Thursday, September 9, 2010

Corporations, Prisons, Politics and Our Interests

Oh, What a Wicked Web We’ve Woven

By Bob Sloan

As with any research on a particular issue or project, there comes a point where it becomes obvious that peripheral forces are responsible for – or impact upon – the singular subject under review. Such is the position I find myself in today on the various prison and prison industry issues I’ve dedicated many years to researching.

I recently wrote about the involvement of US corporations; PAC’s and state Lawmakers in the current situation involving immigration legislation in Arizona and within nationwide prison industry operations for profit. Both topics required me to look closer at the reason such manipulations of law occur – I was forced to look beyond the immediate and obvious reasons; profitability and acquisition of power, to determine why both are so necessary.

At some point it dawned on me that as both a society and species certain undeniable facts remain unaltered: greed, domination and a desire to “compete” at all levels throughout our lives are chief among those facts. We have sports with teams that represent our cities, state or country that compete against others. We compete industrially against other countries and we compete for public office.

As we enter the 21st Century some things have not changed over the past 2000 plus years. We still have the desire to be the dominate personae in everything we do on a personal as well as social and governmental levels. Each of us strives to have more than our neighbors in the way of wealth, property and influence. To accomplish these personal goals we are continuously competing against our neighbors, businesses and others we perceive as a “threat” to our personal or societal goals.

Our individual actions as described in the previous paragraph have been applied to all aspects of our lives; politics, government, business, family and internationally as we relate with and to other nations and societies that share our planet. If we are greedy, dominate and competitive in our personal lives and actions and become the owner of a corporation, we carry those characteristics into our business operations and relationships. The same is true of those of us who choose to become representatives of our society in local, state and federal governments.

The continuous and unrelenting “need” to always be the “winner” in any situation leads us to be nothing more than selfish in our interactions with other members of our society or business competitors. The actual need to come out on top goes back to our days as cave dwellers, hunters and gatherers. In those early periods of life as a society, it was necessary to be the first to find food, shelter, companionship and procreate. It was just as necessary to our ancestors to fight to protect their position within their meager societies, clans or groups. Thus the need for and creation of tools of war and social conflicts.

Over the centuries those basic needs described above have become less and less necessary, yet once instilled within our psyche they have remained and influence everything we do – personally and as a collective society and ultimately a nation. While industry, manufacturing and technological advances have brought us into one new and wonderful era after another, the basic tenets of pursuing wealth and influence have remained with us and are just as strong now as it was in our ancestor’s time. Thus while technical skills and technology have changed and evolved, our human character, personality and desires have not kept pace by evolving comparatively.

In an age where space travel, atomic research, cell phone technology, splitting the atom and other scientific marvels astound and amaze us, we are still a society that has failed to eliminate war, cure cancer, eliminate hunger and most importantly, have failed to use our acquired knowledge and technology to advance both our society and species in a manner beneficial to all. The desires to make our life, our business, our government or our religion dominate and controlling over all others is still there and affects everything we as humans do. To this end we have carried the personal selfishness that was necessary in the early days of human life with us into modern society. We want to “belong” to the strongest group, Political Party or Organization. We desire more and more wealth to separate us from our next door neighbors and collectively we want our nation to stand out from other nations for the same reasons.

Today we in the United States perceive that we are the dominate country in the world. We believe our democratic form of government is the best and our lifestyles and standard of living is beyond compare. And if other nations, peoples, religions or societies are unwilling to accept our beliefs as fact, we are willing to wage war upon those unbelievers. So with this in mind, we must question just how far we have actually evolved as a species or a society since we left our caves in millenniums past? After thousands of years we should be well beyond such petty desires and individual characteristics.

