We will give workers an ownership stake in the companies they work for, break up corrupt corporate mergers and monopolies, and finally make corporations pay their fair share.
In America today, corporate greed and corruption is destroying the social and economic fabric of our society, where a small group of ultra-wealthy CEOs are making the decisions that increasingly determine our economic, environmental and political future. For too long, these greedy corporate CEOs have rigged the tax code, killed market competition, and crushed the lives and power of workers and communities across America. Year after year we’ve seen wages slashed and thousands of workers laid off, all while the richest corporate CEOs pay themselves huge bonuses. They got away with it through a broken campaign finance system, where a few large campaign donations can get you the ear of any politician.
Now Donald Trump, the most corrupt president in history, has brought this corporate corruption straight into the Oval Office.
Enough is enough. With Bernie’s Corporate Accountability and Democracy Plan, we will give workers an ownership stake in the companies they work for, break up corrupt corporate mergers and monopolies, and finally make corporations pay their fair share. When Bernie is president, we’re going to put an end to the corporate greed ruining our country once and for all.
In America today, corporate greed is destroying the social and economic fabric of our society and rapidly moving our nation into an oligarchy, in which a small handful of multi-billionaires increasingly determine our economic, environmental, and political future.
Today, the richest 10 percent of Americans own an estimated 97 percent of all capital income – including capital gains, corporate dividends, and interest payments. Since the 2008 Wall Street crash, 49 percent of all new income generated in America has gone to the top 1 percent. The three wealthiest people in our country now own more wealth than the bottom 160 million Americans. And the richest family in America – the Walton family, which inherited about half of Walmart’s stock – is worth $200 billion and owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of the American people.
While the corporate profits that presently go to a small number of ultra-wealthy families are at or near an all-time high, wages as a percentage of our economy are near an all-time low.
Instead of using their massive profits to benefit workers and our society as a whole, corporate America has pumped over $1 trillion into stock buybacks to reward already-wealthy shareholders and executives since the Trump tax plan was signed into law. Meanwhile, as the very rich become ever richer, the average hourly wage of the American worker has gone up by just 1 percent from where it was 46 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Since 1982, the Walton family has experienced a more than 10,000 percent increase in its wealth, while the median family in America has less wealth today than it did 37 years ago.
The reality is that today the executives and biggest shareholders of most large, profitable corporations could not give a damn about the working class or the communities in which our corporations operate. Those who control these behemoth corporations have only one allegiance: to the short-term bottom line. What happens to their employees, what happens to the environment, and what happens to the community in which their firms function matters very little. These are not really American companies – they are companies currently located in America at most, and increasingly aren’t even incorporated here but instead merely selling here. Tomorrow, if the economics made sense to them, they could be located in China – and already they are incorporating in offshore tax havens like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
This type of greed is not an economic model we should be embracing. We can do better; we must do better.
The establishment tells us there is no alternative to unfettered capitalism, that this is how the system and globalization work and there’s no turning back. They are dead wrong.
The truth is that we can and we must develop new economic models to create jobs and increase wages and productivity across America. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to large corporations that ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to give workers an ownership stake in the companies they work for, a say in the decision-making process that impacts their lives, and a fair share of the profits that their work makes possible in the first place.
If workers had ownership stakes in their companies and an equal say on corporate boards:
The time has come to substantially expand employee ownership in America. Study after study has shown that employee ownership increases employment, increases productivity, increases sales, and increases wages in the United States. This is in large part because employee-owned businesses boost employee morale, dedication, creativity and productivity, because workers share in profits and have more control over their own work lives.
Employees in worker-owned companies are not simply cogs in a machine owned by someone else. They play a central role in determining what the company does and how it is run.
By giving workers seats on corporate boards and a stake in their companies, we can create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent. Not only are we going to make it much easier to join a union and much harder to misclassify workers through the Workplace Democracy Act and increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. With this proposal we are going to fundamentally shift the wealth of the economy back into the hands of those who create it.
Today in the United States, a tiny group of asset managers control most of the votes in the economy. They control shares in corporations, which control our workplaces, our pay, our security in retirement, and our environment. The three biggest asset manager firms – BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard – if combined would be the largest shareholder in 438 out of the S&P 500 largest corporations. In each firm, there are just 10 to 20 people working in corporate governance departments, who cast the votes on all corporate shares that they control. Under 50 people control the votes in the American economy.
These asset managers oppose labor unions and fair wages. They support escalating pay for billionaire CEOs. They oppose action to end discrimination at work and stop the gender pay gap. They oppose meaningful action to combat climate damage. They oppose an end to corporate political spending, and billionaires buying elections, under the disastrous Citizens United decision.
The voting power asset managers control comes from other people’s money. It doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to us. It comes from Americans saving for retirement, in group and single-employer pension plans, in 401(k)s, in life insurance, and in mutual funds. But the share of workers’ capital in the stock market has been shrinking since the 1980s. Inequality has skyrocketed as workplace democracy and collective bargaining have been attacked. This has meant a smaller slice of the pie for American labor, and a growing slice for Wall Street. We need to rebalance the share of income and wealth in favor of labor. We need to give America a pay raise. We need to expand democracy in the workplace and the economy.
