What if someone told you the unprecedented economic meltdown that has devastated the American middle class and put the world economy on the edge of a cliff was really the "end-game" of a political coup begun in 1971 by a small band of ideological warriors who were inspired by a secret memo written by a future Supreme Court Justice?
This is no conspiracy, but the fact-based storyline of our documentary film Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? which opens in Los Angeles and New York on August 17. Unlike many films about the economic meltdown, Heist, structured as a political thriller, takes the long view of the ongoing economic crisis, tracing its roots back to The Powell memo, and stars America's corporate, financial and political elite as perpetrators, and the American middle class as victims.
Our plot revolves around a six-page secret memo written over 40 years ago by the future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, at the behest of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memo, entitled "Attack on American Free Enterprise System", a free-market utopian treatise, called for a money fueled big business makeover of government through lobbying, corporate control of the media, academia, the pulpit, arts and sciences, and destruction of organized labor and consumer protection groups. Sound familiar?
Flash-forward to today's scandal-saturated headlines, and you will find Powell's mandate firmly in place: corporate control of law and both U.S. political parties. Few know that many of the same arguments articulated in the blistering 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, which allows unlimited political spending by corporations, were used in Justice Powell's first pro-business Supreme Court case decision, First National Bank of Boston vs. Bellotti. Powell wrote the majority opinion that overturned a Massachusetts law restricting contributions to political campaigns by corporations.
Powell's memo was quickly seized on by the likes of Joseph Coors, who funded, along with other notable Right Wing one percenters such as the Koch Brothers, the creation of the Heritage Foundation. This "ideological marketing organization, " along with its clones, soon began pumping out free market propaganda that was peddled to the mainstream media on a daily basis. And wouldn't you know it-it soon became the dominant language of our politics and economics, with Ronald Reagan as its spokesman?
What followed was wholesale implementation of free market extremism by both parties; the outsourcing of millions of manufacturing jobs; the decimation of organized labor; widespread industrial and financial deregulation, and the implementation of tax policies favoring corporate interests and the elite. Perhaps most damaging, media deregulation and consolidation has created a situation where the American public have been left out of any critical debate about what is really going on in the United States.
We interviewed economic and political thought leaders and experts spanning the last forty years who were key players at the heart of this story including the father of Reaganomics Paul Craig Roberts, key Clinton economic adviser, Alan Blinder, former Goldman Sachs managing director Nomi Prins and Robert Crandall, the former Chairman of American Airlines, who led his company through the minefield of deregulation.
We hope Heist helps viewers move beyond the white noise of today's polarizing media, providing them with a clear, concise and fact-based explanation of how we got into this mess, and what we need to do to restore our representative democracy. Heist is inspiring audiences by exploring alternate policy prescriptions on the national level, as well as vignettes of how local communities are taking back control of their economies and politics.
For more information about Heist, go to: www.heist-themovie.com.