Archive for the ‘Corporate takeover of Government’ Category

Food, Corporations, Government and who’s got your back?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

– This is an original piece.  I feel pretty strongly about this stuff.  Comments will be welcomed.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

The world has changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost….”

~ Galadriel – Lord of the Rings

 Things are changing all around us though most of us do not see it.   Indeed, the world is nothing but change, and when enough change is going on around you, it is easy to miss some of it.

Administrations change, inflation rises and falls, the stock market wobbles along, prices at the market and at the gas station always seem to rise but then, to be fair, our wages seem rise as well.  Sometimes, amid all that change, it’s hard to see if we’re losing or winning.  After all, we’ve got businesses, families and lives to live.   The daily round of just getting on with things absorbs us.

Maybe it has always gone on but it seems to me that if we want to pick out just one area where things are going wrong, we could talk about food.

Food is big money because, after all, the millions of people who comprise a nation all have to eat and most of them are not farmers.

So, food industries are born and food is brought to us through vast networks of growers, transporters, processors, storage facilities, packagers and wholesale and retail outlets.

There are people and corporations out there making vast fortunes supplying us with food.  And therein lies a problem because where ever big money goes, there also goes big temptation.

Recently, here in New Zealand where I live, the top local executive of the American corporation, Coca-Cola, criticized New Zealand for being ‘anti-business‘ in an interview (http://tinyurl.com/br6dxex) that he gave on the occasion of his departure from the country.  Some of us here in New Zealand, myself included, were not amused.

But the real irony of his comments came a few weeks later when a story came out in the New York Times entitled, “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food” (http://tinyurl.com/as52ncb).

This story details the efforts undertaken by major American food companies (like Nestlé, Kraft, Nabisco, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars) to create foods that we just cannot resist.

On the face of it, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it?   It’s just good old Capitalism creating better products for the benefit of the American consumer?

But, it’s not all good news, I’m afraid.

These companies are corporations and they, especially the big publically held ones, are focused on only one thing and that is the maximization of profit for their shareholders.

When I say this (about corporations being solely about profits), I’m afraid that some folks might think this is some sort of a Liberal conspiracy theory on my part.

Well, it’s not.  Corporations are required in the U.S. by law to be primarily focused on profit.   You can read about it here: (http://tinyurl.com/3y63to)

In search of these profits, the big food companies, like those mentioned above, have established large and sophisticated laboratories setup to work out exactly how much of ‘this’ and how much of ‘that’ they should put into their products to make them as appealing to us as possible.  They know that the more appealing the products are, the more they will sell and thus the more they will profit.

Sadly, these companies have found through research that to maximize their sales they generally need to add more salt, fat and sugar.  And they also add preservatives and coloring agents and whatever else helps with the product’s visual appeal and its shelf life.  We all know that more salt, fat and sugar are not good for us, the consumers.   But, in the quest for profit, that becomes irrelevant.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here about how they optimize the appeal of their foods because it’s all in the article cited.

But remember, friends, that it is you and those you love that these companies are trying to manipulate into eating their junk food.   And they are not doing it for your health or welfare.

Quite simply, these folks do not care about whether the foods they create for profit  are making more and more of us obese or prone to diabetes (and they are making us more obese and prone to diabetes).   These concerns are irrelevant to them unless they should start to get ‘bad press’ that begins to hurt their sales.  But whichever way they turn, be assured it will be about profit.

So, to return to the subject of the Coca-Cola executive who criticized New Zealand for being ‘business unfriendly’ as he left?  One has to wonder what exactly he was criticizing New Zealanders for?  Did he judge them as  ‘unfriendly’ to business because people here in New Zealand might want to have some say in what foods they eat and how those foods might affect their health?

An American, Sinclair Lewis, said the following:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

I think this would be the reason why the American Coca-Cola executive could have trouble understanding what the New Zealanders are concerned about.

From his point-of-view, such worries could interfere with Coca-Cola’s profits and thus with his career with Coca-Cola.  So he labels New Zealand ‘unfriendly’ to business.  That’s cynical in my view.  Does he think that New Zealanders are suppose to trade their health for Coca-Cola’s profits?

This story I’ve been sharing with you about junk food science is just one example of how corporations will pursue their profits without regard for the health of the people they sell their products to.

