Who are the conservatives? Let's examine the conservative minds, the various types of conservative, how they think, and their legacy. We shall see that conservatives of different stripes all agree on this: they are superior and right and the rest of the world is inferior and wrong!
The CorpCons: Masters of the Universe
And now it is time to meet the guys at the top of the conservative dominator hierarchy; the chiefs of the clan and manipulators of the herd. We come at last to the true keepers and shapers of conservative greed and creed, the myth-makers, the far smaller but infinitely more powerful group of professional conservatives who have thought about politics (if not ethics) very carefully and are the true masters of working it to their advantage. In fact, no one else comes close to their mastery of politics, mostly because no one has as much to win or lose, no one has their tactical and material advantages, and no one plays as dirty.
Today these are the corporate conservatives, the CorpCons, the true owners and operators of the Republican Party and conservative ideology, and the staunchest defenders of the (socio-economic) dominator hierarchy, because they sit at the very tippy-top. And they have no intention of allowing that to change.
These professional conservatives, conservative power-mongers and myth-makers are a quantum leap apart from rank-and-file SoCons, and individually they rarely share many social conservative beliefs... though they often shamelessly pretend to. Nor are they as confused as the SoCons. They have seen and understand more of the world - hell, they own it - and know exactly how to work any system to their advantage. The common denominator among all CorpCons is that their economic ideology is wholly self-serving (and logical to that degree), not self-defeating as for so many SoCons and Libertarians.
CorpCons do not believe the myths and yarns they spin... because they know full-well they made them up. And they are not so driven by fear and/or prejudice. As religion's hold on society continues to wane, most CorpCons (but certainly not all) have abandoned insistence on maintaining the "religious order" that their ideological forebears once held sacrosanct, leaving that mythological realm to fundamentalist SoCons and the CorpCons who control them (i.e. the religious professionals).
So then what do SoCons and CorpCons have in common? Why are both thoroughly conservative?
CorpCons and SoCons meet in agreement in their determination to "conserve" "traditional" socio-economic values and institutions. This we can call the "dominator hierarchy." Conservation of this hierarchy is the very definition of conservatism, and both CorpCons and SoCons consistently meet this criteria.
The dominator hierarchy, of course, is where the emotion of greed comes fully into play. But whereas, for the SoCon, this hierarchy is but a piece of an overall cultural tapestry that includes some semblance of ethics and morality, for the CorpCon the hierarchy itself, and specifically the rewards for its leaders (which is them), is the All and the Everything. Ethics and morality, along with truth, justice and equality, are just other aspects to be manipulated, or dispensed with altogether, to suit their ends. And so, anything goes in their quest for ever more power and wealth. And because SoCons follow like sheep behind their CorpCon masters, they, too, often end up abandoning true ethics and morality in order to preserve the hierarchy.
However, we might grant the benefit of the doubt of inner goodness to Mom and Pop social conservative. Beyond their confusion, deep down inside, there is a good heart to most Social Conservatives; they are just terrified of the world (thus the absolute need for guns), believe everyone is out to get them, crave security and a modicum of self-esteem; they don't really want to hurt anybody.
CorpCons are another matter entirely. They are super-narcissistic, and crave not mere self-affirmation but dominance. Morality is often entirely absent in the SoCon. When we talk about SoCon greed, we're talking nickles and dimes, a defensive mindset of "I've got mine, keep away from it." But with CorpCons we enter the realm of greed as mantra, as obsession, as addiction, as ideal, even a religion unto itself, an aggressively offensive perspective of "I've got mine, now I need more, more, more!" And rather than the SoCon's flimsy sense of prejudice as in, "Well, at least I'm better than that (poorer, darker-skinned, older, different religion and/or female) person," we peer into the demented psychology of the professional conservatives, corrupted by wealth and power, who come to consider that fabulous material success is their birthright, and they will do anything to claim it. Many would fillet their own grandmother for an extra thousand; they would sacrifice 1,000 American soldiers for an extra million, 10,000 for an extra billion; they would destroy America for an extra hundred billion, and the entire planet for not much more... and sleep like a baby afterwards.
Now we say, rightly, that SoCons are the biggest losers in American history. Alas, we can't say that about CorpCons. And this is the key to their retention of power.
While social conservatives are regularly battered and bruised, mind-controlled, subjugated and exploited, their cherised "values" tossed out like yesterday's garbage, CorpCons almost always come through anything smelling like a rose. That's because they don't really have any "values" to lose, other than maintaining their status on the socio-economic hierarchy. Somehow, through hook and crook, through boom and bust, they manage to come out of any tumult with hardly a scratch. Witness the latest Great Recession, which CorpCon greed directly caused. While everyone else was left holding a big old bag 'o crap, the CorpCons were bailed out, given a wag of the finger by a doting government, and went right back to their old tricks before you could say "Buddy, can you spare a few trillion?" The People - both conservative and liberal - watched, stunned, as the Banksters and their enablers got away with wrecking the economy with hardly any accountability whatsoever.
No matter what, these guys always win. But the concept of "win" here is as hollow as it comes. They win physically, but lose psychically. They gain gold, and lose their soul. These people have no conscience; they have no principles; they have no honor. Though some are rich beyond description, they are beggars of the spirit, scavengers of virtue. They are squatters, hoarders, afflicted with a type of obsessive-compulsive malady that someday soon will be formally recognized for what it really is: extreme narcissism and lack of social empathy or responsibility... in other words, a form of insanity.
These opportunistic thugs, pirates and parasites have plundered America's treaure, raped its landscape, stained her honor, attempted to keep huge swaths of the general public confused, ignorant and under their thumb, swindled and wrecked millions, deliberately set Americans against their government and Americans against Americans, sent us into ill-conceived wars (including the Civil War), and trample, spit and piss on the Constitution at will. They are the prime subjugators, exploiters, oppressors, abusers, deceivers, bedevilers, and flim-flam/shim-sham operators of American history. A slimy litany of abuses has been perpetrated upon the American people, and the Republic itself, by those of the CorpCon persuasion. Research the greatest scandals and abuses in American history, and on the scene you'll find some variety of CorpCon grinning like the Cheshire cat.
