Breaking the American Trance

Americans hypnotized by mass media and billionaire takeover artists need to snap out of it.

click to enlarge Breaking the American Trance - Chris Kleponis
Chris Kleponis
Breaking the American Trance

The following is a speech given by 92-year-old Doris "Granny D" Haddock, who walked across the U.S. in 1999-2000 for campaign finance reform. She made this speech to Citizens for Participation in Political Action in Boston, on Sept. 27, 2002.

I want to begin by congratulating you for all the work you do. I know it is often frustrating work. You are blessed to be able to see ahead to a world of cooperation and peace — a world of justice and sustainable economies and meaningful democracies. You wonder why others cannot or will not see these things or reach out for them, and why they in fact oppose the obvious good — why they take the part of the oppressor, the blindered war horse. I would like us to take a few moments to consider why this work is so hard, and what we might do to move toward our common dreams more rapidly and with greater joy.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the Reagan Administration. Mr. Reagan and those around him believed in a very new kind of American hero. This new hero was a business hero — not the fellow who built up a family furniture store on Main Street and supported the Little League and the Scouts; this new hero was not the woman who worked late hours to create a successful travel agency, nor was this new business hero anything like any of the hard-working Americans who built-up our middle class, advanced our standard of living and gave us the resources and leisure for the proper civic life of a democracy, with its leagues and Rotaries and Lions and Elks and VFWs and party conventions and all that glory.

No, the Reagan business hero was the corporate takeover artist.

Any regulations that might get in the way of these ruthless new capitalists were removed — removed so that reptiles of uncommon greed and brutality might rule the earth, which they now nearly do.

What soon happened was that ALL corporations of medium size or larger had to look over their shoulders. How did a corporation protect itself in this environment from a hostile takeover? It had to close down any factories that were not earning obscene profits. Never mind that a factory had served a town well for a century, or that it provided a healthy and regular profit for its stockholders. If it seemed to be underperfoming by the new hypergreed standards, or if it could be closed in favor of opening a foreign plant that provided a slightly higher rate of return, then, in this new atmosphere, the company was derelict in its duty to its stockholders if it did not ruthlessly act.

Perfectly good and profitable factories were closed. Benefits to employees everywhere were attacked, and staffs were downsized, outsourced, computerized, downsized again, outsourced again to temp agencies that paid no health care or retirement, and on and on until America became a very different place. The gap between rich and poor is now wider than at any time in our history. It is still a wealthy nation for many people, but poverty is on the rise, and those with jobs find themselves so overworked trying to make ends meet that there is little time for family or for the joy of living. Indeed, there is very little joy left in American life. Workers are not loyal to their companies, because companies treat them like expendable slaves, with no dignity or assurance that hard work will result in advancement or security.

We are living in the harsh world invented by a handful of corporate raiders whose values were completely foreign to the fairness and moderation that had so long served as the proper foundation of American success and the American dream of plenty for all. They were not a new kind of person, for there have always been among us a few reptilian hearts of uncommon greed. What was new was the political permission they received for their rape and rampage, which continues.

And so a new world devolved as if from a virus. The new business hero, a Horatio Alger on crack, did very well. The new model CEO derived from that moment — the ruthless mercenary who would come in to reorganize a company and render it takeover-proof by rendering it inhumane. This executive was worth millions per year, we were told. In this way, a Darwinian system of corporate survival assured that the most carnivorous, rather than the most responsible, would rise to lead our most powerful commercial organizations. And if you need an explanation for Fox News or Enron, this is the history you need to remember.

These superwealthy predators now, through their political patronage, control both political parties. They control Congress and the White House. They control elements within your state house. They are not particularly smart people, as their current agent in the White House clearly demonstrates.

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