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Jaime B's Blog

Now Things Get Serious

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In my last post, I indulged myself in a little harmless fun; at least that's what I said. In truth, there was a subtext to my borrowing the Occupy Wall Street metaphor and dressing it up in the issues of perfumista frustration in our own love-hate relationship with the purveyors of our favorite stuff.

The best way to put this is perhaps to say that in many aspects of our life, so many of which are affected by commercial interests, we encounter more and more frustration in a sense of powerlessness and the feeling that our money is being taken, and our consent taken, while our expressed desires are being ignored. We go unheard, unlistened-to, through the exercise of our limited scope of choice; and more: at every turn, the result of our concerns being subsumed to those of corporate power and subordinated to the will of those with the economic resources to manipulate public dialogue is that our voice has been outbid, and our speech outpurchased.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few, and their consequent control of most public media, vitiates the concept of dialog. We are no longer subjects acting in our own voice and will, but increasingly we have allowed ourselves to become objects to be used for the profit and power of those who already have too much of those things.

The New York Stock Exchange lost three percent of its value today in one day over fears of further sovereign debt default, now not of Greece, a relatively small player in the eurozone, but of Italy, the third largest of Europe's euro-based economies. Spain, number four, may be next, and now even France must pay more interest to investors to float its debt.

I have listened to some people say that the Occupy Wall Street movement is out to destroy capitalism and the free-market economy, but I really doubt that OWS, and even all the forms of Occupy movements across the globe, have the power to do that. Only capital and free-trade markets have the power to accomplish their own demise, and since 2008 and the mortgage default speculation bubble that almost laid waste the American economy, the markets have been doing a pretty good job of destroying themselves.

What Occupy movements have done is to raise the public's consciousness of the extent of the damage to the economy and to democratic institutions. Though the mass media studiously tried to ignore them, they became widespread and vocal enough to defy de facto censorship. The spin-doctors in the mainstream press (controlled by advertiser dollars) repeat their mantra that Occupy has no clear demands.

Yet anyone who watches the protests sees that Occupy's message repeatedly testifies first to the fact that corporate money (at least in the U. S.) has bought up public speech and even has the power, lately given to it by the Supreme Court, to buy elections now through unlimited campaign contributions. The clear prescription: Get corporate money out of politics.

Secondly, Occupy has pointed up how the deregulation of the banking sector has led to risky gambling on derivatives that exposes not only speculators, but the whole banking system to huge losses. These losses have been indemnified with taxpayer money and bailouts, in spite of the classical free-market dictum that investors are unsecured creditors, and are responsible for writing off their own losses. This is anything but classical capitalism. The speculation on credit defaults and other risky derivatives is bringing down not only investors and debtors. The creditors themselves are the big losers, through giving out bad loans, even apparently in the full knowledge that they would not be able to be repaid, whether by subprime mortgage borrowers or (now) by sovereign states.

All these loans, which should have gone toward creating new wealth, instead erased billions in investor savings and depleted the credit markets. By breaking down the barriers between commercial banks and investment banks, deregulation created a conflict of interest within the banking system, setting it at odds with itself. The solution: Re-regulate the banking sector, and tax speculative transactions to discourage risky speculation and to give governments themselves a hedge fund against the damages speculation can leave behind.

New revelations come to us steadily now. For me, one of the biggest is about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization that links state legislators in the U. S. with the big corporations that run the economy and fund their election campaigns. In this organization, the corporate side helps legislators develop “model legislation” that enshrines and enhances the interests of big business. There are various committees that want to change laws in areas from labor rights to health care, to privatization of schools and prisons, and so on down the line. Have a look for yourself by clicking here. Hundreds of state and local officials are on their list of members, along with every big corporation you can imagine.

In short, my little metaphor of “Occupy Perfume Counters” was a way to get two topics out there in the microcosm of the perfume fancy: first, big business's stifling of the public's voice; and second, its co-opting of the public interest. I hoped thus to open a wider dialog about all our lives as pawns in the hands of powerful commercial (and social) interests. Is the system working, or is it broken? And if it is broken, how does it disempower its own clients? And if it does truly disempower us, how can it be fixed?

