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Friday, March 28, 2014

The Pope, Obama and a Former Banker Walk Into a Slum—Does the 1% Still Win?

  News & Politics  

Confessions of a former fat cat who saw the same poverty Francis did—and knows what the pope can teach Obama.

Photo Credit: Giulio Napolitano/Shutterstock.com

In the 1990s, I was part of a wave of investment bankers that invaded Argentina, evangelizing the mantra of the unregulated free market, which had made us millions. Free markets had become the religion of politics, and simple economic numbers like gross domestic product, the saints.

Our days were spent lecturing Very Important People, our nights at fancy restaurants with tango dancers to entertain us. During one trip from my five-star hotel, which was in Buenos Aires but looked like Manhattan, my cab got caught in a swarm of banners and megaphones: political protestors from the neighboring slum.

With the taxi stopped, the shacks clustered next to the road were no longer just a dark blur of concrete and reflective tin. They were homes. Sheets operated as doors. Bare bulbs dangled from live wires, illuminating a few choice items discarded by the wealthy and the faces of slight children. A mother of Mary statue sat in a corner.

Slums are carved into the lands of Buenos Aires that others don’t want: directly under an airport’s flight path or huddled next to busy train tracks and highways. They are anathema to most Argentinians. As the local bankers who dared not visit would say, slums are “dangerous places filled with squatters who have no respect for the rule of law”.

It was in these places, in those times and for much of his life, where the auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became a regular.

Now he’s the pope, and they call him Francis. He has used that larger platform to focus on the ugly side of the free markets, the side he saw all those years in the slums. He has called the free markets “a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power”.

In the United States, since the election of Ronald Reagan some 33 years ago, the bulk of policy has been written primarily for the benefit of the wealthy. Taxes have been made more regressive, labor laws relaxed, markets deregulated. The shift changed this country and the world, profoundly and yet simply, giving more power to those with capital at the expense of those who labor. Voters were sold the idea that growth, no matter how it was generated, would eventually lift all boats.

Until, of course, the financial crisis that began some seven years ago exposed the economic costs behind growth at all cost. The crisis enabled the election to this nation’s highest office a community organizer with Catholic roots who had spent his fair share of time looking at the ugly side of unregulated free markets.

These two men, President Obama and the pope, know what a recovering i-banker like me has learned: that income inequality is one of the most morally corrosive issues facing the world today – “the defining challenge of our time”, as the president says. Except that when they met today for the first time at the Vatican, when the president told the pontifex he was "a great admirer", Francis had the upper hand because of what he knows that Obama and the bankers do not.

Barack Obama is not Pope Francis, and not just because the slums of Buenos Aires are so much worse than the South Side of Chicago. Pope Francis knows, in a visceral way, that the income equality we have in the US and Europe will get much worse if nothing changes. More importantly, he knows that these first-world problems are embryonic relative to those back home in Argentina.
The pope knows that the US is moving toward a Latin America-style economy, one wherein the Koch brothers get multiplied many times over – one wherein the wealthy don’t just want more money or opportunity, they want power. The problem with Francis’ Argentina writ large is a 1% that wants a political system run with the intent to guarantee that their wealth is never threatened. The problem with that is a wealthy class that wants the working class to be disposable, voiceless and immobilized.

This is the real issue President Obama faces: he needs to stare down, as Pope Francis has, the morally and intellectually corrupt philosophy that unregulated free markets help everyone.

It is a philosophy at the heart of the American conservative movement.When needed, conservatives drag out a gaggle of economists to argue their position. These economists, always a thoughtful lot when it comes to human behavior, know the wealthy will benefit far more. Yet the GOP’s sham philosophers argue that growth, even if unevenly distributed, will be a net benefit – because the winners will win more than the losers lose. We will then all share the winnings, goes this bankrupt economic philosophy, either by way of investments that boost jobs, or else from politically forced redistribution by way of taxes.

The sharing-the-winnings part never happens. It certainly didn't happen prior to the crisis, and it didn't happen even as the American economy collapsed. The winners kept using their new wealth to further empower themselves. They did this by flooding the political system with money to stack the deck. Rather than invest in job-friendly projects, they moved production to places with the cheapest labor and the fewest regulations.

When you bend the rules to favor the wealthy, they never give back.
Francis knows all of this because it is how Argentina, and much of Latin America, has been run for centuries. The result: corrupt oligarchs intent on maintaining their outsize wealth, and a calcified social structure wherein a percentage of the population is entirely disenfranchised and many millions live in tin-shack slums.

Francis, too, is a community organizer – indeed, that is all a pope really needs to be. “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty,” he wrote in his mission statement last November, “because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

Francis has been out on the streets. For the last five years Obama has been performing triage, attempting to arrest the damage done by the collapse of the free-market philosophy, only now attempting to focus on its most pernicious result.

When they met behind Vatican closed doors at that desk in the papal library this morning, I hope President Obama took his audience with Pope Francis to discuss that to which Bishop Bergoglio bore witness: the tin shacks and the mud streets, the details that give you real-world authority along with the moral and political kind. I hope the saintly man from Buenos Aires, who’s spent a life giving voice to the voiceless, can still teach the man from Chicago what he should have been trying to fix all along.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Wall Street Is Sucking Huge Amounts of Money from Los Angeles


How Wall Street Is Sucking Huge Amounts of Money from Los Angeles


Finance industry rakes it in from dubious fees.


Los Angeles paid at least $204 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013, and probably significantly more, in addition to principle and interest payments, according to the report, "No Small Fees: LA Spends More on Wall Street than Our Streets." The study, issued today by a coalition of unions and community organizations, shows that due to revenue losses from the “Great Recession,” L.A. "all but stopped repairing sidewalks, clearing alleys and installing speed bumps. It stopped inspecting sewers, resulting in twice the number of sewer overflows." L.A. spends at least $51 million more in Wall Street in fees than it allocates for its entire budget for the Bureau of Street Services.

The researchers caution that the $204 million figure likely underestimates the true amount, because under current disclosure rules, deals made with private equity companies and hedge funds do not have to be publically disclosed. Also, because the city does not list all these fees in one centralized report, hundreds of individual documents must be reviewed to uncover the amounts. As one of the report's researchers stated,
"This is the first time an accounting of fees has been exposed for a specific public entity, and we don't think we have captured it all. So if you do this for every public entity, cities, counties, school districts, states, and universities, transportation agencies and other public entities we could be looking at an astounding amount of money for education and community services money sucked out of the system."
Astounding indeed. My back of the envelope estimate, extrapolating the L.A. experience to the economy as a whole, suggests that the fees Wall Street extracts from public entities could total more than $50 billion a year — enough to provide free tuition at every public college and university in the country.
The coalition offers the following pragmatic reforms that could be implemented quickly.
  • Provide Full Transparency: Each year, Los Angeles, not this grassroots research coalition, should tally up and publish in one report all the fees it pays to financial firms.
  • Bargain: The city has over $100 billion in cash, liquid assets and debts held with financial companies. That gives Los Angeles enormous leverage to bargain for lower fees. Unless there is illegal collusion among these private financial institutions (which is possible), competition for L.A.'s $100 billion should drive fees down.
  • Sue Negligent Financial Firms: Los Angeles, like hundreds of other state and local governments, bought interest rate swaps (don't ask) from Wall Street before 2008 to lower its interest rate payments on public debt. But after Wall Street gambled our economy into the ground, interest rates collapsed and these swaps turned into bad bets for cities like Los Angeles, and low and behold, big winners for Wall Street. More amazing still, these same contracts were pegged to the LIBOR interest rate benchmark, which we now know was illegally manipulated by the biggest global banks. So Los Angeles also has grounds to sue financial institutions for peddling predatory swaps in the first place and for manipulating the LIBOR rates. Simple justice demands that Wall Street not be permitted to profit as a result of an economic crash it caused, and as a result of illegal rate rigging.

Wall Street's Catch-22

The report prompts us to ask why cities and states go to Wall Street for financing in the first place. The answer is circular. They need to raise private capital through Wall Street because state and local tax bases are increasingly constrained. Those constraints, however, are the direct result of the financialization of the economy. In effect, Wall Street creates the economic conditions that force cities and states to become their prey. Here are a few of the ways financialization undermines the tax base. (Unless otherwise noted, the data below comes from my research, not the report's.)

1. Stagnating worker wages/de-industrialization puts downward pressure on tax revenues


Worker wages have stagnated for more than a generation (see chart below). That stagnation is the direct result of the deregulation of Wall Street starting in 1980. From that point on, financial firms found ways to extract enormous sums from the private sector through leveraged buy-outs and other devices that placed large debts on tens of thousands of American industries. To pay back all those loans, corporations switched their policies from "invest and retain" to "downsize and distribute." Worker wages, pensions and other benefits were attacked with a vengeance.

2. Wall Street incomes soar, but are sheltered from taxes

We all know that the super-rich have gotten richer as worker incomes have stalled. At the same time, the growing incomes of the super-rich are sheltered through tax loopholes and offshore accounts, arranged of course, through Wall Street. Hence they can avoid most state and local taxes. It is estimated that the U.S. treasury loses more than $150 billion a year in taxes due to incomes sheltered offshore.

