by Paul B. Farrell
"Anarchy? Yes, America is descending into anarchy. No leadership in anarchy, just endless battles, warring fiefdoms competing for power - shifting power. That's our new America. Democracy's dead. Texans rebranded us a "constitutional republic" for their textbooks. But either way, voting's irrelevant. So what are we? What label fits? Some historians call America an oligarchy or plutocracy, a nation ruled by a small elite whose power comes from wealth, family or the military. Some call us a cryptocracy, where politicians merely front for a shadow government. The recent Supreme Court decision giving corporations the same rights as real humans certainly reinforces that idea of shadow government.
But there is no one single elite running America in secret. Rather, America is run by many fragmented elites, many divergent special interests with huge cash war chests. These special interests daily battle each other like vultures over a carcass stuffed with two tasty jewels: A bigger piece of the $1.5 trillion federal budget pie and, far more important, favorable laws protecting, vesting and increasing the power and wealth of their special interests. That's anarchy in action. America's economic anarchists compete on a zero-sum battlefield where the rules are simple: "I win, you lose" and "every man for himself." But no one fights for the public interest. No one. The "common good" is irrelevant; only "greed is good." Terms like democracy, republic, plutocracy, oligarchy and cryptocracy no longer apply. This is war. (Click image for very large size.)
Capitalism's 'invisible hand' is dead in the new American Anarchy: But what about "capitalism?" Also dead. Greed killed what Adam Smith said was the "soul" of capitalism. Capitalism now has no moral compass. Former Fed vice-chair Alan Blinder hit the nail on the head: "When economists first heard Gekko's now-famous dictum, 'Greed is good,' they thought it a crude expression of Adam Smith's 'Invisible Hand' ... But in Smith's vision, greed is socially beneficial only when properly harnessed and channeled'... when these conditions fail to hold, greed is not good." Wall Street failed: Their insatiable greed destroyed capitalism from within, turning the American economy into a soulless zombie. The "invisible hand" Adam Smith saw as essential to capitalism in his "Theory of Moral Sentiments" died on a battlefield historians will call the new American Capitalist Anarchy or Capitalist Anarchy.
America's competing elites use huge cash war chests to hire armies of lobbyists to fight their battles. So Corporate Anarchy and Lobbyist Anarchy also fit to describe the huge army of mercenaries-for-hire lobbyists that's running our government for their corporate bosses. Lobbyists are everywhere: There are 13,740 registered in Washington, a total of 42,000 de facto lobbyists, and one expert estimates 261,000 in the "influence-lobbying complex" throughout America. Here are seven examples of how this new Capitalist Anarchy is killing the moral fiber of America:
1. Wall Street Bank Lobbying Anarchists: From Kevin Drum's "Capital City" in Mother Jones: "A year after the biggest bailout in U.S. history, Wall Street lobbyists don't just have influence in Washington. They own it lock, stock and barrel ... Congress, the president and the Fed were persuaded to let all this happen in the first place." Sen. Richard Durbin, D.-Ill.: "Even after nearly destroying the world banks are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." Lobbyists killed Glass-Steagall and deregulated derivatives in 1999: "Wall Street was officially turned into a casino. Banks could literally bet on anything." Banks lobbied through the '80s and '90s, spent $209 million in 1998 alone, "got what they wanted," and "were free to gamble customers' funds in any way they wanted ... they became the world's biggest hedge funds."
Politicians turned puppets: The Center for Responsive Politics says in 2009 alone Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., got $1.7 million in donations from "Big Finance," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., got $1 million, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., $745,000. Hundreds of millions. Drum calls lobbying "the world's second-oldest profession." In the voting booth it's one man, one vote. In the world of Lobbyist Anarchy money buys votes. Big spenders? See OpenSecrets.org.* Last election cycle? Defense lobby: $24 million. Farm lobby: $65 million. Health care was No. 2 at $167 million. The finance lobby was No. 1 with "an astonishing $475 million during the 2008 election cycle. That's up from $60 million almost two decades ago."
"How could all this happen so soon after the financial industry's reckless behavior nearly caused a global meltdown? Ironically, it's probably because the bailout was so successful." So today "without a sense of crisis to drive things, the political will to take on the industry has largely dissipated. Even after nearly destroying the world economy, the finance lobby is, still, simply too big to fight." We'll have to wait for the Wall Street Anarchy to trigger the next collapse before any real reform, but that'll come soon enough.
