Why Kamala Harris’s intimate relationship with business is concerning


Vice President Kamala Harris is increasingly relying on big business to come up with ideas and adopt policies. It’s a practice that has allowed him to take action on issues like the migration to the United States and accelerating business lending without relying on a constantly stranded Congress, but it’s also a worrying development – it means partnering with powerful and ruthlessly self-serving organizations that can sabotage broader political goals and shape the thinking of the Biden administration to their liking.

According to a new report from Bloomberg News, Harris “increasingly looked to corporate executives on Wall Street and Silicon Valley to serve as informal advisers, political allies and political boosters,” and sought out CEOs from companies such than Microsoft, Cisco and Citigroup for phone conversations and strategic meetings. Bloomberg also reports that business leaders have used these intimate settings “to push Harris on their own priorities, pushing against tax code changes or for legislation that could prove a boon to their businesses.”

Harris’ plan to invest in corporate-influenced migration policy is a prime example of why his kindness to corporate giants should worry us.

Harris has a sprawling political portfolio with priorities such as voting rights that are difficult to progress on without the involvement of Congress, and it is evident that forging relationships with the private sector has enabled him to gain promises. tangible results. For example, she successfully lobbied Wall Street executives are providing more loans to small businesses, in part by helping to streamline their coordination with federal government agencies in identifying lending risks.

But getting results isn’t all that matters. It is also necessary to be careful that kind results are achieved and the to treat by which they are designed and implemented. And Harris’ plan to invest in corporate-influenced migration policy is a prime example of why his kindness to corporate giants should worry us.

Focus on the formation of Harris’ migration policy, according to Bloomberg:

In a series of phone calls in the spring, Harris asked executives – including Microsoft’s Smith, Chobani Inc. CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, and Mastercard Inc. chairman Ajay Banga – about what she could do to help. tackle ravaging poverty, climate change and corruption. on Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Company executives told Harris about what they saw as some of the main issues driving the migration wave. But they also spoke about the unorthodox ways the federal government may have influenced foreign policy crises in the past, from the Cold War to the Arab Spring, to funding non-governmental organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy. …

The talks resulted in more than $ 1.2 billion in commitments to open new facilities, establish skills training programs and expand Internet access across Central America. Already, more than 100,000 Central Americans have received technical and digital training from Microsoft, while Nespresso sources coffee for the first time from farms in Honduras and El Salvador.

The idea is that these companies, working alongside certain charities, can use economic development as a way to discourage migration to the United States by improving the economic situation in Central America. I asked a few experts what they thought of the plan, and they raised a number of questions and concerns.

Michael Paarlberg, a political scientist at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies Central America, told me that the very premise of this policy might be wrong – that the migration literature suggests that higher incomes in the impoverished region might initially cause a rise migrating to the United States; people who always wanted to travel to the US but didn’t have the money to do things like pay coyotes to help them migrate might be empowered to do so with additional cash from higher paying jobs. He expressed concern that the administration could learn the wrong lesson by viewing improved economic performance in the region as a failure if it increased migration flows.

Paarlberg also noted that there are recent “bad precedents” in the region when it comes to deals designed to attract foreign investment. Honduras’ economic development and employment zones, who were allowed to do so by a law passed there in 2013, created spaces exempt from taxes and local laws, including labor and environmental regulations, and their admission rules allow them to discriminate based on political beliefs, criminal history and socio-economic status. They are controversial in the country. This exact type of arrangement will not necessarily be repeated with Harris’ plan, but the concern is that American companies – whose sole objective is to maximize their profits – will obtain major concessions from governments in return for their investment in a region. unstable. These concessions can undermine local sovereignty and legal protection against exploitation. And if they are unpopular or fail to help the region’s most vulnerable such as the deportees or those who have gone through the criminal justice system, they are undermining the very principle of Harris’s policy.

Alejandro Velasco, a Latin American historian at New York University, told me he was struck by the report that CEOs referred to the Cold War as a beacon – that was an era during which the United States has partnered with murderous dictatorships across Latin America that have pursued fundamentalist free market policies, like in Chile. Since big companies prioritize stability for investment and don’t care about politics per se, Velasco wondered if CEOs who spat with Harris might come up with the idea of ​​working under the Salvadoran regime. authoritarian and obsessed with bitcoin particularly attractive president – undermining the so-called Biden administration commitments to promote democracy. He also noted that there are questions as to whether the exclusive restrictions surrounding technological investments in the region will hamper the dissemination of knowledge and usable technologies to the local population.

And there are also questions about who is not in the room when Harris creates corporate brain trusts: “The Central American community in the United States is the most important player when it comes to for economic development in Central America, ”Paarlberg told me, pointing out that the diaspora, which sends huge amounts of funds, has a better understanding of local conditions and needs than businesses that do not have a constituency. or local relations.

Unlike grassroots groups or civil society organizations, businesses do not reflect on how their actions shape human well-being or the trajectory of society.

None of this suggests that increased foreign investment is not a promising prospect for an economically struggling region. But there are reasons to question how it will be executed given the history of foreign involvement in the region, and reasons to be skeptical given that reports suggest the plan is born out of an entrepreneurial meeting that examined the influence of the Cold War. as previous.

Thinking about all the potential pitfalls of Harris’ migration policy should raise bigger questions about what it means for the VP to depend on and allow her thinking to be shaped by business. Unlike grassroots groups or civil society organizations, companies do not reflect on how their actions shape human well-being or the trajectory of society – they are structurally designed to care as little as possible about these issues. . But what they will do is help create a world more conducive to their own functioning.

There are also long term concerns here. Harris is a major candidate in 2024 if President Joe Biden refuses to run for reelection. These types of practices signal a certain type of worldview to corporate donors and party elites, and, if it arises, could shape a more business-friendly political platform through positions on issues such as corporate taxation or Wall Street regulation. The problem is not just being friendly with them now, but the costs of maintaining that friendship in the future.

About Therese Williams

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