By Ralph Nader
September 18, 2020
The American people own most of the wealth – private and public – and most of the information in the country. The top one percent do not.
The American people have most of the power in the country. The top one percent do not.
These assertions may surprise you, because the top one percent and the giant corporations work overtime to control what you own. This means they do not have to seize what you own so long as their control provides them with both riches and power over you.
Let’s spell this out with specifics. Our Constitution starts with the words, “We the People…”; it doesn’t start with ‘we the corporations’ or ‘we the Congress’ or ‘we the super-rich.’ The sovereign authority under the Constitution is us; we the people are the bosses. But we give our power away to the Big Boys who run the big companies that control most of our elected politicians. The politicians in turn proceed to corrupt our elections with campaign money, gerrymandering, deceitful ads, voter obstructions, and a totally dominant two-party duopoly. This corporate state destroys competitive democracy which would give our votes meaning, choices, and effectiveness.
Shouldn’t we be discussing why, when we own the vast federal public land, one-third of America – and the vast public airwaves, do we give control of these resources to corporations every day of the year to profit from at our expense? We give the television and radio stations, that block our voices, free control and use of the airwaves, 24/7. We receive very little in royalties from the energy, mining, timber, and grazing companies extracting huge wealth from our federal lands.
We send our tax dollars to Washington, D.C., and the federal government gives trillions of these dollars to companies in the form of subsidies and bailouts.
Trillions of dollars are devoted to government research and development (R&D), which has built or expanded private companies. These include such industries as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, military weapons, computers, internet, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and containerization.
Our taxpayer-funded R&D is essentially given away free to these for-profit businesses. We the People receive no royalties nor profit-sharing returns on these public investments. Worse, we pay gouging prices for drugs and other products developed with our tax dollars.
We have trillions of dollars in savings and retirement money placed in giant mutual and pension funds. The managers of these institutions make big profits by investing your money in the stock and bond markets. If you controlled these trillions of dollars in stocks and bonds that you own, that is if there was real shareholder and bondholder power, you would control the ownership of all the big companies and turn the tables on the Big Bosses. Polls show a big majority of people think Big Business has too much power and control over us. Nonetheless, we regularly give these plutocrats control over what we own.
We own our personal information. Yet, we give it totally free to the likes of Facebook, Google, Instagram, and YouTube, etc. so they can make trillions of dollars selling data on what we buy, what we like, what we think, and what we’re addicted to in the marketplace. The advertisers then pester us 24/7 and even betray our trust. Imagine Alexa eavesdropping in our homes and businesses. High-tech companies should not be privy to our personal information.
Unfortunately, giving companies our personal information, from which they profit immensely and gouge and penalize us profusely, started long ago. The moment we took out credit cards, for example, we began to lose control of our money and our privacy. With the internet, companies are generating new payment-system controls, with their dictatorial fine-print agreements and never-ending additional surcharges, driven by their greedy overreaches.
People spend lots of time just trying to get through to these companies for refunds, adjustments, corrections, and simple answers to their questions.
Why have we handed over the enormous assets we own to this expanding corporate state? Why have we surrendered to statism or corporate socialism? The corporate “Borg” is sucking the ready availability of the good life, decent, secure livelihoods assured by our collective self-reliance, and the freedom to shape our future out of our political economy.
Why are we allowing the United States – this rich land of ours – to have so many impoverished, powerless people, dominated by the few? With ever greater concentration or powers under corrupt Trumpism and its corporate supremacists, control of our lives is getting worse.
It starts with us being indoctrinated into being powerless (civic skills and practice are not taught in schools). This leads to the people not taking control of Congress (only 535 of them). We are allowing elections and debates to ignore raising these basic democratic issues of who owns what and who should control our commonwealth.
David Bollier and his colleagues are working to have adults and students learn about the commons – owned by all of us – and the few examples of people sharing in our commonwealth. Through the Alaska Permanent Fund, every Alaskan gets about $2000 a year from the royalties’ oil companies pay for taking the people’s oil from that state.