The Selling of America

big picture stuff, News Media

Although we spend a lot of time looking at atrocities like the war in Iraq and the demolition of the Constitution, our government is destroying America in many other, and equally pernicious, ways. These ways include selling national forests into private hands, for example. There’s an article in the newest issue of Harper’s (not yet online) that argues the real point of the No Child Left Behind Act is to turn public schools into profit-making private businesses (profit being the real goal, of course, not education). We have a health care crisis because government favors and protects private insurance industry above the lives of citizens.

Their current project seems to be killing free speech by running small, independent periodicals out of business. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, writes,

Half a million dollars. In postage.

In just a few short days, The Nation will pay one of the biggest bills we’ve ever faced – half a million dollars – because of a postal rate increase scheme designed in part by lobbyists for the TimeWarner media conglomerate. Mailing costs for mega-magazines like TimeWarner’s own Time, People and Sports Illustrated will go up much less or in some cases decrease, while smaller publications like The Nation will be hit by an enormous rate increase.

Teresa Stack explains,

… in May 2006 the United States Postal Service proposed a rate increase for periodicals of about 11.7 percent, an increase that would have affected all periodicals more or less equally. Instead, in February the PRC [Postal Regulatory Commission] recommended a version of the rate proposal put forward by Time Warner, which had previously been rejected by the PRC and strongly opposed by the USPS. This proposal would have a disproportionately adverse effect on small national publications while easing the burden on the largest magazines.

The decision was followed by an industry “comment period” of only eight working days, an impossibly short time for small publications to digest changes so complex that to this day there is no definitive computer model to fully assess them. Nonetheless, the new rates are scheduled to take effect July 15.

We now know that small titles will be devastated. According to an analysis by McGraw-Hill (but not, inexplicably, done by the PRC or BOG), about 5,700 small-circulation publications will incur rate increases exceeding 20 percent; another 1,260 publications will see increases above 25 percent; and hundreds more, increases above 30 percent. Some small magazines will no doubt go out of business. Meanwhile, the largest magazines will enjoy the benefit of much smaller increases and in some cases, decreases. To make matters even worse, editorial content charges will now be based on distance. The system of charging one price however far editorial content travels, which has existed since our country’s founding, seems to have been summarily dismissed by the PRC, and then by the governors, with little thought of its future impact.

The Postal Regulatory Commission, btw, is made up of presidential appointees. I assume most of ’em are Bush appointees by now. See Liza Sabater for more.

The Nation is asking for contributions to keep itself in business. If there’s a small magazine in your life that you can’t live without, whether The Nation or another one, they might need some help. I wouldn’t be surprised if some smaller publications become web-only. And then there’s net neutrality

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  1. felicity  •  Jul 17, 2007 @2:08 pm

    If possible someone should make a template from that article in Harpers on No Child Left Behind. It so clearly lays out the skulduggery employed by the Republican party to achieve its ends. Typically, the American people get decked by a below-the-belt illegal punch, no time left to call foul, a loss of their title and no chance in hell of a re-match.

    The Selling of America says it all.

  2. CalifChris  •  Jul 17, 2007 @3:19 pm

    Bush would privitize his soul if he thought it would help the corporate bottom line. I believe he came into office with the sole purpose of dismantling every aspect of government and all government programs. He is selling everything off to the highest corporate bidder.

  3. moonbat  •  Jul 17, 2007 @3:49 pm

    Rebuilding New Orleans falls into the same category. Who cares, they’re just black and Democrats. Imagine the fervor of reconstruction if Katrina had sailed into West Palm Beach instead.

    But the systematic stifling of information, from allowing the big conglomerates to consolidate media, to stupid things like skewing the postage rates in their favor, is literally killing what’s left of this Democracy.

    I hope the Nation and other small operators can figure out a new distribution model, probably based on the internet. The Nation in particular needs a facelift or a way to make the content more generally appealing at the very least (the conservative mags by contrast have a lot more punch and general appeal, and probably a larger circulation), and perhaps this is the crisis that will transform them. Or kill them.

  4. Donna  •  Jul 17, 2007 @4:11 pm

    This reminds me of the welfare to work policy of the ’90’s which was to provide welfare parents with child-care help so they could take jobs. Soon, the ‘child-care’ world was full of sprouting-up franchises of megacorporations getting into child-care [or rather, getting into the new lucre, the child-care tax dollars].
    I read a story [I think this was in Tennessee] about some big-bucks corporation being called to answer to the death of a child left in a car seat all day in the heat in one of their children’s pick-up and deliver mini-busses, no doubt driven by someone getting the lowest pay possible. Until I read that story, I hadn’t put two and two together about the underside of privitization.

    That really really stinks about big newsprint publications getting lower postal increases. We have two big jobs as activists: to replace the privateer supporters in Washington, and then to weed out the Democratic republican-lites who have colluded with those privateers.

  5. Pat Pattillo  •  Jul 18, 2007 @1:30 am

    Thanks so much for filling in the details. As a nation subscriber I received a thumbnail that was the first quote in your blog but not the rest. This has me wondering what specific advantages the current arrangements provide to Time Warner and corporations lobbying our elected representatives, other than crushing smaller competitors and raising the barriers to entry.

