Income Inequality, Corruption and Kamala
How the destruction of Labor in America made Kamala Harris possible.
There is a direct through-line from the destruction of trade unions in the US and the ascendance of private and corporate influence in US politics, resulting in the uniquely American candidate that is Kamala Harris.
The decline of Labor led to a redistribution of wealth and power
Below is a graph using data from Thomas Piketty that shows how union membership has always been directly linked to Labor’s share of the national income. Although I should not have to use a graph, as IT SHOULD BE OBVIOUS that when union membership is strong, workers get a larger % of the pie, and when unions are weak, the share taken by Management and shareholders goes up.
This EPI article further explains the phenomenon (as if it needed explaining).
SCREWED by SCOTUS
I am sure you have all seen this second graph below many times. I do not think that the empirical evidence is in dispute, everyone knows wages have been stagnant since the 1970’s. The question is more around the causality of the stagnation.
If you look at where wages stagnated, where workers no longer participated in the gains realized through increased productivity, it lines up with the trends shown above. It really looks like Buckley v. Valeo was the turning point.
Once campaign donations were no longer limited and corporations could spend freely from their general treasuries on elections and candidates; once it was declared that “money equals speech,” things got a whole lot better for the corporations and the top 1% and a whole lot shittier for the workers.
Clinton and the Abandonment of Labor
This development had a profound impact on the evolution of the Democratic Party. I have often pointed out that Clinton and the DLC dragged the party to the right by abandoning their traditional support base of Labor to instead chase after Corporate America and Wall Street. In light of these fundamental changes to the power structure of the US Labor market, it now seems a logical if highly cynical move.
As Labor became gutted through Buckley v. Valeo and other forces such as the anti-union policies the Reagan Administration, and as corporations and the wealthy gained the ability to donate financially in practically unlimited amounts, the Democrats’ traditional source of support from the trade unions started to dry up. It could be said, then, that the Clintonite “new Democrats” perceived the shift in the balance of power and, like the craven opportunists they were, simply “followed the money.” They proved perfectly willing to abandon both their pro-working class principles and their Labor constituency in order to become the party of Management and the wealthy.
Enter Kamala — the Darling of the Donor Class
The selection of Kamala Harris as VP and presumptive Presidential nominee in 2024 demonstrates the culmination of this move by the Democrats from a party allied with the working class to a party in thrall to the donor class.
In many ways, Kamala Harris is a uniquely American candidate — a failed candidate who could nonetheless easily end up holding the Highest Office in the Land. This uniquely American aspect stems from the fact that the Democratic donor base has always wanted her to be President. From her very first major fundraiser in the Hamptons in the summer of 2017, where she wooed wealthy Clinton donors, to her return appearance in the Hamptons in 2019, where she raked in cash this time from wealthy Obama donors, she enjoyed not just the lavish attention of the billionaire class but also the fawning adoration of the mainstream media. With these two powerful forces behind her, it seemed as if the stars were aligned and Kamala was on her way to win the Democratic nomination and then the White House.
If only those pesky voters had agreed.
Although she does now seem poised to enter the White House at some point, let’s remember that when Kamala Harris actually ran for President she failed miserably in what POLITICO described as a “spectacular collapse” of her campaign. She was roundly rejected by voters and dropped out of the Democratic Primary before even the first election took place in Iowa.
Kamala bailed because she was polling at just 3% nationwide and was predicted to come in an embarrassing fourth or even fifth place in her own home state of California. In an amazingly stark rejection of her candidacy, a poll found that 2 out of 3 California Democrats (61%) wanted her to drop out of the race.
And yet, here we are, with Kamala all set to assume the Presidency “on day one”.
The Supreme Court cases like Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United make America truly exceptional. The US system of government is unique in that it is the only system on Earth in which bribery is not only legalized, but celebrated, and corruption is actually recognized by society as a necessary foundation for effective government. Indeed, the corrosive effect of money in US politics is seen at best as a “triumph of freedom” (by the Republicans) and at worst as a “necessary evil” (by the Democrats).
Moreover, the neutral if not positive media coverage of Biden’s industry fundraisers and the awe-filled praise of Kamala Harris’s close ties to big donors and her popularity among California’s tech moguls exemplify the broad societal approval of this system of political patronage.
ONLY IN AMERICA could a candidate who was so completely rejected by the people still become poised to lead the country — solely because of her affinity with the wealthy campaign donors who run the US political system.
An optimistic coda:
I expect that this passive acceptance of legalized bribery and the corresponding antipathy for unions are both “hangovers” from the Reagan years that will soon be washed away by the spicy Bloody Mary of Sanders Socialism.