Rail Industry: completely created out of thin air (stolen land) and handed over, to the tune of a ten square miles on each side of every mile of track laid, "and the issuance of 30-year, 6% U.S. Government Bonds, to the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad (later the Southern Pacific Railroad) companies in order to construct a transcontinental railroad," (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Railway_Act).
And yet, despite this huge treasure handed to the rail industry for free, the same rail industry was so incapable of providing use-value to passengers (since only the freight part of the industry has been profitable), that in 1971 the government had to step in and set up the Amtrak to provide services for people needing to travel by train. Subsequently, Amtrak has had to regularly raid the public funds to keep running.
Other companies in total monopolistic positions have also received government bailout. Lockheed, was one of the largest beneficiaries of the Emergency Loan Guarantee Act, passed in August 1971, and the loan guarantee enjoyed by Lockheed was $1.4 billion (depending on how you calculate the equivalency, that is between $7b and $17b in 2007 dollars; for dollar equivalencies see, http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/uscompare/result.php
The energy industry, likewise, was created, has been maintained and regularly bailed out by the government. Enron -- infamous for intentionally providing rolling blackouts to their California ratepayers and precipitating an 'energy crisis', before its financial shenanigans became public -- is the most notorious example that comes to mind and needs no referencing. The energy industry, of course, includes nowadays the nuclear industry; thanks to the writings of Harvey Wasserman, we are in full knowledge of how regularly this industry comes to steal its regular dose out of the public trough.
The banking and insurance companies likewise seem not to know how to run their industry. The current financial meltdown (which is now leading to commercial meltdown) is well known to the reader. As is, most likely, the Savings and Loans debacle of the 1980s-early 1990s, which according to Wikipedia, "was the failure of 747 savings and loan associations (S&Ls) in the United States. The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around $160.1 billion."
Other bank failures had also happened. Just for one example from the 1970s, from Wikipedia: "Franklin National Bank, based in Franklin Square in Long Island, New York was once the United States' 20th largest bank. On October 8, 1974, it collapsed in obscure circumstances, involving Michele Sindona, renowned Mafia-banker and member of the irregular freemasonic lodge, Propaganda Due. It was at the time the largest bank failure in the history of the country."
Going back in history, we have had the Panic of 1819, Panic of 1837, Panic of 1857, of 1873, of 1893, of 1907, and of course the Great Depression. It seems that 'panic', rather than a smooth operating status, is a systemic feature of the banking industry in the U.S.
The American car industry's record of producing useless cars, which only go to boost the drivers' egos, is and has been notorious throughout the ages. The 1950s' ostentatious fins and other assorted accessories come to mind as the earliest signs of imbecility and such useless features continue to dictate a macho 'I don't give a damn' attitude conveyed through their very design, as embodied in, starting in the 1970s Chevrolet Blazer, one of which was owned at some point in my early life by my uncle; the first air conditioned giant-mobile I ever sat in. Today, that stupidly dictated fad has morphed into the ubiquitous SUVs, and the madness continues to survive. No wonder then, that they have to come begging for government intervention in the 'free freaking market'.
I wouldn't be too surprised if, at some future point, even the oil industry came to the government for permission to raid the public funds.
So, pretty much all the basic industries typical of any industrialized society cannot be run successfully by the American bourgeoisie. Really. Can they do anything?
Yes. They can do 'advertising' pretty well. The proof of that is how profitable media companies are. Even here, though, before we go into it, it must be remembered that the radio and TV were completely intertwined with the role of the state as the holder of the public good called the public airwaves. Of course, the 'public' airwaves have long been privatized and lost their public character in all aspects.
But, to get back to the main point about the mass media, the fact that media companies never have to come with hat in hand to the state is twofold: first they know better than the general public that they are the strategic allies of the state, especially the executive of the state, and are therefore (the second fold) the strategic allies of the owners of the state, the capitalist class of industrialists and financiers. This means the industrialists/financiers/state will ALWAYS be saturating the media to make sure the public mind is exhaustively (to the point that it is possible) kept in three modes: ignorant (of the full social truth encaging them), insecure (to make them psychologically dependent on state and its 'security' forces), and envious (of the rich and famous, so they won't think of real alternatives).
And if the American general political behavior is any indication, the media is indeed very powerfully effective both existentially and (therefore) financially. The state/industrialists/financiers know that their only and best salvation is to keep the population in the three already mentioned modes of being (ignorant, insecure and envious), so successfully recreated by the media, which in turn elongates the ruling classes' rule.
You see, the establishment's game is always one of deflection and delay. They have nothing else; this is it. There is no 'perfect' capitalism. Crisis is as natural to capitalism as is the rotation of earth around the sun. They KNOW the system is bankrupt in addressing the needs of the absolute majority of the population, and they KNOW that the system is only beneficial for those at the very top. So, all they CAN do is fleece us as much as they can while they can; meanwhile they deflect (by lies and false promises) and delay their demise. And in this deflection game, why of course they need the media. So, the mass media stay profitable.
* * *
Given that the American capitalists cannot avoid recurrent crises, we must now look at the other side and ask: Is the American Left beset by the same chronic inability to do anything also? For, I mean, look at it. There is hardly anything RIGHT about this system. It can not educate the people, it cannot provide healthcare, housing, food or a secure job or retirement (even after the working stiff put in their share of taxes into the public fund for thirty years or more), and they cannot even run their own most basic of capitalist industries.
Yet, these same capitalists regularly lecture us about how good the 'free market' is, and how it has brought unprecedented prosperity to the largest number of humans in history; and the Left cannot launch a successful practical critique (which is coupled with social action) attacking the system in its fundamentals.
