BY VERN TURNER
For almost all of our history we’ve seen a kind of economic combat between the wealthier classes and the people who work every day to make them rich. OK. That’s the way our brand of capitalism works. But the corporations would have you believe that they are the things that drive our economy. That just isn’t the case. It is the consumer of products that drives the economy. You know, people like you and me …
It would follow, then, that if consumers had more with which to consume – money – they would consume more. Then, each unit of consumption would generate more profit for the corporations or businesses that are providing the good or service.
This isn’t rocket science. This concept is as old as economics itself. Problems arise when the profiteers want more and more while paying their workers/consumers less and less relative to their own incomes. Since the profiteers are outnumbered by the worker/consumer by literally hundreds of times, their volume of consumption is much lower than the main consumer, those of us in the middle and poorer classes.
We’ve been led to believe that the more money the corporations have, the more it will “trickle down” to the worker/consumer. So far, after 60 years of trying to prove this theory, there are no successful outcomes … for anyone except the corporations and their stockholders. The results of this unsubstantiated theory throughout global history have been abject poverty and, eventually, civil unrest and revolution. These outcomes tend to stifle consumption and profits except those made from selling assets to outside buyers. Chile, in the 1970s, is a perfect example of how capitalism can become despotism almost overnight.
John Maynard Keynes advocated for you, the working people, when he theorized that government should invest in its consumers. By fronting some or all of the expense to generate projects and promote technical and economic leaps, the consumers became the true power of our nation’s economy. They are now known as the middle classes. World War II and the NASA projects are the most obvious examples, but there are literally thousands more.
The middle/consumer and poor classes have been squeezed by corporate America since 1981 with the introduction of “Reaganomics.” The Republican Party has fronted this unproven theory for nearly the last 40 years. The only things they have to show for it are recessions, bankruptcies and a huge, ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. Here are a few examples of what unregulated greed can and has done to that consumer class:
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest store, pays its employees so little that those employees with families qualify for food stamps in order to feed their families. It is our tax dollars that fund food stamps. We are subsidizing Wal-Mart’s profits twice, once when we buy something, and once when we pay our taxes. Are you OK with that?
The owner of Papa John’s Pizza refuses to pay a little extra [14 cents per pizza] into the Affordable Care Act health care system because he doesn’t “believe” in it. Instead, he cut employee hours so they wouldn’t qualify as full-time employees. Fourteen cents! The greed here boggles the mind.
Oil and gas companies have for decades “lobbied” Congress to pay them a “depletion allowance” for oil and gas fields that are running dry. That “allowance” comes out of our tax dollars, too. These are the companies that are the most profitable in the history of economics, yet need more of our tax money to pay off their stockholders.
But something really weird has happened to our “extraction” industry lately. They discovered fracking. They are now extracting oil and gas from wells that were once thought to be unprofitable.
Not only do the oil/gas companies want to increase that depletion allowance, they are leveraged to the hilt to punch more and more holes to extract more and more oil and gas.
You may have noticed that the Republicans in Congress are still attacking resistance movements against drilling in our precious National Parks and other fragile environments. There is no care or order here, just a mad dash for more profits and more oil.
What would happen if we invested some of those subsidies in emerging renewable energy industries? More jobs for more people, that’s what.
Have you ever wondered how corporations get to stash trillions of dollars in offshore bank accounts, thus avoiding paying any taxes on that capital? They lobbied or bribed Congress to allow them to do that.
Again, when they’re not paying their fair share of taxes, you and I have to make up the difference. How many of you have a Swiss banking account? Me, neither.
Oh, but the Republicans tell us that when corporations are paying low taxes, their profits “trickle down” to the worker/consumer. The fact is that those extra profits trickle up to the stockholders and the owners/executives of those companies. General Electric, the world’s largest corporation, hasn’t paid any corporate taxes for at least six years. How does it feel to subsidize GE with your tax dollars?
And yet, corporate America whines for more tax cuts. Even mentioning corporate tax cuts in Congress sends the stock market through the roof. Are the stockholders really wagging the Republican dog? How does your stock portfolio look? Pretty good? Great. But don’t expect a raise in pay for yourself or your neighbor any time soon. The stockholders have to get theirs first.
The minimum wage resistance by Republicans is craven and a joke when you consider what it takes to actually live in this country. Every time the minimum wage has been raised, employment and consumption increases. People with low incomes spend just about every dime they earn. These data underscore yet another lie from the Republicans about how economics works.
