A Capitalist Manifesto

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The Powell Memo (also known as the Powell Manifesto)

The Powell Memo was first published August 23, 1971

Introduction

In 1971, Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and member of the boards of 11 corporations, wrote a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum was dated August 23, 1971, two months prior to Powell’s nomination by President Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Powell Memo did not become available to the public until long after his confirmation to the Court. It was leaked to Jack Anderson, a liberal syndicated columnist, who stirred interest in the document when he cited it as reason to doubt Powell’s legal objectivity. Anderson cautioned that Powell “might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice…in behalf of business interests.”

Though Powell’s memo was not the sole influence, the Chamber and corporate activists took his advice to heart and began building a powerful array of institutions designed to shift public attitudes and beliefs over the course of years and decades. The memo influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s “hands-off business” philosophy.

Most notable about these institutions was their focus on education, shifting values, and movement-building — a focus we share, though often with sharply contrasting goals.*  (See our endnote for more on this.)

So did Powell’s political views influence his judicial decisions? The evidence is mixed. Powell did embrace expansion of corporate privilege and wrote the majority opinion in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a 1978 decision that effectively invented a First Amendment “right” for corporations to influence ballot questions. On social issues, he was a moderate, whose votes often surprised his backers.

Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System

DATE: August 23, 1971
TO: Mr. Eugene B. Sydnor, Jr., Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
FROM: Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

This memorandum is submitted at your request as a basis for the discussion on August 24 with Mr. Booth (executive vice president) and others at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The purpose is to identify the problem, and suggest possible avenues of action for further consideration.

Dimensions of the Attack

No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility.

There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism). Also, there always have been critics of the system, whose criticism has been wholesome and constructive so long as the objective was to improve rather than to subvert or destroy.

But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.

Sources of the Attack

The sources are varied and diffused. They include, not unexpectedly, the Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic. These extremists of the left are far more numerous, better financed, and increasingly are more welcomed and encouraged by other elements of society, than ever before in our history. But they remain a small minority, and are not yet the principal cause for concern.

The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.

Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.

One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.

The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by (i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and (ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.

Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.

Tone of the Attack

This memorandum is not the place to document in detail the tone, character, or intensity of the attack. The following quotations will suffice to give one a general idea:

William Kunstler, warmly welcomed on campuses and listed in a recent student poll as the “American lawyer most admired,” incites audiences as follows:

“You must learn to fight in the streets, to revolt, to shoot guns. We will learn to do all of the things that property owners fear.”2 The New Leftists who heed Kunstler’s advice increasingly are beginning to act — not just against military recruiting offices and manufacturers of munitions, but against a variety of businesses: “Since February, 1970, branches (of Bank of America) have been attacked 39 times, 22 times with explosive devices and 17 times with fire bombs or by arsonists.”3 Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system.

A chilling description of what is being taught on many of our campuses was written by Stewart Alsop:

“Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores of bright young men who are practitioners of ‘the politics of despair.’ These young men despise the American political and economic system . . . (their) minds seem to be wholly closed. They live, not by rational discussion, but by mindless slogans.”4 A recent poll of students on 12 representative campuses reported that: “Almost half the students favored socialization of basic U.S. industries.”5

A visiting professor from England at Rockford College gave a series of lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” in which he documents the extent to which members of the intellectual community are waging ideological warfare against the enterprise system and the values of western society. In a foreword to these lectures, famed Dr. Milton Friedman of Chicago warned: “It (is) crystal clear that the foundations of our free society are under wide-ranging and powerful attack — not by Communist or any other conspiracy but by misguided individuals parroting one another and unwittingly serving ends they would never intentionally promote.”6

Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader, who — thanks largely to the media — has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans. A recent article in Fortune speaks of Nader as follows:

“The passion that rules in him — and he is a passionate man — is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison — for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives, and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. He emphasizes that he is not talking just about ‘fly-by-night hucksters’ but the top management of blue chip business.”7

A frontal assault was made on our government, our system of justice, and the free enterprise system by Yale Professor Charles Reich in his widely publicized book: “The Greening of America,” published last winter.

The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself. There are countless examples of rifle shots which undermine confidence and confuse the public. Favorite current targets are proposals for tax incentives through changes in depreciation rates and investment credits. These are usually described in the media as “tax breaks,” “loop holes” or “tax benefits” for the benefit of business. As viewed by a columnist in the Post, such tax measures would benefit “only the rich, the owners of big companies.”8

It is dismaying that many politicians make the same argument that tax measures of this kind benefit only “business,” without benefit to “the poor.” The fact that this is either political demagoguery or economic illiteracy is of slight comfort. This setting of the “rich” against the “poor,” of business against the people, is the cheapest and most dangerous kind of politics.

The Apathy and Default of Business

What has been the response of business to this massive assault upon its fundamental economics, upon its philosophy, upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity?

The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors’ and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem. There are, of course, many exceptions to this sweeping generalization. But the net effect of such response as has been made is scarcely visible.

In all fairness, it must be recognized that businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it. The traditional role of business executives has been to manage, to produce, to sell, to create jobs, to make profits, to improve the standard of living, to be community leaders, to serve on charitable and educational boards, and generally to be good citizens. They have performed these tasks very well indeed.

But they have shown little stomach for hard-nose contest with their critics, and little skill in effective intellectual and philosophical debate.

A column recently carried by the Wall Street Journal was entitled: “Memo to GM: Why Not Fight Back?”9 Although addressed to GM by name, the article was a warning to all American business. Columnist St. John said:

“General Motors, like American business in general, is ‘plainly in trouble’ because intellectual bromides have been substituted for a sound intellectual exposition of its point of view.” Mr. St. John then commented on the tendency of business leaders to compromise with and appease critics. He cited the concessions which Nader wins from management, and spoke of “the fallacious view many businessmen take toward their critics.” He drew a parallel to the mistaken tactics of many college administrators: “College administrators learned too late that such appeasement serves to destroy free speech, academic freedom and genuine scholarship. One campus radical demand was conceded by university heads only to be followed by a fresh crop which soon escalated to what amounted to a demand for outright surrender.”

One need not agree entirely with Mr. St. John’s analysis. But most observers of the American scene will agree that the essence of his message is sound. American business “plainly in trouble”; the response to the wide range of critics has been ineffective, and has included appeasement; the time has come — indeed, it is long overdue — for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshalled against those who would destroy it.

Responsibility of Business Executives

What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for businessmen to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management.

The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.

The day is long past when the chief executive officer of a major corporation discharges his responsibility by maintaining a satisfactory growth of profits, with due regard to the corporation’s public and social responsibilities. If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself. This involves far more than an increased emphasis on “public relations” or “governmental affairs” — two areas in which corporations long have invested substantial sums.

A significant first step by individual corporations could well be the designation of an executive vice president (ranking with other executive VP’s) whose responsibility is to counter-on the broadest front-the attack on the enterprise system. The public relations department could be one of the foundations assigned to this executive, but his responsibilities should encompass some of the types of activities referred to subsequently in this memorandum. His budget and staff should be adequate to the task.

Possible Role of the Chamber of Commerce

But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.

Moreover, there is the quite understandable reluctance on the part of any one corporation to get too far out in front and to make itself too visible a target.

The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital. Other national organizations (especially those of various industrial and commercial groups) should join in the effort, but no other organizations appear to be as well situated as the Chamber. It enjoys a strategic position, with a fine reputation and a broad base of support. Also — and this is of immeasurable merit — there are hundreds of local Chambers of Commerce which can play a vital supportive role.

It hardly need be said that before embarking upon any program, the Chamber should study and analyze possible courses of action and activities, weighing risks against probable effectiveness and feasibility of each. Considerations of cost, the assurance of financial and other support from members, adequacy of staffing and similar problems will all require the most thoughtful consideration.

The Campus

The assault on the enterprise system was not mounted in a few months. It has gradually evolved over the past two decades, barely perceptible in its origins and benefiting (sic) from a gradualism that provoked little awareness much less any real reaction.

Although origins, sources and causes are complex and interrelated, and obviously difficult to identify without careful qualification, there is reason to believe that the campus is the single most dynamic source. The social science faculties usually include members who are unsympathetic to the enterprise system. They may range from a Herbert Marcuse, Marxist faculty member at the University of California at San Diego, and convinced socialists, to the ambivalent liberal critic who finds more to condemn than to commend. Such faculty members need not be in a majority. They are often personally attractive and magnetic; they are stimulating teachers, and their controversy attracts student following; they are prolific writers and lecturers; they author many of the textbooks, and they exert enormous influence — far out of proportion to their numbers — on their colleagues and in the academic world.

Social science faculties (the political scientist, economist, sociologist and many of the historians) tend to be liberally oriented, even when leftists are not present. This is not a criticism per se, as the need for liberal thought is essential to a balanced viewpoint. The difficulty is that “balance” is conspicuous by its absence on many campuses, with relatively few members being of conservatives or moderate persuasion and even the relatively few often being less articulate and aggressive than their crusading colleagues.

