Democratic capitalism: Freeing people from the corporate special interest definition of ‘corruption’

January 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Monument to the victims of capitalism in Montreal. (photographymontreal/Flickr)

This week someone asked me if I’d heard any questions about IDEA, the federal law protecting students with disabilities (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearings.

I get these types of questions a lot because I write about politics. It’s kind of funny because I don’t think I know much about politics—at least not when it comes to policy details. I’ve had people tell me in response, “But I love listening to you talk. You know so much.”

Here’s a secret: It’s more important to know what you believe in—and how to talk about what you believe in.

The problem is that corporate special interests “get” this, and all too often we don’t—especially many of us who come from academic backgrounds, where arguing is the accepted way to flesh out ideas and learn.

Let me demonstrate by showing you how corporate special interests redefined “corruption,” why this is so important, and how you can help break people out of this trap.

‘All for each and each for all:’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal

March 22, 2016 at 10:47 am

Corporate special interest groups in our country such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have figured out that they can sway government in their favor if they market themselves as “good” and paint certain people as “evil.”

This is why today we live in a world where our richest businessmen and businesses are marketed as “good,” capable of doing no wrong, and all government is marketed as “bad.” In this world, government exists only for the purpose of business owners and we’re told we should just sit back and let the benefits trickle down. Only they haven’t. In fact, the opposite has happened. The rich have gotten richer and more powerful at the expense of everyone else.

We’ve seen this before. The late 1800s and early 1900s saw the rise of rich monopolies that hurt the average person. Railroads favored certain large trusts over small farmers.Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in 1906 exposing the health violations, labor abuses, and unsanitary conditions of the meatpacking industry. Foods and drugs were mislabeled and consumers deliberately misled.

As a result, Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive Republican, introduced a platform based on a few simple ideas that would become known as the Square Deal. On April 5, 1905, he delivered his Square Deal speech in Dallas, Texas, where he laid out his philosophy:

It is all-essential to the continuance of our healthy national life that we should recognize this community of interest among our people. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life that man is the best representative of each of us who seeks to do good to each by doing good to all; in other words, whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class and promote merely that class’s selfish interests, but to represent all true and honest men of all sections and all classes and to work for their interests by working for our common country.

This is what everyone wants: A square deal for all.

[caption id="attachment_2018" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Theodore Roosevelt speaking from the balcony of the Hotel Allen, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1914 (Lehigh County Historical Society). Theodore Roosevelt speaking from the balcony of the Hotel Allen, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1914 (Lehigh County Historical Society).[/caption]

Why we have an inheritance tax

April 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

The House of Representatives recently voted to eliminate the estate tax. Because of the recent vote, the topic may come up in conversations with people you know.

This is an easy case to “win” because there is such a strong moral case for inheritance taxes and it’s also a great opportunity to practice talking about what you believe.

Most of what you’ll see in the media, however, consists of the “strong” moral case for corporate special interest groups and a “weak” response. By weak response, I mean a case that doesn’t talk about the morality of the estate tax. A case that is often simply the negation of conservative arguments. A moral case should explain ‘why’ we believe in inheritance taxes.

To start, I believe …

1. Privilege should be earned (not inherited).

To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered – not gambling in stocks.

Roosevelt said it better:

No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered — not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective — a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.