Except for the 1930s, U.S. culture has always shown a deference to corporations and wealth. This deference now manifests itself in many ways, a few of which are examined here.
1. Our very language and definitions are structured to favor business and corporate power. Media analyst Edward S. Herman studied U.S. thought control and created a dictionary that provides commonly accepted definitions of key terms. The operative definition of "national interest" is "The demands and needs of the corporate community." "Special interests" refers to the needs of "workers, women, students, the aged and infirm, the unemployed, and blacks and other minorities; the general population; unimportant people." He defines "subsidy" as " a compensation payment to substantial citizens"; whereas a "dole" is "a government handout to insubstantial citizens" (minorities or the others included as special interests).
2. Although the notion that "corporations are persons" is nowhere found in the Constitution, corporate personhood applies primarily when corporations want it to apply. Over its history, this nation has drafted into the military millions of persons but it has not drafted corporations. Moreover, many who avoided the draft, such as Bill Clinton or Dick Cheney, have sometimes been viewed as being unpatriotic for turning their back on their country when it needed them or minimizing their service to their country. However, when corporations engage in tax avoidance, (this is not illegal; only tax evasion is illegal) it is applauded as serving the shareholders. Conclusion: when individuals use schemes to minimize their service to their nation, they can be charged with being unpatriotic; but since corporations have no duty to our nation, their duty might include disservice to our nation by outsourcing and minimizing their contributions to the nation.
3. Recently, businesses were sitting on $2 trillion dollars. If they would have invested that money, we would have had a much stronger recovery. In fact, as was pointed out decades ago, a recession can be viewed as an investment strike by the capitalist class. Of course, in a labor strike, workers (labor) withholds its work, usually to obtain more pay or benefits or safer conditions. Similarly, when capitalists withhold their capital and stop or slow down their investing, the economy goes into a downturn. Former vice president of the American Economic Association, John Gurley, notes that "even though strikes by capitalists do much more damage than strikes by labor, when capital strikes it receives tax favors," while strikes by labor receive little sympathy and no financial help from government. He observes that businessmen are rewarded for pouting and lamenting their meager rewards. Today, they insist nobody should get a tax cut if they do not get one. Unfortunately, they have the power to frame the economic dilemma so that unless they get their way, there will be a lack of business confidence and that itself will weaken the economy and government.
4. Corporate desires are portrayed as the paramount needs of society. Repeatedly, corporations claim they cannot invest because there is too much uncertainty. Yet, college students face great uncertainly also, and they still invest in schooling. Sometimes, students have it worse than corporations because they incur exorbitant debt relative to income, and then are unable to get any job related to their degree after a major four-year investment. Why is lessening uncertainty for corporations more important than lessening uncertainty for millions of students?
5. During economic expansions, corporate leaders claim the success of their companies is due to their brilliance and hard work. But during bad times they maintain they should not be penalized for market conditions beyond their control. The story of what creates profits changes to preserve the self esteem of business leaders.
5. It is widely accepted that corporate actions are and should be determined by cost-benefits analyses; but individuals should base actions on obligations, duty and a concern for the society.
6. Large corporations claim their huge profits are justified because of the risks they take. (For now, ignore the bailouts that reduce their risks.) This is an old argument that was being used over a century ago. In the early 1900s, when 25,000 people were being killed annually from all manner of work-related accidents, (explosions, fires, faulty and dangerous machines, chemicals, collapsing mines, etc.) that same argument was used by capitalists who were making hundreds of times what workers were making. But who was really taking the risks? Profits are often enhanced when corporations shift risks to other people and the environment.
7. Unfortunately, the more corporate power becomes all pervasive, the more servile and obsequious the media and public is forced to become.
Jones lives in West Haven.