Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Government for Sale: An Interesting Discovery in the CIA Files on Donald Trump

by Nomad

Newly-released CIA files offer us a bitter look back at what we used to laugh at decades ago. A satirical op-ed piece is a timely reminder of how far we have come along the path to corporatocracy. And under Trump, it's likely to get a lot worse. 

When I heard the news that the CIA had just uploaded around 13 million formerly classified documents, I did what any inquisitive blogger would do. I hastily typed in Donald Trump's name in the site's search engine. What I found was, to put it mildly, not what I was expecting.
No, nothing scandalous, so don't get too excited. There is one rather peculiar find to report.

Among a few other items, there's a photocopied news clipping of a June 1985 article by the then-editor of the monthly, Harper's Magazine, Lewis Lapham.
This article's presence in the CIA file is very likely to do a very brief mention of the CIA head at the time, Bill Casey. As for the Trump reference, you'll have to be a little patient.

The piece itself is a tongue-in-cheek op-ed entitled "Putting the Government Up for Sale: Deals to Ponder." The crux of the article is pretty basic and is summed up in the first paragraph.
"Sooner or later, it will occur to somebody in the Reagan administration to put the federal government up for sale in a patriotic series of leveraged buy-outs. The deficit and the national debt would vanish as if in magician's smoke. The Dow Jones stock averages would gain 4000 points and everybody lucky enough to command the necessary lines of credit and political patronage would make a killing."
All in all, the proposal makes perfectly good sense, Lapham writes. After all "relatively few people still take the trouble to vote" so why even bother holding elections. 
Let's allow stockholders decide who's the boss.

(The writer even gives an example of the kind of budgeting he is referring to by suggesting that it is was more cost effect to hire private security than to rely on public law enforcement.)

The article goes on to make a few possible assets the Reaganites might consider auctioning to the highest bidder.

Lapham proposes selling off the national parks. Why not? Monuments like Mount Rushmore and the Washington Monument could be auctioned off to Disney or to Marriot.

The IRS could be sold to Merrill Lynch or American Express and they could in turn claim that they were simply extending their financial services. If not, it would have to be abolished altogether. And anyway, only "little people" pay taxes.

The Postal Service could be sold off too. Perhaps the employees would be interested.

The US weapons arsenal, he suggests, might even find a buyer. Who would that be, you ask? Just guess.
"Obviously, the Soviet Union would make a generous offer, but it is probably that the more parochial members of Congress would object for reasons of fear or conscience."
Lastly, Lapham turns to the military. Selling off the US military is a splendid idea. Most wars can be categorized as glorified economic squabbles anyway. Why not return to the days of the Italian Renaissance with gaily-costumed princes with Machiavellian ambitions?
Let's let corporations run and finance the armed forces. Take government out of the equation and- problem solved. The troops could even be fitted out with company logos, such as Sony and IBM.

The smaller military formations- such as the Marine Corp or the Coast Guard conceivably could be sold to individuals. Lapham correctly observes:
Donald Trump might enjoy the adulation of a household regiment.  
(Unfortunately, that household belongs to the White House.)

Amusing suggestions at the time. to be sure. However, in our circumstance, Lapham's satirical wit now leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.
At least on one point, we have learned the hard way that Lapham was wrong. Members of Congress- at least the Republicans- had no compunction or moral scruple about turning over our armed forces to the Soviet Union.

Here's the pdf file of the Harper's article.