Monday, March 05, 2012

heist



NYTimes | To say that the ideas in “Heist,” which locates the source of our current troubles in a famous 1971 memorandum, belongs to the paranoid conspiracy school of history is not to suggest that its point of view isn’t fairly persuasive. Conspiracies exist.

The seeds of the financial crisis, the film maintains, were sown by Lewis F. Powell Jr., a Virginia lawyer and representative of the tobacco industry who later became an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. In a confidential memo to the United States Chamber of Commerce, “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System,” he urged American corporations to take a much stronger role in influencing politics and law.

The memorandum helped spur the formation of advocacy research organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute and paved the way for lobbyists to descend on Washington. In 1978, while on the Supreme Court, Powell successfully argued for the right of corporations to make political contributions.

The movement to deregulate government control of corporations and to disempower organized labor accelerated after the 1980 presidential election. An early public battle in 1981 pitted Ronald Reagan against striking air traffic controllers. The film says that the number of American workers in unions has dwindled to 1 out of 14, from 1 in 3 in the 1950s.

The filmmakers swiftly tick off legislation that they regard as concerted class warfare waged by corporations in collusion with corporate-controlled news media against the middle and working class: Starting in 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which encouraged the outsourcing of cheap labor; the 1999 repeal of parts of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial and investment banking; and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated over-the-counter derivatives, allowed financial institutions to run wild. Both major political parties, they argue, promoted deregulation fever.

“Heist” feels rushed. Many of its points could use elaboration. Its final section is a to-do list delivered in the tone of a high school civics teacher: restore fair taxation; make Wall Street play by the rules; build communities; develop efficient and sustainable energy through “a green New Deal”; and restore the labor movement.

It all sounds peachy. The only way for these things to happen is through a widespread grass-roots awakening. (To point the way, the film offers scattered hopeful examples of constructive, do-it-yourself activism.) The Occupy Wall Street movement may be a sign of that. Or not.

3 comments:

umbrarchist said...

How far back do you want to track the problems?  We cannot pretend that the changes in technologies have not been part of the process.  We also cannot pretend that the miseducational system has not been part of the process also.  So maybe we need to go as far back as the 1880s.  Why not 1883 when Karl Marx died?

It was 1893 when it was decided that science should be taught in the sequence biology, chemistry  and then physics.  The physics of our dominant technology changed from steam to electricity and gasoline.

Now we are talking about STEM and cannot resolve the physics of skyscrapers 80 years after the completion of the Empire State Building.

And then they want to talk about UNIONS.  Why haven't unions been demanding that double-entry accounting be mandatory in our high schools?  Don't they care about the economic interests of workers?  They don't care how workers spend money besides union dues or do they just focus on income?

The American Dream has always been an American Delusion.  Just part of the propaganda to maintain the scam.

CNu said...

Not as far as you do.

I'm perfectly contented to track it back no further than the 1932 origin of planned obsolescence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence and WW-II era formation of the warfare state http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1962oct27-00023 which by 1961 Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to as the military industrial congressional complex http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military%E2%80%93industrial_complex

Along with what this article notes about rampant corporatism during my own lifetime, I think those citations just about size up the specific scope and nature of the problem very nicely.

CNu said...

  Not as far as you do.



I'm perfectly contented to track it back no further than the 1932 origin of planned obsolescence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... and WW-II era formation of the warfare state http://www.unz.org/Pub/Saturda... which by 1961 Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to as the military industrial congressional complex http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M...



Along with what this article notes about rampant corporatism during
my own lifetime, I think those citations just about size up the specific
scope and nature of the problem very nicely.