silicon valley

Slack CEO endorses UBI on Twitter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/08/2017 - 7:13pm in

Successful entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of online photo-sharing application Flickr and creator of the popular business communications system Slack, has spoken out on Twitter in favour of universal basic income. On 4 August 2017, Butterfield stated that “giving people even a very small safety net would unlock a huge amount of entrepreneurialism”. He was responding to Austen Allred, the founder

The post Slack CEO endorses UBI on Twitter appeared first on BIEN.

Living the American Dream in a Trailer Park

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/07/2017 - 5:40am in

All too often, they’re the butt of jokes and stereotypes — mobile home parks and the “trailer trash” who live in them.

But the 50,000 parks that are spread across the United States deserve a lot more respect than that. Home to some 20 million people — 6 percent of Americans — they are the nation’s largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing, offering a shot at the American dream to people who can’t afford a traditional home. And at a time when only 1 in 4 Americans who qualify for government housing assistance actually receives aid, these parks take a huge load off a severely strained system.

Homeless in High Tech’s Shadow

April 5, 2013

Historically, trailer parks have been mom-and-pop operations that have turned a tidy profit through lot rentals paid by every tenant each month. People who live in mobile home parks generally own their homes, but not the land they live on, and pay monthly lot rental fees to a park owner — fees that vary widely depending on location, but can be around $700 to $800 in urban areas. Affordable housing activists have helped some residents — like the residents of Birch and Baker in Boscawen, New Hampshire — featured in the video above — buy their parks and own them as co-ops, to free them from ever-rising rents.

But far more common in the past few years has been the phenomenon of investors, such as billionaires Sam Zell and Warren Buffett, catching on to the fact that there’s a lot of money to be made in trailer parks — returns of 20 percent or more. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns Clayton Homes, which manufactures nearly half of all mobile homes a year in America. And Zell’s Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), the largest mobile home park owner in America, has a “controlling interest in nearly 140,000” park lots. The Guardian reports that in 2014 alone, ELS made $777 million in revenue, helping boost Zell’s near-$5 billion fortune.”

In general, residents are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to rent increases: Mobile homes aren’t so mobile anymore (they cost thousands of dollars to move, which can be prohibitive for people on fixed or limited incomes), and in many states there are few protections for residents, which mean that park owners can raise rents at their own discretion and are also able to evict residents in as little as 60 days.

Mom-and-pop parks — which for years were the hallmark of the industry — tended to make modest yearly increases in lot rentals (if at all). But the standard among investors is to raise rents immediately after buying a park, and to justify large increases by comparing rates to local apartment rentals. In Silicon Valley, which faces one of the worst affordable housing crunches in the country, lot rentals have been jumping — and now range from $1,600 to $2,000 a month for new residents in some parks.

These days, mobile home parks aren’t such a joke anymore — they’ve become serious business.

This video was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a journalism nonprofit devoted to covering inequality in America, and its Puffin Story Innovation Fund.

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Can This Berniecrat Congressman Win Silicon Valley Over to His Progressive Agenda?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/07/2017 - 4:00am in

This post originally appeared at Mother Jones.

On an unseasonably warm day in June, Silicon Valley’s newest member of Congress held a town hall meeting in the gym of Milpitas High School — home of the Trojans. It was an apt venue for US Rep. Ro Khanna, a Berniecrat of recent vintage who’d pulled his own daring Trojan horse maneuver: He’d established a reputation in his district as a business-friendly centrist, ousted liberal incumbent Rep. Mike Honda in the state’s top-two election system in November with the backing of wealthy techies, and then quickly repositioned himself to Honda’s left. “If Donald Trump thinks we can explore a $3 trillion tax cut for the investor class, we can certainly afford a trillion-dollar raise for the working class,” Khanna proclaimed, drawing hearty applause from a crowd of 150, including a former Honda voter and a Republican wearing a “Ro Khanna” polo.

