Archive for the ‘Corporations’ category

The Wall Street Occupation

October 18th, 2011

Now in over 1500 cities worldwide, the Occupy Wall Street protest movement is looking more and more like it will have staying power on a massive scale. The movement is still trying to refine its demands and specific grievances. Its main focus is economic injustice, but some groups within the movement have a much broader lists of complaints. One thing that is for certain, this is not simply a group of hippies—as Fox New coverage would have you believe. This is a highly diverse group that is expressing the spirit of democracy. This thrust is felt by people on both sides of the isle. This is not about left or right…it is about being American, in an America that is fair and just.

Here are some of the demands and declarations that have been made.

 

Occupiers on Wall Street

 

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City (source):

This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on September 29, 2011, with minor updates made on October 1, 2011. It is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

 

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As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
  • They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

 

A New Kind of Capitalism

February 20th, 2011

“Capitalists have done a remarkably poor job of safeguarding the future of capitalism.” (source)

Capitalism can mean dramatically different things to different people. To a Wall Street executive it means being able to accumulate unimaginable wealth. To big business it may be a competitive game that must be won at all costs, even at the expense to the public interest. To a small businessman with a great idea, it might mean being able to turn his passion into an occupation, and enjoy the freedom of self-employment. To many, it is a system that has increased the standards of living for millions. To its victims, capitalism is a monster whose greed leaves many behind, and even commits great crimes against vulnerable citizens. Which view is correct? All of them.

If by “capitalism” we mean creating markets that meet the needs of the public, allowing the best ideas and products to succeed through demand, then this is a highly democratic system that should be encouraged. If capitalism means “greed is good,” and we should look out for our own self-interest at all costs than this is a very anti-social, destructive philosophy that must be tempered.

According to Mother Jones Magazine, “Just before the market crashed, one Wall Street manager wrote to another, ‘Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.'” This is one small example of how the greedy version of capitalism can lead to untold suffering (market crash, lost retirements, unemployment, etc.).

Over the past two years, as the dust of the Great Recession began to settle, a host of business leaders and prominent economic leaders have started to imagine a new kind of capitalism; one that is responsible, broadly-enjoyed, and sustainable. Below, we have included excerpts from these leaders, including Bill Gates, Michael Porter, Elizabeth Warren, James Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz, Fareed Zakaria, and others.

There are common themes in their writings, including the need to regulate corporations, balance the interests of the public and private profit, and the need to have a strong social purpose that goes beyond the profit motive.

Keep reading. » Read more: A New Kind of Capitalism

The Era of Corporate Rule: Why Corporate Personhood is Wrong

November 25th, 2010

Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution. During our first century, the U.S. Supreme Court consistently ruled that corporation are not persons. This changed in 1886 when the Supreme Court recognized corporations as “persons.” The Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad ruling open the door to applying the Bill of Rights and the Equal Protection Amendment to corporations.  The Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states that: States [shall not] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This protection was now being applied to corporations. The court’s decision was not debated publicly or in the halls of congress. This society-changing decision was made by the Supreme Court (though some have doubted that even the Supreme Court made this decision). It is one thing to give corporations the right to enter into contracts with other persons or corporate entities, or to limit the liability of its owners, but it is another thing to grant a corporation the rights of a living person, especially when corporations act nothing like a normal person.

In 1933, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called corporations “Frankenstein monsters” capable of doing evil. Joel Balkan pointed out that, “The corporation’s legally defined mandate is to pursue , relentlessly and without exception, its own self-interest regardless of the often harmful consequences it might cause to others…The corporation is a pathological institution,  a dangerous possessor of the great power it wields over people and societies” (source, p. 1-2). The corporation could be seen as manifesting the characteristics of a sociopath, with no regard for the harm its actions may inflict to individuals and communities (think BP, Massie Energy, Enron, Humana).  When real people act like this, their rights are taken away and they are locked up. In this sense, corporations are given greater freedoms than individual citizens.