This situation extending back many years and with the imbalance gradually worsening, has had an enormous impact on millions of young American students. In an article in Barron’s Weekly, seeking an answer to why so many young people are disaffected even to the point of being revolutionaries, it was said: “Because they were taught that way.”10 Or, as noted by columnist Stewart Alsop, writing about his alma mater: “Yale, like every other major college, is graduating scores’ of bright young men … who despise the American political and economic system.”

As these “bright young men,” from campuses across the country, seek opportunities to change a system which they have been taught to distrust — if not, indeed “despise” — they seek employment in the centers of the real power and influence in our country, namely: (i) with the news media, especially television; (ii) in government, as “staffers” and consultants at various levels; (iii) in elective politics; (iv) as lecturers and writers, and (v) on the faculties at various levels of education.

Many do enter the enterprise system — in business and the professions — and for the most part they quickly discover the fallacies of what they have been taught. But those who eschew the mainstream of the system often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape governmental action. In many instances, these “intellectuals” end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in.

If the foregoing analysis is approximately sound, a priority task of business — and organizations such as the Chamber — is to address the campus origin of this hostility. Few things are more sanctified in American life than academic freedom. It would be fatal to attack this as a principle. But if academic freedom is to retain the qualities of “openness,” “fairness” and “balance” — which are essential to its intellectual significance — there is a great opportunity for constructive action. The thrust of such action must be to restore the qualities just mentioned to the academic communities.

What Can Be Done About the Campus

The ultimate responsibility for intellectual integrity on the campus must remain on the administrations and faculties of our colleges and universities. But organizations such as the Chamber can assist and activate constructive change in many ways, including the following:

Staff of Scholars

The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system. It should include several of national reputation whose authorship would be widely respected — even when disagreed with.

Staff of Speakers

There also should be a staff of speakers of the highest competency. These might include the scholars, and certainly those who speak for the Chamber would have to articulate the product of the scholars.

Speaker’s Bureau

In addition to full-time staff personnel, the Chamber should have a Speaker’s Bureau which should include the ablest and most effective advocates from the top echelons of American business.

Evaluation of Textbooks

The staff of scholars (or preferably a panel of independent scholars) should evaluate social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology. This should be a continuing program.

The objective of such evaluation should be oriented toward restoring the balance essential to genuine academic freedom. This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism. Most of the existing textbooks have some sort of comparisons, but many are superficial, biased and unfair.

We have seen the civil rights movement insist on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools. The labor unions likewise insist that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor. Other interested citizens groups have not hesitated to review, analyze and criticize textbooks and teaching materials. In a democratic society, this can be a constructive process and should be regarded as an aid to genuine academic freedom and not as an intrusion upon it.

If the authors, publishers and users of textbooks know that they will be subjected — honestly, fairly and thoroughly — to review and critique by eminent scholars who believe in the American system, a return to a more rational balance can be expected.

Equal Time on the Campus

The Chamber should insist upon equal time on the college speaking circuit. The FBI publishes each year a list of speeches made on college campuses by avowed Communists. The number in 1970 exceeded 100. There were, of course, many hundreds of appearances by leftists and ultra liberals who urge the types of viewpoints indicated earlier in this memorandum. There was no corresponding representation of American business, or indeed by individuals or organizations who appeared in support of the American system of government and business.

Every campus has its formal and informal groups which invite speakers. Each law school does the same thing. Many universities and colleges officially sponsor lecture and speaking programs. We all know the inadequacy of the representation of business in the programs.

It will be said that few invitations would be extended to Chamber speakers.11 This undoubtedly would be true unless the Chamber aggressively insisted upon the right to be heard — in effect, insisted upon “equal time.” University administrators and the great majority of student groups and committees would not welcome being put in the position publicly of refusing a forum to diverse views, indeed, this is the classic excuse for allowing Communists to speak.

The two essential ingredients are (i) to have attractive, articulate and well-informed speakers; and (ii) to exert whatever degree of pressure — publicly and privately — may be necessary to assure opportunities to speak. The objective always must be to inform and enlighten, and not merely to propagandize.

Balancing of Faculties

Perhaps the most fundamental problem is the imbalance of many faculties. Correcting this is indeed a long-range and difficult project. Yet, it should be undertaken as a part of an overall program. This would mean the urging of the need for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.

The methods to be employed require careful thought, and the obvious pitfalls must be avoided. Improper pressure would be counterproductive. But the basic concepts of balance, fairness and truth are difficult to resist, if properly presented to boards of trustees, by writing and speaking, and by appeals to alumni associations and groups.

This is a long road and not one for the fainthearted. But if pursued with integrity and conviction it could lead to a strengthening of both academic freedom on the campus and of the values which have made America the most productive of all societies.

Graduate Schools of Business

The Chamber should enjoy a particular rapport with the increasingly influential graduate schools of business. Much that has been suggested above applies to such schools.

Should not the Chamber also request specific courses in such schools dealing with the entire scope of the problem addressed by this memorandum? This is now essential training for the executives of the future.

Secondary Education

While the first priority should be at the college level, the trends mentioned above are increasingly evidenced in the high schools. Action programs, tailored to the high schools and similar to those mentioned, should be considered. The implementation thereof could become a major program for local chambers of commerce, although the control and direction — especially the quality control — should be retained by the National Chamber.

What Can Be Done About the Public?

Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term. The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public. Among the more obvious means are the following:

Television

The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance. 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.12 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 to the Federal Communications Commission — should be made promptly and strongly when programs are unfair or inaccurate.

Equal time should be demanded when appropriate. Effort should be made to see that the forum-type programs (the Today Show, Meet the Press, etc.) afford at least as much opportunity for supporters of the American system to participate as these programs do for those who attack it.

Other Media

Radio and the press are also important, and every available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks, as well as to present the affirmative case through these media.

The Scholarly Journals

It is especially important for the Chamber’s “faculty of scholars” to publish. One of the keys to the success of the liberal and leftist faculty members has been their passion for “publication” and “lecturing.” A similar passion must exist among the Chamber’s scholars.

Incentives might be devised to induce more “publishing” by independent scholars who do believe in the system.

There should be a fairly steady flow of scholarly articles presented to a broad spectrum of magazines and periodicals — ranging from the popular magazines (Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, etc.) to the more intellectual ones (Atlantic, Harper’s, Saturday Review, New York, etc.)13 and to the various professional journals.

Books, Paperbacks and Pamphlets

The news stands — at airports, drugstores, and elsewhere — are filled with paperbacks and pamphlets advocating everything from revolution to erotic free love. One finds almost no attractive, well-written paperbacks or pamphlets on “our side.” It will be difficult to compete with an Eldridge Cleaver or even a Charles Reich for reader attention, but unless the effort is made — on a large enough scale and with appropriate imagination to assure some success — this opportunity for educating the public will be irretrievably lost.

Paid Advertisements

Business pays hundreds of millions of dollars to the media for advertisements. Most of this supports specific products; much of it supports institutional image making; and some fraction of it does support the system. But the latter has been more or less tangential, and rarely part of a sustained, major effort to inform and enlighten the American people.

If American business devoted only 10% of its total annual advertising budget to this overall purpose, it would be a statesman-like expenditure.

The Neglected Political Arena

In the final analysis, the payoff — short-of revolution — is what government does. Business has been the favorite whipping-boy of many politicians for many years. But the measure of how far this has gone is perhaps best found in the anti-business views now being expressed by several leading candidates for President of the United States.

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.

Yet, as every business executive knows, few elements of American society today have as little influence in government as the American businessman, the corporation, or even the millions of corporate stockholders. If one doubts this, let him undertake the role of “lobbyist” for the business point of view before Congressional committees. The same situation obtains in the legislative halls of most states and major cities. One does not exaggerate to say that, in terms of political influence with respect to the course of legislation and government action, the American business executive is truly the “forgotten man.”

Current examples of the impotency of business, and of the near-contempt with which businessmen’s views are held, are the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to “consumerism” or to the “environment.”

Politicians reflect what they believe to be majority views of their constituents. It is thus evident that most politicians are making the judgment that the public has little sympathy for the businessman or his viewpoint.

The educational programs suggested above would be designed to enlighten public thinking — not so much about the businessman and his individual role as about the system which he administers, and which provides the goods, services and jobs on which our country depends.

But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. 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 assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.

As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.

Neglected Opportunity in the Courts

American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.

Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political orientation from “liberal” to the far left.

The American Civil Liberties Union is one example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs amicus curiae in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense, has not been inconsequential.

This is a vast area of opportunity for the Chamber, if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if, in turn, business is willing to provide the funds.