And this is a global problem.   If one country resists having their health corrupted in the name of corporate profits, then the corporation involved can always move along to another country.

As an example, let’s reflect a bit on the tobacco industry.

These days, people take it for granted in the U.S. that nicotine is addictive and that smoking causes cancer.

But it wasn’t always so.   You don’t have to be too old to remember a time not long ago in 1994, when several of the top U.S. tobacco executives went before the U.S. Congress and testified that nicotine was not addictive (http://tinyurl.com/4xofj7).  But the tobacco industry’s real subterfuge with regard to defending their profits began long before that.  If you follow this link (http://tinyurl.com/cl78heo), you can read about this deeper history which is referred to as ‘Operation Berkshire’.

After the congressional hearings and a lot of debate, the U.S. forced tobacco companies to lower the tar and nicotine levels in their products and to place health warnings on their packaging.

The tobacco corporations simply shifted their focus to concentrate more on other countries where there were less protections against their predatory practices.   The Philippines was one such target.   That poor country has long been a prime target of the tobacco industry.  You can read about it here: (http://tinyurl.com/cgtb4vw)

So, let me point out yet once again, that these strategies by tobacco corporations to advance and expand their markets whenever and where ever they can, with no regard for the health of consumers, is simply standard behavior for corporate entities.  Their primary motivation is the maximize the profits of their shareholders and the rest, all the human misery they cause, is irrelevant to them.

All of this begs the question, for those of you who are fortunate enough to own stocks or mutual funds, do you know what corporations your money is invested in?   Do you know what they are doing?  Are you making profits on investments that, if you really stopped to see what these corporations are doing, that you would find repugnant?

Not long after I read the story about junk food science in the U.S., I began to read another one about the Horsemeat Scandal in Europe.  Details are here: (http://tinyurl.com/cobggsg).

You’d have to have been living in a cave recently to have not heard of how the Europeans discovered through DNA testing that all over western Europe, meat labeled as beef actually contained significant amounts of horsemeat.

It’s a sordid tale and at the bottom of it, as always, it will be found that someone somewhere (whether an individual or a corporation) found a way to make extra money by cheating and substituting the cheaper horsemeat.  And they didn’t think they’d get caught or they thought that they’d make so much money that the risk would be worth it.  I doubt that they thought much about whether or not folks wanted to eat horsemeat.

I know that a lot of people in the U.S. and in other countries as well (like here in New Zealand), think that we just have too much government.

But isn’t it the government that is suppose to protect us from horsemeat scandals, from aggressively marketed junk food and from cigarettes, among things?

Some folks believe that the markets should be left alone and allowed to regulate themselves.  They believe that in a free market “cheaters never prosper“.

Well, I think that history has shown over and over again ad nauseam that this is a particularly naive point of view.  The evidence clearly seems to be that cheaters prosper quite a bit.

Another article appeared about a week ago.   This time the subject was bogus seafood in the U.S.

This was a great wake-up call for everyone in the U.S. who might have been smirking over their morning coffee and newspaper at  the horsemeat scandal in Europe.

Here’s the story in all its gory detail if you want to skip right to it: (http://tinyurl.com/buwrj5b).

It turns that an organization called Oceana.Org conducted DNA testing and determined that 33% of all fish samples subjected to testing in the U.S. were mislabeled.

That 59 percent of fish sold as tuna in U.S. restaurants and grocery stores is not actually tuna.

By retail outlets they found that, seafood was mislabeled 18 percent of the time in grocery stores, 38 percent of the time in restaurants and 74 percent of the time in sushi venues.

That 84 percent of fish samples described as ‘white tuna’ were actually Escolar.  Escolar is a type of Snake Mackerel that has rich, buttery flesh, but unpleasant side effects.

What side-effects, you ask?

Oh, just ‘prolonged, oily anal leakage’ for some of the people who eat it; nothing much.

And it only takes about 6 ounces of Escolar to cause this effect.

So, let’s go back to the ‘less government’ idea again.

Who exactly is it that we think is going to test for stuff like this?  Who is it that will ensure that when someone sells us something they call ‘Tuna’, that it is what they say it is?

While you are thinking about that, consider that 90% of all seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported.  And less than 1% of that is tested.

