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The Most Powerful People in America

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They are not the rich and superrich, nor the politically powerful running the two-party plutocracy, nor the greedy heads of banking and finance companies, and certainly not the media moguls and bloviating pundits. The most powerful people are US, American consumers who account for over 70 percent of the economy. It is exactly now, when the economy is in the toilet, that consumers hold the maximum power. So why are we the people still deluding ourselves that the path to a better future rests on electing a new president?

We are suckers, conditioned by decades of clever marketing and advertising to believe the lies of politicians, and worst of all to believe that elections and our votes provide us with power. Wrong. Our real power can only be manifest through our spending dollars.

What is amazing and depressing is that there are no national leaders from the worlds of politics, religion, education, media or public interest who are attempting to harness consumer power at this critical time. No one is capturing the public’s attention by making it crystal clear that consumers could obtain any political or economic reform in the public interest by joining together to withhold their discretionary spending.

Where are the anti-Iraq war leaders? Why are they not shouting about forcing an immediate commitment to ending the Iraq war by using the power of a massive consumer boycott that clearly could destroy the whole economy? Tell President Bush that consumers will greatly curb their spending for a month to give him time to implement a plan for withdrawal from Iraq. Make it clear that the coming federal rebates will not be used for spending. Make it clear that Bush inaction will result in continuation of the boycott.

Where is Ralph Nader, the ultimate consumer advocate? Why is he not proclaiming the brilliance of a consumer boycott as the winning tactic to force effective government assistance to the millions of Americans screwed by the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and who are about to lose their homes?

Where is Barack Obama, who supposedly wants to produce change? Rather than putting all his energy into satisfying his egoistic hunt for the presidency, why is he not talking about harnessing consumer power right now to get political reforms, like ending trade agreements that are destroying the middle class? Why does he not send a clear message to his million-plus contributors to join a national consumer boycott to obtain immediate concessions from the Bush administration?

Where are the professors who have published books making the case for a second constitutional convention as the way to restore American democracy? Not one has the courage to say that the way to get Congress to obey Article V of the Constitution and to convene that first Article V convention is by American consumers threatening to plunge a dagger into the heart of American business.

Now is the time for all the millions of Americans that make up the 81 percent who see the nation on the wrong track to take action, to think like patriotic revolutionaries and take the power that now only exists with their spending. Sounds simple. All this strategy needs is leadership. Rather than spending so much time and energy on the media-hyped presidential campaign, we the people should demand that someone step forward to inform and mobilize consumers to become powerful citizens by using their spending as the ultimate populist political weapon.

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About Joel S. Hirschhorn

Formerly full professor Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, and senior official Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and National Governors Association. Author of four nonfiction books and hundreds of articles.
  • Ya know, Joel–in order to mount a revolution the likes of which you’re proposing, you first have to build a following. Fallacious reasoning is never going to win you that following.

    I could use your quotes against you, but what’s the point? See, the great consumer revolution you’re advocating simply isn’t going to happen, at least not the way you’d like in your fevered dream of an Article 2 Convention.

    Why? In the first place, the vast majority of Americans don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Secondly. for all our bruises and scars, we do tend to make changes come on our own terms. And finally, we have very little patience for blowhards pissing in the wind.

  • troll

    Joel – a couple of questions:

    what percentage of the economy is based on discretionary consumption – ?

    what would the consequences be for consumers if a general boycott were successful in its threat resulting in an economic contraction – ?

  • Dan Miller

    Great idea, perhaps, but it just isn’t going to happen. We are a society of consumers; consuming is what we do best, and what we want to do most of all. That’s one of the main reasons why “it’s the economy, stupid.”

    Stop consuming? Massively? For a whole Month? You gotta be kidding. In the not too distant past, during the furor over a slight by France, a few people abjured french fries; this was not a problem, we just called them “freedom fries” and gobbled them up. A few abstained from French wines, and whined that domestic wines are better anyhow.

    We need to consume, if only for altruistic reasons. We don’t want to see a friend, who works at Wal Mart, laid off; worse, we don’t want to be laid off ourselves and thereby have to “boycott” things involuntarily.

