Democracy versus Corporatocracy

5 mins read
"Occupy Dismantle the Corporatocracy" by Andra Mihali (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The issues we confront today go deeper than a corrupt, unstable, dangerous president. They are more fundamental than right-wing Republicans and their Fox News propaganda machine. For decades, corporate power over government, economy, and society has grown and expanded to the point where “Of the People, by the People, for the People,” has been almost entirely replaced by Government, “Of the CEOs, by the Lobbyists, for the Billionaires.” 

None of the individual crises we face – climate emergency, racism, bigotry, misogyny, income inequality, healthcare, homelessness, and hopelessness – can be successfully addressed so long as we continue to allow money to rule over people. 

Recently, members of Congress were beating their chests before the TV cameras and lashing out at the CEO of Boeing for cutting costs to increase profits – killing 346 passengers and crew.

Yet as a recent NY Times article exposed, last year those same members of Congress enacted legislation, with bipartisan support, written by Boeing lobbyists to make it even easier for the aircraft industry to block future oversight and shape FAA rules to protect their bottom line rather than the public.

Nowhere is the danger of corporate control clearer than the climate crisis that threatens all of us. While some dramatic actions like withdrawing from the Paris Agreement to please corporate donors have drawn at least some public awareness, according to data assembled by the NY Times, real, immediate and substantive damage continues to be done behind the scenes. Since taking office, Trump and his Republican supporters have systematically sabotaged, rolled back, and gutted more than 85 federal environmental air, water, toxin, and other protections for the financial benefit of giant corporations and political backers. And new rollbacks continue to be announced every week.

Corporate control operates from the marble halls of Congress and the White House down through state and local levels, and into odd corners operating out of obscure buildings in suburban office parks.  Earlier this month, for example, a NY Times report revealed that back in 2002 the committees that draft building codes for states and counties across the nation agreed to a covert deal granting the National Association of Home Builders (the lobbying arm of the housing industry) four permanent voting seats on the decision-making boards. In the six years prior to that secret deal, home energy efficiency standards had increased by 32%. Since the NAHB was granted a permanent voting bloc, energy efficiency rules have hardly budged at all. Rules requiring stronger foundations in flood-prone areas, stronger roofs in hurricane zones, and making it easier for homeowners to switch to electric cars were all blocked. 

As the NAHB bragged to its corporate funders, “Only 6 percent of the proposals that NAHB opposed made it through the committee hearings intact … NAHB saw favorable votes on 87 percent of the codes proposals, including 92.5 percent of high-priority proposals.

If we are going to survive the climate crisis:

  • Supporting candidates who put Main Street ahead of Wall Street is necessary, but not sufficient. 
  • Getting “dark money” out of political campaigns is necessary, but not sufficient.
  • Overturning Citizens United  is necessary, but not sufficient.

We have to directly confront – and end – corporate control of government. We must be as passionate about ending the fiction that corporations are people as we are for the election of this or that specific candidate. Once the 2020 election season ends, we have to remain organized and active to continue to demand that our elected officials represent the interests of Main Street voters rather than Wall Street corporations. At long last we have to jam closed the revolving door of cabinet officers and regulators and corporate officers, lobbyists, and lawyers. 

Our battle cries must be, “One Person, One Vote” and “People Over Greed.” 

Bruce Hartford is an active member of IndivisibleSF in California. He was a Civil Rights Worker in the 1960s, a freelance journalist covering the Vietnam War, and a founding member and officer of the National Writers Union (UAW/AFL_CIO). Today he is webmaster of the Civil Rights Movement website and on the board of the SNCC Legacy Project.

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