2. Health-care Lobby Anarchists: Recently the Center for Public integrity reported: "Lobbyists Swarm Capitol to Influence Health Reform ... more than 1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists -- eight for each member of Congress -- to influence health-reform bills in 2009," everything including "health-care interests and advocacy groups to giant corporations, small businesses, American Indian tribes, religious groups and universities." This is your Capitalist Anarchy on the attack: "Among industries, 207 hospitals lined up to lobby, followed by 105 insurance companies and 85 manufacturing companies. Trade, advocacy, and professional organizations trumped them all with 745 registered groups that lobbied on health-reform bills." Lobbying is as much a WMD as a bubble.
3. Chamber of Commerce Lobbying Anarchists: Los Angeles Times columnist Tom Hamburger reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's lobbyists are "building a large-scale grass-roots political operation that has begun to rival those of the major political parties, funded by record-setting amounts of money raised from corporations and wealthy individuals," signing "some 6 million individuals who are not chamber members and begun asking them to help with lobbying and, soon, with get-out-the-vote efforts." This is all "part of a trend in which the traditional parties are losing ground to well-financed and increasingly assertive outside groups." An example: The new Friends of the U.S. Chamber has been used to generate more than a million letters and emails to members of Congress, 700,000 of them in opposition to the Democratic health-care plan.
What makes the initiative possible is a swelling tide of money. The chamber spent more than $144 million on lobbying and grass-roots organizing last year, a 60% increase over 2008, and well beyond the spending of individual labor unions or the Democratic or Republican national committees" and "is expected to substantially exceed that spending level in 2010."
4. Government Contractors Lobbying Anarchy: There's lots of talk about the size of government vs. the private sector. Last year Mother Jones columnist Tim Shorrock wrote about the failures in government civil service: "The federal government now employs a comparatively small number of civil servants who oversee vast armies of private-sector workers ... the imbalance keeps growing as the government adds more responsibilities and more contracts ... One of the nation's top authorities" says "there are more than four times as many private federal contractors (about 7.6 million) than there are civil servants (about 1.8 million)."
5. The Federal Reserve Bank Lobbying Anarchy: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke himself is the biggest lobbyist in the new Capitalists Anarchy, running a fourth branch of government controlling trillions hidden behind a shadowy system, competing with both Congress and the White House for money, power, regulations and laws. Huffington Post's Ryan Grim writes in "How the Federal Reserve Bought the Economics Profession:" The Fed "through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession ... This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists" and why they'll all miss the next one.
6. The Anti-Climate-Change American Anarchists: Writing in Yes Magazine, James Hoggan, co-author of "Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming," asks: "Who's Polluting the Climate Conversation? Money, Think-tanks, and the Scientists-for-Hire Behind the Doubt and Denial." The "loudest voices ... dirty energy industries, with their paid experts and think tanks, who are promoting a view of science that serves their economic interests, regardless of what is actually true."
Earlier this year Rolling Stone's Jeff Goodell wrote in "As the World Burns: How Big Oil and Big Coal mounted one of the most aggressive lobbying campaigns in history to block progress on global warming:" 2,800 lobbyists fighting climate-change legislation, vs. 138 for alternative energy. The conservative Heritage Foundation, "long a purveyor of junk science favored by the energy industry," got $500,000 from Exxon-Mobil and $3 million from Koch oil refineries.
7. The War Machine Lobbying Anarchists: The Defense Department's war machine controls 48% of the federal budget, roughly 42% of the military budgets of all other nations combined. It is a self-perpetuating Capitalist Anarchy armed with a huge lobbying machine that's virtually guaranteed a huge chunk of our tax dollars.
BusinessWeek columnist Ben Elgin wrote in "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Pork!" "Boeing's C-17 cargo aircraft cost $250 million apiece. The Pentagon says it has plenty. But it's nearly impossible for Obama to kill a project that provides jobs in 43 states." Here the War Machine Anarchists are in a bizarre conspiracy with politicians in those 43 states to keep alive this grossly unnecessary waste of our tax dollars. Yes, the Lobbyist Bubble is rapidly creating a new American Capitalist Anarchy."