terça-feira, 30 de julho de 2013
The Age of Regression
by JOHN PILGER
I have known my postman for more than 20 years. Conscientious and good-humoured, he is the embodiment of public service at its best. The other day, I asked him, “Why are you standing in front of each door like a soldier on parade?”
“New system,” he replied, “I am no longer required simply to post the letters through the door. I have to approach every door in a certain way and put the letters through in a certain way.”
Across the street was a solemn young man, clipboard in hand, whose job was to stalk postmen and see they abided by the new rules, no doubt in preparation for privatisation. I told the stalker my postman was admirable. His face remained flat, except for a momentary flicker of confusion.
In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley describes a new class conditioned to a normality that is not normal “because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does”.
Surveillance is normal in the Age of Regression — as Edward Snowden revealed. Ubiquitous cameras are normal. Subverted freedoms are normal. Effective public dissent is now controlled by police, whose intimidation is normal.
The traducing of noble words like “democracy”, “reform”, “welfare” and “public service” is normal. Prime ministers who lie openly about lobbyists and war aims are normal. The export of £4bn worth of British arms, including crowd control ammunition, to the medieval state of Saudi Arabia, where apostasy is a capital crime, is normal.
The willful destruction of efficient, popular public institutions like the Royal Mail is normal. A postman is no longer a postman, going about his decent work; he is an automaton to be watched, a box to be ticked. Huxley described this regression as insane and our “perfect adjustment to that abnormal society” a sign of the madness.
Are we “perfectly adjusted” to this? No, not yet. People defend hospitals from closure, UK Uncut forces bank branches to close and six brave women climb the highest building in Europe to show the havoc caused by the oil companies in the Arctic. There, the list begins to peter out.
At this year’s Manchester festival, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s epic Masque of Anarchy – all 91 verses written in rage at the massacre of Lancashire people protesting poverty in 1819 – is an acclaimed theatrical piece, and utterly divorced from the world outside. Last January, the Greater Manchester Poverty Commission disclosed that 600,000 Mancunians were living in “extreme poverty” and that 1.6 million, or nearly half the city’s population, were “sliding into deeper poverty”.
Poverty has been gentrified. The Parkhill Estate in Sheffield was once an edifice of public housing – unloved by many for its Le Corbusier brutalism, poor maintenance and lack of facilities. With its Heritage Grade II listing, it has been renovated and privatised. Two thirds of the old flats have been reborn as modern apartments selling to “professionals”, including designers, architects and a social historian. In the sales office you can buy designer mugs and cushions. This façade offers not a hint that, devastated by the government’s “austerity” cuts, Sheffield has a social housing waiting list of 60,000 people.
Parkhill is a symbol of the two thirds society that is Britain today. The gentrified third do well, some of them extremely well, a third struggle to get by on credit and the rest slide into poverty.
Although the majority of the British are working class – whether or not they see themselves that way — a gentrified minority dominates parliament, senior management and the media. David Cameron, Nick and Ed Milliband are their authentic representatives, with only minor technical difference between their parties. They fix the limits of political life and debate, aided by gentrified journalism and the “identity” industry. The greatest ever transfer of wealth upwards is a given. Social justice has been replaced by meaningless “fairness”.
While promoting this normality, the BBC rewards a senior functionary almost £1m. Although regarding itself as the media equivalent of the Church of England, the Corporation now has ethics comparable with those of the “security” companies G4S and Serco which, says the government, have “overcharged” on public services by tens of millions of pounds. In other countries, this is called corruption.
Like the fire sale of the power utilities, water and the railways, the sale of Royal Mail is to be achieved with bribery and the collaboration of the union leadership, regardless of its vocal outrage. Opening his 1983 documentary series Questions of Leadership, Ken Loach shows trade union leaders exhorting the masses. The same men are then shown, older and florid, adorned in the ermine of the House of Lords. In the recent Queen’s Birthday honours, the general secretary of the TUC, Brendan Barber, received his knighthood.
