Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Welcome To Your Corporatocracy: Proof Is In Teh Money


Back in December, I did a couple of posts (here and here) whereby I endeavored to illustrate to drive home the point that no noble principles of patriotism, no social obligations, no moral imperatives, nor even basic human decency and compassion, can twart the nature of the corporate beast to manufacture doubt concerning facts in order to keep on making profits.

Energy corporation-funded climate change denialism is an obvious example. As was the case for denialism of the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

Same thing more recently with many US anti-health care reform groups/lobbies being heavily funded by ... health care insurance and pharma corporations.

On this matter, here's the latest assault to this effect (emphasis added):


REPORT: Challenges To Constitutionality Of Health Reform Funded By Health Industry Money

Since Democrats secured 60 votes to pass health care reform legislation — and passage became inevitable — prominent conservatives relaunched an under-the-radar campaign to invalidate reform through the legal system. On the eve of the final health care vote in the Senate, Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Ensign (R-NV) invoked a “constitutional point of order” to allow the Senate to rule by majority vote on whether the “Democrat health care takeover bill” is unconstitutional. Legislatures in approximately 14 states — organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a “business-friendly conservative group that coordinates activity among statehouses — have also introduced initiatives to ratify constitutional amendments that would repeal all or parts of the pending health care reform legislation, and Attorney Generals in at least 13 states are challenging a deal secured by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) to fund Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion for perpetuity.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the attorneys generals from South Carolina, Washington, Michigan, Texas, Colorado, Alabama, North Dakota, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Utah, Florida, Idaho and South Dakota “wrote that they consider the [Nebraska] provision ‘constitutionally flawed’ and demanded that it be stricken from the final bill.”

Yesterday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining “Why the Health-Care Bills Are Unconstitutional.” “The policy issues may be coming to an end, but the legal issues are certain to continue because key provisions of this dangerous legislation are unconstitutional,” he wrote, and went on to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the so-called sweet heart deal for Nebraska, and the requirements for states to establish health insurance exchanges and insurance regulations.

The effort may prove a strong political organizing tool for conservative activists, but the legal reasoning has little support beyond the right fringe of the Republican party and the health care industry. Several weeks ago, the New York Times reported, “The states where the [constitutional] amendment has been introduced are also places where the health care industry has spent heavily on political contributions.” The industry has also contributed heavily to the campaigns of at least 7 of the 13 attorney generals threatening to sue the federal government over the Nebraska provision. (Campaign finance data was not readily accessible for the other 6 attorneys generals.)

An analysis conducted by the Wonk Room of available campaign finance disclosures for AGs from South Carolina, Washington, Michigan, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and Idaho reveals that the health industry contributed heavily to their campaigns. For instance, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett (who is also running for Governor) accepted some $24,300 from the health care industry for his campaigns, including $10,300 from Pfizer PAC, $3,500 from Aetna Inc. PAC, and $2,500 from United Health Group Inc. Read the full analysis here.

Same old, same old.

From health care to stimulus packages to deregulations to rights of privacy to climate change to virtually any law which directly or remotely touches off on any aspect of the economy - corporations have their hands either in shaping our laws (through lobbyists or direct access to drafts of bills), influencing our elected representatives (again through lobbyists and/or campaign funds) and shaping public opinion overall (through funding of special interest lobbies/groups and/or through influence with corporate media accomplices).

Remember this little gem?

During the Senate Finance Committee’s mark-up session of the health care reform bill today, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) — who has had a hard time staying awake during these meetings — offered an amendment that would have delayed “a committee vote for two weeks.”

Bunning requested that the Committee put-off a vote on the health care bill until the final legislative language of the bill is made available on the Committee’s website for at least 72 hours. The amendment failed, with all of the Democrats except Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) voting against it. But had the amendment passed, it could potentially have halted the health care debate for weeks.

Before the vote took place, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) offered a defense of Bunning’s amendment by arguing that the 72-hour provision was critical because it provides time for senators to consult with health insurance lobbyists:

All the Senator from Kentucky is asking is for 72 hours to determine the cost. Senator Snowe has spoken eloquently about sunshine, and the openness, and the fact that the American people would support this 90 percent, 95 percent. But the thing that I’m trying to point out is we would have at least 72 hours for the people that the providers have hired to keep up with all of the legislation that we pass around here, and the regulations that we pass around here, to say “hey, wait a minute. Have you considered this?” And that’s all I’m asking for — is not only cost, but also the content of a bill. And that 72 hours, I think, is highly, highly important.

To be clear, Roberts is referring to health insurance lobbyists when he references the “people that the providers have hired to keep up with all of the legislation.”
Or this other one?
Back there, Transport Minister John Baird (yes - this same John Baird) was caught privately encouraging Canada's big airlines to step up their lobby campaign in order to kill a proposed "passenger bill of right" while his predecessor, then-Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, publicly supported such legislation - in the name of the Harper government, of course.

