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Sheeplike in Seattle By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, December 01, 1999


"LIBERALISM IS MARXISM sold by the drink," said pop-philosopher wit P. J. O'Rourke. Is Pat Buchanan's "Populism" likewise fascism sold by the shotglass? Both intoxicants have revelers and rebels marching and spinning this week in the streets of Seattle, Washington, in a circus of protest unrivaled since the 1960s.

"Seattle 1999 is like Philadelphia 1787," said Charles Derber, speaking Monday on my national radio show from his perch near the Space Needle. "What's being created here is the framework of laws of a new constitution for the world government of the next Millenium."

Dr. Derber, whose populism is the left-hand mirror image of Pat Buchanan's, is Professor of Sociology at Boston College and author of Corporation Nation: How Corporations Are Taking Over Our Lives and What We Can Do About It. He has come to Seattle, as have more than 60,000 other political activists, to influence 3,000 delegates from 135 nations meeting to start a new "round" of tariff reductions and other changes to policies of the World Trade Organization. The activists also intend to seize America's eyes by grabbing the television lenses that focus and shape our perceptions.

"In 1787 Thomas Jefferson from Paris wrote James Madison that he would not support any new constitution for the U.S. unless it had a bill of rights," said Derber. "Thousands of us are here to make sure the New World Order's rules aren't written only by the multinational corporations for their own benefit. Workers, environmentalists, and others also deserve a voice in making these rules."

Among Leftists in Seattle this week, the sense of desperation seems almost palpable. One reason seems clear. The Soviet Union has disintegrated. Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and other neo-socialists who gathered privately just before Clinton's return from Europe last week have clung to power, but they have done so only by the politics of the "Third Way," governing in a business-friendly, welfare-hostile reformist manner. No rational person on the planet seriously believes in Marxism anymore. Even the current Director-General of the WTO is Michael Moore, one-time Labor Party Prime Minister of New Zealand who slashed farm subsidies, pared social spending, and cut labor-union power.

The last hippies huddled together in Seattle, smoked dope, shared nostalgic memories, and created enough mayhem to cause Washington's Governor Locke to declare a state of emergency. This was, they tried to persuade one another, a sign that the "workers" were again about to rise up and crush the capitalist devils. But in their hearts all knew that this last hooray was a rear-guard action in a battle clearly lost. Even as some graying radicals smashed windows at a McDonald's Monday, most called for peaceful demonstrations and hoped to sow seeds of union rights and government regulation that decades from now could metastasize into cancers of the body politic able to kill capitalism.

"This trade debate is reconfiguring the political spectrum," said Prof. Derber. It not only lets Pat Buchanan find a strange bedfellow in Marxist Lenora Fulani. It also has leaders of organized labor, eager to save factory jobs, marching arm in arm with environmental groups that want to shut down all American factories. The labor thugs want barriers against foreign goods competing in the U.S. market.

But even more importantly, these union bosses want higher wages and more regulations overseas to make it less attractive for American corporations to move their factories there. For the new fatcat labor barons like AFL–CIO President John Sweeney, the only growing section of union members is among government employees—who comprise more than half of Sweeney's organization. Companies must be kept in the U.S. to provide the ever-higher taxes for ever-bigger government. America already has more government employees than it has workers engaged in manufacturing, in making things. You might say that Big Government is our main growth "industry," but it can grow only by sucking the lifeblood out of the rest of us.

And this sustains the ugly pattern wherein Democrat officeholders keep expanding union jobs, the coerced dues from which get kicked back into Democrat political campaign coffers. Union employees are, in effect, taxed to support union political spending, as two centuries ago citizens were taxed to support the official state church, whether they shared that religion's beliefs or not. (One recent poll found that 40 percent of union members intend to vote for George W. Bush, but their coerced union dues will go to Al Gore and the Democratic Party.) Needless to say, Al Gore has pledged never to allow union workers to control how their individual dues may be used for politics.

But if the unions are selfishly protesting WTO free-trade policies, what motivates environmental groups? This week the Sierra Club launched TV ads in New England aimed at George W. Bush, accusing him of polluting Texas, even though it never condemned Governor Bill Clinton for creating White Water by allowing his big contributors at Tyson Chicken to glut Arkansas rivers with chicken offal. (For that matter, why has PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, never condemned Hillary Clinton for making $99,000 overnight in a shady deal involving cattle futures, i.e., the torture, slaughter and cadaver-eating of thousands of innocent, gentle-eyed bovines? Where are the PETA protestors with picket signs calling her "Killery Kowkiller Klinton"?)

Months ago, Sierra Club members voted not to oppose illegal immigration into the U.S., despite irrefutable evidence that this influx of immigrants is wrecking the fragile Southwest environment. In Seattle, too, the Sierra Clubbers are revealing themselves as watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside.

Let's review a lesson all should have learned in Economics 101. Socialism claims to serve people as workers, as producers of goods and services. Capitalism serves people as consumers, as buyers of what others produce. Global free trade may hurt those workers who in the past, usually because trade barriers and government favoritism gave their product a marketplace monopoly, were paid more than a competitive price for their work.

