U.S. corporations have reported the highest profits recorded since the Commerce Department began tracking corporate income growth 60 years ago: $1.659 Trillion. That renders as $1,659,000,000,000 in numerical values.
Granted, while the profits represent the highest dollar amount ever recorded, Matthew Iglesias at the liberal site Think Progress says that, based on the Commerce Dept. report (see charts at right), “record-breaking” is a relative term because the figure itself has not been adjusted for inflation.
The New York Times financial pages, which generally side with Republicans on economic issues, took a rosier view:
That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or noninflation-adjusted terms…. Corporate profits have been doing extremely well for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history. As a share of gross domestic product, corporate profits also have been increasing, and they now represent 11.2 percent of total output. That is the highest share since the fourth quarter of 2006, when they accounted for 11.7 percent of output.
Still, based on the magnitude of that trillion-dollar plus figure alone, you might expect to see “good news” reports about it on front pages and in top stories on cable.
Don’t hold your breath.
For one thing, news about corporate profit-making disrupts the media focus on unemployment. From their point of view, until the president has created jobs for everyone who wants one, good economic news about anything else is, well, not news.
For another, it’s discomfiting for corporate media outlets to report the fact that corporations have recovered from the crash, and then some, while the American middle class has yet to see even a glimmer of a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.
In any case, the government saw to it that the report would be buried — Commerce chose to release it during the Thanksgiving holiday week news blackout. The fact that Kim Jung Il has filled the news hole today by rattling his nukes is purely a coincidence.
All of this constitutes a lucky break for Republicans. If, in an alternate universe, these record corporate profits were to become so widely reported that regular Americans found out about them, it would undercut GOP spin on the economy in at least two ways:
First, it would implode the myth that Pres. Obama and the Democrats are socialists and therefore anti-business. Granted, when right-wingers use “socialist” as a smear, they mean “statist,” in the sense of Soviet-style communist central planning.
It would be harder for Republicans to smear the president as a communist dictator if regular Americans — or, heaven forfend, Fox viewers — were to learn that as a result of two years under the jackboot of the latter-day Stalin in the White House, corporations had raked in their biggest profits ever.
Second, the report underscores an inconsistency in the internal “logic” of Republican propaganda about the economy. In the debates early in 2009 over strategies for recovering from the Bush recession, Republicans set up a dichotomy that universally went unnoticed. In one breath, they insisted that only the private sector — not the government — can create jobs. In the next breath, they castigated the government, specifically the Democrats and Pres. Obama, for the high unemployment figures.
Which is it? If the government can’t create jobs, why blame it for high unemployment? If the government can create private sector jobs, then why not jump-start the economy with infrastructure projects and the like?
Not only were Republicans never called out on this logical disconnect, it appears that no one in the corporate media or the Democratic Party even noticed it.
It’s impossible to know what Republicans really believe here. What is knowable, however, is what they have done, and the record clearly shows that they created thousands of jobs when they controlled the government. Leaving aside the fact that 3 million private sector jobs were created in the eight years of the Bush administration — a result so poor that even the GOP’s own Wall St. Journal called it “the worst track record on record — they also created thousands of high-paying, taxpayer-funded private-sector jobs for weapons-makers, aerospace companies, military contractors like Halliburton and security contractors like Blackwater as a result of Bush’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Republicans also lied during the campaign when they repeatedly claimed that the Stimulus had created “not one job.” In fact, the Stimulus created 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs in 2009, as well as 671,067 jobs in the third quarter alone of this year.
No one put the Republicans’ hypocrisy on display this year more vividly than incoming Speaker John Boehner, who would would alternate between insisting that the government couldn’t create jobs and rushing to the cameras to bellow, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”
Of course, everyone knew where the jobs were — they were overseas, where Republicans like Boehner sent them at the behest of their corporate sponsors. The New York Times report on these record-breaking corporate profits confirms that fact:
This breakneck pace can be partly attributed to strong productivity growth — which means companies have been able to make more with less — as well as the fact that some of the profits of American companies come from abroad. Economic conditions in the United States may still be sluggish, but many emerging markets like India and China are expanding rapidly.
In the real world, both government and private industry can create jobs. This profit report exposes the fact that, while government has been doing its part, private industry in general, and multinational U.S.-based mega-corps in particular, have failed.
If American voters — particularly independent/swing voters — were to discover that the GOP had intentionally misled them into directing their rage about the economic meltdown and unemployment at the government, but that the true culprits in this national tragedy were the multinational mega-corps, there would truly be hell to pay.
The good news for the GOP is that, given the fecklessness of the corporate media and the Democrats’ inability to get the truth heard in the GOP’s blizzard of lies, the likelihood voters will learn the truth about what is being done here is just about nil.