December 18, 2009

Corporatism: The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

Glenn Greenwald over at Salon has an excellent blog post about something that has seemed to creep up in conversations I've had with both conservatives and progressives -- the pernicious and pervasive system of corporatism.  "Corporatism" is the perception that the traditionally hostile institutions of business and government are now subjugated in favor of cooperative, entrenched, mutually-beneficial circle-jerks, where our supposed elected representatives pass laws that are written by, and primarily benefit, our largest and richest corporations.   Government serves the corporations, and the corporations fund, hire, and coopt government employees.   And the health care reform bills circulating Congress are particularly egregious.  As Greenwald writes:
The health care bill is one of the most flagrant advancements of this corporatism yet, as it bizarrely forces millions of people to buy extremely inadequate products from the private health insurance industry -- regardless of whether they want it or, worse, whether they can afford it (even with some subsidies). In other words, it uses the power of government, the force of law, to give the greatest gift imaginable to this industry -- tens of millions of coerced customers, many of whom will be truly burdened by having to turn their money over to these corporations -- and is thus a truly extreme advancement of this corporatist model.

On this, both my conservative friends and I agree.  Thus, economic populism circumnavigates usual dividing lines of ideology.  Again, as noted in the article:
[T]his growing opposition to corporatism -- to the virtually absolute domination of our political process by large corporations -- is one of the many issues that transcend the trite left/right drama endlessly used as a distraction. The anger among both the left and right towards the bank bailout, and towards lobbyist influence in general, illustrates that. ...It's certainly true that health care opponents on the left want more a expansive plan while opponents on the right want the opposite. But the objections over the mandate are largely identical -- it's a coerced gift to the private health insurance industry that underwrites the Democratic Party. The same was true over opposition to the bailout, objections to lobbying influence over Washington, and most of all, the growing anger that Washington serves the interests of financial elites at the expense of the working class.

The banking bailout should, by all rights, have been that Fort Sumter moment of middle class consciousness where a moment of realization and clarity erupt, no matter what the political identification or ideology.  In simple terms, the corporate progenitors of the worst economic climate since the Great Depression were deemed "too big to fail," and funneled government money in order to keep business as usual, consolidate their gains by buying medium-size banks and investment firms that failed, and then allowed to pay back their bailout money without further checks on behavior.   The final part might be the hardest to swallow.  How many banks raised their credit card APRs, their ATM fees, their annual credit card fees, their overdraft fees, and their late payment fees?  How many banks slashed credit limits, cancelled credit cards for non-use or credit activity that absolutely nothing to do with the card at issue, and denied small businesses and other revenue-generating activity the loans necessary to make it through this recession?  We, the middle class, were royally screwed not once, but twice, and the second time is on-going and continual; the taxpayers bailed out the big banks, and were repaid with higher costs and tightened credit, the proceeds of which were used to pay back the government, and thereby wiggle out of any realistic check on further bad behavior.  Why didn't Obama force the banks to slash their credit card APRs and put in a place a ceiling more in line with middle class incomes?   Why is it okay to raise someone's APR from 13% to 30% for no legitimate reason?  It's been estimated that if the government bought every single subprime mortgage, the cost to the United States would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.4 trillion.   As it stands now, the total costs of the bailouts, both directly and indirectly, could be in the range of 14 trillion.  The rich get richer....

Now the healthcare giveaways are yet another corporatist slam in the face.  By requiring people to purchase coverage from a profit-hungry private insurance system, all the bill does is reinforce and strengthen the already flawed and corrupt insurance model.  Again, economic populism may be based in irrational anger at times, but one need merely look at the available evidence to dispute any conspiracy talk.   The results of the government/corporate synergy are clearly not in the best interests of the average American.   Democrat, Republican, Independent, whatever.   My wish from this is that we could somehow acknowledge and learn that this common issue of corporatism trumps the bullshit political theatre, posturing, navel-gazing, and punditry that the networks use to divide people into one side and the other.  Social issues ARE important, but we should also meet in the center to reassert the financial best interests and will of the middle class majority.  A continued focus on the governance/corporatism issue as it affects all parties is imperative.

No comments:

Post a Comment