Monday, October 4, 2010

Corporations and the future of our democracy

It is hard to get perspective on the times in which we live, but In the United States now it seems that we may be in the first stages of some strange power shift. The economic benefits conferred by corporations may be now outweighed by the political harm they cause.

These thoughts come to mind after reading the news this morning. First, a Washington Post article about the level of corporate spending in this year's election. Millions of dollars are being spent - much of it on misleading and outright deceptive advertising. The bulk of this advertising and money supports conservative Republican candidates. Candidates who are pledged to support policies that support wealthy people and large corporations. Because of recent Supreme Court decisions - decisions by an extremely conservative Supreme Court - the donors do not even have to reveal who they are.

And what are these corporations doing for the nation economically? Not so much. They are profiting from government policies - sometimes from the very policies they criticize. The New York Times has an article about the billions of dollars they are borrowing at rock-bottom rates, essentially sucking cash out of the economy. What are they doing with this cash? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sitting on it. Waiting for the economy to recover - so they can more profitably invest the money they have borrowed so cheaply. No one has the incentive to go out and make the gamble to spend the money first. We cannot count of private industry to help the nation in its current economic woes.

In short, the nation's relationship with its corporations may be tipping. Corporations for roughly the last 150 years have played a dominant role in our political and economic life. And large corporations, of course, have always inflicted some harm on society. Take W.R. Grace Inc., which poisoned the populations of entire communities. Companies such as the Anaconda Copper Mining Company killed and beat workers who sought higher wages. C. Wright Mills argued more than 50 years ago that large corporations enervated the nation's very soul. On the other hand, the corporation as a financial entity also allowed profitable investment of capital and economic development for the country as a whole. Incorporated businesses can raise money through stock sales, ideally using the capital to invest profitably and benefitting stockholders and the rest of society. But what economic development are corporations offering now? Not much. At the same time, the harm corporations inflict on our democracy is steadily growing.

1 comment:

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