What I’m Reading Today – Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges

Death of the Liberal ClassI ordered this online and I have been very impressed. This is the first book by Chris Hedges that I have ever had. I am annoyed with myself for not having discovered him earlier.

Here is an excerpt – The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of the citizens, that the Constitution and it guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality. It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continue to exist.

I think the correctness of his reading is illustrated today by the negotiations over the debt ceiling held between Congress and the President. The liberals, toothless and pointless, are not at the table. The great accomplishments of the liberal and progressive movements over the past one hundred years lay like so many cuts of meat served up on the negotiating table between the two sides, and the Progessives in Congress may just as well not exist. The President proposes cuts to both Social Security and Medicare with no one to stop him. Even the AARP folded like a house of cards. Liberalism as an effective political force is a joke, a satire on its past and a cautionary tale of expediency and stupidity destroying a movement. In particular, the willingness of its candidates to court corporate money and to sell out teachers, workers, soldiers and retirees speaks more of a moral vacuum than it does of effective politics. Without idealism and morality, political movements based on doing the right thing for the poor, the working class and the disadvantaged, have no identity.

I am often asked what we should do about a Wall Street excess, an unfair law, the rich evading taxes and many other things. I’ve taken to dodging the question because explaining to concerned citizens and students that there is no one to turn to, no one to vote for, no one to ask for help, … is depressing in the extreme.

There are two parties in the United States. One is devoted to privilege and a desperate need to stay in power. The other is devoted to privilege and a desperate need to stay in power. Neither deserves a single vote or a moment of serious concern.

Nevertheless, the only remaining arena of possible action is there. However, I have been getting a sense of the nation, that perhaps other choices beside the peaceful are being considered. I do not want to see violence but it is more and more likely.

James Pilant

To get your own copy, you can go here. jp

Time for a Corporate Death Penalty (via AntiCorruption Society)

I have advocated for the corporate death penalty before. I continue to believe it is a vital idea whose time has come.

Now that corporations have full political rights in terms of money and political advocacy, they are more and more like human beings.

So, killing one for its crimes makes more and more sense. A corporation whose crimes have risen to a certain level is seized by the government, sold off piece by piece until nothing remains. The stockholders lose everything for their failure to oversee their investment.


James Pilant

Time for a Corporate Death Penalty June 9, 2011 By Bruce A. Dixon, Managing Editor for Black Agenda Radio commentary There are more than 40 federal offenses for which the death penalty can be applied to human beings, most of them connected to homicide of one kind or another. But countless homicides committed by the artificial persons we call corporations go unpunished every day. Apparently “personal responsibility” applies only to humans who are not operating behind the legal shie … Read More

via AntiCorruption Society

Nothing Personal (via The Local Crank)

Apparently being Un-American is not a matter of disagreeing with an energy company. A major corporation, Conoco Phillips, has discovered what makes an American and what does not.

Their conclusion runs as follows – If you oppose government subsidies for oil companies you are Un-American.

Conoco Phillips under intense questioning before Congress refuses to retract or apologize for this statement which by the way is in one of their press releases.

I would imagine it only makes sense to the company. They apparently consider the well-being of the company, profitability, to be an American value.

I believe that large multinational corporations believe that the United States serves to advance their interests and has no other purpose worth noting. Their adamant refusal to pay taxes, their attacks on public expenditures, their desire to speculate rather than creating value, their contempt and hatred for American workers and their unceasing efforts to turn the government into a subsidiary all point to a certain state of mind.

A bystander might consider a company that preaches free enterprise at every opportunity and yet makes a considerable portion of its profit from government subsidies might be at the least considered hypocritical or at the most, Un- American.

James Pilant

Nothing Personal ConocoPhillips thinks people who criticize their continued consumption of tax subsidies in the face of record profits are “un-American,” but they don’t think you should take it “personally.”  That’s fine, because I happen to think ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva is an ignorant pissant who runs on all fours, lusts after little boys, howls at the moon and pisses in the corner.  But don’t take it personally, Jimbo. … Read More

via The Local Crank

Not All Pirates Are in Somalia (via Off the Top o’ My Head)

This is some great writing. Many people are upset by the enormous salaries that CEO’s are pulling down and have conveyed their rage online. But few have explained the mechanics of the corporate system that make these salaries possible.

I visited “Off the Top o’ My Head.” I was impressed by the writing. This is a thoughtful author and he brings legal elements into his reasoning but not too much. The writing is very approachable. You should give this site a visit.

This is his business page.

James Pilant

General Electric Co. made news last month when it reported U.S. profits of $5.1 billion and worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, but paid no federal corporate income tax. GE even reaped a net tax benefit of $3.2 billion. What the newsies do not mention is that the government additionally subsidized the ridiculous wealth GE and other corporations lavish on their executives. Uncle Sam must miss a lot of sleep staying up nights to figure out how to p … Read More

via Off the Top o My Head

An American Tragedy

The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005.

More than half of foreign companies and about 42 percent of U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years in that period, the report said.

This is from a Reuters article entitled –

Study says most corporations pay no U.S. income taxes

All over the United States, cities, counties and entire States are sinking into bankruptcy. A working America beset by ten percent unemployment has little tax paying ability left to pay for roads, schools, police and fire. But the other beneficiaries, corporations and banks are doing well. On  the whole, large corporations are having a great year. The upper class, those over a quarter of a million dollars a year are doing very well indeed. In fact, statistically, they are not experiencing a recession.