The most powerful and influential CorpCons have been megalomaniacal, greed-serving, power-consolidating, exploitative and dangerous villains of the first order.
Read that sentence again. It sounds like over-the-top hyperbole, but it is the simple truth. Conservative politicians and corporate, religious and cultural mega-leaders have been among the most harmful individuals ever to walk the American landscape, or, for that matter, Planet Earth.
Have there been abuses by liberals? Of course. No one is immune to the temptations that await those awash in power and money. But make no mistake: the money and power game is conservative turf. It's all about conserving the dominator hierarchy. Liberals play it because they don't have any other choice... though occasionally they do find a way to level the playing field for the rest of us just a bit. It may be thin hope as we witness today's Democratic Party up to its neck in corporate beholdenment, a "moderate Republican" Barack Obama as its titular head (who from their radicalized position in right-wing outer space looks like a socialist to today's conservatives). Yet a liberal must abandon their principles to engage in behavior that abuses the common people and the commons. Abusing the common people, and stealing from the commons, is built into the professional conservative ethos, and the Republican Party has been submerged fathoms below the surface of the oligarchic and corporate waves since not long after Abraham Lincoln led it as the more liberal party in the Union, coming up only a few times for a gulp of fresh air through the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and Ike Eisenhower who were truly "Republican in Name Only."
Since Ronald Reagan, the Republicans have again gone down, apparently blissfully, into the abyss of corporate greed and folly, perhaps never again to see the light of day, common sense or fair play. Even the most corrupt liberals at least nod in the direction of adhering to rational facts, as well as to protecting the commons and the "general welfare" of "We the People" as the Constitution mandates. Whereas above all, the CorpCons worship only wealth and power, and will cheerfully do anything to maintain it, including lying, stealing, pillaging, killing.
You don't believe it? Let's take a closer look at the CorpCons.
There have been powerful defenders of the dominator hierarchy since long before there even were corporations. The CorpCons of today are the AristoCons of yesteryear, the kings and queens of old, the dukes and duchesses, the princes and princesses, the lords and ladies, the pharisees and sadducees, the pontifs and bishops and rajas and sheiks and sultans of that age when, in their minds, all was right in the world, the age of rigid class and caste systems.
Political conservatism has always been about the rich and powerful, who fully understand that they are very small in number - a "traditional value" they are determined to maintain. So in a democracy they must go to great lengths to recruit a "zombie army" to keep them in wealth, power and in control of the socio-economic hierarchy... and government, insofar as it affects the socio-economic hierarchy. As described in the SoCon section above, the conservative political elite have always relied on clan mentality to keep an ignorant and fearful rabble on their side.
CorpCons actually deeply distrust and despise democracy, and have made their attitude crystal clear through the centuries. Nowadays, they realize they have to be much more discrete about it, nonetheless that rancor often bubbles to the surface, revealing a mindset that is wholly self-serving, and perfectly willing to bring ruin unto the nation, or the world, if it would profit them. The run-up to both the Depression and the Great Recession, and their subsequent refusal to essentially change their ways after these twin debacles, speak volumes about their purpose, mindset and character.
They also dislike the idea of liberty. They dislike the idea that just anyone - much less everyone - has the "inalienable" right to pursue happiness. And they especially loathe the idea of equality. All of these ideals imply some sort of cultural balance. That is the last thing professional conservatives want. They don't want balance or liberty or equality, they want that hierarchy, that "chain of subordination" (as the modern father of conservativism Edmund Burke put it). They want control of systems and people, and they want money, power and justice (the law) permanently tilted toward them and stacked in their favor, just like it has always been. If you have ever been involved in the legal system, you know that it is stacked in favor of the richer party... indeed, a favorite tactic of the CorpCon is to "paper to death" their opponent, running them out of money, so that justice is never served.
As the owners, executives, upper managers and overseers of Big Business and Industry, CorpCons believe wholeheartedly, and are professionally invested, in a socio-economiic system that is ruthlessly and agressively unequal. What works best for them is stark stratification of the society: a teeny-tiny uppermost class, a slightly larger, but still tiny, upper class, a seemingly secure upper middle class to do the bidding of the true uppers, and then a precipitous plunge down to a large but struggling primary middle class, underlain by a tenuous lower middle class and then, very importantly, at the very bottom a dirt poor lower class.
CorpCons have not a whit of a desire to elevate these folks out of poverty, nor do they want to provide a structure of higher education, welfare, security or happiness for the middle and lower classes. Ignorance, poverty and insecurity is good, because greed is good. The hierarchy, which is a system of greed, requires a constant threat of insecurity and poverty to all who would attempt to challenge the great hierarchy. And so millions of people remain in crappy jobs with crappy pay and benefits, without complaint, because they are afraid of falling even further down the socio-economic scale. Poor people, meanwhile, will work for minimum wage (or less), and this helps to constrain the wage and benefit expectations of middle class workers higher up.
It's a sweet deal, if you are an upper. If you are not, you, my friend, are, one way or another, just a cog in their machine.
And yet, this is a very tricky system to sustain. After all, by their very definition the CorpCons are a very tiny group of people. How do they keep the house of cards from falling? They do this by co-opting a certain percentage of the electorate to do their bidding. And the bait is access to (if not full membership in) the upper levels of the hiearchy.
Yes, it is sometimes possible to work, sneak, wiggle, cajole, or barge your way up the hierarchy. For awhile there in American history, with liberal economic policy being established during the Great Depression and following World War II, the middle class was rapidly expanding, and even the poor had good reason to hope they, too, could escape their fate. The trend was that the hierarchy had become less rigid and difficult to ascend. Depression-era rules and regulations provided safeguards and opportunities for the People, thus rendering the dominator hierarchy less powerful and more flexible. So rather than being forced to take what the dominator hierarchy wanted to give, the workforce had become a force unto itself.
But that was all too much for the CorpCons. They always want strict control of the workforce. The reason for that is because lots of un-free "slaves" are required for a "free" market.
