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The Great American Class War: Plutocracy Versus Democracy (via Moyers & Company)

This is an edited version of a speech Bill Moyers recently delivered at the Brennan Center for Justice. It was first published at TomDispatch.

That was long before the era of cyberspace and the maximum surveillance state that grows topsy-turvy with every administration. How I wish he were here now — and still on the Court!

I tracked Keyishian down and interviewed him. Justice Brennan watched that program and was fascinated to see the actual person behind the name on his decision. The journalist Nat Hentoff, who followed Brennan’s work closely, wrote, “He may have seen hardly any of the litigants before him, but he searched for a sense of them in the cases that reached him.” Watching the interview with Keyishian, he said, “It was the first time I had seen him. Until then, I had no idea that he and the other teachers would have lost everything if the case had gone the other way.”

Toward the end of his tenure, when he was writing an increasing number of dissents on the Rehnquist Court, Brennan was asked if he was getting discouraged. He smiled and said, “Look, pal, we’ve always known — the Framers knew — that liberty is a fragile thing. You can’t give up.” And he didn’t.

The Donor Class and Streams of Dark Money

The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate. “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”

We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have the Roberts Court that consistently privileges the donor class.

Writing in the Guardian recently, the social critic George Monbiot commented,

Why are record numbers of Americans on food stamps? Because record numbers of Americans are in poverty. Why are people falling through the cracks? Because there are cracks to fall through. It is simply astonishing that in this rich nation more than 21 million Americans are still in need of full-time work, many of them running out of jobless benefits, while our financial class pockets record profits, spends lavishly on campaigns to secure a political order that serves its own interests and demands that our political class push for further austerity. Meanwhile, roughly 46 million Americans live at or below the poverty line and, with the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percent of kids in poverty than we do. Yet a study by scholars at Northwestern University and Vanderbilt finds little support among the wealthiest Americans for policy reforms to reduce income inequality.

Class Prerogatives

Listen! That sound you hear is the shredding of the social contract.

We are this close – this close! – to losing our democracy to the mercenary class. So close it’s as if we’re leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon waiting for a swift kick in the pants.

When Justice Brennan and I talked privately in his chambers before that interview almost 20 years ago, I asked him how he had come to his liberal sentiments. “It was my neighborhood,” he said. Born to Irish immigrants in 1906, as the harsh indignities of the Gilded Age brought hardship and deprivation to his kinfolk and neighbors, he saw “all kinds of suffering — people had to struggle.” He never forgot those people or their struggles, and he believed it to be our collective responsibility to create a country where they would have a fair chance to a decent life. “If you doubt it,” he said, “read the Preamble [to the Constitution].”

That was the essence of what I told Justice Brennan. Now, I wish that I could talk to him again, because I failed to mention perhaps the most important lesson about democracy I ever learned.

Those women in Marshall, Texas, were among its advance guard. Not bad people, they were regulars at church, their children were my classmates, many of them were active in community affairs and their husbands were pillars of the business and professional class in town. They were respectable and upstanding citizens all, so it took me a while to figure out what had brought on that spasm of reactionary defiance. It came to me one day, much later: they simply couldn’t see beyond their own prerogatives.

Fiercely loyal to their families, to their clubs, charities and congregations — fiercely loyal, in other words, to their own kind — they narrowly defined membership in democracy to include only people like themselves. The black women who washed and ironed their laundry, cooked their families’ meals, cleaned their bathrooms, wiped their children’s bottoms and made their husbands’ beds, these women, too, would grow old and frail, sick and decrepit, lose their husbands and face the ravages of time alone, with nothing to show for their years of labor but the creases on their brows and the knots on their knuckles. There would be nothing for them to live on but the modest return on their toil secured by the collaborative guarantee of a safety net.

The Unfinished Work of America

In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether “we, the people” is a moral compact embedded in a political contract or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.

I should make it clear that I don’t harbor any idealized notion of politics and democracy. Remember, I worked for Lyndon Johnson. Nor do I romanticize “the people.” You should read my mail and posts on right-wing websites. I understand the politician in Texas who said of the state legislature, “If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents.”

But there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens (something otherwise known as social justice) and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud. That can be the difference between democracy and plutocracy.

Toward the end of Justice Brennan’s tenure on the Supreme Court, he made a speech that went to the heart of the matter. He said:

“We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses… Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.”

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With the super rich determining the rules and regulations handed out by government, the game has been stacked and rigged by the 1 percent against the 99 percent, and against the USA, as well. It began with the Lewis Powell Memo of 1971. It was a manifesto outlining how the super rich could dominate the economic and political landscape of the United States, as they had before the 1930s. The Great Depression was a direct result of their rule. Within a year of giving his manifesto to the US Chamber of Commerce, President Richard Nixon selected Powell to become a US Supreme Court Justice. Powell had never been a judge, and in fact, he was a lawyer for a tobacco corporation, defending the company against claims that the company lied about tobacco not being a cancer cause.

The US Chamber acted on Powell’s manifesto, and essentially, that’s how we got to where we are today; lower standards of living, massive personal and government debt, decreased real wages, massive redistribution of income and wealth from the 99 to the 1 percent via federal and state legislation, a federal government corrupted by big money and as corrupt as any banana republic on both the state and federal levels, financial inequality like none ever before in US history, an historically weak economy, huge media consolidation so bad that the news media in the US no longer exists and has been replaced by a network of propaganda machines whose purpose is to keep the 99 percent dumbed-down and ignorant to the benefit of the 1 percent, school districts starving for money because the jobs that supported the tax bases have been shipped overseas and the difference between the higher old wages here and the old wages there have gone into the pockets of the 1 percent via higher corporate profits, share prices and dividends, and the list goes on and on.

Understand one thing that Lewis Powell showed up; the US Supreme Court is nothing more than a tool of the 1 percent, and has been for at least twenty years. Justice in the USA? What a joke! The deck is completely stacked against the 99 percent.

Check out the links below for the Powell Manifesto, the plan by a future supreme court justice to steal democracy, and the Bill Moyers video of where we are in that plan.

The Lewis Powell Memo–Common Dreams

Full Show: Plutocracy Rising | Moyers & Company | BillMoyers.com.

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The US Game of Plutocracy

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Why Wall Street Always Wins

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi writes of former lobbyist Jeff Connaughton’s detailed book on the revolving door of DC and the subversion of financial reform:

The great mystery story in American politics these days is why, over the course of two presidential administrations (one from each party), there’s been no serious federal criminal investigation of Wall Street during a period of what appears to be epic corruption. People on the outside have speculated and come up with dozens of possible reasons, some plausible, some tending toward the conspiratorial – but there have been very few who’ve come at the issue from the inside. We get one of those rare inside accounts in The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins…. [T]hose interested in understanding the mindset of the people who should be leading the anti-corruption charge ought to read this book. It’s the weird lack of concern that shines through … On the outside we can only deduce the mindset from actions and non-actions, but Connaughton’s actually seen it, and with the book you get to see it too. It’s scary and definitely worth a read.

Click the link below for the full story from Truthout.org

why wall street always wins

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Mitt the Twit is a Wall Street plutocrat, a firm believer in government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich, and always at the expense of the 99 percent. Unfortunately, President Obama believes this too. They’re both representatives of Wall Street rivals. However, Obama seems to represent a slightly more compassionate side of Wall Street. So while I’ll vote for a third party candidate, Obama would be better a better presidential choice than Wall Street Corporate Raider Mitt. Mitt is an economic disaster waiting to happen, even more raping and pillaging of the 99 percent and taking their incomes and wealth and redistributing it to the 1 percent.

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