Here in the year 2010 we should be able to live and work together with all other peoples, cultures and societies inhabiting our planet for the betterment of all of us. Instead the technological advances and discoveries we’ve made are used as a means of control and power over our fellow man. This understanding brings us to the issues of prisons and prison industry that exploits both humans and competing private sector businesses. Through manipulation of our federal and state laws, corporations involved in prison industries exploit prisoners through using their labor to make the products we buy and use. This allows higher profits through depressed inmate wages far below those previously paid to private sector workers for the same labor. They’ve managed to do this through a cooperative effort between their goals and our state and federal lawmakers who perform the actual enactment of laws that benefit their corporate partners – and no one else. Here is the current, evolved form of greed, dominance and competition in the new millennium.

American Corporations could be working to improve the lives and living conditions of each one of us as they generate modest profits from those acts. They should have a loyalty to those within our society who helped make them what they are today, to the government that made it possible for them to exist and prosper. But they have shown us time and again that they have absolutely no loyalty to us as individuals or a society and unless our state and federal governments are willing to provide them with more and more tax breaks and other incentives, they have no loyalty to them either.

Again the ancient character of greed is the controlling interest that determines the path and activities of these corporations. They are without concern for American workers, their families or needs – only upon generating the most money and wealth and political influence to maintain their superior hierarchy. To this end they take their operations offshore or behind prison fences, denying us both manufacturing abilities and employment. They realize that to keep us employed and their operations here in the US, their profit margins would be much less than it is by moving out of the country, thus they follow the mighty dollar, taking their “ball” somewhere else to play where they can call the shots and profit the most. As I said, they have no loyalty to the country and people who made them what they are today. These corporations acting in this manner have no concern that their actions weaken us as a nation due to the visible and actual loss of industry here in the US and the massing of finances in the hands of fewer and fewer among us.

We could all be working cohesively to make our lives, work and personal relations with others better. Our lawmakers could be working diligently to enact legislation and laws that benefit our entire society, protect our environment, and provide necessary and comprehensive healthcare and other important social needs. Instead, reverting to those same individual goals of greed, dominance and competition, our lawmakers have succumbed to accepting financial “contributions” from the powerful US Corporations – explained as campaign contributions – to do their bidding. With the assistance of corporate contributions, our lawmakers willingly do their best to divert necessary funding for important social programs; education, mental health, drug and dependency efforts, to the goals and purposes of their corporate partners. They have absolutely no shame in doing this, as their actions fulfill their basic desires of personal greed, domination and the ability to win any competition from challenging opponents in an election. Representing corporate interests guarantees them a war chest for the next and following elections. Their constituents cannot match either donations or guarantee continued loyalty, whereas corporate interests promise and deliver both.

We as a society are thus placed in a situation where neither corporate interests nor lawmakers are working on our behalf or to better our world. The current stalemate situation in our Congress and House of Representatives clearly demonstrates the power struggle between society, corporate interests and Legislators. Republicans say no to every proposed bill that benefits us collectively or individually; healthcare, jobs, extending unemployment benefits, stimulus, infrastructure improvements, funding for more teachers and other important social matters. This party managed to drive us to the brink of bankruptcy – with the assistance of the actions of their corporate partners – over the past 8-10 years. Our economy crashed and they funded the Wall Street bailout with legislation that allowed for no actual oversight over the use of our money and they fight any effort to regulate these corporations in the wake of the worst financial melt-down since the “great depression” of the last century. They were responsible for starting two wars – one preemptive – that have cost us trillions of dollars. Those funds were not theirs to spend, but ours, given to the government in the form of taxes with the belief that the government and legislators would not squander our money on useless or needless activities. Instead of paying for education and increased teacher salaries, providing health coverage for all of us or reducing prison population, they spent our money on wars. Knowing public programs were suffering without financial support, they reduced taxes paid by the upper classes in the US, forcing the middle class to pick up the slack.

The Democratic Party is similarly situated. With an eye on being competitive in the upcoming election in 2010 and the more important one in 2012, they have ignored our collective voice to take us away from the path chosen by the previous administration. Instead, they concentrate on reelection efforts rather than important social needs and demands. They work daily on “getting along with the Republicans” by trying to invite them to the table to discuss issues and take part in bettering our country, environment and helping society by implementing social programs that benefit the masses. They have the numbers to actually advance any Party legislation beneficial to us, but instead fight among themselves and with the Republicans over petty issues instead of pulling together for the benefit of our country.

