An authoritarian regime has taken control of our government. And I am not talking about the Trump administration. As dangerous as Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are, he is small potatoes compared with the persistent, insidious and widely embraced infiltration of government by corporate America.
Most Americans would be shocked to finally understand that capitalism, at least as we practice it in the United States, is as incompatible with democracy and liberty as is the enforced cooperation of communism. But anyone who has worked in a typical American business — anything from a small sole proprietorship to a mammoth multinational corporation — has seen authoritarianism up close and personal.
Depending on the organizational structure, capitalist businesses may resemble monarchies, oligarchies, plutocracies, dictatorships, aristocracies, fiefdoms or theocracies, but almost never can they be described as democratic republics, in which power resides in the employees. In essence, we have embraced an economic system that is almost totally at odds with our political ideals. Put another way, free enterprise may exist between businesses, but it rarely exists within them. This is a result of the system of capital ownership we have adopted.
The problem with this form of capitalism, as William Greider put it in his classic “One World, Ready or Not,” “is not that capital is privately owned, as Marx supposed. The problem is that most people don’t own any.” Eighty percent of corporate stock is owned by the richest 10 percent of the people. And that disparity is increasing.
Why is this significant? Because the economic authoritarians — the owners and controllers of capital (including human capital) — have an inordinate degree of power in our country, which has the ultimate effect of turning our government into a black market in which both policy and politicians can be purchased.
One of the basic functions of government is to regulate business so that it is neither dangerous nor burdensome to the average citizen. But the tail is wagging the dog in America.
While both major political parties are deferential to the “needs” of large corporations, the Republican Party is in the midst of an all-out assault on the very foundation of our republic. We saw the first major offensive in their narrowly failed “repeal and replace” effort, in which they attempted to fund tax cuts for the wealthy by taking health care from over 20 million Americans. The second offensive is playing out now with their so-called tax “reform,” which will end up penalizing the poor and middle classes while fabulously enriching the already rich and adding an estimated $1.4 trillion to the national debt.
I was curious about how the GOP’s purported “tax cut for the middle class” would affect me, so I applied their new parameters to my 2016 taxes. I am definitely middle class, and my taxes are rather uncomplicated, since I don’t have enough wealth or sophisticated investments to take advantage of significant tax credits. So, because the difference between the new higher standard deduction and my itemized deductions is far less than the four personal exemptions the GOP took away, my taxable income increased under the new GOP plan by $9,500. The new tax rate is lower, but not low enough to offset the healthy increase in my taxable income. So, under the GOP’s new program, I would have paid $148 more in 2016.
Don’t be fooled by the faux populism of the GOP. This is not a “middle-class tax cut.” People like Trump stand to pay millions less per year, for several reasons, including a repeal of the alternative minimum tax and lower rates on pass-through income. But more than anything, this is a tax gift to our authoritarian corporations and their equally authoritarian owners and executives. They bought the politicians, and now they are getting what they paid for. And don’t be fooled by Trump either. He may have campaigned as a populist, but his policies so far have proved that he is really just another pawn of the corporate elite. (Actually, he’s one of them.)
Consider that in addition to Trump’s support of these two major offensives, he is engaging in numerous minor skirmishes that will harm the very people who voted for him. His administration, for example, has been rolling back pollution regulations and protections for consumers. Who is asking for these harmful measures? Not you or I. The authoritarians are firmly in control and, as usual, the rest of us will pay.
Editor's note: In the printed version of this article, the author calculated he would have paid $529 more in taxes under the Senate version of the GOP tax plan. As a result of the finalized tax brackets, however, that figure is now $148.
Roger Terry is a writer and editor who resides in Orem, Utah.