3. Tax revenues shift from corporations to individuals

The more corporations are loaded up with debt, the less tax they pay because the interest payments are deductible. The net effect is that corporate taxes go down while individual taxes go up. But since the super-rich can shelter their incomes, the burden falls on the middle class and the poor.

4. Commercial real estate interests pay little tax

High finance and commercial real estate are intimately entwined. Over the years, they have gained special tax favors,  especially generous deprecation allowances, that shelter nearly all of their profits. As the L.A. report states, "In 1977, commercial property owners paid 46% of property taxes and residential owners paid 53%. Now, commercial property owners pay only 30% of property taxes, while residential property owners pay 70%."

5. Tax war between cities and states give corporations more and more tax breaks

L.A. and virtually every other major city in the country, lavishes developers and corporations with tax breaks in order to lure businesses away from each other. The net effect is that corporations and the wealthy pay less, and the pressure rises to cut state and local budgets. The chart below estimates those tax breaks for 2013, and shows that tax breaks and loopholes amount to nearly twice the pension fund liabilities of these states.

6. The dramatic rise in the prison population crowds out other public expenditures


America has the largest prison population in the world. Since 1980 it has grown by nearly 400 percent. Why? Obviously the absurd war on drugs plays a large role. But prison also serve as the holding pen for surplus workers in the financialized economy. Because of all the downsizing, millions have turned to the underground economy for survival. As financialization continues, we can expect prisons to continue to squeeze state and local budgets. 


North Dakota Has a Public Bank. Why Not Los Angeles?

Cities and states are dependent on private predatory banks and financial institutions — but less so in North Dakota which has a public bank. There, state and local government can use the Bank of North Dakota as its trustee, knowing that the bank has no incentive to rip them off by charging exorbitant fees. The bank's top executives receive neither bonuses nor stock options, and earn a small fraction of what Wall Street bankers receive.

Los Angeles is 10 times larger, economically, than North Dakota and could easily develop its own bank, and thereby dramatically reduce the fees extracted by Wall Street. Also, the Bank of North Dakota returns a $60 million a year profit to the state from wholesale services it provides to local banks. A Los Angeles public bank should be able to add over $600 million a year in profits to the city's coffers.

Another logical solution is for the Federal Reserve to directly purchase municipal bonds from cities and states just as it is doing right now with the toxic mortgage securities held by the largest banks. Not only would that save state and local public entities approximately $50 billion a year in Wall Street fees, but also it would dramatically reduce municipal interest rate costs.

Of course, none of this will come easy. But this report lights the way. It should be repeated in city after city, in state after state, so that everyone can see just how Wall Street is impoverishing the richest country on Earth.

Les Leopold is the director of the Labor Institute. His most recent book is "How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning of America's Wealth (Wiley, 2013)." His next book project will focus on why the richest country on earth is so poor.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

How Corrupt Politicians Like Chris Christie Partner with Wall Street to Rip Off American Retirements



We may not be able to fire Wall Street, but we can send its elected friends packing.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Wall Street loves to celebrate its knack for innovation, and it's hard to disagree. The ingenuity financiers have mustered to scam Americans out of their retirements is truly a wonder to behold.

Working through well-funded media campaigns and strategic investments in politicians who carry out their plans, the Wizards of Wall Street have done a triple whammy on any hope we had for a decent retirement. They’ve attacked Social Security and pretended that it’s unaffordable and/or insolvent, they’ve worked to move us into fee-riddled private investment accounts, and they’ve looted our pensions.

They couldn’t have done it without friends like Gov. Chris Christie. Over in New Jersey, the big man is showing us how it’s done.

First, a little recap of how we’ve been screwed so far.

Private equity billionaire Pete Peterson is the Big Kahuna of Social Security-bashing, shoveling money toward folks like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of Obama’s deficit commission, who have worked overtime since the financial crisis to con the American people into accepting cuts to the country’s most successful anti-poverty program under the threat that the deficit is growing —except, oops, now it’s actually shrinking!

Nonsense aside, Wall Street has gotten its way with Social Security before, such as the 1983 deal under Reagan, which, still unknown to many Americans, chopped the program and forced a higher retirement age onto young people who could not vote at the time, up two years, from 65 to 67. Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan, foe of Social Security and worshipper of Wall Street, was instrumental in getting that deal done.

Then there’s the 401(k), foisted on the American public 30 years ago as a rising tide of laissez-faire fanatics convinced policymakers to move us into do-it-yourself retirement plans. A study by the think-tank Demos revealed that the typical 401(k) steals an average of nearly $155,000 from a median-income, two-earner family over a lifetime of saving through hidden fees. The plans have also been shown to drive inequality and make ordinary people more vulnerable to economic shocks. Despite these dismal results, politicians across the country are pushing more Americans into 401(k)s. Republicans in Florida, Kansas, Illinois and elsewhere have been trying to move public workers into them, and Democrats with Wall Street ties have often joined in the effort: Former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator from New Jersey Bill Bradley, who now advises an investment firm, was part of the (failed) effort to force Kansas state employees into 401(k)s, calling the effort to transfer investment risk onto workers “innovation.”

The innovative folks on Wall Street have also concluded that as long as you have pensions around, you might as well loot them. Financiers have aggressively promoted the idea of moving pensions from safe investments like treasuries into “alternative investments” on which they can charge ridiculous fees and deliver subpar results.

Robert Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, has been researching the so-called pension crisis in the U.S. and has found that underfunding is not nearly as widespread as the media, stoked by anti-pension campaigners with deep pockets, has portrayed (see my AlterNet article on his research). Further, he found that places where funding problems do exist are often troubled by corruption. Pay-to-play schemes and bribery are common, and barring obvious corruption, big money politics often has a deciding influence over the management and allocation of pensions. Political scientist Thomas Ferguson has pointed out that local and state politicians are relying more and more on Wall Street and other anti-pension business interests for funding, and this creates incentives to move pensions from safe vehicles to more risky things like hedge funds and private equity.

For a perfect example of how this works, look no further than Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.

As Lee Fang of the Nation Institute has reported, Governor Christie wasted little time after his election to launch a fear-mongering campaign to “reform” New Jersey’s pension system by raising the retirement age and cutting benefits. But somehow that process of reform also included bringing Wall Street into the game — despite the fact that Christie has pummeled his predecessor, John Corzine, for doing just that. After Christie’s election, the man who had helped bankroll his campaign, one Paul Singer, hedge fund manager and head of the conservative Manhattan Institute, would see his investment in Christie pay off big-time. A gold-plated bromance blossomed between the two men. As Fang writes:
“In his second year in office, Christie’s administration proposed giving Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Associates, a contract to manage $200 million in state public pension funds. Elliott Associates won the contract in 2012. Singer again demonstrated his political loyalty to Christie in December 2013, shortly after Christie became chair of the RGA, a coveted post for GOP presidential aspirants. This time, Singer gave the group $1.25 million, making him the largest contributor that year and significantly enlarging the RGA’s war chest under Christie.”
Singer wasn’t the only Wall Streeter to win big. Hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, another close ally of Christie, “also won big contracts to manage state retiree money under the governor.”

The foxes came racing into the henhouse, tumbling over one another to get a piece of the action, bent on maximizing returns to Wall Street and minimizing benefits for hard-working people. Lee states:
“Under Christie, the amount of retiree money in the hands of outside managers, such as private equity firms or hedge funds like Singer’s, dramatically increased, while the share going to less risky and more traditional investments like treasury notes or the S&P 500 declined.”
That same hustle is happening in other parts of the country, and your state or city could well be next. Over in Rhode Island, State General Treasurer and Wall Street veteran Gina Raimondo, a Democrat now running for governor, has been touted as a hero of pension reform. But her reform has also focused on moving pension funds into Wall Street vehicles. The New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson questioned Raimondo’s activities back in October 2013 in an article aptly titled “How to Pay Millions and Lag Behind the Market.” Morgenson described an investigation into the pension system’s recent plunge into alternative investments which highlighted the high costs, risks and poor returns:
“The investigation, by Benchmark Financial Services, a forensic firm hired by a Rhode Island council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, concluded that the $7.7 billion Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island was at risk because of its increased concentration in high-cost and opaque alternative investments. The union represents workers whose pensions are invested by the state.
In less than two years, the Rhode Island pension system has ramped up its investments in hedge funds, private equity and venture capital from zero to almost $2 billion, or more than one-quarter of its assets under management. But this mix of investments hasn’t outperformed the fund’s peers, the Benchmark report said. For the year ended June 30, 2013, the fund returned 11.07 percent, versus 12.43 percent earned by the median public pension fund.”
When I saw her at an event in the fall of 2013, I attempted to question Raimondo on the issue of subpar returns, which she denied was an issue at all until I held up the Morgenson article, at which point she and her press secretary scrambled away with my card, promising to be in touch. I never heard from them.
Before her election, Raimondo was a partner at Point Judith Capital, a venture capital firm. As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi has reported, Wall Street has lavished her campaigns with cash:
“Donors from Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital and JPMorgan Chase showered her with money, with more than $247,000 coming from New York contributors alone. A shadowy organization called EngageRI, a public-advocacy group of the 501(c)4 type whose donors were shielded from public scrutiny by the infamous Citizens United decision, spent $740,000 promoting Raimondo's ideas.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The wolves of Wall Street are salivating for your retirement funds, and they are dressing in sheep’s clothing and talking to us about “reform” and “responsibility” in order to do it. We can’t fire them, but at least we have a chance to do something about the politicians who do their dirty work — namely, send them packing.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.

