Our current system is bolstered on pro-capitalist ideologies while the working class is manipulated against its own interests. This manipulation has become a festering limb of political and social policy. The same corporations that run our lives have a heavy hand in the political affairs of our nation. They have adapted with current technological trends to poison us while we watch television and scroll through social media.
If we can learn to stand in solidarity, as one, the possibilities are endless as to what we could do to our society. If nothing is done then we will fall too far from saving. The endless vacuum we call consumerism will leave cities of humans void of their humanity.
The revolt- fearing elite keep us fixated on our own selfish needs as opposed to the needs of others. Our cell phones listen in on our daily conversations so they can learn to manipulate us. It becomes much easier to push products when you know exactly what to push and how to present it at an individual level. With the advent of social media the oligarchs have learned how to inject product placement in our daily lives. While you scroll through facebook you are shown an onslaught of advertisements. Catchy colors and fun slogans that keep you buying what they’re selling. It is much easier to forget about the suffrage of your sisters and brothers when your own needs are being met. Competing with your neighbor has taken priority over helping your neighbor. This bombardment of material advertising incites our greed. We want the newest phone or the fastest car. Neoliberalism puts a higher value on your life based on what you own. Capitalism is poison for the masses. It boils down to basic concepts that the likes of Karl Marx and Herbert Marcuse have covered completely. Marcuse in particular wrote that “behind the technological veil, behind the political veil of democracy, appears the reality, the universal servitude, the loss of human dignity in prefabricated freedom of choice¹”. The “reality” he speaks about is the manipulation of our basic human needs to benefit the bourgeois ruling class.
On January 26th, 1907 legislation prohibiting monetary contribution to national political campaigns by corporations was introduced by Benjamin Tillman. The Tillman Act was put into place to stop corporations from interfering in political elections more so than they had been. Theodore Roosevelt, who felt strongly about regulating the business world, was a large proponent of the bill. The bill is as follows:
“An Act to prohibit corporations from making money contributions in connection with political elections. Be it enacted, that it shall be unlawful for any national bank, or any corporation organized by authority of any laws of Congress, to make a money contribution in connection with any election to any political office. It shall also be unlawful for any corporation whatever to make a money contribution in connection with any election at which Presidential and Vice-Presidential electors or a Representative in Congress is to be voted for or any election by any State legislature of a United States Senator. Every corporation which shall make any contribution in violation of the foregoing provisions shall be subject to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and every officer or director of any corporation who shall consent to any contribution by the corporation in violation of the foregoing provisions shall upon conviction be punished by a fine of not exceeding one thousand and not less than two hundred and fifty dollars, or by imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court.”
It is very clear that Roosevelt feared that corporations would soon have larger and larger stakes in political affairs if they are allowed to contribute to them. Then, in 1978 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Bank of Boston during the National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti court case. The National Bank of Boston and several other corporations were restricted from contributing to a tax policy referendum that affected them. In turn the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend money on state ballot initiatives. It was also ruled that a corporations right to the First Amendment is protected beyond material commercial interests. While this ruling did not affect federal law directly it would set a dangerous stage going forward.
Over thirty years later the Supreme Court allowed corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political communications during campaign time. This ruling (during the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court case) gives a corporation the right to fund and post political communications as long as they are not “materially involved” with the political party in question. This protection is also guaranteed under the First Amendment because a corporation is legally a person rather than a business entity.
This pattern of corporate involvement in our political process can not stand. While these are only two examples, it is very clear that in the past 40 years the corporation has made long strides in securing their place at the helm of our country. Their involvement in the election of future lawmakers and leaders is more than worrisome.
Their ability to dump millions of dollars into “independent” advertisements against or for certain candidates allows them to secure their interests before the candidate takes office. Once a candidate is elected it will be difficult to shun the institutions that helped he/she rise to power.
Lobbyists and super PACs help aide corporations in pulling stakes in political affairs. It is perfectly legal for corporation formed PACs to donate money to candidates. Although it is illegal for super PACs to donate directly to candidates and spend money in coordination of the candidates they support. They are still allowed to spend the money to advocate for or against candidates.
While lobbyists do not directly donate to candidates and lawmakers either, they do use their wealth (and employers wealth) to strong arm their own interests into the courts. For example, a large oil corporation wants to gain influence over a senator on the environmental committee. Instead of donating to the senator directly (which is currently illegal) the corporation organizes a fundraiser that in turn gets donated to the senator. While staying within the confines of the law, this oil corporation effectively lined the senators pockets. Now when the senator goes to vote they are more likely to vote in favor of the corporation that helped orchestrate the fundraiser.
This is only an example, but backdoor dealings like this take place routinely. Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff stated that “you can’t take a congressman to lunch for $25 and buy him a steak. But you can take him to a fundraising lunch and not only buy him a steak, but give him $25,000 extra and call it a fundraiser”.
In 2017 the Pharmaceutical/ healthcare industry spent roughly $25.4 million on lobbying. The insurance industry spent $160.5 million during the same year. Oil and gas spent $119 million in 2016. These astronomical numbers continue throughout the largest corporate industries in the nation. It also must be said that lobbyists have brought positive change to our lawmakers agenda. The efforts of lobbyists helped to pass laws requiring GMO labeling on foods. They are also responsible for raising $1.1 million to stop the spread of the Zika virus.
The country that Roosevlet envisioned did not hold corporations in such high political standings. If he was alive today he would be disgusted by the rampant spending during political elections. The Tillman Act wanted to ensure that wealthy individuals and establishments did not have disportionate sway over federal elections and laws. That is exactly the case today. The mega wealthy corporations slowly seeped deeper and deeper into the fibers of politics. They devise clever PACs and fundraisers to circumvent laws that would otherwise prohibit them from influencing law in their favor. As informed citizens it is our civic duty to put an end to this practice. If it continues then the “ordinary” person can no longer be involved in politics. Corporations will funnell more and more money into the establishments that propagate their agenda. Lawmakers need to address this issue and pass more stringent regulations to keep the corporate slag out of our political system.
By nature a corporation’s sole mission is to create profit for its shareholders. It has no other purpose. Consumers are simply numbers to them. Even their own employees can be mercilessly cannibalized to satisfy the bottom line.
It is so easily forgotten that the FDA was created during the wake of corporate misconduct. So severe that Americans were being poisoned while the corporate cats lined their pockets. A recent example of corporate misconduct involved Ford Motor Company. During the 1972 production of the Ford Pinto there was a design flaw that caused the fuel tank to burst into flames if a rear collision occurred. This was a result of the gas tank being placed too far from the rear bumper. Ford used a risk/ benefit analysis to determine if fixing the flaw was worth the loss to their bottom line or the loss of human life. The conclusion was that fixing the issue would cost them $137 million. The cost of settling court cases, life loss, and vehicle damage was only $49 million. Ultimately the problem was never fixed and numerous individuals passed away.
A government that is run by the people, for the people should never allow a corporation to put a dollar value on human life. Luckily there are more of us than there are CEO’s, Executives, and shareholders. As consumers we control the market. If we all united and decided to act on the sins that companies like Ford commit then our Revolution can begin. The working class has been shackled to the machine for too long. Human life is more than working for retirement and this hamster wheel that we’re indoctrinated into can only last as long as we let it. Lawmakers must regulate the way a corporation can influence politics. Their first amendment rights should be stripped for the sake of who is actually protected under the Constitution. Our right to be heard by Washington without lobbyists should be amplified tenfold. If we can’t garner support against the oligarchs through our political representation than the responsibility falls on us.
- Marcuse, Herbert. Counter-Revolution and Revolt. Beacon Press, 1972.