Conservatives must reckon with the fact that multinational megacorporations, which are now found oppressing and marginalizing anyone to the right of Jonah Goldberg, were only allowed to get as large and powerful as they currently are because of Reaganomics.
This is a difficult pill to swallow because Reagan is the Messiah to the conservative right. In their telling, he saved and revitalized the economy which fell apart in the 1970s and particularly under Jimmy Carter. Reagan’s neoliberal, or “supply side,” economic policies began a 25-year economic boom that was largely uninterrupted until the collapse of 2008, bringing American prosperity and business to new, unparalleled heights.
Regan’s influence on the right’s economic philosophy is so absolute that even in the 2012 election–24 years after Reagan had left office and 8 years after his death–Republican Presidential candidates competed with each other to show they were the most like Reagan. They would take turns showering him with praise and promising to be just like Reagan. The whole primary campaign was like watching Tibetan Buddhists try to find the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama: who was the TRUE reincarnation of Ronald Reagan?!
A whole generation of Young Conservatives™ born in the years following Reagan’s presidency have grown up revering and worshipping Ronald Reagan, believing him to be completely beyond critique, and his policies having had no downsides.
But while it’s undeniable that Reagan’s policies were great for corporate profits and the stock market, and that a ton of wealth was created following the early 1980s, what’s rarely discussed (even by many of Reagan’s leftwing critics) is the fact that the neoliberal economic paradigm Reagan’s policies ushered in gave us the era of multinational megacorporations and all the troubles they have wrought today.
Reagan’s tax cuts, deregulation and general pro-business, pro-international free trade policies were the opening corporate America needed to take off to heights not seen since the age of the Robber Barrons at the turn of the century.
The difference today is that corporations are hugely influential over our personal lives. We live largely at their mercy, tech giants in particular.
Today, you need to have a social media presence, and yet if you’re a conservative banned from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, you essentially cannot.
Now the banks—Chase specifically—have started closing down accounts of dissidents.
We have reached a scary point in the history of our country, where major corporations are not only virtue signaling for the approval of the left via cynical “Faux Woke” ad campaigns and rainbow-flag social media avatars, but are actively working to oppress and victimize political dissidents.
It’s not just about pandering to a leftwing audience in search of higher profits; it’s about actively enforcing a political agenda, even if it means alienating and even directly oppressing millions, perhaps tens of millions, of Americans.
The largest American corporations now fully realize just how much leverage they can exert over our behavior, and have begun using that leverage to silence political dissent and punish the enemies of Politically Correct Uniparty Globalism.
They have become the primary enforcers for totalitarian leftism. It’s not about profits anymore; it’s about power.
If you’re banned from Twitter, Facebook/Instagram, YouTube, Chase Bank, Uber, PayPal, and Airbnb it is going to be difficult to live a normal life and have a successful career.
That’s seven companies that collectively have an enormous amount of control over your ability to live a normal life and have a successful career in 2019.
Do you really want to get on their bad side? Is supporting Donald Trump really worth all the suffering you’re going to endure? Think of how easy it would be to just give up and support the Uniparty. You’d get to keep your social media accounts, you’d get to keep your bank account, you don’t have to worry about being socially ostracized, you don’t have to worry about being fired for Thought Crime. Things would be much easier if you simply gave in and supported the Uniparty, American Consumer #221,543,906.
And that’s just how it is now: it’ll get worse in the future. Soon, hotels will start denying rooms to dissidents. Airlines will blacklist them. Dissidents won’t be able to travel. They won’t be able to bank and get loans.
It doesn’t make as much sense for Amazon to close the accounts of dissidents, given that Amazon would be stupid to ban people who directly give it money on a regular basis, but is it that far out of the realm of possibility? Absolutely not. In fact I’d bet on it happening in the next few years. As of now I’ve not heard of Amazon denying political dissidents the ability to shop on their site, but they have for a while now been banning books written by dissidents, notably those by Roosh Valizadeh—and at the behest of Huffington Post, of course.
Even scarier is the prospect of Facebook and Google, who know everything about everyone, starting to use their vast trove of data to blackmail people into conformity.
Corporations have always been powerful, but never have they exerted as much control over our personal lives as they do today. And it was Ronald Reagan’s economic policies and philosophy that allowed these companies to grow so big and powerful.
