It's the postwar period. Post World War II, that is. 40s, 50s & 60s. In the ruling's class perpetual attack on everyone else, everyone else has, against long odds, gained some ground. Thanks to the New Deal reforms, there's relative economic equality in the land. No, not a social democracy but social democratic tendencies for sure. About a third of workforce is unionized. Unemployment is low, 4 to 5 percent. The rich are paying close to a reasonable amount in taxes. The top exec at IBM, for examples, pays 69% of his income in federal income taxes. No reason to do a happy jig, not least because women and minorities have little freedom, but the people, through their government, are holding back the Beast.
The Beast, though, keeps pushing on, as it always does. Business leaders launch a blistering offensive in what they call "the everlasting battle for the minds of men and indoctrinate people with the capitalist story. The reason is the truth is subversive, it's anti-American, and it has to be eliminated." They spend billions of dollars on pro-corporate, anti-union propaganda, which they disseminate through the media, schools, churches, Hollywood -- just about any forum you can imagine. The Beast's propaganda is reaching tens of millions of people.
But people like economic equality. They don't surrender it easily. It helps usher in the social progress of the sixties. Amid the relative economic equality exists a disgracefully high level of poverty, around 19 percent. So the U.S. government actually does something about it, launching something called The War on Poverty, which strengthens the social safety net that the country started to build in the 30s. And then, in 1965 under the Social Security Act, Congress creates Medicare to provide health insurance to all Americans age 65 and up.
Real gains. Big Victories. Beaten, discouraged, the Beast crawls back into the his cave and dies. Ha! As if! Never! In the late 60 & early 70s, the Beast redoubles its attack on social democracy. It sets out to take over DC. In 1971, only 175 firms have registered DC lobbyists; by 1982, 2500 will. At the same time, following a path recommended in the 1971 Powell Memo, corporations establish an infrastructure to disseminate its propaganda, an infrastructure that includes the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy.
Meanwhile conservatives, led by Wallace and Nixon, are fashioning a racist, conservative populism that capitalizes on -- and creates -- backlash to the social changes of the sixties. While one goal is to exploit racism and fear of change, another is to depict the Democratic Party as the representatives of "them," not "us," the real Americans. The Democrats call bullshit on the GOP's bogus populism and recommit to economic justice. Ha! As if! Never! The Democrats go into a defensive crouch. Internalizing the right's claim that they're out of the mainstream, Democrats cozy up to corporate power and help the GOP ship the nation's industrial base overseas -- a move that shuts down "the working class escalator to a better life, gut[s] the unions, and deprive[s] liberals of their main source of political power."
Now, in the 70s & early 80s, we're entering a new stage in the evolution of the Beast, a stage marked by globalization, deregulation, and financialization. Let's call it...Neoliberalism. Although it is dressed up in the language of liberty and shared prosperity, Neoliberalism, being the Beast, seeks to take from the poor and give to the rich. To that end, it knocks down protective walls and sets workers around the world against one another. It forms international institutions, such at the IMF and the World Bank, by which corporations and the United States government, if there's a difference, can impose their will on un-rich nations.
The tenets of Neoliberalism become so popular that by 1989 John Williamson calls them the "Washington Consensus." Yet despite the best efforts of the DLC and other corporate-funded outfits, the Beast still hasn't quite taken control of the Democratic Party. (The Beast's stomach has already digested and shat out the GOP). Corporate power and Wall Street get their teeth into the Democratic Party in 92-93. After he is elected, Bill Clinton -- who campaigned as something of a populist -- meets with his future Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who would later say, "President Clinton actually made the decision before he stepped into the Oval Office, during the transition, on what was a dramatic change in economic policy."
The "dramatic change" means NAFTA and other forms of globalization as Rubin pushes poor nations to open their markets and privatize their state-dominated economies. And deregulation, including the killing of Glass Steagall. Austerity, or, if you prefer, a fixation on balanced budgets. And a push for a Grand Bargain that would cut Social Security and Medicare. And increasing economic equality even as the tech-boom economy surges.
The military wing of the Beast, which began to balloon to grotesque proportions under Reagan, continues to grow even though its supposed target, the Soviet Union, is long dead. But then its primary purpose is to protect not Americans but corporate profits. In 1999, Tom Friedman says in plain sight that "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."
A new century now, early 2000s, and Bush is president. After a gabillion dollar-half century effort, the Beast has managed to neutralize its most threatening and organized opponent, the labor movement. The flow of wealth upwards is fast and furious. The Beast controls 100 percent of one major party and 80 percent of the other. The GOP is unabashed in an effort to further enrich the rich, and the Democratic Party is unwilling or unable to stop it. Business leaders succeed to a degree probably unimaginable to their postwar forefathers.
2012 now, and inequality continues to increase. In the time it takes you to read this sentence, the rich will get richer, the poor poorer. Instead of punishing and prosecuting the banks for trashing the economy, the government gives them lots and lots of free money, and they're making record profits again, or still. Economic inequality is at an all time high. One percent of American controls 40 percent of wealth. Poverty is skyrocketing to levels not seen since before the War on Poverty. The country has had a Democratic President for three years and a Democratic Congress for some of that time, but official unemployment is settling in a once-unthinkable level of 8 percent. The unofficial rate is much higher.
Both in the United States and worldwide, the response of the rich to the employment crisis is, of course, to give themselves trillions of dollars and to inflict suffering on everyone else. And after democratic revolutions that were largely a response to the Washington Consensus, the rich are trying as always to impose their neoliberal will on these nations.