As with respect to scholars and speakers, the Chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.

Neglected Stockholder Power

The average member of the public thinks of “business” as an impersonal corporate entity, owned by the very rich and managed by over-paid executives. There is an almost total failure to appreciate that “business” actually embraces — in one way or another — most Americans. Those for whom business provides jobs, constitute a fairly obvious class. But the 20 million stockholders — most of whom are of modest means — are the real owners, the real entrepreneurs, the real capitalists under our system. They provide the capital which fuels the economic system which has produced the highest standard of living in all history. Yet, stockholders have been as ineffectual as business executives in promoting a genuine understanding of our system or in exercising political influence.

The question which merits the most thorough examination is how can the weight and influence of stockholders — 20 million voters — be mobilized to support (i) an educational program and (ii) a political action program.

Individual corporations are now required to make numerous reports to shareholders. Many corporations also have expensive “news” magazines which go to employees and stockholders. These opportunities to communicate can be used far more effectively as educational media.

The corporation itself must exercise restraint in undertaking political action and must, of course, comply with applicable laws. But is it not feasible — through an affiliate of the Chamber or otherwise — to establish a national organization of American stockholders and give it enough muscle to be influential?

A More Aggressive Attitude

Business interests — especially big business and their national trade organizations — have tried to maintain low profiles, especially with respect to political action.

As suggested in the Wall Street Journal article, it has been fairly characteristic of the average business executive to be tolerant — at least in public — of those who attack his corporation and the system. Very few businessmen or business organizations respond in kind. There has been a disposition to appease; to regard the opposition as willing to compromise, or as likely to fade away in due time.

Business has shunted confrontation politics. Business, quite understandably, has been repelled by the multiplicity of non-negotiable “demands” made constantly by self-interest groups of all kinds.

While neither responsible business interests, nor the United States Chamber of Commerce, would engage in the irresponsible tactics of some pressure groups, it is essential that spokesmen for the enterprise system — at all levels and at every opportunity — be far more aggressive than in the past.

There should be no hesitation to attack the Naders, the Marcuses and others who openly seek destruction of the system. There should not be the slightest hesitation to press vigorously in all political arenas for support of the enterprise system. Nor should there be reluctance to penalize politically those who oppose it.

Lessons can be learned from organized labor in this respect. The head of the AFL-CIO may not appeal to businessmen as the most endearing or public-minded of citizens. Yet, over many years the heads of national labor organizations have done what they were paid to do very effectively. They may not have been beloved, but they have been respected — where it counts the most — by politicians, on the campus, and among the media.

It is time for American business — which has demonstrated the greatest capacity in all history to produce and to influence consumer decisions — to apply their great talents vigorously to the preservation of the system itself.

The Cost

The type of program described above (which includes a broadly based combination of education and political action), if undertaken long term and adequately staffed, would require far more generous financial support from American corporations than the Chamber has ever received in the past. High level management participation in Chamber affairs also would be required.

The staff of the Chamber would have to be significantly increased, with the highest quality established and maintained. Salaries would have to be at levels fully comparable to those paid key business executives and the most prestigious faculty members. Professionals of the great skill in advertising and in working with the media, speakers, lawyers and other specialists would have to be recruited.

It is possible that the organization of the Chamber itself would benefit from restructuring. For example, as suggested by union experience, the office of President of the Chamber might well be a full-time career position. To assure maximum effectiveness and continuity, the chief executive officer of the Chamber should not be changed each year. The functions now largely performed by the President could be transferred to a Chairman of the Board, annually elected by the membership. The Board, of course, would continue to exercise policy control.

Quality Control is Essential

Essential ingredients of the entire program must be responsibility and “quality control.” The publications, the articles, the speeches, the media programs, the advertising, the briefs filed in courts, and the appearances before legislative committees — all must meet the most exacting standards of accuracy and professional excellence. They must merit respect for their level of public responsibility and scholarship, whether one agrees with the viewpoints expressed or not.

Relationship to Freedom

The threat to the enterprise system is not merely a matter of economics. It also is a threat to individual freedom.

It is this great truth — now so submerged by the rhetoric of the New Left and of many liberals — that must be re-affirmed if this program is to be meaningful.

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom — ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism, as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas, such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor, and indeed of the public generally. But most of the essential freedoms remain: private ownership, private profit, labor unions, collective bargaining, consumer choice, and a market economy in which competition largely determines price, quality and variety of the goods and services provided the consumer.

In addition to the ideological attack on the system itself (discussed in this memorandum), its essentials also are threatened by inequitable taxation, and — more recently — by an inflation which has seemed uncontrollable.14 But whatever the causes of diminishing economic freedom may be, the truth is that freedom as a concept is indivisible. As the experience of the socialist and totalitarian states demonstrates, the contraction and denial of economic freedom is followed inevitably by governmental restrictions on other cherished rights. It is this message, above all others, that must be carried home to the American people.

Conclusion

It hardly need be said that the views expressed above are tentative and suggestive. The first step should be a thorough study. But this would be an exercise in futility unless the Board of Directors of the Chamber accepts the fundamental premise of this paper, namely, that business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.

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Footnotes (Powell’s)
  1. Variously called: the “free enterprise system,” “capitalism,” and the “profit system.” The American political system of democracy under the rule of law is also under attack, often by the same individuals and organizations who seek to undermine the enterprise system.
  2. Richmond News Leader, June 8, 1970. Column of William F. Buckley, Jr.
  3. N.Y. Times Service article, reprinted Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 17, 1971.
  4. Stewart Alsop, Yale and the Deadly Danger, Newsweek, May 18. 1970.
  5. Editorial, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 7, 1971.
  6. Dr. Milton Friedman, Prof. of Economics, U. of Chicago, writing a foreword to Dr. Arthur A. Shenfield’s Rockford College lectures entitled “The Ideological War Against Western Society,” copyrighted 1970 by Rockford College.
  7. Fortune. May, 1971, p. 145. This Fortune analysis of the Nader influence includes a reference to Nader’s visit to a college where he was paid a lecture fee of $2,500 for “denouncing America’s big corporations in venomous language . . . bringing (rousing and spontaneous) bursts of applause” when he was asked when he planned to run for President.
  8. The Washington Post, Column of William Raspberry, June 28, 1971.
  9. Jeffrey St. John, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 1971.
  10. Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly, “The Total Break with America, The Fifth Annual Conference of Socialist Scholars,” Sept. 15, 1969.
  11. On many campuses freedom of speech has been denied to all who express moderate or conservative viewpoints.
  12. It has been estimated that the evening half-hour news programs of the networks reach daily some 50,000,000 Americans.
  13. One illustration of the type of article which should not go unanswered appeared in the popular “The New York” of July 19, 1971. This was entitled “A Populist Manifesto” by ultra liberal Jack Newfield — who argued that “the root need in our country is ‘to redistribute wealth’.”
  14. The recent “freeze” of prices and wages may well be justified by the current inflationary crisis. But if imposed as a permanent measure the enterprise system will have sustained a near fatal blow.

*One of our great frustrations is that  foundations and funders who prefer a democratic republic to corporate domination have failed to learn from the success of these corporate institutions. They decline to invest in long-term education and culture-shifting that we and a small number of allied organizations work to achieve. Instead, they overwhelmingly focus on damage control and short-term goals. This approach stands no chance of yielding the systemic change needed to reverse the trend of growing corporate dominance.

Patient nurturing of movement-building work remains the exception to the rule among foundations that purport to strengthen democracy and citizen engagement. The growing movement to revoke corporate personhood is supported almost entirely from contributions by individual (real) people like you. Please consider supporting the work of groups like Move to Amend, Free Speech for People and Reclaim Democracy! that devote themselves to this essential movement-building work, rather than short-term projects and results demanded by most foundations.

Addenda:

  • Washington and Lee University has created this archive (pdf) of significant follow-up communications to the Powell Memo.
  • On the occasion of the memo’s 40th anniversary, Bill Moyers’ website posted useful background and commentary.

ReclaimDemocracy.org focuses on long-term movement-building and systemic change, striving to shift energy and funding from reactive work against individual harms caused by corporations to proactive efforts that seek to revoke corporate power systemically. Our ultimate goals involve Constitution-level change

This originally appeared in Reclaim Democracy in 2013

America, Fucked Yeah!

America, fucked yeah copy

What exactly ARE our national priorities?

Can anyone tell me? No, seriously. What DO we stand for today, because I am no longer sure.

We don’t feed the hungry or house the homeless. Shit we make them faster than ever these days. Now, entire cities can be rendered bankrupt in the blink of an eye. (See: Detroit, San Bernadino, Vallejo, hell just look the rest of the list yourself, try not to cry.) The hungry and homeless live in shanty towns or die on the street and we just take pictures of them.