Why aren’t these organizations paying taxes?

Can you tell me?

The upper half of the nation is booming. Profits are great. Banks are paying out enormous bonuses.

Why can’t we tax them?

Look, if you haven’t noticed, a middle class that has had an 8% increase in real income over the last thirty years cannot be squeezed for more taxes.

If you are going to tax go where the money is.

It would be wrong to ask banks and other corporations to pay taxes if they didn’t get any benefits. That’s not a problem. The roads, bridges, the educational system, the sacrifices of soldiers, the day to day protective work of firemen and police, not to mention the constant payments made by millions of Americans, make bank and corporate profits possible.

They owe this nation and they owe it big.

I don’t want to be relieved of my tax burden. I want the people and organization who are not paying taxes to pay their fair share.

James Pilant

Only 26% Americans trust financial system (via MSNBC.com)

Does this level of mistrust damage our society? It should be obvious, that people don’t invest with people they don’t trust. And I find it hard to believe these numbers aren’t reflected overseas.

What about a nation where the major institutions are held in widespread contempt? Congress, the courts, state governments, the health care system – would you feel comfortable running any of them in popularity contest?

What about corporations? From the article

Adbusters Corporate Flag

Big corporations fared the worst in the survey, with just 13 percent of Americans saying they trust these major businesses. That’s the same level as the first quarter of last year and down from the middle of 2010.

The stock market also isn’t high on Americans’ list of trusted organizations, with just 16 percent of Americans saying they trust that institution. Again, that’s the same percentage as last March.

Banks and mutual funds fared better, at 43 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Among all the components of the index, the banking system has seen the biggest percentage gain in trust this year.

This is a very serious matter. These levels of distrust, probably even hatred, are reflected in actions. Could the idea that vaccinations caused autism have gained traction without widespread distrust of the pharmaceutical industry? Children have died because of the lower rate of vaccinations.

These are not signs of a healthy society. They are the signs of a distressed society, a society where things no longer work. Trust abandonment can manifest in many ways. Most likely, we will see more and more political volatility.

Elections will be won by groups who claim to have all the answers. When they fail to deliver, they will be thrown out in mass. Election victories will go more and more to extremists. And when those winners fail to deliver, there will be another cycle where they are thrown out. It will make stability impossible and each cycle will further radicalize the nation.

We are already seeing the embrace of abandoned ideas and discredited ideologies. Of course, the system may return to stability for any of wide number of factors. But I don’t think so. The mistrust, the hatred, is too deep.

James Pilant

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

I have been giving this Supreme Court decision some thought. Those of you with a legal bent will recall that this case ruled that corporations can give unlimited sums of money to political organizations seeking to influence elections. The court essentially recognizes corporations as persons under the law.

Is that a different animal than the previous creature? I mean if a corporation is more like a person than a contract, does it have citizen like responsibilities? Does it have a character, an ethos? … beyond earning money?

If a corporation is not a mutual agreement, a contract, between a number of individuals but an entity with rights, what does that imply?

It would seem to suggest that corporations are business and political organizations. What I mean to say is, this decision ratifies the idea of a corporation as essentially a small political party. Now, that may appear on its face to be no big deal. But let’s look more closely. Let’s say that a large corporation has 30,000 members counting stockholders and employees. There are many, many corporations with far larger numbers. Nevertheless, let’s use this as our example. The company has yearly profits of a little more than one billion dollars, again not particularly large considering the number and profitability of modern companies.

Thirty thousand members is not a large group compared to Democrats or Republicans or even Libertarians. However the Republicans and Democrats and other interest groups managed to spend about three and one-half billion dollars in the last election cycle’s presidential race. Our hypothetical company can play a major role in the presidential election with only a relatively small contribution of effort. If the company devoted 200 million dollars to the election they could have a major effect on the outcome. But what about the primaries? Well, let’s consider the Iowa primaries, a single state but often a make or break state for presidential candidates earlier on. What if our hypothetical company throws in a mere 20 million dollars to dispose of one candidate in a horse race of seven? How likely is that to be successful, particularly when the numbers are close in the first place?

Citizens United took corporations from a very significant though limited role in American politics and essentially created hundreds of small political parties unified under central leaderships with powerful legislative needs and freed them to use virtually unlimited funds to gain those ends.

I argue that some corporations will take on dual role, not just to make money but to forward pro business ideologies as well as traditional business needs and desires. Would shareholders be willing to tolerate a loss in profit during one quarter of a year every two years? And what if the company was able to prove that by its political advocacy it had made a return on the money of 50 or 100 percent?

Could you form an oil company or a manufacturing company whose sole purpose is to turn money into political power? Would there be people interested in doing this?

They would be investing in a political movement. Look at their advantages. Their money in the form of public shares would always be available. They could get it back provided the company was profitable. Yet, the continued investment in political action could get a far higher return than regular campaign contributions especially considering the unified leadership of a CEO and the other corporate officers who we may assume will have considerable political experience.

We might very well have a de facto multiparty state with all that that implies.

James Pilant