There is a long struggle ahead of us and the outlines of that struggle just got a little more clear this week, when Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts, introduced the Accountable Capitalism Act, which is about nothing much less than changing the game. Her legislation calls for corporations that make over $1 billion a year to be formally responsible not just to their shareholders but also to their workers, customers, and communities – which last concept hopefully extends to the environment. This is important because at present the board of directors and the management of corporations are legally bound to maximize economic return. That is the only criteria – other than not breaking the law – with which they are allowed to make decisions. This dictate is the backbone of capitalism as we know it, which is to say a most predatory, ruthless, and myopic kind of capitalism which sooner or later is going to get us all killed.
Of course the spokespersons for the titans of industry and finance say not only is Elizabeth Warren “batty” but also that she is a Communist who must be shut up or all the businesses in America will move to Switzerland ( I kid you not.) Because heaven knows American Capitalism Will Not Survive being responsible for anything but making as much money as possible! Such a fragile flower cannot be asked to clean up its own room or do the dishes.
As the incomparable Charles Pierce puts it:
This is one of the first complete frontal assaults on the economic theories that have ruled American politics in one form or another for the past four decades. It is one of the first substantial efforts to treat the ascendancy of conservative economic ideas as a thoroughgoing blight that must be reversed, and it does so by turning the achievements of which conservative economic ideologues are proudest back on them. Corporate personhood? OK, then we’re going to have corporate jail, too. A rising tide lifts all boats? We’re going to be sure everyone has a seat.
Elizabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act is significant – perhaps even world-historically significant – but her legislation is just one point in a change in the air, in the mood, in a growing awareness. She has brought up into the bright light of the national political debate a simmering knowledge that what we do in pursuit of business success has complex consequences and those consequences are not adequately weighed and measured in the quarterly accounting of profit and loss, of Return On Investment, and Asset Liquidity. The long struggle will be to make this point over and over again – that we all must be responsible to a greater conception of the good and profitable – until it becomes common knowledge and the way we do things.
I tell you what…I’m signing on to her team.
5 Replies to “The Game-Changer”
It’s exciting to see Elizabeth Warren going into action! I’ve supported her for many years and had once hoped that she would run for president. But this bill shows exactly why she is also so valuable where she is at in the Senate! We need good legislative leaders more than ever.
It’s also exciting that so many talented women are up for election in the midterms. I truly hope that we can sweep the elections and take back the House. It gives me hope that our country can finally overcome stink of misogynistic, authoritarian bullies currently posing as leadership of our government.
If that’s communism then I’m all for it. But peaceful this time around.
Those who defend unjust wealth and privilege will fight tooth and nail to defend their ‘rights’, as they have ever since Marx and beyond .
Bless Ms Warren for taking them on. She is going to need the strength of millions.
The titans of industry and finance have taken us back to the days of “the Robber Barons” of the early 20th century. Elizabeth Warren is the present day Teddy Roosevelt!
Your post pushes so many buttons that i dont know where to start so will just shoot from the lip.
Must be my turn to rant…
Fight the wars that need fighting theory… but
be careful there or they will revoke your security clearance and at this rate bring you up before the newly revived HUAC bunch….
Snowball’s chances in hell theory, the humans are being run as a perpetually renewable cash crop or as a milking herd. When have we ever given the cattle a voice in the matter.
What ? You think the edifices we construct should benefit all of us mere humans? That the Ker-ching of profit should be responsible for the long term downstream effects, health and other interests of our future generations?
Let us start by considering the federal tax structure and the unequal contribution the funding of this great countries budget, by examining the contribution from the citizens versus that from the business community that profits from those activities. Oh and let’s not forget that the cost of lobbyists is fully deductible.
What about the defense industry, that the byproducts of an industry should be to the benefit of all citizens, including that we are exporting 50 million dollars of arms per hour.
The pharmaceutical industries come to mind too, apparently with 72,000 deaths last year, as a cost of doing business as the new usual
The prison industries … well not to sweep it under the rug, that subject is worthy of an entire treatise by itself…
You have joined a uphill battle many orders of magnitude more difficult than trying to build a satellite launch system here in Ka’u, a more unequally funded and manned fight against long entrenched “business interests” or maybe better monied interests, profit centers and lest we forget simple up front unabashed greed. But the amazing part is that many of the folks that are paying for their own impoverishment and poisoning will defend the rights of the corporations until their dying breath in the name of freedom.
Always wondered about “first class” and “business class” on travel jets, where the esconsed can write off their expensive seats, by not paying taxes on (ie deducting) the entire expenditure, while the peons in the back generally cannot write off the cost of flying, have to pay for the tickets with after tax monies, and have to settle for more crowded seating to boot. But of course under the Constitution we are all equal.
The idea that some of the worst examples of humanity, Hitler and Stalin for instance, do not persist, they die, and their children do not continue their brutality and murderous insanity. But the corporations now empowered with many of the rights of humans, do persist with their primary driving motive of profit, not being a “good citizen”. When they hold their public face out of controversial political, ethical, or moral issues it is primarily to keep from doing something that is “bad for business”, including the news industry, the way that the mafia dons tamped down their natural inclination to murder their competitors to control their stranglehold on various illegal activities in order to take the proceeds into diversified more legal enterprises. Simply put sensationalized murders, sold more newspapers for companies they did not own, but were “bad for business”.
Perhaps one approach is to make being other than a good citizen be bad for business. This would involve a careful examination and dissection of the many larger industries in order to document and analyze the things the economists write off with the label “externalites”, ie short and long term use of resources; depletion and ability and effort to renew, effects on citizens of foreign country of origin, the waste stream ultimately financed by the taxpayer, and outright pollution – short or long term secondary effects of better living through chemistry, paid for by citizens of all ages, taxpayers or not eg, estrogen mimics throughout the entire earth ecosystem.
sorry folks they are still adjusting the dosage of my meds… i was hoping for the 82 million dollar parade too.
GO WARREN ! LET US SEE WHAT HAPPENS…
Thanks for the comments, Richard, not having to stomach an imperial parade is a small mercy. You are exactly right, Terry, and it’s more than a little ironic that she is being called ‘batty” for monopoly-busting – a fine American tradition. I haven’t gotten around to reading the actual bill but I may actually put in the time. I don’t think it has a snowballs chance either but it seems to be a carefully aimed and deployed snowball, that might be worth studying is some detail. Anyway. like you Jody, I hope I get a chance to be one of the millions to help her in a run for the presidency some year soon.
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