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Reich writes: "In the early 21st century, a billionaire class emerged. Their agenda was to reduce their taxes, enhance their wealth, and buy up the nation's major assets."

Robert Reich. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Robert Reich. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

Another Step Toward Oligarchic Control of America

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page

28 December 15


ight-wing mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has just bought the biggest newspaper in Nevada, the Las Vegas Review-Journal -- just in time for Nevada's becoming a key battleground for the presidency and for the important Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. It’s not quite like Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, but Adelson's purchase marks another step toward oligarchic control of America – and the relative decline of corporate power.

Future historians will note that the era of corporate power extended for about 40 years, from 1980 to 2016 or 2020. It began in the 1970s with a backlash against Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society (Medicare, Medicaid, the EPA and OSHA). In 1971, future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell warned corporate leaders that the “American economic system is under broad attack,” and urging them to mobilize. “Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination—without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.” He went on: “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.”

Soon thereafter, corporations descended on Washington. In 1971, only 175 firms had Washington lobbyists; by 1982, almost 2,500 did. Between 1974 and 1980 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doubled its membership and tripled its budget. In 1972, the National Association of Manufacturers moved its office from New York to Washington, and the Business Roundtable was formed, whose membership was restricted to top corporate CEOs.

The number of corporate Political Action Committees soared from under 300 in 1976 to over 1,200 in 1980, and their spending on politics grew fivefold. In the early 1970s, businesses spent less on congressional races than did labor unions; by the mid-1970s, the two were at rough parity; by 1980, corporations accounted for three-quarters of PAC spending while unions accounted for less than a quarter. Then came Ronald Reagan's presidency, corporate control of the Republican Party, and a Republican-dominated Supreme Court and its "Citizens United" decision.

But in the early 21st century, a billionaire class emerged that didn’t want or need to share political power with large corporations. Their agenda was to reduce their taxes, enhance their wealth, and buy up the nation’s major assets. The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and about three dozen other oligarchs began to wrest power away from the Republican business establishment by funding their own candidates, buying their own media outlets, and even running for office themselves.

The rest is history. Or may be.

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+63 # danireland46 2015-12-28 10:58
You talk about "the relative decline of corporate power.", but the Oligarchy is primarily composed of current leaders of corporations. The names mentioned 'Koch' from Koch Industries, 'Adelson' from the Gaming Industry, "Murdoch' from Media Industry, and 'Trump' from Real Estate (and Bankruptcy) not to mention the Waltons from Walmart and the Wall Street Oligarchs from Banking and investment Industry.
The problem is the excess wealth accumulated for these Oligarchs, from their devoted political puppets. What to do?- Get money out of politics and THROW OUT CITIZENS UNITED!
+72 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2015-12-28 11:00
Well said, Professor Reich.

It seems like a replay of the Gilded Age, dominated by Robber Barons such as Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, Vanderbilt, Astor, and Gould. That period also lasted several decades. It was finally ended by the Progressive Movement.
Can we mount a Progressive Movement 2.0? That's certainly our best, and maybe only, hope.
+27 # reiverpacific 2015-12-28 11:27
@ "Emmanuel Goldstein".
I'm not sure really, as the populace is pretty much euthanized by the content-lite, commercial or advertisement-p acked owner-media whose scandal/sports/ glitterati-obse ssed concept of "news" is very much at odds with a revolutionary attitude, which would actually be "P.G. 3".
There was a populist pushback in the 1930's also, led by Eugene Debs and Emma Goldman during and post-depression . I was deeply active in the "Progressive 2" movement which lasted well into the 1970's until Thatcher/Reagan set the UK/US back decades.
One hope I see in the US is the current and previous generations which are systematically being denied the "American Dream" opportunity to buy their own homes, as even rentals are becoming hard to maintain on "Living" wage depending on where they live and all but the alternative media are shoveling this very serious problem of personal and family independence under the media-carpet.
Rentals are controlled in the UK and Europe but purchases are also becoming hard for the same generations at least in the UK, some, as over here, moving in with their parents, however reluctantly.
This and the decline in further education opportunities linked with diminishing productive and decent-paying jobs might JUST start something, unless Bernie Sanders can turn things around.
+36 # Vegan_Girl 2015-12-28 12:40
Starting at the 30s, there was a systematic effort aiming to (in addition to rolling back the New Deal policies) destroy the mass movement that created the leverage for the New Deal. There were millions organized in (two!) socialist parties, a communist party, and trade unions. These groups were destroyed and the cold war was used as justification.

It will take some time but we will rebuild the progressive mass movements we need. They have the mass media but we have social media. I think the new generation is getting smarter and more active. I believe that it was mass civil disobedience that defeated the Keystone pipeline and the Arctic drilling. So, there is hope.

