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Frenzied Financialization by Michael Konczal | The Washington Monthly

So often, the argument is thrown at me: “How are the rich ripping us off?” Well, here’s how:

Moreover, financialization isn’t just confined to the financial sector itself. It’s also ultimately about who controls, guides, and benefits from our economy as a whole. And here’s the last big change: the “shareholder revolution,” started in the 1980s and continuing to this very day, has fundamentally transformed the way our economy functions in favor of wealth owners.To understand this change, compare two eras at General Electric. This is how business professor Gerald Davis describes the perspective of Owen Young, who was CEO of GE almost straight through from 1922 to 1945: “[S]tockholders are confined to a maximum return equivalent to a risk premium. The remaining profit stays in the enterprise, is paid out in higher wages, or is passed on to the customer.” Davis contrasts that ethos with that of Jack Welch, CEO from 1981 to 2001; Welch, Davis says, believed in “the shareholder as king—the residual claimant, entitled to the [whole] pot of earnings.”This change had dramatic consequences. Economist J. W. Mason found that, before the 1980s, firms tended to borrow funds in order to fuel investment. Since 1980, that link has been broken. Now when firms borrow, they tend to use the money to fund dividends or buy back stocks. Indeed, even during the height of the housing boom, Mason notes, “corporations were paying out more than 100 percent of their cash flow to shareholders.”

… Finance has now won the battle against wage earners: corporations today are reluctant to raise wages even as the economy slowly starts to recover. This keeps the economy perpetually sluggish by retarding consumer demand, while also increasing inequality.

Lots more here:

Source: Frenzied Financialization by Michael Konczal | The Washington Monthly

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