It’s worse than Paul Ryan: The right has a new ugly, racial dog whistle


It’s worse than Paul Ryan: The right has a new ugly, racial dog whistle


Conservative assault on food stamps, authored by Reagan, perfected by Ryan, is really an attack on the middle class

It's worse than Paul Ryan: The right has a new ugly, racial dog whistle 
Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan (Credit: Reuters/Mary Calvert/photo collage by Salon)
While attention focuses on Paul Ryan’s remarks about inner city culture, another dog-whistle theme continues its slow roil: food stamp abuse. More even than Ryan’s twisting narrative, the brouhaha around food stamps helps make clear that conservatives seek to conjure a much bigger bogeyman than “lazy” minorities.

Ostensibly worried that too many people prefer welfare to work, House Republicans this January stripped $8.6 billion from the food stamp program. This threatened to reduce monthly food assistance by an average of $90 per family — from households that are barely hanging on, with average gross monthly incomes of just $744. Yet far from conceding defeat, states are joining battle by adjusting their programs in ways that evade the cuts, bringing the food stamp debate back.

Just last week, House Speaker John Boehner warned that “states have found ways to cheat, once again, on signing up people for food stamps,” and he implored his colleagues “to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing.” Cheating and fraud constitute stock themes in the conservative assault on food stamps — tropes applied indiscriminately to both recipients and government. And therein lies a clue to the real target.

To see the actual agenda clearly, though, it helps to reach back to Ronald Reagan, for he perfected today’s conservative assault on food stamps.
Reagan frequently stumped by sympathizing with the anger of voters waiting in line to buy hamburger, while some young fellow ahead of them used food stamps to buy a T-bone steak. With this tale, Reagan invoked the stereotype of the welfare recipient who abuses government benefits to live in luxury (Reagan’s other version: welfare queens).

The comedian Jon Stewart recently compiled a montage of contemporary conservative talking heads spinning just these sorts of yarns about food stamps. It would have been funnier if people weren’t actually being pushed into hunger.

Going to the racial dimensions of these hackneyed fictions, when Reagan initially told the T-bone steak story, he identified the food stamp abuser as a young “buck,” a term then commonly used among Southern whites to refer to a strong black man. This veered dangerously toward open racism, and in any event proved unnecessary. Even after Reagan dropped that term from future renditions, the racial element continued just below the surface, with welfare recipients implicitly colored black.

But this was not a simple plot to demonize minorities. Rather, Reagan had another scapegoat in mind, and here we come to the heart of dog-whistle politics. Ostensibly, even more than grasping minorities, the greatest enemy of the middle class was liberal government. After all, it was government that was reaching into taxpayer’s pockets and wasting their hard-earned dollars.
By “darkening” government itself, Reagan provided the kindling for a taxpayer revolt that ostensibly would cut off funds to the lazy and irresponsible — but that in fact generated enormous windfalls for the very rich. In the 1980s, by one estimate, the top 1 percent of Americans reaped tax cuts worth a trillion dollars, and they’ve received a further trillion dollars from the Reagan tax cuts in each ensuing decade.

Tax cuts for the very rich were just the beginning. By trashing safety-net programs as massive giveaways to undeserving minorities and thereby engendering a general hostility toward government, the right has systematically attacked New Deal programs across multiple domains — from education and housing to marketplace and workplace regulation — undoing in area after area the policies that once promoted an equitable distribution of wealth.

Perhaps to understand the full devastation wrought by modern racial politics, we should bring forward another figure from the shadowed background of the T-bone steak story: the cashier. In the 1970s, she was more likely to be unionized and relatively well-paid, with good benefits. Today, whether white or black or some other race, she is likely working without union protection for a minimum wage whose value has sharply fallen and that cannot sustain a small family above poverty. Indeed, like many Wal-Mart employees, it’s the cashier who today is on food stamps.

When House Republicans war against food assistance, just as when Ryan tilts at government poverty programs that don’t work because of a tailspin of culture in our inner cities, their real target is progressive government. Yes, race-baiting superficially aims at minorities and hits nonwhite communities hard, including the 24 percent of food stamp recipients who are black. But just as cuts to food aid also afflict the 38 percent of program participants who are white, dog-whistle politics savages Americans of every race.

And it devastates every class, too, for this sort of racial politics doesn’t just slam the poor, it imperils all who are better off when government protects the broad middle rather than serves society’s sultans. When conservatives blow that dog whistle, government is the target, and you’re a likely victim.

Ian Haney-López is a law professor and the author of "Dog Whistle Politics: How Fifty Years of Coded Racial Appeals Wrecked the Middle Class." Follow him on Twitter @DogWhistleRace.

Thursday, March 20, 2014



Jeremy Cloward, Ph.D.
Diablo Valley College

“To understand what goes on in the world today, it is necessary to understand
the economic [forces] that stand behind the political events.”[1]

-Kwame Nkrumah, Leader of the Gold Coast & Ghana (1951-1966)

1          INTRODUCTION 

Dr. Haing Ngor, survivor of the Khmer Rouge “killings fields,” concluded that the Cambodian government lost its civil war (1967-1975) with the Khmer Rouge because the nation had lost its “moral direction.”[2]  As one example, he explained how some Cambodian generals sold US-supplied weapons to the Khmer Rouge for their own personal benefit.  As a consequence of the individual greed by some of the country’s top military men the Khmer Rouge became stronger, the civil war continued and when the US withdrew from Southeast Asia for good in April of 1975, the Lon Nol government collapsed in less than a week.
Cambodia then entered into one of the darkest periods in human history.  In addition to emptying the cities, wrecking the economy and making torture a part of daily life, Angka (the ruling body of the Khmer Rouge) brought about the deaths of between one and two million Cambodians from starvation, overwork, disease and execution.  In fact, the Khmer Rouge, with their hands on the “wheel of history,” inflicted so much misery and destruction from 1975-1979 that the country has still not recovered.

Today, it seems that the United States government has lost its “moral direction.”  Indeed, as a single but deadly example, in the last ten years US policy-makers have been responsible for the deaths of at least one million people during the course of the US war on Iraq.[3]  In a country of just 32 million people this would be equivalent to the United States suffering the deaths of some 30 million men and women (instead of 5,000) during the same war.  In addition to Iraq, our political leaders have been responsible for the deaths of many more people across the globe as a result of non-stop war on an ever-growing list of nations over the last decade.  Sometimes referred to as a state of “permanent war,” since 2000 the US government has waged war upon or began “military operations” within the nations of: Sierra Leone (2000); Nigeria (2000); Yemen (2000; 2001; 2004-present); East Timor (2001); China – the Hainan Incident (2001); Afghanistan (2001-present); Somalia (2001-present); the Philippines (2002); Cote d’Lvoire (2002); Sahara (2001-present); Iraq (2003-present); Liberia (2003); Georgia (2003; 2008); Haiti (2004); Pakistan (2004-present); Kenya (2004); Ethiopia (2004); Eritrea (2004); Lebanon (2006); Uganda (2011); Libya (2011); Sudan (2011-present); Jordan (2012); Turkey (2012); Chad (2012); Mali (2013); and South Sudan (2013).  Recognizing that some of these “interventions” were to “protect US citizens” from social unrest within a given country, the great majority of them were not.  Notably, not one of these “wars” (limited or otherwise), has been formally declared by the United States Congress as required by the Constitution.[4]  Today with US military personnel deployed to more than 150 countries (out of a possible 195), before its global war is over the deaths in Cambodia caused by the Khmer Rouge may pale in comparison with what the United States government is prepared to inflict on the rest of the world.
Throughout this time-period, government decision-making by each branch of government has shown a disregard (or lack of understanding) for the Constitution.  With out a doubt, we now have a sitting president that has recently made news for choosing to “consult” Congress before deploying the United States military to the sovereign nation of Syria as part of a “humanitarian invasion.”  The president has maintained that even if Congress does not grant him some kind of formal approval that he has the “authority” to send troops to the Middle East nation anyway.  Throughout the government-media discussion of the possible invasion of Syria there has been barely more than a whisper, that by Constitutional design, Congress is the only branch of government that has the power to move the nation from a state of peace to a state of war. To be certain, the rather conservative (but non-slaveholding) Alexander Hamilton who is probably the most talented political figure in the history of the United States wrote in Federalist #69:

“The president is to be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States.  In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it [italics added].  It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy: while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which, by the constitution under consideration [which was adopted], would appertain to the legislature [italics added to legislature only].”[5]

In other words, congress was given the power to raise, fund and regulate the military while the president of the United States, by Constitutional configuration (Article II, Section II, Clause I), is only to be the “commander-in-chief” of the military “when called into the actual service” of the country.  The political body which “calls” the president into the “actual service” of the nation is the United States Congress through a declaration of war.  Thus, the president’s war powers (including President Obama’s) are latent and not active until Congress – the most democratic political entity of our three branches of government – makes them so.