(...) And here is the evidence to that effect (emphasis added):
Transport Minister John Baird says he didn't pander to airlines with passenger bill

Transport Minister John Baird on Wednesday denied any collusion with the major airlines to stymie a passenger bill of rights, saying the government has simply "been working constructively" with the industry.

Internal government documents obtained by Canwest News Service show the transport minister's office privately pleaded with Canada's major airlines to step up their lobby campaign "to stop this motion in its tracks" even as the minister at the time, Lawrence Cannon, publicly supported it.

The motion passed unanimously in the House of Commons in June 2008 with the support of Cannon and Baird, who failed to bring forward legislation when he succeeded Cannon as transport minister in October 2008.

(...) Baird said there's nothing nefarious about the relationship, adding "we're been working constructively with the airlines."
"Working constructively with the airlines"? To kill the bill, yes indeed.

Here is tangible proof again:

Let us pay closer attention to the very first sentence of the first highlighted paragraph in this email of Baird to airline VIPs:
You're going to have to do some lobbying to stop this motion in its tracks.
Now, let us look at this other sentence in the same email:
If you don't lobby the grits and the Block, we're going to find ourselves in a position where we are outvoted by the Opposition Parties.
So what do we have here?

A) a minister (Baird ) is telling airline VIPs what to do in order to kill a motion regarding a "passenger bill of rights";

B) said same minister (Baird), is explaining to those same airline VIPs why the minority government of which he is part can't by itself kill the motion, and thus explains why this requires airline lobbying of MPs from Opposition Parties in order to ensure that a majority of MPs would end up turning down the motion - all the while keeping the minority Harper government "in the clear". In other words: "help us help you".

Put A and B together, and what you have here is a bona fides "behind-the-door" (i.e. secret) agreement between two parties for a deceitful purpose.

A connivance.

And in the reality-based world we live in, folks, that is the very definition of collusion!

Period.

If for whatever reason you remain unconvinced of this, then here's the clincher (emphasis added):
The (Harper minority) Conservative government launched Flight Rights Canada last September to inform air travellers of their rights, but only after airline executives reviewed several drafts, provided input, approved the final product, and signed off on the minister's speech to launch the program — a process that raised the ire of a top bureaucrat involved, the documents show.

(...) In the House of Commons, Baird confirmed Wednesday he doesn't support the bill, but defended the Tory record on the file, saying the government has "put forward new public policy" (Flight Rights) in the area of passenger rights.
Once again, what we have here is "a secret agreement between two or more parties for a deceitful purpose".

A connivance.

A collusion.
And the same applies with going to war (or not - and by the way: there are oil interests in Yemen, dontcha know), the use of military contractors (euphemism for mercenaries), stiffer crime and punishment (especially since many prisons are run by private corporations now), new transportation "rules" (of goods, of people - see above), outright slavery and so on and so forth.

As I stated previously:
I am all for a free market-based economy. Indeed, competition drives initiative and creativity, leading to better (or new) products as well as to better (or new) services, and henceforth to a better and greater choice for consummers. This in turn will usually translate well into job creation or maintenance, along with better salaries. And this in turn will usually translate into better individual spending powers and higher standards of living.

However, trusting in corporations to "do the right thing" with regards to the welfare of society, citizens, employees, et al., is pure nonsense. The reality is that companies and corporations live by one thing and one thing only: the bottom line. Hence, companies and corporations will do anything, regardless of whether they initially had good intentions or not, to keep profits not only high but also to increase them as well. In other words, companies and corporations will cheat, lie or steal, even go as far as to use spying, sabbotage and violence, as means to protect and increase their profit margins. This is simply the nature of the beast.

Therefore, just like societies need laws to place clear definitions of what is acceptable, non-criminal conduct for their citizens, so must there also be laws to place clear definitions of what is acceptable, non-criminal conduct for companies.

Some call these "regulations". I call these necessities, just like criminal laws for the citizenry. After all, laws serve to maintain the welfare, peace and prosperity of society overall.
What has happened throughout these past decades - and keeps happening - constitutes the first and foremost argument for the need to have companies and corporations to obey laws, just like every citizens. As I said above, call said laws "regulations" if you will - nevertheless, laws on due process of contract awarding through an appropriately regulated submission process, as well as rigorous boundaries imposed for the fulfillment of contracts, in addition to codified acceptable behavior by companies and corporations (as in our case) and corporate responsibility, are a matter of necessity for the continuity of our democratic societies founded upon the Rule of Law.

But corporations are quite aware of this. As much as they know themselves - that when kept unchecked, the need for maximization of profits will inevitably lead to fraud and corruption, as well as to a blatant disregard and abuse of human dignity, human civil liberties and human rights. I repeat here: no noble principles of patriotism, social obligations, moral imperatives or even basic human decency and compassion can twart this.

Hence why time and time again - any law that is passed (or watered down/rejected, depending on the interests involved) is heavily tainted with corporate influence and money.

Consequently, democracy is effectively on life support - if not dead already.

So - welcome to your corporatocracy.

Hope you enjoy it.


(Cross-posted at The Peace Tree)

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