Massachusetts Democrats are breaking historic policy ground at this month’s Platform Convention, so if the thought of another platform convention makes you want to take a nap, wake up! For decades, the Republican party has wrongfully claimed the mantle of being the party that’s good for business when the reality is that their business policies, just like everything thing else, benefit the top 1% of businesses at the expense of the 99% of businesses underneath. Republican business policies support grossly excessive tax breaks for industries so long in the teeth they should be called “graveyard industries” rather than “infant industries”. Republican environmental deregulation passes the cost of business along to all of us who must breathe the air they pollute, drink the water they contaminate, and pay for it in diminished health and higher health care costs. Republican tax policies support outsourcing jobs and raiding workers’ pension funds so the “savings” can be passed on to CEOs and shareholders. Republican business policies have created a slovenly, anti-competitive business culture among the top 1%. Worst of all, Republican business policy perpetuates income inequality. Of course it does. That’s the whole point. They put executive compensation and dividends above the long term, well-being of the company. It’s self-dealing, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. Republicans aren’t really pro-business, they’re pro-profit, and they are so deeply rooted in their beliefs that they simply cannot see their own hypocrisy.
Republicans have succeeded with the deception that self-dealing equates with being pro-business for several reasons. One of the biggest is that business news has an overwhelmingly conservative bias. Whether you’re reading The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, or even The Boston Globe, business success (and business coverage) is largely defined in terms of shareholder profit, market dominance, and celebrity CEOs. While there is an occasional front page story about abuses of labor and environmental damage, it pales next to the constant scrolls of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and publicity given to corporate heads paid a king’s ransom to exercise their genius for slashing research and development, liquidating pensions, paying labor as little as possible, keeping money in the hands of corporate boards who will vote to raise CEO salaries and their own annual fees, and always, always, always finding ways to avoid paying taxes.
But these stories are seldom found in the business pages of newspapers, leaving many Democrats with the mistaken impression that “business” means greed, narcissism, and economic myopia. It doesn’t. The business community is undergoing a huge change, as progressive business leaders find new ways to make a profit while serving the public good. It’s called sustainable capitalism, conscious capitalism, and just plain old-fashioned business common sense. It’s the future of business, and the Massachusetts Democrats are rightfully seizing the issue in this year’s platform.
Talk to progressive business leaders and workers. They’ll tell you what they care about. They want to work for a company with a higher purpose than the bottom line. A company that provides goods or services that add value for their customers and to their community. They want fair pay, of course, but unlike conservative CEOs they don’t want to siphon off support for vital parts of the company in order to get it. They want worker safety, and worker training to maintain high standards. They want to build things right and build them to last. They want the companies they work for to stay in business, and grow, so that their children can grow up and have good jobs with the company too. It’s the progressives who are pro-business. It’s not conservatives. It’s not the Republicans. It’s the Democrats who are the pro-business party.
When the Massachusetts Democrats hold their platform convention this month, they will for the first time have a section on business. Look at just the first sentence: “The Democrats understand that we are the pro-business party.” The platform goes on to state, among other things, that “we see government at the intersection of healthy business and healthy communities”. We support living wages, as we understand that living wages are spent by workers on local businesses, helping them to grow and prosper too, even to hire more workers of their own as they do. We support cooperative banks, mutual banks, and credit unions which invest locally instead of making money and moving it out of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Democrats understand that sustainable energy both creates jobs and protects the environment, and Senator-elect Markey spoke powerfully of that vision in his acceptance speech. We will provide incentives and protections for local farmers, fishers, and other producers who will create local, healthier alternatives to factory farms where animals are subject to cruelty, and otherwise health-building produce is bathed in chemical confections which pollute the environment and damage our health.
We will create a corporate tax code that rewards businesses which generate community growth and participation, rather than enabling industry dominance that crushes a robust, competitive, and fair marketplace. Under this new corporate tax code, sustainable businesses will be more successful, and bring more good jobs into the economy.
We will have full partnerships with organized labor in both the public and private sectors, which will define our priorities and direction, and encourage smart long-term planning by the private sector.
In short, Massachusetts Democrats will support business policies which define the new American Dream: to do well while doing good. Companies the world over are embracing the new way of doing business. I’ve interviewed Bob Massie of The New Economics Institute, Sen. Dan Wolf, and Timothy Henry, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism, on my cable and radio shows. All told me story after story after story of companies like Patagonia, the Container Store, Cape Air, and Trader Joe’s not only making a profit, but actually enjoying longer, more stable profitability by using progressive business principles which reject Romneyesque slash-and-burn capitalism in favor of sustainable, conscious capitalism which, on top of everything else, is a lot less stressful.
Be prepared for Republicans to cry foul, and to have nothing smart to say about any of this. Gabriel Gomez’ claim to being a successful businessman was sidelined when he was not only unwilling to name a single client, but unable to articulate a business platform that was in any way distinguishable from Mitt Romney’s. Republicans are so deeply entrenched in conservative business doctrine that they simply cannot see that a revolution has begun in the business community that will even further erode their base. So when the Republicans gasp in horror and flail about wildly for a reason to keep their scorched earth business policies, have some sympathy for them. Once the Democrats seize this issue, they’ll have nothing left.
To learn more, come to the Policy Breakout Sessions at the Massachusetts Democratic State Convention in Lowell on July 13th. Sen. Dan Wolf and Bob Massie are leading the session on Sustainable Capitalism. For further details, and to learn about the other sessions, go to MassDems.org.
Mara Dolan, Esq. is the Co-Chair of the Policy Committee of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee, the Co-Chair of the Concord Democratic Town Committee, the Co-Chair of the 3rd Middlesex Democrats, and the host of The Mara Dolan Show on WCAP in Lowell.