Archive for Corporatocracy
Creditors counterattacked and tightened their grip. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras now seems ready to accept more austerity with no write-down of his country’s debt, something voters soundly rejected just last Sunday:
“Each one of us shall be confronted with his stature and his history. Between a bad choice and a catastrophic one, we are forced to opt for the first one,” Tsipras said in a speech before his party’s lawmakers, according to local media. “It is as if one asks you for your money or your life.”
It’s just slightly less than Bond-villianish. The Washington Post reports that the deal includes “phasing out a subsidy for poor pensioners and privatizing sprawling state industries.” The voters have spoken and were ignored.
At the Guardian, George Monbiot examines how the financial powers have built a colonial empire that essentially renders democracy moot. (Throughout, I’m citing the referenced version of this piece from Monbiot’s blog.):
Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes. It’s controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It’s now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and the other means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.
In his post-Greek referendum analysis, Howard Fineman sees echoes of the past:
It’s a new echo on a global scale of the politics of a much earlier, but in some ways remarkably similar, era in the U.S. As the U.S. became a continental economy in the late 19th century, with vast new hordes of wealth built in railroads, coal, electricity and communications, a political backlash arose. The new “money power” was judged too big and uncontrollable: an engine not of prosperity, but of inequality and corruption. The backlash launched America’s Progressive movement, which among other reforms pushed laws to rein in the power of big corporations in the interests of ordinary people.
Now that the planet’s economies have essentially become one, and the world’s top dozen banks control $30 trillion in assets, the callous demands of a new and even larger “money power” is starting to spark a worldwide backlash.
The International Monetary Fund, writes Fineman, has become since its founding “something akin to a collection agency” for private banks. Still, it is not clear yet whether the backlash Fineman sees is real or apparent.
The corruption of democracy by this system (or perhaps the subjugation of democracy to it) is beginning to filter into the public consciousness. When TV stations in Georgia start doing investigations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), opinion is beginning to move. The ugliness of this system is becoming ever more apparent to the public at large.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
This Tweet went by the other day and I just had to go back and find it:
wow. Gov Walker wants taxpayers to pay HALF of construction costs for Milwaukee Buck's nice new arena; http://t.co/UHnd0FdsK4
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) June 8, 2015
Comparisons have been made and disputed between Walker’s diversion of state funds to the arena and his cuts in state education funding. And yes, team owners have conned Democrats too. But the specifics of the Wisconsin deal are not what interests me this morning.
These deals always remind me of the Blazing Saddles scene in which Sheriff Bart puts his own gun to his head and threatens to shoot himself. Except with sports arena deals it is owners threatening to shoot their teams, “Build us a new stadium or your team gets it!” Flustered officials blurt out, “Hold it, men. He’s not bluffing.” Then they ante up taxpayer dollars. We pay them to make money.
We regularly decry corporate capitalism’s race to the bottom. But the phrasing assumes there is a bottom. I’m not so sure. Considering offshoring, tax incentives, and tax repatriation legislation, you have to wonder just what level of taxation — including none — would rent-seeking, modern corporations accept without whining, without looking for even more ways to squeeze blood from a stone or more work from workers for even less?
There is a runaway, kudzu-ish element to corporate capitalism, but there is a Tom Sawyer-ish feature as well. Public corporations won’t be satisfied until We the People are paying them for making a profit — the way Tom Sawyer tricked friends into paying for the privilege of whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence. These sports arena deals remind us that when an Obama tells business owners, you didn’t build that, he’s right.
Pretty soon working people will be paying the elite in brass door knockers (or their equivalent) for building it for them.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Avoiding responsibility is just what the corporate form was designed for, wasn’t it? That’s why corporations will always go to the mat to protect their special rights and privileges as super-citizens. Those include not to facing jail time for repeated criminal behavior. Petty crime? Three strikes and you’re out. Corporate crime? Nobody’s counting. Justice for corporate crime is a different ball game.
“Banks have been on a criminal wilding,” Katrina vanden Heuvel writes, “allegedly laundering money for drug dealers, systematically defrauding homeowners on their mortgages, routinely committing perjury in courts and much more.” Their companies pay fines, yet virtually no one in charge goes to jail. Isn’t that special?
RJ Eskow ticks off a lengthy series of criminal behavior by large banking firms: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS Financial Services. All repeat offenders:
Re: Trans-Pacific Partnership investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals.
Query: If corporations can sue over loss of “expected future profits” they didn’t earn, can people get food over loss of “expected future work”?
It has always seemed to me that people should be holding the corporate leash, not wearing the collar. “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.” Yet we seem ready to hand mega-corporations a new and improved leash.
TPP is a “sellout of democracy” by “well-intentioned, sophisticated, realistic people … used to disregarding democracy when they want to accomplish something important,” writes Duke law school’s Jedediah Purdy at Huffington Post (emphasis mine):
From what we know of the TPP, it works as an economic policy straitjacket, locking its members into a shared set of market rules. It even brings in “investor-state dispute settlement” — a fancy term for allowing foreign corporations to sue governments whose lawmaking interferes with their profits, outside the courts of law, in suits resolved by private arbitrators. All of that is fundamentally anti-democratic. It reverses the basic and proper relationship between a political community and its economy. But plenty of Americans are seeking just that reversal. Not all of them believe the market is perfect and magical; but they believe it works, more or less, and that democracy does not. They are more than half right that this democracy, “our democracy” (a phrase that’s hard to say without irony), does not work. And that is the reality that makes their anti-democratic agreement so plausible.
