2017-10-05 –The other day, I saw a plea from some liberal organization in support of LGBT rights. It asked Apple and Facebook and Google and Microsoft and Amazon not to build in states that have adopted discriminatory laws against LGBT people.
Are these corporations in charge?
The answer is: they are getting there.
Now I am not talking about mom-and-pop businesses. One of the main pieces of disinformation used by large corporations to preserve and expand their power is to suggest that any restrictions imposed on large corporations would hurt mom-and-pop.
You hear this in the debate over the estate tax. They say that the federal estate tax takes away mom-and-pop businesses and farms. This is simply false. But the billionaires use our natural sympathy for mom-and-pop as a shield to hide behind.
These large corporations are now behind the most divisive divisions in this country.
Healthcare is worth billions to them.
Oil and gas is fighting measures to abate global climate change.
Agribusiness hires undocument immigrants because they can pay less and techbusinesses exploit loopholes in the law for the same reason.
The list goes on and on.
You might dismiss the concern and say “that’s business.”
But these large corporations are more than businesses. They are political institutions. They control the lives of their employees. They often have life-and-death power over their suppliers and their customers. When they move into a community they can be a disruptive force.
But they are accountable to no one. Not even to their shareholders. They may be responsive to “the market.” But the market is only interested in dollars. The price of weapons companies goes up, for example, whenever there is a mass shooting.
And now, these corporations have purchased political power, helped by a Supreme Court decision in the so-called Citizens United case (I say “so-called” because it wasn’t about citizens—that’s just what the corporations called themselves). They buy politicians who vote against their constituents’ expressed desires.
And they have been working diligently to gain traditional political power through redistricting designed to deliver political power to a minority of citizens. The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday (Gill v. Whitford) about this type of gerrymandering in Wisconsin. This gerrymandering gave complete control of the state government in that state, which then began dishing out benefits to the large corporations. This case will be decided later this year.
I am not against business. Business creates most of the things we enjoy in life. But the emphasis is on things. And we need to be aware that they provide far from all our needs. I like to ride my bike. I bought my bike from a corporation. But the corporations have little or nothing to do with the roads I ride on or the scenery I enjoy or the time I have available to ride.
I am not corporations as a way to organize people in a business enterprise. The structure works great for mom-and-pops (usually, but not always). But we’ve let large corporations shield executives from accountability. Corporations are the new fiefdoms run at the whim of a few nobles to the detriment of everyone else—unless they happen to feel generous.
And their power is growing.