Obama and the Pope Versus the Ayn Rand Corporate Front Groups

By Pam Martens: December 5, 2013

Yaron Brook Promoting His Greed Is Good Platform on the John Stossel Show on Fox Business

Yesterday, President Obama appealed to fellow Americans to help him focus Congress on efforts to stem the unprecedented income inequality in our Nation. Tonight, one of the denizens of the greed-is-good corporate front groups, Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute, will attack that message in a speech at NYU.

New York University presents an ideal forum for Brook. It’s a microcosm of the pitched battle for the soul of America. The Wall Street cartel has oozed itself into NYU’s boards, municipal bond issuance, student loans, mortgage loans, credit cards and naming rights on buildings and auditoriums. NYU now has the highest tuition in the country, crippling student debt, while it simultaneously doles out forgivable loans to elite administrators for mansions in the suburbs.

As a determined group of over 400 faculty attempt to restore the University to its core educational mission and reduce the need for student loans, they are being maligned by the pro Wall Street university leadership much as any populist message is maligned on the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal.

In a speech hosted by the Center for American Progress yesterday, the President said the U.S. now ranks along the lines of Jamaica and Argentina in terms of income inequality. “The top 10 percent no longer takes in one-third of our income — it now takes half,” said the President.  “Whereas in the past, the average CEO made about 20 to 30 times the income of the average worker, today’s CEO now makes 273 times more.  And meanwhile, a family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family, which is a record for this country.”

The President also invoked the message Pope Francis has been delivering, quoting the Pope saying: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points.”

The Pope’s question can best be answered by those of us who have spent years unraveling the insidious corporate front groups posing as think tanks; brainwashing young people at an early age; and now openly pumping the Ayn Rand greed-is-good message directly into high schools and colleges through incentive based programs to distribute Rand’s books for free to students.

Yaron Brook is Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute. Its Chair is Arline Mann, a retired Managing Director of Goldman, Sachs & Company. In 2011, Brook was paid $386,623 by the nonprofit (the most recent tax return available), but stridently opposes any increase in the Federal minimum wage.

On October 10 of this year, Yaron Brook appeared on the John Stossel show on Fox Business to spread the corporate propaganda against increasing the minimum wage.  Stossel plays a film clip of energized protesters advocating for an increase in the minimum wage, stating with a mocking sneer in his voice, “there’s a spring in their step; they don’t act like victims.” Brook adds: “I don’t see anyone of those looking like starving people.”

Stossel then shows another clip of a young protestor outside of McDonald’s, who says on camera: “…some people even work 80 hours a week and they can’t make ends meet.” Brook responds: “Nobody owes them anything.”

John Stossel is part of the insidious, opaque corporate money web that has been holding back democratic progress in America for the last four decades.

Before coming to Fox, Stossel was co-anchor of ABC’s 20/20 program. While at ABC, a nonprofit operation sprang up to market DVDs of Stossel’s shows along with teaching guides to teachers of middle and high school students.  A stated goal was to help the students learn to engage in “independent” thought.  The earlier teacher guides for this operation, called “Stossel in the Classroom,” boldly show ABC News on the cover together with a photo of Stossel.  But the guides were originally written by economic professors at George Mason University where billionaire Charles Koch holds heavy influence. (According to Kris Hundley of the St. Petersburg Times, Koch has donated $30 million to the university over the past 20 years.)

On his official page at George Mason University, one of the professors, Thomas Rustici, admits to preparing the materials. “In 1999, I wrote the student guide that accompanies ABC News reporter John Stossel’s ‘Greed,’ ‘Freeloaders’ and ‘Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death’ videos. These ‘Stossel in the Classroom’ guides are in almost 600 classrooms and have been read by more than 175,000 students.” 

The 2011 Stossel in the Classroom teacher’s guide was written by Robert Schimenz, a teacher at the Queens Vocational and Technical School in New York. One lesson plan focuses on “Needy Seniors or Greedy Seniors.”  It asks: “Are our senior citizens living at the expense of our youth? Shouldn’t senior citizens pay for their own health care? What was the purpose of Medicare”?  Then it turns to a programmed learning approach to launch class warfare between the young and people on Social Security.

In 2007, Teacher Education Quarterly took a hard look at Stossel’s ties to right wing front groups.  In a comprehensive article by David Gabbard and Terry Atkinson, the authors concluded:

“Everyone who cares about the future of our schools needs to be aware of the heavy influence of neoliberal think tanks on Stossel’s ‘reporting’ and the sorts of reforms promoted through programs such as ‘Stupid In America.’  In all likelihood, he will continue his attacks on public schools as part of the previously-mentioned neoliberal strategy of pressuring schools to teach to high-stakes tests or risk having their schools placed under the management of a private corporation.  For neoliberals, this presents a win-win situation. So long as teachers succeed in maintaining satisfactory test scores by teaching only to the tests—and even sometimes from scripted lesson plans aligned with the tests—they will have little opportunity to engage students in activities that might be destructive of their allegiance to the corporate order. If they fail to maintain satisfactory test scores, this failure serves to rationalize handing over the management of schools directly to private corporations.”

Stossel’s campaign on greedy seniors has been adopted by two major Wall Street donors to NYU: Kenneth Langone and Stanley Druckenmiller. On September 16, the two billionaires presented a program at NYU titled “Generational Theft: How Entitlement Spending is Stealing Opportunity from America’s Youth.”

It’s greedy seniors, you see, living on an average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,269 (according to the latest data from the Social Security Administration), who are causing the income inequality in this country and stealing opportunity from America’s youth. It could not possibly be the industry, Wall Street, that made Langone and Druckenmiller billionaires through an institutionalized wealth transfer system that jokes about rigged research; offers champagne in chat rooms to rig interest rate benchmarks; hoards aluminum to drive up prices and gouge the consumer; rigs its derivative trades by knowing in advance where the cartel will be setting foreign exchange; and, after it crashes the system, receives trillions of dollars in loans costing less than 1 percent to prop the system back up to loot again.

The Ayn Randians have used the talking point that it’s all of us against big government. Yesterday, the President reminded Americans that “…government is us.  It can and should reflect our deepest values and commitments.”


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