You Can’t Separate Empire, the State, Financialization and Crony Capitalism: It’s One Indivisible System

Disagreement is part of discourse, and pursuing differing views of the best way forward is the heart of democracy. Disagreement is abundant, democracy is scarce, despite claims to the contrary.

If you think you can surgically extract Empire from the American System, force the State to serve the working/middle classes, end the stripmining of financialization, limit crony capitalism/regulatory capture and get Big Money out of politics–go ahead and do so. I’m not standing in your way–go for it.

But while you pursue your good governance, populist, Left/ Right /Socialist/ Libertarian, etc. reforms, please understand the system is indivisible: the Deep State, the Imperial Project (hegemony and power projection), the State, finance in all its tenacled control mechanisms (greetings, debt-serfs and student-loan-serfs), crony capitalism /regulatory capture, money buying political influence, media propaganda passing as “news”, and the evisceration of democracy (something untoward could happen if the serfs could overthrow the Power Elite at the ballot box–can’t let that happen)–it’s all one system.

Should any one organ be ripped from the body, the entire body dies. The entire system defends each subsystem as integral as a matter of survival. As a result, the naive notion that big money can be excised with only positive consequences is false: restoring democracy places the entire system at risk of implosion.

No more bread and circuses, no more Social Security checks, no more state employee pensions–it all melts into air if any subsystem stops doing its job.

The system is interdependent. Each subsystem needs the others to function. I drew up a chart of the major components (but by no means all) of the system:

The system is a machine in which each gear serves the whole. So go ahead and try to “reform” the system by extracting whatever gear you don’t approve of: the Deep State components, the Security State organs, the Federal Reserve, cartels/monopolies enforced by the State, the suppression of democracy, crony capitalism, whatever.

The machine will resist your “reform” to the death because should you succeed, the machine will implode. Take out the financialization gear and the financial system collapses.

So go ahead and reform to your heart’s content. Go ahead and believe the system is reformable, if it makes you feel better. Vote for Bernie or The Donald or whomever. Go ahead and disagree with me. Prove me wrong. Prove the State really, really, really wants to serve the working/middle class rather than the Empire that it is. Pursue your Left/ Right/ Socialist/ Libertarian fantasies of righting the Imperial Project by ripping the gears out of the very center of the machine.

It doesn’t work that way. We can’t remove the gears we find distasteful. Either the machine grinds on and we get our share of the swag–bread and circuses, corporate welfare, State jobs and pensions, Medicaid and Medicare, and all the rest of the immense swag of hegemony and the Imperial Project–or the system implodes and all the swag melts into air.

The great irony is what’s unsustainable melts into thin air no matter how many people want it to keep going.

But go ahead and disagree. It’s your right, by golly. Go ahead and try to “reform” the system and see how far you get.

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  • You are spot again Mr. Smith, and here is a supporting article from back in June of 2014.

    June 27, 2014 Endgame response to Karl Rove/1% ‘We’re an Empire creating our own reality for you to study’: Study’s over – you’re under arrest

    Three weeks before W. Bush’s election for a second term in 2004, his Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, chided Pulitzer-winning journalist, Ron Suskind. Rove said: Guys like [Suskind] were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.”

  • Oct 1, 2015 China Dumps Dollars To Buy Gold – Mike Maloney’s Daily News Brief

  • jadan

    What nonsense! Obviously, you’re terrified of the future. Have a look at Munch’s picture, “The Screamer”.

    • Bev

      Agreed Jadan. Charles Hugh Smith is wrong. And, look what he uses to try to stop people, our loss of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Pensions and State Jobs. Their plan is to buckle these jobs, programs and safety nets, not to save them. Also to buckle all rights including property rights.
      Leaked Seattle Audit Concludes Many Mortgage Documents Are Void

      How else to have the enormous money to pay new engineering to try to reduce the current and future danger of Fukushima, WIPP, the 400 aging nuclear power plants, and a destabilizing climate change for the generations that it will take. It may be a matter of survival itself for us to know about and use debt-free money as we have done six times in America’s past with brave Presidents like Washington, Lincoln, and Kennedy among others. Support and PROTECT all leaders who would do this again for the common good which today include the Green Party in the U.S. and U.K. What does Bernie Sanders think about debt-free public money, about publicly hand-counted paper ballots posted in precinct on election night. We need to know.
      A tiny detail from the UK election By Golem XIV
      In comments:
      Joe Bongiovanni

      Why Monetary Reform Must Become Your Number One Issue
      start at time 15:45

      How Does the Monetary System Relate to Socialist Theory?
      Marx did not understand money at all. He never understood money. Marx was willing to work with the private bankers.

