The consequences of corporate greed

Hal Sundin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I See it

Albert Einstein has been reported as saying “the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits”, implying that there is no limit to stupidity. It is readily apparent that corporate greed also has no limits.

Last year’s Wall Street meltdown is a glaring example.

Lobbyists for the financial industry had no trouble convincing a friendly Congress to repeal laws restricting the industry’s activities, opening the door to the high-risk excesses that created a worldwide financial crisis, but generated billions of dollars of profits and bonuses for those responsible for it. And now, after having had their skins saved by taxpayer-financed bailouts, they are back at it, collecting their multi-million dollar bonuses. They even had the effrontery to commandeer scarce H1N1 flu vaccine for themselves ahead of at-risk “common” people.

In 2004, 93 large corporations spent $283 million on lobbyists to get a bill through Congress which drastically cut taxes on foreign profits, allowing them to avoid over $60 billion of taxes they would have had to pay. Nice return on their investment.

Look at what the credit card companies and drug manufacturers are up to. Facing legislation prohibiting them from raising interest rates and service fees at will (effective Dec. 1, but recently reverted to the original February date), the credit card companies scrambled to jack up those charges before Dec. 1. The drug companies came out with a great public relations stunt, offering to reduce drug costs by $8 billion, purportedly to help reduce the nation’s health care costs. But in the past year they have quietly increased wholesale prescription drug prices by 9 percent, guaranteed to bring in far more than the $8 billion “savings” they so loudly proclaimed.

And then there’s the health insurance industry. A former Cigna executive, whose conscience got the better of him, has admitted that he worked with ER firms to set up front groups to spread misleading messages and create fear of a “government takeover” of health care, leading to “socialized medicine”, and “putting a bureaucrat between you and your doctor.” He was astounded at how readily people swallowed his message and started spreading it for him. He also revealed the industry’s obsession with profits, obtained by paying fewer medical bills, using technicalities to cancel policies, and drastically increasing premiums for small businesses if a covered employee has incurred high medical costs. Under pressure, the health insurers have agreed to stop denying coverage for pre-existing conditions – but what will they charge for that?

Confronted with environmental review requirements that frustrated their desire for instant issuance of drilling permits, the oil and gas drilling companies got Congress to pass the 2005 Energy Act that gave them just what they wanted, including a blanket exemption from the Clean Water Act. The Bush Administration also directed the BLM to Apply “categorical exclusions” (formerly reserved for individual isolated projects) on a wholesale scale. In the next two years, nearly 6300 categorical exclusions were granted in the Rocky Mountain states, regardless of the resulting environmental destruction and cumulative harm to wildfire.

The largest gift to corporate greed is the likely decision to come out of the current session of the Supreme Court reversing 200 years of precedent to grant corporations “personhood”, thereby disallowing any limitation on corporate contributions to political campaigns. Those who have long ranted about “activist” interpreting the law, should be up in arms over what the current conservative court is likely to do on this case. The net effect of this action will be that Congress and the White House will be completely owned by the large corporations, and the voice of the people will be drowned out.

We need to take back our country to serve the American people by neutralizing the power of corporate greed.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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