7 signs the corporatocracy is losing its legitimacy ... and 7 populist tools to help shut it down.
A parody of corporate personhood in D.C. Photo by takomabibelot
You may remember that there was a time when apartheid in South Africa seemed unstoppable.
Sure, there were international boycotts of South African businesses, banks, and tourist attractions. There were heroic activists in South Africa, who were going to prison and even dying for freedom. But the conventional wisdom remained that these were principled gestures with little chance of upending the entrenched system of white rule.
"Be patient," activists were told. "Don't expect too much against powerful interests with a lot of money invested in the status quo."
With hindsight, though, apartheid's fall appears inevitable: the legitimacy of the system had already crumbled. It was harming too many for the benefit of too few. South Africa's freedom fighters would not be silenced, and the global movement supporting them was likewise tenacious and principled.
In the same way, the legitimacy of rule by giant corporations and Wall Street banks is crumbling. This system of corporate rule also benefits few and harms many, affecting nearly every major issue in public life. Some examples:
- Powerful corporations socialize their risks and costs, but
privatize profits. That means we, the 99 percent, pick up the tab for
environmental clean ups, for helping workers who aren't paid enough to
afford food or health care, for bailouts when risky speculation goes
wrong. Meanwhile, profits go straight into the pockets of top executives
and others in the 1 percent.
- The financial collapse threw
millions of Americans into poverty. As many as 25 million are unemployed,
under-employed, or have given up looking for work; four million have
been unemployed for more than 12 months. Poverty increased 27 percent
between 2006 and 2010. And students who graduated with student loans in
2010 had borrowed 5 percent more than the previous year's graduating
class -- owing more than $25,000. Meanwhile, those who caused the collapse
continue the same practices. And the unwillingness of the 1 percent to
pay their fair share of taxes means the the public services we rely on
- Scientists say that we are on the brink of runaway
climate change; we only have a few years to make the needed investments
in clean power and energy efficiency. This transition could be a huge job creator -- on
the order of the investments made during World War II, which got us out
of the Depression. But fossil-fuel industries don't want to see their
investment in dirty energy undermined by the switch to clean energy and
conservation. So far, by paying millions to climate deniers, lobbyists,
and political campaigns, they've succeeded in stymieing change.
- Agribusiness gets taxpayer subsidies
for foods that make us sick; for farming practices that destroy rivers,
soils, the climate, and the oceans; and for trade practices that cause
hunger at home and abroad.
- Through ALEC, the private prison
industry crafts state laws that boost the numbers behind bars, lengthen
sentences, and privatize prisons.
- Big Pharma jacks up prices;
insurance companies raise premiums and delivers fewer benefits; the
burden of inflated care drags down the economy and bankrupts families.
But only a very few politicians stand up to the health-care industry's
war chests and advocate for Canadian-style single-payer health care, which would go a long way toward solving the cost problem.
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- Corporations and wealthy executives fund an army of lobbyists and election campaigns, spreading untruths and self-serving policy prescriptions.
It's not that we, the people, haven't noticed all this.
In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans said too much power is concentrated in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations. In a poll by Time Magazine, 86 percent of Americans said Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington.
And 80 percent of Americans oppose Citizens United, the pro-corporate Supreme Court ruling that turns two years old today. Eighty percent -- that's among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.