We Need Corporate Patriotism to Defeat American Marxism
Adapted from an address to the National Conservatism Conference 2021.
There was a time when, to paraphrase Charles Wilson, what was good for big American companies was good for America. But today, led by a generation of leaders who feel no obligation to our nation, corporate America is the instrument of anti-American ideologies.
The collapse of corporate patriotism opened the door for these companies to fall for anti-American ideologies we see in the news and our workplaces. The companies that control the vast majority of America’s economic resources and curate the information we see and hear on a daily basis now say that America is a racist or sexist country. These oligarchs believe the very existence of America is fatally flawed, and they are devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to advance corporate propaganda that reflects these beliefs. They aim to remake our society, our culture, and our country. They aim to redefine what constitutes a good life in America.
For over a century these have been the tactics used by Marxists to take over countless nations and societies. If we do not fight back, we will lose America. This is not hyperbole. In fact, is it very familiar to the Americans I was raised by and those I still live among, who witnessed Marxist revolutions take over their homelands.
But the battle against cultural Marxism will not be won by relying on an outdated “Wall Street Journal Conservatism” that does not fully address the challenges faced by working Americans in our 21st century economy.
Defining conservatism as just cutting regulations and taxes works well for the nationless companies headquartered in America. However, those companies have no incentive to reinvest in America’s families, communities, or future.
It is time we push companies to meet their obligations to America.
What does that look like? Since these nationless companies got many of their corporate privileges from the policies of the United States government, we should use those policies to reward and incentivize corporate decisions that promote a strong and prosperous America.
First, that means getting wokeness out of the boardroom. At a minimum, we should require that the leadership of large companies be subject to strict scrutiny and legal liability when they abuse their corporate privilege by pushing wasteful, anti-American nonsense.
For example, we can use the current “shareholder primacy” argument against these companies. Right now, the burden is on the shareholder to prove these woke, anti-American stances—like boycotting a state for governing its own election laws—are bad for shareholders. Instead, we should place the burden on the company to prove it is acting in the best interest of shareholders.
Second, that means a stock market that holds companies accountable for pro-American goals, rather than left-wing social engineering or globalist profiteering. We should require that companies disclose to investors and be held to account for their investment in America—facilities, workforce training, number of Americans hired—as opposed to off-shoring jobs overseas, or showing how diverse their workplaces are.
Instead of requirements that companies’ board of directors be sufficiently “diverse,” like what the Biden administration is pushing, we should have requirements that companies’ boards of directors be free of any conflicts of interest with foreign adversaries such as China.
To better align what the stock market rewards with what is good for America, we also need to break institutional finance’s control over corporate America.
When regular workers save for retirement, they shouldn’t have to give over the control of their investments to investment funds that will command the company to act against those workers’ own interests by off-shoring jobs to China or pursuing a culture war against them.
For example, the retirement fund for America’s service members, the TSP, should be banned from investing in Chinese military companies, or using service members’ savings to push American companies off-shore to China. That is something Congress can fix right now and on which there is bipartisan agreement.
More challenging is how to take power away from big institutional shareholders that use regular retirees’ and pensioners’ savings to push “woke” policies at corporations by voting in corporate elections on their behalf.
One solution would be to mandate that these institutional shareholders merely send in the votes of the ultimate beneficiaries of these funds, rather than vote on their behalf. There would be a lot less craziness in America’s corporations if the people voting their shares were firefighters and teachers rather than their union bosses or Wall Street.
The ultimate way to stop the current Marxist cultural revolution among our corporate elite is to replace them with a new generation of business leaders who consider themselves Americans, not citizens of the world.
That is how we defeat this toxic cultural Marxism and rebuild an economy where America’s largest companies were accountable for what matters to America: new factories built in America, good jobs for American families, and investments in American neighborhoods and communities.
It is not too late to get it right, but we have no time to waste in restoring what has made this nation great for so many generations.
Marco Rubio serves as the senior United States senator from Florida.