Dear editor,

We are a capitalist country! We are a capitalist country? When my father owned and operated Lohr Furniture and Funeral Homes in Marathon City and Edgar there were many small businesses in those towns. Times have changed since the 1960s. Both in the small businesses and small dairy farm economy, corporate money and consolidation have badly damaged our capitalist economy. Once corporate lobby money became dominate, government subsidies and tax breaks have gone to big businesses enabling them to buy out their smaller competitors. Republicans, and conservatives, used to stand for small businesses and economic competition. Middle class entrepreneurs were seen as the backbone of our country. With the big money now in corporate coffers, Republicans have changed allegiances.

The influence of big money in government has created a corporate socialist system. Corporate and big money governance is enforced by lobby influence on every level of government.

Corporate and government officials have become interchangeable, with many representatives serving the interests of their big money sponsors. The GOP, especially, has a divisive election strategy where scare issues such as crime, racism and women’s health take the popular eye off the political coup of wealth overwhelming a popular people-oriented democracy. Where does this path lead? It leads to demagoguery and Trump-ism, that is, the glorification of wealth and power.

It is interesting that so-called conservatives today defend our corporate socialism so vehemently, while shouting down liberal capitalism as socialism. Liberal capitalism is a when reasonable legislation constrains laissez faire capitalism’s tendency toward creating business monopolies, and defends the common person against the worst abuses of work and culture under corporate dominated government. Socialism is when the means of production, distribution and exchange are owned by the government. In our corporate socialism of today, the corporations who control the means of production, distribution and exchange have great influence within the government. We can’t think of health care without corporate health care providers, pharmaceuticals and big pharma corporations, military, without the military industrial complex, agriculture without big ag corporations … . What the GOP fears is a democratic government that is a check on the power of the 1 percent and monopolistic corporations.

We took a wrong economic turn in this country with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United. In that ruling, money was ruled as free speech. Money has no content to teach or preach. It says nothing about how we should govern ourselves. Big money does convey power to amplify the voices of those who have it. Voices, of ordinary people, those without the means to own and manage large media empires, are drowned out by 24/7 media ads, and well paid pundits touting the ideology of our wealth oligarchy. We have become a society well versed in repeating what we have heard, rather than contemplating on meaning and implications.

What if the subsidies and tax breaks that have led to large corporations buying out competition had gone instead to small enterprises to improve their efficiency and profitability?

Would we still have a flourishing rural Wisconsin economy? Would reasonable sized dairy farms still exist? Would small rural towns still have their small business commercial main streets? It is a tale of a road not traveled. We cannot undo our path, but we can make corrective changes.

What to do about it? The Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United must be reversed. Contrary to that ruling, money is not speech. Government officials, elected and non-elected should be banned from lobbying their former government colleagues on behalf of corporations for at least five years.

Government service should not be a path to a lucrative lobbying job to amplify the voice of money in running our economic society. Reasonable legislation to modify the excessive damage being done to the majority of minimum wage working people is not socialism. An economic system based on the ever expanding size of corporate empires is not capitalism.

The politics of the economic elite to divert, delude, divide and dominate those who work and produce is as old as the histories of kingdoms, city states and nations based on hierarchies of power. Spreading fear and emotion, rather than reason and respect for law and elections, leads to political instability and the end of democratic government.

It is not an accident that the major GOP candidates in the state of Wisconsin, Michels and Johnson, are immensely wealthy. They are the spearpoint of the domination of wealth over society and use their own, and their big money supporters, to smear their political opponents. Other than major tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and a desire for political power, they have no real policy ideas to improve the lives of average people in the U.S.

Rick Lohr of Marathon

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.