How long can the British watch the uprisings across the world and do little apart from mourn the long-dead Labour Party? The Edward Snowden revelations show the infrastructure of a police state emerging in Europe, especially Britain. Yet, people are more aware than ever before; and governments fear popular resistance – which is why truth-tellers are isolated, smeared and pursued.
Momentous change almost always begins with the courage of people taking back their own lives against the odds. There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience. Unerring. Read Percy Shelley – “Ye are many; they are few”. And do it.
John Pilger’s new film, Utopia, will be previewed at the National Film Theatre, London, in the autumn.
The Great Conversion
Obama’s Plan for Economic Immiseration
by ROB URIE
President Barack Obama spoke at length on the economy on Wednesday in the first of what is reported to be a series of speeches he will give around the country to push his economic ‘agenda.’ A question for his supporters is why Mr. Obama is now purporting to promote the interests of the middle class and working poor when he has remained silent for the last five years during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? If he cared one whit about these people the time to promote economic policies to help them was five years ago. And conversely, the economic policies he has pursued have decimated the very people he now claims to want to help.
Mr. Obama’s analysis of economic travails—globalization and its effects on an under-educated workforce, are the same neo-liberal pabulum the ‘Washington consensus’ has been serving up since Jimmy Carter was in office. And his economic prescriptions—public-private ‘partnerships’ to boost investment in technology, bringing corporate executives in to assess what is wrong with the educational system, building out lower cost ‘online’ education and community colleges to ‘boost American competitiveness,’ increased infrastructure spending and the creation of tax advantaged savings accounts for middle class families, are straight from the neo-liberal playbook as well. To ask the obvious question: if neo-liberal policies worked, why then the laundry list of economic travails?
Taking the speech at face value, the contention market forces (‘globalization’) are the central cause of the decades old downward mobility of the ‘American workforce’ leaves out the specific role Mr. Obama has played in pushing the monopoly capitalist coup forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), the role he personally has played in reviving the Wall Street banks responsible for the ‘financialization’ of the economy, the bi-partisan effort by official Washington to diminish the lot of organized labor and the ‘privatization’ schemes he continues to push to hand the public economy over to corporate interests. Government policies in the service of capital are no more ‘market’ forces than the much derided ‘central planning’ is.
A recent paper by the International Labour Organization (ILO) presents a broad and reasonably nuanced effort that concludes financialization, and not ‘technology,’ is the central explanation for the increased, and still increasing, share of income going to corporations and away from labor. By changing the corporate motive from continuing economic production to ‘financialized’ production—the creation of corporate architecture designed for maximum extraction of previously existing value, the ‘balance of power’ between labor and capital was shifted to capital by its corporate agents (executives). A prime example can be found in Wall Street itself—individual firms willing to sink the entire financial system for short term trading gains. Additionally, through the permeation of debt-based leverage, rentier income is now drawn from every section of the economy.
Mr. Obama’s unconditional bailout of Wall Street, with upwards of $25trillion of public funds made available to ‘save’ the banks, is the single greatest gift from working people to the forces of their own demise in world history. The ILO paper articulates the role of Wall Street in the immiseration of the West’s toiling classes– not only was the transfer of public resources to ‘private’ banks in the bailouts taken from the working class, the financial economy Mr. Obama ‘saved’ is the absolute enemy of working people. Wall Street provided the tactic of immiseration of the working poor and middle class through financialization of economic production and it facilitated the process through financialization of the broader economy. In fact, Mr. Obama’s economic agenda can be read as the explicit continuation of this process.
Mr. Obama’s plan to ‘work with’ private technology companies to provide every college student in America with high speed internet service has particular irony as apparently the main capability to be boosted is the NSA’s ability to spy on students, long known to be periodically politically active, all the more quickly. As there was no mention of this ‘enhanced’ service being free—Mr. Obama is providing students the ‘right’ to buy products from private companies who then sell the information they gather from their ‘customers’ to the highest bidder while inventing ever more intrusive and corporate-totalitarian methods of controlling them. It is agreed that in theory high speed Internet service has value. That Mr. Obama’s actual corporate-state policies have made it a tool of totalitarian control shines a light on his true constituency. Conversely, it illustrates the destruction of actual economic value (high speed internet service) through strategies of domination by the same capitalists claiming they create economic value.