We don’t cure disease (last disease we cured was polio and people are still catching it because we can’t stop waging war long enough to see it actually eradicated). Meanwhile we are only making diseases stronger in our factory farms so every meat meal you eat gives you the chance to experience antibiotic-resistant bacteria, first hand. Your next hamburger could be your last. Hope it was a good one.

Our government doesn’t lead, it harangues the poor and disenfranchised when it isn’t looking completely dysfunctional all by itself with conversations debating the wisdom of birth control for women and whether corporations should be allowed to pay for it, trans-vaginal ultrasound to embarrass women into NOT having abortions they won’t get but were supposed to legally have access to since Roe vs Wade, nor will the government be helpful if they are raising the children of their rapists, who will be, of course, looking for parental rights.

We can’t decide what education should look like, only that it should cost as much as possible and be as ineffective as it is expensive. Our police are now functioning as Judges dispensing justice from the barrels of their guns, or armored personnel carriers or coming soon to a city near you, aerial drones.

police-drone

We don’t allow people to retire in dignity for lives well lived, we allow pensions and soon we will be spending Social Security and Medicare (after we privatize them for flavor) to be gathered up by large corporations and gambled away enriching banks while they bankrupt the rest of the world. Don’t worry, though because we will bail out those pesky banks for still being “too big to fail” and socialize their losses while they capitalize their gains. I guess after a few more cycles of boom and bust with the remainder of our society in ruins we will actually consider putting those bastards behind bars and letting greedy banks go the way of the dinosaur, rendered down for their vital assets and turned back into a public service that helps people rather than impoverishes them. Banks in our modern society act more like bulimics than a financial asset. They eat all of the nations money and puke out the chewed remains of the people who trusted them.

So I ask you again, what does this country stand for these days because, I am not seeing much freedom (you are free to be analyzed, illegally wiretapped and edutained by corporate sponsored newscasters, blonde, perky and not too bright), justice (if you count the Supreme Court which has members who are both homophobic and in the pocket of the corporate powers who run this nation or the judges who put kids in prison for profit keeping corporate prisons full, or perhaps the inability of our justice system to protect citizens who happen to enjoy iced tea and skittles or using mass transit on national holidays).

And we still can’t get a decent set of wages if you aren’t a corporate executive. Wage stagnation, debt consolidation, and government subsidization allows corporations to pay people little or nothing while they work two jobs and still find themselves in need of food stamps, while corporations pocket MAD money from the privatization of the EBT service. Not to mention we still can’t get laws to provide protection from random NRA-mandated acts of violence.

I see a lot of the American Way, though. Exporting jobs, storing cash in foreign banks, utilizing child labor in Third World nations, (watching those underpaid people dying in poorly maintained factories for pennies a day so we can pay less for our clothing) avoiding corporate taxes AND managing to get corporate subsidies while spending as much as they want on the government officials who rotate between being Congressmen or Lobbyist depending on where they are in their cycle of governmental malfeasance.

So I ask you again, what exactly are our national priorities because I hate to tell you it looks a lot like greed, exploitation and good old-fashion buggery to me.

Oh wait. I have a video that sums it up nicely…

America Fuck Yeah, the Deluxe Edition

A parting shot from Tom Tomorrow

Gun Love - Tom Tomorrow

I have a gun so I don’t NEED to vote…

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A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.
– Bill Clinton, August 28, 2013

Are there any words that can really rationalize this image? When I ask myself how do I show my priorities in my life? My priorities are shown by the ease, dedication and effort I direct toward those issues. If I want my house to be clean, I have to make an effort to do the work necessary to keep it clean and fresh. I throw out my trash regularly. I wash my dishes, after every meal. I sweep or vacuum on a regular schedule. I do a regularly schedule spring and fall clean. So when you come to my house, you recognize I place a value on cleanliness. There are no dishes in the sink, there is no trash stinking up the place, there is no trash sitting on my floor. Seems simple enough?

So by using this logic, it is safe to presume in most states of the nation, it is a higher priority to own a gun than it is to allow for voting. Voting, the right to have say in who runs for office in your nation. The people who will represent your needs to the government and decide how our mutually agreed upon taxes should be spent on things that benefit the nation and the people living within it.

A gun on the other hand seems to be a way of saying I don’t need to vote.

I have a gun.

I can, if I want to, fight against any government that I don’t like, don’t agree with and can along the way, shoot anyone who disagrees with my point of view and isn’t able to shoot me first.

I have a gun.

The gun violence in this nation doesn’t ever seem to go down, either. In the last month, there have been at least five accidental shootings by CHILDREN at other children. There was even an event where two children conspired to stab or shoot a fellow classmate who ANNOYED THEM. Let’s not forget the police shooting an innocent twelve year old who happened to be carrying a toy gun that looked too realistic to them, so their solution was to shoot him dead on the spot. No warning, no information exchanged, the boy’s life and his parents irrevocably changed because some officer decided:

I have a gun.

Is this what we have become? A nation of people whose first solution even at the delicate age of 12 or 13 is to simply assume killing the person who annoys them is AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE. What happened to getting support from teachers?

No. I have a gun.

What happened to teaching children to negotiate?

No need. I have a gun.

What happened to learning skills that result in resolution and cooperation.

Forget that. I HAVE A GUN.

And I have the right to bear arms or arm bears, into my supermarket, into my Starbucks, into my bar, where other alcoholic gun-toting citizens might, after having a few too many, conceivably decide to shoot someone who disagrees with their perspective because, after all, none of us have ever seen an angry or ugly drunk with poor self-control or anger management issues have we? Nope. Not once.

Let’s not forget the increasing incidence of road rage where the solution to being cut off in traffic is to follow that driver to the supermarket, wait until he gets out of his car and shoot him. Or in a recent incident, the two drivers drew down on each other and summarily killed each other. An appropriate solution to the problem of both road rage, gun possession and inappropriate responses to poor driving etiquette.

But to those two men in that moment, they felt they were obligated to resolve their problem the only way they knew how, the way their concealed weapons permits said they had to.

They had a gun. Problem solved.

But while American Congressmen, in the pocket of the National Rifle Association, don’t seem able to pass any kind of gun legislation that would stop the mad proliferation of guns into a populace already rife with guns, currently it is estimated there are 300 million guns in the United States at any given moment. Yes, nearly one gun for every man, woman and child in this nation.

Is there a reason America has this many guns? Did China indicate they were coming for American farmland and would not be deterred by the world’s most expensive military force? Has the rest of the world had enough of American imperialist behaviors (also know as our foreign policy) and decided they were bringing the fight to our doorstep (might seem appropriate since no foreign force has fought on American soil since the war of 1812)? Are we expecting an alien invasion?

There does not appear to be any effort being made to stem the tide of firearm possession, no matter how many military bases, school yards, office buildings, streets, urban areas, city parks, or government officials get shot. We are a nation of fools assuming having a gun was the same thing as having a vote. Meanwhile corrupt corporations keep gun ownership an issue in the public sphere while they plunder your pensions, cut and privatize what were once government services, making them less effective and more expensive in the same breath.

So I have to ask you citizens, what kind of future are we looking for? Are we looking for one where a real vote in a real democracy has the potential to make the nation we live in a better place? Or are we simply preparing for the day when we decide government isn’t making the nation safer and rushing off to our secret food bunkers where we can proclaim loudly to anyone who dares to approach in the New World Order of anarchy and self determination…

I HAVE A GUN, AND THERE AREN’T ANY LAWS TO PREVENT ME FROM USING IT!

Heaven help us all.

Freeing People Since the Revolutionary War

Freeing you for our benefit

Laugh. It’s okay. I’ll wait. I thought it was darkly funny too. Then I thought deeply about what it really meant. And this is what I came up with:

America’s Imperialist Policies: “Freeing” People Since the Revolutionary War

Or so they would have you believe. When I saw this graphic, I realized much of what has bothered me about the United States military is the very existence of that military and how it has been used since the forming of this nation. The military is the ultimate expression of “cognitive dissonance” and freedom.

  • How free are we if we spend more than the next 14 nations who are our allies to maintain our military superiority?
  • How free are we if we are free to starve in the streets, while millionaires look on at the starving masses from their helicopters?
  • How free are we when we look down at the chicken we just bought from the market and have to wonder: “Is it safe to eat?”
  • How free are we when our students leave school with more debt and less to show for it than any generation in 100 years.

To have a chance at a decent job, some of them will leave school with what we once spent on a house.

You remember those. Where people who live in tent cities across America used to live, in homes. Homes they have lost due to the collapsed financial market. A market where we have finally gotten around to slapping fines out but no executives of these banks who knew they were engaged in what should have been considered illegal activities have been sent to jail yet; if ever.

If you want to see a jail cell, then protest appears to be the way to go. Executives have to be caught eating a live human baby, on camera with at least 12 reliable witnesses and even then a good lawyer gets them “time served” and a napkin.