Why are we the only civilized country in the world that doesn’t invest in its people through universal health care? Even Germany’s health care system, the oldest in the world , surpasses ours in quality of care and at a much lower cost per person. In fact, if we were to adopt the NHS of Great Britain, our national health care bill would be about $250 billion per year less than it is now.
The lies that the Republicans have fed us for decades about our health care system being the best in the world are simply not true. We rank in the second tier of healthy people worldwide. Why? Because we insist that our health care be a profit center for insurance companies, that’s why. They “invested” over $100 million to have the public option removed from the ACA.
Oh, and the rest of the world does not have a massive health care insurance industry as we do. Nor do they have unregulated pricing on pharmaceuticals the way our system does. The rest of the world pays a fraction of what we pay for drugs made in our country. The reason for this is the simple fact that when you aren’t conducting health care for profit, you tend toward preventative medicine instead of reactive medicine. The rule-of-thumb cost difference here is about one to 10. But since the profit motive and the stockholders insist on continuous growth, we, the taxpayers, have to pick up the difference.
What the health care insurance industry is really saying to you and me is: “How much will you pay to not hurt or maybe live a little longer.” They’re playing blackmail with our lives and the lives of our kin. That’s what greed and bribery look like at the most basic level.
Now, the Republicans want to cut Medicare and Medicaid services to offset the tax cuts for corporate America. What could possibly go wrong? When it comes to your turn to depend on these very successful services, and they aren’t there for you, how will you manage your bankruptcy?
During the Bush II years, when cuts in social services and spikes in health care insurance rates ravaged our economy and our people, over 60% of bankruptcies were attributed to health care emergencies from those who had lost their employee-covered policies after they were laid off during the great recession. By the way, Medicare’s overhead costs are about 7% of what they charge for services, whereas private health care insurers take a 25%-60% charge against the patient’s bill.
Do you see the connection? Trickle-down, unregulated corporate greed brings recession, job loss, wage freezes and bankruptcy for the middle and poorer classes! This is the pattern of Republicanism throughout its history, most dramatically exhibited for the first time in 1929.
How can you consume when you have no money? How can you care for your health and that of your family when you are bankrupt and the government has turned its back on you for the sake of profit for the few, the very few?
The Republican Party is responsible for these maladies in our economic picture. They brag about and lie to you about how wonderful life will be when the national debt is under control. Yet, they cut revenue sources from those who are most able to pay it. They expand the military budget to astronomical heights [doubled since 2001] every year. How many aircraft carriers do we need while the teachers teaching our children have to work two jobs to support their families?
Simply put, the Republican Party is now owned and operated by corporate/banking America. They care not a whit for your plight, your wages – unless they are too high – or the health of your family. Their message is a money meme, and a money meme only. Profits alone rule their thinking. They will destroy our environment, our National Parks and our nature reserves for the sake of money.
Republicans do not believe in investing in the people of this country, our beloved America, because they are so shortsighted as to see no money or profit in it. They are prisoners of the quarterly report and are directed by short-term profit only.
Long-term profit from a healthy, well-educated populace is beyond their ken. Or they just don’t care. Our Republicans in Congress are easily bribed, as witnessed by their agenda that supports only corporate/banking America and not the majority of the American people. Is it any wonder that their approval rating is below 15%?
Yet, the voters keep sending these corrupt officials back to Congress. “Oh, they are corrupt, but not my representative or senator.” Well, 92% of these corrupt representatives are returned to office every election and the ones who spend the most money are among them.
We still have free elections. You are in charge of them with your vote. Your representative’s voting record is readily available. Read it. Then decide. That will tell you more about that person than any speeches he/she will make trying to promote the lies and untruths that is the Republican narrative.
Find somebody who isn’t registered to vote and help them get registered. Help those in need to the ballot box on Election Day. All those white tombstones in our national cemeteries rest on the souls of those who paid the ultimate price to preserve your right to vote. Don’t let them down and have their lives be wasted because you thought it was too much trouble, or you didn’t like the choices.
There are always choices. Obviously, “this candidate” wants you to vote for a Democrat so we can turn our nation away from the lies of Republicanism and its bedfellow, corporatism, and return our vigor and energy toward helping all of us, not just the privileged few, lead better, healthier and more productive lives.
– Vern Turner lives in Denver and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.