      I am not here to criticize Marx, okay, but the fact of the matter is there has never been a socialist or communists theorists who understood money.

      Now having said that, Trotsky was the closest that I felt who understood money. And, a couple of French Socialists whose names just escape me right at the moment, understood money.

      In sum, the entire left of the left do not understand money (my note: with the exception of the Green Party). In fact they usually refuse to engage it as a substance of discussion, because it doesn’t matter to them. It’s the means of production. It’s all the things that count under both socialism and communism.

      I am kind of a bit of a socialists myself, but when it comes to money I am a nationalist. Money is issued by nations. It is up to the nation to control the issuance of the money. The nation that controls the issuance of the money, all you have to worry about is Fascism. Okay. And so, if you ensure that the issuance of the money is something that happens for the good of the people, you are well on your way to controlling all those other issues that are important, the means of
      production. Not that you control the means of production, but you influence the means of production by true economic decision making.

      As a speaker at The American Monetary Institute Conference Joe Bongiovanni’s EconomicStability videos are 4 to 10 minutes each.

      1. Monetary Reform Talk, 4.09, Part 1: Introduction by EconomicStability

      2. Monetary Reform Talk, 4 09, Part 2: Early History by EconomicStability

      3. Monetary Reform Talk, 4 09, Part 3: Lincoln’s Greenbacks by EconomicStability

      4. Monetary Reform Talk, 4 09, Part 4: Post Civil War by EconomicStability

      5. Monetary Reform Talk, 4.09, Part 5: Federal Reserve Act by EconomicStability

      6. Monetary Reform Talk, 4.09, Part 6: Chicago Plan of 1933 by EconomicStability

      7. Monetary Reform Talk, 4.09, Part 7: Robert Hemphill quote by EconomicStability

      8. Monetary Reform Talk, 4.09, Part 8: Milton Friedman by EconomicStability

      9. Monetary Reform Talk, 4.09, Part 9: The Solution by EconomicStability

      • jadan

        We just assume an economist understands money, but we assume too much, eh? We do need to know Sanders’ ideas about money. We need to know his views on many issues and as time goes on he will come into clearer focus.

        I appreciate Zarlenga’s work and value his book as a landmark, but he’s not doing much of a job educating the public. Ellen Brown is much more effective, but also misguided in her advocacy of the Bank of N. Dakota. There’s rarely anything new at the AMI website. Don’t know why there isn’t more action there, don’t know why there aren’t more people writing articles. This needs to change and pronto!

        • Bev

          I think Bernie Sanders could have said that the biggest money socialism was subsides and bailouts to banks, corporations/the stock market, and derivatives stuffed everywhere. Isn’t that socialism, or is it always called fascism when governments funnel money and rights to corporations and fraudsters? So now we have money (socialism/fascism) for the wealthy, even fraudsters when we need money (a government public debt-free money would be socialism or nationalism?) for the poor, the hungry, the community, infrastructure, the economy and families. Bernie Sanders, what is your monetary policy…a debt-free, public money like Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy instituted? Protect such leaders.

          The American Monetary Institute had just finished their 11th annual conference ( the 12th ) which draws from worldwide, knowledgeable professors, economists, educators, politicians and activists, especially from the U.S. and U.K. Green Party which has already endorsed in their platform a public debt-free money system. The American Monetary Institute has some materials that need no change such as The Need Act by former Rep. Dennis Kucinich since the information is the legislative solution.

          Jadan, you and others could do AMI a big solid by posting at different sites and asking Naked Capitalism to stop censoring Joe Bongiovanni even though and because he was winning monetary arguments. Very importantly, someone ask Bernie Sanders what his position is on monetary refrorm: it needs to be The Need Act.

          Here are some interesting articles about Bernie Sanders and his effectiveness in passing amendments to help the public.

          Bernie Gets It Done: Sanders’ Record of Pushing Through Major Reforms Will Surprise You
          What kind of experience does Bernie Sanders have? Let’s take a look.
          By Zaid Jilani / AlterNet

          “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done,” Hillary Clinton said at the first Democratic debate, in response to a question from moderator Anderson Cooper about whether she defines herself as a moderate or a progressive.

