Sunday, September 02, 2018

Barbarians In the Boardrooms

When policies fail over and over again, Jacob Bacharach writes, it's because their real intent is succeeding. And, for the past forty years, capitalism's real intent has been on a tear:

It’s not that “Capitalism isn’t working,” as Noah Smith recently argued in Bloomberg. It’s that it’s working all too well.
Real wage growth has been nonexistent in the United States for more than 30 years. But as America enters the 10th year of the recovery—and the longest bull market in modern history—there are nervous murmurs, even among capitalism’s most reliable defenders, that some of its most basic mechanisms might be broken. The gains of the recovery have accrued absurdly, extravagantly to a tiny sliver of the world’s superrich. A small portion of that has trickled down to the professional classes—the lawyers and money managers, art buyers and decorators, consultants and “starchitects”—who work for them. For the declining middle and the growing bottom: nothing.
This is not how the economists told us it was supposed to work. Productivity is at record highs; profits are good; the unemployment rate is nearing a meager 4 percent. There are widely reported labor shortages in key industries. Recent tax cuts infused even more cash into corporate coffers. Individually and collectively, these factors are supposed to exert upward pressure on wages. It should be a workers’ market.

But it isn't -- not by a long shot:

Wages remain flat, and companies have used their latest bounty for stock buybacks, a transparent form of market manipulation that was illegal until the Reagan-era SEC began to chip away at the edifice of New Deal market reforms. The power of labor continues to wane; the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, while ostensibly limited to public sector unions, signaled in certain terms the willingness of the court’s conservative majority—five guys who have never held a real job—to effectively overturn the entire National Labor Relations Act if given the opportunity. The justices, who imagine working at Wendy’s is like getting hired as an associate at Hogan & Hartson after a couple of federal clerkships, reason that every employee can simply negotiate for the best possible deal with every employer.

Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism by building in safeguards to keep it from going off the rails. Employment Insurance gave workers the ability to endure economic downturns. The National Labor Relations Board restored the balance between capital and labor. And, during major disruptions  -- like the Great Depression -- when large segments of the population were out of work, the Works Progress Administration put them back to work on public projects. Neo-liberalism has systematically removed Roosevelt's safeguards. And, capitalism, once again, has run amok.

Now, for people at the top, things are going gangbusters. Bacharach warns that those who fear that the barbarians are at the gate have been asleep. They are, he writes, in the boardrooms.

Image: Truthdig


The Mound of Sound said...

I came across a report in some mainstream US publication recently that argued that the tax fraud and other commercial crimes both Manafort and Cohen were nailed on were committed because it was logical to assume they would never be caught. Prosecutions for white collar crime have all but withered and died off in America (and likely in Canada as well).There seems little glory and hence appetite for punishing the wealthy for bending the rules to the breaking point. For Manafort and Cohen it was their Achilles Heel. Little people - they get prosecuted and nobody's career gets bruised for it. Steal a million quid from the Chancellor and you get a pass. Get caught filching a loaf of bread and it's the gallows for you.

Owen Gray said...

That's precisely how things work these days, Mound. It's the "Too Big To Fail" meme writ large. And it's everywhere.

The Mound of Sound said...

The links are endless. Study after study. Undeniable stats. No one cares. Not in the Oligarchic States of America.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for all the links, Mound. I note that, after giving the denizens of the boardrooms a big tax break, Trump cancelled a pay wage for federal workers, claiming that the country can't afford it.

the salamander said...

.. El Blotto, the 5 deferment bone spurs coward Trump is off golfing. Continuing his whiny assed complaint of how tough life is aboard his Air Force One golf shuttle and how fake news is only mean to him & him alone. Its ridiculous that a single American can tolerate the scumbag liar, crybaby & fraud. But like a rusted fork, he's pried the lid open on an entire rancid can of left in the sun fishbait parasites & sure enough there's some squirm left in the can. The fish won't eat such poison, but the GOP is just fine slurping from the can or the golden toilet.. after all, its their nature to operate best in a septic tank

We aint quitters.. but more and more, we intend to seek out winter domicile in Turks and Caicos or Anguilla.. and find a spring summer location outside of Toronto which is now becoming an overpriced traffic jam of road rage losers, rude people, overcrowded public transportation.. it will never be the city l remember.. not ever again. I'm left wondering how soon it will become like the USA across the lake. at least 35 to 40% voters without a real clue or any shred of civic concern, overseen by violent policing and shoddy, tainted political animals. I watch teens and older occupy 'priority seating' on buses or subways as elders & seniors stand.. and they park their packpacks beside them. I just sit on their backpacks now or put their packs on the floor and watch their shocked faces.. they must be 'the priority' I guess.& they are so busy on their cel phones & jacked into their earbuds., they often don't notice

I'm A-ok with being part of the lower class.. don't need a nanny or a Mercedes, I walk, I bike, I bus etc.. Hell, we have Mini Cooper. I know how to vote & can spot or smell a grifter a mile away. Its our elections that are more and more tainted & concerning, I don't care about Trump's whine n grine.. about how hard done by his lifetime of thievery and fraud are being treated by Mueller et al. Too big to jail ? Never too big to humiliate or strip naked for all to see.. hell, he accomplishes that daily all on his own..

Owen Gray said...

That's precisely the point, sal. All of the pain that Trump complains about is self inflicted. He's seventy-two years old. But he still hasn't figured out what's wrong.