Today, we are seeing a level of corporate concentration not seen since the Gilded Age. Over the past 40 years, nearly every single industry in the country has become more concentrated. Monopolies and oligopolies rule over every aspect of American life, from the food we eat, the beer we drink, the airlines we fly, even to the eyeglasses we wear. Without competition, these corporations are able to gouge consumers, extort suppliers, and stifle innovation.
At the turn of the 20th century, Congress saw the need to restrict the monopolistic and unfair practices of massive trusts and corporations. The Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act gave wide latitude for the federal government to enforce anti-monopoly policy, recognizing the destructive nature of unchecked corporate power. However, over the past several decades, the federal judiciary and antitrust agencies have been hijacked by right-wing, corporate-aligned ideologues who have made the failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s idea of “consumer welfare” the guiding principle for antitrust law. In implementing Bork’s far right ideology, the Supreme Court has weakened laws put in place to protect people from consolidation and monopolization and has left the economy to be run by a few large corporations.
This has resulted in a new era of monopoly power. Concentrated markets have led to lower wages and less innovation. We are seeing large corporations stamp out fair competition, excluding smaller rivals and raising prices for consumers.
These large corporations are also able to create laws that benefit them, as we’ve seen with companies like Amazon fight to pay no taxes in the communities where they operate, while at the same time paying nothing in federal taxes. Consolidation of large hospital systems has led to higher prices and worse service. In agribusiness, Bayer controls a seed monopoly that crushes small farmers, and Tyson Foods locks powerless chicken farmers into exploitative contracts with no way out.
We are seeing mega-mergers like the one between T-Mobile and Sprint, which represents a gross concentration of power that runs counter to the public good. Americans deserve affordable wireless access. This merger will not only lead to fewer options and higher prices for consumers, but it could lead to 30,000 jobs lost and reduced wages for thousands more. Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox has created a conglomerate that controls media in sports, in movie theaters, and on television.
Bernie believes we need to rediscover the American tradition of controlling corporate power and promoting fair competition through antitrust. He will halt anticompetitive mergers, break up existing monopolies and oligopolies, and appoint federal regulators ready to take action on behalf of workers and consumers – not massive corporations. He will take antitrust enforcement authority out of the control of the captured judiciary and create markets that work for all, not just the wealthy and well-connected.
The Trump administration has been plagued by corruption and its approvals of mergers and acquisitions have been no different. We have seen the administration approve mergers after CEOs and investors spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at Trump hotels, despite knowing that it will result in thousands of workers losing their jobs. This is unacceptable and under Bernie’s administration, these mergers will be reviewed and, when necessary, undone.
Furthermore, over the past 40 years we have seen a huge rise in the number of mergers and acquisitions approved. We can see this has led to lower wages, stagnant growth and innovation, and left our economy unstable. The Federal Trade Commission must conduct a comprehensive study to investigate the impacts these mergers have had on competition, our economy, and workers, and establish new guidelines that restrict mergers and acquisitions.
The Federal Trade Commission has failed its mission. Antitrust enforcement has fallen to almost none in recent years. Under the Trump administration, the FTC has shown deference to the largest, most powerful corporations instead of fighting for workers and consumers. When the FTC settled with Facebook for $5 billion over egregious privacy violations, Facebook’s stock rose, as investors knew it was a slap on the wrist. Similarly, the FTC’s recent settlement with YouTube over child privacy violations amounts to just three months of ad revenue. Even as it has handled monopolists with kid gloves, it has attacked the organizing efforts of workers and professionals, including in the gig economy.
The FTC has lost its credibility as a regulatory agency. A Sanders FTC will be reinvigorated. Bernie will appoint commissioners who serve the public interest and will end the revolving door of FTC commissioners and staff leaving to work for the very same corporations they were previously in charge of regulating.
All too often, decisions about mergers and acquisitions are determined by judges, not expert regulators, and have to go through a complicated legal system to be overturned. This is not how other nations approach mergers and acquisitions. The Federal Trade Commission must be given the authority to halt mergers and impose fines on companies that violate FTC guidelines without long, costly, and ideological court battles. Judges do not have the expertise to determine the economic and labor impacts of mergers and the FTC, whose staff has the training needed to make these decisions, must have the authority to approve or deny mergers.
Guidelines for approving mergers reflect pro-corporate ideology and should instead account for the adverse effects mergers often have on workers, consumers, and our economy as a whole. While mergers have historically been great for large corporations, they have hurt workers by closing down plants and reducing wages, and have hurt our economy and our democracy by consolidating market power to a few actors who control entire markets and industries.
The Federal Trade Commission will have the authority to approve or deny mergers, and will focus on people, not profits.
Corporations and employers have an unprecedented amount of power over workers, consumers, and suppliers. While corporations will argue that a signed contract is freely agreed to, in reality there is often no choice but to agree to the terms set by these corporate overlords. Corporations use contracts to rob us of fundamental rights, such as the right to leave for a better job and hold corporate wrongdoers accountable in court. An estimated one in five workers is bound by a non-compete agreement, ostensibly to protect trade secrets and prevent poaching of high-level executives. Today, maids, hair stylists, and fast food workers are subject to these clauses. An estimated 60 percent of major franchises have non-compete clauses in their contracts, which drive down wages and mobility.
Mandatory arbitration clauses prevent workers and consumers from having their day in court. In 1992, roughly 2 percent of the workforce were bound by mandatory arbitration. By 2000, that number had risen to 25 percent. Now, it’s 55 percent. Nearly two-thirds of workers making less than $13 an hour are subject by mandatory arbitration clauses, including majorities of women, Hispanic, and African-American workers. For consumers, mandatory arbitration takes away the option for class-action lawsuits and helps corporations avoid paying restitution for misconduct and fraud. The Supreme Court has empowered corporations to use arbitration to deny us our day in court in front of a jury of our peers.
Even understanding and signing a contract is no defense when the contract includes a unilateral modification clause, which stipulates the terms can be changed at any time, for any reason. Consumers, customers, and workers are subject to the governance of hundreds of pages of fine-print developed by highly-paid lawyers for the purpose of shielding corporations and cementing their market power. The Federal Trade Commission will use its authority to prohibit unfair methods of competition and ban practices that tilt the playing field.
For more than 40 years, Wall Street banks, large profitable corporations, and the billionaire class have rigged the tax code to redistribute wealth and income to the richest and most powerful people in this country.
The American people have had enough. They are sick and tired of profitable corporations like Amazon, General Motors, Eli Lilly, Chevron, Halliburton, Netflix and Delta making billions in profits, but paying nothing in federal income taxes.
Working together, a Bernie Sanders administration will end a rigged tax code and political system that allows large corporations to shift their profits to the Cayman Islands to avoid paying American taxes and to ship jobs to China and other low-wage countries to avoid paying American wages.
If we are serious about reforming the tax code and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to demand that the most profitable corporations pay their fair share in taxes.
One of the biggest outrages in the tax code today is that many of the largest corporations in the world are able to make billions in profits and pay nothing in U.S. corporate income taxes. In fact, many of them receive millions in tax refunds.
Between 2017 and 2018 Amazon, owned by the wealthiest person in the world, made $16.2 billion in profits. But not only did Amazon pay nothing in federal income taxes over those two years, it received a tax refund of $270 million from the IRS. And Amazon was not alone.
As a result of the Trump tax giveaway to the rich, the number of large, profitable corporations paying no federal income taxes doubled last year. In fact, in 2018, 60 profitable Fortune 500 companies not only paid zero in federal income taxes, they received a net corporate tax rebate of $4.3 billion.
Corporate tax avoidance did not begin with the Trump tax cuts, but it certainly made a bad situation far worse. At a time of record-breaking profits, large corporations actually paid $92 billion less in taxes in 2018 than the year before – a drop of 30 percent.
In 1952, corporate income taxes accounted for 32 percent of all federal revenue. But last year, just 6 percent of all federal revenue came from corporate income taxes, a five-fold drop over that time period.
According to the Office and Management and Budget, corporate tax revenues in 2018 were just 1 percent of GDP, tying the lowest points since the 1930s and less than half the average over the past 85 years.
The reality is that we now have a tax code that has legalized tax dodging for large corporations and includes a myriad of tax breaks, deductions, credits, and tax avoidance loopholes that Bernie’s plan will end.
One of the major reasons for this tax avoidance is that corporations have been setting up thousands of shell corporations in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in the U.S.
This situation has become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is the “home” to more than 19,000 corporations.
The good news is that the overwhelming majority of the American people are demanding that corporations pay their fair share of taxes. According to the latest Gallup poll, 69 percent of the American people believe that corporations are paying too little in taxes.
And a survey by the Pew Research Center found that the fact that corporations do not pay their fair share is the single issue about the tax code that bothers them the most.
The time has come to tell corporate CEOs and their wealthy stockholders: You cannot have it all. You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets. You can’t continue getting tax breaks by shipping American jobs to China. You can’t hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens while there are massive unmet needs in every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America if you refuse to accept your responsibilities as Americans.
As president, Bernie will raise up to $3 trillion over 10 years by repealing all of the disastrous corporate tax breaks enacted under Trump, closing corporate tax loopholes, and demanding that large corporations pay their fair share of taxes.
Of this revenue, $2 trillion will be used to help fund Bernie’s Green New Deal to combat climate change, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure to make it more climate resilient, and create millions of good-paying union jobs in the process. The rest will be used to help create an economy that works for all of us, not just the top 1 percent.
If this plan had been in effect last year, instead of paying nothing in federal income taxes: