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The American Road to Fascism -- a synopsis of Chris Hedges' new book, Empire of Illusion

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Empire of Illusion ~ Chris Hedges

The United Nations' International Labor Organization estimates that some 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide in 2009. The collapse had already seen close to 4 million lost jobs in the United States by mid-2009. The International Monetary Fund's prediction for global economic growth in 2009 is 0.5% -- the worst since the Second World War. There were 2.3 million properties in the United States that received a default notice or were repossessed in 2008. And this number is set to rise, especially as vacant commercial real estate begins to be foreclosed. About 20,000 major global banks collapsed, were sold, or were nationalized in 2008. An estimated 62,000 U.S. companies are expected to shut down in 2009.

Meanwhile, our government is being wrecked by corporations, which now receive 40% of federal discretionary spending. More than 800,000 jobs, once handled by government employees, have been outsourced to corporations, a move that has not only further empowered our shadow/corporate government but also helped destroy federal workforce unions. Management of federal prisons, the management of regulatory and scientific reviews, the processing or denial of Freedom of Information requests, interrogating prisoners, and running the world's largest mercenary army in Iraq -- all this has become corporate. And these corporations, in a perverse arrangement, make their money directly off of the American citizen.

This devil's deal is but an expansion of the corporate welfare enjoyed by the defense industry: Halliburton in 2003 was given a no-bid and non-compete $7 billion contract to repair Iraq's oil fields as well as the power to oversee and control all of Iraq's oil production. This has now become $130 billion in contract awards to Halliburton. And flush with taxpayer dollars, what has Halliburton done? It has made sure that only thirty-six of its 143 subsidiary companies are incorporated in the United States and that 107 of its subsidiaries (or 75%) are incorporated in thirty different countries. This arrangement allows Halliburton to lower its tax liability on foreign income by establishing "controlled foreign corporations," i.e. subsidiaries, that are located inside low-tax, or no-tax, countries that are thereby used as tax havens. Thus the corporations take our money, squander it, and cleverly evade taxation "" all at our expense. And our corporately infiltrated and corporately controlled government not only funds them but protects them!

By this means and many others, the financial and political disparities between our oligarchy and the working class have created a new global serfdom that is now taking hold even in the United States. Credit Suisse analysts estimate that the number of subprime foreclosures in the United States by the end of 2012 will total 1,390,000. If that estimate is correct, 13% of all residential borrowers in the United States will be forced out of their homes.

The bailout for banks and financial firms, who feel no compunction to account for taxpayer funds, essentially pulled the plug on the New Deal. The Great Society is now gasping for air, mortally wounded, coughing up blood. Power no longer resides with the citizens of the United States, who, at ratios of 100 to 1, pleaded with their representatives in Washington not to loot the national treasury to bail out reckless Wall Street investment firms that engaged in a variety of schemes of highly questionable legality.

Political and economic power increasingly lies with corporations

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These corporations, not we, pick who runs for president, for Congress, for judgeships, and for most state legislatures. You cannot, in most instances, be a viable candidate without their blessing and money. These corporations, including the Commission on Presidential Debates (a private and corporately controlled organization), determine who gets to speak and what issues candidates can or cannot challenge -- from universal, not-for-profit, single-payer health care to Wall Street bailouts, to NAFTA. If you do not follow the corporate script, you will certainly become as marginal and invisible as Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, or Cynthia McKinney.

This is why most Democrats opposed Pennsylvania Democratic House Representative John Murtha's call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq -- something that would dry up profits for companies like Halliburton -- and instead supported continued funding for the war. It is why most voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act. It is why the party opposed an amendment that was part of a bankruptcy bill that would have capped credit card interest rates at 30%. It is why corporatist politicians opposed a bill that would have reformed the notorious Mining Law of 1872 which allows mineral companies to plunder federal land for profit. It is why they did not back the single-payer health-care bill House Resolution 676, sponsored by Representatives Kucinich and John Conyers and supported by three-quarters of the American people they supposedly represent. It is why so many politicians advocate nuclear power. It is why many backed the class-action "reform" bill -- the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) -- that was part of a large lobbying effort by financial firms. CAFA would effectively shut down state courts as a venue to hear most class-action lawsuits. Workers, under CAFA, would no longer have redress in many of the courts where these cases have a chance of defying powerful corporations. CAFA moves these cases into corporate-friendly federal courts dominated by Republican judges.

The ever expanding war against American workers

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The assault on the American working class is nearly complete. In the past three years, nearly one in five U.S. workers was laid off. Among workers laid off from full-time work, roughly one-fourth were earning less than $40,000 annually. Today most of them make significantly less. As a result of all the layoffs over the last decade, there are whole sections of the United States that now resemble the developing world. There has been a Weimarization of the American working class. And the assault on the middle class is now under way. Anything that can be put on software -- from finance to architecture to engineering -- can and is being outsourced to workers in countries such as India or China, who accept pay that is a fraction of what their Western counterparts receive, and without benefits. And make no mistake, both the Republican and Democratic parties, beholden to corporations for money and power, have allowed this to happen.

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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