a book by Robert B. Reich
(our site's book review)
Reich says that “Capitalism has become more responsive to what we want as individual purchasers of goods, but democracy has grown less responsive to what we want together as citizens. Surveys suggest a growing sense of powerlessness.” Why has democracy become so weak while capitalism has become so strong, and what can we do about it? These are the huge questions the author tackles with courage and creativity. The pages are brimming with insight, and they lead to a couple of very unexpected conclusions that will really get you thinking.
This is a must read for anyone wanting to unravel the meaning of the connections between democracy, capitalism, and politics. In a general sense one could say that capitalism was bound to be the winner and democracy was bound to be the loser simply because the various aspects of capitalism are oozing with money, and so are the various aspects of politics. But the various aspects of democracy are just inconveniences to corporations and politicians—obstacles to be overcome or at least worked around.
Lawyers thrill at helping corporations find loopholes to laws that would have been pro-democracy except, as always, they end up being pro-Corporatocracy
Lawyers thrill at helping corporations find loopholes to laws that would have been pro-democracy if they were ever not avoided. It doesn’t require a cynic to conclude that loopholes are put in by legislators at the behest of corporations and politicians. Freedom comes out of real democracy, but people are losing freedoms while corporations and politicians are gaining freedoms. So this raises the question: Democracy for whom? And freedom for whom?
Reich points out that people mostly believe that government is not operating in their interest but in the interest of the few big interests that really decide things in this country, as well as have most of the power. As he says: “No longer do negotiations between big oligopolies and industry-wide labor unions have much significance in the wider political economy; no longer do local voluntary associations have much effect on legislators; no longer do regulatory agencies with broad reach define the public interest; no longer do CEOs have leeway to be ‘corporate statesmen.’"
He lists the negative social consequences of supercapitalism: widening inequality as most gains from economic growth go to the rich, reduced job security, community instability, loss of community, degradation of the environment, human rights abuses abroad, and lots of products that appeal to our animal instincts. The voices of lobbyists, lawyers, experts, and public relations specialists have drowned out the voices of the citizens, so how can the mechanisms of democracy work as originally designed?
Reich says that corporations are not people and should no longer be granted the rights people have. They should not be allowed to participate in democratic decision making. He supports abolishing the corporate income tax, ending the practice of prosecuting corporations for criminal conduct, no longer expecting or insisting that companies be patriotic, not granting them standing to challenge duly enacted laws in court. Let everyone in every company pay taxes according to how much they make. Let those who do bad things at the behest of corporations be held liable. Let people who work for companies be patriotic—how can a company be patriotic? Only people can be patriotic. Let people and only people challenge laws in court.
Let people and only people challenge laws in court
Special interests cough up lots of money and buy the policies they want and the candidates they want. This was made very easy by the recent (2014) Supreme Court ruling. After the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizen's United case, the movement of the US towards a corporatocracy is complete. Justice Stevens, of the minority dissenting opinion, wrote: "At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt." The ruling effectively drowns out the voices of everyday Americans and allows the buying of elections by the rich.
From our perspective, we (and many others) see this corruption of the democracy as more sinister: it may be that in theory, in a vacuum, the function of both the market and the state is to serve us, not dominate us. But in 2014 United States of America, the opposite is true. We serve as the cash cows for the dominant oligarchy. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.)
The market dominates us because the Corporatocracy is set up that way. The state dominates us because the U.S. Oligarchy is in bed with the Corporatocracy and the state wishes to give us only the rights and freedoms that do not infringe upon the wealth creation of the rich oligarchs. Free expression, privacy, personal freedom, and freedom of assembly are just a few of the rights and freedoms the state has managed to trample lately in the guise of "protecting us." But, like "who will watch the watchers" (NSA), the issue of who will protect us from the protectors raises its ugly head, since these so-called "protectors" are notorious liars sneaking around behind our backs. One of those liars who is supposed to be working for us but who is in reality just a pawn of the rich oligarchs is Obama:
Our leaders tell us they're 'serving' the public, knowing full well it's a lie—Obama's told it so often his nose is growing!
The state—an actual oligarch-controlled corporatocracy—is presenting to us a transparent pretense of all of the above trampled rights and freedoms as being for the purpose of serving the people, although they find it hard to keep a straight face as they lay such a whopper on us. It serves the oligarchy in control, and they use the mechanisms of state to dominate us. Reich was seeing this but put it in more "polite" ways. However, we prefer to call a spade a spade. If it walks like a duck . . .
The government is run by an oligarch-controlled corporatocracy that tramples our rights and tells us it is for our own good, but we do not buy this lie. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably ain't a frigging orangutan!
A metaphor for our ludicrous 'democratic election' scam—whose purpose is singular and simple: distraction
What are our oligarchy-directed, corporatocracy-funded political debates, with all their cliched, bombastic, Culture War passions, trying to accomplish in elections, since no significant changes ever evolve and neither side has corporatocracy permission to rock the boat and advocate serious, systemic changes, much less effect such changes? Well, what purpose DO elections serve? And for whom? Simple: the purpose is distraction and this purpose serves the oligarchy. Just like "the medium is the message," in this case the debating itself is the message, not any of its content. The debating's purpose is singular and simple: distraction.
As the rich get richer and everyone else finds their money mysteriously ending up in the wallets of the corporatocracy, to keep the unwary public distracted from the robbery the oligarchy makes sure election platforms dwell on emotion-laden, hot-button issues that get predictable responses from the sheep/public as their buttons are pushed. And there is nothing they can do—no one they can vote for—that will change the fact that their money, their rights, their privacy and the democracy itself is vanishing covertly right before their eyes but by staying in front of a TV screen watching the election clown show THEY are colluding with the robbers to allow this to happen! The sheep are complicit in their own shearing. Wake up, sheep!
Democracy in the USA is degenerating rapidly, but perhaps the shock of the coming collapse will be the wake-up call we need to reestablish a balanced new democracy based on wisdom, humanism, respect for knowledge and learning, and vigilant responsibility. Our money is increasingly ending up in the wallets of the corporatocracy—THIS WILL NOT END WELL!
The sheep are complicit in their own shearing
The rich are shaking us down
Back to Reich: Corporations appear to “pay” corporate income tax but in reality, it’s consumers who pay it. Why continue this charade? Abolish this and ensure that companies charge consumers less, since the corporations’ cost of doing business is now lower. This tax, since it started, has given the corporations the idea that they should have the right to participate in democratic decision making—a really bad idea for everyone, and for human rights and for the environment and for the integrity of the political sphere. Corporations currently have the right to give politicians tons of cash. (Unlimited contributions to super PACs are now allowed.) How can we expect these politicians to not get corrupted by the fact that the bulk of their campaign contributions come from corporate sources? Politicians predictably listen mainly to corporations and their lobbyists because that’s who mainly pays their bills! This situation is dumb. If an alien visited Earth and saw this situation he'd quickly predict that “that won't end well!”
An alien predicting democracy is in trouble
Reich is absolutely right in his implication that this situation is dumb, and it is not ending well. Our country can do better than this.
We must admit to having the same reservations as everyone else when we heard his “radical” proposals. Abolish the corporate income tax? Oh great, make the rich get even richer and sock the common man with the bill! But once you follow his incisive reasoning, you see that his proposals constitute a logical breakthrough in the seemingly hopeless dilemma of politics and corporations being corrupted by the way the overall situation is set up, while the Corporatocracy ensures that democracy takes it on the chin. Only thinking it through and revamping this errant situation has any hope of fixing it!
The Corporatocracy ensures that democracy takes it on the chin