Following the corporate pied piper

August 12, 2010


Prior to the 1970’s, America was primarily a cash based system.  Most families had savings accounts, and adhered to a program of placing 10 percent of their earnings into their savings. Even large ticket items, such as the family car, were often purchased with cash. In 1968 Americans were enjoying a minimum wage that had more buying power than any other time in America’s history, before or since. By 1970, the concept of the credit card had emerged. The Bank Americard had been mass produced and mailed to 10 million customers.

In the 70’s another idea emerged – the concept of trickle-down economics. The theory was that if big business was given massive tax breaks, and therefore profited more, everyone in the economy would do well. During Reagan’s administration, the marginal tax rate on the highest income bracket was cut from 70 percent to 28 percent.

But instead of everyone sharing in this new-found pot of gold, wages flat-lined. For the first time in America’s history, the steady upward climb of minimum wages stalled. From 1981 to 1990 a record was set for the longest period that minimum wage rates were frozen. But that record was soon broken, because minimum wages were again frozen from 1997 to 2007 – ten years – while basic living costs were skyrocketing over 100 percent. Not only did it turn out the big guys of the corporate world kept record profits for themselves by keeping wages low, they envisioned the goose that would lay the golden egg.

Loaning money and collecting interest from the masses was making a lot more sense to big business than raising wages. It’s no coincidence that during this time the idea of the big box store was also conceived and growing. WalMart was busy in the 80’s building stores all across America.

The credit card industry was poised and ready to jump in to fill the need. People were trained to love the convenience of the credit card, so the practice of building a savings went by the wayside and the temptation to buy was promoted relentlessly, non-stop. At the same time, maximum spending limits which started low, were pushed higher and higher.

Now we know the result of that movement – money that just 40 years ago went into a savings account, now goes for interest payments to the credit card industry. And as big retail business had hoped, Americans stopped supporting their local small businesses in favor of huge discount retailers, forcing the closure of thousands of friendly hometown, knowledgeable businesses and the steady stream of the local jobs they offered.

When the promise of the trickle-down theory didn’t pan out, the reverse fear-based logic became the talk of the day – don’t mess with big business because they supply our jobs.  Most importantly, don’t tax the billions big businesses are profiting, or they will leave the state or country.  Even as Californian’s consider an extraction tax on the oil companies,  that “don’t tax or they will leave” or “don’t tax, they will pass it on to you” phrase is hammered over and over.  The oil companies are willing to contribute millions to keep their candidates issuing scary blanket statements that will continue to protect their massive profits.

Bringing their ballooning profits under control never seems to be an option. Regarding the supply of jobs, WalMart is indeed America’s single largest employer. Their standard pay for a cashier is $8.38/hour or about $1,250/month take-home IF they allow their employee to work full-time. In most states WalMart’s pay scale is in the poverty bracket, making employees eligible for state assistance.

Worse yet, the WalMart/ Target/ Home Depot concept shifted the thousands of jobs manufacturing had been providing out of the U.S. and into Asia and Latin America.  Combine that with the thousands of small businesses that closed their doors or are currently fighting for survival, the truth is, WalMart has been a job destroyer, yet they routinely succeed at sending their lobbyists into a community to negotiate a waiver on their permits to build.  There’s more good news for WalMart – WalMart has created in their family five of the ten wealthiest people in the U.S.

Americans are waking up and realizing they have been taken to the cleaners.   Now what is the new mantra coming from the pied piper who had us swallow the trickle-down theory, which ended up the stuck-at-the-top theory?  Now it’s down with the government – touting Grover Norquist’s remark make it so small you could drown it in the bathtub.  Privatize everything – even weaken our military so it depends on private for-profit companies to do for them what they used to do for themselves.

Allow our schools to deteriorate so for-profit schools become the answer.  Allow our infrastructure to continue to deteriorate.  Pretend there is no need to invest in clean, efficient energy; ignore the fact we are falling behind other countries. Allow a company the size of Exxon to avoid paying even minimal taxes. Don’t care about the little guy in trouble. Scream about the deficit if a bill helps the people; raise the deficit without a worry if it keeps us at war and pours billions into the corporations who benefit directly from war and from setting up shop in the countries we conquer.

If the NRA and the multinational corporations get their way, we will have a shell of a government under private control. Think about that – it’s not a hidden fact. The pied piper just gets the angry people to take their eye off of big business and focus on government. Who wants government – an easy sell, right?   What the pied piper doesn’t want his followers to think about is the “under private control” part.  You are not likely to hear the pied piper say “You can trust big business for everything; health, education, retirement, infrastructure, safety of our water, air and food – just look at their history of concern for you over the last 40 years.”  If he said that you might laugh.

The corporate pied piper has the details of the planned takeover well in hand. Getting the Supreme Court on their side was huge.  They figure politicians with the most corporate financial backing in the form of slick and twisted corporate ads will continue to be elected.  They will block any attempt to implement disclosure of funding and fair election reform.