The Free Market: it sounds lovely, so much more refined than feudalism. Who wouldn't be for a "free market?" It combines that American value of freedom with a mental picture of a lively, colorful marketplace, full of happy vendors and customers, a place where people get what they want and need, and anybody can strike it rich. This is the utopian image that CorpCons like to put forth. But it's another very big conservative myth. There has never been that utopian "free" market, and never will be! First and foremost because the primary players certainly do not want the market to be free, or fair. They want to rig it for their own gain. And so they do, time and again. It's actually the farthest thing from "free." The "free market" is just a sales pitch, a marketing ploy, a catchy brand to con people into going along with the scam.
The vast majority of liberals support a capitalist economic system, but insist that it be controlled capitalism, fair capitalism, virtuous capitalism, capitalism that serves the community and the resource base... not that which exploits it for the benefit of a very few, leaving everyone else with the cost of removal of those resources. For CorpCons, this type of fair capitalism is an encroachment on their religion of greed, and is dangerously oriented to a semblance of equal opportunity. And equality just doesn't work for them. They are already prospering as the big fish in the pond, why would they want to support a system that allows for other fish to grow up to compete with them? Instead, they want unregulated capitalism, which is to say capitalism controlled from within, might-makes-right capitalism, predatory capitalism, capitalism that allows for easy usurping or crushing of little up and coming fish... capitalism that promotes the myth of a market free of governmental intervention - except when the marketeers need the government to protect them, or bail them out, or help them conquer foreign markets - capitalism that extracts and exploits and wrings the last dollar out of a resource, workers and customers, pockets the profits, and leaves a mess to clean up.
The government's the problem!
In the face of a governmental system that supposedly enshrines notions of democracy, liberty, equality, justice for all, and helping the middle class and poor, professional conservatives have come up with a new wrinkle in their "divide and conquer" strategy. The CorpCons were the government back in the feudal days, so they didn't want the people hating authority. Back then they preached the "natural order," conservative father Edmund Burke's "chain of subordination," which required acquiesence by the public to the government and the church. But since 1776 they've never been able to wrest complete and total control of the government. Not often, but occasionally, government (representing We the People) rises up to smack them around. So their new subterfuge is to inculcate a deep distrust of government among the populace, most pointedly amongst the quarter or so of eligible voters they need to win elections. "The government isn't the solution to the problem; the government is the problem," is the mythological maxim that conservatives love to regurgitate to one another. Dividing Americans from their very own government is another stroke of evil genius (just a hair short of treason) they have deployed, and it works best with those who don't know enough about history or government or truth to see right through the flim-flam, the deception... and treachery.
So professional conservatives actively and aggressively risk promoting the disintegration of civil society itself by destroying the essential trust in government for millions of people. It's truly a vile and diabolical tactic... and it works like a charm.
But the treachery doesn't stop there...
When professional conservatives come into governmental power, they do everything they can to fulfill their own prophecy that government doesn't work by redirecting priorities, cutting budgets, and stacking agencies with cronies and foxes guarding the henhouse. Indeed, history clearly shows government often doesn't work...under conservative control... though government works much more effectively, and in support of the vast majority of citizens, when guided by liberal ideology. The entire George W. Bush presidency was a textbook example of this very dynamic: bungled domestic priorites, bungled foreign policy, bungled economy, bungled debt reduction, two bungled wars, bungled mortgage crisis, bungled hurricane response, bungled Great Recession, bungled bank bailout... all squeezed into eight years of conservative flimflammery.
And all of this mischief can be upstaged and hidden by the wedge issues.
Because they are focused laser-like on making money and consolidating power, most CorpCons don't give a damn about the social issues that are so important to the SoCons. But long ago they realized that God, guns, gays, minorities, the poor, immigrants, abortion, patriotism and war are the bait they can use for hooking a mess of half-stupid SoCons. These are the "wedge issues," that they employ to masterfully poke and prod the emotions of gullible, fearful and selfish people who are extremely dependable voters when they feel threatened by something. And so they raise their "zombie army."
Notice that the CorpCons never quite get around to solving any of these threats. Indeed, the threat just keeps geting worse and worse. And when the liberals win an utter victory, the CorpCons quickly shift to a new wedge. There's no shortage of things social conservatives are afraid of. When your countrymen defeat your cherished King George, then turn to defending the exclusive rights of rich land-holders. When your defense of slavery has turned to ashes along with the Confederacy, turn instead to promoting and defending segregation. When your demonization of Native Americans runs out of steam, substitute Mexicans. When preventing women from voting has utterly failed, try denying them their reproductive rights. When prohibition of alcohol turns to disaster, go after marijuana. When jazz becomes acceptable, rail against rock and roll. When the beatniks become mainstream, go after the hippies. When the communist boogie-man and Cold War has flopped, start a war on "Terror." When inter-racial marriage is a lost cause, switch to gay marriage. Some wedges are like fashion styles... wait long enough and they may just come back. Today, social conservatives like Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan and Todd Akin want to refight the women's contraceptive battles of the 1960s. They will get smacked down again... but, see, the CorpCons don't care... it all plays well with the conservative base, and helps these guys get elected. SoCons are so confused they never seem to catch on to the parlor trick.
So this is the basic pattern that the dominators use to maintain their hierarchy. They can easily buy off some politicians and officials. Then, in a democracy, the challenge is to bamboozle just enough voters (sometimes as few as 25 percent is adequate) - through fear and greed and prejudice - to keep conservative politicians in office, where they can do the CorpCons' bidding. And so it usually goes. This is the formula that has run through American history, the CorpCon Cheshire Cats staying in power (or, at worse, just an election or two away from regaining power) by stoking the emotions of gullible people.
Wrapped up in the matrix of maintenance of the hierarchy, a key emotion that CorpCons and SoCons share is... hatred of taxes. Both want all the benefits that a modern, well-run nation provides, but neither wants to pay for it. Always being against taxes is the ace up the sleeves for CorpCons. It's their evergreen issue. It never goes out of style. So being anti-tax is the wedge issue of all wedge issues.
Nobody, liberal or conservative, loves paying taxes. As a general rule, liberals are just less greedy, more educated, as well as more magnanimous in civic spirit (don't forget your synonyms for conservative and liberal). Liberals recognize their own benefits of paying their fair share of taxes. They see the great upside to everyone paying their fair share of taxes. They can also more readliy visualize the downside to not paying taxes. When the lifeblood of a nation runs low... all of society becomes imperiled.
