Privatizing the Social Contract

For decades, the corporate world has been dishing out propaganda to make us bow down to America’s wealthiest corporate CEO’s and attempt to stop the rest of us from protecting our own economic and social interests. They’ve been attempting to disseminate myths to benefit themselves and other international capitalists–it’s called neoliberalism. Above all, they want us to stop thinking collectively within society and of social responsibility. Recalling the past few decades of the insidious corporate myths that have been thrust upon us, there are three major themes I want to mention from my own experience and they are in the economic, religious and social spheres.

In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan, the darling of American capitalism, started deregulating everything from the environment, to banking, the media and nuclear policies to name but a few. Reagan’s policies were a war against the poor and an invitation to corporate exploiters in every conceivable area. Pro-corporate propaganda spin intensified as a result. Since Roosevelt’s New Deal, America’s corporate elite had been waiting for the likes of Reagan to sit in the White House to begin to dismantle the social programs developed in response to the 1930’s depression and as a cushion for working Americans. In fact, corporate leaders finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel with their guy in the White House and organized their think tanks and corporate/government exploiters to distribute their sinister messages.

I remember marching into New York’s Central Park in the huge 1982 national rally against Reagan’s military and nuclear policies and being greeted by activists who said “We invite you to a Republican fundraiser in Manhattan. It’ll only cost you $1,000. Don’t worry, with ‘trickle down’ you must have at least $1,000 in your shoes by now!”

Snide remark or not, this is myth number one: in the economic sphere “trickle down” was becoming ingrained in the American psyche–give more wealth to the rich and everyone will benefit. Corporate leaders want us to accept this as an economic given for the development of a healthy and thriving economy. They want us to hand over our hard earned tax dollars to the wealthiest of Americans and what fools we’ve been to let Congress do exactly that!

The reality is that when we give these wealthy capitalists our money and invariably they keep it at the expense of everyone invariably coupled with excessive greed and mismanagement. Witness the latest corporate abuse and/or huge government give-aways in Iraq and New Orleans, including, of course, the infamous Halliburton in both instances and the billions of dollars that are not missing. Where was the plan for “real” efficiency by contracting with locals who are more likely to have a vested interest in the community and keeping the wealth in the community? The great populist Jim Hightower’s response to all this has been “we need an economy that percolates up rather than trickles down.” Indeed!

Whenever “developing” countries attempt to establish programs to benefit the community as a whole through sustainable agriculture, land reform, nationalized programs, and the like, U.S. multinationals will invariably aggressively attempt to destabilize them or kill their leaders with U.S. government assistance. The list is far too long to recount here but witness the U.S. destabilization of Chile (1970’s with the assassination of President Salvadore Allende who was attempting to nationalize industry and implement land reform); Nicaragua (1980’s Reagan’s Contra War against the Nicaraguan Sandanista revolution to benefit the poor–a war that basically sent the country back to the stone age); Guatemala (1950’s and the United Fruit Company’s successful and furious reaction against the land reform efforts by President Arbenz who was toppled); and the disdain for Cuba (with one the highest literacy rates in the world and ranked as having one of the world’s best health care systems); and now Venezuela is added to the list.

Why we insist on wasting our money and resources on these wealthy Americans is beyond comprehension. We’re foolish to think these multinationals would treat us any differently than they would Chile, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, or Venezuela when we in the United States attempt to establish programs to benefit the masses–they’ll attempt to malign us, divide us and destabilize our efforts and promote myths such as “trickle down”.

In 1985, one of my friends accused me of being a “secular humanist”. “What on earth is that?” I asked. She said, “You’re more concerned about the physical welfare and well-being of the people then you are about their souls.” I said, ” Yeah, that’s me, all right.” She then proceeded to criticize me, of course.

This is myth number two: in the religious sphere, “faith-based everything” and secular humanist criticism. (Amazingly, there was an effort to take out anything considered secular humanist in school books in some districts across the country during this period.) Basically, this was a means of discouraging the lack of support for programs and activities involved in hands-on support for the poor. Just pray, is the answer. People are on their own, it was inferred. It’s their fault if they don’t have good health coverage, good schools, good food, or a job. Obviously they haven’t prayed enough. God is looking at them with disdain as a result. If their environment is polluted, tell them to pray. Keep out of the public sphere. Leave it to the corporations or the free market to handle this. After all the market place is miraculous–it will take care of everything. And besides, people need to adapt and figure out these problems by themselves. Basically, the message from the right-wing was “don’t organize against anything. Go to church.” What nonsense!

The undermining of “secular humanism” in the United States is comparable to the Catholic Church’s ousting of the liberation priests who sided with the oppressed poor throughout the Third World. All of this was occurring at about the same time period. With liberation theology, finally the Catholic Church was doing something relevant for the poor, but the last Pope opposed this.

