Our founders and the Americans who followed worked and fought for almost two centuries to build a defensive wall - a powerful wall - protecting our democracy and our economy. We took that wall for granted.
Antitrust enforcement, labor protections, anti-corruption laws, along with criminal and civil corporate liability. We forgot how hard previous generations of Americans had to fight to get those protections. We had never lived in a world without them, and we didn't know how important they were. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I didn't realize that this wall was just as important to our freedom and our prosperity as our military might.
My grandfather, my uncles, and so many in my extended family went to war. I knew they were heroes protecting our way of life. But I had no idea that there were others also protecting our way of life - business leaders and lawyers and politicians and judges standing on that wall and guarding it, protecting us. I didn't know about them. I didn't even know about the wall, but the global apex corporations did. They understood that this wall - the wall that protected you and me was the same wall that prevented them from exploiting us.
So the most massive corporations, along with a few predatory billionaires, attacked the wall and every brick in it. They used all their power and wealth to go after every brick - every one of those protections. And over decades, they succeeded. So the wall started to crumble and our economy crashed into a kind of warlord capitalism. Corporate profits were sky high. So insanely high that no one had ever seen anything like it. I'm talking in history - in the Robber Barrons eras or in the Roaring 20s - no one had ever seen anything like this. The wealthiest corporations devoured entire sectors of the economy, concentrating their wealth beyond anything in history. And then, they use that wealth to capture the United States government and both political parties. We know we're getting screwed. We know that we don't have free capitalism or real democracy, but we don't understand how this is all related.
We have to pay more to buy things and pay more in taxes. And at the same time, get paid less from our employers, and get fewer roads and bridges from our tax money. And it's all because the global apex corporations have rigged the game against us. They charge American customers more than they charge customers in other countries because of changes in antitrust law. They pay American workers less than they pay workers in other countries because of labor laws. They pollute American rivers and cities more than they do in other countries because of changes in environmental laws. They get away with purchasing politicians because of changes in the bribery laws. And then, they use those politicians to steal our national wealth with sweetheart deals to extract natural resources from public land, our land. They get away with criminal conduct because of changes in white-collar criminal laws and corporate law enforcement.
They shift their tax burden to you and me with arcane technical changes in the tax code. So where does this end? Power concentrates wealth, and then that wealth further concentrates power in a cycle. Increased wealth buys more power. And then, that power can be used to extract more wealth and so on and so on. By the way, where's that wealth coming from? You. They extract wealth for themselves, but they're extracting it from you and it gets worse and worse and worse. And that cycle will not stop until we understand the new reality. Until we can look past our cultural divisions, even as our country convulses in crisis, and make common cause against the true threat to our Republic.
They distract us from seeing them stealing our wealth. Not all politicians are purchased. There are politicians in both parties who understand the wall and all those things I talked about - bribery laws and anti-corruption and labor laws and environmental laws. They understand the wall. They're willing to stand guard and they know that we have to rebuild that wall if we want to save our Republic. And your job is to figure out who they are and not be distracted by culture wars as your pocket is getting picked.