Consider as well that human nature seems to be such that there’s always going to be someone who, when given the opportunity to make significantly more money, is going to ‘work’ the system to do so if they can.  We can count on it.

So, shouldn’t it be obvious that someone is going to substitute cheaper varieties of fish for the more expensive ones unless they are prevented from doing so?

We’d all like to think that folks won’t cheat us, but the blindingly obvious fact is, many of them will.

In this case, it was an organization called Oceana.org (http://tinyurl.com/bxawv7x) that discovered the substitutions; not the U.S. government.

That was lucky for the American public.  But in my opinion, people should not have to rely on luck to uncover this stuff.

So, when you hear the siren song of ‘less government’ you should think about all of this.

So, why doesn’t the U.S. government protect Americans better on these sorts of issues now?   Well, sometimes they do.  But as the opening quote of the article suggests, “The world has changed”.  And it is continuing to change.

Part of the reason is because increasingly a lot of Americans believe in the idea of “less government”.  And, because they vote, their beliefs are reflected how the government runs and what it does.

Another reason is because it is in the best interest of many big corporations and high-net-worth individuals to prevent the government from making laws that interfere with their profits.  Thus these folks unleash armies of lobbyists and bags of money in their efforts to influence and control law makers.

And yet another reason is because of what’s called “The Revolving Door”.  The Revolving Door is the practice whereby a man who yesterday worked as an executive at a big coal mining company will somehow today be appointed to a high office in government to oversee the coal industry.

You can read about this practice here: (http://tinyurl.com/yzhndor)

The Revolving Door practice has been going on for a long time and it truly is an example of letting the fox into the chicken coop.  But, somehow in the U.S. (and in other countries) this has become an accepted way of doing things.  And a seriously dysfunctional way, in my opinion.

Regarding “less government”, I don’t like the over-the-top Liberal ‘nanny-state’ anymore than the next individual.  But people do, in fact, need government to  regulate business so we can all maintain our quality of life.   What we don’t need are governments that exist primarily to protect the rights of the corporations.

But, in my view, the sad truth is that these days corporations are slowly and inexorably increasing their control over our governments.

Witness the “Citizens United” ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that says “corporations are people” (http://tinyurl.com/b4czkdp).  As a result of this ruling, corporations cannot now be limited in how much money they can donate to political campaigns.   Does that stink or what?

What do I want from my government in the U.S. or here in New Zealand (or anywhere else for that matter)?

I’d like to know that my government inspects my food and ensures that if I buy something called Tuna, that that’s what I’m getting.

I’d like a government that exerts itself to keep its populace well informed as to why the junk food being cooked up by the large corporations to maximize their profits may not be the best thing for people to eat.

I’d live a government staffed by people who haven’t just, for example, walked out the door of a coal mining company and are now sitting at a desk in the government office responsible for regulating the same coal industry.

I’d like a government that realizes that corporations bent solely on profit may not always make the best decisions for a people or for a country.  A government that will protect us against their worst excesses.

These are common sense ideas to me and most of us, I believe, would like think that this is how things are done.

But, I have to tell you, they are in general not being done this way and every day the influence of the corporations and big money over our governments grows.

Would you believe me if I said that corporations don’t even care about the health of nations?

Many people think that the economic problems in the U.S. began long before the melt-down of 2008.

They think that it actually began when many of the big U.S. based multi-national corporations realized that they could increase their profits by moving their U.S. based manufacturing operations overseas.  The corporate logic was that it will cost less to make it over there and we can therefore make more profit when we sell it.

That was good thinking for those corporations but it was bad for America.  The net result?   America has beggared itself.

Just ask yourself, how can a country remain a net creator of wealth when it isn’t making anything to sell?

And if it is not generating more than it is spending, how it can ever expect to pay off an ever increasing national debt?

So, off shoring was good for the corporations and absolutely ruinous for the American economy.   But the corporations didn’t care.  It was, as always, all about their profits.

So, the American national debt rises every year and the battles in Washington, D.C. about what to do about the debt get more and more rancorous all the time.  Everyone’s fallen into blaming everyone else because there isn’t any good solution to the mess the corporations have put us into.

