed into a massive cult that today has enveloped much of the Conservative movement.
So how did this transformation occur?
Well, like cult leaders do, Limbaugh offered up a theatrical flair, and accompanied that with a marketing genius.
He offered his followers redemption. He offered them protection from what he told them they should fear – liberals and feminists. He demanded ideological purity, and absolute devotion to the ideology of far-right "conservative" corporatism. And he vilified all those who didn't see things his way.
Limbaugh then managed to convince his followers that faith in his word was more important than facts. No matter what everyone else said, if Rush said it, it must be true. Only information that supports Limbaugh's positions can be believed, and everything else is just lies.
Since his first successes, he's been followed by a succession of other right-wing cult leaders, from Glenn Beck to Mark Levin to Alex Jones.
Which brings us to today.
Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing talk radio cult have conjured up such a large following that they're helping the Koch Brothers drive the polarization within the Republican Party, and within America's political discourse.
Ironically, so says Frank Luntz, a top Republican consultant and campaign guru.
Earlier this week, Luntz told a group of college students at the University of Pennsylvania that Limbaugh and his fellow right-wing talk-radio cult leaders are "problematic" for the Republican Party because they're responsible for the stark polarization within the party.
In a secret recording of his comments, Luntz can be heard saying that, "And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side...[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take—Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy."
Basically, Luntz was saying that the right-wing media and its cult following are not serving the national political debate and not helping the Republican Party widen its appeal beyond its declining base of aging boomer cultists.
But no matter what Luntz says, Limbaugh and the rest of his right-wing media pals will continue to rally their followers, and continue to vilify those who dare think otherwise.
They will continue to paint President Obama as America's anti-hero, using terms like "socialist" and "Muslim" to further scare their cult followers into seeing things their way.
The good news is that there are still some semblances of a normal, and non-cult media in America.
Unlike the right-wing media, real media – and even progressive media – is not cult-like. It talks about ideas that are widely accepted (social safety net, clean environment, nondiscrimination, a solid middle class), and that are not in conflict with the rest of society.
It's not based on fear or faith. It's based on facts. And it respects other beliefs and ideas, instead of vilifying them.
And perhaps, most importantly, real media doesn't fear or hate our government, and certainly doesn't suggest we should be armed and ready to attack our own government.
Sadly, that cult is coming dangerously close to having complete control over the Republican Party and much of the political discourse in our country.
Thankfully, people are waking up and recognizing the far right-wing media for what it is: a cult.
Thirty years after her death, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness and billionaire empowerment rules the world. It’s a remarkable achievement for an ideology that was pushed to the fringes for most of her life, and ridiculed on national television in a notorious interview with Mike Wallace.
But, it’s happened. And today, the United States and other independent governments around the world are crumbling while Ayn Rand’s billionaires are taking over.
With each new so-called Free Trade agreement – especially the very secretive Trans Pacific Partnership, which has less to do with trade and more to do with a new law of global governance for transnational corporations – Ayn Rand’s reviled “state” (or what we would call our democracy, the United States of America) is losing its power to billionaires and transnational corporations.
Ayn Rand hated governments and democracy. She considered them systems of mob rule. She grew up in Russia, and as a child watched the Bolsheviks confiscate her father’s pharmacy during the Russian Revolution. Likely suffering from PTSD from that incident, Ayn Rand devoted her future writings to evil government, including the "evil" of its functions like taxation, regulation, and providing social services to the poor and sick.
She divided the world into makers and takers (or what she called “looters”).
On one side are the billionaires and the industrialists. People like Dagny Taggert, a railroad tycoon, and Hank Rearden, a steel magnate. Both were fictional characters in her book Atlas Shrugged, but both have real-world counterparts in the form of the Koch Brothers, the Waltons, and Sheldon Adelson. According to Rand, they are the “Atlases” holding up the world.
So, in Atlas Shrugged, when the billionaires, tired of paying taxes and complying with government regulation, go on strike, Ayn Rand writes that the American economy promptly collapsed.
On the other side are the “looters,” or everyone else who isn’t as rich or privileged, or who believed in a democratic government to provide basic services, empower labor unions, and regulate the economy. They are the leeches on society according to Rand (and according to Mitt Romney with his 47% comments). And, as she told Mike Wallace in in 1959, they do not even “deserve love.”
To our Founding Fathers, looking out for the general welfare of the population was an explicit role of the government, one of its most important and the reason this nation was created when we separated from Britian.
