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Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Vulture Capitalist for a Vulture Culture

A Vulture Capitalist for a Vulture Culture


By (about the author)     Permalink

Vulture culture by http://timkla.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/how-to-avoid-a-vulture-culture"and-create-a-culture-of-construction/

Delusional Romney belief systems -- whether more trickle-down folly, indefensible tax cuts, or "God's on our side" exceptionalism -- serve as cover for an ever nastier, reactionary vulture culture. Under-regulated vulture capitalism preys on government regulation and legislation, environmental wellbeing (decimating forests, ocean life, coastal waters, and strip mining sites), low-wage workers here or overseas -- plus badgering phantom "socialists" who challenge spoiled-brat banksters, Koch Bros., or the Rove brigade. That overfed horde sustains the extremist GOP vulture culture, at war with women, fair taxation, democratic elections that count minorities, gay rights, basic science, and healthy food -- in a word, rationality.

In these terms, Romney's braggadocio about his Bain pillaging speaks to the prevalent bullying that informs the Bush-Obama era. The "unseen drone" is more than a missile but a metaphor for widespread predation, decimating innocent civilians along with shadowy combatants. Big business has betrayed any high-sounding boast as "agent of progress" -- when innovative, new products served the entire community -- instead, favoring old-time regression that freely exploits people, places and resources.

By calculation -- with obfuscation and influence peddling -- the most powerful corporate chiefs are by default our national "resource planners." Today's Citizens United leverage assures reactionary vetoes against even deliberation of systemic advances. All politicians sell change, but hote neither Obama, nor Romney offer serious plans for jobs, energy, transportation, education, and tragically not climate change. Gridlock and cultural-symbolic clashes serve the status quo, along with both national tickets.

And yet contradictions surface: a majority may still endorse fuzzy Yankee exceptionalism yet realizes that chronic ineptitude (or worse) marks top leaders as rather unexceptional failures. 77% surveyed by the Harvard Center for Public Leadership (CPL) agree "the country now has a crisis in leadership," with confidence at the lowest recorded levels. Nevertheless, in defiance of logic, that same number fantasizes our biggest problems only need "effective leadership," as if entrenched systems don't rule the roost.

So let's ask: does Romney, riding a snippet of debate chicanery, really offer "effective leadership" to befuddled undecideds, per his surge? Is this gelatinous gasbag, stamped by his own party a "vulture capitalist," an adult answer to an ongoing leadership crisis? And does this crisis not extend well beyond business to other realms, namely pedophile-shielding church hierarchies, silenced religious figures, sports executives, or media frauds, among others?  

Exquisitely Anti-majority
So, with disregard for campaign logic, let alone majority interests, Romney-Ryan defiantly pitch lower taxes for corporation and billionaires, less regulation (on top of already shredded rules), far less reliable health care coverage, less funding for infrastructure, education and unwanted pregnancies, plus more surges of Bush-Cheney military belligerence? What gives -- and how can this jaw-dropping agenda, were it fully exposed, capture that undecided sliver of voters?  
What's astonishes me is how dramatically Romney's pro-business creed is blind to our decade-long parade of corporate meltdowns, from BP and mining disasters to the ongoing Japanese nuclear disaster. Does the vast majority view big energy, big pharma, or big ag and big mining interests, let alone nefarious Wall Street bankers, as "effective," fair-minded or law-abiding partners managing to a better tomorrow?  

Bad CEOs have made power a dirty word, and the CPL survey above identifies the least trusted group in America, below even abysmal Congress: the noxious conglomerate called "Wall Street." And this week the beat goes on, "Wells Fargo sued by feds for reckless lending practices."  

The CEO as Menace

Look at the body blows delivered since 2000 to the prestige of the overpaid CEO establishment. Set aside jailed schemers, like Madoff or Abramoff, even doltish has-beens like GE's Jack Walsh spouting this week's craziest conspiracy. Count the unindicted CEOs, like Tony Hayward of BP, or the mining bosses getting only wrist slaps, despite negligence that killed dozens. Or the mind-boggling Rupert Murdoch News Corp. saga, where stupidity, unrestrained gall, and lawbreaking spanned years and continents.  

Yet the most conspicuous blows are the media mug shots of craven Wall Street banksters who facilitated the Great Recession and destroyed middle-class assets by the trillions. The full publicity awarded this CEO gang explain their depleted standing and make their names commonplace: Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimond, John Thain and Vikram Pandit, plus enablers like Tim Geithner. Do you believe Blankfein once defended his "virtuous cycle" of investment cronyism as "God's work"?

Not only are many scurrilous CEOs still in power, outrage continues over astronomic executive salaries: what once averaged 50 times the typical worker can now exceed 500 times that base. Though American labor gets outsourced as "too expensive," limitless funds protect fantastic compensation packages, especially when top dogs mimic Mitt's vulture talents -- shredding jobs, pensions, and companies.

Banksters survived by bawling, "we're too big to fail," but there was no public illusion about gross negligence, if not criminality, thus inciting both Occupy and Tea Party alike. What undermines this vulture culture are huge Wall Street bonuses given free market hypocrites who socialized losses while privatizing profits.

Moguls Worse as Politicians
The other, final truth that shadows Romney's wobbly bid is that autocratic bosses make lousy elected officials, out of sync with the messy work of governing, public policy, stakeholders, and what House zealots malign as "compromise." There are crystal clear reasons no top executive since Herbert Hoover has gained the presidency (W.'s baseball dilettantism aside). Tycoons either lose at the polls (George Romney, Steve Forbes or Ross Perot) or dive bomb after election (item: Florida's disgraced governor was once a disgraced health care CEO).

Of course, Romney was never a genuine CEO, neither creating, nor managing long-term, value-added products that benefited workers, community and customers. Imagine the potential damage were this bullying technocrat, estranged from common folk who depend on government, to boss a roughshod White House. As one awful CEO can destroy an established, highly regarded concern years in the making, consider how Romney, after Bush, would further cripple the power and efficacy of federalism for decades.

More Reactionary Than W.
Further, President Romney is already more beholden to reactionary billionaires than Bush in office. Plus, why wouldn't an "unzipped" Romney practice what he knows best, vulture capitalism, to show off his ruthless "ruling prowess"? Expect anti-Robin Hood ideologues set to prey on the 47%, with workers already depicted as the enemy, and refuse millions desperate for job training, education, and basic life assistance.