Some say that we live in the “Age of Irony” where the actual or manifest meaning of something is the exact opposite of the intended meaning of that thing.  How ironic is it then that the United States has elected a president who is supposedly a Constitutional scholar yet believes that whether Congress gives him the “authority” to wage war or not (note: not “declare”) that he still has the power to do so on his own accord?


Whatever President Obama believes his war powers to be, what do we mean by “losing our moral direction?” We don’t mean the same thing as what the Westboro Baptist Church means when they say the country has lost its “moral direction” through the legalization of gay marriage, abortion and other such things.  Instead, what is meant by saying that government leaders have lost their “moral direction” is that government decision-making, and particularly recent government decision-making, has rarely considered the impact of those decisions on the overwhelming majority of the American people, and at times, people throughout the world.  Too often, when we examine recent government policy we find that consideration is only given to how decisions made by the state will serve a narrow group of economic interests, i.e., the rich.  Who are “the rich?”  They are, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, the richest ¼ of 1% of the US population that has more wealth than the other 99% combined.  These incredibly wealthy individuals control the commanding heights (or means of production) of the US economy.  Wealth provided to them from their control over some of the most powerful corporations in the world translates into near uncontested control over national policy through their allocation of massive campaign contributions and extensive lobbying dollars to congress and the president.

This is not to say that past political leaders have regularly behaved with the utmost legality and the strongest of ethics in mind.  The fact of the matter is that they have not.  Even a brief review of American political-history demonstrates that the United States government has made decisions that might be considered morally questionable.  Whether it was the perpetuation of slavery, the overthrowing of foreign governments or the denial of voting rights at home, the federal government has on more than one occasion been out of step with justice and equality.  Yet, in recent years, our political leaders’ transgressions seem to be so outrageous that we would not be wrong to add their recent misconduct to this list of shocking historical examples of government illegality and a failure of ethics.  St. Augustine once said, “An unjust law is no law at all.” However, as we shall see below, in the United States today, law and justice have less and less to do with each other on issues of national importance and more and more to do with protecting private wealth at the expense of the people.  The result of this corrupting of the American political system has made the strengthening of the American empire not only possible but the downfall (or at least the downward descent) of the American republic inevitable.


More than ten years after Congress “authorized” President George W. Bush to invade Iraq and almost two years since President Obama declared the war to be over, neither the American people nor the Iraqi people have gained anything from the war.  In fact, even though President Obama declared the war over in December of 2011, at the beginning of 2014 there are still some 2,000-5,000 US military troops, 4,000-5,000 State Department employees and 16,000 private military contractors stationed in Iraq.  In addition, an estimated 15,000 US soldiers are posted on the Iraqi border in neighboring Kuwait.  These numbers and the US’s establishment of the largest embassy in the world in Iraq indicate that minimally the occupation of Iraq continues.

In spite of the Bush administration’s claims that the United States’ primary goal in Iraq was to “spread democracy” (after the weapons of mass destruction rationale proved false), former chairman of the Federal Reserve and loyal Republican Party member Alan Greenspan has since noted that the war was actually “largely about oil.”[6]   Echoing Greenspan, then Senator and current Obama-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel agreed, stating that “people say we are not fighting for oil.  Of course we are.  They talk about America’s national interest.  What…do you think they’re talking about?”[7]  In an attempt to make the United States’ national interest clear, long time advisor to Western nations regarding Middle Eastern oil, Dr. Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, says that the US interest in the Middle East (including Iraq) “is not about democracy – it is about oil.”[8]

Even if the United States was interested in democracy, out of 176 countries that were evaluated in 2012 by Transparency International, Iraq was ranked as the 169th most corrupt country in the world – certainly not a primary feature of any understanding of democratic government.[9]  Some think that the argument that the United States invaded Iraq because it has the second largest known oil-reserves in the world is “conspiracy.”  We should not think of one country trying to get at the resources (natural or otherwise) of another country as conspiracy.  It only becomes so when the political and military leaders of a nation lie about the real reasons why they want to do so.  Thus, the political and military leaders of the country create the conspiracy, namely, the conspiracy to hide the truth from the people so some unseemly political, economic, or military end can be met.  Nonetheless, on the whole, these types of government practices, such as the US war on Iraq, primarily serve an economic end.  Perhaps Jules Ferry, the Premier of the Chamber of Deputies of France, said it best in 1885 when explaining the purpose behind the “Scramble for Africa” which had begun four years earlier in 1881.  Paying no mind to the “White Man’s Burden” (see: “spreading democracy,” circa 2003), Ferry argued that two of the main reasons why European powers “desire[d] colonies” is so that “they may have access to the raw materials of the colonies” and “as a field for the investment of surplus capital.”[10]  In other words, colonies were created as a source for capital extraction and accumulation.  In examining Iraq, we see Ferry’s words to be no less true today than when they were first spoken during the last part of the 19th century.

Indeed, after invading the country, setting up hundreds of military bases, securing Iraqi oil fields,[11] arresting the president and overseeing his execution it was time for US political leaders and American scholars to set in place the instruments needed to begin the process of capital extraction and accumulation.   How did they do this? – By spreading a little democracy.  To be certain, immediately after the invasion of Iraq, the so-called Coalition Provision Authority (CPA) was set up by the US government as a type of colonial government to oversee the country during the first year of the war.  L. Paul Bremer was put in-charge and given absolute authority to make executive, legislative and judicial decisions for the whole of Iraq on behalf of the United States government.  Early on and making clear what would be the new (or should we say, neoliberal) design of the Iraqi economy, Bremer signed CPA Order 39 which stated that all economic sectors within Iraq, including water, electricity and sewage would be made open, without delay, to privatization by foreign investors.[12]  In short order, a number of US firms were awarded contracts to “rebuild” or manage many of these publicly controlled industries for the Iraqi people.  The only industries that foreign investors were excluded from by the CPA were oil and gas.  However, the writing of the Iraqi Constitution would resolve that.

Without a doubt, once the CPA had set down roots the United States oversaw the drafting of the Iraqi constitution.  Setting aside the fact that a sovereign nation cannot have another nation “oversee” the writing of its new constitution (imagine if the British government did this after the American Revolutionary War) US political leaders and American academics, nevertheless, put together a new constitution for Iraq.  Whatever virtues it might have had politically (it looks a lot like the United States Constitution), as an economic document it cleared the way for global capital to “invest” in Iraq’s most important source of national wealth.  Indeed, Article 25, 26 and the second part of Article 109 of the Iraqi Constitution removed any doubt about the role of foreign capital and privatization in the reconfiguring of the Iraqi economy.  The Articles stated that while oil and gas were to be developed “in a way that achieves the highest benefit to the Iraqi people,” it was somehow suppose to be done so by “using the most advanced techniques of the market… and [through the] encourage [ment of] investment.”  The average Iraqi citizen is poor, with the median Iraqi income not exceeding $6000 per year.[13]  So, how can the overwhelming majority of citizens of Iraq invest in their nation’s most important source of wealth?  The fact of the matter is they cannot.  Who then, can “invest” in the oil wealth of the country that was already nationalized for the benefit of the people, at least to some degree, under Saddam Hussein?  The answer is clear, those who own the commanding heights of the US and global economy.


Much has been made in the mainstream press that only two American oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Occidental Petroleum, have been awarded contracts by Iraq’s Oil Ministry to “develop” just parts of two of Iraq’s 15 “super-giant” oil fields.  This is given as proof that the US war on Iraq was not about oil.  The rest of the oil contacts have gone to corporations from Russia (Lukoil), China (Bohai and the China National Petroleum Corporation), the UK (British Petroleum), France (Total), the Netherlands (Royal Dutch Shell), Italy (ENI) Switzerland (Sataream and Weatherford, which was founded in and operates out of Houston, Texas), Norway (Statoil), Malaysia (Petronas), South Korea (KOGAS) and Turkey (TPAO). While only two oil contracts have been awarded to American oil companies and the state still technically remains in control of Iraq’s oil (at least for the purpose of issuing Iraqi oil contracts), the fine point of it is this: the war on Iraq made it possible for global capital to gain control over Iraq’s chief raw material for their benefit and not the benefit of the Iraqi people.

Even if we accept the argument that the war was not about oil, today most of the revenue being generated in Iraq is not as a result of producing or selling oil anyway.  Instead, the lion’s share of the wealth being expropriated from Iraq (billions annually) is being done so by US-based oil corporations who are in the business of servicing Iraq’s oil fields.  To be certain, the majority of the oil companies who have been gained contracts to develop Iraq’s oil fields have enlisted the services of the Texas-based “oil services companies…Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Weatherford International and Schlumberger to drill for oil, build wells and refurbish old equipment.”[14]  Indeed, before any oil can be pumped and sold from the 15 Super Giant oil fields on the world market, Iraq’s wells must first be overhauled and stabilized which is being done so by American companies for billions of dollars annually.

It is worth noting here that while not discounting the fact that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who was responsible for a number of atrocities, Iraqi citizens had the highest standard of living in the Middle East during his time in power.  Some of the benefits enjoyed under the Hussein government for men and women were free education kindergarten through graduate school and the provision of free health care services for every Iraqi citizen.  Each is an impressive social benefit that not even the government of the richest nation on the planet – the United States – can lay claim to providing for its citizens. Was Iraq’s oil wealth used to fight wars, buy arms on the international market (including from the US) and allow Hussein and high-ranking Ba’ath Party officials to live lives of luxury?  Yes.  However, since the Hussein government has been removed, quality universal health care has declined to such an extent that at times it has become almost nonexistent. At the same time, the educational system in Iraq has suffered horrors that are frightening to consider.  To be sure, more than 2700 public and private schools, kindergarten through graduate school, have been “damaged” (including, 84% of colleges and universities), destroyed, looted, have become too dangerous to attend (e.g., more than 500 professors have been assassinated) or simply closed.[15]   Creating the conditions that allow for the destruction of education within a society is the surest sign of moral decay.  Yet, the above realities are regularly ignored by our political leaders (and the corporate press) who have created this war.
In addition to the severe strain placed on public health care and the outright violence committed against education, the average Iraqi citizen has to do without basic utilities for long periods of time.  For instance, electrical power in Iraq has been reduced to such an extent that many Iraqi citizens are without electricity “from 15 to 20 hours per day throughout the year.”[16]  What’s more, “most of the country lacks effective sanitation” with “only 32% of the population” having “access to clean drinking water and only 19%” having “access to a good sewage system.”[17]  After more than ten years of privatization, what is becoming clear is that the selling of Iraq’s oil wealth to global capital and the transferring of public utilities to the private sphere has not resulted in providing the “highest benefit to the Iraqi people.”  Instead, the reorganization of the Iraqi economy in accordance with neoliberal principles has created more suffering for the Iraqi people.


The invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 involved some 200,000 troops from the “Coalition of the Willing.”  Sounding hardly like a coalition, the invading force included 150,000 troops from the US, 46,000 from the UK and 4,000 from 38 other countries. Nevertheless, in a unique example in modern history of capital assisting in opening up a market for capital investment (instead of the state being solely responsible for opening up a market for capital) the US war on Iraq included somewhere between 120,000 and 180,000 private military contractors.  The reason why it is said “somewhere between 120,000-180,000” is because the United States government has never able to identify exactly how many private military contractors were actually operating in Iraq.   Nonetheless, the war itself has been a financial windfall for these private military corporations.  To be sure, in an example of an all too close relationship between the state and private wealth we have a number of instances where the very people making decisions about waging the war on Iraq were also financially benefiting from the initiation and continuation of the war.  For instance, the largest contracts awarded for work in Iraq were to the private military corporation known as Halliburton (and more specifically, its subsidiary KBR).   The former-CEO of Halliburton was none other than George W. Bush’s vice-president, Dick Cheney.  KBR was awarded contracts for work in Iraq in excess of $40 billion dollars.  Contracts which were often “no-bid” (or formally, sole-source) contracts, meaning that there was only one individual or company bidding on a given project.   Though illegal and unethical, then Vice-President Dick Cheney continued to hold more than 400,000 shares of stock in Halliburton during the course of the war worth millions of dollars which he eventually sold for his own personal profit.

In an example of our political leaders not only financially benefiting from the US war in Iraq but also losing their “moral direction” in the initiation and waging of the war, Dick Cheney, in addition to Bush cabinet members: President Bush, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy-Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Secretary of State Colin Powell, are each solid candidates to be indicted for war crimes as spelled out in the Nuremburg Principles.  The Nuremburg Principles were established in 1950 by the United Nations after the Nuremburg Trials of the Nazi-Germany politico-military high command in 1945.  The Principles were developed in an attempt to segregate between what is internationally permissible in war and what is, in fact, not.  They are considered to be “customary international law” which “civilized nations” agree to refrain from violating.  Specifically, Dick Cheney and each Bush cabinet member have violated Principle VI of the Nuremburg Principles (there are a total of seven principles) by committing the indictable offenses of:

“(A) CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

(B) WAR CRIMES: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to murder…of civilian population…murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of warplunder of public or private property…

(C) CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder…and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war.”[18]

With out doubt, in making a prima facie case against top Bush cabinet members, the facts which are not in dispute is that each individual: (1) Violated Principle VI, Section (A), by “planning, preparing for and waging a war of aggression.”  They called it “pre-emptive war” or the “Bush Doctrine.” Yet, the fact of the matter is that before March 20, 2003 the sovereign nation-state of Iraq was not responsible for the death of one US citizen.  Nor was the government of Iraq planning or preparing in any way for an attack against the United States; (2) Violated Principle VI, Section (B), which deals with among other issues, the war crime of “murder.”  As previously noted, ranking political (and military) officials of the Bush Administration waged a war that resulted in the deaths of one million Iraqi citizens. Some of these casualties might be dismissed as “collateral damage” and thus do not fit the legal definition of murder.  However, as “major combat operations” were declared over by George Bush a mere six weeks after the war began, the great majority of these deaths cannot be considered to be unintentional deaths as a consequence of normal military operations during wartime.  No, we must call them what they are.  In the United States, when one person is killed by another person and it is not justified, we call it murder.  So too, then, must we define it the same way for the people of Iraq.  Principle VI, Section (B) also makes the “plunder of public or private property” a war crime.  The plundering of “public property,” i.e., oil, as noted by Alan Greenspan and Chuck Hagel, was the central purpose of the war and is therefore a prosecutable war crime.  In addition, Principle VI, Section (B) identifies the “ill-treatment of prisoners of war” as a war crime.  The torture of Iraqi civilians has been well-documented, with George Bush even unbelievably making the rounds of the TV political-news discussion circuit and stating that he, in fact, ordered the use of waterboarding[19] on “suspected terrorists” and needs no further comment here, and finally; (3) Violated Principle VI, Section (C), through the “murder…and other inhumane acts committed against [a] civilian population” which in this case would be the people of Iraq.  The death or bodily disfigurement of even one individual because of a lie by a government official is inhumane and should be prosecuted as such.

Dick Cheney and the Bush administration were not the only individuals who had forgot their ethics when it came to the war in Iraq.  Demonstrating that virtue can be corrupted no matter which major party one belongs to, the supposed liberal Democrat Diane Feinstein from California made more than one decision about the US war in Iraq that might be viewed as being less than virtuous.  Besides voting to give President Bush the “authority” to invade Iraq she also voted in favor of awarding her husband massive contracts for work in Iraq.  Feinstein’s husband is Richard Blum the major share-holder of the construction company Perini.  His corporation received contracts for work in Iraq that totaled more than $3 billion dollars.  Some wonder how Diane Feinstein could have remained objective when she voted as a member of the powerful Senate Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee whether or not to fund her husband’s contracts,’ (or, for that matter, the continuation of the war as a member of the Senate) when her family was to be rewarded so extensively by the continuation of the war and the contracts that followed.  The fact of the matter is she could not and did not remain objective.  On this point, how different is Feinstein from the Cambodian generals who continued their nation’s civil war for their own financial benefit?
Equally as troubling is that the Senate’s Ethics Committee did not investigate Feinstein after she stepped down from the Military Construction Appropriations committee because of her “appearance” of a conflict of interest.  The conflict of interest, of course, was that she was signing off on contacts that were providing her husband’s firm with hundreds of millions of dollars which were being financed with American tax-payers dollars.[20] (This is not the only time Feinstein has filled her family’s bank account with public funds.  In 2009, in the wake of the “Great Recession” and apparently with not a hint of shame, she “introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband’s real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.”[21]  Once again, no investigation was conducted by her fellow Senators).

Here we see at least a part of the problem.  While we have only looked so far at the case of Iraq, often what is found when examining the United States government is that it is not only literally serving the interests of the rich but is, in fact, made-up of individuals who are themselves wealthy. These powerful decision-makers are in a position to make themselves, those closest to them, and those who are willing to generously fund their reelection campaigns richer still at the expense of the American people.   At the same time, these directors of national policy remain politically situated to prevent any type of meaningful oversight into their wrongdoing by the very positions that they hold and likely believe in the virtue of their own actions and decisions.