But to Ayn Rand, a government that taxed billionaires to help pay for healthcare and education for impoverished children was not just unwise economically, it was also immoral.
Nature abhors a vacuum – both in the wild and in politics. So, when people, organized in the form of a government, are removed from power, then money organized in the form of corporations and billionaires moves into the vacuum to take power – which is exactly what’s happening today, worldwide.
In the thirty years after her death, the United States crept closer and closer to Ayn Rand’s utopia. Reagan dramatically slashed taxes on the rich and went after labor unions. Clinton deregulated financial markets for the rich, ended welfare as we know it, and committed our nation to one globalist corporate free trade agreement after another.
And, under Bush and Obama, we’ve seen the rapid privatization of our commons, the further erosion of social safety nets, and more losses of national sovereignty with more so-called free trade agreements.
In Europe, we’re seeing sovereign governments neutered by Conservative technocrats. According to Ayn Rand, the rich can never be asked to sacrifice. So instead, it’s working people across the Eurozone who have to pay for the bad investments that the banksters made in the run-up to the global financial collapse.
As we saw in Greece in 2011 with the deposing of Prime Minister George Papandreou, and all across the state of Michigan over the last few years with financial managers laws, when democratic governments are unwilling to do the bidding of the rich, they're immediately replaced by corporate lackeys who will.
The Taggerts and the Reardens are holding the reins of government today.
Which explains why Corporate America paid an average tax rate of just 12% in 2011 – the lowest rate in 40 years. It explains why 400 billionaires in America now own more wealth than 150 million other Americans combined. And it explains why fewer impoverished Americans are getting less federal assistance than at any time in the last half-century.
Ayn Rand envisioned a world without governments – a world where the super-rich are free to do as they wish.
We tried that during the so-called Gilded Age of the late 19th Century – before Ayn Rand was alive. If she'd watched the ruthlessness of the Robber Barons like she did the Bolsheviks, she may have reached different conclusions.
She may have realized that American Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower were right when they made sure that wealth was more evenly distributed and the Billionaire Class was held in check.
Or she may have come to understand that corporations and billionaires owe their wealth to the state and not the other way around. Without favorable patent and copyright laws, a court system, an educated workforce, and an infrastructure to move goods about the country, then no one would be able to get rich in America. We'd be like the Libertarian paradise of Somalia.
As Harry Moser, the founder of the Reshoring Initiative,argued in The Economist, “Corporations are not created by the shareholders or the management. Rather they are created by the state. They are granted important privileges by the state (limited liability, eternal life, etc). They are granted these privileges because the state expects them to do something beneficial for the society that makes the grant. They may well provide benefits to other societies, but their main purpose is to provide benefits to the societies (not to the shareholders, not to management, but to the societies) that create them.”
Sadly, this understanding of how democratic republics work - and why - has been lost this generation.
And Ayn Rand’s disciples are making sure the next generation never finds it again.
Idaho State Senator John Goedde, who chairs that state Senate’s Education Committee, introduced a bill this week that would require all students to read Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” before they can graduate. Goedde explained that the book made his son a Republican and that it “certainly gives one a sense of personal responsibility.”
Between stupidity like this, and the re-birth of Ayn Rand through corporate-funded think tanks and Hollywood movies, the Billionaire Class wants to make sure the next generation buys into a toxic ideology that’s quite literally destroying the world as we know it.
They don’t want the 21st Century to be “America’s Century.” They want it to be the “Billionaire’s Century.” And if they succeed, then the middle class in America - and through most of the developed world - will go extinct.
Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, doesn’t know what a fascist is.
Speaking with NPR this week, multimillionaire Mackey tried to express how much he hates Obamacare. Back in 2009, he hated Obamacare so much that he called it “socialism.” But now, in 2013, Mackey thinks Obamacare is “fascism.”
“Technically speaking, [Obamacare] is more like fascism,” he said. “Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it, and that’s what’s happening with our healthcare programs and these reforms.”
Mackey has since walked back this description saying he “regrets using that word now” because there’s “so much baggage attached to it.”
But, whether Mackey meant to or not, it’s about time someone injected the word fascism back into our political debate. Especially now that corporations wield more power today than they have in America since the Robber Baron Era.
First, let’s take on Mackey’s definitions of socialism and fascism, which he likely procured from the Google machine after typing in, “What are the differences between socialism and fascism?”