          The implication was that progressive Bernie Sanders is too far to the left to accomplish anything—all of his ideas are pie-in-the-sky. You have to be able to find the bipartisan, “warm, purple space” as Clinton said earlier this year, to get anything done. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie was super-impressed by this rationale, saying Clinton has “skilled use of bureaucratic power.”

          The problem with this narrative is that it is completely false. Not only has Sanders gotten a lot more things done than Clinton did in her own short legislative career, he’s actually one of the most effective members of Congress, passing bills, both big and small, that have reshaped American policy on key issues like poverty, the environment and health care.

          The Amendment King

          Congress is not known to be a progressive institution lately, to say the least. Over the past few decades, the House of Representatives was only controlled by the Democrats from 2007 to 2010, and a flood of corporate money has quieted the once-powerful progressive movement that passed legislation moving the country forward between the New Deal era and the Great Society. Yet, as difficult as it may be to believe, a socialist from Vermont is one of its most accomplished members.
          Bernie Sanders was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, and many immediately doubted his efficacy. “It is virtually impossible for an independent to be effective in the House,” said then-Congressman Bill Richardson (D-NM). “As an independent you are kind of a homeless waif.” Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), today an outspoken advocate for Hillary Clinton, said Bernie’s “holier-than-thou attitude—saying in a very loud voice he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else—really undercuts his effectiveness.”

          As if things didn’t look bad enough, in 1994 the Republicans swept into power in the House of Representatives, dashing the hopes of many that Congress could do anything progressive whatsoever. But Sanders was not content with tilting at windmills. He didn’t want to just take a stand, he wanted to pass legislation that improved the United States of America. He found his vehicle in legislative amendments.

          Amendments in the House of Representatives are often seen as secondary vehicles to legislation that individual members sponsor, but they are an important way to move resources and build bipartisan coalitions to change the direction of the law. Despite the fact that the most right-wing Republicans in a generation controlled the House of Representatives between 1994 and 2006, the member who passed the most amendments during that time was not a right-winger like Bob Barr or John Boehner. The amendment king was, instead, Bernie Sanders.
          Sanders did something particularly original, which was that he passed amendments that were exclusively progressive, advancing goals such as reducing poverty and helping the environment, and he was able to get bipartisan coalitions of Republicans who wanted to shrink government or hold it accountable and progressives who wanted to use it to empower Americans.

          Here are a few examples of the amendments Sanders passed by building unusual but effective coalitions:

          • Corporate Crime Accountability (February 1995): A Sanders amendment to the Victims Justice Act of 1995 required “offenders who are convicted of fraud and other white-collar crimes to give notice to victims and other persons in cases where there are multiple victims eligible to receive restitution.”
          • Saving Money, for Colleges and Taxpayers (April 1998): In an amendment to H.R. 6, the Higher Education Amendments of 1998, Sanders made a change to the law that allowed the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to make competitive grants available to colleges and universities that cooperated to reduce costs through joint purchases of goods and services.
          • Holding IRS Accountable, Protecting Pensions (July 2002): Sanders’ amendment to the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 2003 stopped the IRS from being able to use funds that “violate current pension age discrimination laws.” Although he faced stiff GOP opposition, his amendment still succeeded along a 308 to 121 vote.

          • Expanding Free Health Care (November 2001): You wouldn’t think Republicans would agree to an expansion of funds for community health centers, which provide some free services. But Sanders was able to win a $100 million increase in funding with an amendment.
          • Getting Tough On Child Labor (July 2001): A Sanders amendment to the general appropriations bill prohibited the importation of goods made with child labor.
          • Increasing Funding for Heating for the Poor (September 2004): Sanders won a $22 million increase for the low-income home energy assistance program and related weatherization assistance program.
          • Fighting Corporate Welfare and Protecting Against Nuclear Disasters (June 2005): A Sanders amendment brought together a bipartisan coalition that outnumbered a bipartisan coalition on the other side to successfully prohibit the Export-Import Bank from providing loans for nuclear projects in China.

