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Free Lunches, for Corporations!



On September 26, 2007, the powerful National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) bought two pages in the Wall Street Journal to tout a prosperous, expanding group of member-companies producing products.

It occurred to me as I began the copy, that the NAM rarely bought expensive space like this in the Journal. Then after going through NAM’s introductory message, I realized why they purchased the ad. Month after month in hundreds of loyal editorials, the Journal’s editorial writers already have been conveying the cravings and demands of this trade association.

The parallels between this revenue-producing two page spread and the Journal’s opinion scribes, in contrast to its often sterling news pages, are the stuff of the corporate state.

The editorials argue for more “clean” coal and nuclear power and emphasize expanding production of U.S. oil and natural gas with a token tip to renewables (with plenty of taxpayer subsidies).

So does the NAM.

NAM wants more so-called “free trade” agreements without recognizing, at the very least, that there can be no “free trade” with dictatorships like China. Dictatorial, oligarchic regimes determine wages, prevent free trade unions, and otherwise through grease and no-rule-of-law or access to justice, obstruct market-based costs and pricing.

So do the Journal’s editorial writers.

In scores of frenzied editorials, the Journal assails tort law, tort attorneys and “unreasonable awards.” Having read just about all these advertiser-friendly diatribes, I have yet to discern any data to back up their flood of declamations about “frivolous” litigation and “wild” awards.

Neither did the NAM produce any evidence about “lawsuit abuse” because the evidence points to declining product defect and malpractice suits, notwithstanding that 90% of these injured people suffer without any legal claims filed on their behalf. (See: and

The Journal’s rigid ideologues demand less regulation (read less law and order for corporations) and the weakening of the Sarbanes-Oxley law enacted to modestly deal with part of the corporate crime wave of the past decade.

So does the NAM.

The NAM wants further reduction of the already reduced corporate tax rate and more taxpayer pay-out to corporations, including super-profitable ones like Intel, GE, Cisco and Pfizer. These latter windfalls are called research and development tax credits. How many Americans know that they are paying these and other super-profitable companies more money to make still more profits? Cisco does not even pay dividends.

So also demands the big business echo chamber on the Journal’s editorial pages.

The Journal has been campaigning for years to end the estate tax which is so diluted that less than 2 percent of all estates have to pay anything to Uncle Sam. Conservative Republican wordsmith, Frank Luntz, in a moment of abandon, called lobbying an effort to end “the billionaires tax.”

The NAM wants an end to the estate tax, even though none of its corporate-members ever has to pay an estate tax. For good measure, NAM wants to keep the maximum tax rates on investment income and capital gains at a level half of a worker’s maximum tax rate. Far lower taxes on capital than on labor suits the NAM three-piece-suits just fine.

The Journal is for brain-draining the Third World. Drain those critical doctors, nurses, scientists, engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs from Asia, Africa and South America. Give them permanent visas and then wonder why those countries are having trouble fielding the skilled leaders needed to develop their own economies. It is easier than training talented minority youths in our country.

The NAM ad calls for “reform of the visa system to attract and retain global talent.”

And so it goes. Such a symbiotic relationship! Big business members of NAM pour millions of dollars in ads daily into the Wall Street Journal. In return, the dutiful and gleeful editorial writers deliver the screeds that caress the brows and deepen the pockets of the CEOs.

There is another recurrent message in the insistent materials of NAM and its comrade-in-greed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Enough is never enough.

For over a quarter century, there has been more and more de-regulation (electricity, motor vehicles, coal, drugs, nuclear, occupational safety, pollution, aviation, rail, truck antitrust and more) with detriment to the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people. Still not enough, they say!

In the same period, you the taxpayer have been forced to have your tax dollars pour out of Washington and into the coffers of Big Business in a myriad of ways. Hundreds of billions of your dollars. Not enough, they say! They roar for more coddling.

You want chapter and verse, evidence and data? Get ready to read Free Lunch, a riveting new book by the Pulitzer-prize winning tax reporter for The New York Times, David Cay Johnston. It will be out in about two months. Just in time for your gift-giving season.

RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions


Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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