The case against corporate personhood is not a criticism of responsible entrepreneurs who create healthy competition for goods and services. The free market can have very positive outcomes for our society. But some segments need to be heavily regulated or even taken over by government for the sake of transparency and removal of the profit-motive (healthcare is one example where the profit-motive can harm people while increasing profit for corporate owners and managers). Regulations are designed to force corporations to pay for the costs that would otherwise be forced onto society and the environment (source, p. 150). To minimize harm, the corporation simply needs to be limited in its reach. Without effective regulations, the free market self-implodes (as we saw in the Great Depressions and again in 2008), and it can produce unintended and harmful consequences to individuals and communities. If unchecked, it can also destroy democracy.

“Whatever one thinks of government, they’re to some extent publically accountable, to a limited extent. Corporations are to a zero extent. One of the reasons why propaganda tries to get you to hate government is because it’s the one existing institution in which people can participate to some extent and constrain tyrannical unaccountable power.”

-Noam Chomsky

(source, p. 152)

Corporations now have a disproportionate influence on our political system. OpenSecrets.org pointed out that, “the 2010 midterm elections will be remembered for spawning a new breed of political animal — the ‘super PAC,’ officially known as ‘independent expenditure-only committees,’ which are legally allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions to expressly advocate for or against federal candidates.” When the Supreme Court removed the ban on election spending earlier this year, in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, it opened the flood gates for corporate control of elections. This is a serious threat to democracy. When corporations are declared “persons,” and given freedom of speech, and money is called “speech,” we have a broken system. Barbara Steisand said it well when she called the ruling a “corporate coup d’état of America’s Democracy.” She went on to say, “By reversing well-established election law, their judicial activism has set the stage to possibly erode the very fabric of our country” (source).

New York Times editorial noted, “The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election” (source). Jonathan Alter called it the “most serious threat to American democracy in a generation” (source). » Read more: The Era of Corporate Rule: Why Corporate Personhood is Wrong

Happy Labor Day, You’re Fired

September 6th, 2010

Here’s an unfortunate Labor Day message. A new report by the Institute for Policy Studies found that CEOs who laid off the most workers made the most money over the past couple if years. No wonder the recession continues.

View the report here: http://bit.ly/9PqMzv

Take Action: Stop Executive Excess. Tell your friends that you won’t stand for injustice. Together we can shame these companies and stop executive excess. Click here

The trends with health insurance benefits are also disturbing.

Another unfortunate fact on this Labor Day, is that unions continue to diminish in their influence and numbers. Workers’ unions have fought to give all of us 40 hour working weeks, weekends, minimum wages, child labor laws, and so much more. Obama needs to follow through on his promises to support and promote union growth. With the prolonging of the recession (partly because businesses won’t start hiring, even when they are plenty profitable), pushing union growth is not an acceptable political move, unfortunately.

On the one hand, we have the crimes of “tough” CEOs who prove they can’t succeed without slashing payroll and benefits, and on the other hand we have the diminished influence of unions who bargain for the collective interests of workers. These two trend make help corporate profits in the short term, they they harm the economy over the long term. They are proving again that our system needs significant reform.

Happy Labor Day. It is, after all, a day off work. But we still have too many people who can’t go back to work tomorrow.

Chomsky: Hopes and Prospects

July 4th, 2010

For over 40 years, MIT linguists professor and activist, Noam Chomsky, has been a powerful voice of dissent in the United States and around the world. The New York Times has called him, “perhaps the most important intellectual alive.” He has published over one-hundred books, is the most quoted living scholar.

His most recent book, “Hopes and Prospects” (Haymarket Books, 2010), is one of his best. This new Chomsky book is broad in scope. It covers neocolonialism in Latin America, recent development in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a critique of President Barack Obama, analysis of the “torture debate,” among other topics. Here are some highlights from the book:

» Read more: Chomsky: Hopes and Prospects

Phony Tony Get a Slap on the Wrist

June 22nd, 2010

What does is mean to “hold BP accountable”? We have heard this phrase over an over during the past month, as the Federal government responds to the Gulf crisis. We heard figures like $20 billion “slush fund for claims.” We even heard BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, get grilled before a congressional committee hearing (with the exception of Republican Representative Joe Barton’s apology to Mr. Hayward about the “tragedy” that BP had experienced during this “unprecedented” government “shakedown” of a private corporate). But is this accountability? As I listened to the hearing on C-SPAN, my sense was that this was a slap on the wrist. Mr. Hayward took his punishment (6 hours of lecturing), and had about five responses ready; and he found a way to use these responses in just about every question.