In many other districts, talk of a $1 trillion, government-funded wage subsidy would be written off as ludicrously socialist. But in Milpitas it now strikes many people as reasonable — a fact that says a lot about both the rapid political evolution of Khanna and of Silicon Valley itself.

In many other districts, talk of a $1 trillion, government-funded wage subsidy would be written off as ludicrously socialist. But in Milpitas it now strikes many people as reasonable — a fact that says a lot about both the rapid political evolution of [Rep. Ro] Khanna and of Silicon Valley itself.

To call Khanna an unlikely progressive hero would be an understatement. A former economics lecturer at Stanford, corporate lawyer and Department of Commerce appointee, he readily concedes that his background has engendered “a suspicion about me” on the left. In his first bid to unseat Honda, a fellow Democrat, in 2014, he openly courted votes from Republicans and independents with a focus on “job creation” and a mailer highlighting “Mike Honda’s old-school liberal orthodoxy: Big taxes. Big spending.” Khanna did not support taxing most capital gains as regular income — a position that no doubt endeared him to Valley executives, who are often paid in stock options.

Khanna was one of only two Democrats supported that year by Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Republican megadonor Peter Thiel, who wrote him a $2,600 check. He also pulled in large donations from other Republican-friendly tech billionaires such as angel investor Ron Conway and former Facebook President Sean Parker — not to mention employees of the computing goliaths Alphabet and Microsoft. “To a certain extent, I think we are starting to come to a realization of our own power,” Parker said in introducing Khanna at a 2013 fundraiser.

But things didn’t quite work out that way: Khanna narrowly lost. So like any Silicon Valley startup that doesn’t immediately catch on, Khanna pivoted.

“On the campaign trail, I heard a lot of stories about income inequality and stagnant wages,” Khanna told me in an email a few days after the 2014 election. Since then, he has been collecting stories from people he’s met while campaigning. He mentioned an African-American family whose daughter had taken off a year from the University of California to work; she couldn’t afford the tuition. “I learned more about poverty in my own district,” he said, “and I learned about the hardships of individuals who were nurses or teachers or firefighters, telling me their stories about how they lived in Silicon Valley and really couldn’t make ends meet, couldn’t afford a house, couldn’t afford the rent, had to move out, couldn’t afford college.”

We need an economic policy that is gonna favor the working class, the middle class, and not the investor class.

— Rep. Ro Khanna

After his 2014 loss, Khanna also read up on progressive economic theory. He met with the lefty economic thinkers Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Stephanie Kelton — who argue that the best way to stimulate the economy is from the bottom up, because poor and working-class people actually spend their money rather than hoarding it. The meetings led Khanna to conclude that America needs “a restructuring of the economy,” he told me. “We need an economic policy that is gonna favor the working class, the middle class, and not the investor class.”

In his 2016 rematch against Honda, Khanna dialed back the talk of appealing to Republicans, stressed his support for taxing short-term capital gains as regular income, and even quietly endorsed the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. Khanna’s deep-pocketed Silicon Valley supporters didn’t notice or care about his leftward shift; Thiel, Conway and Parker kept supporting him and were even joined by Republican-leaning venture capitalist Marc Andreesen. Khanna won the district in November with a commanding 61 percent of the vote.

And that’s when things got interesting. Because rather than tacking back to the center once in Washington, as his progressive critics had expected, Khanna has continued moving left. In March he proposed his $1 trillion wage subsidy for the working class: People who earn between $25,000 and $75,000 a year would effectively receive up to a 40-percent raise in the form of annual earned income tax credit (EITC) of $3,000 to $12,000. Early this month, he introduced legislation that would tax wealthy corporations if they do not pay their employees a living wage. And he recently became the first member of Congress to endorse Cenk Uygur’s Justice Democrats, a tea-party-style group dedicated to running progressives against centrist incumbents in Democratic primaries (Khanna told me he is supporting the group to encourage “competitive elections” and has not committed to endorse its candidates.)

