The term “business reformers” hasn’t been heard much, these past decades. in American political talk, but right now reform of the nation’s ways by business leaders is the big big story. Really. It’s been quite a year :
1.the Indiana situation. One still amazes at how quickly that state’s “religious freedom” discrimination law was deep-sixed once business leaders weighed in on the side of LGBT civil rights. This decisive move should actually have not come as much of a surprise. Pride parades feature dozens of businesses represented by employees marching in support of LGBT equality.
2.As quickly as anti-trade Congress members killed President Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership initiative, so the killing was undone and full authority given to the President to negotiate his new trade treaty.
3.the rapid move by South Carolina’s political leaders to call for taking down the Confederate battle flag from State House grounds, in response to the tragic Charleston shootings, was bolstered significantly by business leaders in that state.
4.Despite all doubts, and against the loud objections of the anti-ACA crowd, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 6 to 3, reaffirmed the health care law, much to the pleasure of most Americans — including the hospital and insurance industries.
5.Just an hour ago, the same Supreme Court, by a 5 to 4 majority, held that marriage equality is the law of the land. As Justice Kennedy said, “the Constitution ensures liberty to all within its reach.”
How has this impressive run of victories for business interests acting as soldiers of major reform come about ? That’s a question well worth analyzing. I cannot help but attribute it to the oft-criticized Citizens United decision, that opened the flood gates of campaigns to big corporate money.
We have thought of big corporate money as a bad thing, a regressive force in politics; and to be sure, some regressive money forces do matter — the Koch Brothers being the best-known example. But there is far, far more money in the coffers of businesses who prefer to enhance their customers than bulldoze them; and the enhancers have come to the fore now almost unstoppably.
That’s because our politicians now receive the bulk of their campaign funds from big business interests; and so if business money tends to the side of reform, reform is what politicians will deliver, and have.
Supply siders not only get the economics of an economy wrong, they also misunderstand its politics. Most businesses understand that their prosperity derives from customers — the more customers, the more prosperity. Thus the Indiana move : few businesses want to tell a large body of prospective customers — the LGBT community — that they aren’t welcome. For the same reason, many reformist businesses are upping their minimum wage significantly; and the businesses that make big cities what they are — beehives of busy, culturally diverse prosperity — support the move, in many cities, to mandate a $ 15 per hour minimum.
We like to think of the $ 15 an hour wage as a “socialist” initiative, but its coming to pass is the result of reformist business understanding its market : people who earn enough to buy into the discretionary economy are customers.
Business reform is also the driving force behind the transformation of education. We educate children for two purposes : citizenship and employment. Business reformers have taken the lead — despite enormous opposition — in transforming education systems, curricula, and purposes in order to have graduating kids who are able to do the jobs that businesses in the technology era need done. One reason they have been able to succeed in this terrifically difficult fight is the same reason that I cited above : business donations drive today;’s political campaigns.
The prevalence of business reformers matters hugely as we head to the 2016 presidential election. Already business reformers have crowded out most of the anti-business and regressive business contenders. All things right now point to Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush being the two major party nominees. At least in part that’s because big-donor business reformers see them as the two candidates most likely to bring about what business reformers want : trade, prosperous customers, inclusion, best practices education. The Koch Brothers differ; but their time has passed. Today the center ring of American politics belongs to the reformers set free by Citizens United.