Bernie Sanders won't be able to do it alone, he will need a massive movement behind it. But I think that most people who were involved in Occupy are now feverously organizing for Bernie Sanders.
-9 # anarchteacher 2015-12-28 15:55
Re: Vegan_Girl

Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal: An Annotated Bibliographic Guide

There was much more to FDR and the New Deal than the multitudes of biographies of FDR by court historian partisans, acolytes, and apologists. And so much more of the so-called "Red Decade" of the 1930s than portrayed by these same effusive academics.

The Red Decade -- an Amazon book list

Amazon Review: The 20th Century: The 1930s: The Great Depression
+26 # CL38 2015-12-28 11:53
Bernie Sanders is running on Progressive policies to stop the insanity.
-26 # anarchteacher 2015-12-28 15:29
Re: Emmanuel Goldstein - Be careful what you wish for.

The Progressive movement was not what most people who have read sanitized court historians think it was, particularly regarding the so-called Robber Barons such as Morgan, Rockefeller, and Carnegie, etc. This history is one of the greatest academic scams ever.

Actually it was those plutocratic oligarchs who were the instigators and beneficiaries of Progressivism.

The Racist Roots of Progressivism

The Progressive Era,%20Banks,%20and%20American%20Foreign%20Policy_2.pdf

Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy


Theological Canon of the Welfare-Warfare State -- an Amazon book list
+44 # perkinsej 2015-12-28 11:11
I suspect that younger voters will, in due course, put this nation back on the path that emulates European social policies. Included will be high taxes on the fat cats.
+55 # HowardMH 2015-12-28 11:20
HELLO, HELLO is anyone watching Rachel’s news show on Flint, Michigan and the over 7000 babies and kids that have outrageously HIGH levels on LED in their system, BECAUSE the governor turned off the good drinking water that was being piped in from Detroit??? Now these kids have PERMANENT Brain Damage. Where are the protests to oust this totally insane F****** Governor?
-28 # wantrealdemocracy 2015-12-28 11:34
How about the fluoride in our drinking water all over the nation? This substance was put in the water of the German concentration camps to make the people apathetic and docile. That is now being done to us here in the 'Homeland'. And have you noticed the chem trails in the air over you? The trail of a normal jet fades out behind the plane--but there are some jets who leave a trail that seems to never end and it spreads out and remains visible for a long time. I saw one last week and thought that was a regular jet (I live near an airport). The plane had a trail for just a short length behind it---but as I watched the plane continued and the trail lengthened behind it. It must have just started the spraying. I see these trails cover the sky and wonder---who is doing this and why?
-17 # JPS07 2015-12-28 12:36
The chem trail thing is a conspiracy theory, fluoride in the drinking water is a fact. So not sure whether to give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
But once you start putting medication in the drinking water it's only a small step to spraying everyone with chemicals. So a thumbs up.
Bit off-topic, apologies.
+10 # ericlipps 2015-12-29 05:22
Quoting JPS07:
The chem trail thing is a conspiracy theory, fluoride in the drinking water is a fact. So not sure whether to give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
But once you start putting medication in the drinking water it's only a small step to spraying everyone with chemicals. So a thumbs up.
Bit off-topic, apologies.

Fluoride in the drinking water is a fact. But does it matter?

The claim that the Germans put it in water in the concentration camps to make their prisoners "submissive and docile" is nonsense; is there any evidence that it has worked that way in the U.S.?

The Germans controlled their concentration-c amp victims via starvation and the presence of vicious armed guards. That was enough.
-4 # Anarchist 23 2015-12-28 18:47
You have observed chemtrails..the 'who' is the US government..the 'why' is open for debate...most consider it is climate enhancing..Dr Edward Teller father of the Hydrogen bomb thought we could put up an aerosol 'reflective' shield to bounce back sunlight and cool the planet...some say it it to poison the soil with aluminum and barium to make it infertile for any but Monsanto type crops,,,some say it is to kill us all so TPTB can have the planet all for themselves. Yes, they exist, yes you can see them and yes, most people don't believe their eyes...but then this is a country that things T-Rump would be a good president!
+3 # phrixus 2015-12-29 06:26
This is complete rubbish and has been throughout debunked. The so-called "chem-trails" and fluoride conspiracy theories are relevant only to nutters, tin-hatters and those too lazy to do the research. There is a plethora of easily accessible scientific evidence available via a few keystrokes. This nonsense only distracts from the serious issues we face.
+3 # tapelt 2015-12-29 20:48
Fluoride in water was discovered in the American West when certain communities had abnormally low levels of tooth decay and this was traced to naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water of those towns.

