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THE SUPREME COURT ASSAULT ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY (PART IV)

September 6, 2013

THE SUPREME COURT ASSAULT ON AMERICAN DEMOCRACY (PART IV)

(All quotes found in all parts of this essay are from a brilliant and newly published book just this year,” Dollarocracy,” authored by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney.)

We saw in earlier parts of this essay that Nixon had some slots to be filled if he were to follow up on a political opportunity for Republicans to retake the formerly “solid South” from Democrats, and that one of them was a Supreme Court seat. We saw that he chose a nominal Democrat for the seat, Lewis Powell, of Virginia, a corporate lawyer and member of several corporate boards of directors, including the Philip Morris Tobacco Corporation. He was rich, and there was only one senator to cast a vote against him in an 89-1 count, Fred Harris of Oklahoma, who said that Powell was “an elitist who never has shown any feeling for little people.”

Time proved the minority of one right. One can tell what politicians really feel as measured by how they pander and pay off to the rich and corporate class whether garbed in a robe of supposed neutrality or robeless outside the judiciary.  Powell went beyond that; he told the rich and corporate class how to manipulate and muscle its way into American politics, education etc., all shortly before becoming a Supreme Court justice, then went on the bench and repeatedly voted to bring his recommendations to reality (see his lead opinion for the 5-4 majority in the Boston v. Bellotti case in Part III).

For most of two centuries, corporations in this country were treated as business entities, artificial and subject to state or other chartering governance. There was no reference to them as “people” or their money as “speech.” They were business organizations. Fleshing out and even delivery of Powell’s secret pre-bench manifesto to the American Chamber of Commerce were surreptitious from the outset. The memo (we now know) was written in secret and delivered to Powell’s friend Eugene Syndor for circulation. It was entitled: “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” The very first words were those designed to evoke fear: “The American economic system is under broad attack” by consumer activists, environmentalists, civil rights campaigns, and labor unions engaged in a “frontal assault on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system.”

 (This is pure propaganda. It was written in the pre-Watergate year of 1971, a year in which Wall Street was still sharing productivity gains with lower and middle classes – before stopping in 1974 – perhaps in response to Powell’s clarion call for asserting both political and economic dominance over the people with whom they had formerly shared). I have neither time nor space to recite his entire manifesto which was taken up by the board of the United States Chamber of Commerce the day after its delivery, but I will quote a few of the scare words used by Powell to give the reader a taste of what Powell was trying (with considerable success) to sell: “It is still Marxist doctrine that the “capitalist” countries are controlled by big business. This doctrine, consistently a part of leftist propaganda all over the world, has a wide public following among Americans.” This is nothing short of absurd commentary designed to inflame the reader. You don’t have to be a Marxist or leftist to understand that capitalist states are indeed controlled by big business; the only requirement is that one be awake and literate.

Powell further wrote in his 1971 manifesto that while the educational programs outlined in the memorandum would “enlighten public thinking. . . . one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information” (aka propaganda to soften up the masses). “Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary, that such power must be assiduously cultivated, and that when necessary, IT MUST BE USED AGGRESSIVELY AND WITH DETERMINATION” (my emphasis) – “without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.” I think we can safely say that big business is hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to asserting their rights and interests with a generous campaign contribution checkbook available to those who do its bidding. They have hardly become paragons of reluctance or virtue with their incessant demands for lower taxes, less regulation, lower wage scales etc., and arrogance but not embarrassment is prominent in Wall Street’s preferred lexicon. Powell would be proud; millions of Americans today somehow identify with the interests of Wall Street, whose interests are diametrically opposed to the decent wages, health care etc. Americans say they want. Chalk it up to Powell-inspired and current Wall Street propaganda from the cradle to the grave.

 Since writing this manifesto shortly before assuming the bench, Powell wrote not as a mere partisan – he was a member of the inner circle itself. He took on education and the media as well. He set forth plans for big business to take over education. He recommended that corporations demand “equal time” on campuses and use their resources and influence to pressure colleges and universities to hire corporate-friendly professors. He went further. He wrote that the influence of big business had to extend even into the nation’s high schools – and into the media!

The soon-to-be justice (January 6, 1972) counseled that “The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance.” (Big Brother?) “This applies not merely to so-called educational programs (such as ‘Selling of the Pentagon’), but to the daily ‘news analysis’ which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system. Whether this criticism results from hostility or economic ignorance, the result is the gradual erosion of confidence in ‘business’ and free enterprise. This monitoring, to be effective, would require constant examination of the texts of adequate samples of programs. Complaints – to the media and the Federal Communications Commission – should be made promptly and strongly when programs are unfair or inaccurate. Equal time should be demanded when appropriate. . . .”

All of the foregoing suggest that Powell was a man on a mission, and that mission was to situate big business into the peoples’ voting booths (as a ”people” with speech rights), into their school system in order to propagandize schoolchildren to love big business (Powell called it “education and information”) from day one, and into the media as a threat not to cozy up to liberals and labor (though Fox News has since filled that bill). The Marlboro Man became the Wall Street man who wanted to seize control of the organs of power in America, political, economic and even (for future reference) our educational system. Powell is now history, but his legacy is very much alive. Look around – bailouts, usurious interest rates of credit card corporations, an educational system poor- and bad- mouthed into penury by moneyed interests foaming at the mouth to privatize the system, almost daily criminal conduct by big Wall Street banks (including money laundering for Mexican drug gangs) etc. These are the people Powell from afar and Wall Street apologists of today want us to agree to run our elections, economy and educational systems? No! Let’s remove Powell’s foxes from the henhouse. It’s our henhouse, not theirs. GERALD  E

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