Liberation priests were a thorn in the side of the ruling elite throughout the Third World and of western multi-national corporations. Much to the chagrin of the corporations, the priests, for one, were helping to organize against corporate exploiters. The corporate elite was not about to let this continue whether it was by Catholics or Protestants. While in the Philippines in the late 1980’s I met a number of the liberation priests whose lives were threatened by the military and paramilitary when the church turned against them.

The reality is that the most outspoken religious leaders in America don’t appear to have a vested interest in the poor or programs that will benefit the poor through sustainable economic development. Witness the recent vengeance by the Reverend Pat “Assassination” Robertson against President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez’s remarkable programs to assist the poor and his attempts to build sustainable wealth in poor communities through cooperatives and other collective measures, is obviously threatening to the Reverend. He seemingly can’t handle the thought of empowered poor communities and certainly has no interest in a distribution of wealth.

Karl Marx was certainly correct when he stated that religion is the “opiate” of the masses–at least the corporate leaders are doing their best to force the evangelical version of it down our throats so the last thing we’ll think about is their excessively decadent profits and stop us from organizing against their oppression. (By the same token, it’s rather bizarre to assume that the Bush administration would be opposed to a traditional Muslim government in Iraq rather than the secular one as under Saddam Hussein–Bush and his cohorts are probably enamored with it as they would regard such a country as easier to control. All you have to do is bribe the religious leader and “he” will take care of the rest of your demands.) Clearly, the bond between conservative religious leaders in the world and multinational corporations is a deadly alliance.

In the 1990’s Hillary Clinton wisely stated, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I appreciated her articulating what I’ve always known–yet thought what she said was innocuous–a given–everyone knows this as true–I didn’t give it a second thought. Suddenly Clinton received a maelstrom of criticism from the Republican leadership and religious conservatives. I was astounded at this. Why this simultaneous outcry from the right-wing?

Clinton was stating basically that we’re all in this together. We are engaged in a “social contract” which incorporates a responsibility for the whole. No one is isolated. We bear responsibility for all children in terms of the funding and support of schools, of the environment, good food, of the support systems such as fire, police, and virtually everything in our local, national governments and international extended communities. And, it takes this village of all of us to nurture and raise all of our children.

This is myth number three: in the social sphere, “individual responsibility” is claimed to be sacrosanct by these corporate strategists and Clinton had violated their mantra by suggesting otherwise. They obviously want us to forget that we are part of a community. They want us to think that it’s us and our family against the world. Grab what you can for yourself and don’t even consider the consequences. It’s making money and material accumulation that bring you success and means that God shines “his” blessings on you. They want an end to government programs for the poor and to hand over the welfare of the masses to the “free” market.

The hypocrisy here is rather astounding. The corporate elite in the U.S. seemingly doesn’t sneeze without informing others in the corporate world. The last thing they want is competition. In fact, they are excessively collective in action and spirit–“village minded” you might say. They sit on each other’s boards and consistently support and assist each other. They want us underlings, however, to fight among ourselves and certainly not to cooperate as they do. This is the classic case of “divide and rule” and they’ve unfortunately been successful at this game.

Further, the so-called rugged individualism was never a reality in the United States. Going west always required a community of individuals working together in order for families and communities to survive effectively. “Individualism”, therefore, is myth in American lore from the American west, rather like the Southern elite’s efforts (known as the Lost Cause) after the Civil War to romanticize an aristocratic gentile South with smiling contented Black slaves in the cotton fields. It’s all a myth!

In some ways, what the corporate community has done in the United States serves as a substitute of the International Monetary Fund’s imposed structural adjustment programs. As the U.S., for example, is not taking out IMF loans, the corporate controlled IMF can’t require that the United States end its social programs as a structural adjustment prerequisite for loan acquisition as it has done throughout the so-called “developing” world. Instead, the corporate world seeks and accomplishes the same goals in the west through use of propagandizing these myths and through political control of Congress and the White House.

The above myths and lies in economics, religion and social concepts are the foundation of neoliberalism ideology that the U.S. and the world’s capitalists are attempting to impose everywhere in the world. It’s way past time for a vigorous, coordinated and collective anti-corporate propaganda attack of our own in America, but based on reality and not myths. Our ideology is to tell the truth. With crony capitalism running amuck in the United States, it’s clear we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

HEATHER GRAY is the producer of “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at


Heather Gray is a writer and radio producer in Atlanta, Georgia and has also lived in Canada, Australia, Singapore, briefly in the Philippines and has traveled in southern Africa. For 24 years she has worked in support of Black farmer issues and in cooperative economic development in the rural South. She holds degrees in anthropology and sociology. She can be reached at