The war in Iraq, like the selling of arms to the Khmer Rouge by the Cambodian generals, was driven by money.  As witnessed in each case, an insatiable desire for wealth will inevitably lead to unethical decisions. With out a doubt, politically, there is probably no more corrupting influence on the republican form of government than money. But how did it get this way?  How have the rich come to dominate the state and then in turn be in a political position to make decisions about the most meaningful issues of the day, such as the war in Iraq, which impact not only the United States but people all across the planet?
The fact of the matter is that the United States was founded by wealthy men.  Indeed, our most celebrated founder, George Washington, is not only the richest president in the history of the United States but is one of the 100 hundred wealthiest Americans of all time.[22]  The framers of the Constitution (Washington “presided” over the Constitutional Convention but played no active role in the drafting of the Constitution) were the political and economic elites of their day.  Not discounting the fact that the Constitution was and is a political document, it is also an economic document that was constructed, at least in part, to service the interests of those who wrote it.  Indeed, from surveying the personal-economic and political histories of the framers, the noted American historian Charles Beard concluded that “the overwhelming majority of members, at least five-sixths, were…to a greater or less[er] extent economic beneficiaries from the adoption of the Constitution.”[23]  Without a doubt, 40 of the 55 framers of the Constitution “appear on the Records of the Treasury Department” for having money owed to them by the federal government.[24]

Even if one disagrees with Beard’s conclusion that the framers were somehow financially “interested in the outcome” of the Convention, it cannot be denied that there was not one person in attendance in Philadelphia from May 1787 – September 1787 that was or represented the interests of women, small farmers, working people, slaves or Native Americans.  Thus, by definition and from an economic class perspective, the only individuals who remained and did in fact lay out the political and economic foundation of the new nation were those who dominated the commanding heights of the US economy in the late 1700’s.  To think that these individuals had no personal interests at stake when drafting the Constitution is contradicted by the fact by whom they excluded from participating in the writing of that document.


From 1787 until today, economic-elites have only gained more power over the state, and probably most troubling of all, through the very decisions of the state.  This should probably not surprise us as it is their state.  Through the years, elite power has come from control over powerful economic forces and institutions or in today’s dominant economic entity – multinational corporations.  If we look at the legal history of the relatively new phenomena of “corporate personhood” (i.e., the corporation having the same standing as a person in the eyes of the law), we will see not only how we got to this place in time but also possibly make some predictions about the future relationship between the United States government and the American people.  Among other economic concerns and with respect to other economic clauses in the United States Constitution, the framers included in the language of Article I, Section 10, a clause known as the “Contract Clause.”  It ensured that no state shall interfere with the “obligation of contracts.”  Throughout the next 200-plus years, the Supreme Court would make clear just what was meant by that seemingly harmless clause.

The first case decided by the Supreme Court which would shed light on how it understood the Contract Clause, and in so doing, help establish the framework for viewing corporations as “people” is a case known as Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819).  In Dartmouth College, for the first time, the Supreme Court recognized a corporation’s right to have its’ charter honored as a contract.  The contract was viewed as existing between “private parties” with “the term ‘contract’ refer[ing] to transactions involving individual property rights.”[25]  Now, nowhere in Dartmouth College does the Court say “corporations are people.”  However, the Court does argue that contracts are between two parties with individual property rights.  If corporations have the right to have contracts honored and contracts are between two parties with individual property rights then corporations must have individual property rights.  However, the reality is that individual property rights are for individuals, not corporations. 
Nevertheless, with their decision in Dartmouth College the Supreme Court (even if done so unintentionally) provided a foundational logic for eventually viewing the corporation as a person with basic civic rights that are constitutionally protected.  Yet, the real question after Dartmouth College was just how far would the Supreme Court go in its understanding of the corporation as a person?
An initial answer to that question was given in a second case, known as Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886), in which the Court “implied” that the 14th Amendment (which was written in 1868 with the stated purpose of granting citizenship rights to newly freed slaves) “applied” to corporations as well as people.[26]  How this was the case was not made clear.  Nevertheless, a Court reporter noted that the Chief Justice stated at the beginning of the hearing that the Court was of the “opinion” that the 14th Amendment does in fact apply to each corporation that was party to the case.[27]  While not formally establishing a legal precedent in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the Supreme Court left no question as to their thinking in their next decision about corporations and the law.

Indeed, in Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania (1888), the Supreme Court ruled that “under the designation of ‘person’ there is no doubt that a private corporation is included in the [Fourteenth Amendment.]”[28]  Again, forgetting for a moment that the 14th Amendment was passed specifically to provide citizenship rights for African-Americans, nowhere in the language of the Amendment does it say anything about a corporation being included in the definition of a “person.”  Nevertheless, from here on out we see the notion of “corporate personhood” grow ever stronger from the vantage-point of the law and, at last, come to one of the painful truths about law and justice in the United States – the Constitution does not actually mean what it says but instead, only means what the Supreme Court says it means – even when it defies common sense.

With corporations on the rise, fear about increasing amounts of money in the political system was addressed in the immediate aftermath of the Watergate Affair by the Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976).  Money had always been in politics but with Buckley, the Supreme Court opened the door for the funding of candidates to be made a constitutionally protected right.   While upholding a federal law which limited private dollars being given to public officials, the Court also held (and thereby established) that spending money on political campaigns is a form of “free expression” protected by the 1st Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. The concern that this would lead to even more money flowing into the political system was realized in the ironically entitled Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which in reality was a blow to the people of the United States and a boost to corporate-America.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that any spending limitation imposed on corporations (and unions) for the purpose of political advertising is the same as placing a limitation on one’s right to speak freely.   Therefore, one cannot limit a corporation’s right to spend an unlimited amount of money on the political candidate or issue of its choosing without violating that corporation’s 1st Amendment free speech rights.  With Citizens United, the Court made way for the advent of the Super PAC.  Unlike donations to a PAC (which cannot receive more than $2600 from any one person during an election cycle) there is no cap on donations that an individual or a corporation can make to a Super PAC.  The only restriction is that the money may not be given directly to the candidate but instead only spent on his or her behalf.  So, let’s say, the CEO of Exxon Mobil or JP Morgan Chase wants to spend $50 million dollars on behalf of a candidate, then because of the Court’s decision in Citizens United, there is no law whatsoever that prevents him from doing so.  Presumably, by not allowing corporations to give money directly to candidates the Supreme Court has somehow helped to protect the integrity of the republic.

Indeed, either not understanding or not caring about the degree of popular rule being undermined by its decision in Citizens United (or possibly just trying to hold its place as one of the creators of the “Age of Irony”) the Supreme Court concluded that “political speech [in the form of political advertising] is indispensable in a democracy and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation.”[29]  First, corporations cannot speak – not even a little bit.  Second, in this democracy, one of the most important things needed to win an election is political advertising.  Political advertising costs money – a lot of money.  Who has it – the great majority of the American people or the select few who steer and profit from the most powerful corporations in the world?  The answer is obvious.
As the American political system already allows for private citizens (be it the clothes-tailor or the Wall Street trader) to give money to a political office-seeker, the US political system is, by definition, corrupt. What others call “bribery,” we call “campaign contributions” or “lobbying” or the ever-vague but still clear to the informed citizen, “influence.”  You can give it a different name but the function is still the same.  Nevertheless, as the years have gone by, the corporation has grown and has found more and more ways to get billions of dollars into the hands of national candidates (billions more are spent each year lobbying congress and the president).  As detrimental to our already money-flooded republic as Citizens United has been, a final case, McCutcheon v. FEC (2013), may prove to be even more destructive to the American people.
McCutcheon is a fairly simple case which involves an Alabama businessman who wants to give more money to individual Republican Party members than the campaign limit of $2600.  The argument being that the campaign contribution limit is a limitation on his right to free speech.  The Supreme Court has not yet made its ruling, but any increase, in fact anything short of overturning every decision that the Supreme Court has ever made in support of private dollars financing public-campaigns will be a loss to the American people.  To be sure, if Citizens United is the beast that broke down the gates to the republic, then McCutcheon is the thief inside the gates getting readying to steal the last remnants of public elections, and therefore national policy, completely away from the American people.


            What are the consequences of our republic being in the grasp of economically powerful forces?  Whether it is global warming, income inequality, privatized healthcare, financial bailouts, a military budget that is second to none or an ever-growing national debt, rule by the rich has almost always increased hardships for the American people and often people around world.  While seeming to be separate problems, the above list of concerns are all the result of an economic system which has one single-minded ambition.  To be sure, the capitalist economic system (and today its more extreme manifestation, Neoliberalism) has only one drive, one impulse, one pursuit – the accumulation of capital.  Without doubt, the economic system is structured toward the gathering of more and more wealth for those who own the commanding heights of the economy.   This quest for evermore riches, to accumulate more and more capital is the only virtue (or vice) of the system.  In fact, that is the problem with capitalism, it has no other ethic.

Nonetheless, whoever owns the means of production (be it farms, weapons factories, oil conglomerates, pharmaceutical laboratories or whatever other industry we might name) is provided with three significant things: (1) an immense personal fortune that can be used for a life of luxury; (2) extensive excess wealth to “influence” the state to provide a market for their commodities and services; and (3) enormous surplus capital which can be invested at home or abroad to generate more capital, still.  In so doing, the owners of the means of production gather more wealth, which in turn generates more political power which in turn creates more wealth in an ever upward cycle of more wealth and more political power.   The result is that the United States government, the economic system and the direction of the whole of US society (and often times the whole of the planet) is steered in one direction – the direction which benefits those who own the productive forces of our society.  As we are beginning to see today, these political and economic decisions are being made with very little consideration for the future of the nation or the world in mind.  With just a brief review of each of the above concerns below we shall see that each problem is impossible to justify, has a relatively simple solution, and yet continues to exist.  Taking one at a time, we know the following to be true:

Global Warming: The scientific community is 95% certain that global warming is not only real but is man-made.[30]  In fact, scientists are so sure that global warming is being caused by the burning of fossil fuels that they are now as sure of it as the fact that cigarettes cause cancer.[31]  Yet, what is the state doing about it?  President Obama and congress continue to wage wars for oil, support and allow for the development of environmentally and ecologically destructive methods of oil extraction such as hydraulic-fracking and offshore oil drilling, continue to support oil exploration in general and continue to support the collection and transportation of oil through projects such as the Keystone Pipeline.