To a certain extent, Khanna’s leftward shift makes sense politically; labor unions have been his most powerful adversaries and remain his biggest potential threat in any primary challenge. Yet it’s hard to see his evolution as simply a cold political calculation. His district, which includes parts of Fremont, San Jose, and Cupertino, voted for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders by a 56 to 43 percent margin — a fact that some of Khanna’s constituents remain eager to point out.

Bernie Sanders “had his ass handed to him by Hillary Clinton — he lost — so why is he leading the Democratic Party?” Neema Kharva, the owner of a food packaging business from Santa Clara, asked Khanna at the Milpitas town hall meeting.

“He’s leading a strong part of it,” Khanna replied.

“No, he created factions,” Kharva snapped, “and his message is not very cohesive…We have so many things to beat up the Republicans on, and we need to become a lean, mean machine like the GOP is.”

“I agree with that,” Khanna said.

Khanna still feels uneasy about the idea of being a progressive torchbearer — he prefers to think of himself as a bridge between the Democratic Party’s Hillary and Bernie camps. “Obviously, everybody is a reflection of their district,” he told me, “but I think the combination of Bernie Sanders’ moral clarity with Silicon Valley’s interest in and understanding of job creation can be a compelling platform for the Democratic Party.”

The Valley’s reaction to the $1 trillion EITC surprised Khanna for how positive it was — but maybe it shouldn’t have. In fact, an even more radical idea has been batted around in the Valley for several years now: a universal basic income. Since 2014, the tech press has written dozens of stories on the concept. The San Francisco tech incubator Y Combinator began rolling out a UBI pilot project in Oakland early last year and is now giving 100 local families around $1,500 a month, no strings attached. In December, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and others launched the Economic Security Project, a $10 million fund aimed at researching and promoting UBI. The group has been endorsed by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, whose Khosla Ventures has invested heavily in artificial intelligence startups. Silicon Valley sees a need to counteract the negative effects of AI and automation on a blue-collar workforce, says Economic Security Project co-chair Natalie Foster. But “Ro Khanna talking about it is really a first for Congress.”

The Valley’s support of these sorts of redistributive policies could in some ways be seen as self-serving. Khanna is not proposing to pay for wage subsidies with a tax on automated cash registers or self-driving cars; instead, he wants to levy a “financial transaction tax” that would mostly affect high-frequency trading on Wall Street. Yet his approach and others like it have also attracted endorsements from labor leaders such as former Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern and progressive thinkers such as Reich. “We did talk, and I suggested an expansion of the earned income tax credit on a bunch of grounds,” Reich told me. “It’s good economics, it helps people, it is the largest anti-poverty program in the federal government already, and it could reach far more people.”

On other issues near and dear to the Valley, Khanna is far from a lapdog for big tech. He has called for an anti-trust investigation into Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, has advocated somewhat tighter controls on H-1B visas, and has spoken out against the practice of Uber and other gig economy apps classifying workers as independent contractors. “I am a technology optimist,” he says, arguing that in the long run tech will “create more jobs and create more opportunities.” But, he adds, “We have to have a plan for how are we going to deal with that transition, so people feel like technology is empowering their lives and not a negative.”

Still, Khanna clearly hasn’t sold everyone on his $1 trillion EITC idea — even within his own district. After he wrapped up his town hall meeting in Milpitas, I asked several attendees for their thoughts on the idea but found myself having to explain it to them. “Can you give me a nutshell what that is about?” asked Ashit Ghevaria, a product manager at a tech company who’d come to the town hall to complain about smells from the local landfill. After I filled him in, he agreed that low-income people “are working hard — they are not begging. Those are honest, sincere people. So considering our cost of living, something must be done.” But he wasn’t ready to sign on to Khanna’s plan just yet. “It’s the whole balance sheet,” he said. “If you are giving to something, you need to take out money from somewhere.”

