The Feudal System Is Alive and Well in the United States
The recent turmoil in the financial markets stem from changes brought about during the Reagan Administration and culminating with the Clinton Administration. If the word derivative has any meaning to you, you are in the minority because much of the present and past Congress and Senate do not seem to have a clue. This financial instrument came about as the result of the deregulation efforts brought about by the Republican Party under Reagan and under the advice of people like Arthur Laffer and Allan Greenspan. During his Presidency, the national debt went from $700 billion to $3 trillion. A recent news report, that I cannot substantiate, stated that Reagan borrowed $1 trillion from the Social Security Trust Fund telling Greenspan that no one would ever find out about the transaction. His notable activity leading to a renewal of the Feudal System started with the firing of 11,345 air traffic controllers when they went on strike for better wages and especially better working conditions. It is ironic, that Reagan, who was once President of the Screen Actors Guild which was in reality a union, turned against unions. Doing away with unions has been the mantra of the Republican Party ever since. In the last primary contest every Republican candidate repeated Reagan’s name as if this was the high point of all the the Party had achieved throughout its existence.
The unions whose origins began in Europe in the 1830’s were brought about to improve the conditions of laboring men, women, and children in the textile industries and mines, primarily in Great Britain. As the United States grew into an industrial power, the robber baron era of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s gave little thought to the plight of the workers. The desire by the workers gave rise to the formation of unions in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the owners of the corporations doing everything they could to intimidate the workers who wanted to join a union and have some say in their working conditions, pay and retirement. Much of the benefits won by the unions including safety features in the work environment, pay, retirement, and health care have slowly eroded for several reasons. People became complacent and forgot or never knew how the job benefits were achieved. Areas such as state and municipal workers including teachers from K-14 grew to become the dominant unions at the present time, while industrial workers under union contracts have declined. The days when John L. Lewis could call a coal miners strike and paralyze the nation have passed. Also, the illegal behavior of the union bosses, particularly, the longshoreman’s union have not helped. With the rise of the high tech industries , the unions either did not try or were unable to get enough interested people willing to form a union. As seen in the latest scandals involving the giant insurance companies such as AIG the robber barons have arisen once more. We once again have a feudal system in the United States.
Under a feudal system the workers have little or no rights under the system run by the corporations or the individuals they work for, and they can be fired, laid off, or transferred without cause if they have no one to represent them, and in order to have representation, you either have to have the money to hire an attorney or a union to hire the attorney for you. With no union representation, particularly in an economy such as the one we are currently experiencing, the workers in high tech, in banking, in the insurance industry, and in the auto industry have no one to look out for their interests. It is interesting that the Senators and Representatives in the Southern States, particularly in the Republican Party, have fought to prevent federal funds from being distributed to the auto industry. Only Ford, GM, and Chrysler have alliances with labor unions. The Southern States auto companies, Honda, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and others I may have forgotten, do not have labor unions. Labor unions change the social and political equation from one of feudalism to one where the laboring class and low paid professionals can climb the economic ladder, receive pensions, and health care for life, as well as invest in IRA’s and other financial instruments to supplement their income in retirement. If labor unions are strong and viable, there is no longer a special class of wealthy people who can hold the rest of humanity hostage while they enjoy both economic and political privileges. In the South, the reason for this attitude is that, from the time of slavery to the present, the South has supported a kind of feudal system whereby the working class has been without labor rights and representation. This same lack of labor and legal support for workers has crept to the Northern States, as well , and led to the decline of textile mills, furniture companies, steel mills, and industrial plants of all kinds. The crowning blow to this situation, was the rise of NAFTA and other free trade agreements whereby all the countries involved were going to open up free trade and the world was going to be a rosy place for all. What has happened is the the American worker has been forgotten in all of this. We have outsourced our industrial base to any place in the world where there are no labor laws and where labor is cheap. We have given companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Ford, Chrysler, GM, GE, to name a few, tax incentives to set up plants all over the world. We are no longer the great industrial power we once were, and if we ever have to fight a World War again we will not have the industrial base to support such a war nor the workers trained to work in these industries.
I want to include a disclaimer here in that I do not place all the blame on the Republican Party, because much of the outsourcing started in the Clinton Presidency, and the joint action of both Political Parties, North and South, worked against the US workers in NAFTA and in 1999 abolished the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which prevented Insurance Companies and Banks from selling securities. Not only were banks and insurance companies allowed to sell securities, but a brilliant woman, Brooksley Born, was removed from the Commodities Trading Commission because she insisted that there needed to be margin requirements for a newly named commodity called derivatives. On the advice and urging of Allen Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers(currently one of Barack Obama’s economic advisors), Arther Levitt fired Brooksley Born because she insisted that derivatives were commodity instruments and should be under the commodities laws which would have required margin requirements just as you have to post when you buy a future on a commodity such as feeder cattle. Rubin stated that money was not a commodity which is very interesting because one can buy both gold and silver through a commodity account, but you do have to stipulate a margin for such an account.
In a book by Saul K. Padover, Jefferson, published in 1942, he tells about Jefferson’s time spent in Europe as a roving ambassador prior to the French Revolution. Jefferson stated that while he had made friends with many of the leading families in Europe, he was glad to return to his home in Virginia where he could interact freely with people of all economic levels. In Europe, he found that about 1% of the citizens had 99 % of the wealth while the rest of the population was barely above the starvation level. In Jefferson’s fight against the Federalist Party, to which Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito belongs, it was the same haves and have more group that President George Bush referred to in his speech about four years ago. The only people deserving of the rights and freedoms of this great nation were the wealthy. Anyone belonging to a labor union was responsible for our present inability to compete with the rest of the nations of the world, so that it was necessary to ship all of our manufacturing overseas and allow the other 99% of the population to sink to the level of the population of Europe during the feudal system.