So, once again, we see that liberals can see the big picture... and their role in it. While conservatives see the small picture, their own selfish interests, and build an ideology consisting of what works best for them. The best scenario for them would be little or no taxes, while all the other suckers actually pay for the world the conservative wants to live in.
As it turns out, CorpCons actually largely get away with this. They reap, by far, the vast majority of profit out there in the world, while paying, by far, less (percentage-wise) than the average schmuck strugging to make a living. They justify this gigantic disparity and injustice by claiming to be the "job creators," and thus somehow are magically entitled to a game rigged in their favor. Stupidly, social conservatives back them up... even though they typically do not fully (if at all) share in this gross inequity. Grumble and grouse as they do, SoCons end up paying the taxes that CorpCons skip out on.
Why do SoCons do this? It's obviously not rational; it's all about emotion.
The "big picture" clouded and shrouded by their own personal selfishness and greed, conservatives can't imagine the disastrous reality of not paying taxes. If there is a sure-fire way to wreck the country, it is to "starve the beast," a plan that CorpCons actively promote, and SoCons stupidly agree with. The ideas of "small government" and "low taxation" are myths that both CorpCon and SoCon can enthusiastically embrace because they well serve their own selfish inclinations.
"It's your money... not the government's," goes the conservative creed. And they will go to any length to adhere to this belief, even if it defies all rationality. In the election of 2012, for instance, Obama was castigated by conservatives for the quip, "You didn't build that!" meaning that no one suceeds on their own; all financial success comes from participation in the social system, and its many assets shared by the community: roads, bridges, electical grid, educational system, financial systems, communications networks, etc., etc. Ridiculously, the conservatives, determined to protect their "your money" mantra, actually argued against this most fundamental of realities.
The conservative idea of low-low, or better yet, no taxes, is as sweet-sounding to conservative ears as somebody whistling Dixie. They come running up slobbering and panting like mangy dogs to any politician promising to toss them the bone of lower taxes (which, even if delivered, almost always ends up hurting the SoCon).
Of course, the CorpCons could not care less about your taxes. They only need your help to get their tax lowered... or better yet, eliminated entirely. And since the glory days of Ronald Reagan, that's exactly what they've managed to do. Their tax rate has plummeted... and in many cases dived down close to zero. Yours? Not so much.
Since 1980, the income tax rate on the wealthy has been sliced in half. For the rest of us, the rate has barely budged.
That right there is grossly unfair, but the news gets worse. A large part of CorpCon income comes from "capital gains," not wage paychecks like us working stiffs. Capital gains is income from a capital asset... things like interest, stock dividends, and the sale of some property such as real estate, mineral royalties and timber. Typically, only rich people have such "capital assets" to realize much money on this type of income. The rest of us must work for a living. Not the wealthy: they can sit back and eat oysters and drink Chardonnay and watch the money flow in. And somewhere along the way, they have rigged it so that they pay less on this easy money than the coal miner, or garbage worker, or secretary, or teacher, or fireman does on their income. Really? Yep... the capital gains tax rate is currently just 15 percent. It's a sweet deal... if you can get it.
CorpCons say that it's absolutely necessary to have capital gains rates low to stimulate economic growth. But that's just another myth! Turns out that low capital gains rates are not such a sweet deal for the country.
In fact, lowering capital gains charts has never stimulated the economy or created jobs. It actually harms the economy. As the chart above shows, everytime capital gains rates are lowered, the disparity of income in the nation goes up. And conversely, every time capital gains rates are raised, disparity of income goes down. Currently the capital gains rates are the lowest they've been since before the Depression... and - voila - the disparity of income in America has soared... right back to where it was in the Roaring Twenties.
Do CorpCons understand this? Of course they do. Do they care? No. As we have seen time and again, they will wreck the country if it means putting more money in their own pockets. During the 2012 presidential campaign, several Republican candidates, including Newt Gingrich, proposed a capital gains rate of zero! Check the chart above and just consider what a zero capital gains rate would do to income disparity in America. It would be OFF THE CHART! Of course, that would be the windfall of all windfalls for the CorpCons... and they would laugh and enjoy their heyday right up until the collapse of the United States of America into third world status.
Now this is really unfair and unsustainable, but the news gets even worse! People... these rich folks have got loopholes and dodges and hideaways and shelters and write-offs you would not believe. So they can winnow their tax bill down far below even the capital gains rate... sometimes to down close to zero!
And they do this feeling very comfortable and smug and brilliant about the whole thing. In their minds, they deserve these tremendous advantages. They are Masters of the Universe. They are at the top of the dominator hierarchy. Everyone and every thing down below is there to serve and prop them up!
NEWS FLASH!!!! THIS JUST IN!!!! (September, 2013).... The rich are robbing us blind! They have so rigged the system (again) that the money is just pouring into their coffers... while the rest of us are left to cut up an increasingly small pie. Check out the chart at right. Look at the disparity? How is that even possible? Today 400 people own as much as 150 million Americans!
What about the great conservative idea that if we coddle the rich, real wealth and financial security will also "trickle down" to us? What about all those jobs these "job creators" are supposed to be creating, according to conservative dogma? What about all those banks, again flush with cash? How about those corporations making record profits? Where is all this flood of cash going? The chart tells it all.. it's going straight into the pockets of the super wealthy. And this system is perpetuated by both the miniscule number of ultra wealthy themselves... and the "zombie army" that keeps them in power, allowing their rigged game of "Money Rules" to perpetuate a corrupt and wholly unjust system that punishes that zombie army as much as anyone.
And so, everyone else has to pick up their slack - which we do to a large degree - but the slack becomes so huge as the CorpCons back off on their contributions to society until the annual deficit of government, and the national debt, start rising and rising. The CorpCons really don't give a damn about this... if the country goes broke, so be it. They made theirs! We see that the largest deficits and debt increases in American history came under conservative administrations (Reagan and Bush Jr.)! Then they use the deficit and debt to call for even lower taxes and deregulation of business to stimulate growth and job-creation, which neither has EVER proven to actually do. It's quite a racket and negative feedback loop.
