In 1973, before President Nixon resigned in disgrace, Congress passed, and the president signed, "The Campaign Finance Reform Act of 1973" The intention of the bill was to "clean up" campaign funding. The result was the creation of PAC's, and a method for the wealthy to overwhelm votes with dollars. During the decade of the '70s, the U.S. saw an unprecedented concentration of business ownership. Mergers and Acquisitions became the primary activity of Wall Street. We lost hundreds of thousands of locally owned companies, stores and factories. The locus of control moved from a founder who could walk to work to a president who may not have even set foot in the state. We also saw a dramatic drop in the number of owners of media in every realm. The number of daily newspapers dropped, ownership of television and radio stations went from thousands to dozens. Corporations also went from a system of dividend disbursement to a theory of "retained" earnings. This concept kept the profits from operations, and the savings from abusing their workforce, under the control of Wall Street. Harvard Business School began teaching (in business ethics class) that if it was legal it was ethical, and if not, you could always change the law. Wages between 1970 and 1980 were flat.
In August, 1981 Paddy Chayefsky died. Ted Kennedy held up votes on Reagan's tax breaks for oil companies. PATCO, the Air Traffic Controllers Union went on strike, August 3rd. The strike was for safety reasons. On August 5th President Reagan fired the Controllers. The FAA immediately initiated control systems opposed by the Union and brought military controllers to civillian airports. Flights were kept in operation at about 50% of normal. It was ten years before air traffic was back to normal. The tax breaks passed the Senate. For the first time in 40 years American Corporations began a wholesale, declared war on America's working families. One CEO, of a very profitable company, with growing markets, fired all of his union workers. When asked why? he replied, "..because I could." Reagan also abandoned the "Fairness" Doctrine.
During the '80s and '90s we watched the continuing erosion in Middle Class protections, opportunities, and stability. Wealth distribution continued to widen, with the upper 10 % becoming rich beyond their own dreams. Wages of workers were flat, despite the economic booms of computers and the internet. NAFTA and other commerce treaties had surprising effects for most Americans. The sales pitch was expanded export opportunities. The result was job export. We should have exported democracy, environmental considerations, education, worker and womens rights. Instead, we exported American jobs, environmental degradation, colonial/corporate oppression, and buckets of cash.
The string of Corporate lackey Presidents between Nixon and Obama reduced human rights and expression in the United States. They funded the government with debt, crippling our society now and constraining choices for the future. They engaged in wars of corporate predation, wars for oil; they trampled democratic peoples the world over.
The last big theft, the collapse of housing values in the U.S. was made possible by Gramm/Leach/Blylie, 1999. That bill had the effect of rendering Sarbanes/Oxley unenforceable. Sarbanes/Oxley passed during the depression, to control speculative gambling by banks. The writedown of equity, so far, exceeds the total of Middle Class savings by 2007 measure.
They are not done. Their agenda is known. They will destroy the Middle Class. They will wipe out what is left of Union protections, and make us grateful to have any jobs at all. They will defund public education, privatize Social Security, and complete the transition to for-profit medicine. Our homes will continue to lose value, and our savings will bleed away. They will continue to rob the future.
They will accelerate global environmental change and the most catastrophic extinction event in the history of the biosphere.