The American Dream
by George Carlin edited by O Society August 31, 2019
“There’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, EVER be fixed… Because the owners, the owners of this country don’t want that.
I’m talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.
Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They own you.
They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls.
They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear…
They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying, to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else.
But I’ll tell you what they don’t want.. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.
They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting [expletive] by a system that threw them overboard 30 [expletive] years ago. They don’t want that!
You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork.
And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly [expletive] jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it.
And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street, and you know something? They’ll get it.
They’ll get it all from you sooner or later cause they own this [expletive] place! It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it! You, and I, are not in the big club.
By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long.. with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy.
The table has tilted folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice… Good honest hard-working people; white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on.
Good honest hard-working people continue to elect these rich [expletive] who don’t give a [expletive] about you….
They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Thats what the owners count on…
It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it…”
Reminder: DNC Lawyers to Court, “We Do Not Owe Voters an ‘Impartial’ or ‘Evenhanded’ Primary Election”
This is your periodic reminder the “Democratic Party” is not an organization Democratic voters belong to or have any right to control. The Democratic Party is instead a private organization, much like a club, non-members support by giving it their money, their time and their votes.
The same is true of the “Republican Party.
All other “rights” and promises offered by the Party to its supporters, including those obligations described in the DNC charter, are not obligations at all, but rather voluntary gifts which can be withdrawn at any time.
At least, this is how the DNC sees it.
Consider this report of a 2017 court filing, one that almost no one noticed, in which Sanders supporters sued the DNC for violating the section of its charter that requires DNC-run elections to be “impartial” and “evenhanded.” The DNC’s defense was, in essence, “So what?” (emphasis added below):
DNC Lawyers Argue DNC Has Right to Pick Candidates in Back Rooms
Attorneys claim the words ‘impartial’ and ‘evenhanded’—as used in the DNC Charter—can’t be interpreted by a court of law
On April 28 the transcript [pdf] was released from the most recent hearing at a federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on the lawsuit filed on behalf of Bernie Sanders supporters against the Bruce Spiva. Throughout the hearing, lawyers representing the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz double down on arguments confirming the disdain the Democratic establishment has toward Bernie Sanders supporters and any entity challenging the party’s status quo.
Shortly into the hearing, DNC attorneys claim Article V, Section 4 of the DNC Charter—stipulating that the DNC chair and their staff must ensure neutrality in the Democratic presidential primaries—is “a discretionary rule that it didn’t need to adopt to begin with.” Based on this assumption, DNC attorneys assert the court cannot interpret, claim, or rule on anything associated with whether the DNC remains neutral in their presidential primaries.
The attorneys representing the DNC have previously argued Sanders supporters knew the primaries were rigged, therefore annulling any potential accountability the DNC may have. In the latest hearing, they doubled down on this argument: “The Court would have to find that people who fervently supported Bernie Sanders and who purportedly didn’t know that this favoritism was going on would have not given to Mr. Sanders, to Senator Sanders, if they had known that there was this purported favoritism.” …
“People paid money in reliance on the understanding that the primary elections for the Democratic nominee—nominating process in 2016 were fair and impartial,” [Jared] Beck [the attorney representing Sanders supporters in the class action lawsuit] said. “And that’s not just a bedrock assumption that we would assume just by virtue of the fact that we live in a democracy, and we assume that our elections are run in a fair and impartial manner. This is what the Democratic National Committee’s own charter says. It says it in black and white. And they can’t deny that.” He added, “Not only is it in the charter, but it was stated over and over again in the media by the Democratic National Committee’s employees, including Congresswoman Wassermann Schultz, they were, in fact, acting in compliance with the charter. And they said it again and again, and we’ve cited several instances in the case.”
According to this report, attorneys for the DNC argued the DNC was not liable to Sanders supporters if they threw the primary race to Clinton, or tilted it toward her, because:
(a) Sanders supporters already knew the primary was rigged (did DNC lawyers really say that?), and
(b) the DNC charter requirement that elections be “impartial” and “evenhanded” is discretionary and not a requirement.
Shorter DNC lawyers: “We don’t have to run an evenhanded primary, even if we say we’re going to.”
About the second point, let’s look at the court transcript itself. In this section, the court asks: If Sanders supporters give money to an election run by the DNC, and if the DNC violates its charter and runs an election that unfairly disadvantages Sanders, do Sanders supporters have standing to sue?
DNC’s response is below. “Mr. Spiva” is Bruce Spiva, one of the DNC’s defense lawyers (emphasis mine):
THE COURT: All right. Let me ask the defense — we’re going to go into the issue of standing now at this point.
Let me ask counsel. If a person is fraudulently induced to donate to a charitable organization, does he have standing to sue the person who induced the donation?
MR. SPIVA: I think, your Honor, if the circumstance were such that the [charitable] organization promised that it was going to abide by some general principle, and the donee — or donor, rather, ultimately sued, because they said, Well, we don’t think you’re living up to that general principle, we don’t think you’re, you know, serving kids adequately, we think your program is — the way you’re running your program is not adequate, you know, you’re not doing it well enough, that that — that they would not have standing in that circumstance.
[On the other hand] I think if somebody — a charitable organization were to solicit funds and say, Hey, we’re gonna spend this money on after-school programs for kids, and the executive director actually put the money in their pocket and went down the street and bought a Mercedes-Benz, I think in that circumstance, they would have standing.
I think this circumstance is even one step further towards the no standing side of that, because here we’re talking about a political party and political principles and debate. And that’s an area where there’s a wealth of doctrine and case law about how that — just simply giving money does not give one standing to direct how the party conducts its affairs, or to complain about the outcomes, or whether or not the party is abiding by its own internal rules.
And I should say, your Honor, I just want to be clear, because I know it may sometimes sound like I am somehow suggesting that I think the party did not — you know, the party’s position is that it has not violated in the least this provision of its charter.
THE COURT: I understand.
MR. SPIVA: So I just want to get that out there. But to even determine — to make that determination would require the Court to wade into this political thicket. And — you know, which would invade its First Amendment interests, and also, I think, would raise issues — standing issues along all three prongs of the standing test.
After a legal discussion of the “three prongs,” the court asks this:
THE COURT: And then one other question on the issue of standing for the defense. Is there a difference between a campaign promise made by a political candidate and a promise that pertains to the integrity of the primary process itself? In other words, President George H.W. Bush’s —
MR. SPIVA: “Read my lips.”
THE COURT: — promise — “read my lips, no new taxes,” and then he raised taxes. Well, he could not be sued for raising taxes. But with respect to the DNC charter, Article V, Section 4, is there a difference between the two?
MR. SPIVA: Not one — there’s obviously a difference in degree. I think your Honor — I’m not gonna — I don’t want to overreach and say that there’s no difference. But I don’t think there’s a difference that’s material in terms of how the Court should decide the question before it in terms of standing, in that this, again, goes to how the party runs itself, how it decides who it’s going to associate with, how it decides how it’s going to choose its standard bearer ultimately. In case after case, from O’Brien, to Wymbs, to Wisconsin v. LaFollette, Cousins v. Wigoda, the Supreme Court and other courts have affirmed the party’s right to make that determination. Those are internal issues that the party gets to decide basically without interference from the courts.
You know, again, if you had a charity where somebody said, Hey, I’m gonna take this money and use it for a specific purpose, X, and they pocketed it and stole the money, of course that’s different.
But here, where you have a party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road, which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right, and it would drag the Court well into party politics, internal party politics to answer those questions.
To this day the DNC believes if it wanted to “go into back rooms” and “pick the [presidential] candidate,” this would “have been their right,” and no one outside the organization would have any right to enforce the DNC charter or interfere in any other way.
Good to know as we watch the 2020 machinations (for example, this one) unfold before us.
Is It Cynical to Believe the System is Corrupt?
Greg Wilpert interviews Bill Black
A new opinion poll released by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal last Sunday shows that 70% of Americans are “angry” because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power. Both Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren have also reflected on this sentiment during their campaigns. Sanders has said that we live in a “corrupt political system designed to protect the wealthy and the powerful.” Warren said it’s a “rigged system props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else.”
A New York Times opinion article written by the political scientist Greg Weiner felt compelled to push back on this message, writing a column with the title, The Shallow Cynicism of ‘Everything Is Rigged’. In his column, Weiner basically makes the argument that believing everything is corrupt and rigged is a cynical attitude with which it is possible to dismiss political opponents for being a part of the corruption. In other words, the Sanders and Warren argument is a shortcut, according to Weiner, that avoids real political debate.
Joining me now to discuss whether it makes sense to think of a political system as rigged and corrupt, and whether the cynical attitude is justified, is someone who should know a thing or two about corruption: Bill Black. He is a white collar criminologist, former financial regulator, and associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He’s also the author of the book, The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One. Thanks for joining us again, Bill.
BILL BLACK: Thank you.
GREG WILPERT: As I mentioned that the outset, it seems that Sanders and Warren are in effect taking an open door, at least when it comes to the American public. That is, almost everyone already believes that our political and economic system is rigged. Would you agree with that sentiment that the system is corrupt and rigged for the rich and against pretty much everyone else but especially the poor? What do you think?
BILL BLACK: One of the principal things I study is elite fraud, corruption and predation. The World Bank sent me to India for months as an anti-corruption alleged expert type. And as a financial regulator, this is what I dealt with. This is what I researched. This is a huge chunk of my life. So I wouldn’t use the word, if I was being formal in an academic system, “the system.” What I would talk about is specific systems that are rigged, and they most assuredly are rigged.
Let me give you an example. One of the most important things that has transformed the world and made it vastly more criminogenic, much more corrupt, is modern executive compensation. This is not an unusual position. This is actually the normal position now, even among very conservative scholars, including the person who was the intellectual godfather of modern executive compensation, Michael Jensen. He has admitted that he spawned unintentionally a monster because CEOs have rigged the compensation system. How do they do that? Well, it starts even before you get hired as a CEO. This is amazing stuff. The standard thing you do as a powerful CEO is you hire this guy, and he specializes in negotiating great deals for CEOs. His first demand, which is almost always given into, is that the corporation pay his fee, not the CEO. On the other side of the table is somebody that the CEO is going to be the boss of negotiating the other side. How hard is he going to negotiate against the guy that’s going to be his boss? That’s totally rigged.
Then the compensation committee hires compensation specialists who–again, even the most conservative economists agree it is a completely rigged system. Because the only way they get work is if they give this extraordinary compensation. Then, everybody in economics admits that there’s a clear way you should run performance pay. It should be really long term. You get the big bucks only after like 10 years of success. In reality, they’re always incredibly short term. Why? Because it’s vastly easier for the CEO to rig the short-term reported earnings. What’s the result of this? Accounting profession, criminology profession, economics profession, law profession. We’ve all done studies and all of them say this perverse system of compensation causes CEOs to (a) cheat and (b) to be extraordinarily short term in their perspective because it’s easier to rig the short-term reported results. Even the most conservative economists agree that’s terrible for the economy.
What I’ve just gone through is a whole bunch of academic literature from over 40-plus years from top scholars in four different fields. That’s not cynicism. That’s just plain facts if you understand the system. People like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, they didn’t, as you say, kick open an open door. They made the open door. It’s not like Elizabeth Warren started talking about this six months ago when she started being a potential candidate. She has been saying this and explaining in detail how individual systems are rigged in favor of the wealthy for at least 30 years of work. Bernie Sanders has been doing it for 45 years. This is what the right, including the author of this piece who is an ultra-far right guy, fear the most. It’s precisely what they fear, that Bernie and Elizabeth are good at explaining how particular systems are rigged. They explain it in appropriate detail, but they’re also good in making it human. They talk the way humans talk as opposed to academics.
That’s what the right fear is more than anything, that people will basically get woke. In this, it’s being woke to how individual systems have been rigged by the wealthy and powerful to create a sure thing to enrich them, usually at our direct expense.