Asking business leaders to opine on the system of public education is more cynical still given Mr. Obama’s appointment of long-term public school privatizer Arne Duncan as Education Secretary. Business leaders’ interest is to shift the cost of training ‘their’ workforces onto the public dime. Even granting the dubious proposition education is to benefit capitalist enterprise, truly educating ‘the workforce’ provides for a broad set of potentially socially beneficial applications whereas training teaches skills that benefit certain employers. Given the history of American corporations trying to limit the mobility of workers, such as pensions with long vesting periods, providing specific training in lieu of broad education serves corporate interests against those of labor. And ‘education’ only creates ‘American’ jobs to the extent Federal government policies put certain classes of labor into faux ‘competition’ with more effectively exploited workers overseas. ‘Education,’ as Mr. Obama presents it, is a phony solution to an engineered problem.
Even in the dim corporate-state worldview of Mr. Obama’s patrons there must be interest in education outside rote training and inculcating maximum consumption—otherwise, who will create? Additionally, the basic arithmetic of privatized education is revenue – costs = profits. If profits are zero, as is the case with public education, then expenditures equal revenues. Why extracting profits–increasing public expenditures that go to capitalists rather than to education, adds value to education when it so clearly detracts is a mystery Mr. Obama should explain. And paradoxically, his ‘private’ model for education finds precedence in his health care ‘reform’ plan, the ACA, with the central difference being that Mr. Obama’s explanation for retaining a private healthcare system is that it is already ‘private’ whereas the educational system Mr. Obama now wants to privatize is largely public. And there is no grimmer view of human existence than corporations training human ‘consumption units’ in the empty ideology of capitalist consumption.
Mr. Obama’s ‘tax advantaged’ savings accounts for middle class families are a particularly cynical ploy. Middle class wages were stagnant for thirty years before declining in the economic calamity associated with the financial ‘crisis’ of 2008. What middle class (and poor) families need is income, not accounts to put income they don’t have into. With more details allegedly forthcoming, the initial read is through his ‘private accounts’ Mr. Obama hopes to effectuate George W. Bush’s plan for his own ‘private accounts’ as a step toward privatizing Social Security. And in his Wednesday speech Mr. Obama made coded comments about cutting Social Security that tie directly to his Hamilton Project (Robert Rubin) speech nearly a decade earlier. To be clear, the working poor would be hurt most were Mr. Obama to push ‘private’ savings accounts only the rich can afford while cutting the Social Security the working poor most depend on.
The infrastructure spending Mr. Obama advocates may or may not be a good idea depending on how it is financed. In the U.S., given its geography and geopolitics, infrastructure has unambiguously provided an economic benefit in the post-WWII period. But corporations formerly paid a substantial proportion of the costs of building infrastructure through taxes. Over the last fifty years taxes on corporations and the wealthy have been massively cut leaving the middle class to pay an increased share of public expenditures. And a significant proportion of this burden, in the form of municipal debt, is coming due.
The struggle currently underway in ‘bankrupt’ Detroit between ‘bondholders’ and pensioners has the Democratic Party of the last forty years supporting the immiseration of pensioners to pay financial speculators for financing infrastructure spending. To be clear, public (and private) pensions are deferred income negotiated in lieu of current income. Democrat Robert Rubin, with whose acolytes Mr. Obama has continued to fill his Cabinet, is an insistent advocate of Detroit’s bondholders being fully paid. And the only way to do so is to take the money, earned income that was deferred, from pensioners. Mr. Obama’s threat to appoint arch Rubinite Larry Summers—the man who bears significant responsibility for deregulating Wall Street and for the ensuing economic calamity, to Chair the Federal Reserve is a clear signal increased infrastructure spending is intended to transfer even more public wealth to ‘private’ hands.
