The power of concentrated corporate capital was on display in Washington last week, as it has been all year. The incoming Chair of the Congressional committee responsible for banking regulation, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) says "my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks." And, President Obama sat down with the CEOs of 20 large corporations to talk about how he could help Big Business increase their already record profits. And, in the Supreme Court, 13 of 16 business cases were ruled in favor of business interests .
These actions echo a year where Sen. Durbin complained the banks "own" the Congress and where President Obama worked with the health insurance industry to keep them in control of health care while claiming it was "reform," and where the Supreme Court in Citizens United vastly increased corporate power in elections by allowing unlimited spending.
Corporate capital dominates the government and prevents the changes urgently needed in so many crisis issues for the nation and the world.
In the last year, through Prosperity Agenda I worked on many of these critical issues including the impact of corporate power on elections, providing health care to all Americans, restructuring finance regulation to prevent another economic collapse and reigning in spending on weapons and war. In all of these areas we had some impact, but in 2011 and beyond, much more will be needed.
Shifting power from concentrated corporate interests to the people is no easy task. It has taken years of work by those interests to gain the power that they have. It will take years of work to weaken the corporate stranglehold. The growing crises remind us of the urgency of our work and the need for a commitment to sustain and increase our efforts.
In preparing this article I looked back at a memo written by Lewis Powell two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. The memo was written in 1971 at a time when the business community felt it was rapidly losing power and that the capitalist system was under severe attack. Powell, a lawyer for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, described as "the fundamental premise" of his paper that "business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late." They saw attacks coming in the colleges, in the media, on the streets, in bookstores and from politicians. Everywhere they looked they were under attack and on the verge of total defeat -- the end of free markets and crony capitalism.
The purpose of the Powell memo, written to the head of the Chamber of Commerce, was to lay out a plan to restore and build corporate power. Powell laid out a plan that is instructive for those of us who want to shift power from concentrated capital to the people, who want to see a democratized economy in which people have greater control of their economic lives and are more represented in both the economy and government.
Powell's plan was a long-term one built primarily on education and organization. In response to a "broadly based and consistently pursued" attack on corporate power, Powell wrote "independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations." He urged action in universities, with speaker's bureaus, in publishing, influencing the media and working in the courts, as well as in electoral politics.