August 2010

We have met the enemy and he is us

By Galen Larson

There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT. . ." — Ned Beatty's character in "Network"

I don't know why people are so afraid of “big government” when they aren't terrified by a much greater threat — big corporations. If we were more attuned and involved, we could correct and control the government, but we have almost no control over corporations. Government is responsible to the people but corporations are responsible to no one but the bottom line. Not even the investor can hold them responsible.

People call for term limits as if they were the answer to everything that is wrong with government. Well, we already have term limits in place for all elected officials - they're called “elections.” How does a politician stay in his welfare job for 50 years? Because we are ill-informed, unconcerned, and uninvolved until after the election, and that's the way politicians want it. We choose officials based on information gleaned from short sound bites.

It so happens the government we are so afraid of is us. We are the government — it is just our lackadaisical attitude that allows these people to stay in place. The great concern we should have is the multi-national corporations that have allegiance to no one but their own interests.

Understand, I am not against capitalism, as I have ventured into it several times during my life, using my own money and expertise. But the corporate moguls that go down in history as great men rarely use their own money — always someone else's or the taxpayer's. They build their empires by selling stocks and bonds to finance their endeavors, keeping business costs low with cheap labor, putting smaller entrepreneurs out of business, pillaging the environment, making policy they do not have to adhere to, garnering subsidies through their lobbyists and totally controlling government like the man behind the curtain.

They complain about paying the taxes that supposedly prevent them from paying even larger dividends to large stock-holders and even more unconscionable salaries to their CEOs. The chairman elects the board and the board elects the chair and we the consumer see nothing wrong with that.

What a brain-washing we have undergone! Yet we howl at the government and blame it for all our problems. Well, the government dances to the corporations' tune. Our meager contributions to the candidates do not carry much weight when the corporations here or abroad throw their tax-deductible contributions of a million or more in the ring.

Of course I am aware that anyone can only give $2,000 per person to a candidate — what a joke. Thanks to our Supreme Court, corporations here and overseas due to an interpretation of free speech can now spend any amount on ads for their candidate of choice; because they are not a “direct contribution” they are considered free speech. Will a slick corporate commercial put together by slick Madison Avenue publicists affect the elections? Gee, what do you think?

So we, the electors and consumers, remain fools. We have the power through purchases and votes to guide the course of history, yet in all of our 200-plus years we seem to never have the will to come together. The mighty elephant can be brought down by a pygmy with a spear when the tribe comes together; instead we go off on tangents about things that distract us from the real threat.

When this country was first founded, transportation was a big problem. Horses, wagons and boats were not adequate to the task of settling and growing the nation. So the government (we the people) under the leadership of Lincoln put a railroad across the continent. If left up to the corporate moguls, it might never have been completed. It was not the private sector's money, blood, sweat and tears that gave us the railroad. The government guaranteed the bonds and certificates issued to pay for it. Even then the moguls had to steal from people by issuing phony stocks, bonds and certificates to enhance their profits.

Then came the streetcars funded by cities. The passenger trains across the nation were subsidized by the people, bus companies, too. Let's not forget the subways — a taxpayer-subsidized mode of travel acclaimed throughout the world.

Then came the era of the automobile. We in our eagerness to become independent gave up a lot of that independence by creating a dependent lifestyle and an environmentally unsound mode of transportation that put other economically wise modes of convenience out of business. Both the automobile and public transportation could have existed side by side but the corporations had to have it all.

I don't hear much from the corporate politicians after the banking debacle. Now it's all about small business. That’s business with 500 or fewer employees and a less-than- $50 million investment. How about the real backbone of the country, Mom and Pop stores? Oops, they are gone, taken over by the multi-nationals, small farmers by agribusiness, neighborhood service stations and garages taken over by giant corporations, manufacturing of clothing, rugs, textiles of any kind fled overseas, appliances gone to China by way of Mexico. Oh, but we have the Internet, Craig's list, silly and macabre games. Let's not forget the multibillion porno and child pornography business and I guess we are still number one in world sports. (How else to sell beer, alcohol, Nikes and fast fat food?)

If you think I've mentioned corporations too often, let me ask, when do you stop yelling “look out!” when you see someone about to step into the path of disaster?

Let's grill our politicians like a hamburger and get the grease out of them, the grease put there by the corporations, and get back to entrepreneur capitalism. Maybe then we can get our country back.

Galen Larson writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.