FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Day at the American Enterprise Institute

Didn’t have anything good to do earlier this week, so decided to spend the day at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

AEI is the granddaddy of the big corporate front groups. Their job?

Re-engineer the political economy to the liking of their corporate paymasters.

Last year, AEI took in $23 million from corporations, corporate foundations, and wealthy individuals.

Need to undermine the antitrust laws?

Hire AEI scholar in residence Robert Bork to spew his ideology.

Need to slander the United Nations?

Hire AEI scholar in residence Jeanne Kirkpatrick to do the dirty work.

AEI, Heritage, and Cato, the big three corporate fronts in our nation’s capital, have done immeasurable damage to our democracy, advancing corporatist and extremist right-wing views.

We wanted to know: is it the power of their ideas, or is it their power?

After spending a day at AEI, we suspect it’s the latter.

In the morning, we caught a session titled: Europe: Anti-Semitism Resurgent?

Looked around the audience. There was Bork. There was Kirkpatrick.

They were there to listen to what was supposed to be a debate between two right-wingers, Ruth Wisse of Harvard University and John O’Sullivan, of United Press International.

But there was little debate.

Everyone agreed that the issue wasn’t anti-semitism, as traditionally defined, but anti-Israel views.

In fact, Wisse and O’Sullivan had now effectively redefined the term anti-semitism to mean anti-Israel.

We had suspected this, but didn’t get a confirmation until a questioner in the audience asked Wisse about Billy Graham’s 1972 conversation with Richard Nixon, memorialized on the White House tapes, and made public earlier this year by the National Archives.

In the conversation, Graham says to Nixon that “a lot of Jews are great friends of mine.”

“They swarm around me and are friendly to me,” Graham says. “Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.”

And how does he feel?

Graham tells Nixon that the Jews have a “stranglehold” on the country, and “this stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.”

“You believe that?” Nixon says.

“Yes, sir,” Graham replies.

“Oh boy,” Nixon says. “So do I. I can’t ever say that but I believe it.”

So, the questioner wanted to know whether Professor Wisse considered these sentiments, as expressed by Graham, and widely publicized earlier this year, to be anti-semitic.

No, they are not anti-semitic, Professor Wisse says.

Not anti-semitic?

No, anti-semitism exists today in the form of “political organization” against Israel.

Inference: the religious right in this country, as long as they organize politically to support Israel, can say and think whatever they want about Jews.

Not anti-semitism.

We went for a walk in the rain, a reality check with nature, and then back in to catch another AEI panel, this one titled: “Does Excessive Regulation Threaten Subprime Lending?” featuring Gary Gilmer, the vice chairman of Household International, a finance company which just last week was slapped by a group of state attorneys general for engaging in predatory lending — basically ripping off the poor with outrageous interest rates and fees.

The company paid $484 million to settle the case.

Household is one of the largest sub-prime lenders in the country.

While sub-prime lenders provide credit to borrowers with damaged credit, some of these lenders have engaged in predatory practices whereby consumers — even those with good credit — are targeted to borrow money on disadvantageous terms, including high interest rates, steep bank fees and payments for undisclosed insurance products.

The high costs serve to increase the consumer’s debt burden and reduce the equity in the consumer’s home.

You would think that the company would have a sense of humility after being so publicly spanked for engaging in such wrongdoing.

But no.

Instead, AEI gives the company’s vice chairman a forum to attack the same state laws that his company allegedly violated and that led to the $484 million payment.

Tough state laws that seek to curb predatory lending, like one passed recently in Georgia, have the finance industry in a tizzy.

The finance companies say they are refusing to make loans in Georgia, perhaps as part of a drive to get that law, and other similar laws repealed.

Maybe it’s time to simplify the entire legal morass in this area by bringing back the usury laws — by mandating a simple cap on interest rates.

The usury laws were erased in the early 1980s after a heavy lobbying effort by finance companies like Household.

We raised the possibility of bringing back the usury laws with the AEI panel members, but they unanimously thought it was a bad idea.

We went outside again, to get some fresh air. The rain had turned to a cold drizzle. In anticipation, we returned for the day’s final panel, titled In Defense of Empires.

Deepak Lal, a professor at the UCLA, argued that imperialism should not be perceived as a negative phenomenon. Empires provide international order. Empires promote prosperity by integrating separate areas into a common economic space. Empires are good.

After picking up the materials, listening to about 30 minutes of Professor Lal’s talk — with no mention of the violence necessary to create and maintain empires — we walked out, back into the rain.

And we thought: maybe it is all harmless to talk this way. It’s almost laughable.

Nobody can believe this stuff, can they?

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.)

 

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 19, 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor
Kenneth Surin
In China Again
Stephen Cooper
Abolishing the Death Penalty Requires Morality
George Ochenski
The DNC Can’t Be Allowed to Ignore the Climate Crisis
John W. Whitehead
The Omnipresent Surveillance State
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
Guaidó’s Star Fades as His Envoys to Colombia Allegedly Commit Fraud With Humanitarian Funds for Venezuela
Dave Lindorff
What About Venezuela’s Hacked Power Grid?
Howard Lisnoff
Try Not to Look Away
Binoy Kampmark
Matters of Water: Dubious Approvals and the Adani Carmichael Mine
Karl Grossman
The Battle to Stop the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, Revisited
Kani Xulam
Farting in a Turkish Mosque
Dean Baker
New Manufacturing Jobs are Not Union Jobs
Elizabeth Keyes
“I Can’t Believe Alcohol Is Stronger Than Love”
June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail