Unfettered Capitalism: Romney’s Dream, America’s Nightmare

If I listen to Republicans, along with a few friends and readers, this country’s problems would all disappear if only intrusive government and pesky regulations were eliminated, and capitalism allowed to become the rule of the land. Free markets are the rights’ mantra for economic growth, led by tax reductions for wealthy individuals and corporations.

Being unencumbered with hazy, gossamer-like Republican altered states and sound-byte mantras, I’d rather study facts and consider a few recent incidents before jumping to their conclusion.

Español: Un Wal-Mart remodelado en la Ciudad d...

Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart is a retail giant and paragon of right-wing capitalism. It also has a long history of labor abuses and lawsuits, including sexual harassment, discrimination, locking employees in and shorting their pay. The company is noted for abusive relationships with suppliers, and recently eliminated employee profit-sharing to pay additional bonuses to CEO Michael Duke.

A New York Times investigation resulted in a 3-page spread in Sunday’s newspaper. Wal-Mart de Mexico is reported to have paid over $24 million in bribes to speed the permit process and pave the way for the chains rapid  growth in Mexico, far outstripping its competition.

The details of the payments are contained in the original article. [see link, below]. But a few points are worth repeating. The president of Wal-Mart de Mexico, Eduardo Castro-Wright, was the driving force behind the years of bribery. Corporate Wal-Mart’s lead investigator was a former FBI agent, and summed up his report to management in Bentonville, Arkansas with “There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated.”

Further, he recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation. The recommendation was fully studied by Lee Scott, CEO at the time, and Michael Duke, current CEO. Wal-Marts’ then legal counsel, Maritza Munich, warned the board and key executives of the  apparent violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and supported a further investigation.

Instead of taking the ethical steps of implementing the recommendation, Under Scott’s direction, the investigation was quashed. Castro-Wright was subsequently promoted to Vice-Chairman of Wal-Mart, and until stepping down this week, was a member of the board and lead ethics director for Met Life.

So much for Company Best Practices statements, Board level Ethics, Audit Committees and Compliance Officers.

Truck hauling 36-Inch Pipe to build Keystone-C...

Truck hauling 36-Inch Pipe to build Keystone-Cushing Pipeline in Kansas

Keystone Pipeline:

The Obama administration is catching flack for its having put the Keystone Pipeline project, at least the Nebraska section, on hold, pending a safety review.

Republicans are attacking Obama on the dubious grounds of thousands of jobs and the loss of additional oil available to cut the price of gasoline.

First Actual Fact: Over 95% of the oil delivered to Gulf ports by the pipeline is destined for export-the impact on US oil available for our consumption is negligible.

Second Actual Fact: The Keystone Company has clearly stated on several occasions that there would likely be 4,000-6,000 construction jobs, lasting approximately 18 months. Actual full-time, new positions upon completion would not exceed 50 jobs.

The original proposed pipeline route carried it over the largest aquifer in the US, and the sole source of drinking water for millions of mid-west residents. Ignoring the possible risks of a spill upon the aquifer, the Republican party, with a few crossing Democrats, are pressuring the Administration to lift the ban and begin construction, claiming the ban is a political maneuver by Obama.

Our Pipeline History:

BP Petroleum, (Name sound familiar?) manages the Alaska Pipeline, a project of similar size and scope. Under their care the pipeline has averaged about 100 or more leaks per year for the last several years! Luckily, most have been small, but 100 leaks per year? And just to show a consistency in BP’s performance as a “Good Corporate Citizen,” they have amassed a file full of violations and fines for improper maintenance.

Sounds eerily similar to the months leading up to the Gulf spill. A box full of safety violations, tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and yet BP continued their dangerous ways.

One significant leak and the environmental damage will be catastrophic. It takes a surprisingly tiny amount of oil to poison drinking water. Why should we be rushing to take that risk? Keystone has indicated its willingness to look at rerouting the pipeline, why can’t the “Capitalism at all Costs” Republicans?

And consider this: Capitalism role models BP and Wal-Mart operate today under laws and regulations. Imagine their behavior if there were no laws and regulations?

These are just two examples of corporate capitalism gone wild. The fact is that we have not had true capitalism, nor a market-driven economy in this country for the last 30-50 years. Free wheeling mergers and acquisitions have eliminated the balancing effect of market-driven competition. Prices are set in boardrooms, not in the marketplace. Labor has been decimated to the point it lacks any ability to negotiate wages or working conditions. We are paying close to $4.00 a gallon for gasoline not because of demand, but because regardless of the name on the pump, the gas is delivered through the same pipeline, from the same refinery, owned by the same corporate parent, who sets the price.

Romney’s Vision of Capitalism:

If only all government regulations, such as those covering air and water pollution, shop safety, and labor would all go away, then our economy would come roaring back, the wealth would trickle down to the individual, wages would increase, and we would return to the age of greatness that America once was. This was the essence of Romney’s victory speech this Wednesday, his vision for the future. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne captured it clearly in a piece from April 26th. [see link, below].

For me, I have not forgotten “The Jungle”, Upton Sinclair’s description of work in the Chicago stockyards. Or mining disasters where hundreds were killed. Those that survived could look forward to dying of black lung disease. I remember stories told by my Grandfathers of his labor in the paper mill as a child of 12.

But there is likely no better a book to read about the risks of unfettered capitalism and the company owners, unregulated, uncontrolled, and uncaring, than those described in the biography, “Clarence Darrow” by John A. Farrell. This was a time, 100 years ago, that saw capitalism at it unrestrained worst, and one lawyers’ attempt to change people’s lives in the face of unmitigated greed. It was a time of 6 day work weeks, 12 hour days, child labor, overpriced company housing, rampant disease, poor food, and nonexistent medical care.

This is the wondrous freedom of “Capitalism” that Romney sees in our future.

May his dream never come to fruition.

But that’s just me…

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/wal_mart_stores_inc/index.html?offset=5&s=newest

http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/perspectives/ej-dionne-jr-romneys-latest-flip-flop-is-intended-to-hide-the-radical-implications-of-his-ideology-633139/

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About Barneysday

Musings come to me from time-to-time. Thoughts on politics, life, religion, nature, and other topics occupy me and some, I believe, might be worth sharing. Anything on this post is pretty much my own interpertation and not meant to be anything more than that. I encourage discussions, alternative viewpoints, and agreements to disagree. If your reasoning powers are limited to personal slurs, name-calling or insults, save it for Fox News.
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10 Responses to Unfettered Capitalism: Romney’s Dream, America’s Nightmare

  1. Hi there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Cheers

  2. Andie Paysinger says:

    I’ve been enjoying your musings and I agree with virtually everything and have been attempting to show the same information to friends who have, in my opinion, been hoodwinked by the Republican “story.”
    I’m 73, a white, heterosexual woman, and I grew up in a time when unions had enough clout (except in my home state of Kentucky, W. Virginia &etc., to counter some of the worst abuses of big industries.
    I’ve been a Democrat my entire voting life and come from a family of loyal Democrats who worked for the first and subsequent campaigns of FDR. I was 21 in 1960, attended the DN convention on Wednesday, July 13 and voted for President Kennedy that November and was thrilled when he won.
    I’ve seen first hand the destruction of unfettered coal mining abuses (and heard stories of when young boys were sent to work in the mines in the generation before mine) and the virtual slavery that was imposed on the miners.

    The only Republican President that really had a positive effect on this country was President Eisenhower and I would love to see the same tax code levied on the millionaires and billionaires that were in effect during his presidency. There was prosperity for more people and a brilliantly expanding middle class. And the Interstate highway system that facilitated interstate trade. (But did more or less kill the railroad monopoly on long-distance freight.)

    I’ve been self-supporting for most of my life, now retired. The actions of the Koch Brothers, big oil, Massey Coal and all the PACs that can accept cash from foreign sources, is frightening to me.
    I worry about the Keystone pipeline because much of it will be over the “high plains aquifer” AKA the Ogallala Aquifer, and a spill that allows oil into that could affect millions of people and the Koch Brothers simply do not care, they brush off any questions about safety. The pipeline, when finished, will be much too close to the New Madrid Seismic Zone. I was born in western Kentucky some 70 miles from there and some of the bluffs along the rivers are evidence of ground movement in 1811/12 when the Really Big Ones hit. There has been much more activity around that fault zone in recent years but still the people pushing for that pipeline ignore the facts.
    Sorry for the extended comment.

    • Barneysday says:

      First thing, thank you for your thoughtful, in-depth comments. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate responses such as yours, that indicate the writer has thought about the topic and has framed their comments in a manner exhibiting more than a perfunctory level of analysis.

      I don’t really have a party affiliation, and if this were an election with two, new candidates, I likely would be writing to identify their weaknesses and foibles on an equal basis. But to the current events, I truly believe the Democrats have squandered a great deal of public support and capital these last 4 years.

      Having said that, Mittens Romney and the Republicans scare the hell out of me, for all of the reasons you mention and then some.

      I heard a great piece on talk radio this last week, where the speaker maintains that if this were past history, the RepubliCANTS would be the Torries, and against every little bit of change. In other words, they fear change, such as health care for all. They are a party unto themselves, not unlike Agusta National Golf Club, a group of inbred men who don’t allow women in their private circle, but who also will fight change tooth and nail.

      Fracking to search for natural gas is ok, because the drillers captive scientists say so. Just as the oil drillers in the gulf told us drilling there was safe, just as the oil tanker industry told us there would never be a major spill. In all cases, such as BP in the Gulf, and the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, it was all safe until it wasn’t, it was all safe until there was a catastrophe. Fracking is a major disaster that just has not yet occurred. Only with the aquifer, this could be the worst disaster in history.

      The pipeline is a RepubliCANT PR issue, nothing more. By holding the Jobs bill hostage for it, they can insure a good Democratic bill will never pass Congress, while claiming the President is the one holding it up for his insistence on a new environmental study. Why the public is not up in arms over this proves to me only how basically stupid most voters are. Many have said we do not deserve a democracy, and events seem to prove that.

      For the life of me, I can’t understand working people not wanting health care. Under our current system, sponsored by Republicans heavily lobbied and paid for by the health industry, we have coverage, paid for out of our pockets, until the health company drops us because we got sick, or lost our jobs, or have a “pre-existing” condition. What is the possible rationale in that??? Do Voters really believe that the Congress is looking out for us?

      And why are the voters up in arms over Ryan’s budget proposals? Don’t the have parents and grandparents who are living on social security? Who rely on Medicare for their basic health needs? Kids in school? Plans for their own retirement?

      Any way, enough of my own ranting. Thanks again for writing, I do appreciate it.

      Best

      Barney

  3. hermitsdoor says:

    I recall when I lived in NYC that many delivery drivers just double parked, took the ticket and handed it over to the corporate office to pay the fine as “the expense of doing business in the Big Apple”. While million dollar fines appear scary to us non-millionaires (or even those who have squeaked out a million in their careers but are just sawdust on the floor of the billionaires), to the corporations bringing in multiples of billions annually, those fines are just a few parking tickets, “the expense of doing business in the global economy”.

    Yesterday, we had a corporate mandated inservice on health care compliance. This was basically a here-is-how-we-play-the-game talk about meeting health care regulations, which the GOP wants to eliminate. One interesting factiod was about the former CEO of HCA (Hospital Corporation of America), Rick Scott. Under his direction, HCA was fined millions and various high level officers were criminally prosecuted and sent to prison for billing fraud. Scott’s defense? “No one told me… I didn’t know…”. “Okie-dokie” was the investigator’s response, when he was not even further investigated. Where is Rick Scott now? Governor of Florida. That is life WITH regulation! How many more of the schemers do we want making the rules under which we live?
    Oscar

    • Barneysday says:

      Our regulators are attack dogs witn no teeth. BP huge spill, very extensive history of ignoring safety issues and fines, 3 killed at Texas refinery fire 5 years ago, and who do they indict for Gulf spill? A low level engineer.

      How many have been indicted for wall street crisis? Zero.

      And on and on and on…

      There’s no fear in flaunting the rules, thus these kinds of companies literally get away with murder.

  4. walkingsmall says:

    I keep coming back here for the best commentary around. And… “lead ethics director for Met Life” – how do these titles find these people? It’s like some devious soul is able to think ahead and pick the one title that will bring the best laughs.

    • Barneysday says:

      It’s amazing, isn’t it? Identified as the man behind the bribes, promoted to chief of WM USA, promoted to a director on the board, then lead ethics director for Met Life, a company itself under a cloud of suspicion. And we wonder why people have no faith in public institutions.

      Thanks for writing.

  5. I abandoned the Republican vision 3 years after the promise of compassionate conservatism. I’m looking for a vision of compassionate pragmatism, where we acknowledge government and business are managed by people, and both need to be checked. And there needs to be a fluid balance between the two. Where we remember that government has done some good – 1) laws protecting workers, consumers, and citizens; investments in infrastructure that is the foundation of our modern lives; investments in science and tech that produced products and services that fuel our modern economy.

    Tea Party Republicans are engaging in a form of manic conservatism that is destructive. I might be a bit more open to listening to the virtues of Keystone Pipeline if the other side wasn’t ridiculing and stamping out investments in renewables. There’s no rational give and take on the other side. That’s unacceptable. They need to be fired.

    • Barneysday says:

      My history is similar, although I abandoned the “Compassionate Conservatives” pretty quickly after the infamous, “You’re either with us or you’re a terrorist” malarky.

      You will find the Koch brothers of Kansas widely behind many of the movements, or should I say anti-movements we are faced with today. They were heavy investors in the Tea Baggers, Wisconsins, Ohios and Michigans anti-labor laws, supported Wilson in Wisconsin and are heavily supporting his defense against the anti-recall, and on and on. They are coal miners and oil men—no surprise they fight alternative energy, support Keystone, and working to deconstruct the EPA-Could it be because they face tens-of-thousands in fines for water and air pollution, and unsafe mine practices???

      My personal feeling is that the Republicans are handing this election to the Democrats with their intractability on virtually every issue.

      Thanks for writing

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