We say our military might is about maintaining our freedom. Freedom appears pretty expensive to me.

The need for the military and its purchases certainly appears to be more important than:

  • schools – we don’t seem to value education anymore; no money? No education. We don’t plan on you making any decisions anyway so who cares if you learn anything?
  • bridges – we haven’t had enough collapse to make anyone care, yet. With over 2,000 in a dangerous state of repair, its just a waitin’ game.
  • roads – we are turning them back to gravel. FDR would be so proud.
  • updating our electricity infrastructure – parts of the nation spend more time in the dark than the Amish
  • water – no one is mentioning this number one hard to come by resource, nationwide
  • waste management – take it to the landfill, no plan after that
  • research and development – we don’t do that here, anymore
  • manufacturing – precious little of this either
  • plumbing and city-wide sewer and sanitation for every major metropolis in the US.

Thank God [sarcasm] we are still privatizing prisons. American innovation at its finest. [/sarcasm] 

Did I miss anything important? Wait:

  • industrialized food production – or how to create foods that will eventually kill us
  • genetically modified foods – no useful or specific testing before human use
  • dying bee populations likely due to pesticide overuse
  • antibiotic resistant disease management – welcome back to the age of dying-from-a-scratch. Penicillin we hardly knew ye…
  • overpopulation – no need to stop now, we can break 10 billion by 2040.
  • climate change – yes, I know, its a myth, like Creation, right?
  • fracking and its poisoned waste water – we don’t need fresh water; fracking scientists assure me, flammable water IS still drinkable.
  • oil production, oil sand extraction – moonscape anyone?
  • lack of transition to non-oil based technologies – solar panels? We don’t need no stinking solar panels, or wind farms or biogas facilities. Peak oil is a myth too.

The US maintains over 600 military bases around the world. We have more fighters and bombers than we will ever use. We have cargo planes coming off the assembly line and being scrapped in the same year. We have so much military hardware, we are selling it to the police in our local communities.

Cobb-County-APC

Just what we need, antipersonnel vehicles on Main Street.

The military is a jobs program with a $600 billion dollar price tag. Yes, I said it.

That is the American way. We starve our schools while our fighter bomber programs roam free across the countryside, ensuring powerful defense contractors continue to get their piece of our “ignorant nation” pie.

American Imperialism is dead, hear tell it. Now that there are almost no nations we can destabilize and then attack under the guise of “freedom.” We are being told that our president has no sense of foreign policy. In conservative speak: no sense of foreign policy means any policy which does not put boots on the ground and food in a defense contractors mouths.

It has been the American way for so long to deliver freedom from the barrel of a gun or the bomber bay of attack aircraft if your country needed “freedom”. Freedom meant we bombed you into freedom and then you spent twenty five years “recovering” and not being an economic threat to our hegemony.

Clever plan, eh?

I would say our experimentation with a Democratic Republic has had a rocky road and almost no one who has tried to embrace our freedom, particularly after we send them a dose of HE has been successful in its implementation.

Could it be our brand of freedom comes at too high a price?

A friend of mine had this to say about the secrets a government must keep to maintain its control:

by H Wolfgang Porter

The thing that a staggering amount of people in the US cannot comprehend is how the government works on a multi-level, multi-tiered, multifaceted framework nationally and internationally simultaneously. Few people ever get to see the ‘whole picture’ and even fewer can comprehend it when they do!

Most folks see one small aspect of what the country does and support or flip out over it based upon the limited info they get from news sources (often singular.) What the government does is crazy deep. When you get things going at such ‘depths’, there’s a lot of ‘dark’ activities going on. Rarely are those activities stuff you’d want to shine a light on.

What’s jacked though is the people of the US benefit quite a bit from those things ‘done in the dark’. For everything perceived as ‘good and above board’, an unknown (probably for the best) amount of shadowy events went down to push that ‘light event’ into being.

No one in this country wants to acknowledge or admit that the US is an Empire. You don’t get to be an empire or ‘superpower’ in the world without a lot of people getting covered in blood and dirt. It’s jacked up because we want the country to present the best face and intentions possible at all times. But, in the real world it doesn’t work that way.

At best, ‘We the People’ should be working towards keeping our government ‘honest as possible’. It will never be 100% above board because other nations aren’t playing by those rules. Plus, we’ll always have people in power who have their own agenda and those folks with the money and influence to push them along. We counteract those factors by being well informed as possible and do our individual best to not look at everything through ‘tribal filters’.

There is No Future – A cheery film talking about why we need to start changing how we do things around here. Or else.

Is this a bad time to mention we still have 20,000 nuclear weapons rusting away quietly all across this nation, ready to keep us free (or begin to quietly fail) and be unable to launch with hunks of active plutonium waiting at the maybe secure launch facility.

Nothing to worry about. What’s the worst that can happen? An explosion of Freedom…

xVmSKy0

© Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved

© H. Wolfgang Porter 2013, All Rights Reserved

The Hostages are Safe! (for six months…)

new_demands

144 House Republicans Voted to Destroy the American Economy. 

The Threat of the Default is Over!

Free the hostages! The Americans are free! The government will be operational again. There won’t be a default. The crisis is over, right?

Don’t hold your breath. We will see more BS grandstanding like this while Barack Obama is the President of the United States. They will make this debt debate go away for three to six months and then we are right back here again, screwing with the full credit solvency of the US and terrifying (or is that terrorizing) foreign nations that are dependent on the strength and liquidity of the American Dollar. Bridges? I doubt seriously if this Congress will even pass a single transportation support or jobs bill the entire time President Obama is in office. They haven’t yet.

I suspect this is only a respite while they figure out their next plan to avoid doing anything to help the President. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, led the radical Tea Party campaign, along with the likes of Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachmann. Their goal was to tarnish President Obama reputation as a leader. This was ultimately to discourage people for voting for the Democratic party and especially to make the idea of another Black president the most unpalatable idea, ever. They will be able to look back and say, how he divided the government, prevented any acts of bi-partisanship, made the country a place that is less safe, more dependent on government, and increased poverty everywhere (even though it was most of their lack of leadership which actually caused most of these things).

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Season’s Greetings (Think that’s Ramadan, ain’t that the Muslim Christmas?) from the Tea Party.

The truth matters less than the result of what they have done. People have short memories and won’t remember the Tea Party almost causing them to lose their homes, be three weeks without pay, the hardship on the families of the government’s workers or on the military, or on people dependent on the EPA, FDA, USDA, or any other NECESSARY government regulatory agencies (which the Tea Party would abolish, if they could).

From their perspective, they have utilized the 24 hour news cycles desperation to fill their hours with conjecture, improperly vetted news, opinions and misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, the Debt Ceiling, the damage potential of a prospective Economic Default on both our economy and the worldwide financial state. This has made the United States appear dysfunctional, poorly governed and able to be controlled by a minority of the Congress. Our foreign allies are saddened by this lack of leadership and horrified that the US can be so easily terrorized (there goes that word again) by a radical minority.

I am not a liberal despite what you may think of reading this. I am simply not a fan of a screw job when I see one. The worst part of this event is that NOTHING will be done with these economic terrorists who saw fit to take the nation hostage, punishing the poorest and least able among us by taking away their food, resources, and work under the guise of keeping them from having any kind of affordable health care. Does anyone have a word for what this might appear to be? Funny, there is one.

Sedition.

But alas, no one is going to request it be used. Reasons include: Too much bad press; not how we do business; it is the President’s fault for not giving in to the Conservative demand to get rid of his signature legislation that everyone but the rich and powerful who stand to gain from the constantly growing economic divide, seem to want.

it would seem, not only is failure the outcome of this grandstanding by the GOP, but that no matter how it turns out, their goal has been accomplished. Make the president look weak and ineffectual (mostly through the use of rhetoric and sprinklings of the madness of people like Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachmann).

Brought to you by

Hey poor Americans, need food stamps? Don’t vote these people back in office. They sold you out to AGROBUSINESS!

Yes, Virginia there is an Apocalypse.

One brought to us by the Koch Brothers and other multi-billionaires who believe government’s real job is to subsidize their wealth (by paying their workers so little, the government is forced to pay out food stamps and welfare so they can have enough to eat) and undermine the effectiveness of government until those super-rich folk can buy the Commons right from under us and then they can divide it up and give us what they want us to have, for a price we, of course, cannot afford.

public_assistance_10_largest_fast_food_companies

This chart says, McDonald’s gets to pocket/steal/purloin $1.2 Billion dollars a year and we, the American Taxpayers get to pick up the tab assisting their poorly paid employees.

But its a good thing those billionaires own banks too, they can always lend it to us on credit…like they do right now.

Debt is as good as cash, or as a form of economic enslavement. Ask any college student, they know first hand.

