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A State of Alabama jury has determined that the production and marketing contracts that many farmers sign with processors and other buyers are anti-competitive if the buyer or processor is one of a handful that control a market.
In February, 2004, a jury awarded $1.28 billion to a group of up to 30,000 cattlemen after finding that TYSON FOODS, the largest beef processor in the United States, had unfairly manipulated cattle prices for almost a decade.
That's $43,000 per farmer from ONE link in the agri-food chain.
Free Trade for Whom?
An interview with Kristin Dawkins
By David Barsamian
Kristin Dawkins is director of the Trade and Agriculture Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. She directs the Institute’s work on ecological economics and the links between trade and environmental policy. She came to the Institute from Harvard Law School Program in Negotiation, where she was Senior Writer for the publication Consensus. From 1973 to 1989 she worked in community development in Philadelphia, where she served as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Jobs and Energy Project. She is the author of Gene Wars: The Politics of Biotechnology.
BARSAMIAN: You write, “The Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as GATT, and the creation of the World Trade Organization, WTO, have elevated concerns about the impacts of global trade rules on rural and urban communities, family farmers, consumers, indigenous peoples, the environment, democracy, and human rights.” You want to delineate a little bit?
DAWKIN: In general, the objective of globalization, particularly as it is being driven by trade policy, is the commercialization of everything. The marketplace determines societal decisions. Its goal is to have corporate wealth as the measure of human welfare. This is the general problem that the Uruguay Round and its 28 different trade agreements is exacerbating. Each one of the constituencies you listed is affected somewhat differently by one or more of the 28 agreements, according to the part they play in the general economy and the changes that are driving the way they can or can’t make money in a global economy.
I’m interested that you mention “democracy” and “human rights” as a constituency.
There are constituencies trying to reinforce democracy and human rights as alternative frameworks for global policy. The United Nations and its agencies are not perfectly democratic, but at least all of the governments of the world do have a vote. On the other hand, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund are the three institutions spearheading globalization, often referred to as the Bretton Woods group. This group is not driven by a voting procedure in which all governments have a voice or a vote. It is driven by a voting procedure based on the dollar. The wealthy countries that invest money in those organizations get to make the decisions. The poorer nations of the world, who are generally the recipients of the policy and the actual financial aid, have no voice in the decisions that are made.
Bretton Woods is in New Hampshire. In 1944 it was the site of a big power economic summit to shape the postwar economic world.
It was part of the general movement towards the Marshall Plan. After the war, the very highly industrialized U.S. economy no longer had war production to fuel the economy, and so they were trying to convert to a peacetime agenda. That peacetime agenda was essentially to rebuild Europe. So they embarked on a series of institutional design questions, created the World Bank, the IMF, and what was the GATT up until very recently. It’s been converted into the WTO. In so doing, they poured a lot of money into construction of harbors, shipping, transport, railroads, and factory development. All of that was designed to subsidize the reconstruction of Europe. Once Europe was reconstructed, however, things really changed. It became a competitor. The industrial sectors of Europe and the U.S. began to compete with each other and to compete for foreign markets in the developing world. As a result, over time there’s been a switch in the policies that these three Bretton Woods institutions embrace. These policies are now designed to move the industrialized production system into the Third World, exploit the resources and the labor of the Third World, and make those cheaper imports available to a globalized economy that is supposedly more efficient, but definitely more profitable for the transnational corporations.
Perhaps some people are stuck in the quagmire of acronyms that surround trade issues. We’ve already mentioned GATT and the WTO. Then there are NAFTA and MAI and terms like fast track. Could you sort these out?
GATT is the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. At the time, the Bretton Woods negotiators were really designing something they called the International Trade Organization. Reading those original documents, one sees a number of principles that might be considered valid and important to implement at the international level, such as antitrust regulation and fair pricing for trade and international commodities. These parts of the International Trade Organization, however, did not get implemented into international law, precisely because the Truman administration at that time was having a number of partisan disputes with Congress. The only piece able to emerge from the congressional process was the one segment of the International Trade Organization that dealt with commercial trade. So only commercial trade was regulated, and in those days the regulations were primarily promotion of trade in order to re-stimulate investments in Europe. To this day they remain a promotion of trade more than a regulation of trade.