Congenitally-compromised rightwingers refuse to understand that the needy, ill-educated from families shattered by stress can't pull themselves (or the country) up by their bootstraps. Overcoming the Great Recession takes genuine opportunity -- with aspiration, education, and a few bucks, whether small-business or family loans -- and that mandates a community willing to help neighbors through hard times. Alas, that New Deal mindset, were Romney elected, would remain the arch-enemy of his entrenched vulture culture.
Educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English) Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. From '92-02 he did marketing (more...)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

America: A Corporate Police State?

September 26, 2012 at 11:33:14

America: A Corporate Police State?

Joseph Lyons quotes from Chaiken, 1985, (p.8) "The shift of police service delivery to the private sector is taking place in basically four ways: 1) default; 2) accommodation and cooperation; 3) enabling legislation; and 4) by contract" (Chaiken, 1987, p. 8). Default transfers occur when the government does not meet a pressing need for law enforcement services, leaving private companies to fill the vacuum. For example, affluent neighborhoods which experience a rash of crime often feel they have to provide more protection than thepolice can provide. They then contract with a private security for armed security patrol. 

An example of this was in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. After several drive by shootings and an armed robbery, the neighbors organized to contract with Westec Security for $85 a month per resident for an armed guard patrol 24 hours a day. 

Accommodation and cooperation occurs when the police informally rely on private security personnel to perform tasks they prefer not to do; in return, the public police provides needed services such as responding expeditiously to calls for assistance from the private security personnel. For example, private security companies are providing security and shelters for the homeless in New York City. A provision of this unpleasant service allows officers to spend their time in police functions, and when fights or other incidents occur at the shelter, they respond expeditiously to those calls (Chaiken, 1987). 

Sounds benign enough. But there is more. And, these were the old trends from the 1980's. We, the public, have been like frogs in a pan of water where the fire is slowly increased to the point that we don't realize we are being boiled alive. These old trends were just the beginning of what is now being revealed as a nightmare that may ultimately be exposed as a corporate police state that is now in the making and becoming more powerful. Perhaps we frogs can awaken to the nightmare awaiting us? Or is it already too late? 

The way this frog effect was orchestrated by the corporations was and is beautiful! The general population was easily manipulated into allowing for corporate policing due to reported inefficiencies of the existing public police departments brought on by budgetary cuts that enabled legislation passed in several states that allows specific types of private security personnel limited police powers. For example, in some cases, campus police at private colleges and universities and retail security personnel not only have arrest powers in case of theft from their employers, but they can also book an alleged offender and testify in court as the arresting officer (Chaiken, 1987). Sounds benign enough. Private companies helping overworked and understaffed police? 

Contracts between government agencies and private security companies for a specific task have become so commonplace that they are beginning to blur traditional distinctions between private and public providers. Public police agencies are, in some areas, entering into contracts to provide special or additional police services to private organizations or neighborhoods on a fee basis (Chaiken, 1987). 

What has this led to? Gary Johnson, Presidential Candidate through Liberatarian Party states it beautifully with his prediction that "we will find ourselves with a heightened police state and our military intervention is not going to cease...Shoot first, ask questions later."

Could he be on target with this statement? Could the privatized police force be an instrumental piece to taking away of citizens rights for the sake of corporate domination? Our government has already been taken over by the corporate industrial elites. Isn't the privitization of the police just another movement in this holographic trend of privitizing everything, including schools, medical care and, closer to the issue, prisons (see http://www.apfn.org/apfn/private-prisons.htm). 

In this same vein, policing some of the most dangerous US cities has quickly become the newest line of business for many private companies, which have already replaced police officers in cities from Portland Oregon to Baltimore Maryland.

This phenomenon now runs deeper than the normal shopping center or bank security guard. While in many cases private security personnel act more as city cleanup, organization or local ambassadors, we now find ourselves pushing for armed private security personnel to patrol the streets, perform arrests and transport civilians. This is a cause for concern, especially because of the more controversial issues surrounding the role of private military and security companies abroad in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, e.g., Halliburtin. (http://costanzo.org/Rex/Commentary/cheney_halliburton_circle.htm). 

Cities have been turning to the private sector for a variety of reasons. Some local and state governments are under pressure from budget deficits and are often convinced that privatized industries are more cost-effective than state agencies and bureaucracies. Furthermore, cities often have an overstretched force that cannot respond to increases in crime, so private contractors are seen as a quick fix and an easy force multiplier. 

But the question we must pose is this: Is it ok that we have private companies, in many cases giant corporations, running our lives in just about all arenas: edcuation, law enforement, the food we eat, and our medical care? The movie Corporation did a wonderful job of linking the behavior of corporations to the DSM-IV diagnosis of sociopathic personality disorder. (see trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa3wyaEe9vE). Is this what you want running the schools that are educating your children? Do you want these people policing your neighborhood? Do you want them in all arenas of your life, what you eat, the clothes you wear, what you do in bed? They already dictate your medical care, your work environment, and the economy. They have judges and politicians in their back pockets, and they have your kids under their thumb in the school and in the violent games being played to entice them into the warrior mode. Is this what we want? We are allowing sociopaths to wrap their gruesome hands around the throats of our kids! Meanwhile we work hours on end and worry about paying the bills racked up by the corporations to keep us slaves. 

How do we become independent of this Monster? It isn't a pile of independently operating monsters. It is one Monster composed, as all of us are, of several billion cells. Yet, as we are billions of cells opearting as one person, then so is the Monster. Begin by starving the monster. Buy your food from local businesses, not from grocery chains. Grow your own. Empower yourself in community. 
Begin a movement towards community based schools and get the corporations out of your kids' lives. You be on the board of that school and you take charge of the upbringing of your child. Empower yourself, empower your community. The future generations call out to you. Be creative. The movement must be diverse, not standardized. Make it so diffuse that it can never be killed. 

If you want to chime into the conversation on this issue, join my wife and I at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/envision-this/2012/09/27/vision-for-the-present-of-envision-this-radio where we will be discussing issues near and dear to us while envisioning the future direction of the radio show.