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Summon Your Tech Kids to the White House Day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/06/2017 - 10:46pm in

Who benefits when tech CEOs meekly take their seats before Trump and indulge his inarticulate blather?

Corporate America and Donald Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 29/04/2017 - 4:00am in

This post originally appeared at The American Prospect.

Are big corporations among the firewalls protecting the republic from Donald Trump? It would be comforting to think so.

Silicon Valley has risen up against Trump’s anti-Muslim attacks. More than 100 of the most prominent tech giants, from Microsoft to Tesla, signed an amicus brief challenging Trump’s immigration orders. Starbucks made a point of announcing that the company would hire 10,000 refugees.

The Super Bowl ads were a veritable festival of anti-Trump sentiment, some subtle, others surprisingly direct. Budweiser celebrated the dreams of its immigrant founder. An Airbnb ad declared, “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong.”

While America’s biggest companies, especially those with reputational concerns, are singing kumbaya with a multicultural rainbow, these same companies are happily taking the tax cuts, the deregulation and the anti-labor laws.

84 Lumber’s astonishing commercial followed a young Mexican girl and her mother trying to make it to America, on foot, in a boxcar and on a flatbed truck, finally finding a door through a wall. Fox refused to air the full, six-minute version, but did run a cut-down one-minute spot whose message was unmistakable.

Google’s ad depicted a rainbow of families of different ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations, ending with a party and a “Welcome Home” cake. Take that, Steve Bannon.

Several of America’s largest corporations, including Apple and Google, have defended transgender people. In a statement, Apple publicly attacked Trump’s repeal of guidelines on transgender bathroom use in schools: “We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals.”

Target endorsed the proposed federal Equality Act, which adds protections to LGBT people. Corporate America continued voting with its feet against states that display bigotry. North Carolina, epicenter of both anti-transgender policy and suppression of voting rights, keeps losing convention business, sports events and concerts.

Some 41 large companies have poked Trump in the eye by donating directly to Planned Parenthood, including not-especially-progressive outfits like American Express, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Nike, Ford and Verizon. And Nordstrom, Macy’s and several others have stopped carrying Trump family brands.

Professional sports teams with large numbers of black athletes took pains to distance themselves from Trump. Several players from the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a team with long-standing ties to Trump, boycotted the team’s White House visit.

A handful of franchise owners and officials have expressed their personal displeasure at Trump. John Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles said that Trump was not welcome to throw out the first ball unless he apologized for all the offensive things he’s said.

What gives? Is corporate America giving the commander in chief a big middle-finger salute?

Before we embrace our improbable saviors too ardently, consider several caveats. Where are the corporations on the economic issues? Where they usually are, of course. They now have a plutocrat champion in the White House who makes William McKinley look like a socialist.

Where are the corporations on the economic issues? Where they usually are, of course. They now have a plutocrat champion in the White House who makes William McKinley look like a socialist.

If you unpack the issues where big corporations are crossing Trump, they are the cultural ones — immigrant rights, transgender rights, reproductive rights, support for a multicultural America. This is progress, of a sort. It does serve as a counterweight to Trump’s cultivation of the most vicious forces of the far right.

However, on the core issues that have defined America’s slide into reactionary economic policies, corporate elites are lined up at Trump’s trough — to double down on the same policies they have been aggressively pushing since Ronald Reagan.

While America’s biggest companies, especially those with reputational concerns, are singing kumbaya with a multicultural rainbow, these same companies are happily taking the tax cuts, the deregulation, and the anti-labor laws. Even our liberal-ish friends in Silicon Valley want nothing to do with regulatory constraints, much less labor protections.

On some key policy issues, corporate America has proved to be surprisingly impotent. Three of the largest players in America’s health-industrial complex — the hospital industry, the insurance industry and the American Medical Association — took strong stands against the Republican health bill, and lobbied against it. None of that cut any ice. How come?