No Time for Celebration

The Senate voted 81 to 18 Wednesday night on a bill to reopen the federal government and raise the nation’s borrowing limit, and the House followed suit, voting 285-144. President Barack Obama signed the legislation early Thursday.

Elizabeth Warren agrees with me regarding this chicanery and had this to say about the economic shutdown:

I’m glad that the government shutdown has ended, and I’m relieved that we didn’t default on our debt.

But I want to be clear: I am NOT celebrating tonight.

Yes, we prevented an economic catastrophe that would have put a huge hole in our fragile economic recovery. But the reason we were in this mess in the first place is that a reckless faction in Congress took the government and the economy hostage for no good purpose and to no productive end.

According to the S&P index, the government shutdown had delivered a powerful blow to the U.S. economy. By their estimates, $24 billion has been flushed down the drain for a completely unnecessary political stunt.

$24 billion dollars. How many children could have been back in Head Start classes? How many seniors could have had a hot lunch through Meals on Wheels? How many scientists could have gotten their research funded? How many bridges could have been repaired and trains upgraded?

The Republicans keep saying, “Leave the sequester in place and cut all those budgets.” They keep trying to cut funding for the things that would help us build a future. But they are ready to flush away $24 billion on a political stunt.

So I’m relieved, but I’m also pretty angry.

We have serious problems that need to be fixed, and we have hard choices to make about taxes and spending. I hope we never see our country flush money away like this again. Not ever.

It’s time for the hostage taking to end. It’s time for every one of us to say, “No more.”

 

Here go some other names you might want to keep an eye on.

$24 billion dollars lost by the people who claimed they wanted to balance the budget. I am naming names.

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Shutdown: The View from Five Feet

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Author: Gabriel Russell

Perspective.

Got stuck in the lone checkout line at Safeway behind a woman buying groceries with her EBT card (food stamps). She had her teenaged son with her and a huge stack of coupons. I’ve been having a frustrating week. I was wearing coat and tie and probably had a grumpy look on my face when I arrived. The woman working the register kept looking at me apologetically as time went on and the line grew.

The shopper had a coupon for almost every item. She went through that stack of coupons four times slowly because she was missing one. I think she had coupons for apples, soup, pasta, rice, beans, and bread. She was missing a 60 cent coupon for her two cartons of almond milk. She had a list and had calculated to the penny what she could buy, had $70 on her EBT card and $20 or so on a check she had written but she was $1.20 short to finalize the purchase.I was tempted to pass the woman two bucks but she was already starting to radiate with awkward embarrassment. Her son stood behind her and stared at the floor. Finally the shopper asked the register worker if there was any way she could look through the weekly flier and find the coupon she needed and the worker started paging through it for her.

My irritation dissipated the longer I stood there. Its been a long time since I agonized over $1.20 for food. I’ve never had to do it with a crowd behind me. I could see the time and care she had put into her shopping trip, calculating the cost, clipping coupons, buying cheap healthy food.

I relaxed. I smiled. The coupon was finally found and the sale made. The register worker kept thanking me for my patience. I suppose these days most folks expect a certain amount of eye-rolling and grimacing when a customer is inconvenienced for a few minutes. We’re very busy people.

By Monday the shutdown will have cost me enough from a plane ticket change fee and a lost weekend of National Guard wages that it will sting. But I won’t miss a meal, or even skimp. I won’t miss a mortgage payment. I won’t fear for my phone or electricity being shut off. I have friends that may. I’m grateful for all that America has given me. I’m glad my wife has a good-paying job.

Not everyone is so lucky. We have young National Guard soldiers here in Washington State that rely on their drill pay for food and lodging and on military tuition assistance to pay for college. They won’t be getting either due to the shutdown. Each of them volunteered to serve in their nation’s military during time of war, uncertain of the cost.

This will likely, hopefully, be resolved before my young soldiers or friends in federal service even have time to apply for food stamps or unemployment. But not, perhaps, before a few missed payments, missed meals, and sleepless nights. It bothers me to see them treated this way.

The Legislative Branch of our government has its work cut out for it. I’d like to see them take up that task with the same zeal, teamwork and selfless sense of service to nation and community I see in the young soldiers and law enforcement officers that work for me. I’d like that a great deal.

All I did. The best I did today, was to stand patiently in line behind someone less fortunate than myself and not act like a complete ass. The woman at the register seemed appreciative. Almost like she expected me to be annoyed. Is this what we’ve come to? Is this what people expect?

Patience. Compassion. Persistence. Teamwork. I expect these attributes of my most junior employees. I expect them of myself. I expect them of my government.


If you have a story of the Shutdown and how it has affected your perspective, or your life in general, please share it in the comments or if it’s longer, send it to me at ebonstorm(at)gmail.com and we can share it together.

America shouldn’t be just for big businesses, its stories should be for and about everyone.

Thank you, Gabriel Russell for sharing your story.

Why is the Federal Poverty Line So Far Off? (via Moyers & Company)

John Light

Census data released this week show that after yet another year of anemic “recovery,” the number of Americans living in poverty last year remained stubbornly unchanged.

But what is “poverty” as measured by the federal government? Experts argue that the official measure is outdated, and doesn’t take important economic realities into account. Are those with incomes slightly above thepoverty threshhold not “poor people,” as most of us would understand it?

In 1999, a single mother struggling with this question sent an email to the Health and Human Services employee whose job it was to calculate the federal poverty line. She wrote:

I am a single Mother and work two jobs which equal about $18,000 per year. We barely afford rent, electric, cable, phone, water, food, taxes and vehicle expenses. [But] the federal poverty level is $11,060. My daughter and I have zero, no, zilch money left after paying the bills for medical or clothing. How on earth does the Federal Government expect us to pay for cars….There just is NOT enough money left at the end of the month for a car payment….Please tell me…how they expect people to live on under $20,000 per year.

The poverty line in the email, $11,060, was the federal poverty guideline in 1999 for a family of two. Today, that figure is $15,510 — still less than what the woman was struggling to get by at the time.

That raises a crucial question: why is the federal poverty cutoff so far off?

Origins of the poverty measure

From the early 1980s until last September, the Health and Human Services employee responsible for responding to that frustrated mother and others like her was Gordon M. Fisher. Fisher worked in the Office of the AssistantSecretary for Planning and Evaluation, where his job was to calculate the poverty guidelines — commonly referred to as the “poverty line,” used to determine benefit program eligibility — and to answer questions from the public.

“I was a civil servant, not a policymaker. I had to describe the policy — the level of the poverty line — that existed,” Fisher told Moyers & Company. “Although the people wanted that policy changed, I, as a civil servant, did not have authority to change it. At the same time, since they were members of the public, and I was a public servant, I wanted to respond to them with respect. There was not necessarily a good answer to their questions.”

When people called or — later in his career — emailed Fisher saying they were earning wages equal to the poverty line, or more, and still couldn’t get by, he “dealt with it very carefully,” he says. “When something like that becomes official policy, it can become difficult to change. When the people said, ‘I’m making more than that and I still can’t make ends meet,’ sometimes the only thing that I could say was ‘I can’t disagree with you, sir.’ or ‘I can’t disagree with you, ma’am.’”

Looking to more fully answer the questions put to him, Fisher went back to take a look at where the guidelines came from to begin with. “I found that there wasn’t a single good, detailed source on how the poverty thresholds were developed,” he says. So he took it upon himself to document it. “I made that sort of my second job in addition to my day job of putting out the poverty guidelines,” he said. Fisher became known by colleagues as the “unofficial” historian of America’s poverty measures.

The answer took him back to the mid-1960s, when Mollie Orshansky, a civil servant working for the Social Security Administration, needed to devise a way of measuring child poverty.

Orshansky herself had grown up poor, one of seven daughters born to a family of Jewish immigrants living in the South Bronx. She remembered waiting in food lines with her mother and how her family would decide to forgo important purchases in order to make the rent. In 1970, she told theNew York Post, “If I write about the poor, I don’t need a good imagination — I have a good memory.”

Orshansky worked as a government clerk and civil servant most of her life, starting at New York City’s Department of Health. By 1963, Orshansky was working for the Social Security Administration — the agency that oversees many social safety net programs — and was assigned to report on “poverty as it affects children.” But her team had no good measure of what constituted poverty — so Orshansky decided to develop her own.

She used a 1955 Department of Agriculture report which found that families of three or more spent about one third of their after-tax income on food. So, to calculate a poverty line Orshanksy decided to multiply a low-income household’s food budget by three, figuring that if a family was tightening its belt, it would cut all expenses by about the same amount, proportionately.

