Thursday, October 21, 2010

Corporatocracy - Conclusion

"Merchants never have nor ever will honor boundries, they owe no aliegence to country. Profit is their ruler driven by out and out greed for power," is a recent quote from James "JD" Hall. JD has a dislike for government and politicians in particular, for what both have done to sell our rights and freedoms to the highest bidder. We disagree on some topics, but agree on the issue that most U.S. Corporations lack loyalty to the country that made them wealthy and have a lack of concern about what their greed is costing us as citizens.

The taking of one's freedom is an act America has always fought against in wars on other continents in every era - including the current one. Our neighbors are fighting and giving their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan as this is written, battling for populations of those country's freedom from tyranny and oppression. We have always expressed views that such battles are just, proper and necessary to protect human rights and promote our values and democratic principles on the world stage.

In World War II as the world fought for just such causes in the European theater, many corporations - U.S. and international - fought alongside the Allies. Some fought on both sides in the interest of amassing huge profits, either not caring who won or hedging their bets by supporting both sides. Some of these corporations include IBM, Coca-Cola, Standard Oil and even General Motors and Ford (See footnote). In spite of the atrocities committed against all classes by the likes of Hitler, these corporations were willing to provide their products and services to this horrible regime. Their willingness to do this assisted in the extermination of minorities and other people Hitler had decreed were sub-human and thus had no place in any society. Products made by these corporations helped the German people live comfortably while they waged war against the rest of the world.

This "assistance" by such corporations enabled Hitler's Regime to succeed far longer than it would have in their absence. German workers built Opel cars for GM and others for Ford that helped Germany's economy during the war years. IBM developed and leased the "punch card" system used by Hitler to organize and keep track of prisoners in concentration camps. Following the end of the Third Reich, most German owned and held companies and corporations were prosecuted for war crimes because they had assisted Germany throughout the war. Those U.S. and International corporations that participated and also assisted Hitler were never prosecuted - or their duplicity addressed or discussed.

In light of the foregoing the quote from JD Hall is corroborated - corporations don't honor any boundary and have no allegiance to citizens or governments. They exist and operate on one simple principal: satisfy the greed demanded by owners, CEO's and investors. If public harm is committed by those pursuits, it is simply considered collateral damage in a war for profits. When public harm occurs, individuals who made the decisions or committed the acts that caused death or injury, are allowed to hide behind the corporate veil to avoid prosecution; "it wasn't me that did it, it was the business...and businesses and corporations that own or operate them can't be put behind bars and are instead "fined". The human or humans responsible for any illegal acts committed by their corporations or companies are allowed to remain free to do it all over again.

U.S. Corporate evolution has only been controlled by government rules, regulations and federal laws over the years. More and more companies have been able to manipulate all three to the point that they now dictate their own rules, regulations and challenge any law that remains to restrict their actions through litigation against the very government that sanctions their existence. Authority and oversight has been transfered from government and it's agencies to corporations through such litigation. Think about the meltdown of our economy, the travails of Enron, the ponzi scheme by Madoff. All of these acts that harmed many of our investments, retirement accounts or 401(k)'s were supposed to have been prevented by government regulation or oversight. It didn't work because corporations involved and the lawmakers they bought along the way weakened all controls until there was virtually no regulation left in place. They knew there would be an eventual collapse or bankruptcy in the future that would impact our society's workers and individual investors and create housing and mortgage chaos, but again that would simply be collateral damage. As long as the participating lawmakers and corporate interests made money until then, they were satisfied.

Enron and the collapse of giant banks, investment and mortgage companies is the reason privatization of government duties and responsibilities should never have been allowed in the first place. We have to realize that with a dwindling consumer base - that is, we all have less money to spend on trivialities, comfort items, vacations, luxury items - corporate sales have decreased markedly. With an ever increasing number of jobs in prison or overseas more of us are without employment and less money to spend. Simple economics of supply and demand apply, and we have less demand for certain items. In response to this dilemma, corporations have looked around to find another source of income to offset the loss of sales. In the mid 90's they found that source: tax dollars. The way to get their hands on that endless supply of money was to promote privatization of government duties. They instituted a campaign - that continues today - of advertising corporate abilities to perform the duties of government in a more efficient and cost effective manner. We were/are informed they can do it better for less. Many were taken in by those promises and supported privatization across the nation.