Yes, socialism encourages more democratic control of the economy. Or, if Mackey insists, more government ownership of the economy – in particular, ownership of the commons and natural resources.
Fascism, on the other hand, is something completely different. Reporter Sy Mukherjee, who blogged about this story over at ThinkProgress.org notes, “Although fascist nations do often control their ‘means of production,’ Mackey seems to have forgotten that they usually utilize warfare, forced mass mobilization of the public, and politically-motivated violence against their own peoples to achieve their ends.”
The 1983 American Heritage Dictionary defined fascism as: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." Fascism originated in Italy, and Mussolini claims to have invented the word itself. It was actually his ghostwriter, Giovanni Gentile, who invented it and defined it in the Encyclopedia Italiana in this way: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
In other words, fascism is corporate government – a Libertarian’s wet dream. It’s a government in which the Atlas’s of industry are given free rein to control the economy, just how they’re regulated, how much they pay in taxes, how much they pay their workers. It should be noted here that, ironically, John Mackey describes himself as a Libertarian.
In 1938, Mussolini finally got his chance to bring fascism to fruition. He dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Members of the Chamber were not selected to represent particular regional constituencies, but instead to represent various aspects of Italian industry and trade. They were the corporate leaders of Italy.
Imagine if the House of Representatives was dissolved and replaced by a Council of America’s most powerful CEOs – the Kochs, the Waltons, the Blankfeins, the Dimons, the Mackeys, you get the picture.
Actually, that’s not too difficult to imagine, huh? But, that’d be similar to what Mussolini defined as fascism.
As we know, fascism was eventually defeated in World War 2. But just before the end of the war, with the fascists on the ropes, the Vice President of the United States at the time, Henry Wallace, penned an op-ed for the New York Times warning Americans about the creeping dangers of fascism – or corporate government.
He defined a fascist as, “those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.”
Under that definition we can throw those CEOs who’ve decided to evade Obamacare’s mandate to provide health insurance to their employees, like New York City Applebee’s franchise owner Zane Terkel, Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter, and executives at Darden Restaurants.
Or, perhaps, Wallace is referring to the banksters at Goldman Sachs who knowingly evaded laws and sold investors “shitty deals” or scammed entire cities into bankruptcy or illegally foreclosed on thousands of Americans through fraudulently robo-signing all in the name of short term profits and all in the name of preserving their monopolistic, too-big-to-fail status.
Either way, evading laws meant to protect the public in order to pad your own pockets has become the name of the game in Corporate America today.
Wallace goes on to write, “The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism.”
Can anyone say Fox News, or the rest of the Conservative media complex? Or, those on the Right who divide working people and turn them against each other: makers versus takes, public sector workers versus private sector workers, and white people versus brown people.
“They use every opportunity to impugn democracy,” wrote Wallace. Does that sound familiar after months of Republican efforts to disenfranchise large swaths of the electorate with voter suppression ID laws, as well as restrictions on early voting and voter registration in largely Democratic areas?
Or what about what Republicans in Pennsylvania are doing right now to rig the next Presidential election by changing how Electoral votes are counted in the state?
Wallace continues, “They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
We often hear of free enterprise from the likes of Wall Street, Big Oil, and the defense industry. Yet these are the same corporations that also lobby to keep generous taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, and no-bid contracts in place that allow them to reign supreme over the markets and crush their smaller, more independent competition.
And the common man suffers as a result. Wages as a percentage of GDP are lower than they’ve ever been. Unionization rates are lower than they’ve ever been in more than a half-century. And yet, corporate profits as a percent of GDP are higher than they’ve ever been in American history.
At the time Wallace was writing this op-ed, he was confident that the fascists had been adequately held in check in America by the Roosevelt Administration. As he wrote, “Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion.”
But, he went on to warn that in the future, “[Fascism] may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac.”
Sure enough, the bastions of fascism can be found on Wall Street. Main Street, which used to be lined with local independent businesses, is now lined with predatory, transnational giants. And along the Potomac, we find politicians who are more than happy to do the bidding of their corporate overlords.
Today in America, we are dangerously close to seeing Wallace’s fascistic, dystopic America come into fruition. We see the traces of it everywhere.
Unfortunately, too many Americans just didn’t have a word to define what’s happening. But, thanks to John Mackey, and thanks to the foresight of Vice President Henry Wallace, we do have the right word now: Fascism.
