Every now and then a label pops up in the stream of words and ideas that allows us to pin down the essence of a political/social trend. According to Thom Hartmann, the labeling of Tony Blair as Dubya's poodle helped enormously to weaken his political support. Witness Hartmann's usage of the term these days to describe the relationship between Scott Walker and the Koch brothers.
Jeffrey Sachs today provided the label for the uber-wealthy corporate backers of politicians: The New Robber Barons.
Searching dKos one finds this term occassionally, but Sachs puts it up front and center in an interview at Tech Ticker:
"It's pretty clear there's an agenda nationwide: Republican governors backed by the Koch Brothers [and] extreme right wing money want to crush the unions," says Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs. "The public is against it, but public opinion doesn't count much in this country these days." (Editor's note: The Koch Brothers have denied our repeated requests for an interview.)
But Sachs says the "real story" is much bigger than Wisconsin: It's about stagnant wages of public and private sector workers alike, and the increasing and increasingly pernicious role of big money in politics.
The following statistics speak to Sachs' first point:
* Since 1973, the median take home pay of full-time workers is virtually unchanged on an inflation-adjusted basis.
* The top 11,000 households in America have more income than the bottom 25 million.
* Since 1976, 58% of real income growth has gone to the top 1% of Americans.
"We've reached the greatest income [and] wealth inequality in history," Sachs says. "This is a new ‘Robber Baron' era, of course."
PLEASE view the video. It is well worth the time.
Most of us reading here are aware of the income inequality problem our society faces. The data from the CBO makes regular appearances in diaries such as this recent one from SamaraiArtGuy. Mother Jones deserves a few more subscriptions for bundling that up so neatly for us.
From people like Jeffrey Sachs and Robert Reich (Aftershock is an essential read) we've grown aware of how the extremes in wealth today is at the level or surpasses the same extremes that existed in 1929.
It is important to keep this narrative up front, but we also need to focus how to act on it. We need ideas and ways to sell the ideas to the more fickle voters who haven't yet gotten the gist of what is happening in places like Wisconsin. One of the action items is to push back on the insanity that equates corporations with people. The Supreme Court needs to change or Congress must Amend the Constitution.
It turns out that the robber barons of today that helped push through Citizens United are simply stepping into the boots of the robber barons of 1886 who pushed the "corporations are people" scheme. I did a little Wiki research and came across this snippet in an entry for "robber baron":
There is dispute over the term's origin and use. It was popularized by U.S. political and economic commentator Matthew Josephson during the Great Depression in a book in 1934. He attributed it to an 1880 anti-monopoly pamphlet that applied the term to railroad magnates.
This brought a few things full circle for me because lately I have been reading Thom Hartmann's excellent book "Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became 'People' - and How You Can Fight Back. This is also "required reading" and it is available for free thanks to Thom Hartmann's energy and generosity at Truthout. It turns out that the first cited decision misappropriated to claim that corporations are people comes from a case before the supreme court in 1886 in which a railroad provided that as one of their 6 defenses. The court refused to rule on that assertion however and how this came to be law is one of the biggest mistakes in our nation's history. Hartmann describes this thoroughly in the video and book excerpt at Truthout.
Basically railroads were trying to claim personhood based on the 14th Amendment, the Amendment meant to overturn Dred Scot and recognize the full rights of black people. Conglomerations of the wealthiest Americans claiming victimhood on par with former slaves...
Need a teaser quote from the book? This is from the attorney arguing against the railroad position:
Speaking of the "object of the Fourteenth Amendment," Delmas said it straight out:
Its mission was to raise the humble, the down-trodden, and the oppressed to the level of the most exalted upon the broad plain of humanity—to make man the equal of man; but not to make the creature of the State—the bodiless, soulless, and mystic creature called a corporation—the equal of the creature of God....
Therefore, I venture to repeat that the Fourteenth Amendment does not command equality between human beings and corporations...
In closing his argument, Delmas had to add a punctuation mark. This could be, he suggested, one of the most important Supreme Court cases in the history of the United States because if corporations were given the powerful cudgel of human rights secured by the Bill of Rights, their ability to amass wealth and power could lead to death, war, and the impoverishment of actual human beings on a massive scale.
"I have now done," he said. "Yet I cannot but think that the controversy now debated before your Honors is one of no ordinary importance."
Income inequity, wealth inequity and corporations as people. Keep pushing back.