Updated 19th July 2017 at 04:52 AM by JaimeB

The Fragrance Industry , Personal Reflections


  1. ECaruthers's Avatar
    I would add one more aspect of corporate influence on our legislatures. In many ways they have legalized fraud. Try to read the 'agreement' that comes with a credit card, or the disclosures that come when you buy a stock or bond. They enable enormous differences between what you are told and what happens. Bernie Madoff goes to jail but no one from the bond rating agencies, or from the companies that created and sold AAA-rated toxic assets. They all obeyed what is now the law.
  2. laroche's Avatar
    Bonjour Jaime,
    Interesting and enjoyable read. I immediately thought of "Youtube" as an example of the increasingly evident control that commercial interests are having in our lives. Once only a forum for individuals, it would now be more appropriately named "Corporatetube" as you now can't open a video without an advertisement of some sort popping up.
    You asked how it can be fixed. Unrelated to my youtube analogy, but related to being subject to corporate marketing, I've made a serious effort in purchasing locally made clothing and food (from Canada's west coast). For example, I could have bought a pair of mass-produced, house slippers at Wal-Mart, but I decided to hold off. I eventually found a beautiful pair made by a lovely family in North Vancouver, with techniques handed down to them by the First Nations peoples of the Northwest Territories. It feels great to have supported them.
    Perhaps something can be gleamed from my example.
    A tout a l'heure mon ami!
    Updated 10th November 2011 at 09:37 PM by laroche
  3. Saintpaulia's Avatar
    Thanks for the info on ALEC. So that's where all those fascist laws get hatched! I always wondered who in the hell was able to come up with bills that were amazingly homogenous in their ability to continue to strip away all the rights granted to The People under the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    I absolutely agree with you in general, regarding the overall 'serfdomizing' of The People at the hands of Corporatism. I do not agree that the solution is more governmental regulation. Government is the problem (it and its mirror image the corporations). The problem has its origins far earlier than any recent "deregulations". What the OWS does not seem to see (although there are exceptions), is that the things that they do not like stem from actions taken about 100 years ago when two items were introduced into American polity. The Progressive (and unconstitutional) Income Tax and the Federal Reserve System's Central Bank (also unconstitutional).

    The derivatives and so forth are a natural outgrowth, in one sense, of the whole Ponzi Scheme known as fractional reserve banking. Henry Ford was dead-on right when he mused: If the American People really understood our economic system, I believe there would be a revolution tomorrow morning.

    The problem is not Wall Street and it isn't in New York City either. The problem is in D.C. (District of Criminals).
  4. JaimeB's Avatar
    @ Saintpaulia:

    For my part, I too agree with you that much of the problem is in Washington. The problem is that legislators depend on special interests to fund expensive election campaigns, and then become captive to those interests to one degree or another. Now those interests have become so powerful that it is no longer a question of asking legislators for what they want, but rather of imposing it on them and their (also captive) constituents.

    As for your other points about the 16th Amendment (the Income Tax) and the Federal Reserve, I can say two things: first, the U. S. is far from the only large industrial country to have these things, and it is not practical to turn back the clock a hundred years; secondly, I do not think that these ideas were bad, as long as they functioned the way they were designed — it is the tinkering with them to benefit corporations and the rich that have thwarted them to some degree from their original, socially productive purpose; but they can and should be restored to that original purpose. As to arguments about their constitutionality, everything I have been able to read about these indicates that the arguments on historical and legal grounds are hard to take seriously.

    - - - - - - - - -

    I see the beginnings of our crisis in the anti-tax movements and the pro-corporate policies of people like Karl Rove and his tutees Ronald Reagan and the Bushes, as well as their British admirer, Margaret Thatcher. Their notion is to “starve the beast” (i. e., in their estimation, the government) so that it can no longer protect the sovereignty of the people against the power of large economic interests.

    These policies have inaugurated a new era of the Robber Barons and re-monopolization, negating all the laws that restrained them.

    The rich and the large corporate interests, who love to fly the flag and talk of patriotism, are not patriotic enough, it seems, to pay taxes like the rest of us. On top of that, the only purpose they see in government is to provide security for their interests.

    They are very patriotic when it comes to sending other people's children to die in wars that protect the economic interests of the power elites, but not patriotic enough to pay for those wars through making their fair share of tax contributions, even in many cases to the extent of returning a portion of their own war profits.

    Their interest in security has given us a new (and very expensive) branch of the Federal government which has been set up on the basis of maintaining a constant state of fear and threat among the citizenry. With all kinds of statutory exemptions from due process rules, it has brought us closer to becoming a police state, which in combination with the weakening of electoral democracy, is producing an air of repression all around us. What else are we to think when right here in my backyard of Northern California, we see police in riot gear with Pentagon-supplied automatic weapons deployed to deal with peaceful demonstrations?

    U Cal, for example, was first set up in 1868 as a system to provide free higher education for California citizens with their tax money; yet now it seeks to charge $22,000 a year per full-time student. Those students gather to protest, and are beaten by police called from several different agencies, not for rioting, but merely for disobeying an order to disperse. Talk about pre-emptive strikes! Those cops are working on our tax-payer dime, and we should order them to disperse. Clouds of tear-gas waft across our democratic nation, with its glorious free speech and freedom of assembly, as laws are passed which give police and public officials a pretext to cancel those rights because keeping a park closed at night is more important to them than allowing citizens the only means they apparently have left to fight against injustice.

    Now what?
    Updated 12th November 2011 at 10:13 PM by JaimeB


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