When the Royal Dutch Shell Kulluk rig got stuck on the rocky shores of Alaska on New Year’s Eve, the people of that state paid close attention. Not just because they worried about the potential for another environmental disaster in their backyard, but because they pay close to attention to their state’s oil industry in general since they each make a lot of money off of it.
Alaska is unique in that it has something called the Alaska Permanent Fund. Believing that all residents of the state should profit off the resources that are naturally below their feet, Alaska takes the money that big oil corporations pay them in oil leases and royalties, invests that money, and then distributes the returns on those investments to each and every resident of the state.
It works out to between $1,000 and $2,000 dollars for every man, woman, and child in Alaska every single year. So if you’re a husband and wife with two kids, you could earn as much as $8,000 at the end of the year – and that’s not pocket change for a working family trying to make it by during the Great Republican Recession.
Thanks to this supplemental income to each resident of Alaska, the state enjoys the third highest median income in the nation, and is also the second most equal state in the nation.
It’s a system that works, and it’s been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans – even Sarah Palin.
So why not apply it to the rest of the country?
In fact, it is already applied to the rest of the country, but only enjoyed by the billionaire class. Right now our entire economic model, largely controlled by this billionaire class, depends on enriching the lives of shareholders and business owners – but not average working class Americans.
From Wall Street to Big Oil to the for-profit health insurance industry, business decisions are geared to increase the wealth of shareholders. Take a gander at the Forbes 400 richest Americans list and you’ll see a slew of billionaires who collect most of their money in the form of non-labor, dividend income from things they “own” like businesses, land, and infrastructure.
Paris Hilton collects a steady stream of dividend checks from her family’s hotel business. The Koch brothers get their regular checks in the mail courtesy of the massive energy conglomerate their dad built up known as Koch Industries. Mitt Romney continues to collect his checks from Bain Capital.
It’s good to be a shareholder or corporate owner in capitalist America. And that’s all well and good.
But aren’t we all shareholders in our commons just like Alaskans? And being such, shouldn’t we collect dividends every time our commons turn profits for others just like Alaskans?
In Alaska, the money oil corporations pay to lease and extract oil on public lands is distributed to all Alaskans equally. So, nationwide, all the money oil corporation pay to lease and extract oil on public lands could be distributed to all Americans equally, too.
In 2007, the U.S. government collected $9 billion in royalty payments from Big Oil on just the drilling done in the Gulf of Mexico.
In reality, we taxpayers should have collected a lot more, but the U.S. ranks 93rd in the world in how much revenue it collects from oil and gas extraction compared to the profits these industries enjoy. That has something to do with Ronald Reagan. Between 1954 and 1983 the average lease for federal land was $2,224 per acre. But after Reagan, between 1983 and 2008, the average lease was just $263 an acre. Why this happened is the topic of another article.
But still, $9 billion in royalties from just the Gulf of Mexico is a considerable chunk of change. And if we were to distribute that money equally to all Americans, as they do in Alaska, then it works out to about $30 a person. Not too much money, but when you throw in the leases and royalties paid everywhere else around the nation for oil, gas, and coal – from the East coast drilling platforms, to the fracking wells and coal mines in Appalachia, to the oil derricks in the Midwest and Texas, we’re talking serious money.
Not only that, think of how much money is put into our common military to defend the interests of Big Oil abroad to make sure the shipping lanes stay open and the oil spigot keeps flowing. Big Oil should contribute a small fee for this service, which can also be added to this common Permanent Fund to be shared by all Americans.
And what about making Big Oil pay for their pollution of the commons? A cap-and-trade system, which forces polluters to pay for how much carbon they dump into the atmosphere, is a good start and could raise even more money for our commons Permanent Fund to be shared by all of us.
The point is, our commons belong to all of us and should be enriching all of us, and not just the billionaires who’ve put a flag in the ground.
And it shouldn’t stop at just oil.
Wall Street relies heavily on the commons, too. Our markers are regulated by common government, enforced through common courts, and fueled by workers who were educated in our commons.
How about a small financial transaction tax on every single trade – just a fraction of a penny – so that “we the shareholders” in this nation also see the gains from a booming market?
Or better yet, as entrepreneur and defender of the commons, Peter Barnes, proposes, we should all get a cut every time a company goes private. Barnes argues, “When a company like Facebook or Google goes public, its value rises dramatically…Experts call this a ‘liquidity premium,’ and it’s generated not by the company but by society. This socially created wealth now flows mostly to a small number of Americans…Let’s say we required public companies to deposit 1 percent of their shares in the [common fund] for ten years, up to a total of 10 percent. In due time, the [common fund] would have a diversified portfolio worth trillions of dollars.”
