We The People Are Losing Our Voice

When I read this newsletter from Robert Reich this morning, my jaw dropped.  Sure, I knew that capitalism has run amok in recent years and that We the People seem to have no value to many of our elected officials, but … even I wasn’t aware to what degree our best interests have been subjugated.  I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to read and ponder Mr. Reich’s words …


Why isn’t corporate America behind the pro-democracy movement?

Time for the biggest companies to step up and protect what’s left of it

Robert Reich, 14 January 2022

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

That’s why I took some comfort just after the attack on the Capitol when many big corporations solemnly pledged they’d no longer finance the campaigns of the 147 lawmakers who voted to overturn the election results.

Well, those days are over. Turns out they were over the moment the public stopped paying attention.

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

But there’s a deeper issue here. The whole question of whether corporations do or don’t bankroll the seditionist caucus is a distraction from a much larger problem.

The tsunami of money now flowing from corporations into the swamp of American politics is larger than ever. And this money – bankrolling almost all politicians and financing attacks on their opponents – is undermining American democracy as much as did the 147 seditionist members of Congress. Maybe more.

Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema — whose vocal opposition to any change in the filibuster is on the verge of dooming voting rights — received almost $2 million in campaign donations in 2021 despite not being up for re-election until 2024. Most of it came from corporate donors outside Arizona, some of which have a history of donating largely to Republicans.

Has the money influenced Sinema? You decide: Besides sandbagging voting rights, she voted down the $15 minimum wage increase, opposed tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, and stalled on drug price reform — policies supported by a majority of Democratic Senators as well as a majority of Arizonans. 

Over the last four decades, corporate PAC spending on congressional elections has more than quadrupled, even adjusting for inflation.

Labor unions no longer provide a counterweight. Forty years ago, union PACs contributed about as much as corporate PACs. Now, corporations are outspending labor by more than three to one

According to a landmark study published in 2014 by Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern professor Benjamin Page, the preferences of the typical American have no influence at all on legislation emerging from Congress.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens. Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Lawmakers mainly listen to the policy demands of big business and wealthy individuals – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns and promote their views.

It’s likely far worse now. Gilens and Page’s data came from the period 1981 to 2002 – before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in the Citizens United case, prior to SuperPACs, before “dark money,” and before the Wall Street bailout.

The corporate return on this mountain of money has been significant. Over the last forty years, corporate tax rates have plunged. Regulatory protections for consumers, workers, and the environment have been defanged. Antitrust has become so ineffectual that many big corporations face little or no competition.

Corporations have fought off safety nets and public investments that are common in other advanced nations (most recently, “Build Back Better”). They’ve attacked labor laws — reducing the portion of private-sector workers belonging to a union from a third forty years ago, to just over 6 percent now.  

They’ve collected hundreds of billions in federal subsidies, bailouts, loan guarantees, and sole-source contracts. Corporate welfare for Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Tech, Big Ag, the largest military contractors and biggest banks now dwarfs the amount of welfare for people.

The profits of big corporations just reached a 70-year high, even during a pandemic. The ratio of CEO pay in large companies to average workers has ballooned from 20-to-1 in the 1960s, to 320-to-1 now.

Meanwhile, most Americans are going nowhere. The typical worker’s wage is only a bit higher today than it was forty years ago, when adjusted for inflation.

But the biggest casualty is the public’s trust in democracy.

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

Corporate donations to seditious lawmakers are nothing compared to this forty-year record of corporate sedition.

A large portion of the American public has become so frustrated and cynical about democracy they are willing to believe blatant lies of a self-described strongman, and willing to support a political party that no longer believes in democracy.

As I said at the outset, capitalism is compatible with democracy only if democracy is in the driver’s seat. But the absence of democracy doesn’t strengthen capitalism. It fuels despotism.

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

My message to every CEO in America: You need democracy, but you’re actively undermining it.

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

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

51 thoughts on “We The People Are Losing Our Voice

  1. Thank you for sharing!!.. one can only be silenced when one wants to… there a many at work in the trenches that are not heard about, mainly because they don’t capture the headlines like Trump, etc… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true, my friend. It’s sometimes easy to forget, especially when the media focuses more on the sensationalism of the day rather than the hard work being done by those who are too busy actually doing their jobs to hold rallies and appear on every talk show! Thank you for sending the Irish luck … we all need that and the warm smiles of our loved ones!

      Like

  2. This is nothing new, all politicians are sellouts to their corporate overlords. They’re all bought and paid for, which is why they pretend to work for us, all the while enriching their benefactors. It’s good to remind the public who they’ve elected to office (as if voting ever made a difference).

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  3. Boycott and the power of the pen might hopefully help turn the tide. Not only must we begin boycotting en masse the corporations, but we must also flood them with letters telling them the reason why! Flood them with paper! That will help the postal service as well. Flood their websites with email telling them why you will no longer buy their products. Buckle down and be prepared for doing without for a while and eventually those CEO’s will find their bottom line getting closer to the top line. If the money is not coming in they don’t get all the dollars they (as well as the significant others) have become used to spending and eventually they will be replaced with someone who possibly has a brain. I am well aware that this could lead to another great depression but where do you think we are going now?

    Liked by 3 people

    • You make some excellent points, dear friend. This may just become one of my ‘projects’ for the year — finding out what companies are supporting the worst of the GOP candidates and making it widely known so that people can, as you say, flood them with paper! Where we are going now is well beyond what any of us have ever known, or can imagine, so we must do whatever we can to stop this runaway train before it plunges off the cliff.