Mr. Obama refers to the student debt ‘crisis’ as if he had no role in it. In fact, about half of the total student loan debt outstanding was accumulated while Mr. Obama has been President. Mr. Obama ‘removed the banks’ from making student loans in 2009 as part of his effort to shift bad bank debts and economic risk from the banks onto the public balance sheet, not in an effort to help middle class students as he now asserts. Under Mr. Obama student loan debt fraudulently incurred through bogus ‘for-profit’ colleges and trade schools has exploded with fully one-third of indebted students failing to receive degrees. With full knowledge that student loan debt is nearly impossible to discharge, Mr. Obama encouraged students to take loans as part of his education ‘initiative’ creating a new generation of debt slaves to a particularly pernicious type of debt.
The ‘middle class’ jobs Mr. Obama now claims to have created through the automaker bailouts is a particularly offensive sleight of hand. Before the bailouts a proposal had been floated to create a ‘tiered’ wage system where new autoworkers would earn approximately one-half what existing workers made. As a condition of the automaker bailouts Mr. Obama forced the issue by putting tiered wages in place while no restrictions were put on executive compensation. In large measure the same executives who had sunk the auto industry were left in their jobs at full pay and were left free to continue relocating autoworker jobs to low wage countries. And in fact, the bailouts Mr. Obama now claims were his were largely engineered by the George W. Bush administration before it left office. As with Mr. Obama’s healthcare plan, right-wing Republicans conceived the automaker bailouts.
On a positive note, it was refreshing to hear Mr. Obama correctly characterize his healthcare ‘reform’ plan, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as a plan to provide health insurance, rather than health care, to those lacking it. The Democrat partisans who tried to draw such a stark line between Mr. Obama’s policies and the likely policies of his Republican rival in the last election, Mitt Romney, largely avoided the fact that Mr. Obama’s health care ‘reform’ was the same plan Republican Mitt Romney had implemented as Governor of Massachusetts. The right-wing Heritage Foundation originally conceived the plan as the radical right’s ‘solution’ to the ‘threat’ of national
health care. Under the guise of political feasibility Mr. Obama has pushed through the major policies of the radical corporate-right with his long-suffering constituents believing they got a good deal.
The genesis of the ACA as a corporate-right ‘solution’ to a public health crisis is what it is, but this alone doesn’t doom it to failure. What it leaves is a system that provides about two-thirds of the benefits of a functioning health care system at twice the cost. While implementation of the plan in Massachusetts initially reduced the number of medical bankruptcies —families that were bankrupted by medical costs, the number quickly recovered. The basic flaws of the existing healthcare system remain—monopoly power in pricing medical services and medical provision, a disjoint and ring-fenced system designed to maximize profits rather than to provide healthcare, and hugely asymmetrical political-economic power between insurance companies, medical providers and ‘the insured.’ The ACA’s liberal supporters believe against all history that private insurers will willingly provide the health care they are contractually obligated to provide when they only have when forced to in the past. The question then, with the unconditional bank bailouts as guide, is who is going to force them?
Again, the received wisdom amongst the self-described ‘liberal’ economists supporting the ACA is that it is all that was politically feasible. In fact, with poll results showing 75% of the American people initially supporting a national (single payer) health care system, Mr. Obama could have taken his case to the people. Alternatively, Mr. Obama could have represented popular disillusion as a potential threat to the extractive, dysfunctional private health care providers and won concessions. Instead, he had a health insurance lobbyist write the ACA and proceeded to pass the Republican plan conceived by the right-wing Heritage Foundation off as his signature achievement.
What Mr. Obama apparently hopes to accomplish in the remainder of his term, as evidenced by his economic ‘agenda,’ is the conversion of every remaining socially beneficial public institution into private enterprises designed to provide the highest profits for connected capitalists while converting their (public institutions’) ‘products’ into tools for the domination and control of the populace. Postmodernist insights notwithstanding, there is a difference between education and capitalist-corporatist propaganda. There is a difference between education and technical training in the service of industry. Savings account for people who have no income to save are a hoax. Infrastructure designed to extract ongoing fees for private interests at public expense is a cynical ploy. And as ACA supporters will soon be learning in excruciating detail, there is a difference between health insurance and health care. Finally, privatization isn’t efficient rationalization of public institutions; it is the replacement of the public interest with private interests. Lest the result remain unclear, replacement means elimination of the public interest.
Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York. His book, Zen Economics, will be published by CP/AK Press in 2014.
In the Grip of Tyranny
by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
The American people have suffered a coup d’etat, but they are hesitant to acknowledge it. The regime ruling in Washington today lacks constitutional and legal legitimacy. Americans are ruled by usurpers who claim that the executive branch is above the law and that the US Constitution is a mere “scrap of paper.”
An unconstitutional government is an illegitimate government. The oath of allegiance requires defense of the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” As the Founding Fathers made clear, the main enemy of the Constitution is the government itself. Power does not like to be bound and tied down and constantly works to free itself from constraints.
The basis of the regime in Washington is nothing but usurped power. The Obama Regime, like the Bush/Cheney Regime, has no legitimacy. Americans are oppressed by an illegitimate government ruling, not by law and the Constitution, but by lies and naked force. Those in government see the US Constitution as a “chain that binds our hands.”
The South African apartheid regime was more legitimate than the regime in Washington. The apartheid Israeli regime in Palestine is more legitimate. The Taliban are more legitimate. Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein were more legitimate.
The only constitutional protection that the Bush/Obama regime has left standing is the Second Amendment, a meaningless amendment considering the disparity in arms between Washington and what is permitted to the citizenry. No citizen standing with a rifle can protect himself and his family from one of the Department of Homeland Security’s 2,700 tanks, or from a drone, or from a heavily armed SWAT force in body armor.
Like serfs in the dark ages, American citizens can be picked up on the authority of some unknown person in the executive branch and thrown in a dungeon, subject to torture, without any evidence ever being presented to a court or any information to the person’s relatives of his/her whereabouts. Or they can be placed on a list without explanation that curtails their right to travel by air. Every communication of every American, except face-to-face conversation in non-bugged environments, is intercepted and recorded by the National Stasi Agency from which phrases can be strung together to produce a “domestic extremist.”
If throwing an American citizen in a dungeon is too much trouble, the citizen can simply be blown up with a hellfire missile launched from a drone. No explanation is necessary.
For the Obama tyrant, the exterminated human being was just a name on a list.
The president of the united states has declared that he possesses these constitutionally forbidden rights, and his regime has used them to oppress and murder US citizens. The president’s claim that his will is higher than law and the Constitution is public knowledge. Yet, there is no demand for the usurper’s impeachment. Congress is supine. The serfs are obedient.
The people who helped transform a democratically accountable president into a Caesar include John Yoo, who was rewarded for his treason by being accepted as a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt school of law. Yoo’s colleague in treason, Jay Scott Bybee was rewarded by being appointed a federal judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. We now have a Berkeley law professor teaching, and a federal circuit judge ruling, that the executive branch is above the law.
The executive branch coup against America has succeeded. The question is: will it stand? Today, the executive branch consists of liars, criminals, and traitors. The evil on earth seems concentrated in Washington.
Washington’s response to Edward Snowden’s evidence that Washington, in total contravention of law both domestic and international, is spying on the entire world has demonstrated to every country that Washington places the pleasure of revenge above law and human rights.
On Washington’s orders, its European puppet states refused overflight permission to the Bolivian presidential airliner carrying President Morales and forced the airliner to land in Austria and be searched. Washington thought that Edward Snowden might be aboard the airliner. Capturing Snowden was more important to Washington than respect for international law and diplomatic immunity.
How long before Washington orders its UK puppet to send in a SWAT team to drag Julian Asange from the Ecuadoran embassy in London and hand him over to the CIA for waterboarding?
On July 12 Snowden met in the Moscow airport with human rights organizations from around the world. He stated that the illegal exercise of power by Washington prevents him from traveling to any of the three Latin American countries who have offered him asylum. Therefore, Snowden said that he accepted Russian President Putin’s conditions and requested asylum in Russia.
