The American motto of “Life, Liberty and In Pursuit of Happiness” together with the political system of separation in power for its government structure has inspired great admiration in me and millions of people all over the world. Alas, for a long time, we can not reconcile these great visions with the reality of tremendous inequality on global scale and open robbery by the governmental social, political economic policies controlled by elites under the name of free market and globalization. This disconnect reflects in the huge division in sentiments and public debates. After reading the book The CRASH of 2016 – The Plot to Destroy America and What We Can Do to Stop It by Thom Hartmann, I realize this struggle has always been part of American history, from very start of United States as a nation, and will be on-going work upon all of us.
In 1776, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nation was published and the US Declaration of Independence was signed. This was no coincidence: both were reactions to a widespread economic depression that had begun in the previous decade. Today many people think that the Tea Act, which led to the American Revolution, was simply an increase in the taxes on tea paid by American colonists. Instead, the purpose of the Tea Act was to give the East India Company full and unlimited access to the American tea trade and to exempt the company from having to pay taxes to Britain on tea exported to the American colonies. In other words, The Tea Act (among others) was the largest corporate tax breaks in the history of the world. And since, at the time, most of the British government and royalty were stockholders in the east India Tea Company, it was also a classic example of crony capitalism. The American Revolution began with an act of corporate vandalism.
At end of war, the independence from Britain did not defeat the Royalists at home who subscribed to the Calvinist notion that wealth was a sign of certification or blessing from above and proved a certain minimum level of morality. John Adams was sympathetic to their cause. Jefferson was Adams’ chief political rival, and a champion of a democracy responsive to the people and not the wealthy elite. As author Daniel Sisson documented in his incredible book The American Revolution of 1800:How Jefferson Rescued Democracy from Tyranny and Faction, there were genuine fears among Americans that these early Royalists would blow up the American experiment of democracy and not cede power to Jefferson and the more egalitarian democratic Republicans in the election of 1800. Thomas Jefferson later said, “The Revolution of 1800 was as real a revolution in the principle of our government as that of 1776 was in form.” Referring to the wealthy elite and their cabal in the Senate of United States, Jefferson said, “I think the best remedy is exactly that provided by all our Constitutions, to leave to the citizens the free election…In general they will elect the really good and wise. In some instance, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society.”
Fourscore years after the founding generation came the Great Panic of October 1857. Depression was so vast that the Chicago Democratic Press declared at its start, the week of September 30 1857, “the financial pressure now prevailing in the country has no parallel in our business history.” The crash highlighted the enormous economic struggle underway between the North’s and the South’s Economic Royalists. Even though the scourge of slavery was defeated in the Civil War, the Royalists, who supported both sides, didn’t lose the fight. For the next forty years, they ran roughshod over the American economy, prompting Grover Cleveland, the only Democratic elected president during the era, to proclaim in his 1888 State of the Union Address, “the gulf between employers and the employed is constantly widening, and classes are rapidly forming, one comprising the very rich and powerful, while in another are found the toiling poor.” He added, “As we view the achievement of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”
Some eighty years later, by 1920, those who remembered the previous Great Crash and ensuing Civil War were either all dead or, at least passed out of power, when the nation exhausted by World War I elected Warrant Harding president on a platform of “more business in government less government in business” putting an abrupt end to the progressive Era that seen two decades of trust-busting, union-organizing and anticorruption measures such as the Tillman Act of 1907, which banned all corporate contributions to all political candidates. Harding was the rightest of the right men. Harding’s secretary of treasury, Andrew Mellon, a wealthy industrialist and banker, promptly shepherded legislation through Congress that slashed taxes for the super-wealthy in America from 73 percent down to 25 percent over the next few years, and rolling back labor protections and financial-industry regulations. Later, Coolidge administration continue to advance these Royalist agenda to the enormous wealth bubble caused by all the “hot” (low-taxed) money produced by Treasury Secretary Melon’s tax cuts and deregulations. That hot money inflated a real estate bubble that started down in Florida and popped when a hurricane wiped out Miami in 1926, pushing investors to move their money into the growing stock market bubble which eventually popped in 1929, triggered the Great Depression as the third Republican president of the era, Herbert Hoover, was settling into the White House.
