Pawns in Their Game

You can demonize Bush and Cheney (rightfully) until hell freezes over–but it’s not going to change anything. Keith Olbermann does it almost every night on his MSNBC television show, but it doesn’t change anything. Trashing Bush and Cheney or Hillary or Obama might make a lot of people feel good, but it doesn’t change anything. They’re only pawns in the game.

The real power resides in the corporate oligarchy that runs this country. It has a strangle hold on America. The only point of an election in our two party-one party system is to determine which one carries out the agenda. If we do something about that, we might be able to change something.

David Korten, author of “When Corporations Rule the World”, points out that “the basic design of the private-benefit corporation was created in 1600 when the British crown chartered the British East India Company as what is best described as a legalized criminal syndicate to colonize the resources and economies of distant lands…” Today’s American corporations evolved from that.

When you see the feeding frenzy of US corporations in Iraq–Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater, and a host of others, you can understand what Korten is talking about.

The corporation is a separate legal entity having its own rights, privileges, and liabilities distinct from those of its members. The private-benefit corporation is just that–a corporation chartered for its own private benefit, but it has to provide some socially positive good. If the corporation, chartered by the state, fails to provide the function for which it is chartered, or misapplies the function, the charter can be revoked. The state giveth and the state can taketh away. But when was the last time you heard of a corporation’s charter being revoked?

Over the years, the Supreme Court has bestowed additional blessings on corporations. In effect, it has made them almost human, granting them some of the same rights as US citizens, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, for example. Corporations can express there opinions in public and in the media as you or I can. This gives them enormous power, simply because they have more mullah than you or I. They can buy up commercial television time and print media ads and faux news coverage, because they have the power and the money and besides, they own most of the mainstream media.

As Sarah Stodola says in The Brooklyn Rail, “The Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution in a manner that has allowed corporations to ascend to unprecedented levels of power. The phenomenon even has a name, and that name is corporate personhood.’ And corporate personhood, friends, is why corporations are able to buy elections.”

So what are we going to do to change all this?

Well, there are some things that can be done, short of revolution. We can start evaluating capitalism, for starters.

Elect a Congress that serves “We the People”, not “They, the corporations”. Easier said than done. How do you find candidates who are not beholden to corporations, special interests or any ethnic voting block?

I would hate to think we will have to wait for the looming economic collapse to do the job for us. We are living on borrowed time. When purchasing power of the US citizen reaches the end of its rope, the collapse will come. You can take that to the bank.

The Great Depression of the 1930s must have taught us something. When people lose everything they tend to wake up. They look around and see what’s been done to them and what they’ve done to themselves by not paying attention. From their Hoovervilles, the people, hit by the depression, saw Hoover and his rotten administration for what it was, and threw the bums out. They elected new, progressive leaders (FDR Democrats), who saved capitalism with safety nets and a “New Deal”.

Can we do something like that again; hopefully before the coming economic collapse? We’d better start trying now, and maybe ease the pain. Here are some things that need to be done.

Reverse Reaganomics.

Reinstitute regulation of industry. Make the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), for example, do their jobs, so that we don’t have US corporations off-shoring their manufacturing to another country, like China, for example, and then importing their product, like toys, for example, painted with lead, for our children to play with.


Soak the Rich

A phrase coined by FDR when he spoke about the “Economic Royalists” who brought this country to its knees. Instead of cutting taxes for the rich, as Bush has been doing, raise taxes for the rich and their corporate enterprises, as they did during the great depression when FDR laid a tax rate on them of over 90% in the upper brackets.


Marshal Plan on Energy.

Go cold turkey on our addiction to oil. Massive investment in the new technologies of alternative energy sources, wind, solar, geothermal. Halt the return to nuclear, and head off the development of biofuels that will put our food into your gas tanks. We can create new high-tech industries and high-paying jobs with a new energy world.


Single Payer Universal Health Care

End the merry-go-round on health care by political candidates. Get rid of the blood-sucking health insurance companies, once and for all. And make health care for our citizens a right and not a privilege. Any candidate for office will get elected on that platform.


Stop the Hemorrhaging in Afghanistan and Iraq

Four thousand dead American soldiers is four thousand too many. Two trillion dollars to destroy two countries is two trillion dollara that could have been used to rebuild the infrastructure of our country and have enough left to enhance the lives of our young and our old.

David Korten says, “Capitalism, which means quite literally rule by financial capital–by money and those who have it–in disregard of all non-financial values, has triumphed over democracy, markets, justice, life, and spirit. There are other ways to organize human societies to actualize the positive benefits of markets and private ownership. They require strong, active, democratically accountable governments to set and enforce rules that assure costs are internalized, equity is maintained, and market forces are channeled to the service of democracy, justice, life, and spirit.”

Yes, we can do all that, if we want to.

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, television writer-director-producer, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC, starting in 1953. In 1959, he participated in the formation of the renowned Murrow-Friendly “CBS Reports” series. In 1983, Fleischman won the prestigious Columbia University-DuPont Television Journalism Award. In 2004, he wrote his memoir. See:, E-mail:



STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See, e-mail