Now we have a situation where once a party assumes the mantel of the Presidency through election, the standard practice is to go immediately to work to assure they can prevail in the next election cycle instead of going to work representing the interests of society and those who elected them.

The result is we are left with very little voice or influence whatsoever. What voice we do have, is drowned out by the continuing party arguments and maneuvering to acquire and keep the upper hand, which in the US is influence and control of all things. Neither of our long standing political Parties are willing to work together on issues important to us as a society and as human beings. They could work together to advance our civilization but are too busy working against one another. Regardless of the issue or actual need for social improvements, each party adopts a competitive position – one for and the other against – on every issue or legislative bill regardless of whether it is necessary or a good idea.

Behind all of this political bickering are the corporations that are funneling money into the coffers of whomever they perceive as having their best interests in mind. While these manipulations and arguments continue, more and more of us are left with no job, no real healthcare, and no income with which to feed, clothe or raise our children. If we remove special interests and funding of campaigns by corporate interests, what is left for our elected officials to do? Our business is what they’re left with, but that doesn’t result in immediate financial reward or gratification. It’s hard to believe we live in the year 2010, where men have walked on the moon and are gearing up for a trip to Mars as we watch our political infrastructure self destruct in this way. Scandal after scandal and corruption abound within our federal government at the highest levels. Acts and deeds committed by those chosen as representatives by their districts and communities. This has become “acceptable” and expected behavior of late.

The end result of all of the foregoing is that corporations have outgrown us. Several decades ago they were dependent upon us for labor, consumer consumption of their products and by both, continued corporate growth. Corporations were never intended to be considered “individuals”. They are not human nor people, yet they have managed to adopt that personae through cooperative efforts of lawmakers and our US Supreme Court.

With the loss of the 2008 elections, the Republican’s were in a position of lost power and influence. They saw that generating contributions and raising funds to be “competitive” in the future were going to be difficult with a base that was dwindling. They were going to have to come up with a solution to the loss of party and overall community financial support. The answer was to turn to those wealthy corporations who had already benefited from laws and tax breaks enacted by Republicans, and empower their corporate partners with the ability to open their bank accounts to support the party. With the appointments made under the previous President, our Supreme Court willingly complied with the desires of both the Republican Party and their corporate sponsors, by finding it “legal” for corporations to fund any political activities in any election as they see fit – with no limitation on amounts spent or regard to party contributed to. This has led us further down the path of totally eliminating our voice in choosing our own political representatives by allowing corporations to “purchase” their choice of who should represent us.

Thus society’s needs, desires and choices have become passé. This method of politics will quickly widen the gap between the “Haves” and “Have Not’s” and contribute greatly to the elimination of the middle class in America. In response Libertarian, Independent and Tea Partiers groups have found support from within the masses, where previously no such support was forthcoming to any real degree. Society has determined that neither Democrat nor Republican are willing to listen to their needs on important issues and see the constant bickering for what it is – a power struggle for dominance. We hope by diverting our votes away from that already in power, we will be able to once again make choices and decisions beneficial to us as a society, rather than continue on a path that reserves such benefits for corporate interests.

Whether we realize it or not, our society and country is functioning as nothing more than a dictatorship. Not under an individual, a cabal or similar entity. No, we are now living under a Corporate Dictatorship. There are at least 300 huge US Corporations that now use their money, influence and position to dictate the path of our country. They purchase the cooperation of elected and appointed government officials who assist them in enacting laws to their benefit. They dictate who can and can’t work by manipulating where and by whom industry and manufacturing will be accomplished. If we as employees require higher wages to live and survive, they refuse and simply close up operation and take it where they can use labor that is cheaper. It does not matter to them that they are destroying our country and society or not. The goal is wealth, domination and eliminating any competition for the markets the control. To this end they must – and do – control government oversight and laws favorable to them.