But allowing a competitive world price to prevail by tearing down trade barriers will benefit all of us as consumers. We will have more choices at lower prices.

And we will avoid other economic poisons that government interference inevitably causes. Even President Ronald Reagan, for example, tried to save autoworker jobs in Detroit by pressuring Japan to limit the number of cars it sent us. As a result, jobs were saved in Detroit—at a cost to consumers of $600,000 per job. (Yes, it would have been cheaper to pay the unemployed workers $50,000 a year for more than a decade.) This cost the average car buyer an extra $2,000 for each car purchased. And the Japanese reacted by limiting the number of cars sold while selling Americans expensive Toyota Cressidas that got 20 miles to the gallon instead of inexpensive Corollas that got 40 miles to the gallon. This left America more dependent on foreign-oil imports, and under more political and economic pressure to go to war in the Persian Gulf under President Reagan's successor, George Bush. And all this was done to save a few thousand overpaid union jobs in Detroit, whose worker dues were diverted to fund campaigns of the Democratic Party.

"The World Trade Organization is destroying American sovereignty," said Prof. Derber. "It can shove aside American laws that control pollution, safety, and other standards." Indeed, the WTO recently required America to accept Venezuelan oil despite its high sulfur content. Without the WTO acting as a "Supreme Court" over trade in such cases, a nation like Japan could claim to have removed trade barriers against U.S. goods—but then deny our goods entry to its marketplace on other pretexts, such as odd environmental regulations. Or France could protect its highly subsidized farmers by denying entry to English beef by panicking people about Mad Cow disease, or block out American crops by raising unscientific fears about genetically modified "Frankenfoods."

"One thing this means," said Dr. Derber, "is that corporations soon won't have to bother complying with American laws or contributing to American political candidates. They'll only have to gain the support of the WTO, set up operations outside the U.S. with workers making 50 cents a day, and use WTO power to force their less expensive products into competition in our marketplace. This will drive down American wages, standards, and industry." In other words, the real purpose of trade laws is to extort taxes and bribes from U.S. companies—money that those companies in turn obtain by charging higher prices to you and me. And the game works so long as tariff barriers protect an internal monopoly or require foreign goods to pay a high tax to cross the border to our market.

We ponder the chutzpah of Vice President Al Gore visiting Microsoft near Seattle only days ago after his Justice Department's hate campaign against the company bore fruit from a federal judge … with Gore hinting that he could make these problems go away (if only large enough donations to himself and the Democratic Party were forthcoming). But this week Al Gore did not visit his enviro-nut fans who were being herded, sheeplike, in Seattle. Gore was too busy not offending unpatriotic multinational corporations who, along with the trial lawyers, are among his biggest contributors. And Gore, like George W. Bush, wished to cast no shadow over the deal the Clinton–Gore Administration had just struck to open Communist China's way into WTO membership.

As of Monday, the sheep in Seattle were throwing their Nike shoes into the streets to protest the company's labor practices abroad. They did this without knowing that decades before the comedy group Firesign Theatre had done a bit called "Shoes for Industry" foreshadowing this act. The sheep might have thought they were sabotaging world capitalism—in the pure sense, as early industrial Europe luddite workers attacked factory machines by throwing their wooden shoes (in French, sabots) into the gears to jam the mechanism. In Seattle, this act of protest merely left protestors barefoot and ready to keep global capitalism running by buying new running shoes.

My favorite analysis came from a Religious Right caller to my show who explained that Seattle was like Rome, a city built on seven hills, as identified in the Bible's Book of Revelation with seven mountains and Babylon. The Mark of the Beast, 666, he said, refers to the Hebrew word for six, Shesh, written with a Hebrew letter "that looks kinda like a 'W.' " When you go on the Internet, you begin by typing www, which is to say 666. The Internet, by which holiday shoppers now buy and sell, is "the Mark of the Beast." I could not bear to tell him that Shesh is written with two of those "kinda like a 'W' " symbols, which are not Ws, but if they were, would have us signing onto the Internet with a 666666. This would fit only if The Beast was schizophrenic. But even with such defects, this caller's analysis was infinitely more intelligent and sophisticated than anything one hears from liberals, Buchananoid populists, or Marxists. Alas, I forgot to ask if the head of Microsoft, chief financial sponsor of this WTO meeting, is the Gates of Heaven or of Hell.

***

Last week, while announcing plans for her Millenium Celebration, Hillary Clinton referred to "America's Century, which we are about to leave behind." She seemed arrogantly gleeful as she said these words.

***

Hollywood, like the San Fernando Valley before it, now seems eager to secede from the City of Los Angeles. The same impulses are found in many other cities, including suburbs of Seattle and one borough of New York City. The reason: some parts of a city pay disproportionately high taxes, while other neighbors receive far more in government services than they pay in taxes. The communities eager to leave are usually the overtaxed ones. The United States has less than 7 percent of the world's population but is assessed dues for its membership equal to more than 25 percent of the United Nations total budget.

