WASHINGTON - Major U.S. corporations are profiting far too much from the wave of
patriotism that has swept the country since the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, say civic, environmental
and labor groups .
They are pressing Congress to delay action on a mounting pile of legislation which, if approved, would add
to the windfall big business and the wealthy have collected over the last six weeks.
Since Sep. 11, ''members of Congress have served up a non-stop buffet of corporate pork legislation,'' says
Ralph Nader, the Green Party's presidential candidate last year and the founder of a network of U.S.
public-interest and consumer groups.
''Under the guise of national security our federal treasury is being raided and our democratic rights are
being taken away while Congress feeds sympathetic campaign contributors at taxpayer expense, sends
working people to fight, and leaves the unemployed, the disenfranchised, and American families to suffer,''
Nader and others say they are incensed by economic stimulus legislation in Congress that provides more
than 200 billion dollars in tax breaks and related benefits to big corporations and upper-income taxpayers.
''Who would have thought that a national emergency would set off a feeding frenzy by corporations and the
wealthy?'' asks Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice.
The airline industry has been a special beneficiary of the post-Sep. 11 corporate bonanza. Congress
approved a 15-billion-dollar bailout of already-troubled airline companies virtually before the dust had settled
at the site of the fallen twin towers of Manhattan's World Trade Center, even while some 150,000 aviation
workers were being laid off by many of the same companies.
When asked to provide 2.5 billion dollars in extended unemployment benefits, job training and health care
for those workers, Republican senators, backed by President George W. Bush, filibustered the bill to death.
''The bailout doesn't help the workers and doesn't help the passengers,'' says John Passacantando, director
of the U.S. section of Greenpeace.
The outrage over corporate profiteering appears to be growing, both in Congress and the mainstream
media. While the airline bailout passed easily in early October, the House of Representatives split along
party lines on the tax-cut package.
''At a time when the country is being urged to make sacrifices for the common good, the idea of well-to-do
Americans lining up for a tax break is appalling,'' the New York Times declared Oct. 25, the day after the
House approved the stimulus bill in a 216-214 vote.
''The predators of Washington are up to their old tricks in pursuit of private plunder at public expense,''
declared Bill Moyers, the country's most prominent television documentary producer and former President
Lyndon Johnson's press secretary, in a speech last week. ''In the wake of this awful tragedy wrought by
terrorists, they are cashing in.''
Corporations and their lobbyists appear unfazed by the outrage, however. The mining, energy,
pharmaceutical, insurance and defense industries have mobilized hundreds of lobbyists to take advantage
of the crisis atmosphere in Congress and elsewhere in the nation by gaining favorable new legislation.
Encouraged by energy companies, Bush, whose campaign was financed in major part by many of these
same industries, has renewed his drive to get Congress to approve his energy plan, which would permit
drilling in the environmentally sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and expand the use of
Environmental groups, which favor conservation and the development of alternative sources of energy, say
nuclear power stations are especially vulnerable to terrorist attack, as would be any pipelines built to transfer
oil from the ANWR.
''The administration and many in Congress are pushing energy legislation that will actually weaken national
security,'' says Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth.
Consumer and health groups also are furious with the pharmaceutical industry's efforts to capitalize on the
anthrax scare. They highlight what they call price-gouging by the German-owned giant, Bayer, which holds
the patent on Cipro, an antibiotic effective against the virus.
''Confronted with the prospect of bio-terrorism on a massive scale,'' says Robert Weissman, co-director of
the health activist group Essential Action, ''the Bush administration and the pharmaceutical industry have
colluded to protect patent monopolies rather than the public health.''
The administration has taken credit for forcing Bayer to reduce its normal price for Cipro. Weissman,
however, says the price to which it eventually agreed, 95 cents a pill, is twice what the government currently
spends for the same drug in another federal program.
According to the New York Times, the pharmaceutical industry spent more on lobbying and campaign
contributions, most of which went to Republicans, than any other industry in the last election cycle - a total of
almost 200 million dollars. Drug firms have some 625 registered lobbyists - more than there are members of
''The nation recognizes that the heroes of the (Sep. 11) tragedy are our nation's working people, but all
Congress and the United States want to do is give more tax breaks to big business and the nation's wealthier
people,'' says Mildred Brown, a recent president of ACORN, a grassroots welfare rights organization.
Copyright © 2001 IPS-Inter Press Service