By John Stang
Former head of the IMF Joseph Stiglitz describes how the top 1% can easily influence foreign policy:
America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries forworkers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care.
I agree with Stiglitz that the wealthy do have a strong influence when it comes to foreign policy. Ideals such as fighting for “democracy” and “freedom” are usually a cover for a loss to economic resources that people who are rich utilize for business. I never have understood why liberals don’t advocate for a “war tax” more often. It makes sense. The reason presidents can quickly enter a conflict is because there is very little reprecussions from the citizens who vote, or it takes time for war weariness to set in. If a special “war tax” were instituted, however, it would force people to bare the cost of war, or more than they already pay for defense in taxes. It would also make presidents and congress think twice before entering a conflict and needing to answer to their constituents because of a spike in taxes. Liberals also can claim that those who oppose the tax are “unpatriotic.” a term conservatives throw at liberals all the time.
Another point to make is that foreign policy and international commerce have become so intertwined that distinguishing the two is hard sometimes. Most of the U.S. foreign policy initiatives involve either a defense contract or to foster a better environment for trade between two or more nations (i.e. free trade bills). In a sense, economic interest has become national interest. Unless that changes, the wealthy will always have a say.