Perhaps working Americans need to join with the millions still unemployed and create their own Tahrir Square at the corporate entrances of record profiting Fortune 500 companies.
The notion struck me recently that many of us have been pressing the wrong people to create jobs. Congress really doesn’t work for the people any more, or so it seems. Most legislation, especially that presented by conservatives, is always aimed at improving Big Businesses’ financial leverage with the belief that fewer restraints on their ability to produce profits will create jobs and sustain and energize a healthy economy. It’s called trickle down economics and has been presented by every Republican administration and GOP congress for decades as the only solution to our economic woes.
Deregulation, healthy tax cuts for corporations and federal subsidies have been generously laid on the corporate powers in this country by conservative politicos excessively since the end of WWII. The notion that this has somehow made everyone’s life better was clearly debunked following the collapse of our economy in 2008. Following the failure of large financial institutions and then their rise again with the aid of federal bailout money, Wall Street is now posting large profits for corporate America; profits so large they have actually set records.
According to a Commerce Dept. report late last year “American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago.” According to a piece in the NY TImes last year, these profits are in large part the result of productivity rates that are on pace with levels prior to the economy tanking in 2008 but with fewer workers.(Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter, by Catherine Rampall, NY Times, 11/23/10)
In other words, when the banks were failing and credit markets were drying up, businesses had to lay people off. However when credit started flowing again as a part of the tax payer bail outs, the crisis was over for most businesses but it wasn’t for the American worker. The jobs didn’t come back when the credit crunch ended.
Naturally there is a lull in job recovery when economies are trying to get their footing after spiraling downwards for many months. There is also some understandable reservation on the part of businesses to re-hire people before the economic signs indicate that all is okay. But it appears the green flag has been given based on the healthy profits mentioned above, yet businesses, especially the very large and wealthy ones, are reacting as if the red flag is still out.
It appears to be business as usual for corporate America. “The mega-banks have been emboldened to resume the dispensing of handsome bonus checks. Publicly traded companies have rewarded shareholders with dividends.” But Peter S. Goodman with the Huffington Post notes that “working people — or would-be working people — are still waiting for a slice of the spoils, confronting a bleak job market. Hiring remains scarce.”
All the while, Congress was worried more about the 2010 elections, with Democrats concerned about losing seats and Republicans hoping to win back majorities in the House and he Senate. Both sides attempted to play the voter with the promise to restore the American worker who has all but been forgotten by them.
The GOP did sweep to victory in the House and made some gains in the Senate with the aid of an angry populace that was getting tired of waiting in unemployment lines and competing with 5-6 other people for the same job. Yet it seems the results of these GOP gains has affected their memories and rather than jobs being priority one, the Republican-led House is doing what they always do, covering the backs of big business.
They started by refusing any tax breaks for most working class Americans unless the wealthiest 2% were assured that their rates would not fall back to the Clinton-era rates, a time when corporate profits and the American economy was booming. Then they gave a head nod to the health care industry by attempting to repeal the health care reform bill. They have already refused to eliminate the annual $4 billion subsidy to the oil industry and their next goal is to prevent Progressive Democrats from creating any safeguards to prevent the financial disaster that almost tanked this economy just 3 short years ago.
Clearly the GOP and many other conservatives in Congress do not have the American worker’s needs at the top of their lists. If past behavior is any indication too, there will be little substantive efforts to push legislation that serves the general welfare of those Americans who not only have lost their jobs but those who were lucky enough to keep them yet who now work longer hours for the same wages. All while record profits are celebrated with high-fives in boardrooms across the corporate landscape.
It’s time to refocus our efforts at restoring the American worker by going to the source rather than the mouth-piece. Wealthy businesses who have done exceptionally well need to step up to the plate and start rehiring laid off workers. Likewise they need to start re-directing most of those profits away from the pockets of wealthy stock holders and invest it instead into new job growth areas, specifically renewable energy sources and related jobs.
We need to quit wasting our time and complaining to unresponsive elected officials who only pander to the public while catering to the interests of corporate lobbyists like the oil and coal industry and the financial trusts on Wall Street. Trickle down economics is a deception and only when we start letting corporate boards and their CEO’s know we’re not buying into it anymore will we be able to influence those power brokers in this country that really run the government.
Every corporate headquarters whose company was fortunate enough to see record profits this last year needs to experience the wrath of an angry protest like those that so-called grass-roots Tea Party members displayed in Washington in 2009. While Congress is working to increase corporate dividends to stock holders by cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, Americans need to be marching on Exxon/Mobil, General Electric, Bank of America, AT&T and JP Morgan; just 5 of the top ten fortune 500 companies in 2010. Another well deserved corporate target that gobbles up profits like jelly beans is Koch Industries who “owns a diverse group of companies [like Georgia-Pacific] and is one of the largest private companies in America according to Forbes magazine”
These are the people who own the vast wealth in this country and effect policy that determines the direction the economy heads, not their puppets in Congress or state legislatures. We need to start talking to one another on the social networks like the Egyptian people did recently and get motivated to meet in makeshift Tahrir squares in this country; in front of luxury office suites of corporate magnates and demand they start using those profits we enabled them with to make job creation happen.
They can afford to take a hit from paying out dividends or inordinate bonuses for a while until we can get this recovery moving on a faster pace. Waiting for John Boehner and Harry Reed to do the right thing is a waste of time. Taking “four to five years for the job market to normalize fully” as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has recently suggested may be an over optimistic assessment but it is still too long for many families to endure. Making things happen sooner is only going to happen if we vigorously act on it ourselves.
The only people who will make that correction are a nervous bunch of CEO’s who know they can no longer hide behind their “corporate citizenship” they finagled with the help of their conservative cronies on the Supreme Court. Nothing cuts into bonus checks and share holder dividends as much as negative campaigns from irate consumers and likely voters whose purchasing power feels threatened.
- Robert Kuttner: ‘This is a 30-year Process of Income Distribution Becoming More Unequal’ (crooksandliars.com)
- Now, Corporate Profits Are NOT Supposed to Benefit Workers? (themoderatevoice.com)