Beware America, Corporate Zombies Are Devouring You
December 15, 2010
(ChattahBox Op/Ed News) – As we near the end the of the “American century” we face many challenges and threats. From outside we see China rising. India is not that far behind though we do not yet recognize her growing strength. Russia is as always looming to challenge us on the world stage. With her vast natural resources it’s not hard to see how Russia will be a major global player in an energy hungry world. Terrorism is still a threat though it’s more political than actual. We’re swatting flies and spending trillions while doing it. Internally, we’re crumbling from within. We lag our global competitors in education, particularly math and science. This at a time when math and science will be the tools to fight our economic and military wars. We now import approximately 66% of the oil we use, while much of the world invests heavily in renewable, green energy we continue to drive solo in the car pool lane. Politically we’re witnessing the polarization of our politics. Crazed pundits who attract millions of listeners or viewers howl daily about imaginary boogymen who victimize “good ole’ fashioned Americans”. They banish truth to the shadows because truth is illuminating and they preach darkness. Our political parties play puppet to the pundits puppet master and add to the dissolution of educated, civil discussion.
It’s easy to find boogymen when people feel unease or are fearful. We’re fearful because everyday we witness American’s privileged place at the head of the table being threatened. Collectively we don’t know why nor do we know how to stop it. We only know that it’s happening and someone has to pay. So instead of finding solutions we find someone to blame. It’s the president’s fault or the Republican’s or Democrat’s or Muslim’s or immigrant’s.
Our country surely is in danger. The blame is not hard to find. It’s in the one place that we don’t like to talk about for fear of being labeled “UnAmerican”, “commie”, “socialist”, etc. We are being systemically disassembled from within by our own corporations. It’s not the plan of corporate America to bleed us dry it’s just in their nature to do so. Nor are corporations “evil”. Corporations are like zombies. Programmed to collect as much money as they can without thought or regard from where it came from. It’s not in their DNA to do good for the “commons” or the people or the economy. It’s in their DNA to do what’s good for their board members and stock holders. The only way a corporation is made to do “good” is when forced to by regulations (or taxes) or if it’s their marketing plan to do so, like Patagonia clothing or companies which sell fair trade coffee.
When regulations are strong corporations are forced to have a conscience. They are forced to employ people in a safe atmosphere at a fair wage. They must ensure that the smoke pouring out of their smokestacks will not harm us (don’t laugh, I know we have a long way to go). They must adhere to rules which prevent economic meltdowns like we just witnessed. When regulations are loosened corporations act like ravenous zombies assaulting a shopping mall. Ronald Reagan (no Zombie jokes please) loosened financial regulations in the savings and loan industry in the mid 1980s. By the end of the decade hundreds of savings and loans were insolvent plunging the industry into chaos. We love our corporate welfare so of course the US Government bailed many of them out to a tune of $126 billion. That money went into the deficit and helped cause the recession of 1990-1991. The most recent Wall St meltdown was due to regulatory changes during Presidents Clinton and Bush administrations. Zombie companies are not restricted to just the financial industries. Laxed regulations and oversight directly contributed to the BP gulf oil disaster. The federal agency overseeing oil companies and drilling was way too cozy with the oil industry. Rules were not enforced, reports were fudged and disaster response plans referenced “how to save walruses”! In an effort to maximize profits, corners were cut. The auto industry gives us a good look at how corporations will do the right thing generally only when forced. Safety devices such as belts and crash resistant designs had to be dictated because the car companies were not willing to invest in the safety of it’s customers. Higher gas mileage standards which saved millions of barrels of oil a year, must be forced on the companies because even though we’ve been at crisis levels since the 1970s, the car companies will not invest in the research needed to get better gas mileage. Yes, they respond to market demands but once gas prices ease a little the market then begins to clamor for bigger gas chugging cars and trucks. I can go on and on talk about every single industry we have and the lesson will be the same. Corporations rarely will do what’s best for the public, just for the sake of doing what’s best. They must be forced to.
As I pointed out corporations are zombies, programmed to suck up as much cash as possible. This single minded goal led to the collapse of America’s manufacturing industry. As Americans begged for cheaper quesadilla makers “All American” companies like Wal Mart put pressure on manufacturers to deliver cheaper and cheaper goods. This of course made factory managers slash costs and wages across the country. They kept slashing wages until they learned of an inexhaustible supply of labor in Asia. The US worker who saw their pay and benefits decline finally saw their jobs disappear. During the Bush administration alone, 47k US factories closed. Again, this is not the work of evil corporations. It’s the work of zombie corporations feeding where it’s cheapest and easiest. Now we’re completely dependent on China to provide us with everything we need and don’t need. China holds $13.5 Trillion of US debt! It wasn’t that long ago the we were the world’s banker. Now we go hat in hand to Beijing for a loan to get us by until our unemployment check comes. I wonder why we don’t harp on China about their human rights violations anymore? They must’ve cleaned up their act! But I digress from the main point. Corporations will go where the money goes.
Last year China surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economic power. They are doing this in large part by selling to the rest of the world. Guess what happens when the majority of their own people can afford to buy all that their factories produce? Their economy will grow exponentially and will surpass ours. Yes, we will have the satisfaction of laughing at Chinese families wearing snuggies but it will be sad reminder of how we once could afford our own snuggies. Alfred W. McCoy does a wonderful job of outlining four scenarios of how we will fall from being the preeminent world power to a country resembling Rome in 500 A.D. It’s hard to argue with his reasoning. The consequences will be drastic and threaten everything we think it means to be an American.
The corporate induced demise of America doesn’t seem to be waning. With the Roberts led ruling by the Supreme Court that corporations are essentially “people” and therefore have the same free speech rights, corporations are now free to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect the politicians who will do their bidding. This corrupting influence is not relegated to one political party or the other. The mid term elections saw record breaking spending in only it’s first year of new campaign financing rules.
Our downfall will have many causes to be sure. Corporations as they are allowed to operate in the present will be a major contributing force, unless we learn how to reign them in and contribute to more than the companies bottom line we are doomed to fail. Many would argue that corporations within our economic system helped to create the power house which is America and I would agree with that argument. Make no mistake though, they did it because it was in their best interests to do so. They supplied goods and services to a rapidly growing nation. They did the same to the world particularly after much of the world’s industrial base was decimated in WWII.
We must create a system which force corporations to recognize that it is in their best interests to invest in American workers and in America. We must also convince Americans and corporations that it is in our best interest to create mathematicians and scientists so that we remain the world’s technology leader. The only we stave off collapse is by seizing the economic and technological dominance we held in the last century. If we do not, our middle class will resemble China’s middle class and guys like Glenn Beck will dominate the airwaves.