Posts Tagged ‘Big business’

Liberals, big business and big government

December 17, 2012

hsbc-sfSpanWe liberals see a strong government as necessary to protect individuals against the abuses of big corporations.  The problem is that government does not necessarily operate this way.  What we have in the United States today is government increasingly interfering in the lives of individual citizens, while giving free rein to the heads of large corporations.  A recent example of this was the decision of the U.S. Department of Justice to refrain from prosecuting executives of HSBC, a big international bank based in London, for laundering money of the drug cartels because that would be disruptive to the financial system.

It is a mistake to talk about “big government” and “big business” as if they were people.   They are organizational structures through which people can do bad things or good things, but very often can be shielded from the responsibility for the bad things they do.  You can’t punish an organizational structure, or hold it accountable.  Only the individual human beings within the structure are accountable.

Libertarians say that the only way to limit the abuses of government is to limit the authority of government.  They say that if you don’t want governmental officials to have the power to bail out banks, they shouldn’t have the authority to bail out anybody.  My problem with that argument is that this tradeoff isn’t on offer.  Cutting the Social Security pensions of 80-year-old widows won’t do a thing about bankers giving themselves bonuses with taxpayers’ bailout money.

Click on Outrageous HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War Is a Joke for Matt Taibbi’s comment.

Labor unions and small business, unite!

July 11, 2011

The strongest and most dependable supporter of the Democratic Party is the AFL-CIO.   The strongest and most dependable supporter of the Republican Party is the National Federation of Independent Business.  Yet the top elected leaders of both political parties are serve the interests of monopolistic corporations which are driving down the incomes of working people and small business owners alike.

Barry C. Lynn, in an interesting article in The Washington Monthly, wrote that the time has come for a political alliance of labor unions and small business owners against the big corporations that are squeezing them both.

Last August, on a blazing-hot Nebraska evening, I sat in a cool hotel bar in downtown Omaha and listened as a team of Dockers-clad union organizers joked, drank, and argued their way into an alliance with a group of southern and western ranchers.  The organizers, from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), made a simple argument: Meat-packing houses like JBS and Smithfield— their already immense power swelled from years of mergers—are using their dominance of cattle markets to hammer down what they pay for beef and for in-house unionized meatcutters.  So rather than “scrap over nickels,” perhaps the ranchers and workers should lock arms and fight for bigger stakes.

Cowboys and labor? Plotting together? Polo shirt and bolo tie? …  Half a year on, it’s evident that the alliance was no momentary fling, no mere “enemy of my enemy” excuse to clink a few beer bottles before stumbling back to opposite ends of the political corral. When the Justice Department held a series of hearings last year on concentration in agriculture markets, including cattle, the UFCW helped to pack the room for the cattlemen’s testimony, one of the only times in recent decades that an American labor union has promoted stronger enforcement of anti-monopoly law.

And in exchange? While in that room, the UFCW got a chance to make the case that the trustbusters should take on Walmart.  The union views the retailing goliath as the main force smashing down the wages and benefits of the retail workers the union represents.  More to the point, the union has also come to view Walmart as the real power driving the big meatpackers’ assault on both cattlemen and packinghouse workers. 

The basic thinking here is that Walmart now controls such a giant swath of the U.S. marketplace that it can dictate prices even to the biggest of suppliers, which leaves less money in the system for the people who actually produce goods and provide labor.

via The Real Enemy of Unions.

Most small business owners regard labor unions as the enemy and big businesses such as Walmart as larger versions of themselves.  Labor unions historically have favored big business because they think it is easier to organize workers in one giant corporation than many small businesses.  But Walmart shows the falsity of both ideas.  Walmart’s monopoly power enables it to dictate low prices to suppliers and low wages to workers.

There is an inherent conflict between the interests of employers and employees, no matter whether the employer is a large business, a small business, a non-profit organization or a government.  But in the United States in the present era, workers and small-business owners have in common that their fates are tied to the future of the United States and to the localities in which they live.  The largest corporations and banks can operate anywhere in the world.  They don’t need the United States.  Workers and small business owners do.

Clyde Prestowitz, who was U.S. trade negotiator in the Reagan administration, once illustrated this point with a story of how his son invited him to invest in a snow removal company.  Why a snow removal company? he asked.   “Dad,” the son said, “they can’t move the snow to India.”