As a businessman and entrepreneur, I never considered the intersection of my professional experience with the work I do to help support and create healthy self-governance in our nation as co-founder of the Bridge Alliance.
But that perspective has changed dramatically in recent months.
The concepts of "stakeholder capitalism" and "corporate responsibility" are coming to the forefront of the news as unprecedented actions are being taken by businesses across the country to change the very nature of their role in society.
A sea change of activity is occurring before our eyes.
In 2019, 181 CEOs announced a commitment to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders rather than just their shareholders. Stakeholders consist of customers, employees, suppliers, communities and of course shareholders.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and chairman of Business Roundtable said:
"The American dream is alive, but fraying. Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community's unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans."
As a lifelong proud capitalist, Dimon's proclamation resonated with me deeply. The concept that each individual company can serve its own corporate purpose, but also share a fundamental commitment to all society, is becoming more important to consumers as well and perhaps one reason boardrooms across the country are changing corporate policies and investments.
And doing so can also be good for business. Recent studies show that it pays to connect with customers and connecting means caring about the world we live in. The growth of "socially responsible investing" through mutual funds allows everyday citizens to align their values with their investments. The opportunity now exists for investors to design their portfolio allocation around goals that are meaningful to them whether it is our planet, our cities or around faith-based goals.
Some of the specifics of stakeholder capitalism is and what the 181 CEOs committed to on behalf of their customers, employees and communities include:
- Delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
- Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
- Dealing fairly and ethically with our suppliers. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.
- Supporting the communities in which we work. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.
- Generating long-term value for shareholders, who provide the capital that allows companies to invest, grow and innovate. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.
Admittedly, some of the above language is vague but the general goals are being backed up with concrete actions by corporations.
For example BlackRock CEO Larry Fink pledged a "Net Zero" fiduciary approach to climate change.
As reported yesterday in The Fulcrum, companies including HP, Microsoft and Unilever are calling for expanded voting access in Texas. And a few weeks ago corporations such as Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines took forceful stances against Georgia's new restrictive election law.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, a huge multinational professional services network of firms, is made up of 55,000 people of all races, ethnicities, genders and backgrounds and has instituted a diversity program "to build a culture of belonging — one where we move from awareness to empathy and demonstrate inclusive leadership."
These are just a few examples of the change in the very nature of corporate responsibility sweeping across America. More and more corporations realize that socially responsible policies that do what is best for humanity should be at the core of every decision they make, because ultimately their customers and their shareholders are humans too.
Tamas is an associate professor of political science at Valdosta State University.
There has been understandable
outrage and widespread criticism of the new voting laws in Georgia – and of similar efforts in other states. These laws would likely make voting more difficult, including by reducing options for voting and making it harder to use an absentee ballot. My research indicates, however, that such measures may not change election results much, if at all.
Most U.S. voting districts at both the congressional and state legislative levels are safely controlled by one party or the other. Laws that slightly reduce the number of potential voters are unlikely to shift power in Congress and state legislatures significantly.
In addition, my analysis has found that Republican-led partisan gerrymandering efforts actually work against voter suppression measures, by packing Democratic voters into relatively few districts that the party wins easily. That means Democrats have fewer competitive seats to potentially lose, even when some of their supporters are kept from the polls.
History of voter suppression
Voting access laws have changed considerably since the end of the Jim Crow era in the mid-20th century. The American public then was far more willing to accept overt voter suppression requirements, like poll taxes and literacy tests, which were widely used in Southern states to keep Black people from voting.
But the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s undermined public support for those laws. As a result, current state governments that want to reduce voter access to the polls have to find less obvious methods to do so.
When they devise methods to limit voting now, state governments have to claim that such measures will protect voting integrity or save taxpayer money. This ends up limiting the aggressiveness of voter suppression measures that states can enact, which in turn reduces their potential effectiveness.
Georgia's new laws don't really affect who is eligible to vote, but they do make voting more difficult for poorer populations and those living in urban areas. Making access harder may not, however, be enough to stop people from voting. There is significant political science research showing that changes to voting options and absentee ballot use don't meaningfully affect voter turnout.
For instance, permitting most citizens to vote by absentee ballot does not give either party an electoral advantage. Such findings suggest that restricting voting by mail won't help one party over the other, either.
Election margins in Georgia
In situations where many districts are closely divided, a small amount of voter suppression can change the balance of power. But if most districts are clearly dominated by one party or the other, then flipping its control would require much more effort to reduce voter turnout.