When Kosovo wished, in effect, to secede from Serbia, the United States sent bombers and cruise missiles to help make this possible. When Chechnyans wished to secede from the old czarist and Soviet empire, the Clinton–Gore Administration stood aside quietly and let Soviet bombs massacre women and children. President Clinton no longer makes such decisions in the office used by President Abraham Lincoln. (This room in the People's House, now known as the "Lincoln Bedroom," gets rented out for $100,000 per night, paid to the Democratic Party.) In that room Lincoln ordered that Southern states would be forcibly prevented from leaving the Union, even thought some such as Virginia had agreed to the Constitution only on the express condition that they retained the right later to secede, much as New England states threatened to do during the early 1800s.

What should happen when an American corporation wishes to "secede" from oppressive laws and regulations in the U.S., set up shop in an economically freer land, and sell low-cost goods back across the border to Americans? Pat Buchanan might say "Lock 'em in, or lock 'em out." Dr. Charles Derber might say that such companies belong, at least in part, to those they employ and to governments. I say, let our companies go. In the long run, the decentralizing of power and markets benefits all of us.

* * *

What happens when government, and not the marketplace, becomes the distributor of wealth? One answer is that politics prevails. The Democratic Party, which controls the Executive Branch of our government at this moment, bases its power on the politics of divide-and-conquer. It balkanizes the electorate into people who identify with groups and polarization—black vs. white, gay vs. straight, female vs. male, etc.—and then tailors its appeal to a collection of factions with enough voters to win elections.

The Clinton–Gore Administration plans to use the Constitutionally required once-each-decade enumeration of America's people, the Census, as one more way to pit people against one another so that once again the Democratic Party can exploit for its own selfish goals the politics of division, racism, and animosity.

Once upon a time, Americans filling out the Census form were supposed to fit themselves into one of four ethnic categories. The new Clinton–Gore Census will ask Americans to find their identity among 63 categories!

More and more Americans are of "mixed" background, such as famed golfer Tiger Woods, whose father is African-American and mother is Asian. Demands by such people for a Census category to check called "Mixed" were ignored by the Clinton–Goreans. It did not meet the political requirement to pump up the count of key minorities, thereby providing a justification for racially gerrymandered congressional districts or new government spending targeted to buy the votes of favored Democrat constituency groups.

The new Census forms in year 2000 will permit you to check off more than one racial group. Tiger Woods, for example, could check off both Asian and African-American. And the Clinton–Goreans might then count him in both favored categories. (Black leaders believe a person of mixed parentage should be counted, or "assigned," as a member of the largest minority from which he comes, usually black. Other groups argue he should be counted as part of the smallest group of origin—by which measure Tiger Woods, who, like Gen. Colin Powell, has some Indian ancestry, would be counted only as a Native American.)

But what if David Horowitz's grandchild checked off both African-American and white on this Year 2000 Census form? The answer, as reported by Julie Chao in the San Francisco Examiner on November 27, is that "Those who check white and a minority race—the vast majority of multiracial people—would be assigned to the minority race, a proposal generally agreed on by federal agencies and rights groups."

"The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," she writes, "which investigates employer discrimination, plans to use a formula to reassign multiracial people to one of the minority race categories but, like most agencies, hasn't decided what to do with someone who checks two or more nonwhite boxes."

Demographic Apartheid is the right label for this leftist policy. It smacks of Adolf Hitler, who declared that anyone with a single Jewish ancestor 500 generations ago is to be gassed as a Jew. It echoes the legal notion in the segregated South a century ago that if someone had a "single drop of Negro blood" in his ancestry, he was a Negro. Even the 1890 Census acknowledged white ancestors among those segregated as black, sorting people of color (AKA "colored people") as octoroons, quadroons, or mulattos, i.e., folks who had 3/8, half, or 5/8 Black "blood." How racist is it to refuse to acknowledge the milk in milk chocolate?

In Bill Clinton's and Al Gore's America, if all your ancestors were white except for one black great-great-grandfather, you, for their purposes of racial classification, are black. The admixture of any other race can erase an American's whiteness. (But who would want to be white in a liberal America, where a claim to membership in other, more favored racial groups can win you preferential admission to college, preferential hiring, and other special benefits denied to whites?)

The political goal of the Democrats, of course, is to minimize the count of whites in America while maximizing the count of every other racial group. It reminds us that the Democrats have always played this game. They were the party of the slaveowners, of the Ku Klux Klan, of Jim Crow, the color bar, and Bull Connor. Their power has always come from exploiting and amplifying racial differences, tensions, fears, and hatreds in America. It's the same game Democrats play today, and to them it makes no difference which racial groups they pretend to support at any given moment, so long as dividing and conquering people keeps them in power. The one "race" box that Democrat collectivists will never permit you to check for yourself on any government form is "Human."


Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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