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Maybe they didn’t lobby all that hard. The bill includes some nice perks for insurance executives. It repeals the ACA’s limits on tax-deductible executive pay, intended to limit the ability of companies to pass along windfall profits from their expanded customer base to corporate brass. The drug companies, meanwhile, are salivating at the prospect of even less regulation under Trump’s FDA.

Likewise the bankers, and the energy industry, and the telecom giants. So companies with direct consumer exposure, such as AmEx or Verizon, can throw a few bucks at Planned Parenthood, while they chuckle all the way to the bank, buoyed by the prospect of lower taxes, less regulation, weaker unions and right-wing judges who will overturn what remains of health, safety, consumer, labor and environmental regulation.

On a handful of issues, there is convergence between corporate self-interest and common decency. Corporate America is liberal on immigration, but for all the wrong reasons.

Back when Republicans and Democrats were working on a compromise path to citizenship for undocumented workers, corporations were among the biggest backers. Imagine — all those low-wage workers under strict legal constraints to stay out of trouble. Yum.

Trump has appointed climate-change deniers to key energy and environment posts. Where is corporate America on that? A small segment of American industry is making money off the green economy, but the big fossil fuel companies are back in the saddle, thanks to Trump. And Walmart, the number one predator when it comes to mistreating workers, tries to change the subject by being the greenest robber baron in town. Where is the corporate pushback against the Republican war on science?

On a handful of issues, there is convergence between corporate self-interest and common decency. Corporate America is liberal on immigration, but for all the wrong reasons.

Several of the same corporations that took progressive stands on cultural issues, such as AmEx and Verizon, are also supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes right-wing policies at the state level. Among the core items in ALEC’s playbook are strategies to suppress voting participation. Did somebody say black lives matter?

This corporate support of the tea party base has served both to strengthen the infrastructure of the far right and to undermine the living standards and economic security of ordinary people. The somewhat bizarre alliance between the culturally liberal Wall Street right and the culturally reactive tea party right paved the way for Trump. Corporations undercut pay and job security for workers, while they embraced multiculturalism. The tea party nourished the resentment against both.

There is a perverse and paradoxical symbiosis here. Corporate America and its Republican allies execute economic policies that make daily life more arduous for ordinary people. But they burnish their image by supporting liberal social causes like immigrant rights and protections for transgender people. And then the conservative social base gets mobilized against both trends.

Somehow, the corporations escape the wrath of working-class America. That gets deflected onto liberals, immigrants, blacks and gays. Meanwhile, Democrats have been losing winnable elections because progressive cultural policies are easier for them to embrace than aggressively anti-corporate pocketbook policies. Going left on multicultural issues while largely failing to articulate a politics of class uplift cost Democrats the 2016 election.

Trump’s economic populism is, of course, fake. Four decades of an increasingly virulent business elite paved the way for it. On no significant issue are Trump’s pocketbook politics at odds with those promoted by big business.

Corporate America and its Republican allies execute economic policies that make daily life more arduous for ordinary people. But they burnish their image by supporting liberal social causes like immigrant rights and protections for transgender people.

Is this too harsh? If you take a close look at the good-guy corporations on issues other than identity politics, here’s what you find: There are a small number of idiosyncratic corporations led by genuine progressives, such as the original Ben and Jerry’s, and God bless them. We also have corporations that are various shades of green, ranging from completely bogus green-washing, to entrepreneurs who have found ways to profit from marketing clean technology and a variety of renewable forms of energy.

Then we have the larger movement for corporate social responsibility, and its international counterpart, the voluntary movement to improve working conditions and environmental standards, by promoting labels for a broad range of products and processes. These range from fair-trade coffee to sustainable forestry to decent labor conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh, and dozens of others. Take a close look, and these certified goods represent a small fraction of total production, and they are losing more ground than they are gaining.

