Progressivism: The Other Pro-Corporate Movement

It’s common for Democrats to depict themselves as the “party of compassion,” as opposed to the Wall Street stooges in the GOP,  resorting to soccer mom rhetoric about “American working families” and “sitting around the kitchen table.” Republicans, on the other side, frame themselves as the “free enterprise” party — unlike those anti-business socialists on the other team. But the Republicans aren’t for “free enterprise;” they’re for markets rigged by the government to guarantee profits to the giant banks and Fortune 500 corporations. And the Democrats aren’t the party of “ordinary working people.” They’re for — guess what? — markets rigged by the government to guarantee profits to the giant banks and Fortune 500 corporations.

In a recent survey of the big Wall Street political donors who usually back the GOP, most of the big money people responded to the prospect of a Jeb Bush vs. Hillary Clinton contest by saying “Meh. Either way’s fine.” But if Jeb decides not to run and Chris Christie doesn’t recover from Bridgegate, the financial industry will probably back Clinton in preference to the loose cannons of the Tea Party. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who held Clinton fundraisers in 2008, would reportedly be “very happy” with either Bush or Clinton.

And frankly, it’s hard to see why Wall Street would object to an establishment Democrat at all. Clinton, in a closed speech to Goldman Sachs executives last year, told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Democratic administrations are just as prone as Republicans — at least! — to packing cabinets with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup alumni. And while they talk a good game, in practice the “progressive” wing of the party is about the same. Senator Elizabeth Warren, leader of the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” recently expressed grave concern over the number of Obama administration appointees from Citigroup — right before voting to confirm Goldman Sachs veteran Stanley Fischer’s appointment to the Federal Reserve. See, Warren may rubber-stamp Wall Street control of government policy just like a DFC Democrat — but she feels really, really guilty about it.

Meanwhile, Bill Scher at The Week (“Ralph Nader wants liberals to back Rand Paul. Don’t do it,” May 1, 2014) sees corporate CEOs as much more congenial allies for liberals than libertarian civil liberties activists (he warns against Nader’s call to “side with government-hating libertarians over government-accepting corporations”). In contrast to Nader’s stated goal of “dismantling the Corporate State,” Scher argues that liberalism achieved its quiet victories through the 20th century with “some degree of corporate support,” and that the “coalition to nurture” for liberals in the future is “the CEOs.”

See, business loves the stability and certainty that comes with a state-regulated economy, along with the reassurance “that they will remain profitable.” One item in particular that makes both liberals’ and corporate CEOs’ hearts go pitty-pat is “investment in infrastructure”: the Interstate Highway System and the giant Army Corps of Engineers dams that Rachel Maddow talks about in her “great things” TV spots. Of course big business likes to “fund infrastructure.” Heavily subsidized, high-volume transportation infrastructure was what centralized the American economy in the 20th century under the control of a few dozen oligopoly corporations, and enabled big box retailers to destroy Main Street.

So if you’re looking for an “anti-corporate” party in American politics, there isn’t one.

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