A Capital Idea Part 66: The Most Vicious Money Cycle
Today I will discuss what is done with our hard-earned money once it is paid to a large business for some product or service, as so much of our money is. More and more in recent years, it has come to light that big businesses have been using their money to buy political influence -- which typically means supporting candidates who are beholden to big business interests, and lobbying for legal changes which make it easier for these businesses to earn even more money and more influence, a problem which has only gotten worse as the vicious cycle has continued as manifested by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Thus, the consumer is put in double jeopardy; ordinary consumers pay once at the place of business, then pay again as that money is used against them politically. Essentially, consumer are unwittingly (in most cases) paying the wealthiest 1% to wage class warfare against them. I for one, certainly don't want my money to pay the wealthiest 1% to wage class warfare against the other 99%, but it's difficult to avoid by this time since the system is so degraded and rigged.
The fact is, that the large majority of large business owners support conservative politics including "trickle down" economics. Doing so is in their own economic interests, which also serves to enhance their political influence as well. Target and Wal-Mart come to mind as companies which recently have been discovered to be supporting conservative causes and candidates, but there are many others. The horribly ironic thing is that, except for businesses which are only patronized by the rich, such businesses are working against the interests of their own consumers -- but perhaps that should not be surprising, given that they work against the interests, by and large, of their own employees. I haven't seen the records regarding political donations, but I know that such records are kept, and they show that far more big business money goes into the pockets of Republicans than Democrats. Furthermore, it is clear that such money is the major corrupter of Democrats who might otherwise favor more progressive policies. Unfortunately, there is no stipulation that the source of political donations or advertisement monies be identified, in the Citizens United decision, leaving the money trail even murkier than before. Attempts were made in Congress to force corporations to disclose their political donations, but these attempts were blocked by Republicans. (Frankly, I am rather confused here, in the sense that I have heard that records of who gave what to whom politically, do exist. Perhaps someone else can inform me about what is known or not known about where the money comes from.)
What can we do to avoid feeding money into this vicious cycle?
First, we can try to find out and publicize, which businesses, including financial ones such as banks, have been supporting conservative politics. These businesses we can try to avoid if possible, perhaps even organize a wider boycott of them. We should utilize as many progressive friendly businesses, or at least smaller, local businesses, as possible.
Second, we can move our money out of the financial businesses which have been systematically manipulating us economically and politically over the years -- the banks, financials services and stocks, that is. I have been developing a plan to do this but have not executed it yet. It's complicated by the fact that my wife might not understand what's going on or even agree with it, although I am sure she would agree if she really understood. I have some mutual funds (not worth a whole lot of money) which my parents gave me. I plan to sell these in the near future and put the money in a credit union. (Ironically, though, my student who was shot and killed this semester at an ATM was at a credit union.) Meanwhile, I have a bank account at Bank of America which I have had since 1993, which I plan to move to the credit union also. (By the way, Thom Hartmann has mentioned that he and his family have already taken these steps, providing myself and countless others with inspiration.)
Third, we can, if not advertise progressive friendly businesses and smaller, local ones, at least use word of mouth to generate interest in them. Again to Thom's credit, he only personally advertises businesses which he believes in, ethical businesses which do not work against the interests of their customers.
Fourth, we can work to elect the most progressive politicians possible, ones which are not only progressive minded, but willing to stand up against corporatism.
Lastly, we can keep encouraging politicians to fight for the people and against corporate interests, in other words, demand that our politicians act progressively in our interest rather than serving corporate interests.
All of these are steps we can take at this time to dampen the effects of this vicious money cycle. Longer term solutions have been discussed previously in this series, including heavily regulating corporate advertising to diminish its monopoly making influence on people, abolishing the stock market and the political lobbying industry, enforcing the Sherman Antitrust Act, overturning the Citizens United decision, and insitituting a public finance system for the purpose of election funding, to name a few.
The fact is, big businesses, which have become so powerful politically in this age of corporate globalization and political influence, and these past 3 decades of conservative economic policies in the United States in particular, depend upon consumers for their power, just as dictators depend upon the cooperation of some and acquiescence of the rest of the population in order to maintain power. Just as dictators have weaknesses and dependencies which can be exploited in order to bring them down, as author and researcher Gene Sharp has described in his books about how to create a peaceful revolution (books which are being used in the Middle East at this time by protestors to guide their actions), corporations have major weaknesses and dependencies. They absolutely cannot get by without us, the consumers. On the other hand, although it might be difficult for us to get by without them, unlike the absolute dependence of big business upon the consumers, we consumers do not absolutely depend on big business. We can do without them, but they cannot do without us.