For the food budget itself, Orshansky used the Department of Agriculture’s “economy food plan.” It was the cheapest of four plans developed by the Department of Agriculture, and was designed to reflect what a family living for a short period of time on a severely constrained budget might need to get by. In 1962, it allotted $18.60 a week for a family of four with two school-aged children — or $143.47 in today’s dollars. It was even less costly than two other “low cost” plans the department had developed, and, as a 1962 report explained, “relie[d] heavily on the cereals, dry beans, peas, and nuts and potato groups, and on the selection of the less expensive items in each of the 11 food groups.” It was only for “emergency use,” and not intended to constitute a family’s diet over the long-term. In a 1965 article, Orshansky said her threshold, dependent on this budget, should be used to measure when a family had “inadequate” funds, not adequate funds.

Her new standard came at a fortuitous time. The Johnson administration had declared a “war on poverty,” and public agencies needed a way to measure the extent of the problem. In 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity adopted Orshansky’s thresholds as their poverty cut-off, and in 1969, her thresholds were made the government’s official definition of poverty.

Also in 1969, a review committee made up of representatives from many government agencies decided the thresholds would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index, not to changes in the cost of food or the share of a family’s income spent on food. Since that time, the method for calculating the poverty thresholds has changed little.

The poverty measure today

America, however, has changed quite a bit since 1969 — and has changed even more since the mid-1950s, when the USDA budget Orshansky used for her thresholds was designed.

“The fact that other basic needs have increased in cost more rapidly than food is one reason why the old poverty line is out-of-date and, in fact, is too low: It hasn’t kept up with our new necessities, it hasn’t kept up with new ideas of what our basic needs are.”

“In some ways, the poverty measure such as it is today made a lot of sense in 1965, 1966, in the late ’60s. The problem is we haven’t really updated it in a meaningful way,” says Shawn Fremstad, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic Policy Research. “We’ve updated it for inflation, but that just means you’re measuring what it means to be poor today in what are essentially early 1960s terms.”

The share of a family’s income spent on food has changed dramatically — some recent studies place the share of a family’s income spent on food as low as six or seven percent of total household expenditures. That would mean Americans today are spending roughly 1/14th of their income on food, compared with the one-third figure used to calculate the poverty guidelines.

“A lot has happened to society and to families needs,” says Arloc Sherman, a senior researcher with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Fewer people needed to drive to work — you could walk to work. People didn’t need to save the same for childcare, or for college. People could get away without having a telephone and still have a successful job search. It was just a very different world.

“The rise in families with children where all parents are working for pay is driving up the importance of paid childcare. Spending a few thousand dollars on childcare is fairly typical now. Childcare costs have risen faster than inflation. Healthcare spending is a growing part of family budgets just like it’s a growing part of the national economy.

“The fact that other basic needs have increased in cost more rapidly than food is one reason why the old poverty line is out-of-date and, in fact, is too low: It hasn’t kept up with our new necessities, it hasn’t kept up with new ideas of what our basic needs are.”

And the line doesn’t just omit key expenses — because it looks at a family’s before-tax cash income, it also ignores important sources of non-cash income for poor people such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). If the poverty guidelines don’t incorporate income from benefits, it’s hard to measure if these benefits programs are doing their job and lifting people out of poverty.

“This is relevant right now because there are bills moving through Congressthat would cut SNAP by tens of billions of dollars over the coming decade,” says Sherman. “And if you don’t know that SNAP is helping people, you’re more likely to say it doesn’t work.”

Alternate measures

“One of the challenges is the official poverty measure is still there and it ends up dominating the debate and confusing people and getting in the way, and that’s really unfortunate.”

Organizations that address poverty day-to-day have developed several alternative methods of measuring the number of Americans living in poverty.

“I think there’s a lot of great work going on, often in nonprofits. I think one of the challenges is the official poverty measure is still there and it ends up dominating the debate and confusing people and getting in the way, and that’s really unfortunate,” says Fremstad.

Moyers and Company has recently used a different threshold for a reasonable standard of living, calculated by the nonprofit group Wider Opportunities for Women. Their Basic Economic Security Tables, or BEST index, takes into account expenses that the federal poverty line doesn’t, including housing, utilities, child care, transportation, health care, household goods, emergency and retirement savings and taxes, and recognizes that each expense is different depending on the location in question. AcrossAmerica, the BEST index comes in at two to three times the poverty level — and in some cities, even more. The Economic Policy Institute has done similar research, and has a family budget calculator that you can use to find out how much it costs a family to live in every American city.

Anti-poverty advocates have also praised the U.S. Census for recently implementing a second measure of poverty, called the supplemental poverty measure, which, Sherman explains, “makes several changes. It counts those missing tax credits and non-tax benefits as income. It subtracts necessary, work-related expenses, such as childcare, and out-of-pocket medical expenses from income. It counts boyfriends, girlfriends, unmarried partners as part of the family. It adjusts the poverty line for local variations in cost of living, particularly in housing costs. And it uses a poverty line that is in other ways slightly updated from the old poverty line.” The regular measures yielded 46.2 million people living in poverty in America in 2011, but the supplemental measures yielded 49.7 million, many of them elderly.

A new measure?

Right now, many of those who study poverty are not overly hopeful that the U.S. will implement a new poverty measure in the near future. It’s a difficult topic, especially in today’s fraught political environment. Conservatives argue that the measures cover too many people, including many who are lifted out of poverty by government programs like the EITC. Liberals argue that the poverty measures don’t take expenses into account realistically.

Those who work with the U.S. poverty line often look to the U.K.’s system of measurement as an alternative model the U.S. might follow. There, federal agencies use multiple measures of poverty to create policy.

“It would be good for both the left and the right to say, ‘There is no single best way.’ And maybe we could adopt sort of a suite of measures along the U.K. line,” says Fremstad. “And some of those could be more conservative, more absolute, and some of them could be more relative, more liberal. And then we could argue about which ones are the best. But at least we’d have a few — three or four measures that were all good, that Census and thefederal government put out and that narrowed the debate.”

Even before her long career researching American poverty ended with her retirement in 1982, Orshansky was unsettled to see her poverty measure become outdated, but remain as federal policy. In 1969 — the year the poverty measure was adopted nationwide and tied to inflation — she expressed skepticism about its implementation. “The best you can say for the measure is that at a time when it seemed useful, it was there,” she wrote.

Cain’s Legacy

Cain’s Legacy (or why mankind has a dubious future at best)

How the world works

The source of this image is unknown to me. But the genius of the artist shouts out a truth that cannot be ignored.

“Power goes to those most willing to be and do the most heinous things to their fellow man. If you are without shame, without conscience, without moral compass, you can rise to the peak of ‘human’ achievement, such as it is, and take your place as a leader among men, a monster above those not willing to stare into the abyss that has already consumed you. This is Cain’s Legacy.”

Let me say that again for you in relationship to the modern world.

POWER, the ability to:

  • alter society at large, literally change the world through the exercise of their economic, political or social resources,
  • manipulate our environment and create catastrophic events beyond our ability to foresee the consequences of
  • make decisions which affect the nature of the world at large,
  • for good or ill, affect the lives of billions is now part of the human experience and relegated to an elite few. As few as 400 people control bulk of the world’s wealth
  • be unconcerned for the consequences of said exercises of power. To be above any legal, social or economic responsibility for the exercise of that power.

This elite few:

  • who instead of considering the conservation of nature for the greatest number
  • fail to realize that they are now responsible for the entire human species.
  • They fail to realize any decision or lack thereof can conceivably doom us all.
  • in their current role as masters of resources, wealth and social control,  prefer to drain the Earth of its resources, harvest natural bounties and exploit the labors of those not fortunate enough to be born into wealth.
  • promote the meme of meritocracy knowing they do not personally subscribe to it. There is no merit that helps you rise to the top, only the ruthlessness necessary to say and do anything to anyone.

But this is not entirely their fault. (What?) Bear with me a moment.

There is no training for becoming powerful. (Not an excuse, just an observation)

There is no class for directing the flow of wealth at the scales it is done today. All of the kings of old, their wealth, power and influence pales in comparison to that being wielded by our new corporate kings and their economic fiefdoms. Science and human nature are still learning about how compassion, humanity, and empathy are affected by our environment, our upbringing, our training, our use or lack of use of drugs which alter our mental chemistry.

WE HAVE NO COURSEWORK ON HOW TO BE HUMAN.  How to be good to each other, how to see each other as viable no matter our origins. We promote competition literally until death can be the only result.

WAR IS COMPETITION’S ULTIMATE STATE. When two groups cannot come to an agreement beneficial to both, if the groups are large enough, entrenched enough, then WAR is the result. We fight until we destroy the opposition, even if their perspective may bear more than a kernel of truth.

This is Cain’s Legacy. We kill our brothers rather than find commonality with them.

This innate blindness, this acculturated inhumanity to each other does not have to be our only path to the future.

What if we spent as much on peace and education as we did on war? 

