President Reagan campaigned on the notion that “government is the problem not the solution” and he and the Republican Party have characterized government as the boogie man that is the enemy of business and creator of huge deficits. If you listen to big business today they rant and rave about the sins of big government – particularly taxes and regulations. But I am fond of saying that literally everyone has some part of government that they personally like whether it is the military or the CIA or social security checks and food stamps – there is something for everybody.
In the case of big business they like – no they love — Congress. Business decided in the late 1970s that if they were going to find ways to increase profits and decrease their costs they had to buy access to Congress with lobbying money. Sector by sector they began to build up a large fund to pay lobbyists to get the crucial votes they needed. Tom Delay arrogantly called the lobbying effort, “money for access” and that was exactly what it was – money to buy votes from Congress.
Their associations like the National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Business Roundtable began by increasing their member ship and member donations. In 1975 only 175 corporations had lobbyists, but by 1982 nearly 2500 companies did. Political Action Committees (PACS) increased from 300 in 1976 to 12000 in 1985. The mobilization of big business resources had begun, which would ultimately affect taxes, regulations, the wealthy and the middle class. By 2011 they had 12,929 lobbyists dispensing $3.5 billion per year on lobbying.
This story will explain how big business used government to get 4 major tax reductions, modifying or terminating New Deal laws, to create new laws that favored the big banks and the wealthy, to change or rewrite labor laws that would help them bust unions, to negotiate trade agreements that favored the multi-national corporations over labor, and to pressure the government to ignore the trade deficit and foreign currency manipulation. Their lobbying successes resulted in a huge shift of wealth away from the middle class.