Article by Matt Tennyson | Illustration by Caroline Cooney

There was once a time when the notion “We the People” meant we all had the power to change and influence our government. That was the ideal in which our country was founded upon, and we’ve been reciting it for centuries.

Today, however, government policy and representatives are largely determined by corporate interests rather than the will of the people, according to a study by Princeton University and Northwestern University in 2014.

This corporate takeover did not happen overnight, and it largely gained traction during the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s as a backlash against decreased corporate profit margins.

With government regulations ramping up for consumer and environmental protection during this era, corporations heavily increased their employment of lobbying groups, which are people who attempt to influence laws in the best interests of their employers.

Officially, lobbyists are not allowed to bribe or “gift” politicians in order to sway their vote on policy. However, anticipated bribery (giving politicians high-paying lobbying jobs) and other questionable activities lead many like former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, to believe that lobbyists are finding legal ways around this.

Reich blogs that former Republican House majority leader Eric Cantor was one of Wall Street’s strongest advocates, “fighting for the bailout of the Street,” among other gestures, in support of the industry.

In other words, he was extremely friendly to the bankers and high-rollers in the world of finance.

Reich adds, “Just two weeks after resigning from the House, Cantor joined the Wall Street investment bank of Moelis & Co., as vice chairman and managing director, starting with a $400,000 base salary, $400,000 initial cash bonus, and $1 million in stock.”

This type of “revolving door” is not an isolated incident of collusion between government and big business.

Monsanto, a large chemical manufacturing company known for products like Round-Up weed killer and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), has had similar controversy.

Several former executives at Monsanto have jumped back and forth between government and private sector jobs.

Michael Taylor, who worked as the Vice President of public policy at Monsanto from 1996-2001 is currently the Deputy Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The New York Times reports drug makers have spent roughly $2.3 billion on lobbying in the past decade. This could account for the reason why little has been done by Congress to rein in the hefty prescription drug prices.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas previously worked as a lawyer for Monsanto in the late 70s before his career in the highest court in the land in the early 90s. Since then, he has been involved in the decisions of several lawsuits involving Monsanto, ruling in favor of the company every single time.

In one instance back in 2014 against the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, the Supreme Court voted in favor of allowing Monsanto to sue farmers for having their crops contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops.

These select elite have amassed critical positions of power that give them an unprecedented level of influence on how our country is run, influencing lawmakers to pass legislation that favors personal gain or selfish interests.

The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are yet more examples of institutions that are fraught with criticism, corruption and manipulative tactics despite being necessary.

A study conducted by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute concluded that pharmaceutical companies have been bribing physicians with “free meals, free education, and free trips to conferences.” Drug representatives also gave doctors an extra $21,000 in free drug samples on average, totaling roughly $23.7 billion nationwide.

In addition, the pharmaceutical industry, nicknamed “Big Pharma,” has tremendous influence on the FDA and government regulated research through lobbying.

The New York Times reports drug makers have spent roughly $2.3 billion on lobbying in the past decade. This could account for the reason why little has been done by Congress to rein in the hefty prescription drug prices.

One study in the Journal of the American Medical Association states “more than half of the dangerous side effects of drugs are detected only after they’ve been on the market for seven years or more.”

This revelation amounts to bigwig executives at pharmaceutical companies, and even doctors, making money at the expense of people’s health, while also influencing the regulations that could protect the public.

The culmination of wealthy elites controlling the political system is fully realized when we face the fact that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is a corporate CEO himself.

While his net worth has fallen an estimated $400 million since the election due to lawsuits with his Trump University scandal and variations within his Manhattan real estate firm, his family has also made considerable money off of his hotels and golf courses according to Forbes.

In particular, he has used his Mar-a-Lago resort, among others, to meet with world leaders while using taxpayer money to refill his own bank account from house guests, security, and his staff.

Business Insider states that the resort alone has made tens of millions in revenue in addition to what it made previous to Trump’s presidency.

The resort has also doubled its member’s annual fee to nearly $200,000 right before Trump’s inauguration.

This is not the only case of Trump benefiting from citizen taxes; according to USA Today, Trump has a team of government attorneys that handle his private business lawsuits.

These attorneys are paid with American taxes and while there is no official report on the cost, private attorney rates for these situations routinely cost between $500-1000 an hour.

On top of that, it is estimated that the cost to taxpayers to provide security to Trump Tower in New York is around $308,000 per day when Trump is in town, according to

Reflecting on all that has happened between corporate corruption and collusion with government, perhaps Donald Trump being the president is a fitting and accurate representation of what our country has ultimately become: a corporatacracy.

Leave a Reply