The Liberals blame the Conservatives and the Conservatives blame the Liberals and the big corporate interests who are getting richer and richer just keep pouring money and lobbyists into Washington, D.C. every year to make sure that things don’t change in any way that will affect their profits.

But it gets even worse.

The main overseas beneficiary of sending American manufacturing offshore has been China.

China is the largest Communist country in the world.  China used to be dirt poor and now it is overflowing in American dollars.

America, helped by the mercenary multi-national corporations, has sent China all the money  it needs to convert the Chinese third rate, third-world military into something with first world capabilities so that now it is a force to be reckoned with.

The Chinese may look capitalistic but their government is Communist to the core and their ambition to remake us all in their image has never faded.

And, in the mean time, America’s having trouble paying its bills.

Corporations, unchecked, are a bad idea.  But they are, of course, just doing what comes natural to them when they seek profits above all else.

The truth is that they’re a lot like a junk-yard dog; it’s been trained to bite people and that’s what it does.   But you wouldn’t let a junk-yard dog run loose on the street, unchained, would you?

To be fair, corporations are good in many ways.  They drive innovation, they provide jobs, and they help the economy grow and prosper.   But they are too mono-maniacal in their focus on profit to be allowed to ‘run free’.  They, quite naturally, don’t care about the health of people or even the health of nations.

It’s my strong opinion that in every country, the number one priority of government should be to maximize the quality of life for the people of that nation.  The freedom of corporations should always be of a secondary priority.

Corporations should be allowed freedom of action only so long as their actions do not impinge on the quality of life or the freedom of the people.  Corporations will, of course, make less profits this way.  But this world should not primarily be about their profits but, rather, about the quality of life for all of us.

Until we make such a decision about our priorities, we will continue to be abused by those who care only about their profits.  Horsemeat, bogus fish, revolving doors, and foods designed to addict us and kill us.  How much evidence do we need?

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

– I rave a lot about the evil that multinational corporations are in our world.  The central complaint is that these hugely powerful entities (of the 100 largest economies in the world today, 53 are corporations) have only a single goal and that is to maximize the return on investment for their share-holders.  

– You’ll need to think about that for awhile to realize just how deeply dysfunctional that is for our world.  

– If you want to see how it works in detail in just one domain; food, then reading this will provide you with an excellent and sobering education.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

On the evening of April 8, 1999, a long line of Town Cars and taxis pulled up to the Minneapolis headquarters of Pillsbury and discharged 11 men who controlled America’s largest food companies. Nestlé was in attendance, as were Kraft and Nabisco, General Mills and Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Mars. Rivals any other day, the C.E.O.’s and company presidents had come together for a rare, private meeting. On the agenda was one item: the emerging obesity epidemic and how to deal with it. While the atmosphere was cordial, the men assembled were hardly friends. Their stature was defined by their skill in fighting one another for what they called “stomach share” — the amount of digestive space that any one company’s brand can grab from the competition.

James Behnke, a 55-year-old executive at Pillsbury, greeted the men as they arrived. He was anxious but also hopeful about the plan that he and a few other food-company executives had devised to engage the C.E.O.’s on America’s growing weight problem. “We were very concerned, and rightfully so, that obesity was becoming a major issue,” Behnke recalled. “People were starting to talk about sugar taxes, and there was a lot of pressure on food companies.” Getting the company chiefs in the same room to talk about anything, much less a sensitive issue like this, was a tricky business, so Behnke and his fellow organizers had scripted the meeting carefully, honing the message to its barest essentials. “C.E.O.’s in the food industry are typically not technical guys, and they’re uncomfortable going to meetings where technical people talk in technical terms about technical things,” Behnke said. “They don’t want to be embarrassed. They don’t want to make commitments. They want to maintain their aloofness and autonomy.”

– to the original:

– research thanks to Rolf A.

 

 

Secrets of the Rich

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

– Another brilliant piece by George Monbiot of the UK’s Guardian.   I just cannot applaud him enough.

– dennis

————————————–

Billionaires are hiding behind a network of “independent” groups, who manipulate politics on their behalf.

Conspiracies against the public don’t get much uglier than this. As the Guardian revealed last week, two secretive organisations working for US billionaires have spent $118m to ensure that no action is taken to prevent manmade climate change(1). While inflicting untold suffering on the world’s people, their funders have used these opaque structures to ensure that their identities are never exposed.

The two organisations – the Donors’ Trust and the Donors’ Capital Fund – were set up as political funding channels for people handing over $1m or more. They have financed 102 organisations which either dismiss climate science or downplay the need to take action. The large number of recipients creates the impression that there are many independent voices challenging climate science. These groups, working through the media, mobilising gullible voters and lobbying politicians, helped to derail Obama’s cap and trade bill and the climate talks at Copenhagen. Now they’re seeking to prevent the US president from trying again(2).

This covers only part of the funding. In total, between 2002 and 2010 the two identity-laundering groups paid $311m to 480 organisations(3), most of which take positions of interest to the ultra-rich and the corporations they run: less tax, less regulation, a smaller public sector. Around a quarter of the money received by the rightwing opinion swarm comes from the two foundations(4). If this funding were not effective, it wouldn’t exist: the ultra-rich didn’t get that way by throwing their money around randomly. The organisations they support are those which advance their interests.

A small number of the funders have been exposed by researchers trawling through tax records. They include the billionaire Koch brothers (paying into the two groups through their Knowledge and Progress Fund) and the DeVos family (the billionaire owners of Amway)(5). More significantly, we now know a little more about the recipients. Many describe themselves as free market or conservative think tanks.

Among them are the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Hudson Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Reason Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Mont Pelerin Society and the Discovery Institute(6). All of them pose as learned societies, earnestly trying to determine the best interests of the public. The exposure of this funding reinforces the claim by David Frum, formerly a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, that such groups “increasingly function as public-relations agencies”(7).

One name in particular jumped out at me: American Friends of the IEA. The Institute of Economic Affairs is a British group which, like all the others, calls itself a free market thinktank. Scarcely a day goes by on which its staff are not interviewed in the broadcast media, promoting the dreary old billionaires’ agenda: less tax for the rich, less help for the poor, less spending by the state, less regulation for business. In the first 13 days of February, its people were on the BBC ten times(8).

Never have I heard its claim to be an independent thinktank challenged by the BBC. When, in 2007, I called the institute a business lobby group, its then director-general responded, in a letter to the Guardian, that “we are independent of all business interests”(9). Oh yes?

The database, published by the Canadian site desmogblog.com, shows that American Friends of the IEA has received (up to 2010) $215,000 from the two secretive funds(10). When I spoke to the IEA’s fundraising manager, she confirmed that the sole purpose of American Friends is to raise money for the organisation in London(11). She agreed that the IEA has never disclosed the Donors’ Trust money it has received. She denied that the institute is a sockpuppet organisation: purporting to be independent while working for some very powerful US interests.

Would the BBC allow someone from Bell Pottinger to discuss an issue of concern to its sponsors without revealing the sponsors’ identity? No. So what’s the difference? What distinguishes an acknowledged public relations company taking money from a corporation or a billionaire from a so-called thinktank, funded by the same source to promote the same agenda?

The IEA is registered with the Charity Commission as an educational charity(12). The same goes for Nigel Lawson’s climate misinformation campaign (the Global Warming Policy Foundation(13)) and a host of other dubious “thinktanks”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is outrageous that the Charity Commission allows organisations which engage in political lobbying and refuse to reveal their major funders to claim charitable status(14).

This is the new political frontier. Corporations and their owners have learnt not to show their hands. They tend to avoid the media, aware that they will damage their brands by being seen to promote the brutal agenda that furthers their interests. So they have learnt from the tobacco companies: stay hidden and pay other people to do it for you(15).

They need a network of independent-looking organisations which can produce plausible arguments in defence of their positions. Once the arguments have been developed, projecting them is easy. Most of the media are owned by billionaires, who are happy to promote the work of people funded by the same class(16). One of the few outlets they don’t own – the BBC – has been disgracefully incurious about the identity of those to whom it gives a platform.

By these means the ultra-rich come to dominate the political conversation, without declaring themselves(17,18). Those they employ are clever and well-trained. They have money their opponents can only dream of. They are skilled at rechannelling the public anger which might otherwise have been directed at their funders: the people who have tanked the economy, who use the living planet as their dustbin, who won’t pay their taxes and who demand that the poor must pay for the mistakes of the rich. Anger, thanks to the work of these hired hands, is instead aimed at the victims or opponents of the billionaires: people on benefits, the trade unions, Greenpeace, the American Civil Liberties Union.

