By Paul Buchheit, whose essays, videos and poems can be found at YouDeserveFacts.org. Originally published at Alternet
Corporations are viewed as untouchable by big business media giants like the Wall Street Journal, which blurts out inanities like “Income inequality is simply not a significant problem” and “Middle-class Americans have more buying power than ever before.”
In the real world, inequality is destroying the middle class. The following four issues, all part of the cancer of corporatocracy, have grown in intensity and destructiveness in just the last few years. They should be campaign issues, given more than just lip service from candidate Hillary Clinton, and given more than just passing reference in the news reports of the mainstream media.
1. Monopolies: Increasing prices, cutting jobs. The Busch/Miller merger is the latest attack on competition, joining the recent surge toward oligopolies in the banking industry, pharmaceuticals and hospitals, wireless companies, and airlines. Contrary to any condescending claims that mergers contribute to price-lowering efficiencies, they have actually led to price increases in 75 percent of examined cases, according to a Northeastern University study. The resulting corporate profits are often used for investor-enriching stock buybacks.
And jobs are cut. When Merck took over Cubist Pharmaceuticals, the latter’s research and development staff was eliminated, ending their studies of other promising medicines.
2. Finance: Now costing us more than the military. A Roosevelt Institute study estimates that “the financial system will impose an excess cost of as much as $22.7 trillion between 1990 and 2023. That comes to about $660 billion per year, more than the discretionary military budget. That’s over $5,000 per U.S. household in excess financial costs.
Banks once spent the majority of their money on business investments; now it’s just 15 percent. Rana Foroohar summarizes: “U.S. companies today make more than ever before by simply moving money around.”
3. Medicine: Pampering the rich more than ever before. A new Health Affairs study concluded that since 2004, our medical dollars have been “increasingly concentrated on the wealthy.” The cost of treatment for life-threatening or debilitating diseases is out of reach for most Americans:
- Cancer: up to $183,000 per year
- Hepatitis C: up to $95,000 per year
- Multiple sclerosis: up to $74,000 per year
- Rheumatoid arthritis: up to $42,000 per year
The pharmaceutical industry gouges us twice: 1) Our tax dollars go to Medicare and Medicaid, which have to pay up to 600 times the manufacturing cost of drugs, as with the notorious hepatitis drug Sovaldi, which costs $10 in Egypt and $1,000 in the U.S.; and 2) most Medicare patients still face out-of-pocket costs of $7,000 or more a year.
4. Corporate Taxes: Little change with Clinton, disastrous tax cuts with Trump. Corporations constantly gripe about their taxes, even though the corporate tax rate has dropped precipitously in recent decades, and even though they are reaping almost all the benefits of one of the most prosperous times in history. Pfizer CEO Ian Read moaned that U.S. taxes had his company fighting “with one hand tied behind our back.” Pfizer paid almost zero taxes in the U.S. last year, despite $9 billion in profits.
The complaints aren’t new, but a brand new president will soon be catering to the complainers. Hillary Clinton proposes cosmetic changes to the business tax code, while Donald Trump would let corporate taxes plunge to 15 percent.
Corporations vs. America
Progressives have long been fighting injustices like the corporate takeaways in free trade deals, and the declining corporate tax rate, and the massive amounts of corporate subsidies. But the battles are getting fiercer and more numerous. Corporations keep finding new ways to race unfettered toward the takeover of our democracy, and they have staunch allies in Congress and the business media.