Whose profits are they anyway?

Posted: Nov 03, 2005 12:05 AM

It is my considered opinion, backed by 37 years of radio yammering, that 98.4% of the people in this country who use the word “fascist” have no idea what the word actually means.  Ditto for “Nazi.”  Being in a helpful mood I embark here on an educational effort so that some of us might actually recognize fascism when it truly does rear it’s ugly head, as it did this week from the mouth of Senator Charles Grassley (R- IA), the chairman of Senate Finance Committee.  

Grassley has apparently decided that free enterprise no longer works for America.  (The truth here is that Grassley discovered that free enterprise doesn’t serve the goal of empowering politicians.)   It is Grassley’s view that American businesses must now seek the favor of the imperial federal government of the United States as to just how business profits must be disbursed.  No longer, in Grassley’s economic world, will corporate boards decide on the distribution of profits.  No longer will the private businessman be the captain of his entrepreneurial ship.  Grassley apparently wants the government to have a de facto seat on every corporate board and a share of control in the spending decisions of every private business.

Let’s get back to the “fascism” word.  Sheldon Richman writes in “The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics” that fascist thought acknowledge(s) the roles of private property and the profit motive as legitimate incentives for productivity—provided that they did not conflict with the interests of the state.”  In other words, state approval must be sought before important business decisions can be implemented.  I think I can simplify Richman’s definition of fascism so that even Americans educated in state schools can understand:  Free enterprise (capitalism) is private ownership and control of the means of production.  Socialism is government ownership and control of the means of production.  Fascism is private ownership of the means of production, with government control.  Private ownership with government control?  There’s a somewhat familiar ring to that, isn’t there? 

Charles Grassley would have admired World War II era Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.  During Mussolini’s fascist reign he moved to virtually eliminate the ability of businesses to make independent decisions, including decisions pertaining to prices and wages.  The government became the not-so-friendly business partner … a partner with a gun and the legal authority to use force to accomplish its goals. 

So, how does this apply to this fine Republican senator?   Grassley, it seems, feels that there is a role to be played by the federal government in decisions relating to how corporate profits must be spent, invested or disbursed.  Grassley is now on record as wanting (the rhetorical equivalent of “demanding”) that oil companies “donate” 10 percent of their profits to help poor Americans pay their heating bills.  Grassley sent letters to oil companies outlining his request; letters he claims to have sent to “embarrass” the oil companies into contributing to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Embarrass?  I don’t think so.  The right word here would be “intimidate.”  Grassley says “It’s not unreasonable to expect corporations with 50, 75 or 100 percent growth in earnings this quarter to contribute a mere 10 percent of those profits to fund programs that supplement LIHEAP.  In those letters Grassley also asked that these oil companies report to him on their recent charitable contributions. 

Let’s try to get on the reality train of thought here for a moment.  Grassley isn’t asking these corporations to fork over the money.  He’s telling them.  It doesn’t take much of a businessman to know that when the chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee starts writing letters about “donations” and “contributions” the implied threat of government force and/or retribution literally oozes from the envelope.

While some may be surprised to hear such anti-free enterprise mutterings from the person of a senior Republican U.S. Senator, I’m not.  Just chalk this up to another reason why I stopped paying dues to the Republican Party years ago, and started writing those checks instead to the Libertarian Party.  No economic system in the history of civilization has done so much to lift so many people out of abject poverty as has free enterprise, the dynamic of a free people working together under a system that protects economic liberty.  The Republicans now seem to be less than content with merely taxing the living (insert expletive here) out of the corporations and businesses who fuel our economy, now they want to dictate just how the profits that are left after the taxman leaveth are disbursed!  Today it’s a demand for donations to heat poor folk’s homes.  Tomorrow we’ll be demanding that America’s homebuilders donate a portion of their profits to build low-income (soon to be trashed) housing.  Next automakers will be told to contribute some profits to public transportation initiatives.

It doesn’t seem to be enough to political power players like Grassley that they have billions of dollars in corporate taxes to spend on their vote-buying schemes.  The new nirvana will be to control the disbursement of corporate profits as well.

Did anybody hear someone say the “f” word?