  • When repeatedly questioned about whether he should step down as CEO, each time, his response was: “I am focused on the response.”
  • When asked about any mistake on the part of BP in causing the explosion and subsequent leak, the answer was: Phony “The investigation is still ongoing, and if there is, I will take action.” Or, “I’m not prepared to draw the conclusions about this accident until the investigation is concluded.”
  • He frequently answered question about the decision making process on the rig with: “I wasn’t involved in any of the decision making.”
  • The most common response was: “I am afraid I can’t recall that [either].”
  • IN response to the status of hundreds of other BP wells in the Gulf, Hayward responded: “These are completed and secure.” (Whatever that means.)

Hayward got his lecture, and then he was off on his yacht for a little fun. Meanwhile, this is what is happening in the Gulf (watch this video).

Update on the relief wells:

Accountability?

I am thinking…Since the Republican insist that water boarding is not torture…that maybe…

The End of Poverty

June 14th, 2010

I just finished watching an excellent documentary called, “The End of Poverty?” The film explores how international poverty has been perpetuated by corrupt capitalism, through multinational corporations and the U.S. government. The film can be viewed instantly if you have NetFlix, or you can purchase the DVD from the web site. You can also view clips from the film on YouTube. Take a look at the trailer below.

The film features some of my favorite scholars, such as John Perkins (“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man“) and Chalmers Johnson (“Blowback“). The film, and these authors, bring to light some important facts about world poverty, including: » Read more: The End of Poverty

Obama’s Katrina?

May 27th, 2010

Conservatives are calling the BP oil spill, “Obama’s Katrina.” Interesting. What exactly, my dear conservative friend, went wrong during Katrina, in your view? My recollection is that liberals thought the response was slow, completely inadequate, and irresponsible. Some even saw racism, opportunism (see Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine), and corruption. But conservatives generally defended the Bush administration’s response. They simply chalked it up to a natural disaster, and in some cases blamed the victims for expecting government help.

But now, with Obama in office, they are comparing the response to this man-made oil spill by BP, to the government’s response to Katrina. So I take it that they now concede that the response to Katrina (by Bush) was woefully inadequate, and that the Obama administration’s response is also poor. Is that the point they are making now?

Jon Stewart’s analysis of this comparison is too funny to miss.

» Read more: Obama’s Katrina?

The Signs Before the Warning Signs

May 26th, 2010

Occasionally my masochistic impulse kicks in and I turn on the Sean Hannity Show while I am driving. I sat and listening to a discussion about how the BP oil spill is the fault of: (1) environmentalist, because they pressured oil companies to have to drill further out to sea; (2) Obama, because the liberals blamed Bush for Katrina, so this time it is Obama’s fault; and (3) government regulation, because it makes drilling far more difficult and expensive, leaving less time for managers to focus on maintenance and safety. Never mind the bizarre reasoning. I called in to ask Sean what he thought of the affect on business, in tourism and fishing…I didn’t get through. Maybe tomorrow.

To the conservative punditocracy: What happened to taking “personal responsibility”? What happened to hating bail-outs (unless they are on Bush’s watch) of large corporations? I for one, don’t think BP deserves a welfare check (in the form of clean up services), especially then they have been flagrantly irresponsible. When they applied for their permit to drill, they said: If an oil spill occurs, it is unlikely to have an impact because we have proven methods to respond to such a situation. Now they are saying: There are significant uncertainties in the clean up methods, because we have never used them before. For the most part, they are taking the blame and asking the government for a safety net. Why don’t pull up their boot straps and get a job to pay for it? (Isn’t this what many on the right say to low-income families that need help?) » Read more: The Signs Before the Warning Signs