A number of the regulations that are emerging from the last couple of rounds of trade negotiations, in particular the Uruguay Round, which was finished in 1994, require governments to undo laws that had been made at the national level through processes of citizen participation, through Congresses or Parliaments, as the case may be. According to the WTO, which is the new World Trade Organization created by the Uruguay Round to enforce the new trade regime, many existing national laws need to be either changed in order to conform with international trade law or a country has to pay a penalty if they prefer to keep what has been their democratically derived national legislation.
NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, passed Congress by a narrow vote.
In 1993, Congress voted in favor of NAFTA, 234-200. The vote was close because of well organized campaigning against the kind of free trade the U.S. promotes on behalf of corporations. Canadians can talk at great length about the changes in their economy, none for the better, that the 1989 Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. started up there. Then free trade promoters took a number of those principles, applied them to Mexico, and added another couple of layers. Free trade means that corporations are allowed to send goods back and forth across borders, regardless of a number of policies that at the border used to be considered legitimate protection for the citizenry. Take, for example, the inspection of meats. One of the provisions of NAFTA was that the meat industry should be allowed to ship meat back and forth across the border with minimal inspection standards.
In the summer of 1997, there was the largest recall of meat in U.S. history.
There are more and more scares every day. I just read that the average American has one stomach upset per year as a result of eating food. There is a general decline in food safety standards. Meat inspections are way down. So, too, are pesticide standards, so that the amount of toxic residue on the fruits and vegetables that we get at the store is often higher than in the past. All of this is in the interest of promoting trade and commerce, not in the interest of protecting the public.
When the U.S., which is the prime mover behind these free trade pacts, crafts them, they are structured as agreements rather than treaties. Why that distinction?
This gets us to fast track. Under our Constitution, the Senate has the obligation to determine what international treaties become national law. It requires a vote of two-thirds of the Senate for an international treaty to be implemented as part of U.S. law. The two-thirds requirement is fairly stiff. In order to evade that particular requirement, which I would say is a highly democratic provision, the White House, going back a good 20 years, has used what is called the fast track process and changed the classification from treaties to executive agreements requiring just a 51 percent majority vote of the House or Senate. They claim that it’s difficult to reach a balance with a number of issues having been bargained back and forth to reach some kind of optimal agreement among many countries. In order to preserve this delicate balance, the White House prefers to eliminate through fast track the right and obligation of the Congress to approve them as treaties. Instead they’re obliged to vote on the entire package as a simple agreement with a majority vote, up or down, one vote each for the whole package. No debate and no consideration of the different issues.
The advocates of free trade argue that the world is becoming a global village and we are interdependent economically, and that’s a good thing. So, for example, you can get a batik sarong from Indonesia in Minneapolis or you can buy basmati rice from India in Boulder, Colorado. In return, people in those countries can get a Madonna video, a Michael Jackson CD, or Nike Air Jordans.
The joys of modern progress. There are definitely some advantages to trade. I drink coffee. I drink orange juice. Those things aren’t grown in Minnesota where I live, so it is a privilege that I have as a citizen of the global economy to be able to consume these products daily. But on the other hand, the premise that trade generates wealth for all is a bogus argument.
Tetteh Hormeku of the Third World Network in Penang, Malaysia, in an article in <W0>Third World Resurgence magazine, writes that U.S. trade policy in Africa is “intervention by other means.... President Clinton’s offer at the Denver G-7 summit in June of 1997 to expand trade to Africa is not designed to build the continent’s economic capacities. Rather the move is part of a multi-pronged attempt to promote U.S. corporate interests in Africa.”
First let me explain the MAI which you asked about earlier. The MAI, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, is the latest and greatest effort by the transnational corporations to completely eliminate any regulations that nation-states may have created to try to make sure that there is some degree of trickle-down. An investor comes into a country, let’s say Zimbabwe, and sets up shop, develops an enterprise, makes some money, and ships that money back home to a bank in New York or Switzerland or offshore. The Zimbabweans may have established some rules governing foreign investors to ensure that some percentage of the value of what that enterprise makes is reinvested in the local economy before the profits are taken out of the country: performance requirements that an investor has to either hire locally or use locally manufactured inputs, for example. The draft MAI is a set of rules for governments requiring them to free investors from the kinds of development policies that I’m mentioning. As a further violation of democratic principles, the MAI is being negotiated not at the global level, but in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is the grouping of 29 or so of the richest countries in the world, the industrialized nations’ club, as it’s sometimes called.