We got a tiny glimpse into their advantages in the 2012 campaign when Republican nominee Mitt Romney refused to release any more than one year's taxes. That one was bad enough. Romney, worth at least $250 million, paid just 14.1 percent tax rate. He paid nearly two million dollars in taxes... that sounds like a lot, but he made nearly $14 million (while running for President full time). He wasn't working... he was kissing babies, and doing interviews, and palling around with billionaires... and still 14 (very) large ones flowed into his bank account. And on that easy money he paid less than half of what the average working stiff would pay in percentage tax.
But wait! Why would Romney only release one year of returns (and even then, he waited until very near the election to release it)? Most candidates provide at least five years of returns. Only one from Romney... and it proved he paid less than the capital gains rate, which itself is half the rate his income level normally requires. So that was the "good" year he could release. What about the other years? What was he hiding? The strong suspicion, semi-acknowledged by campaign insiders, is that Romney paid nothing - zero - on his other returns. Hell, he may have gotten a rebate check from the government for all we know. We do know that few presidential candidates have a chance of winning without full release of their tax returns... Romney decided to take his chances by only releasing one year... apparently convinced that he had no chance of winning if he released any more.
So that's one filthy rich CorpCon individual. But what about the corporate part of the equation? Where do corporations fit into all of this? Quite nicely, thank you. Indeed, they have profited, not just financially, but socially over the past 30 years. They've graduated from being abstract concepts to living, breathing persons. Well, let's allow Mr. Romney, himself, speak to what has happened:
"Corporations are people, my friends." (Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign)
In "coming alive" corporations have been able to reap all of the rewards and advantages of the super rich... sometimes even more. After all, isn't great to be a "person" who can theoretically live forever, be everywhere at once, merge into other "persons" (or gobble them up), never have to sleep, have no need for a conscience, ethics, morals, scruples, shame or guilt, and can get away with anything, including murder? Not even the rich can do all of that.
With more loopholes even than a Mitt Romney, corporations have been diligently working to shrink their tax contributions to the nation. Once again, Ronald Reagan was their knight in shining armor.
Since the 1980s, corporate taxes rates have plunged and corporate profits have soared. Now, according to conservative dogma, that should be fabulous for the Middle Class, for workers, for the entire economy! After all, conservatives promise us that slashing taxes on the "job creators" creates jobs! That's a conservative absolute maxim. Trickle-down, right? Let the rich have their way, and they will take care of everything. That's an age-old conservative pillar!
Oh if it were so simple. If we could only sacrifice our first born to the wealthy and their great and powerful corporate persons, and all would be well in the world! Alas (we say that word a lot when it comes to conservatives!), it ain't so. It ain't ever been so... in the history of the world... even though the rich have been spouting this very same nonsense for thousands of years. And for thousands of years some of us have believed it.
Let's leave mythology behind, and take a look at reality. Check out the chart above. We lowered the taxes on corporations... and sure enough, their profits skyrocketed. So the equation certainly worked well for them, no doubt! But not so well for everyone else. In fact, that same equation was a DISASTER for everyone else.
This chart shows another very important symbiosis... the link between strong unions and a strong Middle Class. Corporations, of course, hate unions. Unions level the playing field, which is the last thing CorpCons want. Remember, they don't believe in liberty, equality or justice for all. They only believe in their own well-being, not that of anybody else... including the vast Middle Class.
A union is a collective of workers. By their very nature, collectives have more power than individuals. Corporations don't want to face up against a collective. They want to face up against individuals... the least powerful entity. They want you - the little worker ant - to come, hat in hand, to their boardroom and ask for a raise. Whereupon you will promptly be told, "No, get back to work!" And the worker usually has no choice but to obey. The last thing corporations want to deal with is a union, representing hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, potentially millions of workers. If the CorpCon says, "No, get back to work" to the union, the union can say, "Oh yeah... make us!"
Now this is more of a "free" market. Each side has its power... and so, theoretically, a balance is reached which works OK for both sides. Both sides should feel like they have given in as much as they truly can. If either side gets out of balance, then things get dicey.
But, of course, corporations don't want that kind of "free" market... they want a market where they are free to do what they want.... not the workers, or the consumers. They don't want any part of workers and consumers being "free" to have a say in how the "free market" runs.
And usually the rich and corporations get their way. And when they do, that particular business may profit - immensely - for a while... but damage is done to the larger economy and social fabric. The fact is, our nation was at its strongest, economically, when unions and the Middle Class were strong. This is fact, not mythology... and it's a fact that conservative don't want you to understand.
Corporations once contributed much more to our nation's governance and operation. In the 1950s, corporations paid a third of the bills. But conservative ideology has chipped away at that once significant percentage.
Today, many corporations barely pay anything in taxes. Yes, you'll hear conservatives whining about how high the U.S. corporate tax rate is. The nominal tax rate is currently 35%, but the effective tax rate is under 14%. And yet the biggest, smartest corporations don't even pay that. Some pay absolutely zero. Others, brilliantly guileless, find a way through the tax laws (set up by corporations) to require us to pay them!
Loopholes, credits and fantastical fiscal shenanigans are available for corporations, and perfectly legal... even if they make no sense whatsoever. Corporations are actually rewarded for closing down plants in the U.S. and moving them overseas. Incredibly profitable industries, like the oil business, banking sector and Big Agriculture, receive subsidies from us, which they happily pocket, while returning little or no taxes in return.
Hey, guess what, after Exxon-Mobil posted $19 BILLION in profits in 2009... one of the largest profits in the history of the world... they paid ZERO tax. Check that... they paid zero tax... and we paid them $156 million!
After getting bailed out by us in 2009, Bank of America made a profit of $4.4 BILLION in 2010, and we gave them a tax refund of $1.9 BILLION.
Over six years, General Electric (GE) made $26 BILLION in profits, paid little or no tax, but still cashed checkes worth $4.1 BILLION from us.
Goldman Sachs in 2008 paid a tax rate of 1.1 percent. Come on, great vampire squid, can't you get it down to zero?
These are just some of the more notorious examples of corporations with a veritable tap on profit... contributing little or nothing to the common good of the nation of their birth.
Again, who takes up the slack for this substantial reduction in the amount of taxes corporations used to pay? Certainly not the wealthy. We've already seen how they dodge and weave out of paying their share of taxes. It's us, of course. We get the bill. And if we can't pay it... well, put it on the nation's credit card... and keep on lowering those taxes for the rich and corporations!
