Business

Contract with the Devil of Corporate America

Last week, 30 CEOs of the top 100 American companies rushed to an online dawn meeting to discuss President Donald Trump’s unsupported allegations that US elections were “stolen” from him.

Executives were trying to find ways to maximize their personal and organizational influence to ensure the peaceful transition of power that is characteristic of the US political system. Some participants felt that the concerns of a potential coup were exaggerated. Others thought it wasn’t. Most people just wanted to end the election turmoil. Within a few days, other groups, such as the American Chamber of Commerce, were asking Mr. Trump to stop delaying the transition. As always, businesses hate uncertainty.

Reading the news, I had conflicting feelings. On the other hand, I was happy that business leaders were thinking about the importance of liberal democracy in the United States and how to protect it. I couldn’t help but feel that some of the company’s concerns were a little “too little, too late.” Most large corporate trade associations supported the Trump administration when they were preparing to pass what turned out to be the largest corporate tax cut since the George W. Bush era.

Even if people like me were thinking about ways for the business elite to take the turmoil in the election process seriously and ensure a smoother transition, still 72 million people voted for Mr. Trump. I was worried that it might be exceeded. And some of them may disagree.

When I read about a group of multinational CEOs who get together and wield political weight, I suspect that a significant portion of them have the following ideas: There are plots of wealthy and powerful people who run the country, and they have an influence that I don’t have. they It interferes with democracy. “

Sadly, they don’t delusion of thinking that way. Anyone with a pulse knows that in the United States today, systems are equipped to favor the wealthy and powerful. One of the most spectacular papers published this month by the Institute for New Economic Thinking is a quantification of the problem. Based on a compelling 2014 dataset, changing views among the top 10% of the wealthiest population in the United States shows that policy changes are much more likely.

Using AI and machine learning, INET scholars Shawn McGuire and Charles Delahunt delved into the data. They found that, given the opinions of people other than the top 10%, they were far less accurate in predicting what happened to government policy. The numbers indicate that: “Not only are the general public not having their own substantive power over policy making. They have little or no independent impact on policy.”

Of course, that’s why we made Mr. Trump president. He wasn’t the cause, but the symptom of the pendulum swinging too far towards corporate concentration and the corruption of both politics and business. From tax policy to corporate governance and accounting standards, we have made legal adjustments for decades to prioritize capital over labor. Supreme Court decisions, such as the Citizens United case, have also dramatically increased the amount of money spent on political movements. This left the nature of American political economy close to oligopoly.

It’s just how Uber, Instacart, Lyft, and other digital groups adopted California labor law this month. Together, they spent $ 200 million to drive Proposal 22, a voting initiative that exempts many gig workers from profits. These companies may now make efforts in other US states.

As Karl Marx observed, the recognition of the common interests of the owners of the means of production is only threatened by the masses. Corporate America got what Mr. Trump wanted: tax cuts and deregulation. Big American companies now know that he has nothing more to gain. So they are eager for him to go and they take those destructive tweets that are sometimes targeted with him.

They are also eager to take office as presidential election Joe Biden to normalize trade and diplomacy and deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Mr. Trump’s improper response to the pandemic, which is now raging again in the United States, was terrible for both the economy and the business. The CEO is desperate to give Biden control over the situation, even if he rolls back the tax cut.

I believe Mr. Trump will eventually go. But the irony and anger of many left-behind voters who supported him will remain. Business leaders have the right to ask the president to respect the election results. But corporate activity shouldn’t stop there. Rather it should start.

I want business cooperation with the Biden administration on how to build a good national health system similar to that enjoyed by most European countries. It will benefit not only individuals like those gig workers, but also companies that have to bear the cost of medical care. Or how about designing a public-private solution to the US $ 1.6 trillion student debt crisis?

If companies use their power in these ways, they may not have to worry too much about the next Trump.

rana.foroohar@ft.com

Contract with the Devil of Corporate America

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