Not long ago I was asked to speak to a religious congregation about widening inequality. Shortly before I began, the head of the congregation asked that I not advocate raising taxes on the wealthy.
He said he didn’t want to antagonize certain wealthy congregants on whose generosity the congregation depended.
I had a similar exchange last year with the president of a small college who had invited me to give a lecture that his board of trustees would be attending. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t criticize Wall Street,” he said, explaining that several of the trustees were investment bankers.
It seems to be happening all over.
A non-profit group devoted to voting rights decides it won’t launch a campaign against big money in politics for fear of alienating wealthy donors.
A Washington think-tank releases a study on inequality that fails to mention the role big corporations and Wall Street have played in weakening the nation’s labor and antitrust laws, presumably because the think tank doesn’t want to antagonize its corporate and Wall Street donors.
A major university shapes research and courses around economic topics of interest to its biggest donors, notably avoiding any mention of the increasing power of large corporations and Wall Street on the economy.
It’s bad enough big money is buying off politicians. It’s also buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change, from criticizing big money.
Other sources of funding are drying up. Research grants are waning. Funds for social services of churches and community groups are growing scarce. Legislatures are cutting back university funding. Appropriations for public television, the arts, museums, and libraries are being slashed.