Don't you wish you could get in on this action? Hey, you could buy stock in the company. You could, and you might make a little money... but you still won't get in on the gravy train. Stock holders get paltry dividends from most of these companies... and the stock price doesn't come close to matching the skyrocketing profitability of some of these corporations. All in all, stocks are play money to the real players in the company, those at the tippy-top of the hiearchy.
It's up in the rarified air of the boardroom and upper-upper management where these millions and billions of dollars are flowing... and sticking. Not much really "trickles" down. Remember, the dominator hierarchy is defined by only a very small cadre of people at the very top. It's a pyramid. And their system is a pyramid scheme.
It has gotten completely out of control since the days of Reagan. In the 1970s, the ratio in the United States for the pay of Chief Operating Officers (CEOs) vs. their average worker was around 35:1. Starting in 1981, when Reagan took office, that ratio began to go wild. The "greed is good" ethic took over the boardroom. The ratio today is over 400:1. That's the average in the U.S. for big corporations. Some executives are making even more obscene sums.
Here were some of the wackiest CEO pay schedules of 2012:
Lawrence Ellison, Oracle Corp - $96 MILLION
Where is all this money coming from? Guess who! It's coming from you. It's coming from the gas pump and the insurance premium and the mortgage payment and the silly gadgets we think we have to incessantly buy and, of course, from the taxes we pay that go directly into the coffers of such well-deserving wealthy people and corporations as the military-industrial complex and Big Agriculture. Consider that we subsidize farmers - most of whom these days are giant agri-businesses - to the tune of $17 BILLION per year... the bulk of that goes to support the meat industry and its insatiable need for grain-feed. That price you pay for meat and corn and milk at the grocery store is on top of what you have already paid in taxes to help these mega-corporations post record profits. Meanwhile, that expensive health premium? A big chunk of that is NOT going toward your health and well-being... it's going directly into the pockets of a very few individuals... like the asshole below.
Why are these CEO paychecks so astronomically high? Well, because they can be. That's the real answer. This is the dominator hierarchy at work: unchecked, unbalanced. These are the people at the very tippy-top of the hiearchy richly rewarding themselves for... being themselves.
Note... CEO pay has absolutely zero correlation with job performance. Some of these doofuses manage to run their companies straight into bankruptcy. No problem... as the company is going down in flames, the top executives leap to safety in their "golden parachutes," and laugh at all the poor "little people" going down with the ship. Typically, these "talented" executives are soon rehired, at exorbitant pay, by the gullible and/or greedy board of another company.
Oftentimes, destroying the company is the profit stragegy. Mitt Romney's Bain Capital was one of the bringers of this brand of capitalism. Hey, all's fair in love, war and the "free" market. A "vulture capitalist" group, such as Bain Capital, will swoop down on an ailing company (or even a perfectly healthy company), leverage its assets to get a loan to buy the company, then sell the assets piece by piece, repay the loan... and pocket the profits. It all can be done in a few months. You're in, you're out. That goes for both the profiting capital group, who scamper away with millions... and the employees of the company, who dazed and depressed find themselves likewise "in and out"... out of a job (and sometimes their retirement), that is.
Executive pay is also high because it offers certain sweet tax-reduction opportunities for the corporation. Companies can take the exorbitant salaries and other compensations (especially stock offerings) directly off their tax liability. Normally that would not be allowed. The tax code specifies that only the first $1 million of executive pay can be deducted. But there's a loophole you could drive an oil tanker through. All you have to do is say that the pay package is "performance-based" and you can deduct it all. All told, American corporations skip out on an estmiated $30 BILLION in taxes due to executive compensation deductions.
And so it goes for the wealthy and their corporations. They have rigged the game, oriented every possible advantage in their direction, and reap the rewards of their own self-interest. That their greed and selfishness hurts so many people, and the nation itself, does not in the least concern them. They don't think about it... they don't care about it... they have not a shred of desire to do anything about it.
And it seems like it never ends... indeed, it seems to get worse. That, too, is a myth and an illusion. Conservatives would like for everyone to believe in this myth, to think that this is the way it has always been, and always will be. There is no use in fighting it. Resistance is futile. See, if you think something is all-powerful, the tendency is to shrink from confrontation, and to settle into acceptance. Every individual who opts out of political participation is one less voter that the CorpCons have to convince to vote against their own best interest.
Yet, the death grip that the CorpCons seem to have upon the business, the economy, the nation, the world is actually quite weak. They are the tiniest of tiny minorities. In a modern democracy, they hang on to their advantage and power ONLY because they are supported by a critical mass of supporters who are not even invited to the CorpCon banquet. This mass, of course, is comprised of the SoCons (and other assorted conservatives), who accept the scraps and drink up the Kool-Aid that the CorpCons allow them. In return, the CorpCons attempt to act interested in helping with the SoCons' emotional fears and desperate longing for security and self-esteem. "Trust us," the CorpCons whisper in the ear of the SocCon... "We will protect you from those big, bad liberals who are the ones who really want to destroy your way of life."
And so the unholy alliance is sealed, and the "zombie army" raised.
But the CorpCons and their zombie army don't always get their way. Not by a long shot. The American and French revolutions were proof positive of that. And periodically through history universal values ascend to take the CorpCons down a peg. This happened during the "progressive era" of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and during the Depression, and following World War II, when the worst of CorpCon behavior was constricted by rules and regulations which at least leveled the playing field for working individuals and unions.
Now, of course, we are still working our way out of nearly 30 years of conservative re-ascendency, which started anew with Ronald Reagan, and has extended through the administrations of Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama. Not even the Democrats among these recent administrations have been willing to seriously challenge the dominator hierarchy in the ways that Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt did in earlier days of our country... and so the banksters got away with crashing the economy once again in 2008, and corporations and CEOs are still gouging at the trough, and so we are still mired in a dangerous disparity of wealth and power in America.
In fact, here's a non-mythologcal fact for you: Since the 2008 collapse of the financial system... 95 percent of the recovery has gone to the one percent! And even with all of that wealth pouring into the "job creators," they are not creating jobs... they're keeping the money for themselves! Surprise. Surprise. Let's hear it for the CorpCons... they really do have it rigged! Where is that socialist, Kenyan, Muslim Barack Obama when we need him?
