Friday, March 1

Corporate sedition is more damaging to America than the attack on Capitol Hill | Robert Reich

Capitalism and democracy are compatible only if democracy is in the driver’s seat.

That is why I took some comfort right after the attack on Capitol Hill when many large corporations solemnly swore that they would no longer finance the campaigns of the 147 legislators who voted to annul the election results.

Well, those days are over. Turns out they broke up the moment the audience stopped paying attention.

A report released last week by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington shows that over the past year, 717 companies and industry groups have donated more than $18 million to 143 of those rogue lawmakers. Companies that have pledged to stop or pause their donations have donated nearly $2.4 million directly to their campaigns or political action committees (Pacs).

But there is a deeper problem here. The whole question of whether or not corporations fund the seditious caucus is a distraction from a much larger issue.

The tsunami of money now flowing from corporations into the morass of American politics is greater than ever. Y is money, which finances almost all politicians and finances attacks on their opponents, is undermining American democracy as much as the 147 riotous members of Congress did. Maybe more.

Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, whose vocal opposition to any change in filibuster is poised to condemn voting rights, received nearly $2 million in campaign donations in 2021 even though she’s not up for re-election until 2024. Most of it came from corporate donors outside of Arizona, some of whom have a history of giving largely to Republicans.

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Has money influenced Sinema? It’s up to you. In addition to limiting voting rights, he voted against raising the minimum wage to $15, opposed tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, and stalled on drug price reform, policies supported by most Democratic senators, as well as by a most of the Arizonans.

Over the past four decades, Pac’s corporate spending on congressional elections has more than quadrupled, even adjusting for inflation.

Unions no longer provide a counterweight. Forty years ago, union Pacs contributed as much as corporate Pacs. Now, corporations are spending more than labor for more than three to one.

According to a milestone study Published in 2014 by Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern professor Benjamin Page, the preferences of the typical American have no bearing on the legislation that emerges from Congress.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence of economic elites, business groups, mass interest groups, and average citizens. Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a tiny, almost zero, statistically insignificant impact on public policy.” Lawmakers primarily listen to policy demands from big business and wealthy individuals, those with the greatest lobbying prowess and the deepest pockets to finance campaigns and advance their views.

It’s probably a lot worse now. The Gilens and Page data come from the period 1981 to 2002: before the supreme court opened the floodgates to big money in the Citizens United case, before Super Pacs, before “dark money” and before the Wall Street bailout.

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The business return on this mountain of money has been significant. Over the last 40 years, corporate tax rates have plummeted. Regulatory protections for consumers, workers and the environment have been undermined. Antitrust laws have become so ineffective that many large corporations face little or no competition.

Corporations have fought against the safety nets and public investments that are common in other advanced nations (most recently Build Back Better). They have attacked labor laws, reducing the share of private sector workers who belong to a union from a third 40 years ago to just over 6% now.

They have raised hundreds of billions in federal grants, bailouts, loan guarantees, and sole source contracts. Corporate welfare for Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Tech, Big Agriculture, the largest military contractors, and the largest banks now dwarfs the amount of welfare for individuals.

Big corporate profits just rolled in a maximum of 70 yearseven during a pandemic. The ratio of the salary of CEOs at large companies to the average worker has skyrocketed from 20 to 1 in the 1960s, to 320 to 1 now.

Meanwhile, most Americans aren’t going anywhere. The typical worker’s salary is only slightly higher today than it was 40 years ago, when adjusted for inflation.

But the biggest victim is public confidence in democracy.

In 1964, just 29% of voters believed the government was “run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.” For 2013, 79% of Americans believed it.

Corporate donations to riotous legislators are nothing compared to this 40-year record of corporate sedition.

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Activists target Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley near the US Capitol.
Activists target Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley near the US Capitol. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/REX/Shutterstock

Much of the American public has become so frustrated and cynical about democracy that it is willing to believe the blatant lies of a self-described strongman willing to support a political party that no longer believes in democracy. democracy.

As I said at the beginning, capitalism is compatible with democracy only if democracy is in the driver’s seat. But absence of democracy does not strengthen capitalism. It feeds despotism.

Despotism is bad for capitalism. Despots do not respect property rights. They do not respect the rule of law. They are arbitrary and unpredictable. All this harms the owners of capital. Despotism also invites civil strife and conflict, which destabilizes a society and an economy.

My message to all CEOs in America: You need democracy, but you are actively undermining it.

It’s time for you to join the pro-democracy movement. Strongly support voting rights. Actively lobby for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Use your unbalanced power in American democracy to protect American democracy, and do it soon. Otherwise, we may lose what’s left of it.

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