Chaiken, M., & Chaiken, J. (1987). Public Policing - Privately Provided.
(National Institute of Justice Contract No. J-LEAA-011-81) Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice.
Lyons Joseph: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/getdoc/cbe81692-8662-46ed-a59b-b3861986f301/Lyons.aspx
http://www.mexidata.info/id2279.html ubove, S. (1995, September 25). High Tech Cops. Forbes, 156, 44.
Jody Ray Bennett- Author Jody Ray Bennett is an independent writer and author, independent journalist, designer, musician and globetrotter

Burl is an avid writer and publishes to OpEd News while also blogging regularly on http://anewgaia.ning.com. Burl's primary passion is in the unity of world religions to science and the holographic nature of the universe in which the part mirrors (more...)

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Monday, August 6, 2012

People as Surplus/Unnecessary Humans

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People as Surplus/Unnecessary Humans

Dealing with superfluous populations has been a vexation shared by all industrial capitalist societies for generations.  In other words, the problem for modern rulers and leaders is what to do with societal segments that contribute little to wealth creation by production or consumption.  Columbia Professor Emeritus of Sociology Herbert Gans referred to the modern U.S. constituents of these segments as “surplus workers” that eventually become superfluous via indefinite unemployment.1  The “surplus pool” increases in size with the failure by job creators to do what they claim to do.  The concept, however, generalizes to any society or state in which the exploitation of land and/or resources is being obstructed by the presence of unnecessary humans.

Throughout history, ruling classes employed a variety of strategies to shrink the surplus pool.  In 1788 the British Empire began exporting some of its surplus to Australia in order to establish a new penal colony.  The endeavor was delayed by the presence of the indigenous society that needed to be dealt with: one surplus displacing another.  Similarly, they and other European empires exported feudal leftovers to the Americas and subsequently established colonies after exterminating the native civilizations we learn about in elementary school.

Other alleviating mechanisms include war enlistment, extreme poverty resulting in death, or illness resulting in death.  All three effectively reduce the burden of superfluous populations.  Moral traits and altruistic inclinations, however, get in the way sometimes and history does reveal welfare implementations for the indigent, orphaned, and widowed that were often inspired by Abrahamic doctrines.

Enlightenment-era renegotiations of the social contract and the upsurge of global wealth during the rise of industrial capitalism gradually reinforced the notions of not only expecting but demanding the fulfillment of welfare commitments by state governments particularly in Europe.  The United States, however, was never as anchored to social obligations as mainland Europe given its comparatively blank socio-political history.  This contributed to the country’s delayed abolishment of slavery and recognition of worker organization.

The chattel-based planter economy of the early Union along with concurrent industrialization in its northern territories created difficult conditions for poor white farmers.  To avoid drowning in economic hardship, the only option was to take part in the drive toward western expansion that was eventually encapsulated in the philosophy of Manifest Destiny.  In order for the blossoming nation to move forward with continental ownership, the truly unnecessary Native Americans had to undergo displacement or simple erasure.

20th century dynamics, labor-capital dynamics limited the ways in which the United States could deal with its superfluous elements.  The Great Depression highlighted the inability to exterminate, export, resettle, or enslave the unemployed.  It was during subsequent administrations over several decades that the formalized welfare provisions were enacted which are readily recalled as the New Deal, Social Security, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Medicare, and Medicaid.  And, of course, consecutive military engagements were able to partially absorb displacement shocks.

These welfare distributions became increasingly important as neo-liberalism and financial enterprises began to dominate U.S. policy beginning with the collapse of the Bretton-Woods system in 1973 which allowed multinational corporations to benefit from an unprecedented degree of capital mobility.2 Naturally, domestic labor being restricted by land boundaries and socio-cultural beacons was thus unable to sync with overseas investment by U.S. firms.  This ultimately contributed to increasing unemployment, downward pressure on wages, poverty, and further dependence on welfare programs.  Indeed, Nobel laureate and economist at Columbia University Joseph Stiglitz warned that unaddressed inequality in America, already the worst among industrialized societies, is fostering a resemblance to two-tiered societies of the Third World.3

Peter Edelman at Georgetown University Law Center has revealed a great deal about current poverty in the U.S.4,5 His research demonstrated that as of 2010, 103 million Americans had incomes below twice the poverty line; i.e., below $36,000 per year for a family of three.  20 million Americans live in deep poverty which includes incomes below half the poverty line; i.e., below $9000 per year for a family of three.  These are people that depend on health care assistance such as Medicaid, nutritional assistance like food stamps and tax credits.  Research done by the Heritage Foundation estimated that federal welfare spending approached $700 billion in 2010 alone.6

The growing surplus pool has been a constant irritation to policy makers and business planners seeking to tap into the welfare cash flow.  The vast portion of that money that is not filtered through private institutions (e.g., public funded private health coverage) is largely wasted on unnecessary humans.  The most prominent effort to correct this blunder is the endeavor to privatize Social Security which happens to be a quite functional, efficient, and well-funded system as Nobel laureate Stiglitz confirmed.7 However, the current implementation sustains beneficiaries without generating very much profit.  Allowing them to simply pass would free up potential sources of capital.  Another possibility would be for them to take out loans which perhaps can be repaid by their children.

These latter two options, however, would be difficult to implement given their friction with values of sympathy and compassion that reside in the ethos of the general public. That is to say, the moral foundation that sustains welfare spending the U.S. threatens the viability of such measures.  In the face of this type of opposition, legislators and executives have resorted to the employment of subversive rhetoric appealing to irrational elements of the human psyche in order to justify institutional oppression of superfluous segments.  This includes the exploitation of latent nativism, racism, jingoist nationalism, and religious adherence to the obscure and, in fact, unknowable motives of the “founding fathers.”

The clearest example is undoubtedly the United States penchant for incarceration that disproportionately targets racial minorities as Michelle Alexander’s recent book The New Jim Crow explains in great detail.8,9 The War on Drugs that was escalated by President Nixon in the 1970s was continued by Presidents Reagan and Clinton with some pretty ugly consequences.  The strategy was to impose over-the-top punishments for minor drug offenses overwhelmingly committed by the poor while at the same time demonizing blacks as welfare queens and gangsters.  The effect is the underhanded shift of superfluous elements into prison camps where they can perform something comparable to slave labor and simultaneously evade poverty statistics.10 And,of course, for efficiency purposes, a portion of the public spending on incarceration is handed to correctional corporations that profit from America’s toughness on crime.11