We even approached the same level of censorship under Bush with his misuse of the FISA Act as we did under the Federalist Party when President John Adams and his cohorts in the Federalist Party tried to reinstate the privileges of the Royalty through the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act of 1978, to prevent any criticism of the second president. This act allowed the President to expel all those whom he should “judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States,” or should have “reasonable grounds to suspect are concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the government.” The Sedition Act provided for a fine of no more than $2000.00 and a term of prison of no more than two years. When President Adams and the Federalists introduced the pomp and circumstance of Royalty, Thomas Jefferson, his Secretary of State, quietly, via letters and other writings, set about the task of rallying the Republican cause of strengthening the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence(note, my reference to the Republican cause does not mean the same as the current Republican Party of today which was created by the demise of the Whig Party.) Various newspapers published articles stating that they had no respect for Adams and could not support the Federalist attempt to reintroduce a monarchy. The result was the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, which allowed the President to expel all those whom he should “judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States,” or should have “reasonable grounds to suspect are concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the government.” This sounds very much like the reasons set forth by President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney in their misuse of the FISA act in spying on both U.S. citizens and aliens.
The choice of who to try under the Alien and Sedition Act was interesting, and even more interesting were the Supreme Court Justices chosen to try the cases. The first person to be convicted, in October 1798, was Matthew Lyon, a Congressman from Vermont, born in Ireland, with a record as a patriot and soldier in Washington’s army. His crime was to criticize the pomp of Adam’s administration and its continual grasp for power. William Patterson, Justice of the Supreme Court, tried this case and one other related to it. The second case, with the same judge and jury, was Anthony Haswell, Editor of the “Vermont Gazette”, who had written that Lyon was brutally treated by the Marshal who had arrested him. Haswell was born in England and the father of thirteen children. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase tried two of the cases under this law. The third man to be convicted was Thomas Cooper, and English born educator and scientist, who did little more than make general remarks about President Adams. In the fourth case, Justice Chase was arrogant, rude, and dictatorial. In one instance he made jokes about the counsels involved with the defense, and told others to shut up and sit down. This case involved the indictment and the conviction of a Virginian, James Thomas Callender, a Scottish born political writer, for the grave crime of criticizing President Adams. The case was sensational because Callender was defended by three of the best lawyers in Virgina–William Wirt, Thomas Nicolas and George Hay who quit in disgust because of the behavior of the Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase.
As a sequel to this sad saga, Thomas Jefferson, who was Vice President under President Adams, succeeded Adams as President and took steps to have Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase impeached and removed from office. Jefferson described the impeachment process a farce when Chase was found not guilty. In my lifetime, I have listened in detail to the McCarthy hearings on the radio, to the President Nixon hearings on TV, to the attempted impeachment and indictment of President William Jefferson Clinton, and read about the misuse of power through signing statements by President George W. Bush, which allowed him to ignore the FISA Court, and any other laws he did not like. President Bush used the signing statements more than all of the other Presidents combined–I have heard of numbers of 480 to over 1000 signing statements. He frequently cited Supreme Court Justice Samuel Allito’s paper on the Unitary Executive Theory, in which Allito wrote, “Congress, to be sure, has a substantial and essential role in both foreign affairs and national security. But it is crucial to recognize that judicial interference in these domains destroys the purposes of vesting primary responsibility in a unitary Executive.” As a sitting judge on the federal bench, Judge Alito advocated his personal legal view supporting executive theory before the Federalist Society in the year 2000. He also wrote a memo while in the Reagan Administration recommending the expansion of presidential power through an increased use of presidential signing statements which allows a president to effectively ignore or alter laws passed by Congress and increase Presidential Powers and diminish those of the Congress.
As a nation, we have a problem in trying to preserve the democratic principles to which we all tacitly adhere and at the same time keep a proper balance between the coequal branches of our government. We cannot allow any branch of the government to assume powers without the consent of the citizens of this nation. The Supreme Court should never have assumed the power to appoint a President just because the State of Florida or Ohio choose to ignore the right of our citizens to vote in the 2000 election and the 2004 election respectively. We need to change our election laws so that one does not have to be wealthy in order to hold public office, or allow corporations the hold any branch of our government hostage by bribing members of Congress, the Executive, or the Supreme Court. We need to allow the working class to form unions without intimidation by Corporate executives, because without labor unions representing the workers we will continue to allow the wealthy to treat their workers as slaves or serfs as has been common in many countries throughout history. Each generation must work to preserve the benefits attained in previous generations and not assume that those benefits have always been present. If our so called multinational corporations allow China to dictate that their citizens working for such corporations must be allowed to form unions, then any multinational corporations who does so must be required to allow their stateside workers to form unions. Lastly, if we are to remain a democratic and sovereign nation we must be willing to pass and enforce laws which benefit the working class and not just the wealthy. A case in point is the solvency of the Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. We should not allow those persons who earn more than $100,000 dollars to be exempt from paying Social Security benefits on amounts greater than $100,000. To change this one benefit enjoyed by the wealthy, the Social Security System would be financially solvent. Even the wealthy can draw Social Security benefits, so they should have to pay according to their income.