Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hoarding For Power

I was fascinated by this recent New York Times Magazine piece.  Not because of its brilliance, but more because of its lack thereof, and the reason behind that lack.  It goes out of its way to ignore the most obvious aspect about the current state of relations between business and politics.  One would think that the nature of that state would be obvious to even the most simple-minded observer.  But, as it turns out, for its own reasons, the Times pays well to writer who obscure important facts.

If you haven't taken the time to click on the link and read the article (and if you haven't, I don't mind), I'll boil its essence down for you quickly.  The author comments at some length (more than is needed) about the unprecedented hoarding of cash by American corporations.  He then goes on at even greater length about potential reasons for that hoarding, and systematically shoots all of them down.  Finally, he concludes that corporations, with their infinite wisdom (and limited liability if their wisdom is wrong) must surely know that some great big beautiful tomorrow is around the corner, and that the pace of change nowadays is so great that corporations must hoard in order to take full advantage of that tomorrow.

We are now more than a full generation away from Ronald Reagan's presidency, with all of its failures in plain view to see.  And yet, as this article demonstrates, Morning-in-America-style hogwash is still very much a going concern, even to the supposedly socialistic New York Times (and just ask any of the many people its laid off to pay for its shiny new headquarters how "socialistic" it really is).  Oh, if only we trusted corporations more.  Then, they'd have the chance to show all of us, once and for all, what they could really do.

As those of us who remember the 2008 meltdown that put Barack Obama in the White House would say, boy, would they ever.

And, as it turns out, even the Times can't be counted on to stay on message.  The day before the Magazine piece came out, the paper published this, completely and effectively eviscerating the thesis it subsequently laid out the next day.  No, as it turns out, there probably isn't going to be a great big beautiful tomorrow.  Just an endless nightmare of declining income, rising debt, and the latest craze for the latest Internet-related gadget.

So, let's return to the question posed by the Magazine writer:  Why?

I think the answer lies, to some extent, in an admission within the article that deserved more attention than the writer chose to give it.  To wit:  "If the companies spent their savings, rather than hoarding them, the economy would instantly grow, and we would most likely see more jobs with better pay." (Emphasis added.)

That is precisely what modern corporations do not want:  a rising cost of labor.  Today's captains of industry don't make their money by innovating, by working and struggling to find The Next Big Thing.  They making it by squeezing the bottom line, over and over again.  Just ask any worker who has lost his or her job to a new technology, or a cheaper country, or both.  It's easier this way. Easier, that is, for those who are squeezing, and not for those who are being squeezed.

And this squeezing has another advantage:  freeing up cash that can be used, in a post-Citizens United world, to buy out and hollow out the government.  Powerless workers, powerless government. If you want business to stay in power, it's an unbeatable combination.

Which only leaves this question:  why does a supposedly liberal news outlet like the Times go out of its way to obscure so obvious a point?  Is it because it's a corporation first, and a "news outlet" second?  Does that mean, moreover, that its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination actually validates the criticisms of her by Bernie Sanders' supporters?

I'm a Hillary supporter, but I have to wonder.  Which is why I hope that Sanders stays in the race, at least for a while.  But, for all of her corporatism, and that of the Times, I still believe the lesser of two evils is still less evil.  Which is why I pray that Bernie's supporters don't stay home in November.

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