The answer, as ever, is transparency. As the so-called thinktanks come to play an ever more important role in politics, we need to know who they are working for. Any group – whether the Institute of Economic Affairs or Friends of the Earth – which attempts to influence public life should declare all donations greater than £1000. We’ve had a glimpse of who’s paying. Now we need to see the rest of the story.

– To the original and its references:  

Anonymous Hacks US Government Site, Threatens Supreme ‘Warheads’

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

– This YouTube video makes for interesting viewing and it sets out a number of  grievances Anonymous has with the U.S. government’s escalating abuses of the rights of U.S. citizens.   It’s well worth a watch.

– Will it cause the U.S. government to change its ways?   I doubt it.  Most of the people involved on the U.S. government side are simple people doing their jobs who haven’t the courage or the imagination to see that the jobs they are increasingly doing are not in defense of the principles upon which the U.S. was founded but rather in defense of those powerful forces who are in the processing of capturing the U.S. system for their own gains.

– dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

The hacktivist group Anonymous hacked the U.S. federal sentencing website early Saturday, [January 26th, 2013] using the page to make a brazen and boisterous declaration of “war” on the U.S. government.

The group claims mysterious code-based “warheads,” named for each of the Supreme Court Justices, are about to be deployed.

As of midnight Pacific time, the front page of Ussc.gov — the Federal agency that establishes sentencing policies and practices for the Federal courts — is filled with a long screed in green on black, together with this YouTube video:  ➡

 – research thanks to Mashable

A Choice For Corporate America: Are You With America Or The Cayman Islands

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

By Senator Bernie Sanders
February 9, 2013

When the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the largest financial institutions in the United States took every advantage of being American. They just loved their country – and the willingness of the American people to provide them with the largest bailout in world history. In 2008, Congress approved a $700 billion gift to Wall Street. Another $16 trillion in virtually zero interest loans and other financial assistance came from the Federal Reserve. America. What a great country.

But just two years later, as soon as these giant financial institutions started making record-breaking profits again, they suddenly lost their love for their native country. At a time when the nation was suffering from a huge deficit, largely created by the recession that Wall Street caused, the major financial institutions did everything they could to avoid paying American taxes by establishing shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.

On and on it goes. Wall Street banks and large companies love America when they need corporate welfare. But when it comes to paying American taxes or American wages, they want nothing to do with this country. That has got to change.

Offshore tax abuse is not just limited to Wall Street. Each and every year corporations and the wealthy are avoiding more than $100 billion in U.S. taxes by sheltering their income offshore.

Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Pfizer have fought to make it illegal for the American people to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe. But, during tax season, Eli Lilly and Pfizer shift drug patents and profits to the Netherlands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Apple wants all of the advantages of being an American company, but it doesn’t want to pay American taxes or American wages. It creates the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod, and iTunes in the United States, but manufactures most of its products in China so it doesn’t have to pay American wages. Then it shifts most of its profits to Ireland, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Without such maneuvers, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States would have been $2.4 billion higher in 2011.

Offshore tax schemes have become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations.

This tax avoidance does not just reduce the revenue that we need to pay for education, healthcare, roads, and environmental protection, it is also costing us millions of American jobs. Today, companies are using these same tax schemes to lower their tax bills by shipping American jobs and factories abroad. These tax breaks have contributed to the loss of more than 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and the closure of more than 56,000 factories since 2000. That also has got to change.

At a time when we have a $16.5 trillion national debt; at a time when roughly one-quarter of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high; it is past time for Wall Street and corporate America to pay their fair share.

That’s what the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act (S.250) that I have introduced with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is all about.

This legislation will stop profitable Wall Street banks and corporations from sheltering profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It will also stop rewarding companies that ship jobs and factories overseas with tax breaks. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated in the past that the provisions in this bill will raise more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade.

As Congress debates deficit reduction, it is clear that we must raise significant new revenue. At 15.8 percent of GDP, federal revenue is at almost the lowest point in 60 years. Our Republican colleagues want to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, the veterans and the most vulnerable by making massive cuts. At a time when the middle class already is disappearing, that is not only a grossly immoral position, it is bad economics.

