Sunday, January 30, 2005

Power(?) of Big Business

I enjoyed watching parts of the History Channel's series on the Presidents last weekend, but wanted to comment on something a wingnut said. At the beginning of the segment on Teddy Roosevelt, one of historians said that Roosevelt's time was just like that of George W. Bush because a lot of people were concerned that big business had far too much power.

First, you would think the editors at the History Channel would have more sense than include stupid references to contemporary politics. They are only going to irritate half the audience and the references don't add anything to the narrative. It would have been very easy to simply discuss the power of the Trusts and the conditions which gave rise to the Sherman Act and Roosevelt's involvement in labor issues. No need to drag in someone's fevered left-wing blather about current politics to muck up a straight history lesson.

Second, what in the world was this guy talking about? If business has so much power, why are there towns and cities all over this country where Wal-Mart can't even get permission to open a store? If a corporation announces earnings which are less than Wall Street analysts expected, management can expect to be sued for securities fraud. Of course, if earnings come in higher than analysts projected, they will also get sued for securities fraud. If a thief hurts himself stealing from a business, the business can expect to be sued. This doesn't seem to represent a lot of power to me. And certainly not what the Trusts represented 100 years ago. Business managers are so afraid of the government today, they don't do anything anymore without consulting a lawyer first. They often make political contributions to both political parties in hopes that they won't be targeted by regulators or prosecutors for failing to pony up.

I tried to think of business owners or managers who had become known for their efforts to influence politics. The big names are all on the left -- George Soros, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner. Companies in trouble which sought political influence with Washington have always found Democrats far more willing to bend the rules and sell out for cash than Republicans (see Enron, Indian tribes, Commerce Dept. junkets, Global Crossing, et al).

In sum, this just one more example where left-wing rhetoric has become totally unhinged from reality.


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