Now consider the enormous profits that radio, television, and entertainment companies receive by using our common air and infrastructure and our common copyright laws for basically no charge. They, too, should be paying into the common fund.
Add together all of these “rents” for using our commons, and “we the people” have a raised quite a bit of money for our common Permanent Fund that could go a long way to supplementing the annual incomes of millions of Americans who desperately need a bit more cash.
Somehow, as capitalism was left to run amok in America over the last few decades, we forgot the important role our commons can play in enriching all of our lives. Rather than billionaire CEOs paying us to use our commons, pollute our air and water, dictate our military missions, exploit our markets, and hijack our radio and TV airwaves, it’s all been flipped on its head and we end up paying them. We give them subsidies, generous tax breaks, free usage, and no requirement that they have to share any of the wealth our commons have produced for them with the rest of us who actually own those commons.
So in the end, they make billions off what should belong to all of us while we make squat. This makes no sense. And with pressing concerns about wealth inequality, economic insecurity, and environmental disasters, we need to move away from this corporate rentier-model, and embrace a new universal shareholder model.
Quick - when you hear "public housing," what picture jumps into your mind? Or "public hospital"?
All around us, our public institutions are disintegrating, and the most important public institution of all – our public education system – is the next to be ghettoized.
Despite several progressive victories this Election Day, there was one significant defeat in Georgia, as voters approved of Constitutional Amendment 1, which changes Georgia’s Constitution to give Republicans in that state the power to create charter schools as part of Georgia’s public education system. The result will be crucial taxpayer dollars being funneled away from free public schools and directed toward brand new, sometimes for-profit, privately-run charter schools.
Even though studies show that costly private schools don’t produce any better educational results than free public schools, for-profit schools have popped up all around the nation in recent years because of how valuable they are to corporate America. In fact, the historic Chicago Teachers Union strike earlier this year was largely in response to the city’s push to open up more charter schools to replace traditional public schools.
Education is a recession-proof industry that will always be in high demand. The corporate money-changers know if they can get their hands on this industry, "reform" it to replace decently-paid teachers and faculty with McTeachers, and then get taxpayers to foot the bill, quarterly profits and lavish bonuses for CEOs can explode. Even in so-called "non-profit" charter schools, management can make big bucks.
And that’s exactly what Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment 1 accomplishes. Expect similar amendments to pop up in other state elections in the near future.
This is a major shot in the multigenerational war on public education part of our commons.
Ultimately, as more states pass charter school amendments like Georgia, and money is sucked out of public schools, then public schools will meet the same fate as the rest of the ghettoized public institutions in America.
Public education will be just like public housing, which most Americans think of as low-income, crime-ridden neighborhoods. Or it will be like public hospitals, which most Americans see as disease-ridden institutions filled with impoverished, sick people. Because, in both cases, these institutions principally serve the very poor, there’s little sympathy for Americans stuck in public housing or public hospitals. Little sympathy also translates into little funding, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and the disintegration of our public institutions.
But up until the Reagan "reforms," public education had avoided this same ghettoizing fate. Historically, our public education system was a marvel for the rest of the world, producing generations of scientists, doctors, and engineers from all races and socio-economic classes. Whether you came from a wealthy family or a poor family, the American public education system didn’t discriminate. As much as possible, it was a multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-class public institution that produced great results.
But as state governments embrace for-profit charter schools, traditional public schools will be neglected and see their funding cut until eventually they, too, will suffer the same fate that ghettoized public housing and public hospitals.
Even prominent Republicans are owning up to this. After passage of Georgia’s Constitutional Amendment 1, Lee Raudonis, the former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, penned an op-ed for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution warning that passage of the amendment was, “an endorsement for a drastically altering public education as most Americans define it.”
Raudonis foresees a future in which there’s a “new type of public school” as a result of this move toward charter schools. He describes this new public school as, “one for those children whose parents were not motivated enough to move them into a charter or private school or for whom there were none available.”
After all, there will be a lot of low-income parents who simply can't afford to pay a bit more for a private education for their child or whose low-income neighborhood wasn’t chosen for a new charter school location. And, tragically, there's no shortage of poor parents who are dysfunctional because of the poverty-associated diseases of drug addiction and mental illness. The kids of these parents will be forced to into cash-strapped, forgotten public schools. As Raudonis concludes, “public schools will come to be viewed similarly to public housing and public hospitals, as places for children whose parents, for whatever reasons, cannot find a better alternative.”
