Running Government Like a Corporation
Many among the upper crust in American society seem to be of the opinion that our government should conduct itself in a way that approximates as closely as possible the manner in which corporations and other business enterprises operate. This usually involves a very hierarchical, top-down structure, where those at the top have the most influence and authority within the organization. At times, this power can become almost dictatorial in nature. Many believe that the capitalists – often in the form of shareholders – should be of paramount importance in key decision-making roles, such as determining the corporate management structure and compensation for the top executives, as well as how corporate profits will be allocated among shareholders, executives, workers, etc.
Many see the key function of the corporation as maximizing profits to provide a return on investment for the shareholders. This can often be seen in both attempts to distribute profits in the form of dividends to shareholders on a per-share basis, as well as attempts to maintain as high a selling price for the stock as possible to increase the wealth of those who have invested their money in the corporation. This largely neglects the plight of and ignores the efforts put forth by the workers actually producing the goods and services that the company provides. Most workers have little or no input into the corporate decisions affecting their wages, working conditions or benefits, especially if there is no union representation or collective bargaining in place. Consumers are more or less conduits for providing for demand for goods and services and carrying out their part in the free market exchange taking place to keep the economy running. Their good will is ought, but their overall welfare is not necessarily of paramount importance to the enterprise, as long as they continue to make a profit.
Many of the economic elites in this country seem to be of the opinion that their paying higher rates of taxes than many of the less fortunate citizens with whom they share the nation and the planet entitles them to a greater voice in what that government does with that money. Some come right out express this in as many words. Others use their wallets to try to influence political activity to their benefit in less obvious ways. Campaign contributions to candidates or groups devoted to serving their interests (either by serving in elective office or lobbying those who do) fall into this category. The United States Supreme Court seems to agree with this view to a larger degree than previously in our history, judging from their recent rulings in Citizens United and McCutcheon regarding campaign finance and political speech.
The arguments that the wealthy and corporations are contributing more to our society than the rest of us fall flat upon close examination. The tax they tend to zero in on is the most progressive one we have – the federal income tax. Even that one has so many loopholes and shelters built into it that just about any wealthy person willing to pay an accountant can easily end up paying a lower tax rate than many of their lower paid employees. That doesn’t even take into account the more regressive taxes and fees that are paid by each and every one of us – even those with incomes low enough to avoid paying the federal income tax entirely. Payroll taxes such as those for Social Security and Medicare are regressive in nature, with the highest income earners paying a lower percentage (in the case of FICA) than their lower income counterparts. Property taxes, state and local income taxes. along with sales and other consumption taxes likewise hit people hardest who earn the least.
One’s true contribution to the common good can never be fully monetized, much as the bottom line thinkers and defenders of the 1% would like to think them to be. Paying for government services isn’t like paying a taxi for a ride to the supermarket. The wealthy gain immeasurably from living in a country with a national defense capable of preventing foreign invaders from stealing their property or killing them, police forces capable of protecting them from crime and well-built and maintained infrastructure to make life more comfortable. They seem to forget that more goes into providing these amenities than their desire to have them and their begrudging willingness to pay as little as possible to receive them.
As a rule, the 1% do not fight in the wars that are waged, either defensively, or (increasingly in recent generations) offensively to protect them and their wealth from foreign plundering or to enhance their ability to gain wealth at the expense of foreign peoples. Instead, they prefer to pay some taxes in order to hire some of us to do it for them, all the while profiting from the money made equipping and feeding the war machine, in addition to their more civilian-oriented business enterprises. They also do not build roads or buildings or educate, feed, clothe or tend to the immediate health needs of the people who actually do perform those tasks. Expecting people to take care of your every need without reflecting upon what it costs them in terms of their blood, sweat and tears to eek out an existence while performing these tasks for you displays an indefensible lack of empathy and human compassion for others, to say the least.
All humans deserve to be treated with respect and their voices deserve to be heard in all matters that affect them, those closest to them, and their lives as a whole. Oligarchy may be what got our economic system to where it is today, but we surely deserve better in our political lives. Nobody voted for a government that silenced all but a very few, let alone one that can be had for a sum of money that can be acquired by any number of methods, good or nefarious. I believe we need more democracy and equality, more cooperative than top down management in both our work and our political lives. Trying to use corporate practices as a model for government of society as a whole is an abhorrent idea for America or any other country. It doesn’t work for most of us in the workplace, either. We are not workers and voters, we are people, first and foremost. Living in a democracy and working in a dictatorship, however benevolent it may seem, need not and should not be tolerated. More to follow…
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