What would our democracy look like without the influence of corporations and industrialists? It has become nearly impossible to imagine an answer to this question. As the late political scientist Jean Hardisty wrote in 2014, neoliberalism—or deregulated market capitalism—”seeks to replace democracy with oligarchy”. Indeed, corporate money and influence are remaking our democratic institutions, from the dark-money lobbying groups and think tanks pushing limitless deregulation, to individual wealthy donors putting their thumbs on the scales of public policy in state legislatures and using new Voter ID laws to suppress the vote. As progressives contemplate how to build a movement for justice that can effectively counter such forces, it is necessary to understand how the Corporate Right—what we might term the Chamber of Commerce wing of the conservative movement—is collaborating with others on the Right to advance its agenda.
PRA has written much in the past about the Right’s attacks on the most vulnerable groups of working people: women, people of color, LGBTQ people. During 2015, we identified several ways that the Corporate Right is partnering with the Christian Right and using its rhetoric to transform our democratic infrastructure and institutions. Even secular free-market think tanks and self-described non-religious libertarian billionaires are dabbling in this moralistic, Christianized messaging. Our research on these trends has helped to inform some of the most effective recent campaigns for economic justice, including: the fight for domestic workers’ rights, the fight for paid family leave laws, and the fight for fair wages for restaurant workers.
The U.S. is in the grip of an unprecedented dominance of right-wing ideologies and policies. Many progressive commentators see that the same band of New Right actors who have long pushed a conservative agenda are up to their old tricks, trying to block any reformist progress under a Democratic president. But what we are experiencing now is not simply “more of the same.” There has been a political shift in the Right’s reigning ideology. The shift is from the Right’s fixation on capturing and consolidating power to establishing rule by the laws of unfettered capitalism.
More and more, Corporate Right groups such as The Koch-funded IFWE and the Foundation for Economic Education are running their policy objectives through Christian Right organizations, “faith-washing” their messages to appeal to the Religious Right.
Corporate interests have taken credit for reducing private-sector unions to a fraction of their former strength, and for eroding public-sector collective bargaining, especially since the 2010 “Tea Party midterms.” A resurgence in low-wage worker organizing, sparked by growing inequality in the United States, promises to help defend the rights—and paychecks—of vulnerable workers. But corporations and their paid shills aim to snuff out the movement before it catches fire.
So-called “right to work” laws in the 1940s by anti-unionists within the Christian Right, were passed long ago in states throughout the anti-union South and West. Now, we are witnessing their resurgence in formerly union-friendly states such as Michigan and Wisconsin. As even Christian Reconstructionist Gary North admits, the spin is a ruse: “There is no right to work…But the phrase, “right to work,” has been a political winner for a generation.”
Walmart claims to have given a pay raise to its half a million of their dismally under-paid employees. But did they really? We examine how the numbers are actually shaking out, and why even a modest shift in pay structures amounts to little more than a PR stunt by one of the biggest anti-worker players in the game.
Women working in the retail industry face stark choices. A typical wage of $10.58 per hour in that industry means women must often choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. If present trends continue, there will be 4.1 million American women working in low-paid retail jobs by 2025—a population larger than the entire city of Los Angeles. The situation for these millions of low-wage working women is dire. But why should the rest of America care? What reason is there for someone who is not working and struggling in poverty to take action on behalf of these working women?