The Corporations and the State: In a Relationship, and It's Complicated

Article by Anthony Gregory.
The idea that corporate interests, banking elites, and politicians conspire to set US policy is at once obvious and beyond the pale. Everyone knows that the military-industrial complex is fat and corrupt, that presidents bestow money and privilege on their donors and favored businesses, that a revolving door connects Wall Street and the White House, and that economic motivations lurk behind America’s wars. But to make too fine a point of this is typically dismissed as unserious conspiracy theorizing, unworthy of mainstream consideration.

We have seen this paradox at work in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse. The left-liberals blame Wall Street and Big Finance for betraying the masses out of predatory greed and for being rewarded for their irresponsibility by Washington’s bailouts. At the same time, the Left appears reluctant to oppose these bailouts outright, seeing the spending as a necessary evil to return the global economy to stability, however inequitably. What’s more, left-liberals fail to call out President Obama and Democratic leaders for their undeniable hand in all this. They blame Goldman Sachs but see their president, who got more campaign money from the firm than from almost any other source, as a helpless victim of circumstance, rather than an energetic conspirator in corporate malfeasance on top of being the enthusiastic heir and expansionist of George W. Bush’s aggressive foreign policy.

The tea-party Right is also hesitant to examine the corporate state too closely. These conservatives detect an elitism in Obama’s governance but are loath to earnestly challenge the economic status quo, for it would lead to uncomfortable questions about the warfare state, defense contractors, US wars, the whole history of the Republican Party, and all the typical right-wing assumptions about the inherent fairness of America’s supposedly “free-enterprise” system. By refusing to admit that economic fundamentals were unsound through the entirety of the Bush years – by failing to acknowledge the imperial reality of US wars and their debilitating effect on the average household budget – the Right is forgoing its chance to delve beyond the surface in its criticism of Obama’s reign.

Many on the Right call Obama a “socialist” as many on the Left accused Bush of being a “fascist,” neither group seeing the stark similarities in almost all of their policies. Meanwhile, the more mainstream forces on both left and right refuse to countenance such “extremist” rhetoric and insist that both political parties, for all their differences, have the best of America’s interests at heart. In the Left’s unflinching loyalty to social democracy and economic intervention and the Right’s invincible love for the military and support for corporate America we see why we are allowed to decry corruption and special interests, but not dig too much deeper than that, lest we be relegated to the periphery of respectable discussion.

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