          Once Sanders made it to the Senate in 2006, his ability to use amendments to advance a progressive agenda was empowered. Here are some of the amendments he passed in the Senate:

          • Greening the U.S. Government (June 2007): A Sanders amendment made a change to the law so at least 30 percent of the hot water demand in newer federal buildings is provided through solar water heaters.
          • Protecting Our Troops (October 2007): Sanders used an amendment to win $10 million for operation and maintenance of the Army National Guard, which had been stretched thin and overextended by the war in Iraq.
          • Restricting the Bailout to Protect U.S. Workers (Feburary 2009): A Sanders amendment required the banking bailout to utilize stricter H-1B hiring standards to ensure bailout funds weren’t used to displace American workers.
          • Helping Veterans’ Kids (July 2009): A Sanders amendment required the Comptroller General to put together comprehensive reporting on financial assistance for child care available to parents in the Armed Forces.
          • Exposing Corruption in the Military-Industrial Complex (November 2012): A Sanders amendment required “public availability of the database of senior Department officials seeking employment with defense contractors” – an important step toward transparency that revealed the corruption of the revolving door in action.

          • Support for Treating Autism in Military Health Care: Sanders worked with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to pass an amendment by a vote of 66-29 ensuring that the military’s TRICARE system would be able to treat autism.

          Using the Power of a Senator

          While Sanders was an amendment king who was able to bring bipartisan coalitions together to make serious changes to laws, he also knew how to be a thorn in the side of the establishment until it offered up something in return. Sanders was able to get the first-ever audit of funds given out by the Federal Reserve, which made transparent over $2 trillion of funds handed out by the secretive organization. This was a cause that Republican congressman Ron Paul (TX) had been pursuing for decades, but Sanders was able to get the votes to do it by forging a compromise that required an audit for the bailout period alone.

          When the Affordable Care Act was in danger of not having the votes to pass, Sanders used his leverage to win enough funding for free health treatment for 10 million Americans through Community Health Centers. This gutsy move—holding out until the funds were put into the bill—has even Republican members of Congress requesting the funds, which have helped millions of Americans who otherwise would not have access.

          Another moment came when Sanders, who was then chair of the Veterans committee, worked with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), to overhaul the Veterans Administration. McCain praised Sanders’ work on the bill in an interview with National Journal. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) even went so far as to say the bill would never have passed without Sanders’ ability to bring the parties to a deal.

          His Theory of Change, From Burlington to the White House

          The big question is, can Sanders translate his time as an effective senator into an effective president? After all, a legislative job is different than an executive job.
          But Sanders has a theory of change, in order to be an executive who can pass progressive policy even in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. He frequently talks about a “political revolution” that means vastly increasing voter turnout and participation in political activities so conservative lawmakers and Big Money are unable to overwhelm public opinion. During the Democratic debate, this line had its doubters, from former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to a skeptical Anderson Cooper.
          Sanders is probably not so unsure of himself. After all, he’s done it before. When Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, one of his big accomplishments was to increase civic life in the city. During the course of his terms, voter turnout doubled. In his eight years as mayor, he rejuvenated a city that was considered by many to be dying, laying out progressive policies that cities around the country later adopted, and he did all this without particularly alienating Republicans. As one former GOP Alderman noted, he implemented ideas from the Republican party that he felt were not particularly harmful to working people, such as more efficient accounting practices.

          It’s easy for the establishment media and politicians to make the assumption that Bernie Sanders is not an effective lawmaker or executive. He has strong convictions and he stands by them, and we’re often told that makes one a gadfly—someone who is out to make a point rather than make an actual change. But with Sanders we have the fusion of strong principles and the ability to forge odd bedfellow coalitions that accomplish historic things, like the audit of the Federal Reserve or the rejuvenation of Burlington that has served as a model for cities around the country. “Don’t underestimate me,” Sanders said at the beginning of the race, words that anyone who knows his political and policy history take to heart.

          Sorry Hillary, But Bernie’s Definition of Democratic Socialism Is What Most Americans Yearn For
          He flubbed it in the debate. But look at what he has said.
          By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet
          October 14, 2015

          Submit your email to get alerts for new articles by Steven Rosenfeld


In Tuesday night’s debate of Democrats seeking the presidency, Sen. Bernie Sanders didn’t do the best job saying what it meant to be a democratic socialist when pressed by CNN moderator Anderson Cooper.

          “Senator Sanders, a Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House,” Cooper began. “You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election?”

