Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Do the Rich Control the Politicians?

It is a received notion that ever since the dawn of capitalism "the rich" have had their way with things. They can exploit workers, bribe politicians, and as for women...

Of course banks and merchants have been in bed with politicians since the birth of the nation state. That's because kings and presidents need money and credit for their armies and navies, and trade needs protection from predators and pirates.

But when the Great Enrichment got properly started 200 years ago the notable fact was that the innovative businessmen that created the new products, from cheap cotton textiles to railways and oil, were not that interested in power.

When they were done with their businesses they went into philanthropy, even the notorious railroad baron Jay Gould. Today we can say that nothing has changed except that now no billionaire worth his salt is without his very own space program.

So it is really not surprising, when reading the hacked DNC emails, to learn that the political donors and bundlers are not giving in order to control the politicians. Oh no; their needs are much more modest. All they want is a bit of stroking, and to hear from a politician that he really likes their ideas.

Here's a donor wondering if she qualifies for elite status, "the premium package of hotel rooms and V.I.P. invitations at the party’s convention in Philadelphia." But what she really wanted "was getting access to an exclusive November gathering at the White House."

Walter Russell Mead comments that this is, in a way, encouraging. People are "willing to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns if politicians and staff will pretend to take them seriously, even for a few minutes at a time."

I suppose it must be a bit humiliating to have made millions and billions in business and realize that you are nothing to the people with political power. You realize that business success is nothing to the power of the men and women that command the men with guns. So you try to get their attention with your money.

You realize what a stunning achievement it has been for the politicians, from Marx on down, to direct the rage of the workers against their employers.

Not only do politicians milk business with taxes on everything and also milk them for contributions, but they the politicians turn around and convince the average Joe and Jane that the businessmen that employ them and pay their wages are, in fact, scoundrels!

But we shouldn't be surprised. All the politicians are doing is activating the age old rage against the tribe on the other side of the mountain, and touching off the instinct in every young man for loot and plunder. What could be easier, or more effective?

And if, after a generation of "pro-labor" legislation the big manufacturers start to go out of business as their over-paid workers and their subsidized products no longer cut it on the world markets, why that is the fault of greedy corporations and their overpaid CEOs as well. It has nothing to do with crafty politicians that forced the corporations to give wages that were too high, and benefits like defined benefit pensions that assumed that corporate profits would go on forever.

I wonder if the voters will ever tumble to the idea that the politicians have screwed them left and right and that their employers are practically saints for working day and night to make sure that their employees have a job over their heads.

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