Ordinary Americans benefited during World War II through full employment and higher wages propelling the U.S into an era of unprecedented prosperity. However, the biggest gainers of the wartime boom were large corporations who realized extraordinary profits. This profit surge was only possible because the federal government ordered billions of dollars worth of military equipment without instituting price controls or taxing corporate profits, thus in affect ending The Great Depression. This winfall benefited mainly big corporations, known better today as “Corporate America.” Princeton University did an in-depth study back in the 1990’s, where they cited that throughout World War II,” less than 60 big businesses reaped 75 percent of all military spending and government orders”.
With the war ending and need for production sharply dropping, the immense gap between supply and demand was about to return, destroying those incredibly large profits. With the Axis now defeated, American businesses needed a new enemy and our former ally the Soviet Union was the perfect choice. Though our former partner against the Nazis, their godless, communist society made for the perfect new foe for our ultra religious, capitalist nation. Many agree the Soviet Union posed no real threat to America either economically or militarily, but wanted to work together with the U.S to build a peaceful relationship. However, corporate America saw things differently, even though we had a vastly superior economy and a monopoly on nuclear weapons.
Many Americans beleive that it was the imminent invasion of the Soviets that initiated the Cold War era, but in fact, it was America’s “military-industrial” complex. That term was coined by President Eisenhower in the 1950’s as a reference to those wealthy individuals and corporations that profited from the “warfare economy.” The ushering in of the Cold War brought with it a never-ending demand for the most advanced weaponry to arm our allies with against communism. The Cold War would see an endless stream of unprecedented profits for the owners and major shareholders of these powerful corporations.
Also, during the Cold War the federal government financed their military costs through loans, causing our national debt to skyrocket to the levels we know today. In 1945, the national debt was $260 billion. Fast-forward to 1990, the end of the Cold War, which saw our national debt soar to over $3.2 trillion. Today, our national debt stands at $18 trillion and continues climbing. This ballooning debt has caused the United States to become the world’s greatest debtor, while undermining our national security, i.e Chinese/foreign debt ownership.
Companies like Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics made all of this possible because these large defense contractors determine what the government in Washington does, even in regards to fiscal policy. After the Cold War, many of these corporations transformed themselves into “multi-nationals”. These multi-national conglomerates are criticized for operating in countries with low human rights and environmental standards. Multi-nationals increasingly use capital to pit workers and nations against each other while demanding tax, wage and regulation concessions, while threatening to relocate. Their aggressive use of tax avoidance schemes allows them to gain a competitive advantage over smaller businesses.
CBS News/60 Minutes recently did a piece about multi-national companies where they cited, “Within the United States, 38 percent of all American multi-nationals, and more than 70 percent of all foreign multi-nationals paid not a single dollar of taxes in 2010 to their governments. The remaining multi-nationals were reported as remitting less than 1 per cent of their profits in taxes”. While you almost have to admire these companies for their financial ingenuity, on the flip side, you also need to recognize how this hurts individual citizens, because in affect, they shut out the voice of the average citizen.
No longer do we live in a society where our government is “for the people and by the people”, its now more “for corporations and by the corporations”. President Coolidge famously once said, “The business of America is business.” Fast-forward a hundred years, and you can now say, “The business of America is war”, even if the American Government is too politically savvy to mention that business is booming.
What are your thoughts? Is America run by business interests? Do you feel your voice is still heard?