Most Americans have no idea how wacked-out our economic system has become
in the past 30 years since the advent of "Reaganomics." How about you?
But do not despair, defenders of virtue! Stay in the game! Consciousness is rising... all around the world. And we can see signs that the dominator hierarchy is, again, ripe for serious reform, if not complete dismantling. There may be a day coming soon when the greed and gluttony of the dominator hierarchy is perceived by a critical mass for what it is... a system contrary to the welfare of individuals, collectives, nations and the world. And when (not if) that day comes, the meek will inherit the Earth.
Occasionally, a seemingly new type of conservative will appear on the scene. But don't be confused. It's the same old game, just with the cards shuffled a bit. These are the MongrelCons, an entertaining and colorful gaggle of "thinkers" and/or "feelers" vainly striving to find a version of conservativism that actually makes sense. You gotta tip your hat to them for at least giving it a try, but in the end they turn out to be just as wrong-headed, as any other flavor of conservative.
So original libertarians were sort of like "classical liberals" of the 19th Century. Both sought to protect the individual and the commons while also encouraging free enterprise. They meant well. Then reality set in, and both terms fell mostly out of use.
Today's American "libertarians" are a product of the hate-the-government genie that Ronald Reagan uncorked back in the 1980s. These MongrelCons are a rabid blend of CorpCon and SoCon impulses, synthesized into an unsavory froth of selfishness. They liked the name "libertarian," so they stole it, and have perverted the old term, discarding the system's balance bit altogether. This new movement is one of the most visible of the MongrelCons, recently invigorated by the (perennial) presidential candidacy of Texas congressman Ron Paul, with the banner now assumed by his son Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky.
Modern American "libertarians" are comprised of a strange melange of bedfellows, who otherwise wouldn't want to belong to the same club. Imagine white supremists (or white people in general who feel they are losing power), gun fanatics, End-timers, pot-growing hippies, off-the-gridders, survivalists, alligator trappers, right-leaning egg-headed professors, Chicago school economists, Ayn Rand-drunk college kids, oil drillers and coal diggers, NIMBY ("Not in my backyard") suburbanites, brothel operators, "socially liberal but fiscally conservative" moderates, teeny-tiny government believers, porn producers and anarchists at the same party! Sweet, eh? There you have the libertarians. Of these, the anarchists are the only ones who give two hoots about society itself; for the rest it's all about the "Me and Mine."
What makes them conservative, not liberal, is their staunch desire to "conserve" a "traditional value," namely GREED, while defending their own, unique hierarchy (Me and mine first and foremost), as well as their susceptibility to fear of just about the whole wide world while lacking in any real interest to extend liberty, equality, justice or compassion to others, particularly others very different from themselves.
Claiming to revere liberty above all, their rhetoric at first seems very appealing and draws in even erstwhile liberals: No more crazy foreign wars. End the War on Drugs. Legalize pot, prostitution and same-sex marriage. But this is all smoke to the fire of their core ideology. When they say "liberty," what libertarians really mean is they want the liberty to do whatever they want to do, particularly in the way of managing their property rights.
Right here is a good time to mention that Liberty is not the Prime Value in the pantheon of human virtues. Not by a long shot. "Give me liberty, or give me death," is a valuable battle cry for those engaged in breaking out of an evil oppression. But once acquired, liberty itself must be strictly regulated, and blended with other key values such as equality and justice to form a "perfect nation." And that's precisely what the American Founding Fathers wove into both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. For an even more perfec nation, it's also a good idea to have a healthy dose of empathy and compassion for others, you know, that "love" thing Jesus was always going on about!
But no, Libertarians see the world through grossly distorted liberty-only glasses. Their motto is "Life, liberty and property." And make no mistake, it's their life, their liberty and their property that they care about... not yours! And higher values such as love, compassion, cooperation and care about the "General Welfare" the Consitution emphasizes for the greater good of the community, nation or world just don't fit very well in their selfish mindset.
They consider themselves the ultimate "free-marketers," but are held in utter disdain by the actual owners of the "free market," the CorpCons. The big gun CorpCons fully understand that the utopian "free market" that the libertarians imagine is a childish myth, and that a "rigged market" with huge government involvement in protecting it is where the action really is. The real CorpCons know that these naive libertarians would absolutely destroy the nation, and the economy along with it, and the CorpCons just can't stand the thought of the latter.
As small-bore CorpCons, libertarians hate government and love what they imagine a "free market" would be like. They dream of somehow being able to actually transform America into a manifestation of this queasy duality: flimsy government paired with hyper-inflated individualism. Alas, they can't point to a single example in all of world history where this was even seriously attempted, much less actually worked. Only libertarians are confused enough to believe that it could ever work. Clearly they don't really understand government or the free market. They are uniquely, and willfully, oblivious to the well-established fact that capitalism will devour itself if not carefully regulated by some outside force... which is generally defined as "government." And so their dream would actually lead to a self-negating proposition.
Kentucky senator Rand Paul is probably the most popular libertarian politician currently, and he is perfectly emblematic of the confused state of his ilk. Recently featured in the (supposedly liberal) media as "the most interesting man in politics," junior Paul is really a rank amateur. Unlike daddy Paul, he can't seem to decide where he stands on many important issues. He's already flip-flopped on foreign aid, military involvement against ISIL, tough action against Russia, and getting rid of Medicare. He seems too easily conned by conspiracy theories, jumping to a false conclusion about John McCain supposedly paling around with ISIL members.
Recently Rand Paul urged the creation of "Freedom Zones" where businesses would be free from governmental regulation or taxation. Now wouldn't that seem to be a CorpCon nirvana! Imagine lions and tigers and wolves (Big Business) placed into a "freedom zone" with bunny rabbits and piglets (small businesses and start-ups). Imagine businesses truly free from government regulation! We've been there/done that many times, and the outcome wasn't pretty. Now you have a picture of the libertarian idea of how the economy should work.
Don't expect to see "the most interesting man in politics" at the head of the ticket in 2016 unless he undergoes a serious ideological face-lift that reveals a more traditional conservative demeanor, for surely the Republican Party is never going to go Libertarian with both SoCons and CorpCons aligned against such a fractured worldview.
