"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
At The Tattler we are fond of interesting new ideas, particularly when we're talking about politics and government. Because let's face it, there is no quicker way for an idea to get old fast than to have it put into practice. Here in California we are currently living with the consequences of many once fine ideas gone wrong, and now there are suddenly none left to fix the messes their implementation created.
Sacramento, of course, is recognized as one of the leading legislative and governmental basket cases in the nation. And hardly the kind of place we'd want telling us how to run our business. After all, look at how poorly they're doing with their own affairs.
In the past we've discussed national politics on this site, but we have tried to not make a habit of it. As Sierra Madre is an independent city, we felt that we should limit the discussion to things that reflect the need to maintain our unencumbered status. But now, and especially with our new City Council in place, we are probably going to have to move on from that quaint notion. The current cabal is in the process of taking Sierra Madre not only into a decidedly more regionalist perspective, but also aligning us with the centralized planning regimes of Washington and Sacramento. Particularly on the topic of so-called "sustainable development," which is actually just a greenwashed phrase for lots of high-density construction that mostly benefits corporate interests and their lobbyists. And as we have seen with the water rate controversy, they're even amenable to taking millions in encumbered Federal money to do it.
All of which means that important city responsibilities such as development planning will soon be aligned with national policies that run counter to our cherished notions of Sierra Madre as an independently run city in charge of its own destiny. Joe Mosca has often said that under his leadership we would be working more closely with other cities to "help solve our problems." This despite the fact that what we have here is really so much better than those whose help he'd seek. Of course, to those who follow Mosca's malarkey closely, "working with other cities" actually means aligning our little star with the policies of massive Metropolitan Planning Organizations such as SCAG, the Federally funded central planning authority tasked with enforcing unwanted development schemes designed by people who live thousands of miles away and couldn't care less about this place. That is, if they even know of its existence.
One of the more interesting and novel notions to hit the news wires lately comes from a seemingly unlikely source, the Libertarian gone Republican Congressman Ron Paul. Now you might or might not agree with what Ron Paul has had to say as a politician, but as a social critic he does have his moments. His perceptions can be astonishing at times, sometimes controversial, and he has become quite a media goldmine for notable quotes. Here are a few that I picked up from quotelucy.com:
"You don't have freedom because you are a hyphenated American; you have freedom because you are an individual, and that should be protected."
"You want to get rid of drug crime in this country? Fine, let's just get rid of all the drug laws."
"I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas."
Hardly the kinds of statements you'd expect to hear from what many regard as a most conservative Republican. These are rather the insights of a committed Libertarian (or should I say contrarian?) who truly enjoys taking established wisdom and turning it on its head.
So in this spirit I am going to cite a portion of an opinion piece (click here) that first appeared on the Talking Points Memo website. It discusses Ron Paul's perspectives on what for many on the political right is an article of faith regarding President Barack Obama. That Paul both skewers that accepted faith and then goes on to imply something even worse could be involved is characteristic of the Texas Congressman.
Ron Paul: President Obama Is Not A Socialist - Near the end of the third day of this year's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, it was time for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to take the stage. Paul, fresh off his victory in the CPAC straw poll, gave a characteristically fired-up speech that took on the views of the Republican party establishment.
"The question has been raised about whether or not our president is a socialist," Paul said. "I am sure there are some people here who believe it. But in the technical sense, in the economic definition of what a socialist is, no, he's not a socialist."
"He's a corporatist," Paul continued. "And unfortunately we have corporatists inside the Republican party and that means you take care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country."
Paul said examples of President Obama's "corporatism" were evident in the health care reform bill he signed into law last month. He said the mandate in the bill put the power over health care in the hands of corporations rather than private citizens. But he said the bill wasn't the only place where corporatism is creeping into Washington.
"We see it in the financial institutions, we see it in the military-industrial complex," he said. "And now we see it in the medical-industrial complex."
What Paul is saying here hits home. Foreign corporations, located mostly in countries where health care is handled by the government, have a tremendous competitive advantage over U.S. corporations who must foot the bill for employee medical costs themselves. By at least partially removing that financial burden from domestic corporations they become better able to compete in a global economy. This is why you heard precious few corporations (outside of health insurance companies) complaining about Obamacare. Despite all the news coverage about how this would be a boon to the uninsured, they understood it was actually far more about their interests.
Of course, the Obama Administration would hardly be our first "corporatist" presidency. Similar accusations can be leveled at George W. Bush. After all, he took this country to war for the benefit of a few oil corporations. And I'm sure the case can be made for other recent presidencies as well.
So to the point of today's post, is the Mosca-Buchanan City Council "corporatist?" I would argue that yes, it is. Both Mosca and Buchanan are employed (or, as has been pointed out by some, underemployed) by large energy corporations that would benefit greatly should Sierra Madre succumb to the large scale redevelopment mandates of Washington and Sacramento. And both strongly advocate policies that push forward the business agendas of interests they work for. More housing in Sierra Madre meaning more cash paying consumers for these large gas and electricity companies.
This can also be shown in their embracing of "regionalism." SCAG, as we have said, is supported with Federal tax dollars. And there is no greater priority in the Obama administration these days than "sustainable development." As you know, the prime beneficiary of such massive redevelopment in cities such as ours would be big corporate organizations.
One of the major forces pushing for redevelopment regionally would be the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, an organization often aligned with the Building Industry Association of Southern California (BIA) and California Association of Realtors (CAR). Both were instrumental in lining up 10s of thousands of dollars in corporate money to fight Measure V a few years back.
Besides the BIA and CAR, the SGVEP is also affiliated with Southern California Edison, Sempra Energy, The Pasadena Star News, Samuelson and Fetter LLC, and the Pacific Palms Resort & Conference Center. An entity owned by Majestic Realty's now legendary neo-NFL stadium builder Ed Roski, Jr.
I realize that to equate the virulent fascism of 1930s Europe with the corporate Babbitry we see here in the SGV is a bit of a stretch. After all, we haven't seen any cadres of the Downtown Investors' Club goosestepping down Sierra Madre Boulevard. At least not yet. But there is something decidedly undemocratic and reactionary about this arrangement. It is as if this City Hall is now at war with our open and inclusive political traditions. Traditions that are as old as the town itself. Can it be the people of Sierra Madre no longer have a place at that table?
A corporatist City Council would not in any way be interested in the wishes of the people living in their town. Rather, and as we can see in Sierra Madre, the DSP-style development corporate interests ardently desire is now the first - and apparently only - priority of this city government. To them the taxpayers are not a partner, nor can they even be considered to be an interested party. Rather they are a potential problem. One that must be properly managed so that there is no interference with planning for the large scale development they fully expect to see here in a few years.
Which explains the absurd struggle over control of the General Plan Committee. It is also why the City found the impressive scale of the water rate protest to be so shocking. It was a direct blow to both them and the interests of parties whose needs they've tried so hard to represent.
Hopefully we'll be able to deliver a couple more of them very soon.