We have a much better idea. Wall Street and the largest corporations in the country must begin to pay their fair share of taxes. They must not be able to continue hiding their profits offshore and shipping American jobs overseas to avoid taxes.

Here’s the simple truth. You can’t be an American company only when you want a massive bailout from the American people. You have also got to be an American company, and pay your fair share of taxes, as we struggle with the deficit and adequate funding for the needs of the American people. If Wall Street and corporate America don’t agree, the next time they need a bailout let them go to the Cayman Islands, let them go to Bermuda, let them go to the Bahamas and let them ask those countries for corporate welfare.

 

Profiting from injustice

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

How law firms, arbitrators and financiers are fuelling an investment arbitration boom

A small club of international law firms, arbitrators and financial speculators are fuelling an investment arbitration boom that is costing taxpayers billions of dollars and preventing legislation in the public interest, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory.

Investment arbitration cases are brought by foreign investors against governments following alleged breaches of international investment agreements. Emblematic cases include tobacco giant Philip Morris suing Uruguay and Australia over health warnings on cigarette packets; and Swedish energy multinational Vattenfall seeking $3.7bn from Germany following that country’s decision to phase-out nuclear energy.

Profiting from Injustice uncovers a secretive but burgeoning legal industry which benefits from these disputes – at the expense of taxpayers, the environment and human rights. Law firms and arbitrators, who are making millions from investment disputes against governments, are actively promoting new cases and lobbying against reform in the public interest.

Download a PDF of the full report:

New Category added to Samadhisoft

Friday, December 7th, 2012

I’ve added a new category under which I can classify posts here in Samadhisoft.  It is:

Corporate takeover of government

I’ve been realizing for sometime that in their efforts to maximize profits for their shareholders, corporations have been working to control our governments in order to diminish the power those governments to make the laws that limit their actions and opportunities.

This is a major factor in the way human history is progressing now in the early 21st century.

We, as a species, should be deep into the realizations now that if we do not change directions, we are going to experience a calamity of truly historic proportions.  I call this the Perfect Storm.  A calamity so huge, in fact, that it will make all the other major ‘events’ of human history pale.

So, what makes us press on so heedlessly when the danger signs are growing so prolifically around us?

Some of it is our human nature.

But another very significant part is the fact that corporations have gotten so powerful that they are directly or indirectly controlling our governments for their own aims.  And, as those aims are solely about maximizing profits for their shareholders, those aims do not include considerations about the future of our species or the health of the planet.   In many cases (as you will see in the links, below), corporations are working actively to defeat the very things we should be doing for own own survival. And they do this because if we are allowed to do these things, it would interfere with their profits.

To get an idea of the size and tenacity of the problem, consider that of the 100 most powerful economies on the planet, 51 of them are corporations.

In honor of the new category  and to review for you some of the stories and perceptions that have led me to this POV, I’ve listed below a number of stories and pieces I’ve written or reported on here that bear on this subject:

 

 – The Corporate “Heist” of the United States Government Began With a Memo in 1971

– Forbidden Planet – George Monbiot

– Tobacco and the manipulation of public perception for corporate profit

 – The new face of how corporations dominate governments

– The Greedy are everywhere…

– Myth of Perpetual Growth is killing America

– Top (American) CEO pay equals 3,489 years for typical worker

– Why increasing corporate control of our world is bad

– Obama tries again to end oil subsidies

– Corporate Margins and Profits are Increasing, But Workers’ Wages Aren’t

– Plutocracy, Pure and Simple – George Monbiot

– Syngenta PR’s Weed-Killer Spin Machine: Investigating the Press and Shaping the “News” about Atrazine

– Ohio Lawmakers Introduced 33 Bills Last Year Based on ALEC Model Legislation

– Directors’ pay rose 50% in past year, says IDS report
– Financial world dominated by a few deep pockets
– As Verizon Demands Huge Cuts to Worker Benefits, Its Profits Soar and Its CEO Gets $18 Million in Compensation
– America in Decline – Noam Chomsky
 – Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care
 – Lobbying Firm Advising Corporate Clients How to Take Advantage of Campaign Finance Ruling
 – We’re having the wrong conversations

– The Supreme Court and Corporations

– Corporations Are Citizens – What Are We?