      Liked by 2 people

      • How are you feeling my dear friend? I worry about you. And that would be a great idea for a project. When money is endangered for them they will have to listen but on the other hand, we could be in the middle of a horribly great depression by then. Prices are skyrocketing and most of us are stuck with limited resources these days. It could very well become a problem for us to eat while the wealthy of the world might find they are spending more at the stores to the point of no more spending for them as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Some days are better than others … I am mostly able to do a few things for myself, which is a vast improvement over 2 months ago when I could barely even make it the 10 steps to the bathroom. But, I’m still very low on energy and am not sleeping well.

          Yes, prices are high all over the world due to the pandemic and supply chain issues, but that will self-correct if we are ever able to get a handle on Covid! If the anti-vaxxers would just wake up and do the right thing for the good of the nation … sigh. If you need help affording groceries, dear friend, please let me know and I will happily do what I can. Meanwhile, I hope you are doing well, or as well as possible under the circumstances. Love you! ❤

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    • The power of boycotting is significant, and will force business to change. Too bad the majority of Americans are either too complacent or ignorant to make a difference. Still, we all must try!
      I only support local businesses and boycott all elections…. the only way to end corruption.

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    • I’m so sorry to hear and read that you guys are having troubles, too. I’m surprised you guys haven’t managed to get rid of BoJo yet, but as we found by getting rid of Trump, you never truly get rid of the damage they inflicted. Hang in, my friend.

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  4. Yep, Keith has it. Corporations need consumers. As Henry Ford said (paraphrasing), people need to have the money to buy cars and that’s why he paid his employees a (fairly) decent wage.

    Of course, that was then. CEOs make multiples of hundreds more than the typical worker in this erea. Driven by performance bonuses and the stock market, more corporations focus on those, and tricks to make their bottom line look profitable. That makes most of them extremely short sighted and unable to see past that bottom line.

    Meanwhile, corporations will try to focus on new consumers in new markets. Sad. Hugs. Cheers. M

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yep, Keith was spot on! We all have the ‘power of the purse’ so to speak and we must learn to use it more wisely. To far too many in the ‘upper echelons’, that bottom line is the ONLY thing that matters. I am a socialist at heart and have never been a big supporter of unfettered capitalism … it crushes too many people. Sigh. Hugs ‘n cheers to you, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Big tobacco got caught in North America. Now they make most of their profits in THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES where the governments need those tax dollars. When the dollars needed to fight lung cancer grow larger than the revenues from tobacco sales, it will be too late for their citizens.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Jill, there is an old rule that a venture capitalist said in a Ted Talk. He asked what created jobs? He then offered the answer – customers create jobs. Companies got on board with doing things to prevent climate change, they got on board with speaking out on diversity, they got on board with advocating civil rights, etc. The key reasons were customers and shareholders.

    Robert Reich speaks of concerns about our democracy. It is important for customers and shareholders to preach the gospel to companies. If we want to make a difference, the people who need to be encouraged to speak out are the institutional investors like Black Rock, CALpers, etc. Both have a heavy hand in influencing publicly traded companies which are largely owned by institutions. Plus, people need to vote with their feet. They could start with the My Pillow brand with the extremism of its founder who is pushing for an autocrat to take charge. Boycott the product.

    This is the best place for people to make a difference. I would ask the Influencers out there to use the power to speak out for greater good issues. The bus boycotts aided the Civil Rights movement. So, can all consumers and investors on other issues.

    Keith

    Liked by 5 people

    • You are so right, my friend! I have boycotted a number of companies over the years, including Wal-Mart for their treatment of their employees, and Home Depot for their support of the former guy. We all need to do our homework and understand who and what the companies we give our hard-earned money to support. We think, “What can I do, I’m only one person?”, but so were Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks only one person, and look what they accomplished! Thanks for the timely reminder that we CAN do something!

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      • Except, both Rosa and Martin were made basically irrelevent of late. Their accomplishments are no longer part of most conversations. Us older folk who lived through those time have not forgotten, but the younger generations never got to know.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks Jill. Yes, we are one person, but it just takes two to start a trend. My wife and I still boycott BP gas stations due to their horrendous lack of planning and recovery of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and that was twelve years ago. Keith

          Liked by 1 person

          • Recognised, honoured, but no longer the gods to present generations that they were to us. Racism is still alive and well,, all over the world, but nowhere as in the UNITED STATES of AMERICA. Rosa and Martin made great advances. Their trails are now covered with litter.
            No offence intended, Jill, but until America overcomes it’s all-too-obvious racist attitudes, it is not worth saving.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Unfortunately, the lies told by the bigots are far too easily believed by the masses, hence we have a society that fears ‘other’ without reason or cause. As to your last point … the U.S. may well not be worth saving, but what is the alternative? We just sit back and allow another Nazi Germany or Stalin USSR to take over without a fight? It may not be worth saving in the eyes of many, but the lives of 330 million people are worth fighting for, worth trying to salvage what’s left of our principles and values and move forward instead of backward.

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              • If I did not care about all those people, I would be silent. I say such things to make people care, or at least that is the idea!
                But, having said that, when 40% of the people want to take freedoms away from the 60%, and somehow they start to succeed, there is something foul in the air, Horatio.
                It is the stink of rot from within. And if it isn’t cut out, it will only cause more rot.
                America seems to have lost something of late. It sits and waits for someone to do something, instead of causing that something to happen. I do not know what to tell you, Jill, but while everyone seems to know the problem, no one is willing to be the person to try to fix it.
                I am not necessarily talking about our generation, we are paid little attention in the big scheme of things. But we are still the BABY BOOMERS, the biggest most powerful generation ever to walk this earth. We used to make things happen, or end up in jail trying. Where is that spirit that we had? We need to get it back one more time before we enter the Big Dark.

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