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This has been the anti-democracy decade

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

We're coming to the end of what might be called the anti-democracy decade. It began Jan. 21, 2010, with the Supreme Court's shameful decision in Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission, opening the floodgates to big money in politics with the absurd claim that the First Amendment protects corporate speech.

It ends with Donald Trump in the White House, filling his administration with corporate shills and inviting foreign powers to interfere in American elections.

Trump is the consequence rather than the cause of the anti-democratic surge. By the 2016 election, the richest 100th of 1 percent of Americans -- 24,949 very wealthy people -- accounted for a record-breaking 40 percent of all campaign contributions. That same year, corporations flooded the presidential, Senate and House elections with $3.4 billion of donations. Labor unions no longer provided any countervailing power, contributing only $213 million -- $1 for every $16 corporate dollars.

Big corporations and the super-wealthy lavished their donations on the Republican Party because Republicans promised them a giant tax cut if they won. As Sen. Lindsey Graham warned his Republican colleagues "financial contributions will stop" if the GOP didn't come through.

The political investments paid off big. Pfizer, whose 2016 contributions to the GOP totaled $16 million, will reap an estimated $39 billion in tax savings by 2022. GE contributed $20 million and will get back $16 billion. Chevron donated $13 million and will receive $9 billion.

Groups supported by Charles and the late David Koch spent more than $20 million promoting the tax cut, which will save them and their heirs between $1 billion and $1.4 billion a year.

 

Not even a sizzling economy could match these returns.

With the help of the tax cut, corporate profits are now at an all-time high. But almost nothing has trickled down. Companies have spent most of their extra cash on stock buybacks and dividends. This has given the stock market a sugar high but has left little for workers.

The anti-democracy decade has been hard on American workers. Despite the longest economic expansion in modern history, real wages have barely risen. The share of corporate profits going to workers still isn't back to where it was before the 2008 financial crisis. Never in the history of economic data have corporate profits outgrown employee compensation so clearly and for so long.

The so-called "free market" has been taken over by crony capitalism, corporate bailouts and corporate welfare.

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