Vapor trails from jets are made of condensed water vapor, and last longer in air with high relative humidity than they do in air with low relative humidity.
+2 # tapelt 2015-12-29 20:42
This story was on the PBS News Hour today. Hopefully, there will be more news coverage of this outrage in the future, along with populist uprising resulting in new leadership for the city.
+2 # Hooligan 2015-12-30 21:41
Quoting HowardMH:
HELLO, HELLO is anyone watching Rachel’s news show on Flint, Michigan and the over 7000 babies and kids that have outrageously HIGH levels on LED in their system, BECAUSE the governor turned off the good drinking water that was being piped in from Detroit??? Now these kids have PERMANENT Brain Damage. Where are the protests to oust this totally insane F****** Governor?

Many atrocities have been done in Flint & Detroit.( Maybe due to large black populations there?) Repub Governor has right to REPEAL THEIR LOCAL ELECTIONS. In place of their Mayor & City Council,the Gov. appoints an"Emergency Manager" to run things. This episode with lead in the water is one of many INTENTIONAL acts done by Gov. & Emergency Mgr. THIS WAS NO ACCIDENT!!
+15 # cmp 2015-12-28 11:30
Oligarchy..? Democracy...?

.. History would be a lot friendlier and the world would be a much better place, if we simply had a pill for sociopaths.
+10 # revhen 2015-12-28 11:45
Puzzled. Doesn't corporate power = oligarchic power since the oligarchy owns the large corporations?
+14 # Buddha 2015-12-28 12:06
Me too. Who the frack does Reich think OWNS controlling shares of our major corporations, our poor and working class??? Its workers, like they are all co-ops (I wish)? Oligarchy = Corporatocracy = Global Neo-Liberal Fascism. It is all the same enchilada.
+8 # Vegan_Girl 2015-12-28 12:34
I see a slight difference. An enlightened oligarch might want to save this planet. The way I see corporations,if a CEO does not squeeze the maximum profit out of the situation gets fired immediately.

The difference is between a (probably mentally deranged) individual and a completely evil system, system of death as Chris Hedges calls it.

Am I wrong?
+10 # sharsand 2015-12-28 11:54
Gov. Rauner was part owner of the Chicago Sun-times before he was elected governor. he then sold his share before running for governor, but for some strange reason, the Sun-times endorsed him for governor, a practice they had not done in many, many years. The Trib and Sun-Times endorsement helped push him over the top, and now look at Illinois--it's a total mess. Rauner made his money off the backs of others, very much like Adelson and his casino scams.
+6 # Eric Starin 2015-12-28 12:35
Dr. Reich,
You maintain that billionaire oligarchic power has succeeded, or is succeeding corporate power. Isn't the older, corporate wealth, while not concentrated in the hands of single individuals as much as the billionaire class's money, actually more strategic? By more strategic, I mean actually in control of more resources through holding companies, strategic blocs of stock, and interlocking directorates. I would very much like to hear any commentary you might offer. Thank you.
+7 # Robbee 2015-12-28 12:49
says - # danireland46 2015-12-28 10:58 "... Get money out of politics and THROW OUT CITIZENS UNITED!"

go bernie! public funding, only, of federal, state and local elections!

FYI "move to amend" has a competing proposed constitutional amendment that -

1) would prevent corporations from donating to campaigns - so millionaires have to donate money individually and

2) would allow congress to set limits on campaign donations - however congress is addicted to begging billionaires for bribes, the bigger the bribe, the merrier - so m2a's proposed amendment proposes a shell game that would do everything but depose our plutocrat rulers - unlike what public funding, only, of elections, would do

m2a's proposed amendment has been endorsed by 13 members of congress - not a good sign! it represents "business as usual”!

to amend the constitution may easily take 10 years - so m2a reasonably says we have to “get it right” the first time, but instead just kicks the can down the road! a very long road!

as bernie puts it - “Long term, we need to go further and establish public funding of elections …"

m2a has become a money-making, self-perpetuati ng bureaucracy of sell-outs

m2a's so-called “National Campaign to End Corporate Personhood and Demand Real Democracy!” is a shell game!

it ends corporate personhood, so the pea hides under the next shell, in other words billionaires next have to bribe individually, big whup!

- listen to bernie! public funding, only!
0 # Hooligan 2015-12-30 21:49
Thanks for this post. I will no longer support Move to Amend.
+8 # Robbee 2015-12-28 13:14
great minds work alike! what i think is what bernie promotes, because it overthrows our plutocrat rulers!

moreover says - Look Who's Buying American Democracy, Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog 08 December 15 "... How long before we make it work for all of us instead of a handful at the top? We must not let them buy our democracy. We must get big money out of politics. Publicly finance political campaigns, disclose all sources of campaign funds, and reverse “Citizens United.”
+5 # anarchteacher 2015-12-28 14:15

Who Rules America: Power Elite Analysis and American History

Who does Reich take his readership for? A mob of plebeians and serfs still in ignorant thrall to their masters? Does he really expect us to buy this nonsense?

