Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Conservatives Hijacked The American Dream

Writer and commentator Thom Hartmann's (, "The Memo That Started A Corprate Heist of Our Government," talks about a "New documentary 'Heist' (that) explains how the American Dream was stolen in broad daylight."  Some background, followed by excerpts from the interview with Hartmann via

Mark Karlin: What attracted you to narrating the documentary, Heist, which details the increasing corporate control of our national governance over the past half century?

Thom Hartmann: It was such an extraordinary summary of how bad things are and how we got here, that I was very excited to do it.

Mark Karlin: To me there's an interesting irony to the title of the film:Heist: Who Stole the American Dream in Broad Daylight? Progressives come from a position of assuming that oligarchs and white-firsters have stolen the American dream of a Constitution that guarantees (with its amendments) equality and equality of opportunity to all citizens. The likes of Pat Buchanan and the majority of the Republican Party believe that pluralism has stolen the American Dream from the original white patriarchal founding fathers, with the notion of this being a Christian nation to boot. Aren't these two irreconcilable notions of what the American Dream is?

Thom Hartmann: I think one of the big starting points for that conversation is defining the phrase "the American dream" itself. Ever since the Reagan revolution of the 1980s, a large number of Americans - particularly conservatives - have defined the American dream as "the opportunity to get really, really rich." But from the early days of the dirt farmers, through the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the assembly-line working class, the American dream instead has meant making a decent enough living to raise a family, buy a house, take an annual vacation and have a reasonable bit left over for retirement. Conservatives don't like to talk about this because essentially it's a description of a union job. But it really astounds me the number of conservatives who will call into my radio show and in a very casual, almost unconscious way refer to a vision of the American dream that is symbolized by Mitt Romney. It's like we've become a lottery mentality society, and it's really tragic.

Mark Karlin: You're an expert on what the framers of the Constitution thought about entrenched wealth and corporate power. Can you speak a bit to that?

Thom Hartmann: Many of the framers were not what we would call really wealthy people; some may have had a lot of land, but back in those days that didn't mean you were rich. There were conspicuously, mind bogglingly rich people living here at the time of the American Revolution; mansions and castles - literally castles - and local lands that operated in a feudal economy reminiscent of the Middle Ages in Europe. But none of those people were among the authors of the Constitution, and after the Revolutionary War, most of them either returned to England or fled to Canada.

So the framers were pretty wary, by and large, of the danger of aggregated political power that could derive from massive accumulations of wealth. And that's why you don't see any dynasties today left over from that era. The Rockefellers, Morgans, Carnegies and other great fortunes that have spanned centuries were almost, without exception, products of the Gilded Age when government was not so involved in economic and taxation systems that served to promote the interests of average people over those of the very, very wealthy.

"Heist makes much of the infamous Lewis Powell memo as the founding document, the call to arms and strategic inspiration for the modern corporate dominance of the political debate in the US. We asked Donald Goldmacher about Powell's crucial memo. He responded:
"'Lewis Powell was a corporate attorney from Virginia who was asked by his friend at the US Chamber of Commerce to write a secret strategy memorandum for the chamber in 1971. Two months later, Richard Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he served a number of years. The memo became a rallying cry among corporate executives for how to reassert corporate dominance over the American economy and its government, which it had lost during the era of the New Deal. The memo openly stated that corporations should punish their political enemies and should seek political power through both the law and politics. It encouraged challenges to what it saw as left-wing activities by people such as Ralph Nader and US academics. By 1978, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable defeated pro-labor law reforms through a filibuster by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, which signaled the demise of organized labor as a significant opponent of organized money.'  (see -- Joyce, Jnr.)

Thom Hartmann: Donald really knows his stuff, and this documentary is a testimonial to that. His response is a perfect summary of the uprising by the corporate oligarchs against our government and the middle class it helped create.
Mark Karlin: Given the growth in global corporations, reinforced by international trade agreements favorable to businesses and not workers, isn't the pressure on national governments such as the US coming from, in some ways, a shadow corporate power base that transcends international boundaries?

Thom Hartmann: Yes, absolutely. For four generations conservatives have been hysterical about the loss of American sovereignty because of first the League of Nations and then the United Nations. But the real threat to American sovereignty comes from transnational corporations who have assembled themselves into transnational institutions like the World Trade Organization, and can now overturn laws passed by federal and state legislatures.

This is one of those areas where even the conservative base, the middle-American "Joe six-packs," know that transnational corporations and unfettered free trade are destructive to the interests of the United States. But you'll never hear a word of it in our corporate media, which is largely owned by those same transnational corporations.

Mark Karlin: Much of Heist focuses on Wall Street's "Get Out of Jail Free Card" in the collapse of the US and international economy a few years back. Recently, BP was assessed a record fine, but no executives will be charged or prosecuted. Is it safe to say that there are people who are "too big" to go to jail?

Thom Hartmann: Yes. While white America is just waking up to this, people of color have known for centuries that America has two criminal justice systems: one for the very, very rich, and another for everybody else. Increasingly, our stratification is breaking along the lines of class rather than color. And the bankster class is, for the moment, untouchable.

The always brilliant Hartmann would shy away from the premise of this site, that Conservatism must be criminalized for our democracy to survive, but he certainly lays out the history of the machinations of the Conservative cabal throughout our history.

As Hartmann notes, "...the framers were pretty wary, by and large, of the danger of aggregated political power that could derive from massive accumulations of wealth."  If the interests of the framers were in obtaining vast amounts of wealth for themselves, and they were not men of immense wealth, they certainly drafted a document that was hostile to their own self-interests.

This was obviously not the case - the move to equate the Constitution to a blueprint to get rich was begun by American Conservatives, not the rest of the country.  As this move was hostile to the intent of the framers, all of the activities of the Conservatives in this country should be considered as crimes against the country.


"Can miles truly separate you from friends... If you want to be with someone you love,
aren't you already there?"

Richard Bach


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