Zuckerman and the raping of society
Billionaire tycoon Mort Zuckerman defends the neo-liberal capitalist regime and his beloved “business community” today in an article in the Financial Times. It’s an utterly simplistic defense of financial power and it wouldn’t be worth wasting words on it except for the sad fact he has immense influence within right wing democratic party circles. From his perch as editor-in-chief of US News & World Report and owner of the New York Daily News, his views are widely shared among elites in business, Wall Street, and many politicians up to and almost certainly including the White House. (A similarly noxious FT article by Zuckerman inspired a post a few months ago. Sorry for writing so much on this guy.)
Here’s how he summarizes the past decades of neo-liberal class rule:
“American business entered the 21st century brimful of confidence in its achievements and its potential. In the 1980s and 1990s the US created 73m new private sector jobs while shedding just 44m as it adjusted to global competition. Even more stunning was that, at the end of these two decades, 55 per cent of the workforce was at a new job.”
“The American success (as if it applied to the majority of the country) was not some statistical fluke. It derived from a get-up-and-go culture, bred from the freedom to serve a huge internal market spread over vast distances. Entrepreneurialism and innovation came to be nourished by a unique management culture and access to capital.”
It’s fully understandable that “American business”, meaning of course executive corporate management and rentier investors, would be brimming with confidence after three decades of pillaging the economy and the American workforce and amassing vast fortunes for having done so. The period Zuckerman praises, and let’s not forget the 2000’s, was one of endless mergers and acquisitions designed to maximize profits through downsizing and financial manipulation; it was a casino economy that saw median wages and job security decline and corporate profits soar. Now, in 2010, “American business” is preparing for the next stage in its rout of the American worker and Zuckerman is one of the key propagandists calling for assaults on wages, social security, unemployment insurance and other social protections, regressive restructuring of the tax code, and the privatizations of public infrastructure. Zuckerman’s class is brimful with confidence but the average worker – 80% or more of the population – is not quite as brimful.
Management, he says, “was assisted by a level of labor flexibility and mobility that was the envy of the world”. Undoubtedly true, the mismatch in power between capital and labor shifted decisively during this period leading to the decline in worker income and security and vast expansions in wealth inequality.
Zuckerman presents us with the false right wing proposition that the fault for our current problems is due to government and not the “business community” – as if government actions weren’t fully determined by the Wall Street interests who ultimately control all levers of power.
Zuckerman’s recommendations are the standard diatribe of the right. He calls for a “simpler tax code” which of course means lower taxes on income and wealth. He claims this would be “conducive” to social justice but doesn’t explain how this could possibly be the case. He calls for a national infrastructure plan which, “independent from Congress, can focus on large-scale interstate programs paid for over time by tolls.” As noted in a previous post, this is an outrageously regressive scheme that will provide risk-free outlets for capital to be financed by regressive charges. It will represent yet another transfer from the population to concentrated wealth as our infrastructure will henceforth be owned by the likes of Zuckerman to whom we will be paying tolls.
After citing a need for even more business representation in the White House, as if it’s not already completely captured, Zuckerman calls for a “credible, long-term deficit reduction program”. This can, of course, only mean cuts in programs essential for worker security. (You may want to refer to my several posts under the “monetary/fiscal” tab that argue deficits are a purely monetary issue and don’t in the slightest matter.)
Zuckerman’s world view is that of a lord overseeing his estate. He and his class of mega-owners take credit for the labor of hundreds of millions of workers and thereby proclaim the justness of their massive rewards. “It is bad politics and economics to beat up the people who can create the new jobs that the economy needs”, he tells us from his castle. One can only accept this assertion if one believes passive rentier investors and a few thousand executive officers are God-like in their creation abilities and the American worker is simply a mindless grunt, a serf, who should be grateful for having such genius in his or her midst. Zuckerman tries to equate “business” with the power to dominate society and his self serving opinions must be rejected.