Michael Hiltzik: 100 CEOs met to discuss opposing anti-voting laws. Don't expect them to do anything

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

The best joke offered in recent days by that superb comedy stylist Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was the one where he advised corporate CEOs to "stay out of politics."

What's so rib-tickling about McConnell's joke, of course, is that politics has long since become a wholly owned subsidiary of American industry.

Corporate CEOs have been getting exactly what they have wanted from the American political system for well more than a century.

As recently as 2017, corporations won a huge tax break. That happened with the help of then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell, who for his pains has received more than $4.3 million in corporate contributions over the last five years.

Big business' minions on Capitol Hill have kept the federal minimum wage stagnant at $7.25 an hour since 2009. They've ensured that business regulators such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor and National Labor Relations Board remain under-resourced and overwhelmed with responsibilities. The same goes for the IRS, which lacks the funding and staff to devote adequate attention to corporations and the wealthy.

As we recently reported, Amazon — whose founder and chairman, Jeff Bezos, recently stated that he'd be in favor of an increase in the federal corporate tax rate from the current 21% — paid an effective rate of only 9.1% last year, and two years earlier even received a tax refund. That's because the federal tax code bristles with loopholes for business.


These are all the harvest of corporate CEOs staying in politics, not staying out.

Corporate CEOs occasionally stir themselves to speak out on social issues. Just this weekend, 100 CEOs met via Zoom to ponder an industrywide response to the surge in voter-suppression bills in state legislatures. The immediate target, obviously, was Georgia's openly racist voting "reforms," which placed Atlanta-based corporations such as Delta, Coca-Cola and Home Depot in a tough spot.

Among the options discussed, according to the session's hosts at the nonprofit Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, were "reevaluating donations to candidates supporting restrictions on voter access and reconsidering investments in states that act on such proposals."

One supposes that it's encouraging to see public companies standing up for democracy. News reports of the meeting referred to a "corporate backlash" against GOP policy. Mmm; we shall see.


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