There are those wealthy executives within corporate America who would remind us that Gandhi listed “Wealth without work” as his number one vice to human virtue while avoiding to mention that “business without ethics” and “politics without principle” were also on Gandhi’s list
Let me advance a hypothetical here.
You’re trying to decide which floor wax to buy to shine up your kitchen floor. Over the last few days ads for Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax have been on TV during nearly every telecast on all of the channels you have been watching. You cannot turn on your radio, go on-line or social media without seeing numerous ads there for Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax. You’re talking to a friend about doing your kitchen floor and they just happen to mention Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax.
You pass road signs going to and from work for weeks and months that tout the marvels of Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax alongside a picture of a woman with the beaming smile of a satisfied customer. When you finely make it to the store to make your purchase you’re greeted by a doorman handing out coupons to various store products and one of them is for Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax. You head for the aisle where floor care products are located and no sooner get there than at the head of the aisle is a lavish display for Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax, with a another person standing there giving out more coupons for Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax as she points out that it is on sale today and reminds people that there is a money back guarantee if you’re not “fully satisfied with our product”.
Along with this ad campaign to promote Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax was an underlying theme that all other products are inferior and could damage your floor. The real value of Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax therefore was its claim of being superior to all others on the market.
Does anyone doubt which product that person will likely buy for shining up their kitchen floor?
Half of the art of promotion is related to the product itself being sold to the public. The other half is being able to get your message out to as many people as possible, over and over and over again, until their brain is saturated about that which is being promoted. Obviously this kind of ad campaign requires vast sums of money and only those people who have such vast sums stand to gain from it financially if it is successful.
It’s real success lies in its ability to limit its competition. When fewer people are buying only one or two products, all others eventually leave a particular market, leaving it to those who have pumped so much money in to it where they pretty much have a monopoly over all the others. Choice has now been limited to one or two products and its either these or your floors go un-shined.
FROM “BRIGHT SHINY FLOORS” FLOOR WAX TO POLITICS
Now convert this scenario to politics in our time and you will see the hazards of recent Supreme Court decisions that allow unlimited money to be spent on political candidates. In 2010 a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme court ruled in Citizens United vs. the FEC that corporations are people and money is speech, allowing greater sums than ever before to be poured into political campaigns. Then, last Tuesday, the day after April Fools Day, the Supreme Court again ruled in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that limits on campaign donations are a violation of the Constitution, despite the legal precedents and traditions to the contrary that have been in place for decades, allowing yet even greater sums of cash to mire the partisan politics that has become the bane of our two-party system here in the U.S.
With only .08% of U.S. population able to give more than $2500 to campaigns those who have vast sums of money will now more effectively be able to manipulate what few voters are still willing to make it to the polls each election cycle. Their strength is enhanced as they join other wealthy people of like mind. These are the winners in today’s political environment. Democracy slowly fades into obscurity as wealthy oligarchs have their paid sock puppets in places of power to make rules and policies that give them greater say over how government functions.
Some of us were hoping the five justices that allowed the folly of Citizens United to proceed would correct themselves on their ruling in McCutcheon vs. FEC. Clearly though such wisdom was not to be discerned thus making Elbert Hubbard’s quote about fools that much more profound.
Every man is a damn fool for five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.
But are these men really fools? Hardly.
ALL OF THIS DIDN’T JUST HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
It’s hard to imagine that there isn’t a link between the fact that all five Supreme Court justices – Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy – were appointed by conservative Republican presidents. Presidents who themselves were under the sway of a predominant theme espoused by former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell in his 1971 memo that denounced any and all who did not hold the free markets of capitalism above all else. At the time he wrote the memo Powell was a corporate lawyer who sat on the boards of 11 corporations. Shortly after Powell sent out the memo Nixon appointed him to a seat on the court that had been vacated by Hugo Black.
In this memo Powell was concerned not only about the Vietnam era anti-war movement but those “from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians” who Powell felt were “waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society”. In other words the status quo where people of his station had been so successful financially.
Like most white men of means, Powell glosses over the defects in his precious free-market system as he appeals to a desire to “strengthening … academic freedom … and of the values which have made America the most productive of all societies.” Were those the values that tended to keep women out of the work place, minorities in the lower wage positions and both away from the election polls? Was it “the Left’s” attempt to make the economy and politics more inclusive that bothered men like Powell?
Apparently Powell’s faith in the system he believed was well-positioned to “create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens” was insufficient to sustain it as well as the loyalty of most Americans. He had to see the fallacy of this allusion and needed to convince the faint of heart to arm themselves for the on-coming onslaught. This paranoia led him to use hyperbole and the vernacular of military tactics that would heighten the emotions of those he sent his memo out to by alluding to the boomer generation’s attacks aimed at business, its philosophy and “upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity.”
Some might argue that Powell was merely attempting to counterbalance the movement on the Left by creating a movement of his own that would offer something FOX’s Roger Ailes would later come to call a “fair and balanced” approach. This seemed apparent when in his memo he wrote that “the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that ‘balance’ is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion …” If this was his intent, it soon become something greater than this.
Ailes, a contemporary of Powell’s, was part of the Nixon administration who served as a media consultant. He later worked for the Ford administration too and attempted to “promote Republican-generated propaganda over what he calls ‘liberal’ news reporting before he eventually took his show into the private sector. The web that Powell, Ailes and other GOP luminaries of the time, like Kissinger and Treasury Secretary Bill Simon began to weave back in the 70’s has led not only to a countervailing force against Powell’s feared “Leftists” but has supplanted that movement with one of their own that today almost completely controls the foundations of religion, education, media and politics.
This countervailing force evolved through the aid of vast sums of money from wealthy tycoons on Wall Street. Their representatives today are the billionaires like Charles and David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Pete Peterson and their lesser multi-millionaire buddies who backed the venture capitalist Mitt Romney for president in 2012. And though that mission failed, those same people will now have free rein, thanks to the 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, to influence every American vote in the upcoming 2014 elections as well as the big prize year of 2016 when the White House is up for grabs again.
It was the Powell memo, you see, that first planted the seed for a need to recognize corporations as more than a charter endeavor to provide services that earned profits for share holders. The movement Powell envisioned would “require far more generous financial support from American corporations than the [U.S. Chamber of Commerce] has ever received in the past. High level management participation in Chamber affairs also would be required.” This “far more generous support” would be hamstrung by the financial campaign laws in place at the time but eventually, with the right people sitting in the highest court in the land, all that could be changed.
There is no attempt here to generate a “fair and balanced” narrative. There is only the will of those who have sanctified free markets, making it the holy of holies, to crush those who don’t align themselves with the faith of capitalism’s promise. The fact that throughout history this promise has failed over and over again is easily ignored by virtue of the fact that the wealthy special interests have effectively been selling their brand with the same model used to promote Bright Sparkly Floors floor wax.