From his seat in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner announced in mid-September that American business owners would continue to hold the nation’s wealth (and thus the public welfare) hostage until government granted them the “low-tax, deregulated world they wanted,” writes journalist and author Thomas Frank in Harper’s online.

Yes, in response to the murmurings of an ungrateful working class, our brave captains of industry have gone on strike. The whims of prevailing economic power, not a concern for the common good, should determine the amount of comfort, security and protection allotted to common Americans.

In reviewing the ruling class’ attempts to wage “capital strikes” during the New Deal era, Frank makes it clear — as Truthdig’s own Chris Hedges so often has — that the current imbalance of wealth in America makes political blackmail possible again. For the time being, there is no way to vote against the interests of the 1 percent. — ARK

Thomas Frank at Harper’s:

There were two distinct “capital strikes” during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. The first, which is still referenced on the website of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s historical society, consisted of a decline in new stock and bond issues in the first years of the New Deal.

The second was a more general revolt of business interests, which were supposedly struggling to preserve laissez-faire political conditions by withdrawing investment from the economy in 1937, sabotaging the recovery and the chances of President Roosevelt. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes delivered a ferocious iteration of this theme in December of that year, warning that “the United States is to have its first general sit-down strike — not of labor, not of the American people — but of the sixty families [a then-popular term for what we now call “the 1 percent”] and of the capital created by the whole American people of which the sixty families have obtained control.” Should Americans yield to the demands of the walkout, Ickes warned, “then the America that is to be will be a big-business Fascist America—an enslaved America.”

… We live in a time when political blackmail works: The bank bailouts and bonuses of 2008 and 2009 were done on an emergency basis, lest the geniuses of Wall Street shrug off their burden and abandon us to Great Depression II. The Republican strategy during last summer’s debt-ceiling fight was simply to point a gun at the global economy’s head. And now, in 2011, the Speaker of the House tells us not only that capital strikes happen, but that the capital strike is happening now. John Galt lives, reader, and your task is to bow down and hail the Big Business America Harold Ickes feared — or be dropped forthwith into the poverty and darkness you no doubt deserve.

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