Indeed, if you go back half a century, the truth is that progress was made on the entire front of environmental, labor, public health and safety issues when citizens mobilized and legislatures passed mandatory laws — not via corporate voluntarism. For two decades after World War II, business got along with unions, not because elites had had a change of heart but because of a power shift. The same was true of the spate of environmental laws enacted in the 1970s.

In the famous formulation of Lyndon Johnson, who was very skeptical when his Vietnam advisers told him that America needed to win hearts and minds, if you get them by the [private parts], their hearts and minds will follow. This is surely true, in spades, when it comes to reining in corporate excess.

Yes, it’s great to have some class traitors among your allies, but it’s no substitute for a real movement.

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President Donald Trump tours Snap-On Tools alongside Snap-On CEO Nick Pinchuk (second from the right), Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in Kenosha, Wisconsin, April 18, 2017, prior to signing the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order. (Photo credit should read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump’s Corporate Government

BY Robert Weissman | April 25, 2017

But what about democracy itself? There is a whole school of democratic theory that associates liberal democracy with the spread of economic laissez-faire. Cheerleaders for freer markets like both Friedmans (Milton and Tom) have insisted that democracy and capitalism logically go together.

Going back to the days of Adam Smith, we’ve heard that free markets and free peoples reinforce one another. Supposedly, capitalism promotes democracy, because of common norms of transparency, rule of law and free competition — for markets, for ideas, for votes.

Democracy and capitalism are intimate allies. So when an existential threat to democracy like Trump arises, the captains of industry will surely come together to defend core democratic institutions. Oh, did I miss that?

The nexus between free-market capitalism and democracy sounds plausible, until one examines the actual relationship throughout history.

Slavery was a quintessentially commercial enterprise. Abolitionists in liberal Massachusetts, center of the 19th-century textile industry that depended on cheap Southern cotton, spoke scathingly of the alliance between the loom and the lash.

In the 20th century, capitalists coexisted nicely with dictatorships, which conveniently created friendly business climates, cut taxes and repressed independent worker organizations. Western capitalists have enriched and propped up Third World despots who crush local democracy. Western extractive industries have worked with dictators to plunder natural resources, pay kickbacks, exploit corruption and give almost none of the benefits to local people.


Who Needs Lobbyists? See What Big Business Spends To Win American Minds

BY Erin Quinn and Chris Young | January 28, 2015

Communist China works hand in glove with capitalist business partners to destroy free labor unions and to preserve the political monopoly of the party. Vladimir Putin presides over a rigged brand of capitalism and governs in harmony with approved kleptocrats. Western businesses helped work to overthrow insurgent democratic regimes that threatened their financial interests, from Chile to Iraq, and cut deals with dictators from Kazakhstan to the Congo. International companies and bankers promoted capitalism in post-Soviet Russia. They didn’t exactly promote democracy.

During the shabbier periods of American history, our government has protected purely commercial interests by sending in the Marines or fomenting coups. Today’s global backlash, in both its populist and religious-fundamentalist forms, is partly the result of the less-savory face of American corporate power overseas.

Gen. Augusto Pinochet took his economic advice from los Chicos de Chicago. His ultra free-market economic advisers got a lot of publicity for counseling the dictator on how to deregulate the Chilean economy. They were notably silent on Pinochet’s brutal repression of any political opposition.

In the 1930s, big business found it congenial to work with Mussolini, Hitler and Franco. Adam Hochschild’s new history, Spain in Our Hearts, recounts how Texaco, in violation of the Neutrality Acts, literally helped turn the tide for Franco’s fascists against the Spanish Republic — not only by refusing to sell the Republic oil while generously supplying Franco’s forces, but also providing Franco’s Nazi ally with intelligence on the Republic’s oil sources so the Luftwaffe could sink the tankers.

Large German corporations, from Deutsche Bank to Thyssen, Krupp and I.G. Farben, assumed Hitler could be worked with to serve common interests and would moderate once in office. When the Fuhrer only became more vicious, the German corporate elite went along for the ride, and got quite rich on rearmament until the unfortunate miscalculation of World War II.

Several American corporations briefly got into trouble for helping Hitler. Even after war was declared, Ford and GM subsidiaries in Germany continued to operate. ITT and RCA, via intermediaries in Switzerland, continued to collaborate with their German partners, Siemens and Telefunken. History shows that when circumstances demand awful choices, the logical conclusion of the corporate state is fascism.

Trump is not Hitler. But if we think corporate America will serve as a bulwark against his excesses, we are as delusional as Trump is.

Trump is not Hitler. But if we think corporate America will serve as a bulwark against his excesses, we are as delusional as Trump is.

When right-wing Republicans went after the fundamentals of democracy, by suppressing the right to vote, or shutting down the government over budget disputes, or refusing to even hold hearings on dozens of judicial nominations, we didn’t see any warm and fuzzy ads from Google, Apple or Starbucks.

Donald Trump calls out particular corporate executives when that is expedient, but his is a quintessentially corporate regime. With few exceptions, corporations conclude that Trump, weirdness and all, serves their interests. They are bankers and billionaires first, citizens a distant second.

Not only do corporations fail to promote democracy; the converse is also true. Both at home and abroad, democracy has expanded by limiting the power of business. Constraints on corporate abuses have been necessary to give ordinary people more liberty and security to pursue a decent livelihood. When that project fails, dark forces are often unleashed.

The political scientist Yascha Mounk makes a useful distinction. The problem threatening democratic practice today is not just illiberal democracy — governments with the form but not the substance of real democracy, from Turkey to Hungary to Russia and the dictatorial urges of Trump Tower. The problem is also undemocratic liberalism.

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By this Mounk means liberalism in its European sense, as ultra-marketization that narrows the space for democratic deliberation. All the major trade deals of the past two decades and the austerity rules of the European Union add up to what the economist Dani Rodrik calls hyperglobalization. The goal is to diminish the capacity of the democratic nation-state to housebreak capitalism, and it succeeds all too well.

Mounk’s point is that undemocratic liberalism and illiberal democracy feed on each other, by leaving people who are not part of the Davos set far behind. So the challenge for progressives is not to make better alliances with corporations, but to restore democratic constraints on corporate power.

In the late 1990s, a British NGO called Publish What You Pay (PWYP) devised an ingenious strategy for going after the bribery paid by Western extractive industries to third-world dictators. It pressured these Western corporations to disclose the bribe payments. A few, beginning with BP, agreed. Due to persistence and luck, PWYP even managed to get a mandatory disclosure provision included in the Dodd-Frank Act. Companies now had to disclose such payments in their annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The regulations carrying out this provision were among the very first to be scrapped in Trump’s war against regulation. You can just imagine how many corporations tried to block the repeal, in their splendid civic defense of the transparency that is allegedly common to efficient markets and democracy. That would be none.

Thus far, Donald Trump has assaulted American democracy in several respects. He has stirred up hatred by associating his presidency with far-right haters. He has done everything in his power to undermine the free press. He has sought to use decrees to undermine the rule of law. Substantively, his policies have escalated the war against a balanced, socially decent form of capitalism.

Some of corporate America has resisted the pure hate part, and for this we can offer one cheer. But let’s not kid ourselves.

Despite the touchy-feely corporate commercials about America being a big, happy, diverse family, there is far more that unites business with Trump than divides them. At the end of the day, we need the same movement to keep Trump from destroying basic democracy and to keep business elites from destroying a decent brand of capitalism. We will defend and redeem American democracy the old-fashioned way, by mobilizing ordinary citizens.

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The False Promise of Universal Basic Income

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 10/04/2017 - 11:00pm in

Long dismissed as utopian, proposals for a universal basic income are now gaining traction on both the right and the left. But UBI’s supporters on the left should proceed with caution.

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