June 23, 2010
-- by Dave Johnson
American deregulated corporatism: Short-term profits for a very few at the expense of the rest of us. The Gulf oil spill is driving home the "expense of the rest of us" part of this equation. And the corporatist/conservative reaction to government's efforts to reign in an industry that provides so much of their funding highlights for us the battle lines of the equation.
Conservatives say that getting a company to set up a fund to compensate its victims is "Chicago-style thuggery" and a "shakedown" and apologize to the company! Instead we demand they apologize to democracy for this.
But this is not really about "corporatism" it is about raw bigness translating into raw power. This is big industries and companies and a few extremely wealthy people that "have" vs not-as-big industries, companies and the rest of us that "have not." Big, centralized oil is a "have." Fishing, tourism, alternative "green" energy - these are industries and corporations too -- and democratic decision-making are "have nots." This is not corporations vs democracy, this is big corporations (really, the wealthy few people who control their resources) against smaller corporations and the rest of us.
Yesterday a Reagan-appointed, oil-stock-owning judge set aside the Obama administration's moratorium on exploratory offshore oil drilling, citing "potential economic harm to businesses and workers" in the oil industry while ignoring the not-potential threat of harm to the fishing, tourism and other industries now being destroyed by that industry. Big oil's wishes, a judge appointed by the guy who took Carter's solar panels down from the White House roof and dismantled mass-transit and alternative energy programs, and an anti-government conservative movement out to dismantle democracy combine to push back against the "thuggery" of a public daring to attempt to assert that safety is assured. The battle is over who is in charge.
The administration placed the moratorium while they develop new safety standards and procedures. This followed the revelations of near-complete regulatory capture of the Minerals Management Service by the oil industry, resulting in the chain of safety-ignoring, cost-saving diversions from standard procedure. They filed a xeroxed spill plan citing dead phone numbers and dead consultants, and the dead regulatory agency never bothered to read it before approving it. The blowout preventer wasn't working and they knew it but didn't want to take the time or expense to fix it. Etc, and etc.
Since so much was wrong on this rig the government wants to take a look at the other rigs drilling offshore and make sure they are operating safely, and get procedures that work in place. The industry is infuriated that government is "interfering' in their profit-making enterprise. Their oil is under our water and they want it now.
The industry threatens to just move oil rigs out of the Gulf to other areas, taking the jobs with them. Democratic oversight of corporate behavior is again held hostage to the threat of moving jobs across a border. The judge lets them get away with it.
This is the fight. The big and wealthy industries, corporations and people against the smaller industries, corporations and the rest of us. This is the same fight as that unleashed by the recent Citizens United case. It is not corporations vs democracy, it is the the wealthy few people who control the resources of the biggest corporations against everyone else.
And it is in no way clear who will come out on top.
Posted by Dave Johnson at June 23, 2010 11:30 AM
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