    My ethos-based information filter has left me with previous few sources of information that I feel I can trust. I can no longer rely on MSM so that leaves me with precisely the information sources that will be most affected by this scam.

    This follows the unwavering trend of centralizing power in the hands of a few, this time with regard to communication and perhaps even free speech itself. Hurried comment periods often precede FCC regulations with a process weighted in favor of larger industry players, not necessarily those or representatives of those who might be most affected.

    However, this should come as no surprise. The Bush administration has not tried keeping this sort of thing a secret. We all saw it coming yet many jumpted on the bandwagon that sought to turn government (bad/inefficient, the ones who tax you) over to the free market (good, as in fredom and liberty) and the vaunted heads of industry.

    Privatization has been trumpeted as the cure-for-whatever-ails-you. It’s not unlike some magical pixie dust that promises to bring both efficiency and better quality of service to every former government function with which it comes in contact.

    But, this utopian promise really doesn’t bear up under closer scrutiny, does it? The day of reckoning for the scam artists that wrecked our country has come.

    Let’s just hope the insult from these present-day antics will run deep enough to give a progressive administration the time needed to unravel the utter mess that has been made. It won’t be easy, especially after the war-induced bubble bursts and Bush becomes a distant, waning smirk. The Bush administration has been very busy and the next administration will need to be just as industrious in reversing the likes of Blackwater, FCC, DOJ, USPS, SBA, DOI, faith-based initiaitves,…whew… enough! this could keep one up all night.

    At least there is imminent domain to get our national forests and parks back. That ought to make those who would otherwise ransack the public trusts think twice before shopping the next conservative government fire sale….for at least another 20 years.

  6. Joyful Alternative  •  Jul 22, 2007 @8:18 pm

    The structure of the new postal increases (which I understand are unnecessary, except that postal profits are being channeled elsewhere) also disadvantages small online businesses, particularly those who use media mail, in favor of megamailers.

  7. rtg  •  Oct 21, 2007 @10:06 am

    The Dubai Ports World deal is waking Americans up to a painful reality: So-called “conservatives” and “flat world” globalists have bankrupted our nation for their own bag of silver, and in the process are selling off America.

    Through a combination of the “Fast Track” authority pushed for by Reagan and GHW Bush, sweetheart trade deals involving “most favored nation status” for dictatorships like China, and Clinton pushing us into NAFTA and the WTO (via GATT), we’ve abandoned the principles of tariff-based trade that built American industry and kept us strong for over 200 years.

    The old concept was that if there was a dollar’s worth of labor in a pair of shoes made in the USA, and somebody wanted to import shoes from China where there may only be ten cents worth of labor in those shoes, we’d level the playing field for labor by putting a 90-cent import tariff on each pair of shoes. Companies could choose to make their products here or overseas, but the ultimate cost of labor would be the same.

    Then came the flat-worlders, led by misguided true believers and promoted by multinational corporations. Do away with those tariffs, they said, because they “restrain trade.” Let everything in, and tax nothing. The result has been an explosion of cheap goods coming into our nation, and the loss of millions of good manufacturing jobs and thousands of manufacturing companies. Entire industry sectors have been wiped out.

    These policies have kneecapped the American middle class. Our nation’s largest employer has gone from being the unionized General Motors to the poverty-wages Wal-Mart. Americans have gone from having a net savings rate around 10 percent in the 1970s to a minus .5 percent in 2005 – meaning that they’re going into debt or selling off their assets just to maintain their lifestyle.

    At the same time, federal policy has been to do the same thing at a national level. Because our so-called “free trade” policies have left us with an over $700 billion annual trade deficit, other countries are sitting on huge piles of the dollars we gave them to buy their stuff (via Wal-Mart and other “low cost” retailers). But we no longer manufacture anything they want to buy with those dollars.

    So instead of buying our manufactured goods, they are doing what we used to do with Third World nations – they are buying us, the USA, chunk by chunk. In particular, they want to buy things in America that will continue to produce profits, and then to take those profits overseas where they’re invested to make other nations strong. The “things” they’re buying are, by and large, corporations, utilities, and natural resources.

    Back in the pre-Reagan days, American companies made profits that were distributed among Americans. They used their profits to build more factories, or diversify into other businesses. The profits stayed in America.

    Today, foreigners awash with our consumer dollars are on a two-decades-long buying spree. The UK’s BP bought Amoco for $48 billion – now Amoco’s profits go to England. Deutsche Telekom bought VoiceStream Wireless, so their profits go to Germany, which is where most of the profits from Random House, Allied Signal, Chrysler, Doubleday, Cyprus Amax’s US Coal Mining Operations, GTE/Sylvania, and Westinghouse’s Power Generation profits go as well. Ralston Purina’s profits go to Switzerland, along with Gerber’s; TransAmerica’s profits go to The Netherlands, while John Hancock Insurance’s profits go to Canada. Even American Bankers Insurance Group is owned now by Fortis AG in Belgium.

    Foreign companies are buying up our water systems, our power generating systems, our mines, and our few remaining factories. All because “flat world” so-called “free trade” policies have turned us from a nation of wealthy producers into a nation of indebted consumers, leaving the world awash in dollars that are most easily used to buy off big chunks of America. As notes, US Government statistics indicate the following percentages of foreign ownership of American industry:

    · Sound recording industries – 97%
    · Commodity contracts dealing and brokerage – 79%
    · Motion picture and sound recording industries – 75%
    · Metal ore mining – 65%
    · Motion picture and video industries – 64%
    · Wineries and distilleries – 64%
    · Database, directory, and other publishers – 63%
    · Book publishers – 63%
    · Cement, concrete, lime, and gypsum product – 62%
    · Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment – 57%
    · Rubber product – 53%
    · Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing – 53%
    · Plastics and rubber products manufacturing – 52%
    · Plastics product – 51%
    · Other insurance related activities – 51%
    · Boiler, tank, and shipping container – 50%
    · Glass and glass product – 48%
    · Coal mining – 48%
    · Sugar and confectionery product – 48%
    · Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying – 47%
    · Advertising and related services – 41%
    · Pharmaceutical and medicine – 40%
    · Clay, refractory, and other nonmetallic mineral products – 40%
    · Securities brokerage – 38%
    · Other general purpose machinery – 37%
    · Audio and video equipment mfg and reproducing magnetic and optical media – 36%
    · Support activities for mining – 36%
    · Soap, cleaning compound, and toilet preparation – 32%
    · Chemical manufacturing – 30%
    · Industrial machinery – 30%
    · Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities – 30%
    · Other food – 29%
    · Motor vehicles and parts – 29%
    · Machinery manufacturing – 28%
    · Other electrical equipment and component – 28%
    · Securities and commodity exchanges and other financial investment activities – 27%
    · Architectural, engineering, and related services – 26%
    · Credit card issuing and other consumer credit – 26%
    · Petroleum refineries (including integrated) – 25%
    · Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments – 25%
    · Petroleum and coal products manufacturing – 25%
    · Transportation equipment manufacturing – 25%
    · Commercial and service industry machinery – 25%
    · Basic chemical – 24%
    · Investment banking and securities dealing – 24%
    · Semiconductor and other electronic component – 23%
    · Paint, coating, and adhesive – 22%
    · Printing and related support activities – 21%
    · Chemical product and preparation – 20%
    · Iron, steel mills, and steel products – 20%
    · Agriculture, construction, and mining machinery – 20%
    · Publishing industries – 20%
    · Medical equipment and supplies – 20%
    Thus it shouldn’t surprise us that the cons have sold off our ports as well, and will defend it to the bitter end. They truly believe that a “New World Order” with multinational corporations in charge instead of sovereign governments will be the answer to the problem of world instability. And therefore they must do away with quaint things like unions, a healthy middle class, and, ultimately, democracy.

    The “security” implications of turning our ports over to the UAE are just the latest nail in what the cons hope will be the coffin of American democracy and the American middle class. Today’s conservatives believe in rule by inherited wealth and an internationalist corporate elite, and things like a politically aroused citizenry and a healthy democracy are pesky distractions.

    Everything today is driven by profits for multinationals, supported by the lawmaking power of the WTO. Thus, parts for our missiles are now made in China, a country that last year threatened us with nuclear weapons. Our oil comes from a country that birthed a Wahabist movement that ultimately led to 14 Saudi citizens flying jetliners into the World Trade buildings and the Pentagon. Germans now own the Chrysler auto assembly lines that turned out tanks to use against Germany in WWII. And the price of labor in America is being held down by over ten million illegal workers, a situation that was impossible twenty-five years ago when unions were the first bulwark against dilution of the American labor force.

    When Thomas Jefferson wrote of King George III in the Declaration of Independence, “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation…” he just as easily could have been writing of the World Trade Organization, which now has the legal authority to force the United States to overturn laws passed at both local, state, and federal levels with dictates devised by tribunals made up of representatives of multinational corporations. If Dubai loses in the American Congress, their next stop will almost certainly be the WTO.

    As Simon Romero and Heather Timmons noted in The New York Times on 24 February 2006, “the international shipping business has evolved in recent years to include many more containers with consumer goods, in addition to old-fashioned bulk commodities, and that has helped lift profit margins to 30 percent, from the single digits. These smartly managed foreign operators now manage about 80 percent of port terminals in the United States.”

    And those 30 percent profits from American port operations now going to Great Britain will probably soon go to the United Arab Emirates, a nation with tight interconnections to both the Bush administration and the Bush family.

    Ultimately, it’s not about security — it’s about money. In the multinational corporatocracy’s “flat world,” money trumps the national good, community concerns, labor interests, and the environment. NAFTA, CAFTA, and WTO tribunals can – and regularly do – strike down local and national laws. Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man” are replaced by Antonin Scalia’s “Rights of Corporate Persons.”

    Profits even trump the desire for good enough port security to avoid disasters that may lead to war. After all, as Judith Miller wrote in The New York Times on January 30, 1991, quoting a local in Saudi Arabia: “War is good for business