If the MAI is eventually approved by these 29 rich countries, then, the draft rules say, other poorer countries can join in, without having had any access to the negotiations. Africa is considered a very interesting new market, not so much for the sale of products but for investors as a source of new raw materials for production and cheap labor, of course. So the Clinton administration is looking at a way to get a head start over the rest of the world in setting up shop for U.S.-based transnationals to penetrate that African market. There is a bill in Congress that would basically set up a NAFTA-style arrangement with African countries, but it goes even farther than NAFTA in that it applies a number of the same conditions that go along with the so-called structural adjustment process. These are conditions required of indebted governments by the IMF and World Bank to restructure their economies so that, theoretically, they will pay off their debt as the top priority. One of the conditions is currency devalution. Suppose that on one day you had $10,000 in the bank and suddenly your currency is devalued, let’s say, 50 percent; that means the next day you only have $5,000. So for holders of money, devaluing can be a terrible problem. For people, however, who are exporting, it means that the price of their goods goes down by half. The sudden cheaper price in the world marketplace means that they get a step up against their competitors. So suddenly you see the demand for those products increasing. Only half of the original value in foreign exchange is coming into their economy, but they’re selling a whole lot more stuff. The foreign exchange gets banked, and enables the country to make a debt payment. This result is good for the traders themselves and the creditors, but bad for the nations and very bad for the general population. Currency devaluation is one of the conditions attached to structural adjustment policies in general and the Africa trade bill in particular.
Structural adjustment also encompasses privatization of the public sector and shredding of the social safety net.
Those are other conditions that are a general part of structural adjustment policies and the African trade bill. They are designed to take as much of the cash that is within an economy as possible, extract it from the local system, and get it into the big banks that are presently owed money through a lot of financial mismanagement over past decades. By privatizing government services, such as agricultural marketing boards or electricity and telephone services, governmental expenditures go down so more revenues can go into debt payments. By cutting back on health and education and other social services, more government revenues can go into debt payments. The whole purpose is to extract public wealth for the banking system.
The Clintonites and those who preceded them argue that free trade is essential for the future economic well-being and growth of the U.S. They liken it to a form of national security. They say that the U.S. must remain competitive in an increasingly tough global economy. The mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs is intoned by Clinton and treasury and trade officials.
This is deeply cynical. The jobs that one can point to as a result of the free trade agreements are in general a matter of lost jobs. The actual econometric evaluation of NAFTA, for example, looks at something like 420,000 jobs lost out of the U.S. economy as a result of the changes in our trading patterns. The idea that free trade generates jobs is really hard for the proponents to prove. One of the economists that they cite most often, who was with the Institute for International Economics, admitted one year after NAFTA was in place that he had been wrong and that all of his own projections had been incorrect. The economy, however, of the transnational corporations has been boosted by these agreements. It’s easy to look at their bottom lines and see tremendous increases in sales as they’ve taken advantage of new markets in other countries, markets that were essentially stolen from national capital and small, local producers in the rest of the world.
In the context of the Asian economic meltdown, the International Monetary Fund has come under rather widespread criticism for the first time from economists like Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman for some of its lending and bailout policies.
It’s good to see, finally. The original goals of the IMF was for it to act as a stabilizer of last resort. So that at a much smaller scale, if this kind of a phenomenon had occurred in the 1940s and the 1950s, the theory was that the IMF would have the ability to take some of its money and invest it in that suddenly shaky economy and thus keep the amount of cash available to that system somewhat stable and therefore functional. The result, however, of the last few decades of IMF policy has been virtually the reverse. They are still a lender of last resort but only after a country is in a lot of economic trouble, and the conditions attached to those loans make things worse: devaluations, the privatization of much of the fundamental infrastructure in a country, and the extraction of every available public dollar to pay back those earlier debts. With new loans being used to pay off old loans, as Fidel Castro has pointed out, the debt is in many cases actually mathematically impossible to pay off with the kind of production systems that drive those economies; that is, the debts and compounded interest are so great that repayment can never be achieved. A private debtor would go bankrupt, but a country cannot close its doors. This is what we’re seeing in much of Africa and in other parts of the Third World, where the debt has grown proportionately over many years. The IMF has loaned over and over again to keep some degree of fluidity in these economies, but without fogiving the debt. So as the debt mounts and mounts, an economy finally becomes prostrate before international policy. That’s when the conditions swing in. Under IMF-imposed structural adjustment regimes, governments are forced to eliminate health, safety, education, and food assistance subsidies.
