To survive in this economic climate, Democrats must fight monopolies, not flirt with them

The Democrats’ only chance for success in this challenging year is to run as the party willing to take on greedy, monopolistic corporations and corporate CEOs, so that we can improve the lives of working and middle-class families. 

Polling and focus groups of working-class voters commissioned over the last couple of months by my organization, American Family Voices, found them cynical about both political parties. They believe that Republicans are in bed with big corporations and their CEOs, and that Democrats are too weak to stand up to them. But their highest unfavorable ratings go not to political parties, but to global corporations, corporate CEOs and corporate-owned media.

Working-class voters’ top agenda items are lowering prescription drugs and health care costs, taxing the wealthy and profitable corporations at higher rates, building things in America and stopping bad trade deals that outsource jobs, making it easier for workers to organize unions, lowering the cost of child care, as well as getting paid time off when someone in the family has health problems. 

The two institutions they love the most are labor unions and small business, and they want government to rein in the power of big monopolies, so that unions and small businesses have more of a chance to be successful when going up against them. 

This is the old-fashioned working-class populism of FDR, Truman and LBJ. In my 40-year political career, I have never seen these views more popular or strongly held.

The Democratic mission in Congress and the executive branch should be to get as many of these kinds of ideas enacted as possible.

What Democrats definitely should not do is give sweetheart deals to the biggest monopolies.

In the next few weeks, Democrats face just such a choice that could be a disaster or a boon to the party and depends on whether Democrats are willing to stand up to Big Tech. 

The Senate and the House have both passed versions of a bill designed to boost domestic microchip manufacturing and overall American competitiveness vis a vis China. Both the Senate’s bill, the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), and the House’s COMPETES Act deliver on those goals.

Unfortunately, though, some senators threatened to hold up this priority China bill unless they got a controversial trade package added on. As a result, the Senate China bill now includes terms working class voters appear to hate: More perks for large corporations that offshore jobs and a Big Tech boondoggle requiring taxpayer funded government staff to work for these giant firms to seek out and attack laws worldwide like those we are trying to enact here to rein in Big tech abuses of workers and small businesses.  

This is the same rotten-to-the-core scam that Big Pharma lobbyists got for their industry in a 1988 trade bill, which is technically called Special 301. Big Pharma uses it to undermine policies to bring down medicine prices. Now Big Tech wants the same special powers and privileges so they can continue their damaging ways.

Thanks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-N.Y.) leadership, these pro-monopoly, anti-worker, anti-small-business terms are not in the House version. Instead, some very smart trade provisions were added. One would close the so called “Amazon loophole,” which today allows 2 million packages daily of goods ordered online to come into the United States mainly from China without safety inspection and dodging all U.S. taxes and trade cheating penalties.

What is technically called “de minimis” informal landing importation started when online and express delivery giants got a technical change buried in a 2015 bill. As a result, we now have a tsunami of potentially unsafe, uninspected packages that undermine U.S. small businesses and skirt the U.S. ban on forced labor-made goods, so U.S. workers also lose.  

This flood of counterfeit items or potentially dangerous Chinese imports slipping in through this loophole include surge protectors, phone charger cords and hover boards — some of which have exploded or caught fire — and fake automobile air bags, infant stroller and bicycle helmets. The House bill closes this loophole.

As a matter of policy and politics, when the House and Senate China bills are reconciled, Democrats must dump the Big tech Special 301 boondoggle and include the loophole fix. 

And, if the Republicans object, politically that’s a great fight to pick. Do they really want to have to stand on the floor of the Senate and argue that we have to give Big Tech companies sweetheart deals and help them dodge taxes and import dangerous junk from China? And that they will derail bipartisan efforts to rebuild our domestic microchip manufacturing capacity and compete against China unless these special interests get their way?

Let’s lean into a fight like that — nothing could help Democrats more. Indeed, part of the key to Democrats winning in 2022 is picking these kinds of fights. Working-class voters, both in our base and among swing voters, want us to take on monopolistic corporations and fight for workers and small businesses.

Which side are you on, Democrats? You’ll be rewarded handsomely if you say workers and small business.

Michael Lux is founder and president of American Family Voices. Lux is also the co-founder of Democracy Partners consulting firm. He served as a senior staffer or adviser on six different presidential campaigns. He was the national constituency director for the 1992 Clinton campaign and the special assistant to the president for public liaison in the Clinton White House from 1993 to 1995.

Tags big tech China corporation democrats republicans trade

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