Corporate Power

One of the major issues facing this nation, and one which I have addressed several times on this blog, is that of the immense power of the corporations and their determination to take control of this government. It goes without saying that we are becoming an oligarchy, if that ship hasn’t already sailed. The wealthy hold the reins of power. The real strength of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is his determination to take control away from the corporations and return it to the people — where it should reside. Our democracy is under attack and most of the citizens of this country are totally unaware of this fact. If they pay any attention to politics they simply want do move away from “politics as usual,” a sentiment I strongly share. But the real problem, the elephant in the room, is the unfettered power of major corporations.  The following comments from a site called macintosh show that this is not a new problem:

If the populace ever had true control of the US government, they lost it shortly after the nation’s founding. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are people, we have the finest government money can buy.

In 1816 Thomas Jefferson said:
I hope we shall … crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

In 1864 Abraham Lincoln said:
I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country … corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

In 1947 George Seldes said in One Thousand Americans:
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling power. Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.

In 1961 Dwight D. Eisenhower said:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Since the founding of this nation, prominent thinkers such as those above have warned about the unrestricted power of the corporations. Lincoln’s comment is particularly prescient. The Supreme Court decision Citizens United determined that corporations are legal persons and entitled to the same rights and privileges as you and I. This decision opened the coffers of the corporations who have untold treasure and are throwing it at political candidates right and left in an obvious attempt to buy the government. Sanders is perfectly correct, but the real question is whether he can get enough popular support to stem the tide and return this country to some semblance of what the Founders envisioned.

Related to that, as I have noted in previous blogs, is whether a Democratic Congress would have enough courage to support Bernie in some of his more radical innovations (such as taxing the wealthy!).  It seems doubtful given the number of politicians the corporations already own. A Hillary presidency seems a real possibility given the support that she has within her own party and the fact that she is not much of a threat to the corporations.  So, instead of a return to true democratic principles where the people run the government, it appears we will continue to snail along toward a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich.



5 thoughts on “Corporate Power

  1. Well said. The only thing I would add is the McCutcheon (sic) decision to allow funders to fund campaigns in which they have no governance interest across the country. So, incumbents that do not play by their rules can be eliminated by investing in their opponent. A SC Congressman who saw for himself that climate change was real was trounced by Trey Gowdy (Benghazi chair) in the next primary with fossil fuel back funding. Thanks for writing this, Keith

  2. Hugh, thanks for both the urgency in this — so much is at risk these days as we morph into an oligarchy — and the historical perspective. The country started sliding this way almost from the start, but it’s gotten so much worse in the last two decades with the widening income gap and candidates’ reliance on expensive forms of communicating with voters. Constant advertising and national campaigning requires the funding only big donors can provide, which is kind of a sick irony — as they try to bring their messages to average voters, candidates become more beholden on the support of the very rich.

    Of the people you quoted, three were presidents.They all expressed serious, prescient worries. Of those three, only Lincoln, by default or necessity of war, brought the demolition of a vast, corrupt major industry (slavery, and maybe cotton). One other president, Theodore Roosevelt, truly waded into corporate and capitalistic reform — because there was a great need, because it was politically advantageous as TR (himself from wealth) built a base among the working class, and because he had the ego and sheer force of will to do it for the right reasons. There are a few candidates today with big egos, but the biggest ego guy would not do anything unless he stood to gain personally and financially from it. Sanders may have passion, but not Roosevelt’s ferocity nor broader personal appeal. And that’s a big difference with a Republican Congress Sanders would likely face.

    • Yes. Sanders can’t do it alone. And Teddy lost much of his punch when the press ran out of steam (and popular support). A president needs as much help as he can get intros system.

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