The state-initiated demonization of population segments not in accord with neo-liberal reforms is not unique to the United States.  The Indian government has repeatedly labeled a vast sector of its own population as terrorists in order to justify the use of paramilitary forces to destroy associated rural societies that obstruct economic initiatives.  The reactionary group, known as the Maoists, has employed violent tactics in an effort to oppose the corporate and government infiltration of the farmers’ lands.12 For these people, there is no New World or Manifest Destiny to absorb them.  The only options aside from succumbing to state violence are to pick up and move into urban slums to find work or to simply commit suicide.  Incidentally, the latter option has become a full-blown crisis with a quarter-million farmer suicides since 1995.13

However, overt violence like that in India would be intolerable in the United States.  Still, there are other tactics aside from incarceration that severely undermine surplus citizens struggling to keep up with the new global economy.  Take, for example, the Affordable Care Act which is President Obama’s flagship legislation.  Its purpose is to deal with the current health care crisis that has left over 50 million without health insurance: 17% of the population.  Furthermore, recent estimates link 26,000+ deaths of working-age adults annually to lack of medical insurance.14 To be honest, Obamacare is quite far from solving the actual problem and is a step in the wrong direction.  The fact remains, however, that it would expand the insurance umbrella over millions previously uninsured.  Though that insurance may still bankrupt them, it would at least allow them to see a doctor when they’re sick.

The opposition to the health reform has been expectedly silly. Conservatives claim that it’s too expensive a burden for a debt-ridden economy.  The latest CBO projections, however, show that Obamacare is likely to reduce the federal deficit by $109 billion over ten years: a modest amount, but a reduction nonetheless.15  Falseness makes a weak argument, so Governor Rick Perry of Texas resorted to evangelical constitutionalism when declaring combat on the new law recently by rejecting federal funding to expand Medicaid.  He patriotically refused to “socialize” medicine in the great state of Texas out of respect for the kind of freedom envisioned by the Founding Fathers.16 Unfortunately, Texas happens to be the state with the most egregious coverage gap in the country: 25% uninsured while home to some of nation’s best hospitals.  Governor Perry’s refusal to address the problem reflects outright contempt for his state’s unnecessary humans.

So at this juncture we ought to ask ourselves, how far has civilization come in the treatment of underclass constituents?  Governor Perry is a small example, but his outlook readily generalizes.  He can’t exterminate or export them, but ignoring them seems to work.  Though the implications for democracy are frightening, sometimes it’s difficult not to laugh at the irony present in religious devotion to founding principles.  To be sure, the poor and/or unemployed are, in a commercial sense, valueless.  They effect no labor and they can’t afford to buy any products.  The only thing that makes these people necessary is their capacity to cast votes, but only in a functioning democracy.  Do we have one?  If we could deposit our superfluous population in prison, in war, or underground, would we have one then?
  1. Herbert J. Gans, “The Age of the Superfluous Worker”, New York Times, November 24, 2011 []
  2. David M. Kotz, “The Financial and Economic Crisis of 2008:  A Systemic Crisis of Neoliberal Capitalism”, December 2008 []
  3. The “American Dream” Is a Myth: Joseph Stiglitz on “The Price of Inequality“ []
  4. So Rich, So Poor“: Peter Edelman on Ending U.S. Poverty & Why He Left Clinton Admin over Welfare Law []
  5. Peter Edelman,  America Has a Class Problem, Huffington Post, July 16, 2012 []
  6. Peter Ferrara, America’s Ever Expanding Welfare Empire, Forbes, April 22, 2011 []
  7. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Exclusive – Joseph Stiglitz Extended Interview Pt. 1, July 25, 2012 []
  8. Sasha Abramsky, Toxic Persons, Slate, October 8, 2010 []
  9. Sara Flounders, “The Pentagon and Slave Labor in U.S. Prisons“, Global Research, June 23, 2011 []
  10. Jennifer Schuessler, “Drug Policy as Race Policy:  Best Seller Galvanizes the Debate“, New York Times, March 6, 2012 []
  11. Zaid Jilani, U.S. Private Prison Population Grew 37 Percent Between 2002-2009 As Industry Lobbying Dollars Grew 165 Percent,  September 26, 2010 []
  12. Mark Tully,  Rural poverty and India’s Maoist revolt, BBC, November 12, 2009 []
  13. P. Sainath, “Farm suicides rise in Maharashtra, State still leads the list“, The Hindu,   July 3, 2012 []
  14. David Morgan, “Over 26,000 annual deaths for uninsured: report“, Reuters, June 20, 2012 []
  15. Brian Montopoli,  “CBO:  Health Care repeal would cost $109 billion“, CBS News, July 24, 2012 []
  16. Luke Johnson, “Rick Perry Won’t Implement Obamacare“, July 9, 2012 []
Ravi Katari (a University of Virginia graduate in Biomedical Engineering) works for a health law firm that specializes in Medicaid reimbursement cases on behalf of hospitals. He can be reached at: ravik008@gmail.com. Read other articles by Ravi.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Is Banking a Criminal Industry? Because Its Crimes Go Unpunished


The lack of criminal prosecutions, along with deregulation, has turned the financial services industry into cesspool of fraud.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Consider just this month's news in financial services.

First, Barclay's has been manipulating the Libor, the main interest rate upon which most other interest rates and financial transactions are based, since 2005. Moreover, Barclay's traders were colluding with traders in many other banks to assist them in manipulating the Libor too, so that they could all profit from their bets on it.

Second, JP Morgan Chase is having a really great month. Recent reports describe how it is resisting Federal subpoenas related to price-fixing in U.S. electricity markets. It is also accused (by former employees among others) of deliberately inflating the performance of its investment funds to obtain business. And finally, JP Morgan's failed "London whale" trade, which has now cost over $5 billion, is being investigated to determine whether the loss was initially concealed from regulators and the public.

Third, HSBC is paying a fine because it allowed hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of dollars of money laundering by rogue states and sanctioned firms, including some related to terrorist activities and Iran's nuclear efforts. But HSBC is only one of at least 12 banks now known to have tolerated, and in some cases aggressively courted, money laundering by rogue states, terrorist organizations, corrupt dictators, and major drug cartels over the last decade. Others include Barclay's, Lloyds, Credit Suisse, and Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo). Several of the banks created special handbooks on how to evade surveillance, created special business units to handle money laundering, and actively suppressed whistleblowers who warned of drug cartel activities.

Fourth, a new private lawsuit cites documents indicating that Morgan Stanley successfully pressured rating agencies into inflating the ratings of mortgage-backed securities it issued during the housing bubble.