The U.S. is the largest constituent member in the IMF and clearly calls the shots within that organization. Does that one dollar of taxpayer-supported money from the U.S. go to the IMF, then to Indonesia, and come back to pay off a New York bank? Is that fairly accurate?
It is, more or less. This bailout that is being talked about in Congress right now, and is the top foreign policy priority of the Clinton administration, is designed to do essentially that. The taxpayers’ money would be given to the IMF. The IMF would then lend it to the banking system, the national treasury in these countries. They would use the treasury of that country, and therefore the credit-worthiness of the people of that country, to help buy out the bankrupt companies in that country, as well as to give additional fluidity to those handful of companies that have managed to stay afloat. Those companies that have gone bankrupt, oftentimes their creditors are the banks in New York. So under normal bankruptcy proceeding, there is the list of creditors who get paid off first and foremost. They tend to be the big banking names like Chase Manhattan and Citibank. Those guys then become the ultimate recipients of the bailout process.
You use the term biopiracy.” What is it?
The normal kind of piracy that we’re all familiar with is when a ship on the high seas back in the 1700s would plunder another ship and loot it. In modern times the plunderers are going into wilderness areas in the Third World, the Amazon, some of the Asian and African tropical belts, and plundering the genetic resources, which are very prolific in these tropical zones. Modern biopirates are scientists, anthropologists, botanists, people with that kind of training who know how to approach a tribal community or a forest-dwelling community in the tropical forests and find out from their shamans, their medicine people, their leaders what their use of some of the local plants may be. If you look at our modern medicine, some 90 percent of the medications that are prescribed have their active ingredient derived from plants. These traditional medicine healers have scientific knowledge. The anthropologists go into villages, find out about useful plants, take them back to the laboratories in the U.S. or Europe, develop a new medicine from that knowledge, patent that medicine with a 20-year monopoly on any use of that knowledge for that one company to profit from. This is biopiracy.
For example, the aloe plant. It has healing properties for cuts and burns. Are you saying that a corporation will have an absolute patent right on that and if you were living in Costa Rica you could not go into the forest and pick an aloe leaf and use it?
The police aren’t lurking behind every aloe plant throughout the planet. In most cases people will still go out and pick the leaf and use it. But where there’s a real profit to be made, the private police of that company are monitoring these kinds of activities. The case I’d like to mention is a practice that used to be very common in the U.S. and is still common throughout the rest of the world, and that is for farmers to re-use seeds. They plant a seed and it grows a crop and they select from that crop some of the better seed and then use it next year for the next planting season. But now that they are patenting seeds companies are finding that some farmers are going ahead and re-planting these patented seeds anyway, contrary to the terms of the contract that the farmers sign when they buy it, the companies are actually penalizing those farmers. You would think seeds are common and available. But when there is a tremendous market to be kept for the private use of one company, they will send the police out. Farmers in the U.S. have been fined and, in some cases, their crops have been burned as a penalty for re-planting patented seeds.
You talk about some case studies in India, three in particular, neem, basmati rice, and turmeric.
The basmati case is the most recent. In late 1997, Ricetec, which is a U.S.-based company, went to the Patent and Trademark Office of the U.S. government to file for a patent on basmati. The result means that they are the only company in the world allowed to use the name “basmati” on a commercially sold package of rice. In the northern region that straddles India and Pakistan, basmati rice has been produced for hundreds if not thousands of years. It is a special form of rice that is particularly sweet, aromatic, and very popular. This means that Indian farmers, who developed this rice, who made it sweet and aromatic through cross-breeding and selection processes, are no longer able to market the rice from the original region as long as Ricetech owns the patent and can monopolize use of that name.
The same with the neem. Neem is a tree that grows everywhere in India. It happens to have properties that are insecticidal and antibacterial. People go out in their backyards and pick a few leaves and use them to brush their teeth with, to wash their clothes with, to delouse with if they’re having a problem with lice. The W.R. Grace & Company took the neem seed and, through a number of laboratory processes, developed a certain pesticidal extract and patented its manufacturing process. All together, more than a dozen U.S. patents have been taken out by various companies on uses of the neem. The patents don’t mean an Indian can’t use the tree. The neem police aren’t watching every backyard. But they do prevent Indians from competing in the commercial world using a plant that is from India. It’s W.R. Grace and the other patent-holders’ right to commercialize neem in any capacity whatsoever for 20 years.
