People deserve a fair share of the wealth we build in this country, but right now, Americans’ paychecks are being squeezed while corporate CEOs make windfall profits. Any plan that seeks to address inflation, like President Joe Biden’s recently published piece in the Wall Street JournalWe must acknowledge that corporations and the very wealthy are using our pain to create a false narrative about how we got there. Corporations blame workers who organize against unsafe and unfair workplaces, as well as voters who demand the public investment they need.
Let’s be clear about what’s really happening here: Prices are rising faster than wages, and the wages paid by corporations are not keeping up with rising productivity, nor is the federal government making the needed public investments to prevent serious economic hardship for the working class. Despite the fact that millions of people were forced to live in poverty during the pandemics, billionaires were $1 trillion richer. And, as the recent report from People’s Action and Demos showedCorporations just spent millions of dollars to kill Build Back Better, which would have reduced costs for everyone.
People do not have enough money because corporations and the very rich want it that way — and their propaganda blitz about inflation is designed to keep it that way. To truly understand their strategy, let’s take a step back.
Ronald Reagan and the corporate leaders who supported him wanted to end his New Deal era that had lifted millions from poverty and lifted this country out the Great Depression. He leaned on his fears about inflation. “Inflation,” he said, “is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber, and as deadly as a hit man.”
But inflation is about rising costs and who bears them, and while he was activating people’s fear-based mentalities about it with violent imagery, he and his allies were destroying the public structures that kept costs down for everyday people and attacking the main institution — unions — that defended worker pay and working conditions.
He frequently misled audiences about the relationship between inflation, taxes, and budget deficits. The basic frame he brought to bear was one of discipline — or, austerity and authoritarianism. Reagan created a toxic era for neoliberalism, scaring the public away form public investments, and frightening people about inflation.
This squeeze play can be seen in politics today, from the factory floor up to the halls and the halls of Congress. PepsiCo made billions of dollars in stock buybacks and payouts when it announced billions more in payouts. second-quarter earnings call for 2021, the company also announced that it intended to increase “productivity” at its facilities — facilities at which workers had just gone on strike for being forced to work “suicide shifts,” or schedules with only eight hours off between shifts and 84-hour work weeks with no time off. One worker published a public letterShe spoke days before the earnings conference, describing one employee who had died at the plant. However, her supervisors moved the body to another location to maintain the productivity.
In the same call, PepsiCo’s CEO, who took home more than $21 million in 2020, announced that the company was increasing prices.
Similar moves were made by meatpacking companies, Tyson Foods included. Tyson Foods had to agree to a deal last January. $221 million price-fixing settlementBut, in the following year, their net profit soared by 47 percentWhile they gave out $700 millions to shareholders. A few months ago, Tyson’s CEO’s credited rising meat prices for doubling the company’s profit.
What was going on at the factory floor as Tyson was making these profits and driving up food prices?
In 2020, Tyson’s legal department drafted an executive order for the Trump administration to “insulate meatpacking companies from oversight by state and local health departments and provide legal protection against lawsuits for worker illnesses and deaths,” according to a new report from the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. According to the committee, the meatpacking giant made “baseless” claims of an imminent meat shortage to justify keeping workers in their facilities as the pandemic took off, putting consumers and workers at risk. What was the result? Tyson saw about 3% of the pandemic’s first year. 30,000 employee infections and 151 employee deathsThe worst among major meatpackers is.
Gleichzeitig waren diese corporation und others like it working through their front groups like the U.S. Chamber of CommerceTo scare people away form the investments and reforms that we need to prosper.
The organization I work for, People’s Action, has been on the front lines of the battle to win the Build Back Better plan, before it was killed by a corporate Democrat. It has been a difficult fight between ordinary people on one side and entrenched corporate powers on the other. Our member organizations range from West Virginia to Arizona, and many others in between. hostedDirect actions expose corporations for their behind the scenes puppeteering during Build Back Better. We won some real victories, like cutting child poverty in half through the American Rescue Plan’s child tax credit and rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, but corporations are doing everything they can to stop this kind of legislation.
To keep their profits high, the same people who will work a person to death on the factory floor until they collapse will not stop at anything. That’s exactly what they are doing when they spin rising prices at the grocery store and the gas pump as end-of-the-world economics. They want you to believe it’s your fault, not theirs, because you had the gall to elect leaders who would lower costs for you for once instead of the rich.
When corporations and their shareholders make record profits, when their CEOs bring home $21 million and some change every year, when their stock prices break records — when all of these things are true and they still raise prices and try to force their employees to deliver “higher productivity,” to work until they break — the problem is not that we demanded that our elected officials pass the reforms and investments that we need to survive. The problem is greed.