Fifth, Visa and Mastercard have just agreed to pay $7 billion to settle a private antitrust case filed by thousands of merchants, who alleged that Visa and Mastercard colluded to fix fees and terms of service.

Just another month in financial services. Is it unusual? No, it's not. If we go back just a little further, we have UBS, HSBC, Julius Baer, and other banks actively marketing tax evasion services to wealthy U.S. and European citizens. We have senior executives of several banks (including JP Morgan Chase and UBS) strongly suspecting that Bernard Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme, but deciding to make money from him rather than turn him in. And then, of course, we have the financial crisis and everything that led to it. As I show in great detail in my book Predator Nation, we now possess overwhelming evidence of massive securities fraud, accounting fraud, perjury, and criminal Sarbanes-Oxley violations by mortgage lenders, investment banks, and credit insurers (including senior executives of Countrywide, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, AIG, and Lehman Brothers) during the housing bubble that caused the financial crisis. If we go back to the late 1990s, we have the massively fraudulent hyping of Internet stocks, and several banks (including Merrill Lynch and Citigroup) actively aiding Enron in committing its frauds.

So, July 2012 really isn't abnormal at all. The reason for this is very simple. Over the past two decades, the financial services industry has become a pervasively unethical and highly criminal industry, with massive fraud tolerated or even encouraged by senior management. But how did that happen?

Well, deregulation helped, of course. But something else was far more important. It is the one critical factor that unites all of the episodes cited above, including those of this month. This critical unifying factor is the total number of criminal prosecutions of major firms and senior executives as a result of all of these crimes combined.

And what is that number?


Literally zero. A number that neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney shows the slightest interest in changing.

Consider the Obama administration's choices for the four most important positions in financial sector law enforcement. The attorney general (Eric Holder) and the head of the Justice Department's criminal division (Lanny Breuer) both come to us from Covington & Burling, a law firm that represents and lobbies for most of the major banks and their industry associations; indeed Breuer was co-head of its white collar criminal defense practice, and represented the Moody's rating agency in the Enron case. Mary Schapiro, the head of the SEC, spent the housing bubble in charge of FINRA, the investment banking industry's "self-regulator," which gave her a $9 million severance for a job well done. And her head of enforcement, perhaps most stunningly of all, is Robert Khuzami, who was general counsel for Deutsche Bank's North American business during the entire bubble. So zero prosecutions isn't much of a surprise, really.

In contrast, what do you think would happen to you if, as a lone individual, you were caught supporting Iran's nuclear program? Do you think that you would get off with a "deferred prosecution agreement" and a fine equal to a few percent of your annual salary? No?

But that's because you don't live right. You probably haven't been to the White House a dozen times since President Obama took office, or attended White House state dinners, like Lloyd Blankfein has. Nor have you probably overseen millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign donations, or hired senior administration officials, or sent your executives into the government in senior regulatory positions, or paid $135,000 for a speech by someone who later became chairman of the National Economic Council. And, well, you get the law enforcement that you pay for.

Charles Ferguson is director of the Wall Street documentary 'Inside Job' and author of 'Predator Nation'

Monday, July 16, 2012

The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union



Free-market capitalism was supposed to save us from the tyranny of faceless apparatchiks. But that's not what happened.

Photo Credit: Viajar24h.com

The great power struggle of the 20th century was the competition between Soviet-style communism and "free-market" corporatism for domination of the world's resources. In America, it's taken for granted that Soviet communism lost (though China's more capitalist variant seems to be doing well), and the superiority of neo-liberal economics -- as epitomized by the great multinational corporations -- was thus affirmed for all time and eternity.

There's a small problem with this, though. An old bit of wisdom says: choose your enemies carefully, because over time, you will tend to become the very thing you most strongly resist. One of the most striking things about our victorious corporations now is the degree to which they've taken on some of the most noxious and Kafkaesque attributes of the Soviet system -- too often leaving their employees, customers, and other stakeholders just as powerless over their own fates as the unhappy citizens of those old centrally planned economies of the USSR were back in the day.

It's not just that the corporations have taken control over our government (though that's awful enough). It's also that they've taken control over -- and put serious limits on -- our choices regarding what we buy, where we work, how we live, and what rights we have. Our futures are increasingly no longer our own: more and more decisions, large and small, that determine the quality of our lives are being made by Politburo apparatchiks at a Supreme Corporate Soviet somewhere far distant from us. Only now, those apparatchiks are PR and marketing executives, titans of corporate finance, lobbyists for multinationals, and bean-counting managers trying to increase profits at the expense of our freedom.

With tongue only somewhat in cheek, here are a few ways in which Americans are now becoming a new lumpenproletariat, subject to the whims and diktats of our new Soviet-style corporate overlords.

Reduced Choice and Big-Box Censorship

We see it most evidently when we go to the store. Back in the 1970s, the American retail landscape was still mostly dominated by mom-and-pop stores, which in turn carried merchandise also made by small manufacturers (many of them right here in the US). Not only did this complex economy sustain tens of millions of comfortable middle-class jobs; it also produced a dazzling variety of retail choices. Every store on Main Street carried somewhat different merchandise, bought from a different group of preferred suppliers. A shoe store might carry 20 different brands. The shoe store down the street might differentiate itself by carrying 10 of the same brands, and 10 different ones. The result was a very wide range of consumer choices -- though you did have to go from store to store to find it -- and a rich variety of stores that competed aggressively for their customers' attention. And if you visited a different part of the country, the selection might be very different from what you'd get back home.

Now, every Macy's in America carries the same dozen or so lines of bland, middle-of-the-road women's clothing. You'll find exactly the same stuff on the racks in Long Island as you do in Long Beach. If you're looking for something that hasn't been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, you probably won't find it at the mall.

Big-box stores have eliminated choice even further: The Supreme Soviet in Bentonville or Atlanta or Minneapolis has decreed what appears on the shelves of your local Walmart or Home Depot or Target store, with very little tailoring to local tastes and preferences. (Even our own tap water is being sold back to us by Coke and Pepsi.) You have exactly as many choices as they deign to devote shelf space to. Now that Wal-Mart is selling 25% of the groceries in America, if you're looking for a specific brand that someone back in Bentonville decided Walmart will no longer carry, then you're just plain out of luck. And since the other grocers in town often close up when a Walmart opens, there's no place else to turn to find it.