Income Inequality: The US has the worst CEO-to-average worker pay ratio in the entire world.  Depending on whose numbers are correct, CEO-to-average worker pay stands somewhere between 200:1 and 400:1. One of the most outrageous examples of CEO-to-average worker pay is that of former JC Penney’s CEO, Ron Johnson, who’s income was almost 1800 times greater than the average employee at JC Penny’s.[32]  Johnson is hardly alone, as extreme income inequality is quite common across the United States with the most severe example being that of Larry Ellison of Oracle who “earns” 2700 times more than Oracle’s average employee.[33]  (Both CEO’s “compensation” would be much greater if it was measured not by CEO-to-average worker but by CEO-to-lowest paid worker).

Possibly equally as troubling, CEO-to-average worker pay in the United States has increased 1000% since 1950.[34]  Indeed, the disparity between those who earn the most and the average company employee has increased from 20:1 in 1950 to 42:1 in 1980 to 120-to-1 in 2000 to where its stands today.[35]  Any of this could have been prevented with the passage of one simple law that makes this type of income exploitation illegal.  Yet, no law has been passed and no law is likely to be passed as the neoliberal grip and the proponents of its advantages grab more firmly onto the state, economic system and our society in general.

Privatized Healthcare: At least since 2000, according to the conservative polling organization Gallup, the majority of people in the United States prefer free universal healthcare.  However, to say that the state has been unwilling to fund it would be an understatement.  Why?  The answer is because no industry in the last ten years has spent more money “influencing” the federal government than the health care industry.  To be certain, in the election year of 2008, the health care industry contributed nearly $50 million dollars to the campaigns of Democratic and Republican congressional office-seekers to make sure that privatized health care remained private.[36]  In 2009, during that critical year of national debate to determine what our national health care system would look like, the health care industry spent some $550 million dollars to make sure that health care in the US was not turned into a public service.[37]  In fact, no one spent more money lobbying the government in 2009 – not even the oil or armaments industry, which ranked second and third – to make sure that government policy continued to work in their favor.

Financial Bailouts: At the turn of the 21st Century, with the Ayn-Rand “disciple” Alan Greenspan fully entrenched as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the last safeguards of the Glass-Steagall Act repealed by congress, it was probably only a matter of time before we would witness just how reckless the wealthy could be in their pursuit of profits.  With nothing preventing them from doing so, leaders of the most powerful banks in the world gave their loan-officers the “green-light” to lend out money to what seemed like anyone who walked through the door (in some instances, this was literally the case with the advent of the NINJA loan, i.e., providing loans to borrowers with no income, no job and no assets).  The loans were not given out by commercial banks with the hope of being paid back by new home-owners but instead the loans were made so they could be sold to investment banks for a short term profit who then turned around and set up so-called “special purpose entity” corporations (SPEs).  The SPEs divided up the home loan (or often, thousands of home loans) and created a security, known as a mortgage-backed security, which investors were then allowed to purchase.

The banks then “bet” (they call it “investing in a derivative”) whether or not a person who took a home loan would default on his or her loan.  At least some of the money that was used to make these bets (as was the financing of some of the home-loans) was made with the banks deposits, i.e., our money deposited in their banks.  If this was not enough, insurance companies like AIG got into the game by “insuring” the financial bets.   The problem was AIG insured $400 billion worth of derivates yet was only valued at $200 billion.  Eventually, the banks had lent out too much money and bet too much on people defaulting on their loans which resulted in a “credit crunch” where the banks did not have enough money to refinance borrower’s sub-prime mortgages which resulted in millions of people losing their homes.

What was the fate of the banks?  Toward the end of 2008 and during the course of 2009, first President Bush and then President Obama approved a federal “bail out” of the banks, the insurers and the auto industry to the tune of some $2.5 trillion dollars – more than our total federal tax revenues for FY 2012.  Not one nickel was given to a single home-owner.  Why?  Because the banks were almost as “generous” with their campaign contributions and lobbying dollars as was the health care industry.  (It probably didn’t hurt that the Secretary of the Treasury at the time was Henry Paulson who was a former corporate officer and large-stock holder of Goldman Sachs, which incidentally, also received a massive multi-billion dollar tax-payer provided bailout).

The US Military Budget: Today, the actual US military budget stands at $1.2 trillion dollars.  This is a full one-half of our total federal tax dollars and is likely more than all other countries combined.  China is second in defense spending with a reported military budget of $100 billion.  In other words, the United States could reduce its military spending by 9/10ths and still outspend second place China by $20 billion dollars.

Multiple programs and national concerns draw their money from the military budget.  For instance: War: the US war in Iraq alone is projected to cost some $3 trillion dollars.[38]  Care for our veterans: A few hundred billion dollars are spent each year to take care of our wounded soldiers from past wars;  Nuclear weapons: Accounting for $50 billion dollars annually and threatening the whole of the human species, President Obama has actually increased the budget allocation for nuclear weapons during his time in office; Military bases: While difficult to know for sure, it is estimated that the United States maintains some 750 military bases in over 130 countries around the world.  (The US maintains upwards of 5000 bases within the United States and its territories).  In fact, the Department of Defense claims that it “manages a global real property portfolio that consists of more than 555,000 facilities [buildings and structures] located on over 5,000 sites worldwide and covering over 28 million acres” making it the largest real estate holder in the entire world.[39] Military Aid: The US provides military aid to more than 150 separate nations each year;  Finally, while not a part of the military budget it is worth noting here that the US government and its corporate suppliers sell more weapons to the rest of the world than any other country.  Why is any of this the case?  At least one reason is because a massive military “is needed to keep the world safe for capital” extraction and a “massive military itself is a direct source of immense capital accumulation.”[40]

National Debt:  As of January 1, 2014, the national debt has climbed to more than $17.3 trillion dollars or $54,500 for every person living in the United States.  How did it get this way?  When George W. Bush came to office, the national debt was just under $5 trillion dollars – still within reason. By the time he left office it stood at almost $10 trillion dollars.  Within just five years of being in office President Obama (with the help of the United States congress) has increased the national debt another $7 trillion dollars.  Without doubt, these two presidencies and the congresses which have accompanied them have driven the country into debt through their policy choices.

In recent years, the US government has passed budgets that are so out of whack with tax revenues that by FY 2013 our federal expenditures were more than $3.4 trillion while our tax revenues were just $2.7 trillion – for a budget deficit of almost $700 billion dollars.  This is a trend that has been on the rise since the beginning of George W. Bush’s first term.  So, who have these budgets favored and what policies are we referring to?  Budgets and policies that have favored the rich – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush-era tax cuts for the “top income earners” that were continued by President Obama during his first term, the rising costs of health care paid by the federal government through programs such as Medicaid and Medicare and, of course, the bailouts of 2008-2009.

5          CONCLUSION       

            The result of all of this is that the United States has become what Plato originally spelled out in The Republic and Michael Parenti made famous today – a plutocracy.  That is, a nation which is ruled by the rich, where money is valued over “goodness.”  Like the Cambodian generals who sold arms to their enemies our political system has been corrupted by those who steer some of the most powerful companies on the planet.  Indeed, with their massive funding of political office-holders the rich have made it impossible for the United States government to have a “moral compass.”  These wealthy individuals have created a type of Wall-Street Republic where office-holders have become a commodity (or security) to be bought and sold like any other commodity.  To be sure, those that are supposed to represent the people have instead become an investment that the wealthiest amongst us use to perpetuate their own affluence.

Wars are fought for the dual-purpose of creating a market for the investment of surplus capital as well as for gathering that which is needed to fuel (at times, literally) the commanding heights of the economy, i.e., land, labor and resources. Solvable politico-economic problems, from global warming to expensive private health care, persist because putting an end to them would also put an end to the profits of those who benefit from their continuance.  This great gathering of wealth translates into unmatched political power within US society which in turn has made it possible for the wealthy to pursue their own interests without regard to how it may impact the rest of the world.  Their pursuit of evermore riches is sowing the seeds of not only their own destruction but possibly the great mass of humanity as well.

Alas, we must ask, then, what can be done?  The answer is the same as it has always been throughout history – we, the people, must fully grasp the enormous power the few have over the productive forces of society which has created a situation where wealth is so entrenched in the political system that the current political-economic arrangement is beyond reform.  In so doing, we will see that there are only two choices in front of us – continue down the existing path which will inevitably end with an ethically and fiscally bankrupt republic or bring into existence a political and economic order founded on justice and equality.  Unfortunately, the economic elites of our day have left us with no other choice.