The United States has always been a plutocratic oligarchy. The 1787 coup d'état undertaken by the secret cabal in Philadelphia only institutionaliz ed it.

(See John McConaughy, Who Rules America: A Century of Invisible Government; Phillip H. Burch, Elites in American History: The Federalist Years to the Civil War; Phillip H. Burch, Jr., Elites in American History: The Civil War to the New Deal; Richard F. Pettigrew, Triumphant Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life From 1870 to 1920; Phillip H. Burch, Jr., Elites in American History: The New Deal to the Carter Administration)

As good and faithful servant to this corporatist predator class as labor secretary during the Clinton administration, Reich well knows this background story. His cabinet colleague as treasury secretary was Robert Rubin, former chair of Goldman Sachs. Neither was chosen because of his charm, grace, or good looks. Nor was Bush's treasury secretary Hank Paulsen, another chair of Goldman Sachs.

Charles Gasparino in Bought and Paid For: The Unholy Alliance Between Barack Obama and Wall Street, details Obama's tight connection to the plutocrats, particularly those of Goldman Sachs, his biggest campaign contributor.
+1 # anarchteacher 2015-12-28 14:47

The American Deep State

Hidden History: Where Organized Crime and Government Meet

The Deep State and the Hughes-Nixon-La nsky Connection

Dallas '63: A Brilliant Synthesis Regarding the November 22, 1963 Coup d'état

Peter Dale Scott on the November 22, 1963 Coup D’état

The Deep State and the November 22, 1963 Coup d’état

Bill Moyers: It Is Time To Come Clean

Allen Dulles: Fascist Spymaster and Deep State Architect

Dull, Duller, Dulles: A Select Bibliography

Licio Gelli, P2, and Power Elite Analysis

The American Deep State -- an Amazon book list
+6 # sheilabernard 2015-12-28 19:58
anarchteacher, respectfully I ask you to summarize in your own words your core concept(s) and what you believe people of conscience should be doing right now.

Are you talking anarchism-- collectives, cooperatives, sustainable living, consumer-sponso red agriculture, etc? Because if you are, I believe some of your ideas would resonate with readers here; those ideas certainly resonate with me.

But along with those ideas, we live in a country that needs to be pulled back from the brink of fascism, right now. We can't cop out like "it's too late" or "government is evil". We can be engaged in the political process and simultaneously be deeply localizing and improving our way of living to be in harmony with natural systems and with each other.

Personally, I'm voting Bernie. And I believe it matters very much whether Americans elect him or not.
+6 # bdeja 2015-12-28 17:18
We are at the very end of our Democracy unless we can wrestle the country back from the oligarchs who have more money than so many countries. They have so much money that they can buy most anything. This includes police, water, government agencies such as the EPA, FDA and FCC. With there power comes the demise of our planet's environment and climate, as well as an end to the freedom that the right says it is protecting. And as this happens the oligarchs try, with great success, to terrify people into acting against their own interests. They own the broadcast and print media and use it to say that 2+2=5.
The election of 2016 is perhaps the last election that may count. Bernie Sanders is our country's last best chance. If he is elected and the Congress becomes Blue we may have a chance. Second best would be Hillary Clinton. But her Presidency will not rest control of America from the billionaires, She is too happy with her corporate friends. If the republicans were to win it all we will see our planet and country surely fail.
+5 # elkingo 2015-12-28 18:27
As enlightening as it is threatening, Bob. I'd included the mega-corporatio ns themselves as oligarchs - after all, they are persons, (yuk yuk yuk). But you are focusing on individuals. It is said that 20 guys or so have as much money as 50% of Americans. A Murdoch gobbling up all the media augers Orwell. These guys are part of an obsolete and geo-lethal paradigm. Need some kind of global welfare-sociali sm, or else.
+5 # elkingo 2015-12-28 18:34
I'm being serious. Couldn't there be a genetic test for the capitalist, mega-acquisitiv e sociopath cohort which rules us?
-3 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-12-28 22:40
Why waste billions of dollars on an election? Just have the Supreme Court "select" THE DONALD and continue the policies of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, W. Bush, Obama until they work.
0 # iplau 2015-12-29 13:00
So how exactly does one make the powhites see that they are attempting to hand the key of the chicken coop to the fox?Are they so addled with being marginalized that they can't see? Welcome to being black/latino etc, hello! Now, even poverty has a more American feel to it!Equal opportunity to wealth and poverty, what can be more American that that.
0 # gulliver1 2015-12-29 18:23
2016 Will Be Turning Point When Voters Decide What Kind Of Corporate Oligarchy They Want

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