Unions of course, are the enemy of the corporate world because they represent the people – they must become a dirty word that all the blame gets shifted to. Our government will become increasingly authoritarian and dangerous, because what’s left of it will exist solely to protect corporate power; squashing freedom, not supporting it, while at the same time shifting the focus of anger to the little guy. This unfortunately tends to go hand-in-hand with a belief in white supremacy and a well-armed society, a group the pied piper loves to have follow him because they will support a more aggressive and privatized armed militia like Blackwater.  The pied piper even has the nerve to state that this is the path our founding fathers wanted us to follow. Well, not according to Thomas Jefferson:

“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

A powerful fact, however, is that big business does have an Achilles heel – they are dependent on your obedience. Our too big to fail banking system depends on you using your credit and debit cards because of the fees, the interest, the ease of tracking your spending, and the increase of odds that you will overdraw or go over your limit, creating a multi-billion dollar industry for the banks. Big box stores depend on the public mindlessly flocking into their stores to empty their wallets. But the public actually does have the ultimate power; they decide who receives their hard earned dollars – a fact that sends a chill down the back of the multinationals and their bought and paid for politicians.

So what are people doing who refuse to follow the pied piper?  There are grassroots efforts to buy local any time you can. Farmer’s markets that encourage selling local products have grown in popularity. Getting your credit cards paid off and avoiding interest. Going back to cash whenever you can – you can’t spend more than you have. Turning off the TV and planting a garden. Living simply with less non-essential “stuff” that clutters your life is a new mantra for some, along with a willingness to elect officials who support your values. With a shift in thinking, perhaps we could discover a more sane and less stressful lifestyle for ourselves and our families, and gradually get our government out of the hands of big business and back under the control of the people.

As Jerry Brown has argued, “Multinational corporations do control. They control the politicians. They control the media. They control the pattern of consumption, entertainment, thinking. They’re destroying the planet and laying the foundation for violent outbursts and racial division.”

Marilyn Armstrong is founder of SLO Grassroots Democracy, an independent non-profit action group.



  1. justme says:

    And here’s the mind-blower: Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:

    “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wakeup homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”

    Well, that’s exactly what has happened, and he is talking about the world’s central banks!!! Namely the Federal reserve which is a PRIVATELY OWNED, (approx. half foreign-owned ) for profit company. It is not “Federal”, is not a “bank” and certainly has no “reserves”. IT PRINTS MONEY by the trillions and refuses (as of a few yrs. ago) to devulge exactly how much money it prints. It is nothing but a huge counterfeiter creating massive debt and has the gall to charge interest after we the taxpayers pay the cost of printing it at the nations mints. Want more blood-boiling info the media won’t mention? Every dollar it puts into the system dillutes the value of every buck you go out and bust-butt for everyday that you try to put away. It fills it’s member banksr with this worthless cash that is no longer backed by gold and silver since it was cooked up secretly by European and New York bankers at a secret meeting on a Georgia island under the guise of a duck-hunting trip. Woodrow Wilson was elected with campaign money given to him by the above if he would get behind their wish of a Federal reserve after his election. He later regretted his decision sorely. It remained “in power” until John F. Kennedy ended it’s reign. You know, the President “someone” killed two months later. LBJ let the monster back into existence almost immediately. The theory behind banking and indebtedness is to lend voraciously. Keep people in debt, keep their power over them and interest flowing. Finance wars on both sides, lend to poor countries that they know can never repay in order to steal and reposess their natural resources. Sound unbelievable? What just happened? The Fed just printed gizillions of dollars over a decade, flooded the banks with worthless cash who lent it out without question which shot up prices of real estate and stocks among other things (remember pricing has to do with availability of credit) made obscene amounts of money, then when of course that much indebtedness could not be repayed what happened? The Fed printed trillions more and restocked the guilty party, themselves, the banks, AIG, Goldman-Sachs, B of A, etc. Obama? He’s a nobody compared to all powerful central banks. His two senior advisors who created him, Rahm Emanuel (an Israeli citizen) David Axlerod (of the same persuasion) control his nose ring. They are your real “Presidents” because they “preside” over policy. The policy is to keep banks and the Wall st. in power. Now we are hopelessly under their control and as Mr. Jefferson warned we are now “waking up homeless”. Who was at the forefront of this scam of all scams? Insects like Alan Greenspan who retired practically to to day before the collapse. Blankfein who leads Goldman-Sachs, Bloomberg whose word Wall st. has followed lke a lost puppy for decades. Now we have another cockroach to continue the carnage, Bernacke. The last time the banksters pushed to hard was in Germany in the 1930’s and we know what that lead to. History really does repeat itself and this time it’s the Arabs who are being abused, not the Germans. Same results, war, death, transfer of wealth and power, control of media. Wall st. and the banks are through with us, we’re bad risks, no more credit. We’re all used up. They are taking the money they stole from us and investing in our future enemies, China, Russia, Brasil, etc. They even have the cohones to ask us for our retirements and what’s left of our savings to invest in these countries and not in our children’s America. Fog lifting yet? Things coming together now. Their is hope, there is always hope. Back off the porn and web shopping and do some research. Nothing on that new flatscreen or that roll of cellulose thrown on your doorstep in the morning is as informative as even the tree it should have been left as. We’re in deep do-do. We need to drain the swamp and see who, what and where the theives are and try to curtail what has always come when things reach this stage, death and destruction, war. It will start in New York City as it already has end at your doorstep.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
    • zaphod says:

      TLDR; nationalize the Fed.
      Andrew Jackson on banking: “Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time, and I am
      convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs
      of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you
      lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from
      the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may
      be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will
      ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers
      and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the eternal God, I will rout you

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  2. marypress says:

    The corporate world has been steadily putting a long-range plan in place and history shows it. When Americans aren’t privey to the overall goal, it is easier for pieces of the “plan” to slowly be implemented. This has happened to other countries as well throughout history. If the overall goal is for the corporate world to take control of our government by controlling the politicians and privatizing everything, then those politicians would be motivated to help the government fail to take care of the people. Only the voters have the opportunity to change this by refusing to elect politicians who have accepted large corporate donations or are obviously backed by big corporate pacs. Voters have no say on who runs a corporation or how a corporation behaves. Voters are helpless to stand up to corporate demands and would be at their mercy if the government becomes too weak and infiltrated with corporate politicians to do anything about it.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  3. trider says:

    I relate wih this article. Having witnessed my parents raising their family in the 50’s and 60’s, my raising of our family in the 70’s and 80’s, and now watching my kids get started, the changes are staggering. My Dad came home from WWII with a high school diploma, got a job with a good company and earned what we considered a modest middle-class income. He bought our family home for $12,000 with a Vet’s loan, bought a new car every few years, shared ownership of a small plane with some war buddies, and was extremely proud of the fact he had funds set aside so college would be an option for his kids. Things seemed very much in balance; I would guess every business growing up in our community was locally owned. Mom never worked while us kids were growing up. Dad retired with his house paid off; did have SS and Medicare. I paid $48,000 for my first home, but wages had kept up with the increase. I set money aside for my kids for college, but it turned out not to be near enough. Cost of homes have shot up over 10 times what I paid and wages have NOT kept up. My daughter can’t find a job in the field she graduated and is looking for even a $9/hr. job. Things are completely out of balance. I voted Republican for many years, but the worship of big business is killing our country. I try to buy local. Privatization of everything would add fuel to the fire.

    (10) 12 Total Votes - 11 up - 1 down
    • marypress says:

      I agree trider. I did not realize that minimum wages were frozen for so long after taxes were first lowered for the super wealthy during the Reagan years.. They were frozen for a total of 19 years! In 1970 the average cost of a home in CA was $23,000, in 1980 $84,000 – imagine waking up in 2007 to find the same house $800,000! And then somehow someone making $9 per hour working for a company making billions is supposed to figure out how to make that work. Sounds like some kind of a bad dream. That’s where the difference lies between multinationals who see an employee as a statistic on a data sheet, and a local owner who personally knows their employees. You are going to find more of a sense of fairness in a local owner. But for them to make it, the community has to support them. Studies show that shoppers actually spend more in the big box stores because they make impulsive purchases of items they don’t need. Shop local – save money.

      (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
  4. DJ says:

    Since I tend to be of the persuasion that lesser government, and thereby more personal freedom and accountability, is better, the author of this little essay has concluded I am too stupid to save money, understand economics, understand history, am a white supremacist, blindly follow Madison Avenue marketing ploys, and generally contribute to the degradation of the environment and schools. Wow. I’ve been busy.

    And the progressive socialism she is obviously touting has proved to be such a great solution throughout history… because there are no pied pipers, I guess? Oh wait, no it hasn’t. Despite what could arguably have been good intentions, socialism has proved to be one of the most corrupt and repressive systems of government devised, as well as a huge economic failure. I believe history proves we have more to fear from big government than big business. Also, interesting that she does not consider unions to be “big business” because they represent “the people”? They are big business, and they represent only “some people”, not “the people”.

    And the quote from Jerry Brown, the guy who has been in politics for 40 years, that is priceless.. “Multinational corporations do control. They control the politicians”… except of course, him, I assume? He is unbelievable.

    I guess this essay pushed my buttoms this morning, but the author does have some suggestions I totally agree with;
    “Buy local any time you can”
    “Getting your credit cards paid off and avoiding interest”
    “You can’t spend more than you have”
    “Turning off the TV and planting a garden”
    “Living simply with less non-essential “stuff” that clutters your life”
    “Elect officials who support your values”
    I think these are good suggestions, and I would like to do better with some of them.

    (-10) 12 Total Votes - 1 up - 11 down
    • trider says:

      I can’t really understand why you would assume the author thinks you are too stupid to save money. People are getting hit with circumstances out of their control and the odds are against them. I have a friend who thought he was set for retirement, but his 401 was devastated and he wife got very ill. A young couple on our street bought their first home a couple of years ago. Her husband had a good job and everything seemed good. With her 6 months pregnant, he was laid off – the business he worked for went under. They are loosing their home. My heart goes out to them. I guess for those who have been uneffected it’s hard to understand.

      (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down

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