Insouciant americans and the young unaware of the past don’t know what this means. During my professional life it was Soviet Russia that persecuted truth tellers, while America gave them asylum and tried to protect them. Today it is Washington that persecutes those who speak the truth, and it is Russia that protects them.
The American public has not, this time, fallen for Washington’s lie that Snowden is a traitor. The polls show that a majority of Americans see Snowden as a whistleblower.
It is not the US that is damaged by Snowden’s revelations. It is the criminal elements in the US government that have pulled off a coup against democracy, the Constitution, and the American people who are damaged. It is the criminals who have seized power, not the American people, who are demanding Snowden’s scalp.
The Obama Regime, like the Bush/Cheney Regime, has no legitimacy. Americans are oppressed by an illegitimate government ruling, not by law and the Constitution, but by lies and naked force.
Under the Obama tyranny, it is not merely Snowden who is targeted for extermination, but every truth-telling American in the country. It was Department of Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano, recently rewarded for her service to tyranny by being appointed Chancellor of the of the University of California system, who said that Homeland Security had shifted its focus from Muslim terrorists to “domestic extremists,” an elastic and undefined term that easily includes truth-tellers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden who embarrass the government by revealing its crimes. The criminals who have seized illegitimate power in Washington cannot survive unless truth can be suppressed or redefined as treason.
If Americans acquiesce to the coup d’etat, they will have placed themselves firmly in the grip of tyranny.
May 30, 2013
Center for American Progress event in Washington, DC. (REUTERS/Jim Young
My piece here last Tuesday about secret donors to the Center for American Progress and other think tanks generated a lot of interest and debate. I also heard from many readers who passed along stories and documents, including a 2012 list of members of CAP’s “Business Alliance” corporate donor program [PDF]. Note on the second page of the document that donors are helpfully arranged by industry—“As listed by the Fortune 500,” the document says.
About the Author
Also by the Author
The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks [Updated on 5/24] (US Politics, Corporate Lobbying)
Washington institutions esteemed for their independent scholarship don’t disclose donations from corporations and foreign governments.
As I stated in the piece, CAP will not comment about its donors, and spokesperson Andrea Purse had refused to confirm or deny the names of Business Alliance members on three previous lists I had obtained, all from 2011. The lists were maintained by Chris Belisle, who CAP described as a “junior staffer” in its letter of reply to The Nation.
Belisle, who no longer works at CAP, carried the title of “senior manager” of the Business Alliance while at the think tank. In a résumé posted online, he said his job was to oversee the Alliance, which he said had more than sixty members, and that he worked “directly with senior or head of government relations in representing their company interests within the organization,” and was in charge of “programming” for members, including “the planning of monthly Roundtable discussions and customized policy briefings.”
When reporting the original story I sent Purse one of the 2011 lists, which she said contained dozens of errors (despite there only being a few dozen names on it), while failing to specify which names were incorrect. I was able to confirm more than a dozen names by calling the companies on the list, going through their foundation reports or obtaining independent confirmation.
The lists were sent internally to staffers so they would know to be careful when writing about companies that financially supported the think tank, sources told me. Numerous corporations appear on all four lists. They include Abbott Laboratories, Amgen, Bank of America, Carefirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Citigroup, Eli Lilly, General Dynamics, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Pfizer, The Carlyle Group and Verizon.
Last week, I sought comment for this story from Purse; Neera Tanden, CAP’s president; and John Podesta, CAP’s chair and counselor. I listed the names of companies on all four lists and asked for confirmation that they were CAP donors. I did not hear back from Tanden or Podesta. Purse declined again to confirm or deny particular names, saying, “Our work speaks for itself. Your inference that corporate donations shape or drive the content of CAP and CAP Action is false.”
I also asked if CAP felt that taking secret donations from corporate donors neutered its ability to address the issue of campaign finance reform, and if it believed that money in politics was a serious problem. I asked as well if CAP would consider changing its policy of taking money without disclosure from corporate donors.
