This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
In the Bloomberg story today, Obama Doesn’t ‘Begrudge’ Bonuses for Blankfein, Dimon, President Obama, spoke up about the huge Wall Street bonuses handed out this year,
“I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”
Free-market system? These huge bonuses are for the Wall Street robber-barons that caused the financial collapse, took taxpayer dollars to prop up their fortunes, and get free money from the Federal Reserve with which to “trade” — speculate, gamble, call it what you want. Meanwhile they spend hundreds of millions of dollars “lobbying” (bribery) to fight any kind of financial reforms or consumer protections from enactment, and to make sure that no such think as a “free market” with honest competition never threatens their dominance of business and government.
So why is the President talking like this [note: see update below], at a time when so many Americans are out of work, losing their homes, and falling into poverty? Because he doesn’t want to be perceived as “anti-business.” From the story,
Obama sought to combat perceptions that his administration is anti-business and trumpeted the influence corporate leaders have had on his economic policies. He plans to reiterate that message when he speaks to the Business Roundtable, which represents the heads of many of the biggest U.S. companies, on Feb. 24 in Washington.
Meanwhile a Senate filibuster blocked the President’s great nominee, Craig Becker, from serving on the National Labor Relations Board. So the Labor Board remains non-functional. The filibuster kept workers from being fairly represented, and the Board itself from having a tie-breaking vote so they can resolve labor disputes so the “free market” can function as it should, with workers able to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
These two stories this week present quite a contrast, and send mixed and demoralizing signals to the country. President Obama doesn’t want to “appear” to be “anti-business.” Meanwhile giant, monopolistic corporations and Wall Street are chewing up Main Street and keeping smaller businesses from competing, while their lobbyists keep the legislature from getting anything done at all.
Let’s talk about this “anti-business” label and how it is used.
I wrote a post the other day titled, Tax Cuts HURT Small And Medium Businesses, championing small and medium businesses in their struggle to survive against the giant monopolistic corporations that are crushing them. Summary: struggling businesses don’t pay taxes, so tax cuts only give more ammunition to the giants that are crushing them. In the comments at one of the places it was posted I was accused to being “anti-business.”
Apparently championing small and medium businesses – America’s job-creating, innovative engine – is “anti-business.” If you look around, being anything but a servant to Wall Street and the giant monopolistic corporations earns you the label, “anti-business.”
The Power Of Words
This got me thinking about the ways this label, “anti-business,” gets used. It is always used by corporate/conservative types, against anyone who questions the power of Wall Street and the giant monopolistic corporations that are strangling smaller businesses, workers and democracy.
The President nominates a great candidate for the Labor Board, then worries that he is perceived as “anti-business.” Labels like “anti-business” are powerful accusations and come from very, very powerful people. (Like this or this.)
Last year, in the post Misuse Of The Words Protectionism And Trade Is Making Us Poorer I wrote,
Language has tremendous power. People like George Lakoff and Drew Westin, who study the use of language in political discussion, say that our choice of words has the power to actually affect the “wiring” or neuron circuits that our brains use to think.
The corporate marketers and political persuaders have certainly learned the power of language to influence us. It has even gotten to the point where “neuromarketing” uses MRI and EEG to study how our brains react to certain stimuli so they can be used to market and persuade.
In politics I think that we have even reached a point where we give words more power and importance even than the ideas the words represent. In the Bush years we learned that the persuaders believed they could “create their own reality.”
[. . .] words are used as weapons by professionals who wish to distract us from things that are in front of our own faces.
So how do we fight this? One way is to recognize our own power as citizens in a democracy. In America the people – Main Street – are supposed to be in charge of things, and the purpose of business and finance is supposed to be to serve our interests and needs, not the other way around. Why else would We, the People have set this system up, anyway? So we need to internalize this understanding, and believe in it. We are supposed to be in charge. We, the People are supposed to be telling businesses how they are supposed to operate, setting the rules and regulations, defining the playing field on which they operate. We need to have a sense that it is improper for businesses to be involved at all in the decision-making about the rules under which businesses operate. It must be this way because business interests will always, always try to tilt the rules against the free market and in their own favor, giving them advantages over other businesses.
This isn’t about being “anti-business” at all, it is about being in favor of a level playing field, where the innovative small and medium companies have a fair chance to compete. It is the giant monopolistic corporations that are “anti-business.”
Update – Greg Sargent looked at the transcript and has a more nuanced interpretation.