Category "Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc."

How ‘Corporate Personhood’ and ‘Citizens United v. FEC’ Has Gutted U.S. Democracy

March 11th, 2011 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc., Video

This video explains in a few short minutes how corporations are legally required to put the interest of shareholders and the maximizing of profits above all other concerns. They have no requirement to do anything else. In fact, they have a legal responsibility to do nothing but.

The New American Corporate State

November 4th, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc.

Not quite so new, but this is a good piece at bringing some clarity to understanding the underlying issues at work here. I’m pleasantly surprised to find such a lucid piece in Forbes, (though one of the points that goes wildly amiss is the reference to FDR being some kind of admirer of Benito Mussolini. This may possibly result from some kind of refraction of reality being experienced by the author, due to the facts at hand passing through some kind of ideological filter he may possess regarding a predisposition towards the New Deal).

While the intellectual origins of the corporate state go back much further, the first serious attempt to implement such a system was in 1920s Italy by Benito Mussolini. Under that system, state-sponsored industry cartels programmed every aspect of economic life, from wages and working conditions to prices, production levels and product specifications.

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Favored businesses (and by these we are talking about the top 20 to 30 largest banks and corporations in a particular country) get protection from competition, both upstart domestic entrepreneurs as well as any foreign rivals. In return, they provide monetary and political support for politicians’ pet projects–from recycling to windmills–with the understanding that politicians will give them legislative back doors to recover the costs of these programs from customers or taxpayers.

In return for granting this largess to selected corporations and unions, government officials get to remain in power. Typically this arrangement appeals to parties on both the left and the right, such that the nominal ruling party may change but the core group in power remain the same.

The losers in all of this are … everyone else. In effect this corporate system is just another age-old, historically time-worn effort to cement the power of a small group of elites. Entrepreneurship and innovation are often impossible, as incumbent businesses can call on tremendous state powers to stifle competitive threats…

Does any of this sound familiar? Consider a few random observations from the past year:

–Powerful banks with executives who have served in multiple senior government jobs get bailed out. Others do not.

–Obama and Congress pass the health care bill by demagoguing against insurance and pharmaceutical companies, while simultaneously cutting sweetheart deals with these same companies. The pharmaceutical industry ends up as a major contributor to Harry Reid’s re-election, and the insurance industry ends up with a law forcing every American to buy their product or go to jail.

–In return for publicly supporting the administration’s green agenda, General Electric is rewarded with a series of proposed rules tilting regulations to favor key technologies it controls or has a strong position in.

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Like Europe, the ultimate price for the growing corporate state will be paid by the American consumer (in the form of higher prices, reduced choice, and foregone innovation), and the American taxpayer, who is already facing an enormous bill from the direct subsidy of favored constituents. This corporate-government-labor coalition is ready to come together in the U.S. right now, and only the political energy of the rest of the American citizenry continues to resist it.

Read The Complete Article

Corporate Crime Unit

June 6th, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc.

Manslaughter is a crime, punishable by prison, particularly for that resultant of gross negligence. You have a guy caught using crack going to jail for a decade. Elsewhere you have a person whose actions results in the deaths of dozens and wipes out entire ecosystems, he goes to the country club for another round of golf.

This piece by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman adds some perspective to this situation…

“Manslaughter,” reads the United States Code, “is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” It goes on, “Whoever is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six years, or both.” In the disasters at the Massey coal mine in West Virginia and on the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, people were killed. Twenty-nine miners died in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion. Eleven workers died on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which is owned by Transocean, working under contract for BP. There are state laws that govern manslaughter as well, and special language given for maritime deaths. So why aren’t the executives of these companies behind bars?

