So back in October of 2011, this was just an editorial. Now it looks like prophecy - or worse - a plan.
Hindsight being 20/20, it's easy to spot ten changes in American law and public perception that have led to the place ordinary Americans find themselves today.
If one is a conspiracy theorist, one can envision a smoke filled room back in the 1970s. Powerful white men sitting around a Camelot shaped round table vent their frustrations on the way the hippies, welfare queens, uppity feminists and corrupt unions are ruining the America they know and love. The question on the table is how to pull the country back from the brink of hippie socialism and Earth Day liberalism that Jimmy Carter and his administration represent.
Enter a cadre of bright young men from Wall Street, Madison Avenue and Ivy League law schools. They step up with ideas to preserve the American dream their fathers lived for future generations. What they offer the rich and powerful is not a quick fix, but a multifaceted project to take America back to capitalism in its purest form.
Here's the ten point plan they put the table.
1. Break the unions. Move big industry to jurisdictions that feature cheap, limitless labor forces. Change the rules for organizing to make it harder to create a union. Frame a public relations campaign depicting unions as greedy and un-American.
2. Take out federal oversight. Weaken rules on air quality, food inspection, workers' protections. Work to eliminate whole agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education and Federal Drug Administration. Cut funding for oversight committees. Depict government workers as faceless, soulless bureaucrats, intent on destroying American business. Tell the public the federal government has outlived its usefulness.
3. Create a global market. Convince politicians that treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) are good for the middle class. Jobs go out. Cheap goods come in. Americans can also be convinced that their education system is not as good as other countries that our workers aren't as productive as other workers.
4. Change self image of Americans to consumers - away from being producers. Americans made products that sold worldwide for many years after the Second World War. With manufacturing slipping to other countries, convince the public that consumerism is the patriotic thing to do.
5. Re-energize war as a profit center. Military hardware is big business. Make military service a job alternative. Focus attention on wars abroad.
6. Re-deal the New Deal. FDR is dead as are most of the programs he championed. Convince the middle class that the most obvious surviving remnant of the New Deal, Social Security, should be replaced by investment in the market. Narrow other giveaway programs, low income housing, heating assistance, child care, special education funding out of existence.
7. Marginalize small business. Although small business creates most of the jobs in America, it doesn't speak with one voice. Big business can and does speak with one voice - in regulation, tax policy and support of friendly politicians. Small business people can bear the brunt of tax, regulation and burdensome laws and regulations. The added benefit - they tell their friends and customers of government evil.
8. Change banking and bankruptcy rules. Local banks once lent on personal knowledge of the borrower. National and international banks have no personal connection to the borrower or to the community. Create a complicated system of scoring - a report card on every adult who ever apply for credit in America. Good credit scores mean low interest loans. Change bankruptcy rules to deny debtors any chance of saving their homes, their cars, and their dignity.
9. Manage booms and busts. Those in the know get ahead of the curve of boom times, getting in early. Those in the know get out before the busts. The rest of America trails behind and absorbs the losses. Lure the suckers into the housing boom right before it blows up.
10. Divide on social issues. Americans focused on abortion, gay rights, illegal immigration, don't have time or attention span for economic issues. Keep the populace stirred up and believing that their woes are caused by a turning from religion. That old time religion will cure all ills.
Not all of the ten points have come to fruition. The unions are weakened, but still around. Federal agencies, under attack, still regulate, albeit feebly. Banks continue to mutate, extruding new fees for customers with virus-like speed.
The old men in the imaginary smoke filled room are dead of old age. The hypothetical bright young men are old.
But their plans, like the corporations they serve, tick on and on.
Until they are done.