Progressive Writers Bloc

The Selfish, Greedy Rich, Part I

By Bill Becker
(For my old friend Peter)


In August 1934, two World War I veterans met at the Bellevue Hotel in Philadelphia. One was Marine Corps Major General Smedly Darlington Butler (Ret.), twice recipient of the Medal of Honor. While actively serving, Butler won a reputation for scrupulous honesty and courage on the battlefield. In retirement, he became a passionate advocate for veterans' rights and benefits. America's veterans adored him.

The other vet was Gerald MacGuire, now a bond salesman. He was there on behalf of a rather different constituency: an influential sector of the super-rich, including among others William Knudsen of General Motors; the Andrew Mellon Associates; the Rockefeller Associates, and Grayson Murphy, director of major banking and manufacturing enterprises.

MacGuire had a proposal for Butler: would he raise an army of up to 500,000 veterans, and lead a coup against the Roosevelt administration?

Because Roosevelt had encroached on their freedom to make money--the only freedom they truly cared about--the men MacGuire represented hated him with a passion surpassing even Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden's hatred of America. They looked abroad, and in Germany and Italy they saw a possible solution to their problem. In the July 1934 issue of Fortune Magazine, an official organ of the Roosevelt-haters, Laird Goldsborough spoke as their proxy:

"The good journalist must recognize in Fascism certain ancient virtues of the race, whether or not they happen to be momentarily fashionable in his own country."

On their nickel, MacGuire had spent six months in Europe, studying the methods by which Hitler and Mussolini maintained their power. He learned that the two dictators relied on large veterans organizations to maintain order and intimidate rivals. MacGuire suggested to Butler that France's Croix de Feu (Cross of Fire), representing 5,000,000 French veterans, should be the actual model for his new army. With 500,000 veterans on the march, and 5,000,000 American veterans behind them, Butler would demand appointment to a new Cabinet position: Secretary of General Affairs.

His job description would be to assist Roosevelt in the difficult task of managing an America mired in the Depression. His real job would be to facilitate America's return of to its economic root: laissez-faire capitalism. Thus would Butler again serve his country; either through the co-option of Roosevelt's presidential powers, or by removing him from the office itself if he didn't play ball.

It would of course all be accompanied by appropriate assurances to the American people, especially those frequenting thousands of depression-era soup kitchens, that the new arrangement was in their best interest. MacGuire told Butler that money was no object. $3 million was available immediately, and up to $300 million if necessary.

Were the Roosevelt-haters stupid, or what?

MacGuire and his patrons didn't do their homework. Not only was Butler a true patriot--meaning that he really believed in the Constitution--but after retirement, he had also undergone something of a religious conversion. Looking back on his career, he realized that he had led young Americans to their deaths in foreign lands not to protect the homeland, but instead to enrich Wall Street. Two years before being approached by MacGuire, Butler stunned a large American Legion audience by admitting that for 33 years he had been little more than "a high-class muscleman for Big Business...."

"In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico...safe for American oil interests in 1916.... I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.

"I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate a racket in three cities. The Marines operated on three continents."

Butler quickly informed the House Un-American Activities Committee about the plot, and HUAC confirmed that he was telling the truth. Nevertheless, because of the prominence of the players involved, and of MacGuire's care in covering his own tracks, no indictments were ever issued. MacGuire died before a more in-depth investigation could be conducted.

They weren't so stupid after all.

After the plot to seize the White House failed, events on the world stage forced these proto-fascist rich to go underground. Their spiritual successors, to whom I refer hereafter as the selfish, greedy rich (as opposed to those who despite their riches have retained their sense of connection with the rest of humanity), over the years devised a variety of brilliant strategies to make their selfishness palatable, even appealing, to the very people who should naturally suffer from it. In 1980 the years of toil paid off with the election of their "Magic Salesman," Ronald Reagan, to the presidency. Reagan convinced millions of honest, hard-working Americans to hate their own government almost as much as the selfish, greedy rich do. The majority of Americans are now convinced that government, and especially the despised "tax-and-spend liberals," are as much their enemy as is Osama bin Laden.

Noting that America's free media--the very foundation America's greatness--had long assaulted these millions of honest, hard-working Americans with so many things they didn't want to hear, the selfish, greedy rich simply took over the press and the airwaves. They shifted the content and tone of the news and commentary to the far right. (All the while inveighing against the "liberal" media, of course.) ...To be continued.

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[The original version of this article with further references can be found at www.williamgbecker.com.]

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