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Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) speaks during a news conference with newly elected incoming members of the CPC at the AFL-CIO Building in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, November 13, 2022. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Democrats Urged to Embrace Agenda to Combat Crisis of 'Corporate Power' in US

"People are ready for a progressive, pro-democracy, pro-worker agenda to take on corporate control. We just need leaders to have the courage to enact it."

Julia Conley

The economic justice group Fight Corporate Monopolies on Tuesday said the Democratic Party must take note of the midterm electoral victories of a number of progressive candidates who have been outspoken about their plans to fight corporate greed, and enact a legislative agenda to combat what the group called a "corporate power crisis" in the United States.

"Legislators have the next two years to enact an economic populist, pro-democracy agenda—one that breaks through partisan divides—that would rebalance power away from monopolies, corporate special interests, and Wall Street," said the organization as it unveiled its Corporate Power Agenda.

The 19 policy recommendations focus on making everyday life more affordable for Americans, strengthening antitrust enforcement, and protecting small businesses from monopolization.

The agenda was released a week after progressives including Reps.-elect Greg Casar (D-Texas), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), and Sen.-elect John Fetterman (D-Pa.) won midterm races after campaigning on ensuring that "corporations pay their fair share," passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, and closing "the unnecessary gap between skyrocketing corporate profits and working people's poverty wages."

The election results showed that American voters are demanding their representatives in Congress aggressively fight corporate greed, said Fight Corporate Monopolies (FCM).

"Democrats can seize our massive electoral victories to fight for bold solutions for the majority of voters who want to see politicians break the chokehold corporations have on our political system, economy, and democracy," said Helen Brosnan, the group's executive director. "Small businesses are decimated by monopolies, workers are crushed by corporate bosses, and families are fed up with Wall Street taking home record profits while they struggle—but we've seen that it doesn't have to be this way."

"Small businesses are decimated by monopolies, workers are crushed by corporate bosses, and families are fed up with Wall Street taking home record profits while they struggle—but we've seen that it doesn't have to be this way."

Passing legislation to outlaw price fixing and price gouging—supported by 76% of voters, according to FCM—would "instantly caution executives against collusive behavior that results in higher prices and excess profits, and bar those convicted of price fixing from continuing to work in their industry, introducing further deterrents that are essentially nonexistent today."

The Democrats could also pass the Ending Corporate Greed Act, sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to adopt an economy-wide excess profits tax and ensure corporations, whose profit margins hit a 70-year high in 2021, are contributing to the greater good rather than further enriching their CEOs and shareholders.

To show that the party stands with workers over corporations, said FCM, the Democrats should pass the PRO Act to make it easier for workers to unionize and the Workplace Mobility Act, which would free an estimated 30 to 50% of American workers—including many in low-wage jobs—from being forced to sign noncompete agreements.

Policy recommendations for confronting the outsized influence corporations have on policymaking include closing the fundraising loophole that allows candidates and super PACs to coordinate their activities, "allowing corporations and billionaire donors to directly influence elections," and banning stock buybacks, which "skyrocketed over the last two decades, hitting a record of $881.7 billion in 2021."

To stop corporations from buying back their own shares instead of using profits to increase production and worker compensation, Democrats could pass the Reward Work Act, which includes a provision rescinding a 1982 rule that allowed stock buybacks—which had previously been treated as illegal market manipulation.

The Corporate Power Agenda also focuses heavily on confronting monopolization, which according to FCM has affected 75% of U.S. industries in the past two decades.

"Monopolization is happening in big markets, like search engines, online commerce, airlines, seeds and chemicals, and social networks," said the group. "It's happening in small markets as well, in hospitals, prison phone services, syringes, portable toilets, funeral caskets, mixed martial arts, and so on."

"At the same time, politicians at the federal and state level have stood by and cheered on these monopolies as they've amassed power over our economy and our lives," added FCM.

The trend toward corporate concentration has left Americans feeling that "society and politics are out of their control," said the group, as households struggle to cope with the rising cost of goods and services while earning take-home pay that is "up to 30% lower than it should be."

To confront corporate monopolies, FCM called on Democrats to:

  • Adopt an "abuse of dominance standard," which would revive traditional antitrust enforcement to protect businesses and workers from the abuses of dominant corporations, potentially modeled on the 21st Century Antitrust Act in New York, which was sponsored by state Sen. Michael Gianaris;
  • Fund antitrust agencies at the federal and state level;
  • Push the federal government to enforce the Robinson-Patman Act, which "outlaws the producers of goods from behaving anticompetitively and protects American businesses and workers from monopolists," but which has not been meaningfully enforced by regulators since the 1970s;
  • Ban megamergers like recent ones between T-Mobile and Sprint, Time Warner and AT&T, and Live Nation and Ticketmaster, by passing the Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act;
  • Rein in private equity profiteers by passing the Stop Wall Street Looting Act;
  • Stop giving big businesses tax breaks that disadvantage local competitors; and
  • Stop passing bailouts for giant corporations.

Nidhi Hegde, director of strategy and programs at the American Economic Liberties Project, said the agenda "will enable elected leaders who ran on fighting for working families to make it a reality at the federal, state, and local level."

"People are ready for a progressive, pro-democracy, pro-worker agenda to take on corporate control," said FCM on social media. "We just need leaders to have the courage to enact it."

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