I just said it in plain English. That extra-legal process violates not only democratic principles, but all the “Makers” and “personal responsibility” bullshit our corporate Brahmins spew to keep the rest of us in line — especially the poorest among us. But when you are that special, living your hypocrisy is just another of the perks.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)
Today, Earth Day 2015, President Obama visits Everglades National Park to talk about climate change and the threat it poses to the water ecology of south Florida. On the first Earth Day in 1970, few Americans had even heard of ecology.
NPR’s Melissa Block spoke with Evelyn Gaiser, an ecologist with the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program, about saltwater incursion into the Everglades. She’ll be reminding the president the Everglades is not just home to birds, snakes, and alligators:
BLOCK: And along with preserving biodiversity, preserving wild space and habitat, of course also you’re seeing a real threat to drinking water with what’s going on in the Everglades, right?
GAISER: That’s exactly right. So the people of Florida depend on that aquifer underneath the Everglades for their drinking water. And as we have insufficient freshwater moving into the Everglades, we see a depletion in the freshwater resources available to the growing population of South Florida.
On the Pacific coast, Californians struggle with an epic drought and reservoirs have all but dried up.
Progressive groups are sure to be fuming over the agreement among congressional leaders on approving “fast track” authority:
In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.
With committee votes planned next week, liberal senators such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio are demanding to know Hillary Rodham Clinton’s position on the bill to give the president so-called trade promotion authority, or T.P.A.
“NAFTA on steroids” may have bipartisan support, but the secret trade agreement — congressional staff must have security clearances to view the draft trade pact text — also “enjoys” bipartisan opposition. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in January showed Americans were in no hurry to expand trade: “59% said it could be delayed until next year and 16% said it shouldn’t be pursued at all.” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said in a press release yesterday, “Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue.”
This week’s in-box brought news that one North Carolina Republican, Rep. Chuck McGrady, is re-introducing a bill to permit benefit corporations or B-corps in the state. It has failed to advance in past legislative sessions. B-corps, as I understand them, give directors legal protection for decisions that consider community stakeholders’ interests, not shareholders’ alone. Twenty-eight other states and the District of Columbia permit them:
Under current corporate law in North Carolina, corporations are not allowed to serve a purpose beyond maximizing profit for its shareholders. The North Carolina Benefit Corporation Act, however, would allow businesses to accomplish goals that go beyond the bottom line.
“It’s a for-profit entity that can do nonprofit work,” McGrady said. “They’ve got other purposes. They’re not all about the highest value for the stakeholders.”
Remember me warning you about Thom’s Tholl Road? Coming soon to an interstate near you? Via Barry Summers. Introduced in the NC Senate:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT to direct the department of transportation to study ways to fund improvements to interstate 95.
The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
SECTION 1. Study. – The Department of Transportation shall study ways to fund improvements to Interstate 95 from the South Carolina to Virginia borders, including the feasibility of establishing tolls and managed lanes.
It’s been “studied” since 2010 at least:
Here’s the group that was fighting it in 2012: http://notollsi95.com/
How long before they’re “studying” it for I-26?
As we wonder when people will take to the streets in America over growing inequality, they’re taking to the streets in Brazil over government efforts at lessening inequality. Aljazeera reports that the center-left Workers’ Party (PT) under President Dilma Rousseff saw hundreds of thousands demonstrating on March 15. She faces “the most conservative National Congress since 1964 as well as a decelerating economy, hostile media and a corruption scandal that implicates her party.” It doesn’t help that her trade unionist and social movement activist base have been alienated by “pro-market political appointments.” (Nope. No foreshadowing there.)
The people in the streets, “whiter and wealthier than the typical Brazilian,” are part of a growing conservative backlash among the elite and middle class:
Since Rousseff’s re-election campaign in 2014, political discourse in Brazil has become more polarized than ever. Legislators elected from historically progressive states openly defended policies such as torture and the extermination of indigenous peoples. Congress now includes a sizable “bullet caucus,” which supports militaristic responses to crime, as well as a substantial Christian fundamentalist caucus opposed to gay rights and a very large rural caucus that opposes land reform and indigenous rights. Meanwhile, the PT and parties to its left lost seats, and nearly 30 percent of voters cast blank ballots or abstained — a historic high.
Rousseff’s administration has fallen short of expectations on certain scores, including land redistribution and the reform of the political system. But most progressive commentators agree that the PT represents a significant break from the free-market orthodoxy that previously prevailed in Brazil. There are a number of impressive social achievements based on the unapologetic redistribution of resources and opportunity. Extreme poverty has been reduced by 75 percent since the PT came to power, and overall poverty gone down 65 percent, largely by means of direct cash transfers now received by 44 million Brazilians, or nearly 1 in 4. The inflation-adjusted minimum wage has doubled in the last 12 years, and domestic workers have won expanded rights, including paid vacation.
On its own, clearly not a situation the right people can allow to stand. But it’s the affirmative action program in the country’s public universities that has the elite really riled. Tuition is free, Aljazeera reports, but now future politicians, government ministers, and judges, etc. find themselves having to share those elite educational institutions with working class and lower middle class students and, yes indeed, issues of racial inequality are adding to the political friction. Furthermore, Rousseff’s party “has failed to present the redistributive project as one that benefits the entire nation and not just the dispossessed.”
The Guardian describes how the Latin American left is seeing pushback elsewhere. The global financial crisis has caught up with the reforms in Venezuela as well, and Argentina’s fight with “vulture funds” such as Paul Singer’s Elliott Management has dried up its credit:
Many see a conspiracy at work. “The Latin American left is coming up against an enemy that it has never prepared itself for,” said Federico Neiburg, an economic anthropologist at the Museu Nacional. “It’s an alliance between shifting geopolitical interests, economic and financial elites trying to impose politics that are beneficial to them, and political action on behalf of the media …
Paging Naomi Klein.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)