Since then reports, studies and reviews have consistently shown that the promises made have not resulted in substantial savings to taxpayers. Privately run government has not lived up to the expectations of savings we were promised. This is true of prison operations, recidivism, prison food service, healthcare or banking. What did happen was the transfer of money paid into state coffers from taxpayers went to corporations. Prison staff wages declined as did the qualifications of those hired for those duties. Corporations cut corners where governments dared not make such cuts. Though those cuts would be prohibited by government run programs, the government allowed and condoned just that when done by corporations. Because prison privatization involves housing and care of those individuals guilty of the commission of crimes, the public simply shrug and wonder why others in society care. "I mean, Duh...they're criminals!" The result of this attitude and the attendant oversight because of it has serious side effects.

Florida is one of the leading states in privatization of government programs. This past week an example of how this attitude impacts upon another segment of our society: Juvenile detention, surfaced. Staff at the Thompson Academy were accused of brutalizing the children in their care. Thompson and other private corporations are funded by the state of Florida to the tune of $74 million a year for housing juvenile offenders. This story is literally horrific and beyond belief. It demonstrates exactly why privatization is dangerous and how profits are "earned" by cutting corners. The children affected will live the rest of their lives with terrible memories. When we consider that Florida incarcerates juveniles at nearly twice the rate of other states and 80% of those children are housed and cared for by private corporations, we begin to realize the impact upon our society from privatization. If nothing else you should read this story and understand the plight of both children and adults subjected to the will of private corporations in the name of the state.

Allowing corporations to partner with lawmakers to propose and enact legislation that makes the punishment for a harmful act more severe or to impose a longer sentence so that a profit can be made over the length of a sentence imposed by a government court, is in a word, wrong. Today private prison corporations like Corrections Corporation of America, Geo Group and Cornell Corrections have their hands in every phase of corrections - from proposing stiffer laws, longer sentences, reduction in paroles granted, to housing of state and federal prisoners. All for a profit. Other corporations, though not as powerful as CCA and Geo, operate on the prison operations periphery, capitalizing on providing food service, healthcare, commissary and transportation involving prisoners. None of these "services" are provided by a sense of civic duty or responsibility, rather they are provided to make money for the private interests of those companies or corporations.

One example of the manipulation of laws and legislation to benefit corporate interests related to imprisonment, is the subject of financial contracts; loans, credit card debt and mortgages. Currently there is a nationwide push by financial corporations to change long standing laws against debtor imprisonment. Before we became a country we were a collection of immigrants who came here to escape oppression of religion and imprisonment and forced labor for debts owed to influential land-owners and barons of Europe. Here in the U.S. debtor's prison continued until abolished in the 1800's.

Today thoughts of those terrible times and issues that brought our founding fathers here have been all but forgotten. With the financial melt down that is ongoing, corporations are proposing a return to imprisonment for unpaid debts. Debt collection agencies and corporations have pushed for laws allowing them to seek incarceration of indebted individuals to make them pay up. Most of us are struggling to keep up with our debt today. This means less and less money available to pay debts we owe that aren't directly related to keeping food in our mouths and a roof over our heads. Credit card, medical and in some instances mortgage payments. This results in more losses to corporations and they've begun reverting to the use of government courts to in effect resurrect debtor's prisons as a means of collecting. Again we see a correlation of prisons and profits sought by corporations and, government involvement in helping the corporations to recover lost profits. Bankruptcy replaced debtor's prison in the 19th Century but no longer suffices for corporations that want their money.

Governments should not shirk their responsibilities where prisons and prisoners are concerned. Those incarcerated are there because they broke laws imposed by the government that sent them to prison in the first place. Transferring state responsibility for housing, health, feeding and caring for those incarcerated to private interests is a way for a government to avoid liability. If/when problems arise involving healthcare, food illnesses, injury or death that may result from improper acts of others, the government can point to the contract they have with private corporations providing those services, and claim no public responsibility, putting the onus upon the corporations. In that way if a court case ensues, no "human" goes on trial, only the corporation involved. Liability falls upon the private entity and any adverse decision results in a fine rather than imprisonment of the perpetrator - regardless of the circumstances of the case.

Enter the private sector partnerships between prison industries and private corporations and the present landscape that allows private corporations to own prison and detention facilities across our country. The taking of a citizen's freedom for acts they have committed is the responsibility of the government that created and enforces the laws that were broken. Corporate interests of profit making should never be involved in determining, proposing or enacting laws that the government applies to it's citizenry. Laws are to be enacted and enforced to provide an acceptable course of behavior by the population to protect the well being and safety of the population from those who would cause them harm.