This constriction of choice is most virulent when it comes to media. Big-box stores have very limited shelf space for each product category they carry; yet they are far and away the nation's biggest purchasers of things like toys and video games. For the past 20 years, this fact has dominated decision-making in both those businesses: manufacturers know viscerally that if the buyers at Walmart aren't interested in your toy or game, there's probably no economic point in even making it. So everything is made with these buyers' sensibilities, prejudices and cost requirements in mind. This became a de facto form of centralized control, where a handful of buyers in Bentonville ended up dictating what the entire country got to play with.

Increasingly, the corporatization of our consumer landscape has meant that there's less choice and variety in our marketplaces than there used to be. Centrally planned franchise and chain stores have been stripped of quirkiness, uniqueness, local color, and anything that might be challenging to the most easily upset among us. The result is that we're left with a bland, santized, Disneyfied set of choices in goods, experiences, entertainment, and ideas that's a far cry from the lively, authentic Main Street scene those stores killed -- and which has brought us several steps closer to the scary stereotype of the limited and poorly stocked state-controlled Soviet shops we were constantly threatened with during the Cold War. Yeah, it's still better -- but not as much better as it should be.

The Sovietization of malls and big-box stores has launched a couple of backlashes. Online shopping is the new refuge of people who are looking for a broader set of options. Local producers of food, clothing, grooming supplies, furniture, and other goods are stepping up to scratch our itch for things that are unique and special. These are both end-runs around the corporatized retail order that's been systematically stripping away consumer choice for decades. But they've got a long way to go before they'll supplant the neighborhood hegemony of Walgreens.

Health Care

The Supreme Health Care Soviet has also done a number on the kind of health care we get, how we get it, where we get it, and who we can get it from. Again: there was a time not so long ago when health care was in the hands of a doctor, who was usually in independent practice (often in a partnership with a couple of other doctors, but that's it), and who had wide leeway to dictate patient care without being second-guessed. The doctor got sound, reliable information on new treatments from respected peer-reviewed journals, and insurance companies generally paid for most of what he or she ordered without further ado. This extreme level of autonomy notoriously led to doctors who overestimated their capacities; but it also meant that whatever happened in an examination room was -- to an extraordinary degree -- left in the hands of the doctor and the patient, and nobody else was entitled to interfere. The result was that, in the struggle between science and the doctor's profit motive, science stood at least a fighting chance of prevailing.

Now, the profit Politburo has had its way with almost every aspect of this interaction. Two-thirds of primary care doctors don't own their own practices anymore -- in no small part because the administrative cost of dealing with Soviet bureaucrats insurance company overseers is so overwhelming. Now, they're salaried employees of some large corporate entity, where they're subject to constant pressure to shorten visits, rack up billable hours, stick to narrow protocols of accepted treatment and churn patients through.

Insurance bean-counters second-guess every order, requiring doctors to put in extra shifts each week writing letters and making phone calls to fight for their patients' right to care. Every channel they rely on for information on new drugs and treatments -- from the peer-reviewed journals to the medical conferences to the drug information inserts -- has been co-opted by the pharmaceutical companies to ensure that doctors won't ever get important information that might reflect badly on profitable drugs; and this, in turn, undermines evidence-based medicine in favor of a kind of corporate-driven Lysenkoism.
Increasingly, states are also inviting themselves into the exam room, passing laws telling doctors what they can and can't tell you about your own condition (and, in some cases, demanding that they out-and-out lie to you, for reasons that are entirely political and seldom supported by science). And as a patient, your access to this co-opted, compromised care is entirely dependent on what the Politburo apparatchiks at your own employer's corporate HQ have decided you deserve to have.

Again: what we've got here isn't anything like a free or independent system, one in which patients and doctors are at liberty to make appropriate decisions without layers of centralized interference (much of it from people who aren't even MDs). And most of this interference isn't from government; it's from various corporate interests that have subjugated both doctors and patients to a centralization regime in order to extract profits from them. During the Cold War, this is what we were told Soviet medicine was like. Now, we don't have to go to Russia: we can get the same regimented, over-managed treatment from our own free-market health system -- and we'll pay more for it than anybody else in the world.

Education: Testing, Not Teaching

My eighth-grade civics teacher used to terrify our class with grim stories about the education endured by our unlucky peers in the USSR. Communist education, she said, was nothing but rote learning -- no discussion, no critical thinking skills, all aimed at preparing kids for high-stakes standardized testing that would ultimately determine their place in the Party hierarchy. They weren't free like we were to explore our own interests, or choose professions that pleased them. Rather than being treated like full, autonomous human beings being prepared for a limitless future of their own design, they were sorted and graded like potatoes, and tracked to serve the needs of the state. All of the decisions, we were told, were dictated by the central authorities in charge of determining what kind of workers the state would need, and which schools students would be sent to in order to fulfill those goals.

The ironies abound. Even as China has ramped up its efforts to inculcate creativity and critical thought in its students, the United States has voluntarily given up on those values -- our competitive edge over the world for the past 150 years -- in favor of a centralized, test-driven schooling regimen that only a Soviet bureaucrat could love. Increasingly, the doors to the best high schools and universities are closed to everyone but those in the top echelons of society, just as the best schools in the USSR were set aside for the children of the Party leadership. But the greatest irony of all is that, far from being done in the name of the state, this is being done by taking education out of the hands of the state and giving it over to for-profit corporations. Again, the more "private industry" gets involved, the more the outcome looks like something from a 1950s John Birch caricature of the horrors of Soviet life.

And On It Goes

These are just three easy examples. There are plenty more to be had:
* Our modern homes are designed by marketing researchers working for Soviet-style large developers that dictate what The People's Houses should look like.

* Our food supply is dominated by Soviet-style government-mandated (but privately run) monoculture.

* Our voting system is increasingly restricted to people who are acceptable to the party hierarchy, just as the Soviet system limited Communist Party membership to a small percentage of the population; and corporate-owned machines count our votes.

* Our increasingly privatized and militarized law enforcement is starting to owe a lot to the brutal Soviet policing style, too. We have gulags now -- and the corporations are running them, too.

* Our response to climate change is being driven by another form of Lysenkoism -- a science-denial movement driven by corporations that are threatened by any demand that they change their ways.

