Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics" -- Anthony DiMaggio


EXCERPT (emphasis mine):

Contrary to [Sen. Charles] Schumer’s divestment narrative, it’s important to identify how the entire political sy (emphasis stem has been captured by wealthy interests. It may be the case that corporate lobbyists fail most of the time in securing benefits from Congress. But when changes to the law do occur, wealthy Americans and business lobbies are much more likely to get what they want than the average American or citizen’s groups. Why is this so?  Political scientist Nicholas Carnes provides a simple explanation in White Collar Government: The Hidden Role of Class in Economic Policymaking. Carnes empirically documents how more affluent political officials are consistently more likely to support pro-business, conservative economic policies, as compared to (the few) working-class Americans who have historically served in Congress. The point here is simple: beyond the concern with campaign donations, government itself is captured by plutocratic actors who now run Congress directly. Government is not “controlled” by corporate America. Government is corporate America. Most members of Congress are millionaires, and their numbers have grown significantly in recent decades.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the median net worth of U.S. lawmakers reached $1 million in 2013, 18 times that of the average household.
The Schumer position on corruption in politics misses a key point. Most officials are socialized to embrace elitist, upper-class values, because they are part of the upper class. The famous sociologist G. William Domhoff spent years documenting how being socialized through elitist social, economic, and interpersonal networks allows for the perpetuation of the American upper class. Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci was right to focus on how the hegemonic power of socialization drives the indoctrination process. Socialization in favor of elite interests is absolutely vital to perpetuating plutocracy.
The Marxian position that economics determines consciousness, while seemingly crude, does explain how elite values perpetuate themselves. When coupled with elitist forms of socialization, one’s economic class (in this case being affluent) works to reinforce elitist ideologies that seek to enhance corporate power over politics. This hegemonic process isn’t recognized, however, in simplistic discussions of campaign donations “buying” officials, or for that matter by those naively claiming that divesting one’s financial assets guarantees they will act as honest brokers of policy change.
In a rare admission of how deep the rabbit hole really goes, the New York Times reports the insight of Sierra Club director Lena Moffitt, who speaks derisively of the notion that divestment will cure the Trump administration of their elitist policies. Taking aim at Rex Tillerson, Trump’s State Department nominee, Moffitt explained: “It is impossible for this man to remove his career, and frankly his personality, from the oil and gas industry. He has been knee deep in this industry for more than four decades.” Such is the way of things when political institutions are captured by business elites.
Correcting the perversions endemic in American politics requires more than disclosure and divestment from Trump and his nominees. Even “getting money out of politics” is unlikely to cure the problem of business dominance of government. Rather, Americans must take the initiative and purge the political system of the bi-partisan, wealthy officialdom who currently dominate Congress, the courts, and the White House. This project will require tremendous effort and a decades-long fight to roll back capture of government.
John Dewey was right say that “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business.” To fight the plutocracy requires a cultural, economic, and political revolution in the way people think about politics. Government must be transformed from an upper-class outfit into one dominated by the working class. The only way to do this is to remove the rot, from root to branch.

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