When you hear pious pronouncements coming out of Davos about the importance of “rebuilding trust” and maintaining a stable democracy in the US, watch your wallets.
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Senior executives of America’s largest corporations have spent this week in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual World Economic Forum, whose 2024 theme is “Rebuilding Trust.”
It’s hard to come up with any group of Americans, outside of Trump and his congressional loyalists, who have done more to destroy public trust than the senior executives of America’s biggest corporations — corrupting democracy by pouring money into political campaigns, fighting unions and suppressing wages, monopolizing their markets and price-gouging consumers, and siphoning off almost all gains to shareholders.
In the 1990s, the Davos World Economic Forum actively promoted the idea of stakeholder capitalism, in which corporations pledged to advance the interests of workers, consumers, communities, and the environment — not just shareholders. (The Forum still promotes the idea on its website.)
Adding to the rank hypocrisy of this week’s Davos meetings are American CEOs who say they fear a second Trump administration and the political upheaval it might bring.
Multiple attendees have told The New York Times’s DealBook that they view the outcome of the US election as a business risk, particularly after Trump beat his Republican rivals in the Iowa caucuses by such a wide margin.
Yet many of them are fueling Trump and political upheaval in America by continuing to bankroll the 147 members of Congress who refused to certify Joe Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021.
Recall that after the certification vote and storming of the Capitol, a cavalcade of big corporations announced with great fanfare that they had stopped making political contributions to these 147.
Since then, most have resumed campaign donations to them — thereby helping the deniers get reelected and threatening the stability of American democracy.
All told, at least 228 of America’s biggest (Fortune 500) corporations — representing more than two-thirds of some 300 companies with political action committees — have given $26.3 million to election deniers during the 2021–2024 election cycles.
Shortly after January 6, 2021, according to CNN, Amazon pledged to suspend political contributions to members of Congress who objected to certifying the 2020 presidential election results. By Sept. 22, 2022, Amazon had resumed funding them.
Boeing made the same pledge but since May 3, 2021, has given $652,000 to 85 members of Congress who refused to certify Joe Biden as president.
Comcast made the pledge but since then has given $585,000 to election deniers. Delta made the pledge but has since donated $325,000 to them.
Other giant corporations that announced they wouldn’t support election deniers but reversed course include FedEx, which has given the deniers $303,000 since January 2021; Home Depot, $602,500; Johnson & Johnson, $138,000; McDonald’s, $107,000; UPS, $575,000; Verizon, $250,500; Walmart, $297,000; Wells Fargo, $244,500…
The list goes on.
ProPublica has created an app that’s tracked all of the campaign contributions that Fortune 500 corporations have made to the 147 deniers over the past two years. If you’re interested in knowing which large corporations are devoting money to undermining our democracy, I urge you to use it.
Government watchdog Accountable.US has compiled a list of corporate political donations to election deniers categorized into five major industries. Click to see their findings: 1) Aerospace and Defense; 2) Telecommunications; 3) Oil, Gas, and Electric Utility; 4) Pharmaceutical; 5) Financial.
Note that these numbers show only the donations that corporations are openly disclosing — not funds they’re channeling through trade associations, super PACs, and dark money groups.
So when you hear pious pronouncements coming out of Davos about the importance of “rebuilding trust” and maintaining a stable democracy in the United States, watch your wallets.
As to your wallets, you might think twice before buying anything from a big American corporation that’s using some of the profits from its sales to destroy trust and destabilize American democracy.
[Editor’s Note: Professor Reich went on in his next posting to address this tell about which side of their bread at least some in the Davos crowd believe is buttered.]
On Wednesday, speaking from Davos, Jamie Dimon — chair and CEO of the largest and most profitable bank in the United States and one of the most influential CEOs in the world — heaped praise on Donald Trump’s policies while president.
“Take a step back, be honest. He was kind of right about NATO, kind of right on immigration. He grew the economy quite well. Tax reform worked. He was right about some of China. He wasn’t wrong about some of these critical issues,” said Dimon.