There is no 'free market'. 'Capitalism' does not create things. People expending mental and muscular energy create things; i.e., workers, technicians and engineers (artisans and master guildsmen/women of former ages) create things. Workers and engineers have created and continue to maintain, for example, the tracks that were laid down, the trains, the switchboards, the signal wires, the buildings and offices that constitute the rail industry. No practical conclusions are drawn from these basic facts, when the U.S. Left enters the political arena with proposals for how to change things.
One of the fundamental reasons the U.S Left cannot articulate any realistic exits from this hell, in spite of all the contradictions present in the actually existing capitalism in the North American region, I believe, is the pernicious presence of a 'lesser evil' type of political calculation that permeates the Leftist thinking; much like fractal structures that repeat themselves infinitely down the structural lattice, this line of logic repeats itself in all levels of politico-philosophical thinking done by the U.S. Left.
In the realm of purely 'economic' sphere (which, I believe does not even exist under the current system, and that is why Marxists properly call it 'political economy'), the U.S. left is forever stuck in the false dualism of 'state owned' v. 'privately owned', and in this false dualism, the Left thinks 'state owned' is the better of the two evils. But, within the existing system, the distinctions are mostly arbitrary.
Let's imagine a 'privately owned' trucking company. Where did the trucks come from? They need, among other essentials, steel. Where does the steel come from? Originally, it comes in the form of a mineral extracted from the earth; iron ore. Nobody 'produces' iron ore. It came with the planet; a public good. So, from the first steps in the chain of production that makes a trucking company possible, every little bit of every truck has been made possible by the labor of workers, technicians and engineers. The roads and highways that a trucking company depends on were made by workers, laid on public lands. The taxpayers have paid for all of them. So, the line between private and state owned, under the current system, is completely an arbitrarily drawn line.
However, sticking to this false dichotomy, any and all solutions (from the Left) to our social problems, as pertains to the economic sphere, side with state-oriented solutions. But such are no solutions for the working people; they merely prolong the stranglehold of the capitalist class on the economy, since the state is THEIR state.
Within the realm of the politics proper, we all know the lesser evil thinking espoused by the Left, which surfaces regularly in the form of a valiant defense of the Democrats.
Lesser evil kind of thinking in the political sphere, however, is not limited to the electioneering cycles in the U.S. alone, and is easily extended to the international arena. This thinking goes back to the Cold War training that formed the current generation of the American left, and in spite of the rise of the so-called New Left and what most of the Left in the U.S. may believe itself to be, this type of reasoning has rendered it a slave to the rhetorical plan of the right-wing ideologues starting from 1950s.
For example, in the international relations, such thinking ends up having to support states such as the Iranian theocratic regime. Within Iran, the lesser evil thinking then splits: one lesser evil line says that we must support Ahmadinejad's Iranian version of neoconservative forces that are beating their chests in a pissing contest with the Bush administration and his regime. Another lesser evil subset goes with the 'moderates' or the 'reformists', headed by former president Khatami.
The interesting thing about both these tendencies is their neglect to ever think that the Iranian people are a very different species than the Iranian state; which, according to their own leaders, e.g., Hashemi Rafsanjani, have only the active support of 15% of the population.
Most of the significant forces within the American left seem completely incapable of coming up with a line of thinking independent of the frameworks imposed by chief gangsters such as president George W. Bush. These leftist thinkers, writers, activists and agitators have been trapped within the framework of 'You are either with us or with our enemies!' None ever think that the American people and the American state's enemy-of-the-day may not have anything in common, and my indeed be completely opposed to each other.
They also forget that in this made-up enemies' pissing contest, it is the very people suffering under both enemies who are truly getting it daily (like the American people are getting it daily right now and for the past eight years) no matter which enemy is dictating the terms. Workers and the regular folk have their own terms to dictate and demand, and socialists and uncompromising democrats all over the world must stand with the people, and with their own principles, not with whomever the American state declares as the enemy.
Before some people jump to "Did you hear what he said?!!" hysteria, let me clarify that we do stand with our true strategic allies, the oppressed of the world and with those at the forefront of the fight against imperialism, such as the Palestinian people, the Iraqis and the Afghans who are fighting an injustice, the scales of which belie all reason, as we do with the Haitian people and all others oppressed by imperialists and local bullys alike. We stand with the people at the same time that we criticize the Iraqi, Afghani, and yes even the Palestinian leaderships, as we have the right to do, and as we would be IRRESPONSIBLE if we didn't, just as we have criticized our OWN leaderships through the ages.
But, what we cannot and should not stand with is any government, state authority, regime, any elites and any masters of any society who oppress and maintain their rule by subjugating the people, and who rule by illegitimate means of violence. A theocratic dictatorship, for example, is such a thing. If any leftist has any problem condemning such a state formation, he or she has no standing within any movement for justice. Anywhere.
But reality does not only provide shades of evil. It also provides tons of positively actionable routes, and it only takes sticking to principles to see those routes. Reality, I believe some wise person once said, is more radical than most things (all things?) thought by us the humans, these social being that we are, still caged in our pre-history, in the sense that our social circumstances determine us, not the other way around.
To conclude briefly then: Until the time comes when the American Left breaks out of this lesser evil thinking in all spheres, and until they start to, as they say, think outside the box presented by the system, the American Left will remain another of the failed estates in this society, and the American ruling classes will continue to determine all the terms of all the debates and all the proposed 'solutions' to our social ills.