  • Could we not make the same profits? (I think so. And then some.)
  • Could we not improve our quality of life? (Most assuredly and for more than just an elite few.)
  • Could we not find cures for dementia, cancer, AIDS? (It would be nice; we haven’t cured anything since polio…)
  • Could we effectively address the recursive problem of employment where automation removes jobs faster than we can make new ones?
  • If we were better educated, could we stop depending on superstition to make decisions about our bodies, our lives and the disposition of the world’s resources?
  • Could we finally address the most important issue in our human history, our burgeoning population that continues to explode without a means of dealing with the need for resources to maintain those new numbers?

There are more and more problems every year but we continue to spend money on the same things that keep us in the exact same place we are now; ignorant, arrogant, petulant and recalcitrant.

The same way we learned to use power and influence to manipulate the world, we could instead harness empathy and realize for us to make the world better, it will require the best EVERY PERSON CAN BE, the best every person can find within themselves, to selflessly discover new solutions to old problems.

We will need to come to the conclusion at every life, no matter how humble has the same potential as the greatest king, sitting anywhere in the world. Because until we do that, everything we do only delays the inevitable extinction of mankind. You don’t believe me.

You think I engage in hyperbole? I think not. I present exhibit 1 below, your honor. Watch the video below from beginning to end and ask me again when it is done whether I exaggerate. Realize everything you see here is happening all over the world. NO PLACE IS EXEMPT.

VICE AND VIRTUES

Watching an episode of VICE this week reminded me just how out of order our world is and how many people die every day without an understanding of a world beyond the one they are confined and limited to seeing.

Murder is a tool, hopelessness and fear, merely lieutenants in a war for the souls of men in a battle to manipulate, exploit, and control resources, in pursuit of wealth in a fruitless attempt to forestall death and personal suffering.

IT IS MADNESS to forfeit the future for the present.

IT IS MADNESS to use your children as explosives in a war that no one can win.

IT IS MADNESS to plow the forest into the ground and call it progress.

IT IS MADNESS to trap and slaughter billions of animals in conditions which breed diseases that escape into our environment and kill us and call it agriculture.

IT IS MADNESS to use oil and coal and radioactive materials whose potential consequences will be responsible for the deaths of billions when we have other choices.

IT IS MADNESS to subsidize technologies like hydraulic fracturing which use the world’s most precious resource, fresh water, to subsidize further mega-corporate wealth.

IT IS MADNESS to indenture children in diploma mills and having them toil for low pay while executives pass by them homeless in the streets at the end of the day.

IT IS MADNESS to make a government that can be bought by lobbyists who in their zeal to deregulate their industry fail to note the lack of safeguards when they do.

IT IS MADNESS to say we can’t cut military spending when there are no wars, except when YOU make them…

IT IS MADNESS to deny healthcare to millions when the politicians denying them have the very best healthcare in the world, at no cost to them.

IT IS MADNESS to deny the benefits of natural drugs like marijuana, while allowing pharmaceutical companies the option to avoid being responsible if their drugs kill people.

IT IS MADNESS to spy on your populace, tell them you aren’t spying and then punish anyone who proves the lies you have told as the lies that they are.

IT IS MADNESS to teach your people to be proud of their ignorance, to misinform them under the guise of news and use religion as a means of retarding intelligent discourse about anything.

IT IS MADNESS to create false divisions between people under the guise of race, religion, creed and to make them appear to be significant enough to kill each other over.

IT IS MADNESS to wage war, economic, social, religious, cultural or political when people starve in your streets for want of leadership and vision.

IT IS MADNESS to base your society on a mantra like “Greed is Good.”

IT IS MADNESS to mortgage the future to live well in the present.

IT IS MADNESS to fear the future enough to kill the present.

IT IS MADNESS to believe fear can ever lead to love.

IT IS MADNESS to believe lies can ever lead to truth.

SHEER MADNESS.

VICE on HBO: Episode 1 – Killer Kids

Why the Movie, “The Butler,” Will Not Get One Dime From Me

Originally posted on Racism Is White Supremacy:

“Movies are not about Blacks but what Whites think about Blacks.” – Ralph Ellison, author of the novel,  Invisible Man.

I will admit that my negative “review” of the movie, “The Butler,” is a bit premature.  I will even admit that I will probably never pay to see it because I refuse to financially support most movies produced by (white) Hollywood (although I will rent one FOR FREE from the public library whenever the mood hits me).

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Nearly every movie I have seen, including the “black” movies produced by (white) Hollywood, PROMOTE white supremacy/Black inferiority EVEN when it appears that this is NOT happening.

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Is it my imagination or does the ‘butler’ in this movie poster resemble President Obama?

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In my experience  the majority of Hollywood-Produced “Black” Films Usually Fall Into One of Five Categories:

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1.the  “good black”  female triumphing over the “evil” black male: (The…

View original 1,427 more words

The Workforce of The Future Could Be Tiny

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This was once the face of the Robot Apocalypse.

A terrifying unified metal organism crushing humanity under its robotic heel, exterminating the humans who once gave it life and whose robotic perfection could no longer tolerate our imperfect nature. We as humans have grown to fear this meme more than nearly any other; the machine finding humanity’s flaws a reason to remove us from the Earth. Okay, perhaps that was a fictional account of the robot apocalypse designed to play on our fears of the unknown, robots, and the ever-encroaching wave of technology swallowing up our lives.

But the robot apocalypse may look more like this: Robots coming to work, first in our factories and then later in our offices, programmed with capabilities which allow them to displace the less qualified workers engaged in tasks that can be replicated with algorithmic procedures and programming. (That may be more jobs than we are willing to admit.)

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Illustration by Roberto Parada

I predicted the future of work and the economically debilitating effects of robots, automation, and the replacement of the workforce with machines on the populace in previous articles. In Death to the Labor Class, I postulate the consideration that the culture of America and the world at large may need to re-evaluate how we deal with compensation and the nature of work in the future, as machines put laborers out of the workforce in greater and greater numbers.

I tried to remind people that automation has been taking your jobs for years, you simply still had other choices of work to get and still bring home the bacon. Now I am postulating not only will the potential for automation take your job, it will take it higher and higher along the social-economic food chain. Once only blue-color workers were affected, now the potential for algorithms can take any job which can be proceduralized and structured based on databases of stored information.

For example, there are already computerized journalists in use today. See: NYTimes: In case you’re wondering a human wrote this article. A market for such technology will continue to grow as the databases they draw from become more intelligent and sophisticated. Will they replace real journalists? For some types of articles the answer is assuredly, yes.

 See: Death to the Labor Class: http://storify.com/ebonstorm/may-13-2013-monday-s-musing-death-to-the-labor-cla.

gear99

How the Tesla Model S is Made — Behind The Scenes

A sample of how robotics are slowly changing manufacturing from Wired Magazine and the Tesla Automotive company

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The opinion of the masses: So what?

The comments I received primarily indicated those jobs needed to be replaced since robots COULD do them, they should. Mostly this would affect people with less education, blue-color workers and the disdain of the white-color workers was palpable because they thought their jobs would be unaffected by technical automation of any kind.

I mentioned the idea of algorithms or procedural decision-making based on experience. This is how experienced doctors, lawyers and other professionals decide on courses of action. What if you could write a program or algorithm to do the same thing? The program would learn from decisions made in the past and predict what possible outcomes and their potential chances for success. This could mean an entirely new class of workers, including middle managers could find themselves unemployed as intelligent agents make the same decisions they did without preferential treatment, emotional attachments, or favoritism to muddy the economic water.

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Christoper Steiner
Steiner is an engineer, a skier, an author and one of the founders at Aisle50. Before starting Aisle50, he was a senior staff writer at Forbes magazine for seven years. His book “Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World”, chronicles the march of algorithms from the very first hack of Wall Street to their current role as disruptors of the creative class in fields as varied as music, writing, law and medicine.

© Chris Steiner

Engineer Christopher Steiner has an interview in the European Magazine discussing the idea that white-color jobs that are low in innovation are indeed next on the list of people made unemployed by technology. And there are a lot more jobs at stake than in the manufacturing industry.

Here is a telling quotation from the article. It is definitely worth your time to read. The effects are worldwide and potentially socially catastrophic:

The European: We tend to think about unskilled labor as the most precarious form of labor – machines could easily do it. Yet one of the arguments you make is that algorithms threaten many mid-level, white collar jobs…

Steiner: Being an expert in a field, having worked for fifteen years in that field, usually means that you have accumulated enough expertise, seen enough cases, read enough studies, dealt with enough clients, that you develop your own pattern recognition system within your brain. In medicine, experienced doctors are valuable because they have seen and treated many patients and diseases. Experienced lawyers know very well what information they need to pursue litigation, where to find that information, and so forth. But algorithms are very well suited for pattern recognition, much more than humans. If you can feed algorithms with data about a patient’s symptoms or about a legal case, I can’t see how that would not take away many of our jobs.”

http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/christoper-steiner/7226-algorithms-and-the-future-of-work