GREG WILPERT: I think those are some very good examples. They’re mostly from the realm of economics. I want to look at one from the realm of politics, which specifically Weiner makes. He cites Sanders, who says that the rich literally buy elections, and Weiner counters this by saying that, “It is difficult to identify instances in American history of an electoral majority wanting something specific that it has not eventually gotten.” That’s a pretty amazing statement actually, I think, for him to say when you look at the actual polls of what people want and what people get. He then also adds, “That’s not possible to dupe the majority with advertising all of the time.” What’s your response to that argument?
BILL BLACK: Well, actually, that’s where he’s trying to play economist, and he’s particularly bad at economics. He was even worse at economics than he is at political science, where his pitch, by the way is–I’m not overstating this–corruption is good. The real problem with Senator Sanders and Senator Warren is that they’re against corruption.
Can you fool many people? Answer: Yes. We have good statistics from people who actually study this as opposed to write op-eds of this kind. In the great financial crisis, one of the most notorious of the predators that targeted blacks and Latinos–we actually have statistics from New Century. And here’s a particular scam. The loan broker gets paid more money the worse the deal he gets you, the customer, and he gets paid by the bank. If he can get you to pay more than the market rate of interest, then he gets a kickback, a literal kickback. In almost exactly half of the cases, New Century was able to get substantially above market interest rates, again, targeted at blacks and Latinos.
We know that this kind of predatory approach can succeed, and it can succeed brilliantly. Look at cigarettes. Cigarettes, if you use them as intended, they make you sick and they kill you. It wasn’t that very long ago until a huge effort by … pushback that the tobacco companies, through a whole series of fake science and incredible amounts of ads that basically tried to associate if you were male, that if you smoked, you’d have a lot of sex type of thing. It was really that crude. It was enormously successful with people in getting them to do things that almost immediately made them sick and often actually killed them.
He’s simply wrong empirically. You can see it in US death rates. You can see it in … Hell, I’m overweight considerably. Americans are enormously overweight because of the way we eat, which has everything to do with how marketing works in the United States, and it’s actually gotten so bad that it’s reducing life expectancy in a number of groups in America. That’s how incredibly effective predatory practices are in rigging the system. That’s again, two Nobel Laureates in economics have recently written about this. George Akerlof and Shiller, both Nobel Laureates in economics, have written about this predation in a book for a general audience. It’s called Phishing with a P-H.
GREG WILPERT: I want to turn to the last point that Weiner makes about cynicism. He says that calling the system rigged is actually a form of cynicism. And that cynicism, the belief that everything and everyone is bad or corrupt avoids real political arguments because it tires everyone you disagree with as being a part of that corruption. Would you say, is the belief that the system is rigged a form of cynicism? And if it is, wouldn’t Weiner be right that cynicism avoids political debate?
BILL BLACK: He creates a straw man. No one has said that everything and everyone is corrupt. No one has said that if you disagree with me, you are automatically corrupt. What they have given in considerable detail, like I gave as the first example, was here is exactly how the system is rigged. Here are the empirical results of that rigging. This produces vast transfers of wealth to the powerful and wealthy, and it comes at the expense of nearly everybody else. That is factual and that needs to be said. It needs to be said that politicians that support this, and Weiner explicitly does that, says, we need to go back to a system that is more openly corrupt and that if we have that system, the world will be better. That has no empirical basis. It’s exactly the opposite. Corruption kills. Corruption ruins economies.
The last thing in the world you want to do is what Weiner calls for, which he says, “We’ve got to stop applying morality to this form of crime.” In essence, he is channeling the godfather. “Tell the Don it wasn’t personal. It was just business.” There’s nothing really immoral in his view about bribing people. I’m sorry. I’m a Midwesterner. It wasn’t cynicism. It was morality. He says you can’t compromise with corruption. I hope not. Compromising with corruption is precisely why we’re in this situation where growth rates have been cut in half, why wage growth has been cut by four-fifths, why blacks and Latinos during the great financial crisis lost 60% to 80% of their wealth in college-educated households. That’s why 70% of the public is increasingly woke on this subject.
GREG WILPERT: Well, we’re going to leave it there. I was speaking to Bill Black, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Thanks again, Bill, for having joined us today.
BILL BLACK: Thank you.