What could make Americans say “enough!” to mega-corporations’ meddling? Examples of it are everywhere now: the attempt to privatize water in Detroit, massive cuts to public education in Mississippi, Burger King’s tax evading move to Canada, to name just a few. (1) Their goal? Extracting the last dollar of corporate profit from increasingly desperate people by privatizing everything we need –water, education, clean energy, public lands and resources, you name it. Cut public funding, cut taxes for the rich, cut or flee corporate taxes, then claim the government has no money and spends too much. Cut the rules that protect the public from corporate toxics and every other kind of harm, including devastating global climate change.
Why is it still working? One reason is that mega-corporations have played a dirty trick on us all. Corporate lobbyists used a key element of the ideal American story as a front for their own lawless agenda. Too many Congress members fell for it. It’s the big one, for Americans: “freedom.” Freedom from what? “Government,” of course. Well, “freedom” works for us too—freedom from the mega-corp mob and their attacks on us.
But there’s a second reason why the mega-corp coup is gaining on us so fast. It’s about names, frames and despair. Talk of the 1% and the 99% points to our growing inequality. But we need to get more specific about who is doing what to whom and how in an equally powerful way. Some have called the mega-corp mob the “dark state” or the “deep state,” “the shadow government,” or even the “corporate state.” Those names evoke an abstract force that sounds metaphysically evil, impossible to fight, defeat, or even find out about. None of that is true. So that’s why I am suggesting we talk about a “mega-corp coup” by the” mega-corp mob”.
Next, we require equally visceral language to name our fight back strategies. The latest entry into this effort is the Mayday Pac, a crowdfunding project to elect candidates committed to real campaign finance reform. “Mayday” is universally understood to signify a life-threatening emergency. But we also need to pay attention to other levels of the problem. According to Ralph Nader, in his new book,Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, many Congress members are well aware that bipartisan policy proposals they were willing to join got derailed by subtle parliamentary moves behind the scenes.(2) These tricks were initiated by a few of their colleagues acting on behalf of the mega-corp mob. In response, Nader calls for a special “convergence” project, independent of both parties, that would push for increased resistance to corporate “divide and conquer” tactics, protect those willing to fight back, and be in the game for the long haul. (I strongly recommend reading his action proposal, laid out in Chapter 10 of his new book. Read the rest of the book too!) Nader also suggests that opinion leaders at every level should be publically calling for more “statesmanship” and “patriotism” from leaders of the corporate world. (That’s a nice positive touch.)
In the meantime, there’s a lot we can do closer to the ground. Already some state legislatures in “red states” have resisted efforts by the Koch brothers to stop them approving alternative energy projects. Those state representatives, red as they are, understood that the money from green energy stays home and creates jobs. (3) Even at the congressional level, there are now encouraging signs of bipartisan agreement about things like sentencing reform for low level, nonviolent offenders convicted of drug offenses. I’m sure the prison lobbies don’t like it, but Congress members of all stripes have finally got that our overstuffed prisons are wasting tax payer money. Conservatives want to save government dollars, and liberals want to help the afflicted. This kind of agreement about outcome rises above differing reasons for support. That’s the true American way of solving problems and getting things done. Nader suggests that there still are a great many other opportunities for this kind of bipartisan problem solving, if we can expose the secret spoilers.
Today, our survival as a people, an economy, and a nation depends on all of that becoming crystal clear to mainstream America. It’s never been more true–we Americans are one big family, and the mega-corp wolves are at the door, with some very big feet already inside. We need the rebirth of a vast and deep movement for political and economic reform, but it starts with just two ideas: l. a mega-corps mob is trying to seize complete control of our country and our economy, by hamstringing our governments at every level. 2. When the chips are down, we must all come together to protect our freedom from the biggest, most dangerous threat of all—the mega-corp coup.
Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of The Metaphor Project, metaphorproject.org, and author of our new book, Move Our Message: How to Get America’s Ear. The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages since 1997. Follow Susan on Twitter @SusanCStrong.
(1) If anyone reading this is puzzled about who is in the mega-corp mob and what they’re up to, here’s a short list: all members of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the Koch brothers, Monsanto, the fossil fuel industry, and almost every other major multinational corporation in the world. Many books and articles have been written about this subject by such noted authors as David Korten, Gar Alperovitz, Hedrick Smith, and others too numerous to name; there’s a great film about it, Who Stole the American Dream?,and the latest issue of YES! Magazine contains a handy chart and summary on pp.18-19 (Fall 2014). The terms “megacorporations,” “megacorp” or “mega-corp” are already out there in many other contexts, especially the action/dystopian fantasy/sci-fi/war video gaming world. Hooking our message to popular mythology may be an important way to make it go viral.
(2) Nation Books, New York, 2014, 240 pp.