This will mark the beginning of the end for not just public education in America, but also for the American middle class itself, which is shrinking faster and faster each day. Public schools will be the new dumping ground for the poor and the working poor. And just as public housing provides the bare minimum for its inhabitants, and just as public hospitals provide the bare minimum for their patients, the new ghettoized public schools will provide a bare minimum of education for low-income students.
The public education system itself will no longer be America's great equalizer, churning out successful students from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Instead, it will shackle the poor, keeping them from learning the essentials needed to find that great job for the 21st century and move up the economic ladder into the middle class – to achieve the American Dream.
America needs to "just say no" to public funding of private schools.
When the Corporate Elite tells us we need to be afraid of something, they almost always expect to make some money off our fear.
From the same people who brought us the "Ground Zero Victory Mosque," FEMA concentration camps, and every single George Soros conspiracy theory, comes a brand new hyper-paranoid threat-to-America's-sovereignty that, they say, should scare the hell out of all of us.
It goes by the name of Agenda 21, which just so happens to be the title of Glenn Beck's new dystopic novel.
Billed as, "more frightening than anything Orwell could have envisioned," Beck's Agenda 21 paints a disturbing picture of America following the implementation of the United Nation's Agenda 21, which is actually a real life UN initiative, though not nearly as nefarious as Beck would have us all believe.
The book's tagline reads: "This used to be called America. Now it is just 'the Republic.' There is no president. No congress. No freedom."
Over at GlennBeck.com you can watch a movie trailer made specifically for the book featuring grizzled Americans lined up on the streets in a post-Soviet winter landscape reeking of desperation, waiting for tiny morsels of food to be parceled out by "the authorities." Reminiscent of both Nazi concentration camps and the Book of Revelation, everyone's foreheads are tattooed with identification numbers - and in homage to Sarah Palin's "death panels," one scene in the trailer depicts an emaciated, scraggly-haired old man loaded on to a conveyor belt and sent into a burning furnace.
Of course, this is all fiction. Whether you like him or not, Beck has made a fortune off sensationalism – and more recently televangelism – and this book will tap into a wellspring of paranoia on the fringe Right that will undoubtedly make a lot more money for multimillionaire Mr. Beck himself.
But whether Beck really believes in his depicted Agenda 21 future for America isn't all that important. What's important is that a lot of other powerful people do believe in it. To them, there's nothing fictional at all when it comes to Agenda 21.
On October 11th this year, the Georgia state Capitol building hosted a four-hour briefing for Republican state senators on the issue of...Agenda 21. It was emceed by a man named Field Searcy who, according to MotherJones, is a local Conservative activist, whose Tea Party leadership was revoked after endorsing birther and truther conspiracy theories. But on that day, Searcy had the attention of his state's most powerful lawmakers – including the Republican Party's Senate Majority Leader, Chip Rogers – to warn them of President Obama's wicked plot to use Agenda 21 to hand the United States off to the United Nations.
Searcy told the Georgia Republicans, and later spoke of it on the Thom Hartmann Radio Program, that President Obama is using a mind control procedure known as the "Delphi Technique" to slowly condition Americans to submit to the control of the United Nations' Agenda 21, which will, according to Searcy, force mass migrations of Americans out of the countryside and into the cities, while handing over control of our rural lands to an international, one-world government.
The goal of the presentation was to influence Georgia lawmakers to follow in the footsteps of Tennessee and Kentucky Republican lawmakers who've already passed legislation to block Agenda 21 from being implemented in their states. In fact, earlier this year Republican Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers introduced legislation in Georgia to do just that.
Also on the "Fear Agenda 21" bandwagon is newly-elected Tea Party Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. He devoted an entire section of his website, TedCruz.org, to Agenda 21 fearmongering. Under the title, "Stop Agenda 21: The Constitution should be our only 'Agenda," Cruz writes:
"The originator of this grand scheme is George Soros, who candidly supports socialism and believes that global development must progress through eliminating national sovereignty and private property... Agenda 21 attempts to abolish 'unsustainable' environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads. It hopes to leave mother earth's surface unscratched by mankind. Everyone wants clean water and clean air, but Agenda 21 dehumanizes individuals by removing the very thing that has defined Americans since the beginning—our freedom."
