Corporate and CEO profits are at an all-time high. The richest 1 percent in America posses the wealth of the bottom 95 percent combined. Companies deploy hundreds of lobbyists and spend millions of dollars courting members of Congress to win legislative favors. The presidential election in ’08 promises to be the priciest in history, largely underwritten by big business and top dollar donors.
Whatever one thinks of Ralph Nader, his critique of how corporate America has come to dominate American politics seems more and more prescient. "The countervailing forces to corporate power have been in decline for the last 25 years," he says. Today Nader kicked off a three day conference on the subject of "Taming the Giant Corporation" at the regal Carnegie Institution in Washington.
The discussion couldn’t come at a more pressing time. "There have never been as many exposes of corporate scandal in the progressive and mainstream media as there is today," Nader says. "And there has never been less impact to these disclosures."
The public certainly isn’t satisfied with the status quo. In an April CBS News/Gallup poll, 59 percent of the public said life has gotten "worse" for middle-class Americans over the past ten years. Sixty-six percent believe that money and wealth "should be more evenly distributed" in America.
Yet there is often a disconnect between the views of the public and the actions of elected officials. Take the example of immigration reform, which failed to clear the Senate last night. Politicians and the media largely argue over whether the bill provides "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, while missing the larger point.
"What the immigration bill was really about was corporate America’s ability to import low-skilled and high-skilled workers to keep wages down," says Warren Gunnels, a senior policy advisor to Bernie Sanders who spoke in the Senator’s absence. High-skilled workers brought in on H-1B visas are paid, on average, $25,000 less per year than American workers, according to Gunnels. And last week, while Dell and IBM and Motorola and others claimed that they couldn’t find Americans to take these jobs, those very companies laid off thousands of employees. So Sanders sponsored an amendment, along with Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa, to limit the number of H-1B visas to companies that are concurrently laying off workers. It never reached the floor.
In The Nation two years back Nader proposed "How to Curb Corporate Power." It should be required reading for the Congress.