There’s at least one silver lining in the Nov. 8 fiasco: The election outcome was a repudiation of and a defeat for the Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs from the nation’s largest corporations formed 45 years ago, which executed policies directly responsible for economic pain and suffering of working-class people in subsequent decades.
Those BRT CEOs:
- Shipped American jobs overseas and shuttered factories;
- Cut wages and benefits of workers and decimated safety net pension programs;
- Staged a corporate coup of government with an army of high-paid lobbyists;
- Financed organizations that wrote legislation and helped pass laws detrimental to American workers while enriching themselves and their stockholders; and
- Provided hefty financial backing to place compliant politicians in political office.
This group backed political candidates from BOTH parties — but more Republicans than Democrats — who bowed to their considerable financial power, especially after the Citizens United decision allowed free flow of funds in political campaigns.
The problem is that few Americans, including Democrats, are aware of the existence of the BRT and the damage inflicted on average Americans and the American economy. And except for authors of a few books, such as Who Stole the American Dream? by Hedrick Smith and Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, few TV pundits and few in the print media have made that connection. Or if they have, few have dared to talk about it.
The deadly silence can be attributed in part to a great consolidation of media companies and ownership over the last 30 years because
of changes to laws, which resulted in a voluntary muzzling of the few remaining mainstream media outlets. If your boss sits on the BRT as head of an enterprise that now owns a network of media companies, as a journalist/employee, you are less likely to — or may not be able to — write a hard-hitting piece questioning the economic impact and the political influence of BRT policies on the average American worker.
The BRT formed in 1972 following recommendations in the Powell Memorandum, which has been described as the blueprint for the corporate takeover of U.S. government. It was written to the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in August 1971, just two months before author and Big Tobacco attorney Lewis F. Powell Jr. was successfully nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by Richard Nixon. Powell wrote it in response to concerns that the “American economic system is under broad attack” because of Great Society liberalism that triggered a vast expansion of regulatory power and restrictions on business.
Powell called for mobilized political combat: “Business must learn the lesson … that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated, and that when necessary it must be used aggressively and with determination – without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.”
But to be successful, Powell advised, the business sector had to:
- Get highly organized and committed;
- Implement a careful long-range plan; and
- Commit to a long-term “scale of financing available only through joint effort.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce members quickly mobilized and formed the BRT. What followed was a proliferation of foundations, think tanks, nonprofits and polling groups — a well-oiled and well-funded machine churning out propaganda dedicated to swaying people to vote against their own best interests and deflecting attention from BRT influences at the root of America’s pain and economic angst.
Since the ’80s, the BRT and right-wing associates have spent billions funding candidates and organizations designed to camouflage the consequences of their influence — a small price to pay for the economic benefits reaped when you consider that “by 2011, the top 1 percent got all the gains from U.S. economic growth and the bottom 99 percent literally went backwards — they saw their collective incomes fall.”
What the vast majority of Americans on both sides of the political aisle have known for quite some time is that government, for the most part, has not been working for them — no matter which party is in control. They have watched Wall Street flourish while Main Street’s doors shuttered, and watched CEOs and stockholders get rich while paychecks and buying power shrank.
Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump capitalized on those sentiments and were largely shunned by the corporate establishment and their Wall Street accomplices.
The good news? Even though the American electorate chose a vile, vulgar, misogynist, xenophobic racist and master salesman (some would say master con artist) who promised a big fix, the decades-long Business Roundtable scheme against the American worker has suffered a huge setback, assuming Trump is truly the anti-establishment presidential candidate he claimed to be.
What’s more, if Trump fails to deliver quickly for the average American worker, which seems likely given his early appointments of establishment types, then the door is wide open for Democrats in congressional races which are just two years away.
But to be successful in 2018, Democrats must follow Powell’s blueprint for a business sector government coup.
It’s not enough to hope the new Democratic Party leadership is getting its house in order. None of us can sit on the sidelines. We must be activists and see to it they do. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.
Bussard, a Jacksonville Beach resident, is a retired journalist and current president of the Beaches Democratic Club.