How about a test of your injustice barometer?
You might think that the reckless, avaricious, giant corporations, having shrunk the economy, cost millions of jobs and then demanded that taxpayers be dunned for years into the future for multi-trillion dollar bailouts, would show contrition, regret, or self-restraint of their power over Washington.
Forget it. They’e baaack! Their greed and power are revving up big time to bring Washington and you the taxpayer, you the parent, you the consumer, you the worker, to your knees.
Here is a sample of the appalling dynamics of corporate greed and continuing over-reach each day in your nation’s capital.
1. Just when people thought the taxpayer-subsidized corporate student loan racket was ended by the Democrats, Sallie Mae, its cohorts and lobbyists, like Jamie S. Gorelick of FannieMae notoriety, are descending on Congress. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that replacing these subsidized loans with direct Department of Education lending will save $94 billion over the next ten years.
It is long overdue to end this gouging, college payola giving, obscenely overcompensated industry, and give students an efficient and reasonable lending system. Still, Sallie Mae, Citigroup, Bank of America and others are swarming over Congress to retain a big piece of the action. “Why do we even need private lenders?” correctly asks Congressman Timothy H. Bishop, a former provost of Southampton College.
2. ABC News reports that banks are hiking already high credit card rates and other bank-related fees: “The Banks have been given billions of dollars of tax money and only lend it out if customers are willing to pay extortion rights,” said Tony Cesnik, a Concord, California, resident. Cesnik adds: “The banks need a legal spanking. They are acting like spoiled brats!” Elizabeth Warren, Harvard law professor and chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel agrees: “We’re asking taxpayers to pay twice.”
3. The big oil and gas companies are saturating the airwaves with ads warning about the Obama Administration’s alleged desire to tax them $400 billion. This will cost jobs and reduce the discovery of more oil and gas, they say. Where is this $400 billion figure from? Obama’s ambition is not much beyond repealing the tax breaks George W. Bush gave his oily friends for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico when oil was selling at less than $40 per barrel. Some of the oil industry’s own spokespersons admitted last year that their argument doesn’t hold water any more with such high oil prices and profits since then.
So what are the big oil corporations like Exxon doing with their excess profits that totaled a record $45 billion just for Exxon last year? They’re not even drilling on two-thirds of the acreage they have rights to explore. Instead Exxon is spending $35 billion to buy back its stock and hold in cash. When the next oil shock comes, Exxon will demand more tax breaks and other dispensations to fund its drilling. We’ve seen that game played out before at the gas pump.
4. Now comes Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh to report a private meeting recently between six senators and Obama in the White House where the president heard complaints that his proposed regulatory reforms were too weak and were being devised by his appointed officials who were part of the problem in Wall Street. Well, are you surprised that a new powerful lobby created by the likes of Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Goldman Sachs is gearing up to stop adequate regulation of “over the counter” derivatives, to keep these transactions secret, and to continue to permit what Hirsh called the “systemic risk that led to the crash.” This brazen move by the incorrigible banks is underway after they received huge bailout money from Washington. Beware they may yet demand and receive another big bundle.
5. With workers losing millions of jobs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and virtually the entire business juggernaut are amassing tens of millions of dollars to stop the union-facilitating “card-check” legislation and any effort to bring the federal minimum wage up to what is was back in 1968, no less, adjusted for inflation. It is now about three dollars short of that modest goal for hard-pressed laborers, many without health insurance.
6. And oh, how these company bosses are fighting to keep their big bonuses going as a reward for tanking many of their own companies. Call it hubris, arrogance, disdain for common decencies of the American people, it all reflects too much corporate power over our lives?a judgment over 75 percent of Americans share.
All this lobbying of Congress and the White House year after year pays off. A study by three Kansas University professors found that a single tax break in 2004 earned drug, manufacturing, and other companies $220 for every dollar they spent in their cash register politicking. Presently, Lockheed Martin is spending millions of our taxpayer dollars to oppose Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and many other defense experts who want to finally shut down the price-skyrocketing F-22 fighter extravaganza designed for combat in the Soviet Union-era.
So, are you more upset than when you started reading this column? Feel frustrated and powerless? With your friends, ask your Senators and Congressperson during their frequent recesses for a three-hour public accountability session. If you can assemble 300 or more residents, after you rev up your community, you’re likely to have your elected representatives come to an auditorium where you live and work. If they think 500 people will show up, it is even more likely. Especially if you are organized and tell them this is just the beginning. Just the beginning!
Without the rumble from the people back home, a majority of the 535 members of Congress will continue to kowtow to about 1500 corporations and you’ll pay the price again and again. So, rumble, rumble, rumble!
RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions.