Exporting the American Dream

July 2004


A discussion of the direction of benefit of trans-national corporations operating within the United States. Formerly nationalistic, these new, international concentrations of power often act to influence our government to serve their interests at the expense of the people of the United States.

As Calvin Coolidge said in 1925, "After all, the chief business of the American people is business." America was and is a business-run society. The vast majority of our leaders come from business backgrounds, with a business education. Business funds the political process through both legitimate, legal channels and illegitimate and illegal means.

In the past, this system served the people of America reasonably well. We achieved prosperity and security for most people in this country because the American business community engineered our economy to benefit Americans. True, the business leaders got most of the financial benefit, but the people who did all the hard work did fairly well, too. It was the era of the high-tariff republicans, who realized that we needed a strong domestic economy. Foreign goods and services were made artificially expensive precisely because domestic business could never compete on a level playing field with many international sources.

Today, American business is dominated by the trans-national corporation. These huge corporations operate in many countries and have no allegiance to the US or the American people. Their purpose is to generate profits for their stockholders, often at the expense of the interests of the American people. Walmart has become the world's largest retailer by exporting American capital and jobs to third-world countries. General Motors has steadily reduced their capital investment in the US, while expanding their foreign operations. This increases their profitability, provided that there are no artificial barriers preventing them from mating lowest-bidder manufacturing with American markets.

It should be no surprise that the business community, which formerly supported high tariffs, has now turned completely about and embraces "free trade" as their new religion. Free trade goes both ways. It allows you to buy a dress shirt for $14, and it moves the textile worker in Tennessee to a minimum wage job at Burger King. And, as IT workers have discovered, no job is immune from the competitive advantage of foreign markets.

The capitalists are moving capital investment out of this country. Henry Ford understood that paying American workers more enabled them to buy more cars. Business leaders today understand that it doesn't matter if fewer and fewer Americans can buy their goods because they can sell their goods in foreign markets. They play different world markets against one another to drive down wages, eliminate labor and environmental regulations, and maximize their profits. We're only one of those markets.

The current administration is seeking to eliminate overtime pay. They have already eroded the regulation and inspection of worker safety, and environmental compliance. We have more and more homeless people in our midst. You can't drive through any major city in this country without seeing beggars on the streets. And the worst of it is that we're participating in the destruction of our own standard of living: we buy all those foreign cars, we helped Walmart and other corporate retailers put thousands of local businesses out of business, and we may re-elect an administration to national leadership whose objective is to export our community wealth and security, to raise corporate profits.

After President Coolidge made the remark about business, he added, "Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence." Our current leadership and their corporate sponsors have forgotten this elementary moral lesson.

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