Yesterday Sam Stein, of the Huffington Post, broke the news of a conference call (hosted by Bank of America) in which leaders of major American corporations voiced the need for a collusive conspiracy to influence the lawmaking process. Not only did bailout-beneficiary Bank of America host the call, but the best known name on the corporate welfare dole, AIG, was represented as well. AIG, a very well known insurance company, was asked to pressure its customers and clientele to give Republican lawmakers 'large contributions.' The co-founder of Home Depot was quoted, in the same story, as rallying fellow corporate pirates to prevent 'the demise of a civilization.' In the same quote, he referred to himself as an 'elder statesman', which shows serious chutzpah for a guy who helped start a hardware store.
What is the horrible threat to American civilization as we know it that mobilizes these titans of the business world to put the welfare dollars they received in the biggest socialist program of 21st Century America to work in political donations to the legislators who opposed the very program that gave them those welfare dollars?
Well, you see, labor unions are Evil.
The same issue that is leading one or two Republican Senators on the comittee responsible for her confirmation to attempt to hold up the appointment of designate-Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is mobilizing American business: The Employee Fair Choice Act. Having spent the last not-quite-thirty years stripping away the protections workers receive from membership in labor unions and the protections against abusive corporate policies available to workers, it appears that big business is mortally afraid we will go back to the dark days of the 1950s when labor unions protected the rights of workers, who made more money than they ever had before, and American business was more profitable than it had ever been before. It is too horrible to imagine.
As I wrote about the EFCA last week, I am not going to repeat myself on that score. Instead I am going to echo a theme I touched upon earlier in the month. The United States of America is not a corporate nation. The preamble to the Constitution does not begin with the words 'We the Chief Executive Officers' or argue the 'need to control the lives of workers on and off the job.' This is the reason that the Gettysburg Address includes its famous reference to government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people.'
It is the issue of 'government for the people' that most concerns me. The Republican Party claims to champion 'individual rights over group rights' and argues that every law which regulates human activity reduces the freedom of individual citizens. However, I deny the validity of the conservative claim that government is the most real and most serious threat to individual American liberties. I deny this despite the attempt of our previous president to behave like a tin-pot dictator whenever possible, despite the Patriot Act, and despite warrantless wire-tapping.
I have written, several times, that I am a capitalist. I believe in an economy based on private enterprise and the profit motive. I do not consider the desire to make a profit, in itself, to be evil. We all want to be as successful as we can be.
However, I believe that the greatest threat to individual American freedom is the American corporation. Health care companies make fortunes managing people's health for a profit, and the only way to make a profit is to charge more than you spend. In the case of health care, this means that people who need health care must be denied it or over-charged for it for the corporation to make money. Someone, somewhere, has to be screwed. Automobile insurance, which began as a means of making sure you could get your car fixed or replaced if you had a wreck, has become a massive state-sanctioned protection racket in which the government is frequently the leg-breaker. This metaphor can be more broadly applied across a wide range of industries. The corporate deregulation of the past four presidential eras has not made Americans more free. It has made corporations more free to make a buck by denying Americans their rights.
Free speech rights go out the window, because your employer (under 'at will' policies) can fire you if he doesn't like the way you vote, what you post on the internet, or what you say when not at work. The freedom to assemble is likewise out the window, that is the reason for the demand for the EFCA: employers can fire employees who attempt to assemble to vote for a union. Employment agreements constrain you from starting your own business or working for a competitor after leaving corporate employ. All of this is possible, along with a host of corrupt business practices that would be felonies if practiced by individuals and not corporations, because of the federal government deregulated corporations in the name of 'freedom' at the behest of champions of 'individual rights over group right.'
Ladies and gentlemen, we live in an age of piracy. In the Golden Age of Buccaneering, during the 17th Century, men like Henry Morgan and Jean-David Ney (famous as Captain L'ollonais) were able to make a fortune plundering, raping, and murdering because of the money and power their activities gave the politicians who supported them. Henry Morgan eventually became Lieutenant-Governor of the Crown Colony of Jamaica.
Today, politicians grant corporations license to plunder the American economy in return for the money and power they gain from corporate campaign donations and corporate lobbyists' perqs. Carly Fiorina, the failed CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was responsible for shipping thousands of American jobs overseas and putting thousands of Americans out of work. She served on Senator John McCain's presidential campaign and is said to be considering a run for governor of Washington. Today the piracy is happening not on the high seas, but in the shopping malls, downtown marketplaces, and agricultural communities of America. The victims of piracy are not foreign 'heretics', but Americans. The victims of this new Golden Age of Piracy are American workers, American small business owners, and American farmers who are crowded or crushed out of the 'free' market by corporate money and power back by government sponsorship.
Clearly, America's modern pirates are not opposed to socialism that strengthens their corporations and keeps them well-fed and looking pretty. Yet when the rights of working American citizens are advocated, they are the defenders of the bastions of capitalism.
Get mad. Stay mad. Do something about it.