Within three years of the crash of 1929, almost one-in-four Americans was out of work, tens of thousands of military veterans, calling themselves the “Bonus Army,” were “occupying” the National Mall, and loud voices were variously calling for Fascism and Communism as a solution to our nations’ problems. The crisis prompted FDR to preside over the country. In his First Inaugural address, he said, “The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”
FDR’s New Deal created the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Public Works Administration. These agencies passed borrowed federal money out to the states to give both benefits and jobs to the unemployed; and set about building major projects such as power-generating plants, water and wastewater facilities, schools and hospitals. It worked from 1933 to 1937; FDR pulled the national unemployment rate down from over 24 percent to below 15 percent. The “fear” had largely subsided. People who’d lost hope that the federal government could ever be their advocate, that the first three words of the Constitution, “We the People” had been hijacked by banksters and profiteers, that the government could never work for them, and their faith renewed in American institutions.
FDR’s dramatic reform brought backslash from the Economic Royalists. A coup was brewing to counterrevolution by a group of American banksters and industrialists. They approached the popular General Smedley Butler about leading an army of 500 Thousand people to march into Washington DC onto the White House lawn to oust FDR. But General Butler blew the whistle, and the plot was thwarted. In sworn testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, conspirators were name in the hearings, concluding the Rockefellers, the Mellons, the Morgans, the DuPonts, and the Remingtons. Butler said that some of the wealthiest putting up $3 million (over $3 billion in todays’ dollars).
Echoing warnings Jefferson made a century and a half earlier, FDR argued that America’s survival depended on constant vigilance against the Economic Royalists. These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America, what they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Summarizing America’s multigenerational war against the Economic Royalists, Roosevelt went on, “It was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his won government. However, Roosevelt added, since our War of Independence, “Man’s inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroad; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution – all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free. For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built up on concentration of control over material things.” Roosevelt added, “Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital – all undreamed of by the Fathers – the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people’s mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.”
Today, the 2008 stock market crash that triggered this Great Recession is a replay of history. Royalists are on the march in the United States and abroad, they are having the upper hand. The Economic Royalist have gained majorities in Congress and state legislatures all around the nation, crippling millions of people with brutal austerity cuts to social services, with union busting and with privatization of the commons. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. FEC decision, there’s more money in our political system than ever before, and crony capitalism rivals that of the 1920s.
Under calls for privatization, Economic Royalists assault democratic institutions, cutting off vital lifelines and services for working people. They use words such as “freedom” and “free market” to push for weaker government, or weaker institutions of organized people, thus clearing room for organized money to take power. The strategy of Economic Royalist today, just as FDR summed up in the past, “In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.”
In the book written in 2013, The Crash of 2016 -The Plot to Destroy America and What We can Do to Stop it, Hartmann brought us back through the history of the struggles of United States. He argues that the United States will disintegrate to reveal the rotting core where corporate and billionaire power and greed have replaced democratic infrastructure and governance. Our once enlightened political and economic systems have been manipulated to ensure the success of only a fraction of the population at the expense of the rest of us. The result is a “for the rich, by the rich” scheme leading to policies that benefit only the highest bidders. These “Economic Roylists” hoarding power and wealth, includes the bankers, oligarchs, and politicians who have plunged our nation into economic chaos and social instability. The current cycle we are in started with Lewis Powell’s memo in 1971 to Eugene Sydnor, Director of Chamber of Commerce at the time. Powell’s most indelible mark on the nation was not to be his fifteen-year tenures a Supreme Court Justice, but instead that memo which served as a declaration of war – a war by the Economic Royslists against both democracy and what they saw as an overgrown middle class, against everything the New Deal and the Great Society and accomplished and brought to fruition with the “Reagan Revolution” – that have looted our nation during the past decades.
In the book, Thom Hartmann contented that to rebuild American economic model that once yielded great success, we need to return to the basic moral/spiritual value that our fore fathers build this country upon. We need to embrace the moral motive over the profit motive. Only if the right reforms are enacted and the moral choices are made can we avert disaster and make our nation whole again.