In response to my questions about campaign finance, Purse said, “Our work shows that we believe campaign finance reform is a vital issue for our democracy and an issue which merits serious attention,” pointing to CAP’s coverage of the issue, through reports and ThinkProgress blog posts.
CAP has similarly cited all the ways in which it has been critical of its (otherwise unacknowledged) corporate donors as proof that they do not influence its policy agenda. CAP has pointed to many ThinkProgress posts going after Goldman Sachs, for example. But this argument obscures the indirect way influence is usually exerted. In most cases, a donor’s gift is not understood by either party as buying complete loyalty to its cause. As I note in my reply to CAP’s letter to the editor in The Nation, Wall Street companies gave a lot of money to President Obama not because they expected to get his support all the time but to get it more than they would if they didn’t give him money at all. A similar dynamic appears to be at work at CAP and other think tanks.
And in fact, there is evidence that CAP’s interest in wooing and pleasing corporate donors has shaped coverage—beyond what I included in my original piece. Multiple former staffers told me of editorial intrusion by senior think tank officials, in cases that included Saudi Arabia, when CAP was seeking Saudi support.
CAP pitched the Saudis for funding sometime after Tanden took over as president in 2011, I was told. Two people said to be involved in the pitch were Ken Gude, Tanden’s deputy, and Rudy deLeon, a former Boeing lobbyist and now CAP’s senior vice president for national security and international policy. (Boeing, of course, is a major supplier of weapons and commercial aircraft to the kingdom.) While the pitch was in play, some staffers were told to avoid criticism of the kingdom, sources said. It was not clear if the think tank was seeking money from the Saudi embassy directly or from a Saudi company or other cutout.
In response to my questions about this, Purse did not deny that CAP was seeking Saudi money. She said, “We have not received any money from the Saudi government, Saudi companies or any associated interests. We have not and will not allow corporations or others to censor our work as any examination of our extensive record of reports, columns and posts clearly shows.” Again, citations of critical coverage were offered to demonstrate an absence of influence; but, while it is true that CAP has run tough pieces on the Saudis and on some of its donors, the question remains whether that coverage would have been different had the pursuit of donations not been a factor or if the pitch had been successful.
Incidentally, my numerous sources all gave very good reasons for speaking off the record. I provided their names and notes of our conversations to my editor at The Nation. Some of them are disillusioned with CAP while others still view it with affection, but with one exception, they were all troubled by the think tank’s relationship with its donors.
In its letter to The Nation, CAP said that it currently receives 6 percent of its budget from corporate contributions and that figure has never hit double digits. Even if the 6 percent figure is accurate—and we have only CAP’s word to take for it, since unlike most major think tanks, it doesn’t publish or make available an annual report or otherwise disclose at least basic financial data—it’s impossible to know its true significance given CAP’s refusal to provide other information.
In a story in March, The Huffington Post reported that CAP pulled in “nearly $20 million from philanthropic groups in 2012, more than half of its funding base.” The story said that while CAP does not publicly disclose its donors, “the fundraising numbers were provided to HuffPost by a CAP source and confirmed by Tanden.” So again we only have CAP’s word to go on as opposed to a financial report, but even if what they say is true, a few obvious questions arise, which are unanswerable because of the think tank’s lack of transparency.
* Will CAP provide a full list of foundations whose support it receives? Is CAP including corporate foundations in this category?
* If 6 percent of the budget comes from corporations, and “over half” comes from foundations, that presumably means that somewhere around 40 percent comes from individuals. Who are they? Do any of them have ties to major corporations?
It’s not complicated. CAP should disclose its donors, corporate and otherwise.
At an Obama fundraiser, twelve undocumented immigrants and allies were arrested for protesting record deportations. Read Aura Bogado’s report.
May 30, 2013
Read more: Corporate Influence at the Center for American Progress? | The Nation http://www.thenation.com/article/174581/corporate-influence-center-american-progress#ixzz2aZImIDgP
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