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Russell Mokhiber is the editor of Corporate Crime Reporter and lives in West Virginia… [He] thinks Massey executives should be prosecuted for manslaughter. After protesting outside the Massey shareholders meeting Tuesday, he told me: “If I drive my car 90 mph in a 55-mph speed zone, and I accidentally kill someone, I am going to be charged with involuntary manslaughter, for behaving with reckless disregard for those around me. Prosecutors regularly bring these cases. If a corporation operates a workplace with reckless disregard for the safety of the workers, and those workers die as a result, those executives responsible should be prosecuted. That’s why we are calling on the prosecutor of Raleigh County, W.Va., to bring this charge against Massey Energy and its responsible executives.”

According to The Associated Press, federal prosecutors said they are investigating whether there was “willful criminal activity” related to the Upper Big Branch mine. BP also should face a criminal investigation. We need to pierce the corporate veil. While the civil lawsuits that will follow are likely to cost these companies some money, that is ultimately considered just the cost of doing business. When workers are killed to save time or because of unsafe working conditions, when livelihoods and the environment are destroyed, executives who make these decisions must be personally held accountable.

Read The Full Article Here

Corporate ‘Rights’ and Political Campaigns

May 23rd, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc., Video

Chomsky on corporate rights and campaigns.

The Supreme Court ruling in essence “means that corporations can buy elections directly instead of indirectly.”

Lucid analysis from Noam Chomsky (and predictive, considering this predates the Supreme Court ruling on corporate contributions to political campaigns by months).


The Fight of Our Lives: The Populist Battle With Corporate Power

May 9th, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc.

Sadly, Here is Bill Moyers’ final show. He and Jim Hightower do a good job in summing up what the work at hand is about. An excellent and recommended read (or view).

BILL MOYERS : How does the Tea Party differ from the people you’re talking about? We have two groups of Americans, both angry and defiant, and both calling themselves populists. What don’t they have in common?

JIM HIGHTOWER : Here’s what populism is not. It is not just an incoherent outburst of anger. And certainly it is not anger that is funded and organized by corporate front groups, as the initial Tea Party effort is, and as most of it is still today. Though there is legitimate anger within it, in terms of the people who are there. But what populism is at its essence is a, a just determined focus on helping people be able to get out of the iron grip of the corporate power that is overwhelming our economy, our environment, energy, the media, government. And I guess that’s one big difference between real populism and what the Tea Party thing is, is that real populists understand that government has become a subsidiary of corporations. So you can’t say, let’s get rid of government. You need to be saying let’s take over government.

BILL MOYERS : Why don’t you call yourself a liberal?

JIM HIGHTOWER : The difference between a liberal and a progressive is that liberals want to assuage the problems that we have from corporate power. Populists want to get rid of corporate power. An example is what’s happening, right now, with the Wall Street reform that’s in Washington.

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JIM HIGHTOWER : If you’re too big to fail, you’re too big period. And now they’ve [the corporations have] become not only too big to fail, but too big to care.

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JIM HIGHTOWER : Yes, exactly. I go all the way back to Thomas Paine, of course. I mean, that was kind of the ultimate rebellion. And then when the media tool was a pamphlet. You know, a pamphleteer or a broadside that you put on the community bulletin board. So the whole American Revolution itself, but not the great men. They didn’t–they wrote the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. But that didn’t create democracy. It made democracy possible.

What created democracy was Thomas Paine and the Shays Rebellion the suffragists and the abolitionists and on down through the populists, the labor movement. Including the Wobblies. Tough in their face people. The–Mother Jones, Woody Guthrie, you know, the cultural aspect of it, as well. Of course, Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez. And now it’s down to us.

You know, the–these are agitators. They extended democracy decade after decade. You know, sometimes we get in the midst of these fights. We think we’re making no progress. But, you know, you look back. We’ve made a lot of progress. And you’ve seen it. And I have, as well. You know, that agitator after all is the center post in the washing machine that gets the dirt out. So, we need a lot more agitation.

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BILL MOYERS : Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy. Plutocracy is not an American word but it’s become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side….

While millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings, the plutonomists are doing just fine. In some cases, even better, thanks to our bailout of the big banks which meant record profits and record bonuses for Wall Street. Now why is this? Because over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists — choose your poison — have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding.

