plutocracy? kleptocracy? something worse?

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Corporations that have received bailout funds may have been publicly shamed into foregoing their luxury jets and canceling their luxury vacations, but they still don't get it. While laying off hundreds of thousands of workers per month, upper management is whining about proposals to limit their pay to $500K per year--and they're still committed to keeping everyone else's wages low by preventing unionization.

For example, see Bank of America's involvement in anti-union efforts. The story was broken last week, but I thought I'd post part of it since I haven't seen much of it in the mainstream corporate media:

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

[...]

Bank of America's role in the EFCA fight is a bit murky. The company, as stated by an official there, hosted the call for the purposes of equity research, meaning that their goal was to represent the opinions of clients and not the bank itself. But their involvement in an effort to drum up support for defeating the labor-backed legislation, so soon after getting bail out funds from the federal government, left a bad taste in the mouth of some union officials.

"Bank of America is now not only getting bailout money. They are lending their name to participate in a campaign to stop workers from having a majority sign up [provision]," said Stephen Lerner, Director of the Private Equity Project at SEIU. "The biggest corporations who have created the problem are, at the very time, asking us to bail them out and then using that money to stop workers from improving their lives."

As I was wondering whether we've crossed the line from plutocracy to kleptocracy, I came across Chris (American Fascists) Hedges' article about our current economic/political situation. Hedges is afraid that "It's Not Going to Be OK," and predicts "a long period of precarious social instability:"

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

Hedges uses Sheldon Wolin's concept of "Inverted Totalitarianism," which--although nearly six years old--is a presciently pessimistic take on our situation:

Thus the elements are in place: a weak legislative body, a legal system that is both compliant and repressive, a party system in which one party, whether in opposition or in the majority, is bent upon reconstituting the existing system so as to permanently favor a ruling class of the wealthy, the well-connected and the corporate, while leaving the poorer citizens with a sense of helplessness and political despair, and, at the same time, keeping the middle classes dangling between fear of unemployment and expectations of fantastic rewards once the new economy recovers. That scheme is abetted by a sycophantic and increasingly concentrated media; by the integration of universities with their corporate benefactors; by a propaganda machine institutionalized in well-funded think tanks and conservative foundations; by the increasingly closer cooperation between local police and national law enforcement agencies aimed at identifying terrorists, suspicious aliens and domestic dissidents.

What is at stake, then, is nothing less than the attempted transformation of a tolerably free society into a variant of the extreme regimes of the past century.

Is that enough of a downer for one day?

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on February 4, 2009 11:32 PM.

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