Saturday, March 05, 2005

This is the you-know-what, hitting the fan. This is me, hating on big business.

This is my opening salvo. It's not much, and it won't even show as a blip on the radar. But it's my start. And it's all I've got for now.

In the old days, government was not the solution to all our problems. It was the problem. The men who founded our country had a distrust of distant, centralized government. Take a look at the Bill of Rights. It guarantees rights most American citizens now take for granted. However, when you get down to brass tacks, it's a pretty short list. That's because of Amendment X, which states: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. Local legislation and enforcement, power in the hands of the people, not in the hands of the centralized few.

Somewhere along the line, ideas began to change. Those folk we now call liberals had gotten the idea that a strong, centralized government was the answer to our problems. Too many of the elderly in poverty? Let's create a government pension plan (Social Security). Individuals can't afford any health care? Medicaid. Injured worker's aren't getting the care they need? Workmen's compensation. The working poor can't afford to feed their families? Food stamps. By now, the list goes on for miles.

Some liberals (at home and abroad) were naturally suspicious of anything that wasn't controlled by the government. Through a series of revolutions they claimed power in backwards countries like Russia and China. No matter what they called it, they failed. And millions of innocents lost their lives in the crossfire. This is why I can say, without much room for doubt, that communism can never work like Marx and Engels had hoped it would. These failures seemed only to prove to conservatives that liberal ideology, when taken to its natural conclusion, only suffered to screw things up.

Getting back to the framers of the Constitution. When our country was formed, the economic clash between capitalism and socialism was barely begun (though in my ignorance of economic history, I could be terribly wrong). But the conflict between big government and a loose commonwealth of states was a heated affair. Some people thought the Bill of Rights went too far, that it gathered too much power in the hands of a central place. They'd be rolling over in their graves if they'd experienced the consolidation of power over the next 200 years, whether generally by Washington, D.C., or more specifically by the executive and judicial branches at the expense of the powers of Congress. But our founders had no idea where a free market would take us by our nation's bicentennial. They had no idea how power would consolidate not just politically, but economically as well.

This is the real danger. Not simply that our central government is too powerful, but that businesses have quietly consolidated in power alongside it. I shared Kenny Dobbins' story yesterday as a preamble to this. [This is no doubt informed by Eric Schlosser's book.] The great geo-political battle of the 20th century was against the consolidation of economic freedoms under totalitarian rule. The West won that battle with its trump card in the free market system. Capitalism beat the hell out of communism, and the Berlin Wall fell. However, the geo-political battle of the 21st century will not be against any one nation-state, such as the Soviet Union, but against the consolidation of economic power under corporate rule. In case you missed it, this is exactly what I mean:

Big business is the great enemy of the 21st century. Not the free market economy. Not the accumulation of capital. But those too principles taken to their utmost selfish extreme -- the value of capital over the value of human worth.

These two giants, this corporate leviathan standing alongside our political one, make up the most dangerous one-two punch to the freedom of the individual our founders could ever have possibly imagined. The accumulation of power in Washington has made it possible for large corporations to muscle their way into the shaping and making of nation-wide laws, the executive orders of the White House, and in turn, those eligible for nomination to various government agencies and the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court.

If I'm still being obtuse, let me make this as clear as possible. Big business is the most powerful and corrupt entity in our country because of the failure of our strong centralized government. It has the power to chew people like Kenny Dobbins up and spit them out without incurring the wrath of the government, that Institution which is supposed to protect the rights and privileges of its citizens, because the federal government lies comfortably in the pocket of big business. Too put it crudely, big business had knocked out our government's teeth and pleases itself at its leisure -- whenever it wants, wherever it wants.

Neither side of the political aisle has been quick to find a way out of their little situation. Those seeking smaller government, specifically starting with the Reagan revolution, have sought to deregulate as many industries as possible, making it easier for big business to pollute our air, fire its high paying workers, refuse to pay them for work related injuries, and gulp up as many small businesses as possible. But for ideological reasons that are beyond me, those who bow to government deregulation refuse to recognize the fact that these (in)actions of our government have hurt the citizens of the United States of America.

On the other hand, big government proponents, while seeking to break apart the power of big business, have only suffered to worsen the situation by adding to the strength of a strong, central government. We've seen it time and time again -- good intentions gone awry in a maze of Washington lobbyists. Energy bills with that benefit the energy industry and not the American consumer. Environmental directives written by the gas and oil companies. Medicare prescription drug coverage that looks out for the drug companies rather than the sick.

Every time our government tries to write a bill to help the American citizen, big business swoops in with its thousands of lobbyists and billions of dollars, subverting the original intent of the law to its own private ends. Corporate America comes out aces while you and me get jack squat. Welcome to Washington, D.C., folks. You might want to cover your anus.

I don't have any solutions. I don't know enough about the game to understand how to end it. I want to say two radically opposite things at once. Get rid of our strong centralized government AND big business. Abolish them outright. But to get rid of big government, we first have to get rid of big business. And to get rid of big business, we need an even BIGGER big government, with more federal regulations, safety standards, anti-trust monitoring, worker protection and subsidized support for small business owners -- the only ones who stand a real chance of competing against corporate America.

But maybe it's time to realize that "corporate America" no longer exists in any real sense. Large corporations like Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Con-Agra, Time-Warner, insert-your-own-lesser-satan-here, are corporations bereft of any national ties except for public relations purposes. That is to say, they don't give a crap for American interests, but multi-national ones. Their business is no longer catering to the needs of the American people (if it ever really was), but lowering costs, raising margins, and pleasing stockholders. If that means moving manufacturing jobs to China, screw America. If that means moving customer service jobs to India, screw America. If that means producing beef in ways that leave animal feces in your meat infected with Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, and quite-possibly bovine spongiform disease (other wise known as mad-cow), screw America.

These multi-nationals have little love for America beyond the American dollar. They will screw you sideways if they can 1) make a buck off it, and 2) do it with minimal public attention. That's all they need. Willing consumers who remain ignorant consumers.

I have no idea where to go with this. I have no idea what to do, or even what to say next. It's so overwhelming that it frightens the piss out of me. It's so bewildering that I just want to roll over and die -- let someone else do something about it. I feel powerless, because I am neither big government nor big business. I'm just a person, distrustful of my government, but afraid it may be the only necessary evil big enough to take down capitalism run amok with the greed of empires and an insatiable appetite for power.

And in all honesty, I'll probably just be gobbled up right alongside everyone else.

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