Our Corporations have changed our society completely in the past three decades or so. They did this by making new gizmos and gadgets to awe us and make us want to buy them. To increase sales and profits, they used their influence to eliminate such things as “Truth in Advertising”, “Truth in Lending” and eliminating regulations and safeguards such as usury laws, government imposed restrictions on lending and mortgage financing so we could borrow more and more money to buy more and more of their products. They moved manufacturing to countries where meager wages were paid to their workers. The money made from those transitions to offshore operations and US sales were then used to increase their influence upon us, and we never saw it coming. We always presumed they had our best interests in mind – like our government. This has continued until it is nearly too late.

As Americans we are now at a crossroads. This is our country. It is not owned by our government, or by the corporations that now control nearly every aspect of that government. It is our time to make our voices heard above the greedy and bullying clamoring heard in the US Congress and House of Representatives and comparable state legislatures. If we continue along the path we are on, only the top few percent among us will have wealth, security, influence and the ability to determine the direction of our nation. Once that occurs we will truly become a majority ruled by a minority. One party now represents the interests of those few mentioned above and are doing everything they can to protect those interests, because that’s what they’re being paid to do.

It is time for all of us to come together, regardless of Party affiliations, religious beliefs, race or ethnicity to stand up and have our voices heard in unison. Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Protestant, Buddhist or some other faith – or atheist - we will become “one” as a suppressed and controlled society where those beliefs will no longer matter if we do not act. The same goes for political beliefs, whether Democrat, Republican, Independent or Libertarian, that will no longer matter, we will all be subjected to corporate controlled rule.

Revolution is not what is needed; it is a clear and distinct voice at the polls in the upcoming 2010 election cycle – and beyond. Our elected officials have lost their way and forgotten who they represent once elected. They go to Washington and immediately fall under the sway of those who are already there, having been entrenched there for decades and the special interest groups and organizations prevalent there. They quickly forget why they were elected, their campaign promises and resolutions to act on our behalf as they accept the wining and dining as a just reward for forgetting their real purpose for being there.

We need to step up and simply say no to the status quo by refusing to reelect those who have had an opportunity to serve us and have served corporate interests instead. One term will inform whether those elected work for their community or for corporate interests. If they make the wrong choices, replace them in the next election. Political office was never intended to be a lifetime position or career opportunity, though that is precisely what it has turned into. Political offices were not intended to function as a for-profit position or a “family run business”, but that is what they have become.

Let us announce we demand a return to politicians representing our interests and not the special interests of those lobbyists and corporations flooding DC. We do not have the wealth and finances to pay lobbyists to represent our interests and should not have to. But what we do have is our vote. All that is needed is to turn out and “turn them out”. We made a great effort in 2008 and made our voices heard for “Change”. Let’s do it again and again, until Lawmakers really and truly listen. We didn’t send our sitting lawmakers to Washington to argue amongst each other and do no business on our behalf – we sent them there to represent our interests, as humans and a community. Congress and the House are not there to accuse, cajole and make unreasonable demands upon their opposition members or to investigate members of the opposition party simply because they hold a majority in the House. They’re there to conduct business on our behalf.

Unless and until we act, more and more of us are going to lose jobs and place our family’s future in the hands of those only interested in their futures. More and more are going to wind up in jails and prisons, fodder for the politician’s corporate partners. How many of the two million plus citizens now behind bars ever thought they’d end up in prison during their lifetimes? How many more of our neighbors, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers must follow that path into isolation and servitude for the corporate interests before we are willing to stand up and say enough is enough? Give us back our jobs, our dignity and our voice.

If each of us continues to refuse to speak out against the continued Political and Corporate exploitations visited upon our neighbors, when they come for you and I, who will be left to object?

By Bob Sloan
Prison Industries Consultant

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