Remember that Citigroup reference to “market-friendly governments” on their side? It hasn’t mattered which party has been in power — government has done Wall Street’s bidding. Don’t blame the lobbyists, by the way; they are simply the mules of politics, delivering the drug of choice to a political class addicted to cash — what polite circles call “campaign contributions” and Tony Soprano would call “protection.”

This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. According to a study from the Pew Research Center last month, nine out of ten Americans give our national economy a negative rating. Eight out of ten report difficulty finding jobs in their communities, and seven out of ten say they experienced job-related or financial problems over the past year. So it is that like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy.

This is why America needs voices like those of Moyers’ front and center in the public discourse, and why his will be so sorely missed.

Read The Complete Transcript of this final episode of Bill Moyers Journal

Whose Rights? Challenging Corporate Power

February 1st, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc.

Thomas Linzey, who co-wrote this article, does some great work with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and the Democracy Schools. I would definitely recommend anyone and everyone interested in furthering one’s understanding of how and why we have reached this current situation in our nation’s political environment, and what are some of the ways people can organize to address it.

The expansion of corporate rights and privileges under the law has been deliberate, beginning nearly two hundred years ago with the Dartmouth decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that private corporations had rights that municipal corporations—governments composed of “we the people”—did not.

For the past two centuries, new court decisions have only expanded corporate rights and privileges.  For those who think that the way to stem this tide is to find the perfect lawsuit, stop looking. It doesn’t exist, for there is no magic bullet.

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Today’s structure of law gives corporations a spectrum of legal and constitutional rights which they routinely wield against people, communities, and nature. Corporations have more rights, for example, than the communities in which they seek to do business. They can and do use those rights to lobby Congress, impact elections, and to decide for us what we eat, whether mountaintops are blown off or not, whether there are fish in the oceans, and on and on. Their constitutional and other legal rights, together with their wealth , guarantee that they can define the debates that lead to the adoption of new laws—and often write the laws themselves.

Thus the context for understanding today’s decision is that we have a minority set of corporate interests, empowered by government to wield their rights against a majority. It is the history of this nation. The abolitionists, the suffragists, and the civil rights movement all built movements of people in order to drive rights (for slaves, for women, for African Americans) into law—which necessarily meant eliminating rights for a minority, such as the slaveholder. In the end, it is our constitutional structure of law that purposefully places the rights of property and commerce over the rights of people, communities, and nature. History shows that strong peoples’ movements can make change by changing the legal structure itself.

Read the rest of this article from YES! Magazine, and go to www.celdf.org for more information on how to organize in your local community.

“Let Freedom Ka-Ching” - Colbert on Protecting Rights For Corporations

January 31st, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc., Video

Great to see this issue get such direct reference and dissection via a national media platform. It is unfortunately becoming of even more relevance these days, what with the Supreme Court ruling giving corporations nearly unlimited carte blanche rights to purchase the American political process.

“Corporations do everything people do except breathe, die and go to jail for dumping 1.3 million pounds of PCBs in the Hudson River.”

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Let Freedom Ka-Ching
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor U.S. Speedskating

Watch The Video on the Colbert Nation website.

George Will: Corporations Have No Interest in Political Fights and Campaign Donations Don’t Determine Votes

January 30th, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc., Video

Sunday talk show pundit and syndicated columnist George Will outdoes himself with this stellar performance in the service of the governing (and owning…same thing) elites of America.

“Now, some people are saying, oh, corporations, that means Microsoft will be buying ads. Microsoft’s trying to sell software. They’re not interested in getting into political fights.”

Well, in a way he’s right. Corporations have no interest in political fights, the same way mob families would prefer not to have to wage war against each other, as it is detrimental to business. And after all, as a colleague of mine pointed out, there’s no need to fight over someone you already own. And campaign donations don’t necessarily determine votes, they just determine, in the end, who gets to cast them. You don’t need to bribe ideological and economic allies. We are replete in data showing how in the near unanimous majority of time, those who spend the most within a campaign cycle attain the office. As the adage goes, we don’t have elections, we have auctions.