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Justia.Com. “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886).” Justia.Com: US     Supreme Court Center. 2013. http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/118/394/case.html  (31       October 2013).

Khadduri, Walid for Al-Monitor. “Electricity Costs Iraq ‘$40 Billion a Year.’” Iraq                       Business News. 13 September 2013. http://www.iraq-            businessnews.com/2013/09/29/electricity-shortage-costs-iraq-40bn-a-year/  (24 October             2013).

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[1] Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (New York, NY: International Publishers, 1966), 69.

[2] Haing Ngor with Roger Warner, Survival in the Killing Fields (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2010), 75.

[3] The number of Iraqi deaths is based on two separate studies.  The first study was produced by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “Updated Iraq Survey Affirms Earlier Mortality Rates,” John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 11 October 2006, http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/press_releases/2006/burnham_iraq_2006.html  (24 September 2013).   Published in its Lancet Report, the university concluded that by late 2006 some 654,000 Iraqis had died since the war began in March of 2003.         Two years later, a second study was completed by the independent British polling firm Opinion Research Business (ORB).  ORB concluded that by the beginning of 2008 more than one million Iraqi’s had died as a result of the US war on Iraq.  The actual number was likely higher as ORB was only able to survey 15 of Iraq’s 18 provinces due to high levels of violence in two regions – Kerbala and Anbar – and because they were refused a work permit in a third – Arbil.  Today, the number is likely higher still as the war has continued for at least four additional years since the ORB study was conducted.   Information about the ORB study in this note is gathered from: Reuters, “Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey,” Reuters Edition: US, 30 January 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130 (24 September 2013).

[4] In fact, the United States has been involved in nearly 100 “interventions” since 1945 with not one formal declaration of war by Congress.  For a complete history of US interventions from 1945-2003, see: William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2003).

[5] Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, The Federalist with an Introduction and Notes by Robert A. Ferguson (New York, NY: Barnes and Nobles Books, 2006), 382.

[6] As quoted from his book by the Times Wire Service, “Greenspan’s book asserts ‘Iraq war is largely about oil,’” The Los Angeles Times, 17 September 2007, http://articles.latimes.com/2007/sep/17/nation/na-oil17 (20 September 2013).

[7] Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker, “The Costs of War for Oil,” Foreign Policy in Focus, 19 October 2013, http://fpif.org/the_costs_of_war_for_oil/  (29 October 2013).

[8] Dahr Jamail, “Western oil firms remain as US exits Iraq,” Al Jazeera, 7 January 2012,
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/12/2011122813134071641.html  (20 September 2013).
[9] Transparency International: the Global Coalition Against Corruption, “Accountability: Corruption by Country/Territory: Iraq,” Transparency International: the Global Coalition Against Corruption, 2013, http://www.transparency.org/country#IRQ_DataResearch_SurveysIndices (17 October 2013).

[10] As quoted in Kwame Nkrumah’s, Towards Colonial Freedom: Africa in the struggle against world imperialism  (London, UK: Heinemann, 1962), 3.

[11]  While it is common knowledge that the US military “secured oil fields” after the war began, The Guardian reported that according to the US State Department, plans were made as early as January of 2003 (two months before the beginning of the war) to “secure” Iraqi oil fields as “issue number one.”  In the same article, a US military spokesperson states that plans were “already in place” to protect oil fields from any type of destruction similar to the 1991 Gulf War when Saddam Hussein set afire hundreds of oil wells to prevent them from being brought under the control of the United States.  For the full article, see: Julian Borger, “US begins secret talks to secure Iraq’s oilfields: fears that wells will be torched if regime falls,” The Guardian: News: World News, 22 January 2003, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/jan/23/usa.oil  (19 October 2013).

[12] L. Paul Bremer, “Coalition Provisional Authority Order 39: Foreign Investment,” CPA/ORD, 19 September 2003, http://www.iraqcoalition.org/regulations/20031220_CPAORD_39_Foreign_Investment_.pdf  (31 October 2013).

[13] The World Bank, “Data: Iraq,” The World Bank: Working for a World Free of Poverty, 2013, http://data.worldbank.org/country/iraq  (1 November 2013).

[14] Andrew Kramer, “In Rebuilding Iraq’s Oil Industry, US Subcontractors Hold Sway,” The New York Times, 16 June 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/17/business/energy-environment/17oil.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0  (24 October 2013).

[15] James Miller III, Celeste Riendeau, Jessica Rosen, “Lessons in Academic Rescue,” Science & Diplomacy: A quarterly publication from the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy, 16 September 2013, http://www.sciencediplomacy.org/article/2013/lessons-in-academic-rescue  (31 October 2013).

[16] Walid Khadduri for Al-Monitor, “Electricity Costs Iraq ‘$40 Billion a Year,’” Iraq Business News, 13 September 2013 http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2013/09/29/electricity-shortage-costs-iraq-40bn-a-year/  (24 October 2013).

[17] BBC News, “Life in Iraq: Reconstruction,” BBC News, Circa January 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/post_saddam_iraq/html/1.stm  (October 31 2013).

[18] Yale Law School, “Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 1: Charter of the International Military Tribunal,” The Avalon Project, 2008,
http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/imtconst.asp  (22 October 2013).

[19] After the surrender of Japan in August of 1945, the United States government helped establish the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (more commonly known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trials) to address the suspected war crimes of Japanese soldiers.  At the conclusion of the proceedings the United States government found guilty and hung a number of Japanese soldiers for using the torture technique of waterboarding against American POWs and other Allied personnel during the war.   For additional discussion, see: PolitiFact.com: Sorting out the truth in politics, “History supports McCain’s stance on waterboarding,” The Tampa Times, 2013, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2007/dec/18/john-mccain/history-supports-mccains-stance-on-waterboarding/  (25 October 24, 2013).

[20] In addition to Dick Cheney’s KBR and Diane Feinstein’s Husband’s firm Perini, the war in Iraq has seen more than 100 firms awarded more than 7,000 contracts worth billions of dollars.  For a complete look at the top private military firms operating in Iraq and their ties to the United States government, see my: Private Military Firms and the United States War with Iraq: An Examination of the Top Private Military Firms in Iraq and their Impact on Democratic Government (Köln, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2009).

[21] Chuck Neubauer, “Senator’s husband’s firm cashes in on crisis,” The 
Washington Times, 21 April 2009, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/apr/21/senate-husbands-firm-cashes-in-on-crisis/?page=all  (24 October 2013).

[22] Forbes, “Richest Americans in History,” Forbes.com, 24 August 1998, http://www.forbes.com/asap/1998/0824/032.html  (14 November 2013).

[23] Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1986), 149.

[24] Ibid., 150.

[25] Oyez Project, “Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819),” The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2005-2011, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1818/1818_0#chicago  (5 November 2013).

[26] Oyez Project, “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886),” The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, 2005-2011, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1851-1900/1885/0  (31 October 2013).

[27] Justia.Com, “Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886),” Justia.Com: US Supreme Court Center, 2013, http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/118/394/case.html  (31 October 2013).

[28] Justia.Com, “Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania (1888),” Justia.Com: US Supreme Court Center, 2013, http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/125/181/case.html  (31 October 2013).

[29] Supreme Court of the United States, “Citizens United v. FEC (2010),” Supreme Court of the United States, 2012, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf  (5 November 2013).

[30] IPCC, “Press Release: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis,” IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013, http://www.ipcc.ch/news_and_events/docs/ar5/ar5_wg1_headlines.pdf  (14 November 2013).

[31] Philip Bump, “America’s Denial of Climate Change is at Philip-Morris-in-1950s Level,” The Atlantic Wire: What Matters Now, 27 September 2013, http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/09/americas-denial-climate-change-philip-morris-1950-levels/69955/  (14 November 2013).

[32] Huffington Post, “CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Ballooned 1,000 Percent Since 1950: Report,” Huff Post: Business: Edition US,” 1 May 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/ceo-to-worker-pay-ratio_n_3184623.html  (14 November 2013).

[33] AFL-CIO, “EXECUTIVE PAYWATCH,” AFL-CIO America’s Unions, 2013, http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/CEO-Pay-and-You/100-Highest-Paid-CEOs  (14 November 2013).

[34] Huffington Post, “CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Ballooned 1,000 Percent Since 1950: Report.”

[35] Ibid.

[36] OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics, “PACs: Health: 2008,” OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics, 2009, http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/sector.php?cycle=2008&txt=H01 (14 November 2013).

[37] OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics, “Sector Profile: Health: 2009,” OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics, 2009, http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indus.php?id=H&year=2009  (14 November 2013).

[38] Joseph Stiglitz and Linda J. Blimes, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008).

[39] Department of the Defense, “Base Structure Report: Fiscal Year 2012 Baseline,” Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, 2012, http://www.acq.osd.mil/ie/download/bsr/BSR2012Baseline.pdf  (November 12, 2013).

[40] Michael Parenti, Against Empire (San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 1995), 89.