With the Smoke of Partisanship in their Eyes, Are Americans Being Taken for a Ride?
By Randell A. Monaco
January 24, 2011
Corporations who don’t need prior shareholder approval to spend corporate money are about to become the Goliaths of political influence independent of traditional political parties. As corporations begin to surreptitiously take center stage for the 2012 election campaign festivities it’s time to have a look at what this new reality is beginning to look like.
At the outset, let’s not accept out-of-hand the false idea that policies based on what’s good for corporations are good for America. Consider first that a corporate leader who increases profits by slashing his work force is thought to be successful. Well, that’s more or less what has happened in America recently: employment is way down, but profits are hitting new records. Who, exactly, considers this economic success?
Now compare the highly regulated economies in Japan and Germany that did a much better job than the United States at sustaining employment in the face of the 2008 financial crisis.
If revenues are generated through income and sales tax revenues how are the interests of nominally “American” corporations and the interests of the nation, which were never the same, aligned? The reference to “nominally American” corporations should be clarified here. To illustrate, columnist and Nobel Memorial Prize recipient Paul Krugman suggests, General Electric’s fortunes have very little to do with U.S. prosperity. He explains as an example that fewer than half its workers are based in the United States and less than half its revenues come from U.S. operations.
The corporate ability to influence and singularly direct our nation far surpasses the voice of an individual who now shares the Freedom of Speech with these economic powerhouses thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Fair Election Commission which seems to have been in step with and strategically enabled over time by the Federalist Society and its membership.
Brook Jarvis noted in a November 2010 article that money really can buy votes! A report from Public Citizen found that, of 74 races in which a seat changed parties, 58 went to the candidate who had received the most money from outside groups empowered by Citizens United. Winning candidates received an average of $764,326 in outside money (not counting candidate or party funds), compared to $273,268 for losing candidates. In fact, some races were far more one-sided. In Illinois, for example, Republican Senate winner Mark Kirk benefited from $8 million more in outside money than his opponent, Alexander Giannoulias, who was targeted by funnels for corporate money such as American Crossroads, Crossoads GPS, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The challenge to understand why our politicians support policies that benefit corporations instead of citizens shouldn’t be as confusing to Americans as it may have been prior to this recent Supreme Court ruling. We don’t really need to keep wondering why big companies get bailed out, or why regulators look the other way at this point, do we?
The problem, as I see it, is that the there is a critical need for an increase in public investment and the real challenge is to overcome a thoroughly indoctrinated public perception that views government spending as a bad thing.
When we look at the aftermath of 2008 it is hard to disagree with Paul Krugman’s conclusion that we’re in a mess because we had a financial crisis - not because American companies have lost their ability to compete with foreign rivals.
The rhetoric of competitiveness for me seems to be the most frightening because of how easily it can be manipulated in the wrong direction for economic policy. Policies that lead to investment that’s actually about creating jobs now while promoting longer-term growth are easily susceptible to interpretations that we’ve been too tough on business, and that what America needs now is corporate tax cuts and across-the-board deregulation. There is no reason to believe that we should trust a market economy to regulate itself again. It is time to learn from our mistakes, don’t you think?
The state of discourse in our nation is pushing us further away from making a serious and much needed investment and spending increase on infrastructure and education. Election cycles in our nation seem to be getting in the way of making sustainable policy decisions that would meaningfully define a vision for our economic possibility. Worse, multi-national corporations and the ideology that brought economic disaster have been handed the keys to the bus with the smoke of partisanship in their eyes, Americans are being taken for a ride.