Progressive Writers Bloc

The Selfish, Greedy Rich — Part II

By Bill Becker

In Part I of this article, I introduced the reader to America’s selfish, greedy rich. Their heroes are not Washington or Jefferson; instead they revere 19th and 20th century robber barons. I pointed out that the selfish, greedy rich are the spiritual heirs—some are probably the biological heirs—of America’s captains of industry, who hated President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a passion that makes Osama bin Laden’s hatred of America look like puppy love. It is worth noting that they hated Roosevelt for trying to undo the damage that they themselves had brought upon the nation and the world through their no-holds-barred stock market speculation. No matter that Roosevelt was trying to help the millions of suffering middle-class Americans—the selfish, greedy rich hated him nonetheless. In 1934, with German and Italian fascism as a model, these proto-fascists plotted a military coup against Roosevelt. Their plan failed, and soon events on the world stage forced them underground.

But the selfish, greedy rich are nothing if not patient. For 70 years, they dreamed and schemed to return America to the era of laissez-faire capitalism. There were setbacks—the democratizing effects of WWII and the GI Bill; the anti-materialist, anti-imperialist ‘60s, in which millions of young Americans threatened to opt out of the consumer culture the Cold War produced—but with Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s entry into the 1964 Presidential race, the camel’s nose was in the tent, as our Arab brethren like to say. More of the camel entered the tent when the Republicans’ "magic salesman," Ronald Reagan was elected President, largely by convincing millions of honest, hard-working Americans to hate their government almost as much as the selfish, greedy rich do. Then came the takeover of the Republican Party by the hard-right, and the advent of right-wing radio.

President George W. Bush is wholly the creature of the selfish, greedy rich, and with his reelection, virtually the entire camel entered the tent. With a more solidly Republican Congress, the selfish, greedy rich now effectively control every important aspect of American life. All that remains to them is to dismantle the few remaining obstacles to the plutocracy they have so long dreamed of.

Privatization of all government functions; complete deregulation of industry and finance; indeed, the elimination of the idea of the public interest itself, are the core goals of the selfish, greedy rich. They have convinced the millions of honest, hardworking Americans that a return to laissez-faire capitalism is the answer to all of our social, environmental, and spiritual problems. But, as we might expect, the selfish, greedy rich are dishonest.

The selfish, greedy rich told the millions of honest, hardworking Americans that deregulation would solve America’s problems, and deregulation marched across America. The result? Thousands of these same honest, hardworking Americans lost their retirements or their savings, or both, in the Enron and other swindles. While beating the drums of patriotism, the selfish, greedy rich send thousands of jobs to sweatshops in countries ruled by repressive regimes overseas, but they do not send their sons and daughters into harm's way in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The selfish, greedy rich often invoke the famous invisible hand of capitalism's patron saint, the kindly and humane Scot, Adam Smith. In a "free market," Smith proposed an invisible hand as the mechanism by which the owner of capital would naturally, and through self-interest alone, benefit the entire society by allocating his resources within the domestic economy. But the free market was even then—and still is—strictly a hypothetical construct, and the selfish, greedy rich naturally neglect to mention that Smith himself was onto their own innately deceptive nature:

"The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it." -- (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations)

Who now is unaware that the selfish, greedy rich receive tax breaks for investing their capital overseas? Who can seriously believe that the president’s aborted plan to privatize Social Security was not just another means for transferring wealth from the middle class to the selfish, greedy rich?

What is in store for America?

The material about the plot against Roosevelt comes from the new book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, by University of British Colombia law professor Joel Bakan. Bakan's well-developed thesis is that the modern American publicly held corporation is a psychopathic creature, totally indifferent to the human and environmental costs it inflicts on society. It goes without saying that the corporation serves the interests of the selfish, greedy rich.

Bakan makes the point with chilling clarity:

"Today, seventy years after the failed coup, a well-organized minority again threatens democracy. Corporate America's long and patient campaign to gain control of government...is now succeeding...using dollars rather than bullets, corporations are now poised to win what the plotters so desperately wanted: freedom from democratic control."

Nonetheless, in the face of all historic and contemporary evidence to the contrary, the millions of honest, hardworking Americans believe that the corporation is "looking out for them," to paraphrase right-wing talk-show host Bill O'Reilly. It is a public relations success of Orwellian proportions, perhaps matched only by the fascist propagandists of 20th century Germany and Italy. Indeed, Mussolini himself said that fascism was more accurately called "corporatism."

With President Bush in the White House for another three years, the selfish, greedy rich are well along the way toward achieving their ultimate goal—a few plutocratic families controlling the economy, and by default the internal security forces as well. They will allow just enough of a servile middle class to organize the manufacture and distribution of the goods and services they require. Everyone else will labor for a subsistence wage, complaining at their peril. We will then enjoy the condition so vividly described by the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes: the "war of all against all." The generals directing that war, protected far behind the front lines by the state security forces, will be the selfish, greedy rich.

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