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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Thomas Edsall Says America's Businesses Have Their Backs Against the Wall

Thomas Edsall Says America's Businesses Have Their Backs Against the Wall

Thursday, 10 January 2013 06:16

I'm not kidding, he notes the sharp redistribution from labor to capital over the last four decades then tells readers;

"Although the stars are lined up in favor of the anti-corporate left, American business, when its back is to the wall, has historically proved to be extraordinarily resourceful."

Seriously, it's a thoughtful piece, but it's difficult to see the rising anti-business tide that Edsall discerns. From where I sit it looks like the country is controlled by two parties dominated by business interests. They both push policies that are likely to continue the upward redistribution of income, the main difference is that the Democrats think that the wealthy should pay their taxes.

Comments (8)Add Comment
Sad & true
written by Chris Engel, January 10, 2013 6:57
Outrage fatigue.
written by Ron Alley, January 10, 2013 7:31
You're correct. The Corporate Party of America does not need to reassert control as Mr. Edsall suggests. In at least the past thirty years, it has never failed to protect corporate interests at the expense of mere mortals.
Invisible hands
written by David, January 10, 2013 9:42
Government should stay out of business? Then business should stay out of government.
Producers vs consumers
written by Gerry Flaychy, January 10, 2013 12:04
A more fundamental problem, in my opinion, is the mentality which is to favour, always and everywhere, the interests of the producers instead of the interests of the consumers.

Producers must serve the consumers, not the other way around.
written by watermelonpunch, January 10, 2013 5:07
Voters in this ascendant coalition believe “politicians help the rich get richer and corporations collect record profits while refusing to hire or increase wages or salaries for workers,”

Yes, many believe that of BIG GLOBAL CORPORATIONS, probably because it's true.

What does this have to do with regular AMERICAN businesses?
I'd say it's up in the air
written by geraldmcgrew, January 10, 2013 9:58
Obviously, you're correct about who dominates the two parties controlling the country. When he says the "stars" are lined up in favor of the anti-corporate left, Edsall seems to be referring to the mindset of voters who supported Obama and senate candidates further to the left than Obama, as well as the increasing attention garnered by economists such as Krugman and yourself and intellectuals in other fields. Though he does attach much significance to the recent "tax increase" imposed on the affluent, one could (or perhaps at least should) interpret that as more "symbolic" than a definitive change in who is still actually in control.

His citation of The Powell Manifesto and the implied comparison of this decade's economic crisis with that of the 1970s is interesting. This has similarities to contemporary Social Structure of Accumulation (SSA) theory, which considers this downturn to be a "structural" crisis of the neoliberal structure of capitalism as the earlier one was of the postwar economic structure. According to the theory, as I understand it, after an extended period of crisis (ten or more years - which dovetails well with your projections of how long it will take to get back to full employment at our current pace), the current structure will be replaced by a new one.

However, the crisis of the '70s was one of what SSA theorists refer to as a "regulatory" structure while the current crisis is that of a "liberal" (in the classical sense of that term) structure. One current tenet of SSA theory (again, as I understand it) is that regulatory and liberal SSA's are most likely to alternate, so some form of regulatory structure is likely to replace neoliberalism when the current crisis finally ends. If this proves to be true, it could suggest that the political dynamics surrounding the Powell Manifesto may have been dependent on their moment in time.

Political economist and SSA theorist David Kotz has suggested that the character of the next SSA will be determined by the outcome of the social struggles during the current crisis phase we have recently entered, and that while the forces of the "anti-corporate left," as Edsall puts it, have not achieved much strength as of yet, that may change as the crisis continues and perhaps worsens. The continued emphasis by those in power on reducing budget deficits and by extension austerity, as well as the lingering resistance to significant regulation of the financial sector, suggest that this crisis may indeed be with us for some time yet.

If so, while current control of our two parties hardly favors the left, social movements may indeed gain in strength as the decade wears on, which might actually fulfill the promise of Edsall's "stars" despite his reminder of the resourcefulness of American business. Or, of course, they may not. We know business interests will exert their power so as to maintain their dominance. The ascendance of a coalition of the bottom half may well depend on the increased participation and efficacy of those who need to organize such a coalition.
written by urban legend, January 10, 2013 11:47
The only pro-business people are the progressives who are focused on restoring consumer demand. Without consumer demand -- without much stronger middle class discretionary income -- business is a lot less valuable and successful than it could be. The so-called "business interests" are not pro-business at all. Encouraging policies that continue to promote upward distribution of income is merely pro-wealthy. In today's environment, being pro-wealthy is the opposite of being pro-business.

Progressives should be sending this message every minute of every day.
so refer back to Buchanan then!
written by pete, January 11, 2013 12:51
Clearly the last 40 years have seen huge increases in government regulation, EPA, OSHA, etc. Increased financial regulation (E.g., CFTC became a bigger agency in 1974.) Not to mention increased federal involvement in eduction. I am sure I am leaving plenty out.

And the result....captive agencies redistributing to the captors. Whocouldaknown?

Thats why folks should have voted Green or Libertarian last fall. Anti Wall St./Washington "Occupy" and "Teaparty" were co-opted by the dems and repubs much as the left was coopted by the dems in the post-Nixon years.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.