The colonists who wrote the founding documents of the United States detested the British Empire, and vowed to do whatever it took to gain their freedom and sovereignty from a foreign power that was depleting the wealth of the country without giving anything in return. Just as King George extracted wealth and resources from the colonies for his own gain in the 18th century, the current U.S. corporate state is extracting wealth and resources from the American people, at a much greater rate than King George could have ever hoped for. If the outrage that swept the U.S. in the last months of 2014 continues to escalate, 2015 may just be the year that a new revolutionary movement coalesces to bring this hopelessly corrupt, parasitic, and toxic system to a halt.
It’s important to distinguish the U.S. government from the corporate state, of which the U.S. government is merely a servant. The corporate state is forcing Americans to work longer hours for less pay, destroying its finite natural resources, installing puppets in Congress who will acquiesce to its every request for fewer regulations and lower taxes, and incarcerating more Americans than any other country all in the name of higher profits. Like a foreign empire, the corporate state will continue to feed off its colonies until the colonies have no more wealth and resources to extract. Just as the colonists did with the British Crown, we must vow to cast off the corporate state before it’s too late.
A Modern-Day Colony Built to Serve the Modern-Day Aristocracy
While our legislative branch is meant to adequately represent the people, 80 percent of the current Congress is white and male, 92 percent is Christian, and more than half are millionaires. To contrast, women outnumber men in America, the average American’s median wealth is just under $45,000, and only 4 percent of American households have a net worth over $1 million. To be fair, the framers of our Constitution originally only intended for rights to be granted to white males who owned land (and they didn’t even count the Irish as white), but they loathed the British imperial aristocracy and rule of the rich that had become commonplace in both England and the colonies. Even the intellectual father of capitalism hated the generational accumulation of wealth.
“A power to dispose of estates forever is manifestly absurd. The earth and the fulness[sic] of it belongs to every generation,” Adam Smith lectured. “The preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity. Such extension of property is quite unnatural.”
The founders’ distrust of the wealthy British aristocracy extended to an aversion to government working only for the wealthy. The clearest example is the Boston Tea Party – while the dumping of tea into the Boston harbor has been recently co-opted by right-wingers who oppose any form of taxation, the Boston Tea Party participants were willfully destroying private corporate property in protest of unfair corporate tax breaks. The British Crown granted the East India Tea Company a special tax exemption by exclusively allowing their product to be exempt of taxes when sold to colonists, making their tea cheaper than domestic products that were subject to the Tea Act. After the demonstration in the Boston Harbor, the Crown refused to recognize Boston’s sovereignty and passed the Coercive Acts. The first battles of the Revolutionary War broke out in Boston soon after, and the rest is history.
Compare that to today: just before going on holiday recess, Congress buried a few insidious paragraphs of language drafted by Citigroup into a federal spending bill that required passage in order to fund essential government services through Fall of 2015. Even JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon called members of Congress personally, urging them to vote for the bill. That language repealed a federal law banning banks like Citigroup from fleecing taxpayers for a bailout the next time they gambled and lost on Wall Street. This obviously doesn’t serve any benefit for anyone except Citigroup, so it should surprise no one that the Congressman who snuck the language into the bill was Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, who received over $265,000 in campaign donations from the investment, banking, and finance industries in his most recent successful re-election campaign. The aristocracy’s hold on Congress is complete, and the millionaire Congress is more than happy to scratch the backs of their back-scratchers knowing that regardless of how severe the next financial crisis is, their bank accounts will remain in the black.
In the meantime, the American people aren’t seeing any gains from the economic recovery they worked hard to create. Corporate profits hit a new record high in the most recent quarter, with the largest period of economic growth in over a decade. The Dow Jones and S&P 500 have consistently broken previous records in the last several years. Under an equitable economic system, this should mean that the workers putting in more hours than ever before would get a share of that growth.
However, the opposite is true: Americans are poorer now than they were in 1989, and the average net worth of the middle class is 40 percent lower today than it was before the Great Recession. The corporate state managed to drag itself out of the recession by making all of us work harder for less money. But today’s modern empire doesn’t stop at exclusively working to benefit millionaires.
The Empire’s Silencing of Dissent
In 1786, ten years after the publication of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” The Common Sense pamphlet, which is credited with inspiring the colonists to take up the revolutionary cause, had as many as 2.5 million copies in circulation at its peak. When anti-Federalists demanded basic human rights in the first Constitution, the framers responded by adding the First Amendment, guaranteeing, among other things, a free press – a rarity for most nations. Even today, only 14 percent of the world lives in countries that guarantee a free press.
However, one journalist’s legal battle with the corporate state could set dangerous precedent for press freedom in the future. Barrett Brown, who is expected to be sentenced later this month, has been in jail since his indictment by a federal grand jury in late 2012, and faces up to 8.5 years in prison for simply sharing a link in a chat session. To illustrate how ridiculous his charges are, the crime Barrett Brown is accused of is no different than my hyperlinks to sources in this article, meant to give readers context and background. But Brown isn’t the only journalist to face intimidation by the corporate state.
After it became known in 2013 that the Department of Justice had been illegally wiretapping the phones of Associated Press reporters, Holder’s DOJ ended up jailing an FBI agent who disclosed details of a terrorist plot in Yemen for almost four years. During Holder’s tenure as Attorney General, he prosecuted eight leak-related cases. To compare, all previous administrations only prosecuted three cases, total. This sets the tone that journalists’ sources aren’t safe, and that journalists aren’t allowed to protect sources who trust them with important information that the government doesn’t want exposed. Never before has an American free press been more threatened by today’s American empire.
Yet, while the corporate state stymies the work of real journalists, it simultaneously sponsors its own media organizations to deceive people and keep their attention focused on non-stories. I recently wrote about how the earth-shaking news of the CIA breaking multiple international laws in the torture report was quickly buried by nonstop coverage of the Sony hack, which was very likely perpetrated by insiders. Even though torture, which is a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” became standard policy at CIA prisons and even though government institutions as high up as the White House knew about the program, the corporate state’s media agencies are eerily silent. As this infographic shows, six major corporations (Viacom, Disney, General Electric, Time Warner, NewsCorp, and CBS) control 90 percent of print and broadcast media in the United States. As these corporations continue to sponsor the re-election campaigns of incumbent members of Congress, Congress continues to further deregulate media regulations, allowing for greater media concentration.
The Corporate State’s Strategy for Complete Takeover
The corporate state’s strategy to take over the government for its own means is outlined quite clearly in the 1971 Powell Memo. In the letter addressed to the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Lewis F. Powell, a corporate lawyer who would later become a Supreme Court justice, wrote up a comprehensive plan big business to take over academia, the media, and the courts so business can effectively take over government for its own means. Forty-four years after the Powell Memo, it’s evident that universities have become corporations that profit off of the student loan racket, the media has become an unaccountable microphone for its corporate owners, and the current U.S. Supreme Court has become the most corporate-friendly court in decades, rolling back workers’ rights and corporations’ limits on funding political campaigns. And since the Powell Memo, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has become the top corporate lobbyist in Washington.
It’s evident that the strategy for the corporate state’s takeover has worked – the takeover is complete. Now, if the people want to cast off the corporate state, we must come up with an even more thorough strategy to unite all activist movements to work for a common goal using their own specific skills and talents in their communities. The only way we can win back our independence without bloodshed is by being smarter, more organized, and better-equipped than the corporate state.
Watch for part II of this series, which will outline this proposed strategy.