November 1, 2021

Americans appear to be waking up to the reality that our democracy is on the ropes.

Emerging details about how hard Trump lawyer John Eastman pushed his memo with the plan of how Trump could steal the 2020 election, along with the chronology of the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection compiled by reporters for the Washington Post, show that we came perilously close to a successful coup d’état.

New polls show that 82% of people who watch the Fox News Channel believe the Big Lie that President Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election; 30% of Republicans think violence might be warranted to reclaim America.

And tonight, Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson claimed that he had heard a tape of a phone conversation between far right activist Ali Alexander and members of Congress, as well as state legislators, about descending on Washington, D.C., for the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6.

This information appeared to be an attempt to get ahead of the story. Carlson said that there was “no talk of insurrection.” (But why were lawmakers on any such call in the first place?)

Still, while there is increasing focus on the attempt to overturn the 2020 election and keep former president Trump in power, there has been little discussion of what the destabilization of our democracy means for the economy. This is no small thing, because since the late nineteenth century, it has been the stability of our nation that has attracted investment. That investment, in turn, has built our economy.

An October 27 article by Courtney Fingar, Ben van der Merwe, and Sebastian Shehadi in Investment Monitor warns that “efforts to undermine the integrity of US elections carry a heavy cost for businesses and could weaken investment in the country.”

The authors put a price tag on U.S. political strife. Drawing on a study by Texas-based economic analysts The Perryman Group, they estimate that Texas’s voter suppression measures will cost the state $14.7 billion in annual gross product by 2025 and $1.5 trillion over the next 25 years. The Perryman Group’s study itself warned that Texas would lose 73,249 jobs by 2025 as businesses and investment flee the state and as voter suppression is correlated to declining wages.

“For the first time since the Cold War, there is now concern about medium and long-term political stability of the US business environment,” Jonathan Wood, lead analyst for North America at global political risk consultancy Control Risks, told the reporters. “And what we are seeing in voter suppression acts and political gerrymandering, etc, is undermining that perception of the US as a very predictable and stable environment.”

Dr Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on authoritarianism, explains that when the rule of law, which treats every business equally, has been replaced by the whims of a dictator, success depends on closeness to the leader rather than on quality. “One of the biggest myths of authoritarianism is that it is ‘good for business,’” she said. “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin has jailed over 100,000 business people on trumped-up charges of tax evasion, financial irregularities, etc. Anyone with a profitable enterprise becomes a target, regardless of their political sentiments. This practice goes on in Hungary and Turkey too. Business people should know that this can happen anywhere, to anyone, if autocrats take power.”

The Perryman Group concluded: "While there are many other important advantages to, and compelling reasons for, encouraging political participation by all eligible citizens, the economic ramifications are substantial and worthy of significant attention as restrictions on voter access are considered.”

An example of what it looks like economically when we lose the rule of law came last week in a story about Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and his brother-in-law Gerald Fauth. Both men apparently dumped stock after Burr was part of a private official briefing in February 2020 about the looming coronavirus pandemic. After Burr sold more than $1.6 million in stocks, he called Fauth and talked for 50 seconds. A minute later, Fauth called his broker and sold between $97,000 and $280,000 in stocks. The next week, the market began a drop of what would eventually be more than 30%.

Burr claims he relied on public information when he decided to sell and that he did not coordinate with Fauth.

Meanwhile, the culture wars in which the Republicans are engaged at home keep focus off the damage the debt ceiling fight is doing to us in the world. In October, Republican senators allowed the Democrats to pass a measure to raise the debt ceiling to pay for measures Congress already enacted, but the Treasury will hit that new ceiling no later than mid-December.

Republicans have vowed they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling despite the fact that a default would send shockwaves around the world and would likely remove the U.S. permanently from its powerful position among other nations.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by themselves if necessary. “If Democrats have to do it by themselves, that’s better than defaulting on the debt to teach the Republicans a lesson,” she told the Washington Post.

​​Today, Time magazine ran a story by Molly Ball about business leaders who are starting to stand up for democracy. The lower taxes and less regulation Republicans promise aren’t much good without a stable democracy, some business leaders told Ball. “The market economy works because of the bedrock foundation of the rule of law, the peaceful succession of power and the reserve currency of the U.S. dollar, and all of these things were potentially at risk,” former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer said. “CEOs are normally hesitant to get involved in political issues, but I would argue that this was a fundamental business issue.”

Republicans disagree. Today, in a remarkable op-ed in The American Conservative, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called “corporate America... the instrument of anti-American ideologies.” He accused Wall Street of “devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to advance corporate propaganda” that promotes Marxist tactics. Rubio wants to “require that the leadership of large companies be subject to strict scrutiny and legal liability when they abuse their corporate privilege by pushing wasteful, anti-American nonsense.”

In a passage that sounds much like that of a political purge, he warned readers of “the current Marxist cultural revolution among our corporate elite,” and said that “the ultimate way” to stop them “is to replace them with a new generation of business leaders who consider themselves Americans, not citizens of the world…. That is how we defeat this toxic cultural Marxism and rebuild an economy where America’s largest companies were accountable for what matters to America: new factories built in America, good jobs for American families, and investments in American neighborhoods and communities.”

In the op-ed, Rubio played to the Republican base by bashing China, but he could not outdo his colleague Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who said yesterday at a political rally that the U.S. should demand $5 trillion in reparations from the Chinese for “unleashing” the novel coronavirus and if they would not pay up, we should simply seize their assets in the U.S.

It is long past time we stop permitting these people to call themselves “conservatives.”