Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Down To Business

Sometimes no matter how many times you repeat something, it seems like the message never gets through. This happens to parents with young children on a regular basis, but also occurs in the political sphere. Even though you think the message should be glaringly obvious to everyone by now, you really can't repeat it enough.

So even though I've done my level best to beat down the tireless trope that "big business is conservative," it's clearly one of those situations where there's no such thing as over communication.

Back in high school French class we would strap on enormous headphones to listen to audio tapes of Gallic phrases preceded by the instruction "ecoutez et repetez." So please indulge me and ecoutez et repetez the following:

Big business has no interest in advancing policies based on free market principles.

Big business' only interest in politics is supporting the party that can better advance their interests at the time.

Got it? Good. The latest evidence of this truth comes in an article by Kevin D. Williamson in the March 9th edition of National Review called Losing Gordon Gekko (sub req):

In 2006 and 2008, Wall Street poured money on Democrats. Big Wall Street firms that made major political contributions--including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Lehman--gave the majority of their contributions to Democrats. The hedge funds followed suit, as they are inclined to do--they depend on the big Wall Street institutions to clear their trades. And it wasn't just Wall Street: Democrats led in six of the ten big-business sectors tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics: law, health care, defense contractors, communications/electronics, finance/insurance/real estate, and the catch-all category that includes chemical firms, retailers, manufacturers, food processors, and other industrial operators. Republicans held on to agriculture--which is, not coincidentally, the industry in which they are the least interested in practicing capitalism: It's not the philosophical commitment to free markets that opens up corporate checkbooks, but the promise of favorable exceptions to those principles.

So why is the bulls-and-bears set going donkey? Partly it's self-interest: Wall Street loves a tax break, but Big Money has over the years found a lot to love about Big Government. Those carbon-offset exchanges may be clearinghouses for products that are, in essence, imaginary, but they are going to make a real bundle for the bankers who set them up--and, since they'll inevitably have the support of government, there will be relatively little risk involved. And Democrats' anti-war talk hasn't spooked the defense contractors. For all the conspiracy-mongering about Halliburton Republicans, now that Democrats control defense appropriations it's no surprise to find the likes of Rep. Ike Skelton, the Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, enjoying the support of military providers such as Armor Holdings Inc. What is surprising is that Democrats now lead Republicans overall in financial support from defense firms.

Remember, big business isn't about politics or principles. It's about business. Red? Blue? Whichever brings more green.

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