The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 8: CORPORATE)

The corporate influence on the (s)election of George W. Bush in 2000 (and in 2004, for that matter) was minimal compared with today’s corporate influences on elections, such disparity mostly thanks to the 2010 SCOTUS decision on the Citizens United case in which corporations were essentially granted the status of ‘people’ along with all the ‘rights’ implicit and inherent therein. And it’s been downhill ever since.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7)

Today the trend is to move ever faster on the rapidly steepening slope that leads to the bottom of the abyss, the abyss defined by (and littered with) the remains of national collapse. Thus far and in this current 2012 election cycle, for example, the two campaigns have each spent over a billion dollars, the bulk of which was contributed by now unrestricted corporate interests and associated extremely wealthy individuals, each with axes to grind, and all with lots and lots of dogs in the political hunt. Very little of substance has shown itself in the campaign for the presidency, but the lies — particularly from the Romney ticket — have been constant and profuse. The current system stands as living proof that when funding is unlimited, so is the volume of baloney being served. The situation is, in a word, nonsensical.

Solutions? Overturn the Citizens United decision, either by legislation, by constitutional amendment, or by further judicial review (providing the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court can be finally reversed by upcoming presidential appointments); mandate public funding as the ONLY allowable source of electioneering capital; begin immediately the daunting task of educating the populace of the future in the reasons which underlie and which should DEFINE (and mandate) ethical behavior. In other words, redefine politics.

To refer to such process as a ‘daunting task’ is, indeed, a massive understatement.

Following are some (circa March, 2005) remarks and comments based on simple observation of the then-current dilemma brought forth by the vicious combination of power and politics via corporate agenda and money. Interesting how far we’ve slipped in the not-quite eight years since elapsed, but one thing remains certain: the future is ever more visible from the present — and it doesn’t look good.

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Corporate

 “Herein lies a riddle: How can a people so gifted by God become so seduced by naked power, so greedy for money, so addicted to violence, so slavish before mediocre and treacherous leadership, so paranoid, deluded, lunatic?” (Philip Berrigan)

Well, let’s see.  Maybe before we try to answer that we should come up with an example or two, some sort of marker which might suggest that links exist between business and political corruption.  Hmmm.  This could be tricky.  Oh well, in no particular order, since Bush took his first oath in January, 2001, a few come to mind:

1.    Halliburton Inc., VP Dick Cheney’s former employer (he was CEO), was apparently guaranteed a multi-billion dollar no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq – before the war even started.
2.    The White House knew in advance that the actual cost of the new (politically-expedient) Medicare bill (the one which gifted Big Pharma to the tune of roughly $140 billion) was going to exceed the amount listed for Congress to authorize by nearly a third, but invoked their own version of the Omerta code to keep it secret till after the bill was signed into law.
3.    Junk science – the forced result or the behind-the-scenes altering of research findings in ways which favor business (at the expense of scientific integrity and even public safety) has become a common practice.  The latest examples are typical: “Mercury isn’t really THAT dangerous” and “Yucca Mountain is a perfectly SAFE place to dispose of nuclear waste” – so long, that is, as no one looks too closely at the data.  Data?  What data?  Now where did I put that report?  It was here a minute ago.  Oh, well, what the hell. We all know it said what we wanted it to say – we ordered it be done that way.
4.    The so-called Healthy Forests Act did nothing at all to develop healthy forests; au contraire, instead it effectively re-opened to road construction the nearly sixty million remaining acres of old growth forest which Clinton had declared roadless, i.e. opened to the timber industry and logging, and eventually to motorized recreationalists (read: four wheelers, quads, dirt bikes, ete.).
5.    The “Clear Skies” initiative does nothing to clear the skies, but it does set back – wayyyy back – EPA mandates that demand effective stack emission reduction.  The power companies were said to be happy.
6.    “Clean Water” is another Orwellian phrase in that its substance simply serves to relax the mandate to reduce mercury pollution.
7.    Tort reform sneaked through Congress like a greased pig wearing feather mukluks.  One moment Bush was talking about the need to reduce malpractice and class-action lawsuit awards in order to help “reduce the cost of healthcare” (right).  A week or so later he signed a bill that transferred the jurisdiction for such legal actions from state courts to federal courts.  As governor of Texas, Bush had made a similar move and voila, it wasn’t long before most contingency lawyers wouldn’t touch a malpractice or class-action suit because they knew it was a waste of time.  Not everyone was happy, of course, although it’s quite likely that Bush’s campaign war chest immediately felt the impact of heady contributions from those who benefitted.
8.    Credit card companies are finally happy.  Not content with 30% interest and huge ‘late’ fees, they wanted protection from the ne’er-do-well middle class bums who file for Chapter 7 protection following medical catastrophe, or job loss, or divorce, etc.  The new Bankruptcy Act comes close to disallowing bankruptcy as a middle-class option as a way to ‘start over’ again.  Of course, protection for the wealthy (who are still allowed to ‘hide’ their assets in protective accounts) and for corporations remains intact.  Only the poor must pay the price.  Nothing new in that concept, I guess.
9.    Next up, Social Security reform?  Private investment?  One thing is certain: the type of “reform” of which Bush speaks will benefit one group immensely.  Can anyone imagine the commission inflow to Wall Street’s investment brokerages once every wage earner is kicking in his ‘share’ each and every month?  Ah, sweet mystery of life!

There really isn’t enough time or space to completely outline each and every political ‘gift’ that’s been handed to corporate business in the last four years; about all one can say is that we probably ain’t seen nothin’ yet; there are still four years to go, and the gift list is long.  But there is a bottom line, and it’s a simple one: the little guy will never see any benefit at all.  Today, as the price of a gallon of gasoline climbs above $2.25 – roughly double what it was when Bush was first selected president – it’s noteworthy that the two thousand dollar tax break that’s been in effect to help spur sales of hybrid vehicles which get fifty or more miles per gallon is soon to disappear, but the $25,000 tax break on the Humvee, which gets around ten mpg, remains intact.  With the so-called Hummer a show-off toy of the wealthy, that should come as no surprise.  And finally, last quarter, as the price of a gallon of gasoline edged upward from, say, $1.75 per gallon, Exxon-Mobil reported record earnings.  In fact, their quarterly earnings of some $8.3 billion were the highest ever for an American corporation, period.

Reagan liked to speak of “trickle-down economics.”  The new reality, courtesy of George W. Bush, would better be called “trickle-up economics,” where the wealthy Spiders become evermore well-fed, thanks to our politicos in Washington, the Robin Hoods Nouveau who steal from the poor and give to the rich.

America is being given away, piece by piece and parcel by parcel to the already wealthy, and to the huge multi-national corporations who have, for the most part, moved their manufacturing facilities to the third world where labor rates are cheap and there are no cumbersome restrictions on the art of ‘using’ humans in conditions which approximate slave labor camps.

The contributions by corporate donors to George W. Bush’s campaign and political coffers has been immense and regular.  It’s payback time, and they’re waiting in line to cash in their vouchers.

Long before there was a George W. Bush election campaign, H.L. Mencken noted that “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”   Did he strike gold on that one or not!

Read Part 9 here.

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