On Monday, January, 16th, the Leesburg Daily Commercial sunk to an all-time low. As the rest of the nation celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Daily Commercial insulted his memory by printing the hysterical delusions of Star Parker, whose extreme right-wing propaganda is diametrically opposed to the views espoused by Dr. King towards the end of his life. And, rather curiously, the Daily Commercial also chose to run its in-house editorial on King on Friday the 13th, three days early. One supposes this was because their strict policy of emitting their own creations on Wednesday, Friday, and weekends is so sacrosanct that they could not make an exception, even for a national hero. As it was, the “creator” wrote all of two sentences before devoting the rest of the space to the section of the I Have A Dream speech that focuses on freedom. One couldn’t help wondering if they were actually trying to enlist MLK in the Republican cause of freeing corporations from job-killing regulations; after all, corporations are people, too. But we need not dwell on implied slights when the explicit slights are as hideously ignorant as those of Star Parker.
Under the heading Capitalism on Trial, Star Parker advances two theses that are spectacularly wrong but which will no doubt resonate with an unfortunately large chunk of the Daily Commercial‘s readership (brainwashed as they are). The first flight of fancy is Parker’s assertion that “we have never had a left-wing ideologue occupying the White House like we have today. The man is serious and committed…. Republicans will have their work cut out to defend business and freedom against this onslaught….” If the dominant emotion of the day were not disgust, that statement would be laugh-out-loud funny.
Now, Barack Obama might well look like a left-wing ideologue from Star Parker’s vantage point, which is somewhere under the thumb of the Koch Brothers. But if you’re a Wall Street banker, concerned that your nice little racket could potentially be broken up by a federal government that – at least theoretically – still has the power to regulate the economy, Barack Obama is no more left-wing than your fellow board members. And this only stands to reason, since he accepted so much campaign cash from Goldman Sachs and others in 2008. When the history of Barack Obama’s presidency is written – and that money-spinning venture won’t start until 2017 – the single most prominent theme should be (but won’t be) that he failed miserably to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this country had to rein in a financial sector that had so obviously run amok. (At least, that was obvious to everyone besides Star Parker and Russ Sloan.) Surrounding himself with all the usual suspects, Obama has presided over an unprecedented concentration of banking power, resulting in a select group of colossal institutions that truly are “too big to fail,” and thereby ensuring that the next time they take us to the brink (and there will be a next time) even the full faith and credit of the United States won’t be enough to stop us from hurtling into the abyss.
But if that explicit demonstration of where his loyalties really lie were not enough, Obama has supplied us with others. The Bowles-Simpson debt commission proposed drastic spending cuts that would have been highly detrimental to the middle class. It proposed reducing marginal tax rates and eliminating tax loopholes. It did not propose increasing tax rates to the levels that obtained in the Clinton years, never mind the Eisenhower years. (With top rates over 90%, that Ike was some left-wing ideologue, wasn’t he? If only McCarthy had been left alone to expose the communists that were infecting America….) Similarly, the president’s much-ballyhooed Jobs Commission is chaired by Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, a company that paid no corporate income tax in 2010 despite large global profits. The Jobs Commission is about as accurately labeled as the Patriot Act: it should be known as the Profits Commission. Its recent report called for reductions in the rate of corporate income tax (seriously!), regulatory reform, and all-out domestic energy production. Obama is in bed with big business and still gets portrayed as a pinko. The only thing sadder than the distortion of reality here is the willingness of so many voting Americans to believe it.
Parker’s second, and in some ways more interesting, argument is that Americans have grown distrustful of capitalism because businesses themselves have been “unprincipled” and “notoriously unreliable defenders of free markets.” Upbraiding James Clyburn, the former head of the congressional Black Caucus, for saying that Bernie Madoff committed his crimes “in the name of capitalism,” Parker asserts that corporate America has set itself up for such accusations by pouring “millions” into “left-wing organizations” like “the NAACP.” Once again, Parker appears to be channeling the Koch Brothers, urging upon their fellow capitalists a policy of hard-line purity worthy of the Chicago School of economists.
Parker is skating on very thin ice here, and not just because attacking the NAACP on Martin Luther King Day is a tad gauche. Someone needs to explain to Star Parker that the United States isn’t based on capitalism or socialism; it is based on corporatism. We have the best government that money can buy. Big businesses don’t give millions of dollars away out of the goodness of their hearts or, as Parker would have us believe, because they are unprincipled. They make calculated investments to maximize their profit potentials, such as contributing to the campaigns of political candidates of both parties to protect themselves from the outcome of an election. The great secret of American public life – which all the players and all the commentators prevent us from knowing – is that there is very little real difference between the two choices with which we appear to be presented on the ballot. Sure, there are differences on social issues. But as far as big business is concerned, the two parties are just different flavors of oligarchy. The electorate is distracted by abortion, school prayer, and gay rights while the banks quietly get everything they want from both Democrats and Republicans.
In the last years of his life, Martin Luther King became increasingly preoccupied with issues of economic injustice and the distribution of income – concerns that have recently been expressed again by a new generation of American activists. In contrast to the deranged plutocratic supplication of Star Parker, consider this passage from King:
There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, “Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
Would the Leesburg Daily Commercial publish something like that? Of course not. Let’s just trot out the easy stuff that everyone’s heard before, and bury the radical ideas that would be dismissed as un-American. But, as we’ve asked before, who are the real Americans? Who gets to decide what America is really all about? Right-wing sell-outs like Star Parker, or a man of tremendous courage with a richly deserved monument alongside Jefferson and Lincoln? The answer to that question, I humbly submit, is easy. So why does the Leesburg Daily Commercial get it wrong?