As I previously wrote, ALEC, CCA, Geo Group and others that share similar interests and goals have/are directly involved in manipulating our laws to increase profits while pursuing the parallel goal of usurping the authority of governments under which they operate. Witness SB 1070 in Arizona - as discussed in a previous segment. Corporate manipulations in that case impact upon our elections (campaign funding, funding of election ads by hidden corporations and willing participation by government paid staffers to lobby for special interests. These staffers receive government pay and increased personal wealth from those they lobby for simultaneously), prisoner housing, use of increased taxpayer funding for incarceration and detention. The unspoken issue underneath it all is the use of prison labor to also increase profits for those making the huge campaign contributions. As discussed previously, the use of prisoners to manufacture goods, products and provide services for private corporations results in the loss of private sector jobs, and we all know who that hurts.

The current situation within the U.S. mirrors a similar time in our history - the 1930's when we were experiencing the "great depression". Then President Roosevelt proposed the WPA to put men and women to work on government projects and to improve infrastructure in the U.S. Few people are aware that there was an attempt by the U.S. corporate elite involving corporations such as Goodyear Tire, J.P. Morgan and Dupont in 1934 to take over our government. These corporate conspirators sought out a former Marine Corp General that had been used by our own government to secure foreign markets for corporate interest - despotism in it's truest form - to assist in their fascist take over of the U.S. General Butler turned out not to be their "man" for the job. He refused and testified before a Congressional Committee about the conspiracy, putting an end to the attempt. Of course, these corporations paid no price for their attempt at corporate tyranny, all of them are still around and part of today's problems involving corporate greed.

Today we face problems similar to those faced by Roosevelt and our ancestors of the 1930's: we're experiencing a recession bordering on another depression, our President is proposing the funding of infrastructure improvements to put people to work, unemployment is at record highs, state and local governments across the country are having to make tough budget decisions and corporations are again looking for ways to keep their profits increasing annually. Instead of assisting President Obama's efforts, those of the conservative right are fighting those suggestions vigorously. They are holding up every measure to help those on unemployment and while arguing for jobs they hold up voting on any proposed legislation to create jobs. This alone exemplifies the crossroads we have come to in America. We are clearly divided on this and other important matters and issues, where we should all be unifying behind government efforts of recovery instead of infighting on each side of the issues. One side wants improvement and the other wants us distracted, so no improvement will be had and they can then "blame" the other side for such failures. In the simplest of terms it boils down to this: One segment of our government and we as citizens are now aligned against another segment of our government aligned with big corporations in a giant social tug-o-war. While this goes on, very little is being accomplished. In the meantime the rest of the world passes us by in education, healthcare, global warming and other technologies. This class battle has brought us to a stagnating standstill. Corporations have the benefit of being able to diversify and expand their operations overseas and keep business going, while here we're mired in BS created by them. ALEC joined suit and they now have many international members from England and other countries who share their conservative views. As citizens we nor our government have that option and remain here fighting the battle begun by corporations and their partnered lawmakers.

Instead of privately conspiring to take over our government, huge corporations such as Koch Industries with the assistance of PAC's such as ALEC are funding a "grass roots" attempt to convince all of us that we'd be better off with corporations running everything. They label their effort as a return to "conservative values" - since we Americans are big on labels.

These efforts on part of corporate interests fail to also inform us that the use of prison labor and outsourcing of our jobs to foreign countries were their ideas in the first place. That the unemployment rates of today are directly attributable to them. While we try and put ourselves and our neighbors back to work, these corporations are busy moving every job out of reach, while professing their concepts will put people back on payrolls. Most of what they profess and the ads they fund that inundate our advertising is nothing but disinformation designed to make us believe they have our best interests at heart while they reach into our pockets and extract more and more of what money we have left. I urge all of us to not be taken in by this hyperbole. Nothing these corporations and their affiliated conservative lawmakers do is in our best interests. It is in the interests of making the most money possible off the dwindling amount of funds left in our pockets. Sales are down everywhere, jobs are non-existent and corporate owners and investors are looking for ways to continue their past expensive lifestyles in those markets marked by dwindling sales. With the loss of sales and income, corporations see a genuine threat to their control of lawmakers through huge campaign and lobbying contributions. Less sales means less money to throw around at politicians to keep them under their umbrella of influence. They see an end to their control of Congress and state legislatures and are doing everything possible to forestall that loss of power.