We can better understand the rise of multinational megacorporations since Reagan in the following five trends that have emerged:
First, there are now fewer publicly traded companies than there were in 1980, a time when America had a population of 225 million (100 million fewer people than today) and when the US GDP was only about $2.8 trillion.
Today, a shrinking number of megacorporations control more and more of a $20 trillion economy. At the peak in 1996, there were over 8000 public companies in the US. Today there are around 4,000, a decline of nearly 50%.
This is mainly due to mergers and acquisitions, closures due to foreign competition, and closures of domestic competition caused by unfair, anti-competition government regulations written in large part by the megacorporations.
Here’s the market cap of that shrinking number of companies:
The entire economy has essentially become a cartel. Larger pie, fewer slices.
Second, since the early 1980s, the number of banks in the country has fallen by nearly 75%. Increasingly, our only options are the major banks like Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi, US Bank and PNC.
More and more Americans use megabanks, and with fewer options for Americans, the banks are able to exert more control over our lives.
The name of the game is consolidation, both in banking and the economy overall. When did that begin? The 1980s.
Third, income inequality has taken off to the point where the top 1% of the country now holds more wealth than the bottom 90%:
Look where the divergence really begins: the early 1980s.
Median family income, which doubled from the end of WWII to 1970, has basically been flat for the past five decades:
Importantly, this is not a trend that began under Reagan, but the trend of income inequality largely did begin under Reagan:
Because while it’s technically accurate to say that real incomes for Americans haven’t really grown at all since the early 1970s, they have grown for the richest Americans.
The rich have left everyone in the dust; the actual gains that have been made since the early 1980s have gone to a small number of rich individuals and families at the top.
Fourth, global free trade has outsourced millions of jobs to cheap labor abroad. NAFTA may have been implemented in 1994 under Bill Clinton, but the negotiations began in 1988 under Reagan, continued under Reagan’s hand-picked successor George H.W. Bush and were completed under Clinton. NAFTA was Reagan’s idea originally, and in fact he made free trade a part of his campaign way back in 1979. NAFTA’s roots can undoubtedly be traced to Reagan.
This chart shows job outsourcing in the previous decade, the 2000s:
Multinational megacorporations added over 2 million jobs outside the US in the decade from 2000-2009 while cutting over 3 million jobs inside the US.
GE, for example, slightly increased its foreign workforce in the 2000s while reducing the size of its US workforce by 16%.
IBM is another major company that has been outsourcing like crazy:
“In 2007, IBM reported having 121,000 workers in the United States. By 2009, this number had shrunk to 105,000, due to layoffs and outsourcing. But IBM is rapidly expanding its global workforce. Through a similar period in 2007, the company had 386,558 employees globally, a number which has since grown to 426,751.
But we don’t know how many U.S. employees it now has; IBM stopped publishing domestic statistics in late 2009, saying that it was no longer necessary because none of its competitors did.”
That’s because they’re all outsourcing like mad and don’t want anyone to know the true extent!
It is estimated that since China was allowed into the World Trade Organization in 2001 (one of the worst things to ever happen to American workers) over 3 million American jobs have been displaced:
Obviously Reagan was long gone by 2001, but China’s addition to the WTO was a lengthy process that began way back in 1986 and only culminated in 2001. Our trade imbalance with China and all the ills that accompany it began in the early 1990s:
You can see the divergence truly began in 1991 and is now completely out of control.
This has its origins in the neoliberal global capitalism/”free trade” philosophy that began under Reagan.
Fifth and finally, the rise of multinational megacorporations has coincided with the explosion of foreign immigration–both legal and illegal–into the US.
While the demographic transformation of America currently underway can be traced back to Ted Kennedy’s disastrous 1965 immigration overhaul, it was the big corporations that quickly realized they could exploit the left’s push for “diversity” and “multiculturalism” to obtain cheap foreign labor.
There is a massive amount of corporate support behind mass foreign immigration because big companies have realized that if they can’t ship your job overseas, they can bring someone from overseas here to do your job for cheaper.
The reason it has proven so difficult for Trump to stem the tide of foreign immigration is because there are a lot of powerful, wealthy businesses pushing back against him. They largely have Congress in their pockets.
