We Have to Fight the Plutocrats to Build an Economy that Works
Continued from previous page
Know thine enemy
To develop a plan of action that rises to the complex perils and opportunities we face, we need to understand what has been happening. Capitalism—and our entire democracy—is being reorganized in a way that maximizes profits for the wealthiest few but ultimately shrinks the middle class. Corporate CEOs control politics and politicians to such an extent that we are unable to make the legislative changes needed to reverse this.
Wall Street, big banks, multinational corporations and the super-rich were able to seize the opportunity in 2008. They are now in the extraordinary position of leveraging the insecurity most Americans face to demand unending concessions, while simultaneously demanding security and certainty for their own capital and investments.
Events unfolding in statehouses in Wisconsin, Ohio and around the country demonstrate that Wall Street, giant corporations, the super-rich and the politicians they support are ruthlessly executing a plan to slash public budgets; destroy public employee unions and the livelihoods of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other civil servants; privatize public utilities, roads, schools, hospitals and prisons; permanently cut social programs and benefits; and, all the while, radically reduce their own taxes. But this is just the first step in the corporate elite’s campaign to eliminate the remaining islands of private-sector union strength and slash benefits and pay for all workers.
Corporations and the rich no longer think they need an American middle class with decent paying jobs to be profitable. Corporate profits can now be earned from a growing global consumer class, while at the same time mass unemployment and declining living standards become the new normal. The United States is important to the corporate elites as a safe haven, but they no longer see a decent living standard for the majority of Americans as important to their economic success.
Redefining the problem
In order to further its goals, the Right has successfully created a narrative in which “big government, unions and public employees are bankrupting the country and killing jobs.” We need to shift that narrative to: “Wall Street, multinational corporations and the super-rich are bankrupting governments and communities, shipping away jobs, foreclosing our homes, destroying the middle class and threatening our children’s future.”
Until we break this corporate stranglehold, we will have no money to solve state budget crises. Given the skads of money that corporate interests pump into politics, without a demand from the streets, politicians think that they cannot champion policies that would hurt their “friends.” In state after state, Democrats will make massive cuts to services and public employee jobs like their Republican counterparts—they just won’t demand an end to collective bargaining on top of it. And absent a strategy of escalating and dramatic actions that expose the wrongdoing of corporations and the uber-rich that got us into this mess, we are trapped in a strategy that depends on politicians to rein in the very corporations they are in thrall to.
Corporations are creating an environment that is favorable to them but harmful to most Americans. Our job is to figure out how to turn this scenario on its head, to decrease their security so we can win greater opportunity and security for the rest of us, lifting the bottom, growing the middle and holding the top in check—just as we did for most of the 20th century.
Creating massive insecurity for Wall Street, corporations and the super-rich is a precondition for fixing the economy and country. There can be no new “social contract,” no “new New Deal,” no comprehensive legislation that allows workers to organize and no limits to corporate power as long as corporate CEOs feel insulated from the suffering they cause.