At this point in American history, most election outcomes are predictable. Partially as a result of gerrymandering, most districts are reliably won by a large percentage of the vote. In 2020, for example, Georgia Democrats won close elections in just one out of 56 state Senate races and seven out of 180 state House races.
This is where my research has identified the opposing impacts of gerrymandering and voter suppression. In Georgia, both congressional and state legislative elections are impacted by gerrymandering.
In 2020, nearly two-thirds of the Democratic seats in the Georgia General Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives were won in races where Republicans didn't even field a candidate. Just 1 percent of the Democratic wins were by close margins of less than 2 percentage points.
By the 2022 midterm elections, state governments will redraw all legislative district lines. These new districts will almost certainly be equally or more gerrymandered than they are today. Redistricting is therefore not likely to significantly reduce existing vote margins.
Unlike legislative elections, statewide races in Georgia have become far closer in recent years. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, for instance, Republican Brian Kemp beat Democrat Stacey Abrams by just over 1 percent of the vote. During the 2021 U.S. Senate runoffs, Democrat Jon Ossoff beat Republican David Perdue by just over 1 percent of the vote and Democrat Raphael Warnock beat Republican Kelly Loeffler by 2 percent.
However, limiting absentee voting and increasing wait times at the polls may not be enough to shave off even a few percentage points of Democratic voters across all of Georgia.
What's at stake
The real problem Georgia Republicans are facing is not that more Georgia Democrats are voting. Rather, the state's long-term demographic shift means more Georgians will vote Democratic.
As large groups of people move into the state from elsewhere, many of them are far more liberal than the current Georgia population. And just like in other states, younger people in Georgia tend to be more liberal and prone to vote Democratic than their parents' and grandparents' generation.
Gerrymandering districts may slow the electoral effects of these demographic changes. But creating long lines and increasing voter identification requirements will not reduce voting by enough to make a real difference. If anything, the new, restrictive laws appear to be more about rallying the Republican base than changing electoral outcomes.
That said, it would be unwise to ignore even these low levels of voter suppression. If people are comfortable with these rules, that could pave the way for higher levels of suppression, which could have larger effects, up to and including unassailable single-party political control that serves to undermine U.S. democracy.
- Two bills to make the next election fair - The Fulcrum ›
- Nationwide push for voting restrictions barrels forward - The Fulcrum ›
- In Ga., worst suppression may be weakening the will to vote - The ... ›
Kachman, a recent graduate of Michigan State University's James Madison College, is a volunteer writer for Wolf-PAC, which seeks to build grassroots support for a constitutional amendment permitting more regulation of money in politics.
Many of us have worked from home during the pandemic, but not everybody has that luxury. Have you been to your local grocery store? Minimum wage workers who have kept food on our tables have been called "frontline heroes" – and yet when the chance arose to increase their wage to $15 an hour, the proposal was voted down. And the vote was not just along party lines – eight Democrats joined Republicans in rebuffing the bill.
These votes are influenced by the massive power that special interests have over our government. Shopping at a National Grocers Association member store? The NGA has taken a hard stance against raising the minimum wage. Ordering takeout from a restaurant? The National Restaurant Association poured almost $3 million into campaign contributions to both major parties to secure influence in Washington, D.C., and defeat minimum wage legislation. This recent disappointment for minimum wage employees is symptomatic of the corruption that prevents fair pay for hourly employees across the country. While some areas are working to remedy this issue locally, it is woefully insufficient in the face of national inaction.
Congress created the minimum wage in 1938 to ensure that the lowest-paid members of society could keep up with the cost of living. But the federal minimum wage has not been raised for 12 years. In 2019, popular support for raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars reached 67 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. If the goal is to help workers and a majority agrees with the raise, what is taking so long?
It is a response to pressure from major groups that funnel millions of dollars to legislators at the expense of the American people. Many prominent business groups publicly oppose H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act. Open Secrets, an independent and nonpartisan nonprofit that records public donations, reports the NGA, NRA, National Federation of Independent Businesses and others have all made significant political expenditures in the last two years. The National Association of Manufacturers spent $14,610,000 on lobbying in 2019, the NRA spent $2,890,000, and the NFIB spent $4,720,000. These groups buy influence in D.C., giving them an outsized voice in policies that affect American workers.
Popular and common-sense bills such as H.R.582 will not gain traction until we remind our national legislators that they represent their constituents, not the large corporations and special-interest groups. To achieve fair minimum wage legislation, we must remove the influence of big money on our politicians by reforming campaign finance laws. The idea that politicians might loosen their grip on this money is about as likely as seeing them support a fair minimum wage for their constituents. However, we have a path forward: Amend the U.S. Constitution to control campaign financing, and take the conversation out of the hands of corrupt politicians. This would force national leaders to serve the people. You can help in this effort by joining Wolf-PAC, a volunteer organization dedicated to bringing about such an amendment.
- Amendment to nullify Citizens United finally gets air time in the House ›
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- A constitutional curb on campaign finance? - The Fulcrum ›
Young is the assistant director of engagement for Mormon Women for Ethical Government.
Although I have lived in six states, I didn't realize until recently how much voting access still depends on the state in which you reside. While laws can no longer explicitly exclude entire groups of would-be voters based on their religion, gender or race, voting is by no means equally accessible in all states. Registration options, deadlines, early voting and so much more vary significantly from state to state.
Considering this variety, the question surfaces: To what extent should the federal government provide and protect voting rights? Today, this question pertains to the For the People Act, which would promote the freedom to vote for all Americans. But this is not a new question.
Americans have been debating the roles of the federal and state governments since our nation's inception. Because no national standards for voting rights were specified in the Constitution, states decided who could vote (primarily landowning white males) and where and when those ballots could be cast. However, Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the Constitution specifically affirms that "Congress may at any time by Law make or alter" the "Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections." The Constitution empowers Congress to respond to the needs of an expanding democracy.
While the 2020 election was rife with contention and disinformation, there are two reasons to commend it. First, it had the highest voter turnout (66 percent of eligible voters) in decades. Additionally, it was found to be "the most secure in American history" by some of the nation's top cybersecurity officials. In such a tumultuous year, these were two important indicators. A functioning democracy requires both high levels of voter turnout and election security.
Unfortunately, rather than asking how to promote both voter participation and election processes we can trust, state legislatures across the country are using the myth of voter fraud to introduce legislation to restrict voting access. Consequently, the further protection of voting rights provided the For the People Act is crucial. This bill establishes national standards for voting access in each state (as well as much-needed campaign finance and ethics reforms).
Though these voting reforms are well within the bounds of constitutionality, opponents claim S 1 (as the bill is known in the Senate, where it is now under consideration) would federalize our elections. Yet elections would still be administered locally, and state legislatures could establish differences to their elections as long as they meet the national standards in the For the People Act. Surely the federal government has the ability, if not even the responsibility, to protect the freedom to vote in federal elections for all eligible Americans? The majority of Americans believe so. The bill has substantial (and, notably, bipartisan) popular support. Even when presented with messaging explaining that opponents say "states should control their own elections," 68 percent of Americans (including 57 percent of Republicans) approve of the bill as a whole.
Historically, Confederate states used the claim of states' rights in their attempt to preserve slavery. Even after the 15th Amendment, Southern states used the power of states' rights to implement poll taxes, literacy tests, and other laws to exclude Blacks from voting. States' rights were so closely connected to racism that the short-lived States' Rights Democratic Party was created to promote racial segregation and white supremacy. It is no coincidence that former slave states currently have the most restrictive voting laws, disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities.
However, directly preceding the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many Americans favored federal intervention to guarantee voting rights. Polls show 76 percent of Americans supported a potential law to send federal officials to areas with low voter turnout to ensure Blacks and whites "are given an equal opportunity to register and to vote." When this question was framed alongside the viewpoint that it would impede the "rights of states to control their own elections," support dropped to 53 percent. The argument for states' rights diminished, but did not destroy, the desire of the majority of Americans for a federal guarantee of basic civil rights.
While local control over many legislative matters is appropriate and beneficial, the cry of states' rights has been used to restrict access to the ballot in the past. Voting is at the heart of representative government. Should our federally granted right to vote be determined locally? Today it appears that, despite alarmist language about nationalizing our elections, the public again supports using the federal government to secure voting rights for the people. Whether we live in a rural town or large city, a coastal state in the south or a landlocked state in the mountain west, the majority of Americans want equal freedom to vote. Are our elected officials up for the dialogue and collaboration necessary to make that happen?
- The curious tale of the disappearing Election Day holiday bill ›
- HR 1 advocates see some modest reason for hope - The Fulcrum ›
- HR 1 doesn't go far enough - The Fulcrum ›
- A conservative argument for HR 1, the For the People Act - The ... ›
- Democrats tweak For the People Act, but to what end? - The Fulcrum ›