Thursday, February 2, 2006

60. Big business behind it all

A Harris Interact poll recently showed that about 90 percent of Americans believe that big business has too much power. Big business, too much power, really? Do ya think?

The problem with big business is that it starts at the top. Will Durst in The Progressive satirically writes, in response to the president sometimes being labeled as a racist, "George Bush doesn't hate black people. George Bush doesn't hate poor people, either. He just LOVES rich people. A whole lot. With a love of operatic magnitude." Durst also points to the president's record, "Economic stimuli for the wealthy. Legislative amendments for the wealthy..." Conversely, he notes, "Medicaid and Medicare cuts for the poor. Food and nutritional cuts for the poor. Education cuts for the poor..."

Rich people (I mean really rich people) do not usually become rich by working real hard and paying off that mortgage, or winning the lottery. If the wealthy do not become so through inheritance, they usually become so by taking it from poor people, or giving their jobs to even poorer people, or bribing other rich people, or by destroying foreign governments.

In the New York Times Bestseller, "Confessions of an Economic Hit man," John Perkins exposes big business on a global level, and the high stakes it entails. Globalization, in his experience, has created a "corporatocracy," in which corporations, though government interest and cooperation and international financial organizations control and manipulate foreign governments- all in the interest of greed and the perseverance of the American standard of living.

The tell-all autobiography details Perkins' experience with Chas T. Main and the impact that his work as an "economic hit man" has had on other countries. It is a chilling tale of his experience in negotiating with foreign counties to loan them exceedingly large amounts of money for infrastructure based on inflated economic projections. The contracts were subsequently awarded to American companies, and the rulers of those countries became very wealthy. In time, however, the inflated economic projections eventually forced countries to default on their loans, which in exchange, Perkins claims, led to "United Nation votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources such as oil or the Panama Canal." Perkins points to Saudi Arabia as a successful example, detailing a symbiotic relationship in which America provides protection for oil, and the ruling party enjoys great wealth.

However if a leader maintains his or her commitment to do what is best for the country, and turn downs the offers made by the economic hit men, Perkins claims that the CIA-sanctioned jackals are sent in. Ideologist leaders are either overthrown or assassinated and a more favorable government is installed. Omar Torrijos, for example, rose to power in Panama and negotiated with President Carter to acquire ownership of the Panama Canal. He not only refused to renegotiate the Canal Treaty with newly-elected president Ronald Regan, but also continued to engage in anti-corporatocracy behavior. He died in a plane crash in 1981. Not so coincidentally, his death occurred only two months after Jamie Roldós, leader of Ecuador, also died in a plane crash after resisting threats and intimidation from the oil companies.

Finally, Perkins claims, if the economic hit men fail, and the jackals fail, the military is then called upon to take matters into their owns hands. The United States originally supported Saddam Hussein, much like they supported Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union. The feeling was that Saddam would make agreements with the United States similar to what the rulers of Saudi Arabia had made. He refused, and he has been paying the price ever since. In the first war with Iraq, Saddam prompted American involvement by invading Kuwait and violating international law (Bush, Perkins notes, also staged an illegal and unilateral invasion of Panama less than a year earlier). And, as we know now, the second war has been the result of the misinformation and propaganda put forth by the second Bush administration.

There is nothing, it seems, more consistent than the interest of big business and those it supports. Perkins summarizes, "The income ratio of the one-fifth of the world's population in the wealthiest countries to the one-fifth in the poorest went from 30-1 in 1960 to 74-1 in 1995. The Untied States spends over $87 billion conducting a war in Iraq while the United Nations estimates that for less than half that amount we could provide clean water, adequate diets, sanitation services and basic education to every person on the planet."

If you are keeping track, 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related deaths. It seems the rich get richer, the poor die starving to death. Big business, too much power- you ask? We read over and over about the social, economic and environmental terror inflicted by corporations. We watch the documentaries, and the movies. The question really is, the only question that matters- does anyone have the power to stop them?

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