“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of
corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will
endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until
wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this
moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the
midst of war.”
“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered,
I’ve seen lots of funny men,
Some will rob you with a six gun,
And some with a fountain pen.”
The list of corporate criminals grows longer. Men who a few months ago were considered icons of industry are carted off in handcuffs. Hundreds of billions of dollars in shareholder value have evaporated as companies are forced to restate deceptive financial reports.
In Washington, Congress swiftly passed a business fraud bill by overwhelming margins, legislation designed to toughen regulation of companies' financial reporting and provide oversight of independent auditors. On Tuesday Bush signed the bill, assuring us that, despite the significant downturn on Wall Street, our economy is sound.
But how did we get into this mess in the first place? A few bad apples? A handful of insatiable CEOs? Underzealous oversight? It’s really not that difficult; as usual, just follow the money.
(1) Corporations purchase influence with the politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, by providing them with generous campaign contributions.
(2) Then lobbyists representing these same corporations press beholden legislators for regulatory and legislative changes that make it easier for the corporations to obfuscate, cheat, lie and steal.
(3) Next, the corporate bigwigs, taking full advantage of the legislative and regulatory loopholes, artificially inflate stock prices and walk away with millions, leaving investors and employees holding the bag.
(4) Much of the media, too, are complicit in this skullduggery for failure to bring these practices to light earlier and, in some cases, for actually participating in them.
(5) And let us not forget our role. For many of us had contracted the “infectious greed,” hoping to make a killing of our own in the booming stock market. Thus we gladly disregarded the few harbingers of things to come that did appear in the media.
Admittedly the folks in Washington are actually hearing the outrage of their constituents. And in reaction to this fury, they are passing cover-your-ass legislation and talking like born again populists. But let’s face it: We don’t have government of the people, by the people and for the people. We have government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation. We have plutocracy—rule by the wealthy few.
And yet, why should we expect anything different? For most of us have abdicated our responsibilities as citizens. Only about half of us bother to vote. And those of us who do are willing to pull the lever for one of the various sanitized, corporation-supported, wealthy candidates. We’ve gone to sleep, into the deep slumber of unconsciousness, victimhood and cynicism.
But we are only helpless if we think we’re helpless. We are only defeated if we believe we’re defeated. We’re only subjugated if we allow ourselves to be subjugated. We must stand up. We must refuse to be bullied by those who proclaim that unregulated business and tax cuts for the rich are beneficial for all Americans.
The time is past to count on Democrats or Republicans. The time is past to bow down to the grand poobahs of big business. The time is past to seek the truth from the corporate media. We can take the power back. We have the means. We have the numbers. And now we must have the will.
Readers can contact Bruce Mulkey via e-mail at email@example.com