Reply to Digressions And Diatribes

by Philip A. Stahl

Kort Patterson's "Digressions and Diatribes" ("Port of Call", April/May, p. 2) made interesting reading - in terms of getting inside the head of a hard-core libertarian - but ultimately did not really address my complaints in the piece "Evil corporations? - For sure!" (POC, op. cit.)

First, while it is true that the abuses I noted "would not be possible without government connivance" (to use Kort's parlance) it is also true that such connivance would not have been forthcoming absent corporate graft and bribery of government officialdom! (This is in terms of the parasitical corporate lobbyist machine based on K Street, and the extensive networks of corporate contributors to political campaigns - making them all but a sham)

Hence, the emergence of the corporatocracy, which I define as an interlocked directorate constituted of the largest corporations and government - of which government is the expediting member, via assorted legislation passed at the behest of the corporations. A quick ticking off of some of this legislation is helpful: the 'Bankruptcy reform act' of 2005, the Medicare Act of 2003 (which Goldman-Sachs has estimated will put $13 billion in profits into the pockets of Big Pharma over the next decade) and the initial Bush (2001) tax cuts which rewarded the already wealthy speculator class disproportionately while disemboweling the public sphere of support via the tax commons

Hence, I have never denied that government and corporations are linked - that's the whole basis of the corporatocracy! My point is that the initial toxins had to emerge from one side unilaterally to incept the dynamic. That was the corporate side. By their infusion of money into politics, and political speech, campaigns, they have therefore purchased the rank and file of our so-called representatives and converted them into paid whores for this or that corporate axis: banking, Wall Street, Pharma, Big Oil - take your pick!

The point is to break the Gordian knot of this abominable collusion.

There are two ways to achieve that, as anti-corporatists have noted: one from the nascent side, the other ex-post facto. The first is much preferred because it entails less draconian methods, and less force. But both need to be options on the table by which to rein in corporate governance. (Which is what is the basis of the classical definition of fascism.)

On the nascent side, a nation truly invested in its people establishes laws that absolutely forbid corporate cash entering any political campaign, including by any proxy players or groups! It also means no lobbying. In Barbados, such laws were established from the era of Independence in 1966 and with the election of the first Prime Minister, Errol Barrow. Thus, ab initio any corporate campaign contributor was subject to five years in prison on first offense, and any corporation responsible was subject to $1 million BDS fine. Any lobbyist caught was subject to five years hard labor (later raised to 15 under the Sandiford administration) and any corporation was subject to multiple heavy fines on multiple counts including bribery. Any corporate proxy players or groups responsible for 'hit ads' on the other side, receive up to one year at hard labor for each contributor, creator.

While this all seems harsh it has made Barbados' elections amongst the most fair in the hemisphere. As when I was there in May, 2003, people know and have confidence that it is THEIR voice being heard at the ballot box - not that of a monied corporation whose contributions and lobbying trump votes. Thus, in the wake of elections, the politicians of either major party (DLP or BLP) are there to assist their constituents in whatever parish. People, in other words, can be assured their votes really count and aren't merely a sham as in this country. Where we only know the best corporate backed whore gets in. Those absent of such backing or funding - like Dennis Kucinich - get short shrift and media barbs.

At the ex post facto end, when corporate domination has reached the level that the entire infrastructure prevents any legislation to obviate future corporate cash infusions - more drastic methods are needed. This can mean anything from nationalizing corporate production (such as Barbados did with Texaco in 1996) or raising taxes to punitive levels for corporate activities that impinge on a nation's common welfare.

Kort further writes: "Philip attempts to frame the issue as a function of class struggle implying that stock ownership is concentrated in the hands of the rich. Unfortunately, the largest stock holdings aren't even in the hands of the rich. They're in the hands of artificial investment collectives like union pension funds..."

Again, Kort is being disingenuous. First, "artificial investment collectives" are not the workers themselves - in the sense that they - the WORKERS - have control of their own assets. By this I mean they have the power to act as a distinct worker collective, independent of any corporate, or fund managerial oversight - to move their pension funds at will. This simply isn't happening, so while American workers can choose which funds to invest in, they cannot choose to move funds and assets en masse to punish cowboy companies (or fund managers) that are detrimental to their interests.

