Corporate America has pretty much had its way in Washington for the past couple of years. Its CEOs and lobbyists got the Wall Street bailout. They got the auto bailout. They set the terms of the health care bill. They blunted financial regulation. They blocked climate legislation. If they were tied to the defense industry, they enjoyed a surge of military outlays. Of course they preserved the tax cuts for the rich. They did all of this, mind you, after the Democrats swept the 2006 and 2008 elections and gained control of Congress and the White House.
Remarkable, isn’t it?
Now, with business-friendly Republicans in control of the House, the most powerful corporate lobbies—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers—have even more clout. They can, at minimum, stop just about anything they don’t like.
But they would be well advised to use their power sparingly.
I write this as a rational optimist, and as an unabashed believer in the power of business to do good—by creating jobs, generating wealth, satisfying people’s wants or needs, and enabling an unprecedented wave of economic growth during the past half century. (See China, cappuccino and cell phones, my first blogpost of 2011) But it’s hard for me to ignore the fact that the benefits of that growth are not being as broadly shared as they should be, at least here in the U.S., and that the reason for that, at least in part, is business’s outsized power in Washington.
The growth of inequality is especially troubling in the aftermath of the great recession. Wall Street is booming again, the stock indexes are up, corporate profits are growing…while the middle class and especially the poor—43.6 million of them, one in seven Americans—are being left behind. [click to continue…]