          “Well, we’re gonna win because first, we’re gonna explain what democratic socialism is,” Sanders tartly replied. “And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent —almost —own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.” Moreover, every other “major country” considers health care a right, and offers paid family and medical leave, he said. And Americans should learn from “countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway.”

          Though the audience applauded, this was not Bernie’s best answer.
          Not only did it give Hillary Clinton an opening to say that while she agreed with his economic critique, the U.S. was not Denmark but a greater country, belittling him. But Sanders’ reply delved into details instead of more clearly stating his core principles.

          In 1988, when Bernie Sanders was first running for the U.S. House, he made a cassette recording. One side featured folk songs that he “sang,” while the B side was filled with personal reflections, beginning with a revealing explanation of what socialism means to him. It starts with a vision for a much better world, living and participating in a real democracy, and controling one’s economic destiny.

          Bernie didn’t use any of these lines in Tuesday’s debate, but perhaps going forward he will, as his core philosophy has not wavered. Here, in its entirety, is what he said:

          What Does Socialism Mean?

          “What does it mean to be a socialist?” Bernie starts. “It means a lot of things. I think first though, and most important, it means that you have a vision that’s very different from what the status quo politicians have, and essentially, what it means is that you have a feeling that this world can be radically, radically different from what it is right now, and that what’s going on in front of your eyes is crazy, it’s not real, it’s a phase of history that needn’t exist and that someday will pass.
          “You really can almost take it seriously that you live in a world where it is considered normal that people go around killing each other. You turn on the television, there they are shooting each other. You turn on the television, there you have people who are living out on the streets or in some places on this planet starving to death, while at the same time you have other people who have billions and billions of dollars. More wealth than they’re going to be able to use in a million lifetimes.

          “The basic insanity of that, the immorality of that to me is so abhorrent that my feeling is that somebody, hopefully, in years to come people look back on this era and say, How could it be? How could people allow other people to be hungry, starve to death, they having nothing when other people had tremendous wealth?
          “Also what socialism means for me is very similar to what it meant for Eugene Debs, and it really means nothing more than democracy. It basically means that human beings are entitled to have the inalienable right to control their own lives, and that means that when you go to work you’re not working for somebody else who could fire you tomorrow because they don’t like the way you comb your hair or you don’t come to work on Sunday or, for any reason, whether they can move the factory that you’ve worked in for 30 years out of your town because they can make more money going to Mexico.

          “It means democracy, which means much more than just having the right to vote once every four years. People think, ‘Well, we live in a democratic society.’ In some degree, we do. We have some democratic rights, but having the freedom to vote for [presidential candidates] Ronald Reagan or Walter Mondale once every four years isn’t what democracy is about.

“It essentially means that to as great a degree as possible, human beings can control their lives, their workplace, their environment, and the truth is that in a nation of 230 million people in a complex society, no one quite knows how that’s going to work. I mean, that’s not easy.

          “I think we know that there aren’t necessarily simplistic type of solutions, but when I look at the world today and you find that half the people don’t even vote anymore. They’ve given up on the political system. The overwhelming majority of poor people don’t participate. That people feel themselves impotent, they feel themselves powerless.

          “They vote for the Reagans or the Mondales because of 30-second commercials; that the politicians in our country today are bought and sold as commodities. They’re sold on the TV as somebody who has run for office that you know that most of what people do in a campaign is figure out how they can raise money from wealthy people in order to pay for these 30 seconds. That’s not democracy.
          “It’s not democracy when the media in this country is owned by gigantic corporations who define and shape the issues for you, and politicians are puppets sitting around thinking, God, how do I get my message on 27 seconds that they’re going to give me on the television screen, maybe if I’m lucky?

          “The truth is you can’t explain complex issues in 27 seconds, but the people who own the TV stations could care less because their function and their desire is not to see people communicate with each other, not to see really real discussion of the issues of the day, but to make money.

          “That’s basically what socialism means to me. Democracy, participation, the right of people to own the world in which they live in rather than be slaves of other people.”

          The next 2016 Democratic Party presidential debate is Saturday, November 14, in Des Moines, Iowa. The other four debates will be in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida.

          Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).


  • wunsacon

    CHS, I believe the functions of the Empire are divisible.

    If we halved the MIC, there would be a difficult transition. But, investing the savings into higher-ROI projects would more than make up for it. Give the same people jobs doing something productive. And/or through attrition, let the private sector hire them.