Kort may recall (or most likely not) fund manager Michael Price and his purchase of Sunbeam Corp. in the early 1990s for $60 million, then parlaying that into $500 million in profits via rising stock share prices. However, when stock prices began to fall he brought in "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap who began a massive cost cutting exercise at the behest of Wall Street- cutting thousands of jobs.

Now, in a true control scenario, a collective of workers would have been able to punish Price (as well as Chainsaw Al) and his fund by moving ALL monies out of it (if invested in 401ks, or pension funds, etc) and to a less offensive, less worker-detrimental investment. In Canada, for example, unions and workers control their own investment funds - and have the power to allocate billions to companies dedicated to saving jobs, as opposed to letting Wall Street's scheisters control it with merely return in mind.

Lest we forget, consistent Federal Reserve data disclose that up to 60% of Americans have NO stock ownership - even in mutual funds. Of the 40% who do own stocks, the greater proportion of stock assets (in dollars) are owned by those in the top quintile of income earners.

Kort goes on to claim I attribute most corporate abuses to the "structure of corporations". NO, I do not. I attribute most corporate abuses to corporate influence in the infrastructure of GOVERNMENT - where it has no business! Hence, the reason for the harsh laws of nations like Barbados that prohibit corporate purchase on influence.

Kort then insists I "advocate increased government power to manipulate" the market - NO - I do not! I advocate increased government power to regulate the market. Of course, we know the free market fundamentalists like Kort think markets can run perfectly well on their own steam, but this is a pervasive myth.

Just take a look at the housing market and how it has now collapsed, and further spread its toxins to credit default swaps, and monocline insurance companies. How the hell did this come to be? If one takes the time and trouble to investigate one will see that it emerged with legislation passed in 1999 at the behest of the Wall Street parasites and Investment Bankers, Insurance companies. This was, of course, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 that destroyed the Depression- era protective wall between stock brokerages, banks and insurance companies, allowing them to merge.

As a result, one of the regulatory achievements of the New Deal lay in shambles, as cowboy investment bankers (who refer to themselves as BSD's or "big swinging dicks".), quants and their brokerage ilk could now go hog wild inventing dubious credit derivatives and mortgage securities with fraudulent bond ratings. As a result of this cowboy capitalist fiasco, we're now in the throes in perhaps the biggest financial morass since the Great Depression.

Markets, in the end, are only sound to the extent they are subject to control - now hotshot cowboy antics more redolent of financial juvenile delinquents. This sub-prime and credit crisis ought to be a wake-up call, but somehow I doubt it will be, since Kort's mindset of extreme laissez-faire seems to permeate the Beltway.

Finally, Kort's invocation of the alleged words of Einstein to define "insanity" in terms of repeating the same thing over and over (in this case, 'government expansion', which Kort attributes to me) is amusing to say the least. I say this because Einstein himself was foursquare for Socialism! Hence, Kort ends up using Albert E's words to question my sanity when Albert E. has always been in favor (basically) of what I advocate!

Let's see what Einstein writes in his essay "Why Socialism" (in "Einstein on Humanism", Citadel Press, 1993), pp. 7-8:

"The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals I mentioned before.

"This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

"I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system oriented toward social goals. In such an economy the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work, and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman and child."

The basis Einstein advocates (as I do), is one which will bring back community responsibility and a sense of the collective welfare to our fractured selves and neighbors. It will also reintroduce the revival of the citizen - as opposed to the childish, brat, spoiled consumer whose only wont in life is to look after himself and his interests. But this is the level of infantilization we now behold, thanks to "me first and devil take the hindmost" memes spread via the corporatocracy's soothsayers and handmaidens.

Far from being "insanity" I maintain Einstein's prescription is the only way out of the corporate insanity that besieges us. Kort may not agree, but at least the next time he invokes the revered name of Albert Einstein he'd do well to read what Einstein actually wrote on this issue.


(1) "Quants" - financial wizards, usually with Ph.D.s in math or physics, who couldn't get jobs in those areas, so moved to investment banks on Wall Street to invent mathematically complex 'derivatives' that parcel out securities to multiple other sources.

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