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Common Dreams - March 2020

"In sum, Biden checked all the boxes for Wall Street and the billionaires: he relied on their donations; he proved his loyalty by supporting and championing pro-Wall Street policies over a number of decades; he promised that he would remain loyal as president and not really implement any significant limits on Wall Street or expansions of power to workers and progressives; and he was the alternative to Sanders.  The consensus among the plutocrats: Biden is their man."

It is clear now that Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 barring unforeseen circumstances. And the differences between Biden and Trump will be played up by both sides. And, yes, there are many differences between Biden and Trump especially in terms of social and cultural issues, judicial nominations, the administration of executive departments and agencies, and taxes and regulations. There will also be significant differences in temperament, rhetoric, tone and consistency. However, throughout the coming campaign there will not be much discussion by the candidates or the media about a key issue: Power. And this is a big omission because in our society power is concentrated in the hands of the few thousand corporate executives and billionaires who inhabit Wall Street to the detriment of the many millions of workers and small businesspeople who inhabit Main Street. In the following analysis I will examine the coming general election and its aftermath in terms of its impact on the existing power structure of the U.S. political economy. Specifically, I will focus on the crisis of our democracy; Wall Street’s view of the Biden-Trump contest as a win-win for Wall Street (and its unified opposition to Sanders); what to expect from a Biden or a Trump presidency; and what can be done by progressives to continue the struggle for justice and democracy.

The Crisis of Democracy and the Reality of Plutocracy

The political discourse in the 2020 presidential campaign is replete with crises. The latest and immediately most serious is the Coronavirus crisis.  But there are many other crises that have gotten some attention including health care, prescription drugs, the middle east, income inequality and taxation – while the climate crisis as well as the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe have not gotten the attention, they deserve even though they threaten our very existence.  But there is another crisis that is never really mentioned at all – the crisis of our democracy. The reality is that our democracy is succumbing to an overwhelming tide of plutocracy – the rule of the wealthy, the corporate-Wall Street-billionaire elite. Unfortunately, Biden and Trump actually represent and are tied to the interests of the plutocrats. Only Sanders has proposed an all-out assault that would limit the power of Wall Street and expand the power of Main Street. In a very real sense, the primary and general elections represent not just a choice between candidates but a choice between reclaiming our democracy or reinforcing the plutocracy.

We usually think of democracy in terms of voting. If the adult citizens of a country can vote for a number of candidates, then we call it a democracy.  Voting is important both in terms of who qualifies to vote and who is allowed to vote. And there is much discussion during this election season about who exactly is qualified to vote and whether they are even allowed to vote. However, voting is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a democracy. The other key ingredient to a democracy can be summed up in one word: Power. Who has it and who doesn’t have it? Who sets the rules for the functioning of the political-economic system? Who makes the underlying decisions that determine not only the policies of a nation, but also which groups obtain the benefits and which groups suffer the losses? Unfortunately, in relation to the bottom-line issue of power – the U.S. is not really a democracy; it is a plutocracy – the rule of the wealthy. That is not just my opinion. A Princeton University study that examined 20 years-worth of data (1981-2002) concluded, “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

I have previously analyzed the process through which corporations and billionaires dominate our political economy through a system of legalized corruption in which they basically purchase the allegiance of politicians by investing billions of dollars in campaign contributions; obtain favorable legislation by spending billions more in lobbying; and ensure that the legislation is supported by pro-corporate judges who have been appointed by those same politicians (see here, here and here).  Both Biden and Trump are products of and continue to rely on this system of legalized corruption that institutionalizes a plutocracy as opposed to a real democracy.

A Biden-Trump Election is a Win-Win for Wall Street

On the Republican side, the plutocrats are comfortable with Trump. The problem was the Democratic side of the ledger.  The plutocrats did not like Warren, but they hated Sanders. Their goal was to defeat Sanders at any cost and to select a Democratic candidate on which they could depend.  Buttigieg rose and then fell. Bloomberg spent a lot of money, rose and then fell. Biden was really their last chance. A Biden-Trump election was the plutocrats’ dream scenario.

Biden Is A Product and Supporter of the Plutocracy. Biden has been and continues to be a willing participant in the system of legalized corruption. He has always relied on donations from Wall Street and the billionaire donor class and he has returned the favor by supporting policies that aide Wall Street to the detriment of Main Street. (See this article for a detailed analysis of Biden and his relationship to Wall Street and billionaires).

  • Biden Relies on Wall Street and Billionaires. Wall Street has always supported Biden. According to the Center for Responsive Politics the entire finance capital sector (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) has been the largest business sector contributor to Biden’s various senatorial and his 1988 and 2008 presidential campaigns.  Between 1990-2007, this sector invested $6.87 million in Biden. And that support has continued for his 2020 presidential campaign. The finance capital sector’s investment in Biden is just behind its investment in Trump and much greater than its investment in any other Democratic candidate. In terms of small donors, Biden has raised $25.3 million or 37% of total funding from small donors – much less than Sanders.

According to the Center on Responsive Politics, the Financial Sector as a whole (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) has invested $47.2 million in the 2020 presidential election so far. Of this total, $10.3 million or 22% has gone to Trump; $10.1 million or 21% has gone to Biden and just $2.8 million or 6% has gone to Sanders. And it is clear that Biden is due for a massive increase in funding following Super Tuesday. These figures are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg and will soon explode; after all, the Financial Sector invested $338 million in the 2016 presidential election. ...
Read full report at Common Dreams