Michael Fleshman / Flickr tax dodgers trump tower...
Michael Fleshman / Flickr

Pity the poor corporations. They latched their star to the wrong guy, and now they’re stuck.

First of all, they start with a baseline that shows practically  no one in America agrees that they need the massive tax breaks that Trump and his Republican accomplices in the House of Representatives say they need:

Virtually no one in the United States believes that corporations deserve a tax break. Despite the fact that one of the nation’s major parties spends every election cycle loudly decrying the IRS’s oppression of Corporate America – while the other evinces a quieter sympathy for big business’s plight – only 9 percent of Americans think that corporations pay “too much” in taxes, according to a Gallup poll from April. Some 67 percent believe Corporate America pays “too little.”

Of course, the prevailing attitude among corporations is that the public be damned, they’re in it for “shareholder value,” which is more often than not a euphemism for providing ridiculous levels of compensation to their CEO’s and highest ranking officers.  Sure, if the stock price goes up the “little guy” who owns a couple hundred shares may see a benefit, but lets not kid ourselves—the real money is with the folks who own hundreds of thousands of shares and know exactly when to buy and sell them.

Another big problem corporations face is that nobody in the country really thinks they ought to be dirtying up the air, poisoning the drinking water, raising your cable rates, loan sharking, or fracking and mining through national parks and forests just to fatten their bottom lines. The public just doesn’t buy their “deregulation” shtick—it’s too removed from their daily lives, and the argument that “jobs” will suddenly manifest themselves if all of those pesky regulations are repealed hasn’t really resonated with a public that has been, for the most part, stuck on a treadmill of stagnant wages for four decades running, and has seen their jobs outsourced to places like Mexico and Vietnam for a similar span of time.

So what’s a poor multi-billion dollar International conglomerate to do? Well,  a long time ago they hit on a brilliant plan. Cozy up to the rubes in the hinterland who habitually vote Republican out of fear of the Blacks and the Browns, and convince them that a woman’s right to an abortion is the most significant problem the country has ever faced.  Create phony outreach groups to Evangelicals who vote Republican, implying that the only way they’ll get to heaven is by cutting the capital gains tax. Somewhere in the Bible there’s some verse that can be twisted to those ends.

And it worked. For a long time.

But now they’re fucked.

Because, in the past it really didn’t matter that their chosen marks were disproportionately made up of truly racist crackers who really, really hated those Blacks and Browns and reflexively tended to blame those groups for stealing away their God-given right to a flat-screen TV and a safe retirement. You see, this was all meant to be done under the radar,  with corporations footing the bill for astro-turfed Republican turnout schemes like “FreedomWorks” and “Americans For Prosperity,” groups with no real live human members but gobs and gobs of corporate cash at their disposal.

The general plan was to get the sheep all hot and bothered about some stupid issue like immigration or abortion—things that corporations could care less about, as long as those white cracker sheep would dutifully march in lockstep to vote for the carefully selected Republican corporate stooge running for Congress. The corporations would keep their hands clean of such people, and go on selling their products as if they had nothing to do with them, while ALEC went to work on rewriting the laws in their favor. Then all would be well—no harm, no foul. As Eric Levitz, writing for New York Magazine explains:

So, the Chamber of Commerce made common cause with the most reactionary elements in American society. (The degree of allegiance is clear from the campaign contributions of the Chamber’s political action committee: 96 percent went to Republican candidates in 2016.) For half a century now, the party of business has consciously courted the votes of white racists.

But it did so respectably. Appeals to racial animus were refracted through coded language about “states rights” and “law and order.” Sometimes, these appeals could even be expressed through the enactment of the corporate wing’s policy priorities – shrinking public spending could be sold as a means of cracking down on “welfare queens.”

But then Trump came along, catering specifically and loudly to the racist impulses of these folks. And now sticking it to folks of different colors, creeds and sexual orientation is the overriding imperative for these same people.  But that’s a problem, because corporations sell their baubles and services to more than just racist crackers from the sticks. They need customers from every walk of life, including, specifically, the young and affluent who tend to be repulsed by someone like Trump who caters only to the baser instincts of people.  These customers actually have morals, but more importantly, they have a lot of disposable income.

Trump has positioned himself as a starlet fluffer for corporate interests –and he is. He’s never met a regulation he doesn’t want to repeal. He’s stocked his cabinet with some of most venal corporate slugs the country has ever produced.  But that’s where his appeal runs into a wall with the fancy “disposable income set:”

But Trump never got the memo from H.R. about the GOP Establishment’s social media policy. The demagogic reality star has no interest in camouflaging his party’s reliance on white racism. Trump discovered that the racist stuff gets the most applause. And at the end of the day, that’s what he’s in politics for. Well, that and kleptocratic graft.

Turns out that Trump didn’t get the memo that the whole scam was meant to be kept hidden from view. So when the neo-Nazis came a-calling, Trump welcomed them with open arms, because that’s just how he rolls. Meanwhile, corporations suddenly saw their planned massive profits evaporate as a result of their association with him. So just this week we’ve seen a run to the exits from Trump’s vaunted “corporate panels” like we’ve never witnessed from corporations before. They know how badly their brand can be tarnished by being even within smelling distance of a guy who aligns himself with those whose mission in life is to lynch African-Americans and put Jews back into the ovens.

So they’re in a real bind—how can they keep their stooge army in the hinterland voting Republican while disassociating themselves from the Dear Leader, whose policies now are utterly toxic? 

But even before Trump broke the first rule of public relations (don’t praise Nazis), corporate America was already in a bind: This president has made the reactionary nature of their political allies garishly transparent, even as their consumer base has grown more socially liberal than it’s ever been.

And the problem these multinationals face is not limited to convincing folks in this country to buy their wares. It’s a brave global world out there:

… Young, progressive city-dwellers are more likely to try new products than your average elderly person in rural America — and the former’s brand loyalty is more coveted, since they are less likely to die soon. What’s more, we’re living in an age of global capitalism; no brand wants to cater to white, American nationalism at the expense of overseas sales.

So now the light is shining on them, and they’re running from Trump like scalded dogs. Because the whole voice of their Republican Party is now being loudly dominated by people with swastikas and tiki torches. Not good P.R. at all. Not at all. Need to come up with a new plan.


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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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