FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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..

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail