Bulletin is a chronicle of socialist comment and analysis from Jacobin’s Seth Ackerman.
Democracy in America: The Latest Farce
Here’s an instructive story about America’s Kafkaesque election laws — this time from Illinois, where an avowed Nazi running against the “two-party, Jew-party, queer-party system” has won a Congressional GOP primary thanks to his status as the only candidate on the ballot.
Politico reports that the Illinois GOP’s inability to stop far-right kook Arthur Jones “has been an enormous embarrassment to the party — and to state party Chairman Tim Schneider — for months.” (Even in a Trumpified GOP, it seems, railing against the “Jew-party system” is a bridge too far. But then, what else would you expect from the Jew-party system?)
The party’s latest snafu was its failure to get a Republican on the ballot to run as an independent against Jones before the state’s filing deadline passed. Politico explains why:
This saga has all the charm of an O. Henry story. State election laws impose onerous requirements to get on the ballot, but they conveniently exempt parties that received some minimum number of votes at the last election — i.e., the Democratic and Republican parties.
Although the laws’ real purpose is to perpetuate the two parties’ control, their theoretical rationale comes from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s opinion in the 1971 election law case Jenness v. Fortson: “There is surely an important state interest in requiring some preliminary showing of a significant modicum of support before printing the name of the political organization’s candidate on the ballot.” (Which brings to mind Stewart’s more famous dictum: that you know obscenity when you see it.)
Tellingly, we now find that given the procedures Illinois law routinely imposes on third parties (but almost never on the two official parties), even the state’s Republican party couldn’t prove it had “a significant modicum of support” — in a district where Trump won 40 percent of the vote two years ago.
As I noted in “A Blueprint for a New Party,” in 2006 the Council of Europe, the intergovernmental human rights body, condemned the Republic of Belarus for its rule requiring would-be parliamentary candidates to gather signatures numbering more than 1 percent of a district’s voters, which is the upper limit the Council sets on candidate signature requirements. And in Illinois? Running as an independent In the Land of Lincoln requires 14,600 signatures, or 3.5 percent of registered voters.
“America Will Lose, and China Will Win”: Asia After US Hegemony
Completing the Complete Works of Karl Marx: 100 Years Down, 15 Years to Go
A look at the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe publishing project at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, featuring its director, Gerald Hubmann.
Executive Pay: Who Will Monitor the Monitors?
As everyone knows, much of today’s income inequality is due to swollen salaries for corporate CEOs and other executives. But why do corporate shareholders continually acquiesce to outsize executive pay packages? After all, it’s the shareholders’ money. And those executives are, ultimately, their employees.
There’s a sprawling body of research and commentary that seeks to unravel this mystery. Many economists, like Thomas Piketty, see it as a “principal-agent” problem. According to them, shareholders are too dispersed and unorganized to monitor and discipline these “supermanagers,” who are thereby left free to put their hands in the corporate till, eliciting only the occasional half-hearted protest from the owners.
This explanation never seemed right to me. After all, we’re living in the era of “shareholder value” corporate governance, when CEOs, notoriously, feel compelled to steer their companies around the stock market’s every whim. Even business titans like Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett can now be found complaining that CEOs are forced to focus too much on pleasing the shareholders.
So, why doesn’t that dynamic extend to those executives’ own pay packages?
Former Daily Telegraph finance editor Neil Collins offers a more compelling explanation: capitalist class solidarity. No, he doesn’t use that term. But that’s the essence of the answer he offered in a recent column in the Financial Times. As Collins points out, the shareholders in question are overwhelmingly institutional investors — that is, money managers who themselves work for corporations and draw their own outsized pay packages, financed with other people’s money. Why would they want to risk derailing the gravy train they’re riding?
After detailing a recent series of obscene pay packages for money-management executives — a 70 percent raise for Jupiter Fund Management CEO Maarten Slendebroek, a 60 percent raise for the co-CEOs of Janus Henderson; both companies have seen dismal performance recently — Collins concludes: “You can see why the managers with holdings in companies which award their executives life-changing packages are so reluctant to rock the gravy train.”
Economists’ models, which make no room for this kind of thing, are missing the point.