Let’s talk about the concept of “profit” in our allegedly “free market.” I know that much of the opposition to the Occupy Wall Street movement relies on rhetoric that implies that corporate “profits” are earned by those at the top, and that asking them to pay their fair share in taxes is robbery of some kind.
That is a lie. It’s a pernicious lie.
For purposes of context, here is the classical definition of the “free market” from Wikipedia:
In the classical economics of such figures as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, “free markets” meant “free of unnecessary charges” and a “market free from monopoly power, business fraud, political insider dealing and special privileges for vested interests”. A “free market” particularly meant one free of foreign debt; as discussed in The Wealth of Nations. Alternatively, stated, it was a market freed from Feudalism and serfdom, or more formally, one free of economic rent, in the formulation by David Ricardo of the Law of Rent.
We do not live in a free market economy. We live in an economy dominated by rentiers. Frankly, I believe we live in an economy dominated by criminals. Everything that the 1% is collecting, particularly in terms of corporate “profits,” are unearned monies collected by imposing costs on everyone else. That is, every dollar of corporate profits that they take home is a dollar taken out of your pocket.
By way of illustration, let’s talk about bananas. Multinational corporations such as Del Monte and Dole basically control the banana market. Many, if not most, of the banana plantations run by Del Monte and Dole are located in Central America. The corporations running the plantations have made obscene profits by exploiting child labor, and essentially committing genocide, by using highly toxic fumigants and nematicides that cause male sterility. This, even after the chemical had been banned for use in the US for exactly that reason.
Explain to me how the money collected from these practices counts as “profit.”
How about chocolate? Do you suppose that money collected from the practice of child slavery should qualify as “profit?”
How about the money taken home as corporate profit that is “earned” by dumping untreated industrial waste into the environment? Every dollar taken home as a result of those practices comes at the cost of health problems caused by exposure.
Let’s talk about transportation and infrastructure. Oil and gas companies are making record profits, and extensively utilize our state and federal highway systems to transport their goods to market via tanker trucks, which are known to be the primary causes of wear and tear. The interstate highway system is maintained by federal tax dollars. When the big oil and gas companies utilize a variety of tax avoidance schemes to not only avoid paying their fair share for maintenance of the transportation system, but also to put the burden of environmental clean up back onto the US government by claiming tax credits, can those dollars that have been siphoned off into the pockets of the 1% legitimately be called profit?
This is just a handful of examples of the ways in which the costs of doing big business are externalized onto workers, the environment, and the public. There are likely hundreds more. The question is why do so many people believe the lie that the “profit” taken home by our oligarchs is “earned,” and that there is no need for an appropriate tax structure to fund recovery from the damage they do?