Who Owns Your Politicians?
Political discourse is often told through narratives, sometimes supported by facts, sometimes not. One of the narratives that many on the left and some on the right are quite fond of is the idea that free markets, aside from their other alleged flaws, are dangerous to a democracy because the winners of the economic competition will use their resources to buy political influence that will consolidate their power. The proof, they say, is in the influence that corporate lobbies have over elected politicians.
There is truth in this narrative, but its critical flaw is not in what it alleges, but what it fails to take into account.
The whole truth is that while corporations do spend money to influence the political process, their contributions are dwarfed by those made by the most powerful unions and trade associations in the United States. And I have no doubt that the expected result is less economic freedom, and more regulation and policies that serve special interests while directly or indirectly harming the common good.
The aptly named research site Open Secrets (opensecrets.org) publishes a list of the top political donors over the past 20 years. Not only that, but these good people have also noted the party to which the the donations go, as well as how much the donor gives to each party. The truth is fascinating.
While the top donor currently is AT&T, which gives a little more to the GOP than to the Democrats, if one takes a look at the top 20, one will find that only three of the top donors in the country has given significantly more in the way of tens of millions of dollars to the GOP in the last 20 years, and even in these cases, they have not favored the GOP overwhelmingly. A few have given more or less evenly, but the vast majority have given over 90% to the Democrats. These donors are the unions.
The federal worker’s union is the Democrats largest contributor (and third largest overall), contributing to that party’s well-deserved reputation as the party of big government and bureaucracy. 98% of over 43 million dollars has gone from this union into the coffers of Democratic candidates since 1989. 6-14 on the list are also unions that have given similar sums to the Democrats. Even Goldman Sachs, number 5 on the list, has given more to the Dems. 17 & 18 are also powerful unions giving nearly 100% of contributions to the Dems.
There’s no doubt that corporations give more to Republicans. But as one scrolls down this list, which stops at 140, it is impossible not to notice that there are far more entries signifying an over 90% tilt to the Democrats than there are to the Republicans, which means that corporations do not give nearly as much to the GOP as the unions do to the Democrats. And of course, their high positions on the list indicate that the major unions spend more on politics than virtually any corporation besides the two I mentioned – and which again, distribute their contributions more evenly than any union.
In my view these facts utterly demolish the narrative which seeks to establish corporate capitalism as the primary source of political corruption. If one “follows the money”, it leads right back to a stagnant and corrupt union bureaucracy infiltrated by communists and in some cases connected to organized crime. It wasn’t the free market that concentrated these massive amounts of wealth and power in the hands of the few, but a legal racketeering operation that has long outlived whatever social usefulness it might have once held.
One cannot credibly argue, either, that a union is more “representative” of a broader interest while a corporation is representative of a narrow interest, when a) only 12% of the American workforce is unionized, b) only 8% of the private sector is unionized, and c) when many corporations are publicly traded and accountable to stockholders. In fact, there are now more workers participating in Employee Stock Ownership Plans than there are union members in the United States. We speak of a “dinosaur media” when referring to the newspapers or the “big three” networks; the unions are “dinosaur” institutions as well when it comes to actual workers, though they still have a sharp political bite and massive resources at their disposal.
The unions also dabble in pro-abortion politics, and there is no question in my mind that the socialist and communist agitators who either try to or actually successfully infiltrate them push this agenda. The long held position of neutrality of the major national unions on abortion is beginning to creak and crack as well.
In leftist Newspeak, the unions ought to support abortion because union members “resent and resist government intrusion into matters that are essentially private” – as if that ever stopped labor unions from interfering with private property, or the teacher’s unions from viciously opposing homeschooling. The truth is that the socialists and communists factions in the unions believe abortion is a “democratic right” necessary for the “liberation of women”, though in reality it is part of the overall program to destroy the traditional family and replace it with dependence upon some collective, be it the public school, the union, the state, and really all of the above in a hideous bureaucratic symbiosis. The idea that these people care a lick about “privacy” is laughable and absurd.
Sadly even the Church is still mixed up in this business. Though Catholic social teaching holds private property rights, parental education rights, and most importantly the right to life to be sacred and inviolable, it hasn’t stopped various dioceses from collaborating with the unions on other issues.
Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has worked with labor leaders on organizing and immigrant rights, called the vote [a union resolution against an anti-abortion ballot measure -J.H.] “disappointing” but added: “It would be unrealistic to expect every group to believe the same way we do about every issue. It doesn’t preclude us from working together on those areas where we do share common concerns.”
Normally this is a rational sentiment. But in this case Catholics need to realize that unions are part and parcel of the Culture of Death. Whether it stems from the overt agitprop of the open socialists and communists, or simply resides in the fact that union dues are the life’s blood of the pro-abortion Democratic Party, the unions are intimately bound up with the assault on unborn human beings and the traditional family. For the same article notes,
As unions become weaker, as traditional allies fall away, unions can rely increasingly on the liberal left and the radical left,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a leading scholar of labor history at UC Santa Barbara. “Abortion rights are key issues for American liberals, and these are their allies.”
The unions become weaker, but paradoxically, they gain more political power as they shift more resources to buying politicians. At the same time they become even more susceptible than they were at the height of the Red Scare to Marxist infiltration. This is a toxic and lethal combination. I happen to know from first-hand personal experience that communist infiltration of the unions is a fact. I knew some of the infiltrators, and there is hardly a professional commie in the country that isn’t a full-blown supporter of abortion “rights”, either positively, or by default. My own defection from communism began with my decision to fully develop and speak about my pro-life views.
Those worried about wages and social justice should forget about unions, and support policies that will increase employee ownership, financial security, and the value of the dollar. It was a conservative Republican, Dana Rohrabacher, who introduced the Employee Ownership Act of 1999, and libertarian-constitutionalist Ron Paul and many other conservative Republicans co-sponsored it. This act would have done more for the workers of America than all of the pinko unions have done for them in the last 40 years.