Not only do mega corporations increasingly control our lives, they have also played a major role in destroying the fabric of this country via open borders immigration. Whether it’s cheap low-skilled labor from illegals or cheap high-skilled labor from the H1B visas, wage-killed immigration is in the best interest of the many big businesses that dominate this country.
So it’s no wonder our country is being flooded with third worlders: it is what’s best for the Big Corporations’ bottom lines.
All this goes back to Reagan and his ideology of neoliberal capitalism. It is virtually impossible to say otherwise.
If we are ever going to have any hope of salvaging our country, we must be honest about where the problems began.
Most importantly, the right must move on from the ideology of “free market capitalism.”
There may have been a time when “free market capitalism” truly meant “free market capitalism,” but it has now come to represent an oligarchy of multinational megacorporations.
This does not mean we have to embrace socialism. Not at all. It’s a false choice to suggest that we either have an oligarchy of multinational megacorporations or we have Full Blown Soviet-Style Communism, complete with gulags and Five Year Plans.
We must return to real capitalism. What we have now is basically an unholy alliance of big business and big government. This is not capitalism at all.
It’s not right to say that business is a good thing in and of itself. Small businesses are good, and even larger businesses can be good, but megacorporations are bad—especially when they work hand in hand with the government. Megacorporations spend millions of dollars each year lobbying Washington to write favorable regulations, which usually have the effect of warding off competition and entrenching the megacorporations even further.
“Pro-business” today usually ends up meaning “pro Big Business,” and that’s a bad thing. What we really need is pro-competition policies.
And yes, we do need to reject the ideology of “free” trade because it’s killing us. Cheap Chinese shit has not been a worthwhile tradeoff given how many millions of jobs we’ve lost to outsourcing, and how much capital has been invested overseas instead of here in America.
“Free market economics” generally has a very positive connotation on the right, and conservatives will point to luminaries like Milton Friedman and Adam Smith to justify their views. I know because I used to be a devout, Reagan-worshipping “free market conservative,” believing that the free market was always and everywhere right and any form of government intervention was wrong.
Free market conservatives believe businesses almost always do the right thing, and that if simply left to their own devices, they will create a sort of perfectly efficient utopia in which all demands are met with supply, every problem is solved by an innovative entrepreneur or business, and no one is ever oppressed because only the government can oppress you. This last part about the government being the only institution with the power to oppress you is probably the single greatest blind spot of Reagan-worshipping free market capitalists.
And it’s pretty easy to see that when left to their own devices, businesses operating in a free market will not do what’s best for everyone. For instance, a long-held critique of Reaganomics from the left is that unregulated businesses don’t give a shit about the environment and will pollute and dump to their hearts’ content if the government doesn’t forbid them from doing so.
Free market conservatives, however, instead of simply admitting they don’t give a shit about the environment, often make the ridiculous argument that ackshually, businesses will naturally take better care of the environment because The Free Market is Jesus.
No. They will only care about the environment if it is profitable for them to do so.
Another example is labor costs: free marketers think businesses will care about wages if you simply removed government regulations.
No, they don’t care about wages: they care about profits. And everyone knows the single largest expenditure for businesses is labor. They are always and everywhere looking to cut costs and maximize profits, and when they can cut labor costs, they will.
This is why we have layoffs and outsourcing: if you can’t eliminate the job, find someone who will do it for cheaper.
If these big companies could, they would automate almost every job. Robots and AI are the ultimate cheap labor. But for now big companies have to settle for foreigners.
Before global free trade came around, companies were generally restricted to finding Americans who would do the jobs for cheaper. But now they’re not limited to just Americans: they can find Taiwanese kids in sweatshops who will do the job for way cheaper. Or they can move their plants to Mexico.
The ultimate example of post-Reagan neoliberal capitalism is Apple: Apple is the largest publicly traded company on earth with a market cap of $821 billion. Last year, before its more recent fall in share price, Apple became the first company to sport a trillion-dollar market cap. Yet Apple only directly employs about 50,000 workers here in the US. Foxconn, however–the Taiwanese company that makes Apple’s iPhones and iPads–employs over 800,000 people. And the reason Apple uses Foxconn is because they manufacture for dirt cheap.
(Walmart, in contrast to Apple, employs over 2 million people in the US. McDonald’s employs about 2 million Americans.)