* And anybody who's dealt with a bank foreclosure can tell you stories that would cross Franz Kafka's eyes about the runaround they get every time they try to contact their lender. Checks and papers vanish, and must be sent over and over. Payments are never posted. And you can never talk to the same person twice. (We used to think the DMV was bad enough, but now we know: it takes a corporation to really screw things up.) This kind of faceless, brutally inhuman bureaucracy used to be the stuff of totalitarian nightmares. Now, it's everyday reality for tens of millions of American homeowners.

This is corporate-sponsored tyranny that comes at a huge expense to the masses. The great irony of our age is that, over the past 60 years, the more energy we put into resisting Communism by raising up the cult of the consumer (and the corporations that serviced it), the more our own corporate overlords were able to seize our resources and energy, and divert them into the goal of consolidating their power and inflicting their own totalitarian, centrally planned hell on us.
The USSR has been a historical dead letter for over 20 years now -- but there are still plenty of earnest Fox-watching Americans for whom "communism" remains the most terrifying of all scare words. They're vigilantly watching the leftward horizon, scanning for signs of government-inflicted socialism, ready to strip their own democracy of its very ability to thwart totalitarians if that's what must be done to stop totalitarianism.

Unfortunately, they're facing the wrong direction. The real threat of dignity-stripping, liberty-destroying, soul-crushing oppression is coming not from government, but from the very corporations those same people believed were the key to our superiority over the Communist menace. Now that the government can't protect us from rapacious businesses any more, the centrally planned authoritarian state they've feared is already coming to pass -- privately, for the profit of the few, free from pesky accountability or oversight, and without a bit of resistance from the would-be patriots who have been on guard for decades to ensure it could never happen here.

Sara Robinson, MS, APF is a futurist and the editor of AlterNet's Vision page. Follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to AlterNet's Vision newsletter for weekly updates.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Corporations Funneling Millions to Tax Exempt Non Profits Avoiding Disclosure

July 9, 2012 at 09:26:00

Corporations Funneling Millions to Tax Exempt Non Profits Avoiding Disclosure

By (about the author)

Corporate America Flag

For those who follow American politics know all too well, big money has long been a dominant factor influencing the electoral process.
But since the January 2010 Supreme Court's decision in "Citizens United v/s F.E.C." granting corporations full 1 st Amendment rights of free speech and the right to contribute unlimited funds to influence election outcomes, that decision has opened the door for corporate interests to donate millions in secret to influence election outcomes.

According to Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, "Companies want to be able to quietly push for their political agendas without being held accountable for it by their customers because so many donors want to remain anonymous".

So companies for the most part are now avoiding the notorious "Super Pac" giving which by law are required to report their donors and instead most corporations are sending their cash to tax exempt non profits like the Chamber of Commerce or so called "social welfare" groups which are not required to disclose their donors.

Thus millions of dollars are funneled through these "non profit" and "social welfare" groups that technically are not political organizations, purportedly labeled as "educational, not political in nature" but in reality are sham charities not promoting social welfare but established for winning elections.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (D. MD.) put it succinctly, "These groups are being used as a conduit to hide from voters the identity of people and corporations who are bankrolling these television ads, which are designed to influence the outcome of elections.

Two weeks ago this "legalized" flood of individual and corporate largesse into our political process was reaffirmed by the Court when it summarily dismissed the challenge by the state of Montana, overturning its 100 year old law banning corporate giving in that states elections citing its Citizens United ruling.
Let's face it our elections are a sham, up for sale and auctioned off to the highest bidders, cloaked in a misreading of the Court granting 1 st Amendment rights of free speech to corporations.

Only the five right wing ideologues sitting on the Court believe our electoral process is not being overtaken and influenced by the outpouring of individual and corporate cash that is completely corrupting the electoral process in its favor.

The corporate America flag seen in protests having corporate logos replacing the stars on the "American" flag fits the reality and subversion of the country to the corporate oligarchs.

In fact the two American flags flown outside the Supreme Court should be flown upside down indicating the country is in distress.


The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Does Justice Roberts' Opinion Serve the People or the Corporations?



Roberts' opinion sets alarming precedents because it ignores decades of established Court doctrine, which could have massive implications.

Photo Credit: A.M. Stan
Forget all the spin and analysis you are reading this morning about how much of a political moderate Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is for siding with the Court’s left-leaning wing and saving the Affordable Care Act from the judicial firing squad.
Roberts' opinion for the majority is radical and dangerous—and sets alarming precedents because it ignores decades of established Court doctrine, which associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg noted out in exquisite detail in a lengthy dissent trashing the ruling. (See page 66.) Moreover, Robert’s opinion suggests that there is a majority on the Court that would vote to take the country back to the pre-Constitution days, when there was no clear authority to regulate interstate commercial activity or for the states to obey Congress.

The Chief Justice’s “rigid reading of the Commerce Clause makes scant sense and is stunningly retrogressive,” Ginsberg said, in a dissent joined by Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. Indeed, her dissent, like that of retired Justice John Paul Stevens in the Citizens United ruling that accused the ideological conservative majority of inventing facts to fit its politicized conclusion, will likely emerge as the most prescient and memorable aspect of the ACA ruling.

Health Insurance Is Not An Interstate Activity?

Roberts’ majority opinion said that the health insurance coverage mandate of the Act was permissible, but not under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which gives Congress power to regulate interstate business, nor under the Necessary and Proper Clause, which gives Congress power to legislate to address genuine problems.

As Ginsberg’s dissent and the ACA’s defenders noted in Court, healthcare costs account for more than one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and when uninsured people walk into hospitals seeking medical care, it’s other insurance policyholders—not the insurance companies—who end up paying for their medical bills.

Instead, Roberts offered a convoluted analysis ignoring that basic fact. He said that the law’s insurance-buying requirement was not a requirement at all, because all the law did was impose a tax on people who didn’t buy a health plan after January 2014. Roberts said that not buying a health plan was not an economic activity and had no consequences. But he then went on to say that not having a plan was something that could be subject to a federal income tax penalty. And that taxing power was constitutional, he said.

“The mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income,” he wrote. “And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power.”

Robert’s twisted reasoning was a reflection of an argument made by right-wing think-tanks and commentators such as George Will that want the Supreme Court to resurrect the so-called Lochner Era, where in 1905 the Court started issuing decisions reversing progressive healthcare and labor reforms, holding an individual’s freedom to have a "contract" with their employer was more deserving of constitutional protection than societal concerns.