Oh no! Not the golf courses! Luckily for the golfing community, Ted Cruz is headed to the United States Senate to stop George Soros and the UN from confiscating Augusta National.
Though, hopefully, someone will notify Cruz, perhaps by removing his tinfoil hat, that the United Nations has no interest whatsoever in turning Augusta National into a sustainable bio-dome. Likewise, hopefully someone will tell Mr. Field Searcy that the UN has no interest in forcibly removing Americans from the country-side, either.
Concerns coming from the Right about American sovereignty in the face of the United Nations aren't anything new.
It's true that FDR pushed the idea after World War Two, and Democratic President Harry Truman signed us up for the UN in 1945, and it's also true that in signing up for the United Nations, the United States surrendered a small amount of our sovereignty, inasmuch as we can no longer unilaterally declare war on another nation - unless they attack us first - without getting the approval of the UN. Of course, this is true of every other nation in the UN as well. The UN was created to promote world peace, an idea that doesn't sit well with the neocons and chickenhawks.
But, here's what Agenda 21 really is. Standing for "Agenda 21st Century," it's a completely non-binding UN agreement that aims to address climate change and inequality by calling on local and federal governments, NGOs, and businesses, to develop plans to create more sustainable environments in their respective nations. The UN believes that by working together, and giving financial assistance to developing nations to promote sustainable living, wealth disparities can be reduced, indigenous populations can be protected, and the deterioration of ecosystems around the globe can be reversed.
If you ask the environmentalists who are growing more and more concerned with a warming, crowded planet what they think of Agenda 21, they'll say it doesn't go nearly far enough. Especially after new reports by the UN about record levels of greenhouse gases and the atmosphere, and a report by the World Bank on the global economic impacts of a planet that's 7-degrees warming by 2100 as a result of climate change.
But, as you'd expect from a plan to reduce poverty worldwide and use resources and land in more eco-friendly ways, wealthy oil barons and banksters are opposed to it. When people, governments, or organizations talk about things like sustainable energy, corporate responsibility, and educating the world's children, billionaires like the Koch brothers get a little uneasy.
So, right-wingers have employed their best charlatans in America, people like Glenn Beck, to reinvent Agenda 21 as something completely different: a nefarious plot by communist globalists to force redistribution of wealth and confiscation of private property, and ultimate devour American sovereignty. Or, according to Glenn Beck, an Orwellian takeover to purge the nation of its sick and elderly.
And it just so happens that legislation passed in Tennessee and Kentucky to block Agenda 21 comes straight from model legislation produced by the notoriously loony, yet well-funded, John Birch Society. The Koch Brothers dad, Fred Koch, who had no problem with state-controlled economies when he made his fortune working with Joe Stalin in the Soviet Union, was one of the founding members of the Jon Birch Society back in 1958.
The UN has provided right-wing fear mongers a lot of grandstanding opportunities over the years, but the UN has never lived up to their warnings that it's coming to destroy America. Most people think of it as a toothless international body that's been hijacked by the United States to protect its own interests and the interests of its allies.
And while the Bircher billionaire class continues to fret over the UN, they stay silent over the actual threat to our nation's sovereignty in the form of the World Trade Organization, which has enforced free trade agreements through international courts that have overturned laws passed by our elected Congress and signed by our elected President. For example, laws banning the importation into the United States of poisonous additives to gasoline, products made by child labor, and tuna caught at the expense of dolphins have all been overturned by the "one-world government" that is the WTO.
Yet, not a peep from the same wealthy elite who are warning us about Agenda 21. That's because there's a lot of money to be made in so-called Free Trade, and not so much to be made in promoting sustainable living.
The same is true of why Glenn Beck isn't writing a book about the $67 trillion global shadow banking system, which is extremely dangerous to our sovereign economy - yet making billions of dollars for banksters.
The point is, this latest scheme by the Corporate Elite to scare the hell out of all of us with Agenda 21 is just like every other scare tactic by the Corporate Elite – it's meant to distract us. It's a sleight-of-hand technique to keep us focused on bogeymen, while their ranks of Texas oilmen, outsourcing CEOs, and Wall Street banksters carry out the true destruction of the United States of America: the pillaging of the Middle Class at home and the construction of a WTO-style one-world corporate government to promote unfettered capitalism and free trade everywhere on the planet.
And in the process, useful quacks like Glenn Beck and Field Searcy can make a lot of money feeding the paranoid, Fox News-watching masses their latest conspiracy theories.