George Will’s assertion is not only blatantly disprovable, but is desperately at odds with basic common sense. However, he does reveal, whether inadvertently or not, one basic truth here…

“[The Supreme Court decision is a vindication of free speech rights] because the court recognized the obvious, which is that you cannot disseminate political speech without money. And, therefore, to restrict money is to restrict the dissemination of speech. To that end, they have freed up the amount of money that will be spent.”

Yes, in our society money is indeed, speech, and so we live with a political system inherently undemocratic, and one in which those with the most money get the most speech, in both quantity as well as, and possibly more importantly, volume.

Watch/Read The Full Video Transcript

Perhaps ABC and Mr. Will should consider including some more lucid and informed perspectives on the issues such as these, before they continue to blather on with their platitudes towards the “market of ideas” in our political arena.

Free Speech Is For People

January 27th, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc., Video


A video on the Supreme Court ruling granting corporations unfettered access to our political system, and for organizing a movement for a Constitutional amendment to counter the egregious growth of corporate dominance over our political system.

The Other Plot To Wreck America

January 16th, 2010 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc.

Good, concise piece on the criminal class that rules this country.

Americans must be told the full story of how Wall Street gamed and inflated the housing bubble, made out like bandits, and then left millions of households in ruin. Without that reckoning, there will be no public clamor for serious reform of a financial system that was as cunningly breached as airline security at the Amsterdam airport. And without reform, another massive attack on our economic security is guaranteed. Now that it can count on government bailouts, Wall Street has more incentive than ever to pump up its risks — secure that it can keep the bonanzas while we get stuck with the losses.

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The White House’s chief economic hand, Lawrence Summers, has repeatedly announced that “everybody agrees that the recession is over” — which is technically true from an economist’s perspective and certainly true on Wall Street, where bailed-out banks are reporting record profits and bonuses. The contrary voices of Americans who have lost pay, jobs, homes and savings are either patronized or drowned out entirely by a political system where the banking lobby rules in both parties and the revolving door between finance and government never stops spinning.

And does this sound familiar?

Among other transgressions, National City [which has eventually morphed into Citi] had repackaged bad Latin American debt as new securities that it then sold to easily suckered investors during the frenzied 1920s boom. Once disaster struck, the bank’s executives helped themselves to millions of dollars in interest-free loans. Yet their own employees had to keep ponying up salary deductions for decimated National City stock purchased at a heady precrash price.

Trade bad Latin American debt for bad mortgage debt, and you have a partial portrait of Citigroup at the height of the housing bubble. The reckless Citi executives of our day may not have given themselves interest-free loans, but they often walked away with the short-term, illusionary profits while their employees were left with shredded jobs and 401(k)’s. Among those Citi executives was Robert Rubin, who, as the Clinton Treasury secretary, helped repeal the last vestiges of Glass-Steagall after years of Wall Street assault. Somewhere Pecora is turning in his grave

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As Paul Volcker, the regrettably powerless chairman of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board ,said recently , there is not “one shred of neutral evidence” that any financial innovation of the past 20 years has led to economic growth. Citi, that “innovative” banking supermarket, destroyed far more wealth than Weill can or will ever give away.

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Last week, ABC World News was also stiffed by Citi, which refused to answer questions about its latest round of outrageous credit card rate increases and instead e-mailed a statement blaming its customers for “not paying back their loans.” This from a bank that still owes taxpayers $25 billion of its $45 billion handout !

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If they all skate away yet again by deflecting blame or mouthing pro forma mea culpas, it will be a sign that this inquiry, like so many other promises of reform since 9/15, is likely to leave Wall Street’s status quo largely intact. That’s the ticking-bomb scenario that truly imperils us all.

This stuff should be required reading for all American civics and economics classes.

Read the complete essay Here.

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