    Plunging a dagger into the heart of American business would be a form of reciprocal suicide, even if there were enough people willing to do it, and there aren’t.


  • bliffle

    Joels premise is correct, this is a consumer society and the future of the economy lies in the hands of the consumers. Producers just follow markets, they don’t establish them. This is very alarming for the Big Interests in corporations and government because it’s difficult to rule over such a diverse public.

    So what they do is control consumption through advertising (and other public presentations, especially mass-consumption popular entertainment).

    They have trained US citizens to be good and faithful consumers. Especially consumers of name brand commodities, most of which now have almost no intrinsic value but only the extrinsic value accorded them by manipulative advertising.

    I have no doubt that our choices of products and life-styles are essentially dictated by advertisers. The only cure is to withdraw from the mass consumption society pictured repeatedly on TV. But it is such an attractive image (the women are sexier, the children are cuter and better behaved, the men are more admirable) that we find it difficult to break free of this fantasy notion of “the American dream”, a phrase which has come to grate on my ears as I see people voluntarily subjecting themselves to ever more delusional crap.

    Just remember this: the highest paid and most successful psychologists in the USA work on Madison Avene, expertly manipulating egregiously wretched products (and they have the hard cold economic stats to prove it to their employers!), they do not work in the neighborhoods of our towns, helping the assaulters, the drunks, the child beaters, the habitual cheaters, the gamblers, the drug addicts, most of whom have resorted to these aberrations out of frustration at their own inability to achieve the lovely harmonious image of life that they see on TV and in the movies.

  • Bliffle, you claim that producers don’t establish markets but then spend most of the rest of your comment arguing the exact opposite. In the latter, you are correct.

    Producers can and do frequently establish markets for things which consumers would not otherwise have desired. The oft-cited ‘Pet Rock’ is one glaring instance of this; others, not so egregious but nevertheless part of the trend, are the Hummer, Cabbage Patch Kids (toys are particularly rife with examples), the Pop Tart, and most of the output of the fashion industry.

  • Clavos



  • Article summation:

    “Why has nobody but me thought of this great idea? It’s bound to work when implemented in a large-scale setting, untested, without any downsides!”

  • Clav,



    I don’t always agree with you, but I have to say you have a unique knack for cutting through crap…

  • Zedd


    You cut to the chase on this one.


    Sounds like a solution that my 13yr old would propose. It’s rather sweet that this gentleman has such a wide eyed view of the world. His frustration at the status-quo is reminiscent of my sentiments in high school. I finally figured out that people are just people (guessing their way through life) and that we are lucky to have organized ourselves to this extent. Yes we should criticize ourselves and tweak constantly but there are very few revolutions that work because people are just people (lazy, greedy, scared, needy..). Time and tweaking (sometimes to a greater extent than others) is the best cure for the ills of society.


    It was obvious as one would watch the ‘coverage’ of the war that all of the cable news networks were working for the Bush Regime. The ONLY place we as Americans could attempt to gather some truth was through C-Span, Huff and a few other sites which would show all of the networks to be actually misleading America. Now, with as simple a tool as Google, Americans can find out information that the networks won’t give. Hillary’s secret religion (cult) known as ‘The Family’ is a D.C. based group of the richest folks in America who ‘pray to Jesus for the elite to rule the world’ . The fact that there has been absolutely no mention of her cult leads one to believe that the higher-ups at the networks (and other big corporations) are a part of ‘The Family’…..and the plan to rule the world. I know…. it sounds far fetched. You can find a great list of links regarding ‘The Family’ at http://www.Blacks4Barack.org. Truthtellers like Huffington, The Nation, Mother Jones and others have all done recent stories about ‘The Family’….but where’s CNN, MSNBC, Fox or the gang. They all know that there’s an internet rumbling going on right now about this cult. But….no mention. Do the research yourselves….check into ‘The Family’….once you do….you’ll see that it is not only scary….BUT IT MUST BE STOPPED !!!!!!!!!!!!!! LEARN/SHARE !!!!!

    Visit: Blacks4Barack
    (A Multi-Racial Organization Dedicated to Truth)