Libertarians love their property. They obsess over their property. They are not usually the rapacious, can't-get-enough, plunderers like the true professional CorpCons, but they cherish what they have, and are determined to protect it. In a sense they are the purest materalists of the political spectrum... even more so than CorpCons. The professional corporatists do very much revel in the spoils of their conquests... but it is the very game of conquest, the exhilaration and power and glory, that is the CorpCon's real motivation... not the stuff, which they discard as soon as possible in their ever-upward mobility (you know, it's embarrassing to be seen in the same dress, the same diamonds, the same luxury car, the same house, more than once). Moreover, the CorpCons are rarely fearful; after all, they are the Masters of the Universe. The notion that they are going to lose their stuff, or someone is going to take it away is rather foreign to CorpCons. The know full well that they, themselves, have rigged the system so that either scenario is highly unlikely. Libertarians are totally different. Feeling comparatively powerless, they share in the general fear of SoCons, but rather than being terrified of poop or gays or Muslims, libertarians are terrified that they might lose their stuff. They must remain ever vigilant, because they are very worried - indeed, often over-the-top paranoid - that somebody is going to try to take it... probably the government. And this paranoia is what drives their weaving, veering, inconsistent, incoherent, and wholly selfish, mindset.
When pushed, many libertarians will reluctantly acknowledge the need for some kind of governmental structure, but insist that it be as tiny, weak and localized as possible, certainly not involving intrusion by the despised federal government. So they sometimes pander to "states' rights" to try to wiggle out of uncomfortable paradoxes and dichotomies that their vehemently anti-fed posture inevitably leads into. Of course, it's an utter contradition... something is terrible, horrible - probably illegal - if the feds do it, but if the states or localities do it, well that's OK. They don't ever go into too much detail about how this would actually work, and don't seem to realize how the message is clearly contradictory: they demand the smallest possible national government (one that could be "drowned in a bathtub"), but potentially BIG government on the state and local level. Of course, implicit in their position is the notion that local government is far easier to manipulate, bully, distort and control.
The ONLY thing libertarians think the feds should be doing is national defense. And that, itself, should be confined to the borders of the nation. To hell with the rest of the world.
Other than that, what good is a federal government?
So, goodbye ALL other national programs... Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all federal welfare, food stamps, all federal grants, loans and scholarships, farm subsidies, the Federal Reserve, the SEC and all federal banking and security exchange oversight and regulation, all National Parks, the U.S. highway system, NASA, FEMA, the National Disease Control Center, education subsidies, the Transporation Department, FAA, Amtrak and all other federal transportation agencies and programs, the Food and Drug Administration and health inspections, the Forest Service, BLM and all other federal land management agencies, the EPA and all environmental and wildlife protections, federal courts, federal prisons, the FBI, CIA and all other federal law enforcement, funding for the arts and humanities, the federal Safety Commission, the Copyright and Trademark offices, Equal Opportunity Commmission, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, the Smithsonian and all other federal historical museums and monuments, national flood insurance, National Labor Relations Board, NOAA and all federal weather programs, the National Science Foundation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Nuclear Waste Review Board, OSHA, the Federal Safety Commission and all other industrial and commercial safety agencies and programs, the Peace Corps, the Post Office, the State Department, the U.S. Mint. That should get them started.
Obviously, there's a few items in that list that CorpCons might briefly salivate at eliminating, but, upon perhaps two seconds deep reflection, would quickly realize what a slippery slope to anarchy removing just one or two of these agencies and programs might be. Yet libertarians want to do away with ALL of these federal programs. NOW! They never go into too much detail about who or what would pick up the slack. Perhaps, somehow, the fractious, uneven, inconsistent and discombobled state governments will assume responsibility for some of these matters, while your local churches will take care of all the welfare, food stamps, health care and housing of the poor. Your local Barney Fife can wrangle with all Indians, wild cowboys and outlaws in the county. And your local community college can take up where the feds left off in disease control, weather modeling, the arts and humanities. The rest of it? Why those programs should be sold off to the highest bidder... especially federal land! That's right: BLM land, National Forests, National Parks, Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon sold to the highest bidder.
Sometimes libertarians will say that they are "fiscally conservative and socially liberal." This would render libertarians almost diametically opposed to most social conservatives, who (often unbeknownst even to themselves) are actually socially conservative and fiscally liberal... they love Social Security, Medicare, exorbitant spending on weapons systems and warmongering, as well as the federal pork project coming to their community. But libertarians are not really socially "liberal" in any true sense. That would imply some kind of empathy or care for others, or for the commons. Liberals, of course, the original "libertarians," care about everyone's liberty, as well as the welfare of the entire community, state, nation, and world beyond. Libertarians don't give a damn about much of anything except their "liberty" to have and keep their stuff. They don't usually even give a damn about God, abortion, gays, immigrants, pot... the typical wedge issues so dear to SoCons. Libertarians want their liberty, and to hell with everyone else.
Libertarians do come together with SoCons in support of somebody's "liberty" to discriminate against someone else. They staunchly believe that the government shouldn't be in the business of preventing prejudice (forgetting that prejudice inherently crosses the line into injustice). Everyone should have the "liberty" to be prejudiced against anyone else. A business, say, should be able to serve, or not serve, who they want; a club should be able to include, or exclude, anyone they want to; an insurance company should be able to shun anyone they deem unhealthy. Now we're back to talking about property. Don't mess with a libertarian's property. That includes their businesses, their clubs, their churches, their guns... and their cash. No one hates taxes more than libertarians. Well, maybe anarchists. But at least anarchists are motivated by liberty that serves the collective rather than just one self.
On the spectrum of economic ideologies unlikely to succeed, anarchism and libertarianism are right there neck and neck. Considering these two options, the final condemnation of libertarians is that even when compared to anarchy, theirs is the political belief system with no heart.
Let Dusty explain modern libertarianism. (Warning: explicit language)
There's an insightful article on the web by a fellow, once a Ron Paul admirer and libertarian dupe, who has discovered a place where libertarianism is being tried. He says, "Eliminate taxes, privatize everything, oppose all public expenditures, load up a country with guns, and you end up with Honduras." Read his article here.