Mr. Dimon, take a step back, be honest.
Kind of right about NATO? Trump wanted the US to withdraw from NATO — and may get his way if he becomes president again. This would open Europe further to Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
Kind of right on immigration? Even the conservative CATO Institute found that Trump reduced legal immigration but not illegal immigration. Trump refused to grant legal status to children of immigrants born in the United States or who grew up in the US. He banned Muslims from America and, when the Muslim ban was found to be unconstitutional, banned people from Muslim countries. He fueled the flames of nativism by describing poorer nations as “shit holes” and has used Nazi terms to describe foreigners as “poisoning the blood” of Americans.
Grew the economy quite well? In fact, under Trump the economy lost 2.9 million jobs. Even before the pandemic, job growth was slower than it has been under Biden. The unemployment rate increased by 1.6 percentage points to 6.3 percent. The international trade deficit Trump promised to reduce went up. The US trade deficit in goods and services in 2020 was the highest since 2008 and increased 40.5 percent from 2016. The number of Americans lacking health insurance rose by 3 million. The federal debt held by the public went up, from $14.4 trillion to $21.6 trillion.
Tax reform worked? Trump’s tax cut conferred most of its benefits on big corporations and the rich, while enlarging the budget deficit. Giant banks and financial services companies got huge gains based on the new, lower corporate rate (21 percent), as well as the more preferable tax treatment of pass-through companies.
If not for the Trump cuts — along with the Bush tax cuts and their extensions — federal revenues would keep pace with federal spending indefinitely, and the ratio of the debt to the national economy would be declining. Instead, these tax cuts have added $10 trillion to the debt since their enactment and are responsible for 57 percent of the increase in the debt ratio since 2001, and more than 90 percent of the increase in the debt ratio if the one-time costs of bills responding to COVID-19 and the Great Recession are excluded. Eventually, the tax cuts are projected to grow to more than 100 percent of the increase.
Right about China? As the Brookings Institution found, Trump’s China policy only made China less restrained in pursuit of its ambitions. Confrontation has intensified, areas of cooperation have vanished, and the capacity of both countries to solve problems or manage competing interests has atrophied.
Oh, and then there are the pesky matters of Trump’s seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, facing 91 felony counts, causing America to be more divided than at any time since the Civil War, lying every time he opens his mouth, and planning to use the Justice Department for “vengeance” against his political enemies if elected again.
Why is Jamie Dimon — the most influential CEO in America — spouting these lies in favor of Trump?
Because he thinks Trump has a good chance of becoming president, and Dimon wants to be in his good graces.
Asked which candidate would be better for his business, Dimon said, “I have to be prepared for both. I will be prepared for both. We will deal with both.”
Dimon knows that his support for Nikki Haley irked Trump.
“Highly overrated Globalist Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMORGAN, is quietly pushing another non-MAGA person, Nikki Haley, for President,” Trump said in a post on Truth Social in late November. “I’ve never been a big Jamie Dimon fan, but had to live with this guy when he came begging to the White House. I guess I don’t have to live with him anymore, and that’s a really good thing.”
So now, Dimon — like Republican lawmakers across America, like other leaders of American institutions — feels it necessary to cave in to the integrity-crushing intimidation of a Trump administration, and lick Trump’s backside.
And when Dimon does this, you can bet many other CEOs and financial leaders will now follow his example.
At a time in our history when the most influential leaders of America need to stand up loudly and clearly for the rule of law, for democracy, for decency, and against Donald Trump, Dimon is leading the charge in the opposite direction.
This, friends, is how fascism takes root and spreads.
Reprinted with permission from Robert Reich’s substack.
Robert B. Reich is the Carmel P. Friesen Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, including as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eighteen books, including the bestsellers The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It; The Common Good; Saving Capitalism; Aftershock; Supercapitalism; and The Work of Nations.