“The Chief Justice’s limitation of the commerce power to the regulation of those actively en­gaged in commerce finds no home in the text of the Consti­tution or our decisions,” Ginsberg wrote. “In the early 20th century, this Court regularly struck down economic regulation enacted by the peoples’ repre­sentatives in both the States and the Federal Government... The Chief Justice’s Commerce Clause opinion, and even more so the joint dissenters’ reasoning… bear a disquieting resem­blance to those long-overruled decisions.”

The problem for progressives with Roberts’ finding that there is no basis in the Commerce Clause, or Necessary and Proper Clause, is that this legal viewpoint—on top of the four other right-wing justices who said they would have thrown out the ACA as congressional overreach—suggests that in the future there could be a Supreme Court majority that would invalidate other laws regulating the national economy— such as a carbon tax to combat climate change, or new national energy strategy.

These so-called constitutional "originalists" seem intent on not just upholding their extremely pro-business vision of how Congress should address national issues—by providing more customers for the private sector—but they seem intent on taking the country back in time to before the Constitution was even written.

That would sound like an extreme interpretation of the ACA ruling, were it not for the other big piece of the ACA decision, which tells states that they can ignore Congress’ directions to expand state-run Medicaid programs providing medical care for the poor, which disproportionately are single mothers and children.

The Outrageous Medicaid Ruling

Roberts told states that they did not have to implement the state government section of the law, which would open up Medicaid programs to everyone under age 65 whose income was under 133 percent of the poverty line. (Seniors 65 and older can get healthcare under the federal Medicare program.)

Roberts decreed that states that did not want to implement the ACA would not face the fiscal penalty of losing all of their federal Medicaid funds—as envisioned by the law. Instead they would only lose funds for the Medicaid expansion, such as for covering more poor people and creating medical clinics in underserved areas.

“The Court today limits the financial pressure the Secretary [of Health and Human Services] may apply to induce States to accept the terms of the Medicaid expansion,” Roberts wrote. “As a practical matter, that means States may now choose to reject the expansion; that is the whole point.”

That option for states—which scholars say may be the first time the Court has found a congressional spending requirement to be unconstitutionally coercive—gives the GOP license to use healthcare for the poor as a political pawn. That tactic is hardly new—and already on Thursday right-wing Republicans signaled they were ready to sacrifice healthcare for the poor to score political points.
“Today’s ruling crystallizes all that’s at stake in November’s election,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Republican Governors Association chairman. “The only way to stop Barack Obama’s budget-busting healthcare takeover is by electing a new president.”

“We are very concerned that a sudden, dramatic increase in Medicaid spending could threaten Ohio’s ability to pursue needed reforms in other areas, such as education,” Ohio’s GOP Gov. John Kasich said in a quickly issued statement Thursday.

Never mind that Ohio will be raking in millions of dollars from natural gas fracking well fees by the time its share of ACA Medicaid payments would begin in three years. There are a handful of red state governors that previously rejected congressional economic stimulus funds—as they came from a Democratic-majority Congress and Obama.

Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi refused to accept federal dollars to extend unemployment benefits in 2009. Florida also rejected $2 billion for a high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa last year. The open question is will red-state Republicans also reject the ACA’s new federal Medicaid subsidies?

“It will be their option,” answered Stan Dorn, a senior health policy fellow with the Washington-based Urban Institute. “The federal government will not compel states to do it by threatening to withhold money or taking them to court.”
GOP politicians’ beating up on the poor is neither new nor radical. What’s radical about this part of the ACA ruling is the potential impact on public sector—not private sector—healthcare, because that may slow the creation of a uniform nationwide public system that could one day lead to universal government-delivered healthcare.

Having a patchwork of different state systems and services would hamper creation of a national public option—which progressives have long desired. In this respect, the Court’s ruling upholding the requirement that everyone have a health plan (private or public) and allowing states to opt out of Medicaid expansion is exceptionally pro-business.

Moreover, the Medicaid precedent also raises the question of what other costly federal programs states may object to—and refuse to implement if they forego the funding that comes with it? During the Court’s hearing on the ACA, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan both noted that limiting Congress’ spending authority—as the Court majority did in this case—could limit Congress’s responses in national crises.

“When future Spending Clause challenges arrive, as they likely will in the wake of today’s decision, how will liti­gants and judges assess whether “a State has a legitimate choice whether to accept the federal conditions in ex­change for federal funds”?” wrote Ginsberg, quoting Roberts. “Are courts to measure the number of dollars the Federal Government might withhold for noncompliance?”
“The portion of the State’s budget at stake? And which State’s—or States’— budget is determinative: the lead plaintiff, all challenging States (26 in this case, many with quite different fiscal situations), or some national median? Does it matter that Florida, unlike most States, imposes no state income tax, and therefore might be able to replace foregone federal funds with new state revenue? Or that the coercion state officials in fact fear is punishment at the ballot box for turning down a politically popular federal grant?

“The coercion inquiry, therefore, appears to involve political judgments that defy judicial calculation.”

Ginsberg said the majority’s Medicaid analysis was exactly the opposite of how the Constitution envisioned the separation of powers between Congress and the states.

“At bottom, my colleagues’ position is that the States’ reliance on federal funds limits Congress’ authority to alter its spending programs,” she wrote. “This gets things backwards: Congress, not the States, is tasked with spending federal money in service of the general welfare. And each succes­sive Congress is empowered to appropriate funds as it sees fit.”

While many commentators praised the decision for not overturning the ACA, and lauded the Chief Justice for siding with the Court’s moderates, they are overlooking how pro-business, radical and politicized the ACA ruling is. Those politics will not just play out in the presidential campaign, where Mitt Romney on Thursday again vowed to overturn the law if elected, but inside red states as anti-Obama GOP leaders will use Medicaid as a political pawn.

Looking further down the road, the Medicaid precedent will tempt other states’ rights rebellions to rise, and also curtail Congress’s ability to respond—as a nation of 50 states—in a national emergency. Not only is the Roberts' ruling entirely pro-business, by sending tens of millions of new customers to insurers while limiting state expansion of public care, it is based on a right-wing vision of a shrunken Constitution and diminished congressional powers.

That is as radical a reshaping of congressional powers to regulate economic issues as the Citizens United was a radical reshaping of the campaign finance landscape. If you are reading media accounts praising Roberts, read Ginsberg’s dissent. It reveals just how pro-business, ideological and ahistorical the Court under Roberts truly is.

Steven Rosenfeld covers democracy issues for AlterNet and is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).