The Supreme Clowns: Making the Powell Manifesto a Reality
The consequences of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) are still in the early stages of their unfolding. By determining that money is free speech, and that Congress has no right to impede the free exercise thereof, they declared Congressional mandated campaign finance limits unconstitutional. By so doing, they legalized influence peddling (making bribery even harder to prove, but that’s another story). In an historical arc that began almost forty years earlier, Citizens United was the logical culmination of actions promulgated in The Powell Memo, aka The Powell Manifesto.
On August 23, 1971, corporate lawyer and tobacco industry representative Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (a decorated WW II Air Force intelligence officer) issued a secret memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Powell Memo argued that the country was being turned—hide the children!—socialist, arguing that this dastardly liberal plot was being promulgated by lefty college professors and the mainstream media. (Sound familiar?) And funded, ironically, by the very captains of capitalism they were supposedly so intent on displacing.
In the parlance of today’s right wing propaganda, Powell implored the ruling class “to take our country back;” and to fight back against “the mainstream media.” Two months later, President Richard Nixon nominated Powell to the US Supreme Court, where he would spend the next 15 years.
Following are some highlights of:
The Powell Memo
Dimensions of the Attack
No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility…
We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts…
Sources of the Attack
…Moreover, much of the media-for varying motives and in varying degrees-either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.
One of the bewildering paradoxes of our time is the extent to which the enterprise system tolerates, if not participates in, its own destruction.
The campuses from which much of the criticism emanates are supported by
(i) tax funds generated largely from American business, and
(ii) contributions from capital funds controlled or generated by American business. The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system.
Most of the media, including the national TV systems, are owned and theoretically controlled by corporations which depend upon profits, and the enterprise system to survive.
The Apathy and Default of Business
What has been the response of business to this massive assault upon its fundamental economics, upon its philosophy, upon its right to continue to manage its own affairs, and indeed upon its integrity?
The painfully sad truth is that business, including the boards of directors’ and the top executives of corporations great and small and business organizations at all levels, often have responded — if at all — by appeasement, ineptitude and ignoring the problem…
Responsibility of Business Executives
What specifically should be done? The first essential — a prerequisite to any effective action — is for businessmen to confront this problem as a primary responsibility of corporate management.
The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival — survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.
Possible Role of the Chamber of Commerce
But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.
We now know the “indefinite number of years” of “careful long-range planning” of political and judicial activism that was necessary to complete the first stage of Powell’s long- term goal. Thirty eight and a half years after its issuance, Powell’s vision reached its second stage: the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United. All that remains is realization of the third stage: GOP control of all three branches of government. This final stage will cement their power into law, now and into the future, for them and their trust-fund dependent spawn. (On this latter score, the elimination of the inheritance tax ranks high on their agenda.)
Presently, the Ruling Class has put the vast majority of their resources into the campaigns of various GOP presidential candidates. Of course, maintaining control of Congress and various state governments is also essential, and significant resources are being allocated thereto. But the indispensable prize remains the Big Enchilada—the US presidency. As 2015 comes to a close, and the 2016 election campaign begins in earnest, it behooves us to assess the status of the GOP presidential campaign.
We explore these developments in Part II.