Column: TPP another example of rising corpocracy
The CEOs of today’s corporations run their empires (and with their money, our government) in exactly the same way Joseph Stalin used to run the USSR.
For a detailed description of how CEOs and their lawyers managed to disempower shareholders, entrench management, free themselves of obligations to their workers and evade any government oversight, get “Corpocracy” by Robert Monk from your library.
The bottom line today is that shareholders are powerless. They do not elect corporate directors in any sense beyond the ritual of being sent ballots that contain a list of that CEO’s approved names. The list has the same number of names as there are vacancies to be filled. There is no record in recent decades of the list containing any names not approved by the corporation’s current CEO.
Anyone whose name is not on the corporate ballot must, at his own expense, send another ballot to the shareholders. And, unbelievably, it actually requires time-consuming and expensive litigation to force the corporation to provide such an outsider with a list of shareholders. So the word on Wall Street is that anyone disagreeing with management should just hold their nose and sell their stock.
In the rest of the industrialized world it is very different. Outside of the U.S., government regulation ensures that corporations are much more responsive to their shareholders.
So the fact is that the United States today, and through the power of the U.S. government, much of the world, is literally ruled by a gang of self-perpetuating CEO plutocrats who are not and cannot be ethical because their only responsibility is to make a profit. And almost always, a short-term profit.
The latest mischief perpetrated by this gang is the terrible TPP. This purports to be a free trade agreement among 12 nations, the U.S., Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Peru, Canada, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia. It has been negotiated “in secret” by a bunch of appointed, not elected, trade negotiators. The “in secret” part applies to we citizens, but not to the corporations who have been advising the negotiators.
In fact, much of the TPP text has been written by corporate lobbyists.
But it is not really primarily about free trade — most important tariffs are already low. It is about wresting control from national governments and putting it into the hands of an international agreement secretly negotiated. And interpretation of the agreement is in the hands of an unelected body called the ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement).
This TPP grants multinational corporations the right to challenge any national laws protecting the health and safety of workers, wildlife, citizens, climate, the planet, you name it. On the claim that these are trade barriers threatening corporate profits, these laws can be challenged in secret tribunals of unelected bureaucrats.
Already, the World Trade Organization created by prior so-called free-trade treaties, has ruled that our “dolphin-safe” tuna labels are a restraint of trade. This empowers other WTO members to retaliate against our products. And the same body is poised to strike down country-of-origin and GMO labeling. The TPP is even more hostile to national food labeling and safety rules.
Most of the text of this nefarious agreement relates not to tariffs, but to expanding copyright and patent protections way beyond current U.S. law. The special patent and data protections that pharmaceutical corporations wanted would delay introduction of generics and keep drug prices high.
And besides threatening all national laws protecting the welfare of citizens, even food safety laws, this noxious agreement even threatens whistleblowers and journalists with draconian criminal penalties for anyone sharing corporate secrets through a computer network.
Congress has until February to ratify or defeat this horror, and because it was “fast-tracked,” no amendments are allowed. Obama, unbelievably, is lobbying for it. (I voted for Obama, but was sad to discover during his first term he had a very limited grasp of economics. Then I had to vote for him again for lack of an alternative.)
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has called the TPP “a charade” and Bernie Sanders calls it a “disastrous” agreement. Even Donald Trump is against it. In Bernie’s words, it “is designed to protect the interests of the largest multinational corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment and the foundations of American democracy.
Surely you can spare the time to send a personal letter or email or make a phone call to your senators and representatives to demand a no vote on the TPP.
As for tighter regulation of corporations, we’ll never get that until we have a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not citizens protected by the U.S. Constitution and have no free speech rights guaranteed therein. (See endcitizensunited.org.)
Then we can have real campaign finance reform and reinstitute democracy instead of corpocracy and plutocracy.
Mary Boland’s column appears on the third Saturday of each month. She is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale.
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