The biggest and most consequential issue confronting America is being ignored in the current political campaign. Except in a tangental way regarding Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. That issue is that business is hugely corrupt, is the cause of the recession we are struggling with, and is the obstacle to any significant recovery.
The misconduct of the financial industry no longer surprises most Americans. Only about one in five has much trust in banks, according to Gallup polls, about half the level in 2007. And it’s not just banks that are frowned upon. Trust in big business overall is declining. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe corruption is widespread across corporate America.
Much that goes on in American business is hard to justify, as it contributes nothing to the economy or the quality of life. In many cases, it acts in the obverse. In those cases it degrades and devastates what it touches.
This is the big argument against privatization of activities that maintain stewardship over enterprises such as Social Security, pension funds, and health care insurance. Private organizations that take over government institutions such as prisons and probation services set up processes that can best be described as scams and shakedowns. Likewise with for-profit colleges.
The New York Times has a feature on how a private probation company escalated an unemployed woman's $179 speeding ticket into 40 days in jail and a $3,000 bill--and mounting--that she now owes. Furthermore, the private companies do not adhere to the procedures of due process that are stipulated by the Constitution. Some argue, that being private agencies, not government agencies, they have no obligation to observe the niceties of the justice system. Without leaving the country, they claim offshore status. In their policies and behavior, they reject the very premises of American loyalty and justice.
If private citizens conduct themselves as big businesses do, they could be charged with treason. Now that the Supreme Court has bestowed the full status of personhood on corporations with its Citizens United decision, they should be allowed full recognition of that status and their claim to citizenship. They should be subject to the same criminal and civil laws as every other citizen and in their relationship to their country should be held to the same standards of loyalty and affiliation. If they wish to betray their country and damage its economy, they should be held to the same rules that govern acts of subversion and treason of individual citizens.
If they wish to place their wealth off shore and pledge loyalty and affiliation to a foreign entity, whether country or corporation, they should be relieved of the encumbrance of U.S. citizenship and the rights and privileges that go with it.
The natural world is developed by creatures which produce and build the natural communities. They are preyed upon and leeched upon by parasites and predators, which are seen as population controls that keep the producers from over-reproducing and depleting the resources in the natural environment. In nature, predators and parasites are seen as checks on the natural order that keep nature in balance. The human economy is often compared to the natural economy in terms of the checks and balances that various functionaries perform. Some business practices, such as forced buyouts, acquisitions which dismantle companies and rake off assets, dealing in junk bonds and bad mortgages are justified on the basis that they serve to eliminate the weakest businesses and business practices. They are to the human economy what parasites and predators are to the natural ecosystem. The flaw in that comparison is that the human economy is designed to support civilization, and civilization is meant to surmount the tooth-and-claw death balances of nature with human brain power, creativity, and good will. Disease and death from parasites and predators are what civilization strives to control and eliminate.
Right-wing America hates illegal aliens. They say they take jobs away from Americans and leech off of our welfare system. They take the money they earn here and send it home for their families in Latin America. Private equity firms take over companies and take away American jobs, some through elimination and some by outsourcing to foreign countries. They take advantage of tax breaks and financing programs paid for by American taxpayers. They take the money they make off of the predations and put it in offshore accounts.
Right-wing America cherishes its image of the poor and unemployed. It claims they don't want to work; they just want to line up for welfare benefits, paid for by the people who produce. It also loves its images of the executives who give themselves huge bonuses, garner and exploit huge tax breaks for their companies, and condemn the poor and unemployed because they are not contributing more to their wealth. A snarky person might call this the real class war.
Business claims that it initiates and presides over the American economy. The essential role it claims in forming and sustaining America exempts it from the moral and ethical standards that are applied to individual citizens. Anything done under the rubric of a "business decision" has priority over those notions of liberty, equality, and justice that apply to individual citizens' treatment of each other. Business rails furiously against any regulations that attempt to apply the general legal, moral, and ethical standards to the way business conducts itself. Such regulations, business claims, hampers the excercise of free enterprise.
Corporate America, however, is not satisfied with the mere status of equality with other citizens. It claims a special reversion of power over employees. Employees are expendable and disposable. The free enterprise of the slave market applies. Strong, healthy individuals will bring a nice price for their owners for the labor they can produce. But when they can no longer be as strong and productive, they lose value, are considered negligible, and can be disposef at the whim of their masters. That is the problem business has with labor unions. The rights it has established for workers runs counter to "business decisions." And that is why Wisconsin and many other states are eliminating the right to collectively bargain and have a voice in the terms and conditions of employment for public workers. Once business interests have established the right to determine the negligible status of public workers, it can move on to all workers. Unions interfere with the exercise of free enterprise as the corporate mentality defines it. So, they must be deprived of any sources of power and funding and eliminated, if possible.
CEOs have set their role as being feudal lords. There is great profit in fiefdoms. The overhead of keeping serfs can be controlled and kept to a minimum.
As shown by the history of fiefdoms, they get their wealth and power by being predators and parasites of the producers.
This is not to say that there are no businesses that try succeed by creating beneficial products and services and dealing honestly and fairly with customers and employees. But good businesses get absorbed into the corporate matrix and soon operate under the rules of depredation and parasitism.
A fact that patriots and optimists do not want to face is that America is being run for the benefit of parasites and predators, not for producers. Business decisions and those assertions of human rights enumerated in the establishing documents of America conflict and oppose the premises on which predators and parasies can thrive.
The business news of the past four years is a chronicle of what happens when parasites and predators rule.
American democracy was an interesting experiment. But it is a deposed anathema to the corporate rulers and the politicians who they hold in thrall.