So we’ve got a multinational megacorporation that is worth over $800 billion yet only employs about 50,000 people in the US. Apple is turning just stupid profits and the actual economic benefit to Americans in terms of jobs created is relatively tiny.
This is all because of the ideology of free market economics: just let businesses do whatever they want and trust that they act in America’s best interests.
It’s a faith-based ideology at heart. The Almighty Free Market will be our salvation.
But the past several years should show us all–especially conservatives–that big business is not our friend. The free market does not always get the best result for everyone.
Left to their own devices, companies will consolidate market share and power by gobbling up smaller competitors. They will cut labor costs by moving operations overseas, and they will use their might to lobby and influence Washington for favorable regulations and policies, which suppress, rather than encourage, competition.
We seem to have forgotten this sometime after the end of the first Roosevelt administration, but the primary tendency of unconstrained businesses is towards domination and monopoly. They don’t want competition, they want supremacy.
If the great Trust Buster himself Theodore Roosevelt came back to life and saw that the prevailing economic mindset among America’s modern day political class–especially among his Republican successors–was to simply sit back and allow companies to do whatever they want, under the presumption that businesses only ever act in our best interests and will never harm us, he would be furious. He would wonder if his time in the White House had been forgotten by history.
This all goes back to Reagan. His economic policies were anchored in the desire to fully unleash and unchain American businesses.
We did, and his philosophy took root among our political establishment. Neoliberal capitalism has been the dominant consensus of economic thinking in Washington for the past three decades. All of Reagans successors until Trump were disciples–yes, that includes Bill Clinton, and yes, that even includes Barack Obama, who made a lot of talk about the middle class and taxing the wealthy but ultimately presided over an economic recovery in which virtually all the gains went to the wealthy. From 2009-2017, big corporations saw their values and profits explode while regular Americans were largely forgotten.
It all goes back to Reagan.
I’m not saying we haven’t benefitted from neoliberal capitalism. We clearly have. Our economy is incredibly efficient, and costs on virtually all essential consumer goods have come down significantly over the past 35 years. Today the poorest Americans are much better off than the poorest Americans of prior generations. Today poor people have appliances, cellphones and even luxuries poor people of previous generations could have never dreamed of. Poor Americans today aren’t starving, instead they are actually more likely to be obese. We live in a land of plenty, and that is largely due to neoliberal capitalism that began under Reagan.
But it has all come at a great cost.
The bottom line is that increasingly, regular Americans—conservatives in particular—are out of options and at the mercy of the megacorporations, which they increasingly need to live normal lives. Nobody is self-sufficient anymore. We need big corporations for virtually everything.
The multinational megacorporations, after decades of plundering our economy, hoarding all the gains, importing millions of immigrants for cheap labor, and shipping millions more jobs overseas, are now actively oppressing those who dare speak out against them.
The megacorporations are out of control. This much we can agree on.
But when the question turns to, “How did we get here?” the uncomfortable truth for free market conservatives is that this all started under Ronald Reagan.
The rise of multinational corporations is a large part of the reason things have gotten so bad today—whether it be immigration, corporate censorship, the hollowing out of the economy, the greater concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1%, the rise of the banking cartel—and the modern multinational corporation is a product of free market (or supply side) economics, i.e. Reaganomics, neoliberalism.
We need small businesses. We need thriving families that are not buried in debt. We need strong communities characterized by high-trust, assimilation and shared values and institutions.
Multinational megacorporations have eroded much of that.
We must disabuse Mainstream Conservatives of their belief that the free market is always and everywhere wonderful, and that big business always has our best interests in mind.
This begins by deconstructing the Reagan Mythology.
We will never make any progress on breaking up the modern day trusts until we convince the Free Market Conservatives that businesses can be bad and that the Free Market does not always deliver what’s best for everyone.
Reagan himself would be horrified by what the Big Corporations are doing to conservatives today. Reagan may have been a neoliberal capitalist, but first and foremost he was for individual liberty and the constitution. That’s why he hated communism and the Soviet Union so much.
Reagan would recognize that today’s multinational megacorporations are the very tyrants we feared the government would become.
It’s time to leave Reaganomics in the past and get to Trust Busting before it’s too late.