Let none of us be taken in by the rhetoric about keeping tax breaks for the richest among us in place - deep down we all know who that benefits, and it definitely is not us as workers or consumers. These tax breaks have been in place for a decade now and no real jobs were created during that period. What makes any of us believe that if we leave these tax rates in place it'll be different this time around? Nothing. The middle class is disappearing, more quickly with every passing year and is a direct result of these corporate giants taking more and more from us and keeping it. The richest among us already have everything they want and spend less on personal, household and other merchandise now than the typical middle class household does. Unless that money the upper class has is used to increase manufacturing, production and thus sales, we will cease to be a competitive industrial country. This is already happening at an alarming rate. Businesses crying for money to expand and hire new workers are pleading with financial institutions owned by those I've listed throughout this series. Those that have the money refuse to loan it for such expansions because they fear it will be lost in these economic times. So we are at a standstill and giving these despots more of what we have left should be unthinkable.

So, in conclusion...we've learned that corporations have the will, desire and ability to take the place of government. They truly believe their need and pursuit of profits far outweighs the needs of society. That through fear we can be manipulated to sacrifice our comfort, money and representation to support their objectives and that those objectives can be accomplished through media manipulated disinformation. Through contributions to lawmakers susceptible to campaign "bribes", legislation and laws can be created that help to impoverish and control us.

We've also learned that those involved in assisting corporations to invoke "corporate law" to replace existing laws authorized by our government, are willing to suggest modifications to our Constitution to accomplish their will. Candidates who represent themselves as "conservative" now challenge the separation of church and state provision of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Religion, especially that identified as the conservative right, have sought and gained much headway in participating in our electoral process. Many candidates are identified by this group as not qualified to hold elected office because of their religion or beliefs. Think those with these beliefs are somehow not related to corporations? You'd be wrong. Corporations are funding their challenges and encouraging them to ask similar questions and challenge other Constitutional Amendments, such as that which pertains to citizenship for all born in the U.S. Many conservatives - again supported by corporate contributions and funding - now suggest that the 14th Amendment also needs to be changed to disallow the children of illegal immigrants from being considered U.S. citizens if born here.

The same cabal and their corporate supporters want changes or Amendments to the Constitution regarding sexual preferences and marriage. I won't go into those arguments here, that would be too demeaning and serve no real purpose - similar to the arguments presented against gay marriage and gay rights.

We must understand that there is a force out there that is pushing for serious changes to our democracy, way of life and societal concepts. It is funded and supported entirely by corporate funding and contributions to those lawmakers sympathetic to the goals of the corporations. After all, if there's anything we've learned and most of us understand, corporations do not throw their money away. No, they are very frugal and spend their money in ways that it returns to them with little brothers and sisters in tow. They are not investing in America, they are investing in imposing their will upon us. The recent "Citizens United" U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the funding of political ads, PAC's and other electoral machinations by corporations, without any transparency is a clear indicator of where we are heading as a nation. A clear representation of how this decision is used politically is before us in this election cycle. Ads against our current administration are prevalent on TV, radio and across the internet. They are paid for with corporate funds that are virtually untraceable (as they're meant to be by those placing them). Citizens United is responsible for the ongoing scandal involving the US Chamber of Commerce's use of foreign corporate funds in our election campaigning. Again, corporate funding, but from across the water this time and given by foreign interests to ensure our continued corporate outsourcing of U.S. jobs to their countries and corporations.

We're at an important crossroads in our history. If we continue along the path we've been taking over the past two or three decades, this series shows us where we will be heading. We have the choice of avoiding that by simply looking at the choices offered and making a genuine decision to avoid that choice offered by corporations and their political partners. To do otherwise may well turn us all into laborers for corporate profiteers. Free thinking and everything we believe in is on the line. We're suffering with lost jobs and less money to spend where needed and that makes us angry and provides us with a bleak outlook for the future. The answer is to not give in to the urgings of those who would take advantage of our current situation for their profit. The answer is to hunker down and deal with our problems as we've done in the past. It is also not an answer to turn to corporations with the expectation that they have our best interests at heart. They exist to make a profit and I truly believe we've given all the profit we can - only to have it used in efforts to try and take what we have left away from us.

(Note: link to "The Corporation" shareware version on YouTube, a 23 part documentary on corporations. All segments are available on YouTube by following the links provided above. some are provided below:

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