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Issue #1639      May 21, 2014

The Corporate Gods of America

Can anyone doubt that the United States is governed for the corporate good? The lofty concept of “for the people” evaporated into mythical fairy dust generations ago. In the new millennium, any pretence to serve the people, rather than the corporation, has been swept away; apparently, the elected, so-called representatives, and the corporations who own them, are convinced that the 99% are sufficiently lulled into a somnolent belief that the US is the greatest country in the world, and what’s good for business is good for them. Those with that bizarre belief overlook some very basic and rudimentary facts:

  • Safety Laws. Opposed by corporations, lax or non-existent safety laws benefit the corporate bottom line at the expense of the individual. Cramming more workers into a factory may jeopardise their health in a number of ways, but more workers produce more goods, and that’s good for the corporation.
  • Pollution Standards. Such standards allow millions of people to live in at least acceptable air quality, and to be comfortable drinking tap water. Yet requiring corporations to reduce the amount of waste they unleash into the air and/or water costs them money, without bringing any financial return. With no return on their investment, corporations oppose such standards.
  • A Low Minimum Wage. Keeping the minimum wage low increases corporate profits while keeping countless individuals and families in poverty, another plus for corporations. It enables corporate executives to receive multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, while their employees can barely afford food, let alone such luxuries as higher education for themselves or their children. Add to the exorbitant cost of a higher education the further disincentive of high-interest student loans, and an uneducated, desperate workforce will be happy to grab any minimum-wage job available, and will be hesitant to demand anything better.
  • Off-shoring. The practice of many, if not most, large corporations of sending jobs to nations that pay nearly slave wages, with no safety standards, also helps profiteers, while depriving millions of US citizens of employment. The damage to the health and well-being of the foreign workers is not even a consideration for the corporations whose work they do.
  • Destroying or Weakening Unions. For generations, workers united were able to improve their lot through collective bargaining. Now, however, corporations, along with the government officials they have bought and paid for, strive to weaken or destroy unions. In Wisconsin, for example, during the 2012 recall election, about 66% of anti-union Governor Scott Walker’s funding came from out of state, much of it from conservative business groups, including the Koch brothers and Sheldon Anderson. Mr Walker’s total contributions were US$30.5 million. His opponent, Tom Barrett, received about 26% of his US$4 million from outside groups.
  • Corporate Control of the Media. As recently as 1983, about 50 companies owned 90% of the US media. Today, 90% of the media is owned by only six companies. This means that 232 media executives control what 277,000,000 US citizens see. Why wouldn’t they want the citizens to see only that “news” and “information” that will best enhance shareholder value, and thus, their own salaries?

The Supreme Court has been complicit in all this. Once regarded as the last bastion of Constitutional interpretation, the justices today, and for some time, appear to be hacks, worshipping at the corporate altars they support. In 2010, in Citizens United vs The Federal Election Commission, the Court determined that the First Amendment prohibited governmental restrictions on political donations by “corporations, associations or labour unions”. This opened the financial floodgates of wealthy businesses to donate unlimited amounts of money to candidates who would support their causes, few of which benefit the average working individual.

Is all this not a major component of fascism? Is not holding corporate goals as the highest god, coupled with a fanatical preoccupation with national security, among the foundational pillars of a fascist state?

Yet nearly all politicians, left, right and centre, wrap themselves in the American flag and proclaim the greatness of the US. Worse yet, it seems that so many of the citizen-lemmings, when they see the flag, grow teary-eyed and support policies and programs that serve the corporate good at the expense of their own basic needs.

The “Occupy” movement takes a stand against this self-destructive mindset, but any movement depends on publicity, and corporate-owned media will not attend to causes that don’t serve its interests. Social media may be the last tool available, but corporations have not ignored its dollar value, or the potential impact it could have if “we the people” are allowed to control it.

Net neutrality, the principle that every website, service and app is treated the same by the Internet service provider, has drawn the attention of those who seek to enrich their own, already-bulging coffers. Under new proposals by the US government, websites would get service dependent on what they are willing to pay for it. Once again, the small, independent entrepreneur is at the mercy of the corporate competitor, and, in most cases, has no chance of success.

So, this is life today in the much-vaunted “land of opportunity”. If one is already wealthy, opportunity abounds. However, for the 99% that aren’t, scrambling to make ends meet may be the best one can do.

Information Clearing House

Next article – Poetry – Not yet the time

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