Turmeric is used in cooking and it helps in healing as well. There was a patent applied for in the U.S. which declared all commercial uses of turmeric would belong to the company. This one was successfully challenged by the Indian government, which is very likely to challenge the basmati patent, too. In the case of turmeric, after a good deal of publicity, the company was forced by the U.S. to withdraw its patent.
Today three giant corporations dominate agriculture, ConAgra, Continental Grain, and Archer Daniels Midland. The latter, which calls itself “supermarket to the world,” is a major sponsor of National Public Radio and PBS. It was convicted of price-fixing on the international grain market and fined $100 million, the largest amount in history. What kind of impact do those three corporations have on U.S. agriculture?
What we see in rural America is the result of a couple of decades of this process in which agribusiness has been lobbying for low farm prices—cheap raw materials for their industry. During the 1980s, the combination of low farm prices and high interest rates forced many farmers to go bankrupt. The number of family farmers today is roughly about a million, down from something like six to eight million a couple of decades ago, while the agribusiness conglomerates have expanded by leaps and bounds. This corporate windfall is structured in a very clever fashion. Every five years, the U.S. government produces something that they call “the farm bill.” If you look back five years at a time, you find a very steady lowering of the legislated “target price.” This is the price farmers get paid and, since the 1950s, it’s been less than their costs of production. The farm bill then offers a taxpayer subsidy of the difference between this low target price and what the private sector, the companies that you mentioned, offer in the market. Thanks to this insulation by taxpayers, the big companies have gradually been able to offer a lower and lower market price. The taxpayers’ contribution, up to a legislated target price, still fails to bring the value that the farmer makes up to the actual cost that the farm entails when it puts a crop into the ground. That difference, for many years around 25 percent of real costs, is what led to the bankruptcies of the 1980s. Now we’re seeing another wave of farm bankruptcies, as the most recent farm bill eliminated government support for farmers’ income altogether.
Again, within the context of really existing capitalism, Archer Daniels Midland is one of the largest recipients of corporate welfare. This has been documented by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy.
This is absolutely true. Yet they go ahead and do their price-fixing and their market allocations with their subsidiaries in other countries around the world. The case that they got caught for had to do with a byproduct of the grains themselves, but they were colluding with Japanese subsidiaries to affect the international market for this lysine product as well.
Where’s the USDA in all this?
ADM, the “supermarket to the world,” was caught and fined a record-breaking $100 million. But compared to the $15 billion in sales ADM expects to make this year, it’s not enough to eliminate this kind of rogue marketing. There’s something like a couple thousand complaints of various sorts of antitrust violations that the U.S. government fields every year. They are only able to investigate something like a few hundred of those. Those few hundred end up getting mired in enormous bureaucratic procedures, otherwise we would hear about more ADM-type scandals. But this is the nature of antitrust enforcement in the government today. Not to end pessimistically, I’d say the average American is getting more and more skeptical about corporate welfare, while internationally there is a lot of resistance to U.S. policy as it is being advanced by the Bretton Woods Institutions. Campaigns at the WTO this year are focusing on food safety, meat inspections, and genetically engineered foods. Next year, we’ll see fights at the WTO over whether Monsanto and Novartis should be allowed monopoly patents on life and how to stop biopiracy, with Africa leading the opposition. International organizing isn’t very well reported in the news media, but there’s plenty going on. <S>Z
@COMINGNEXT = <$TSpAbove=92;SpInterLn=1400><R>Kristin Dawkins can be reached at email@example.com; or the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, 2105 1st Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN 55404; 612-870-3410.
edited by alexander cockburn and jeffrey st. clair
November 20, 1999
The world's two largest grain companies are now one. The wave of mergers that has changed the face of the American economy in Clinton time is also engulfing the food industry. On July 9, 1999 Cargill Inc., the nation's largest privately held company, won approval from the Clinton administration to acquire the grain-trading operations of its primary rival, Continental Grain Inc. The approval came over the objections of attorney general offices from farm states, the Farmers Union, consumer and green groups, which charged that the union will create a near monopoly in the grain business. Combined, the two companies will control 94 per cent of the soybean and 53 per cent of the corn market. How can farmers get a fair price under these circumstances? Grain is not the only product where concentration is extreme. In the Midwest four companies control more than 40 per cent of the processing of each of the major farm commodities, lamb, beef, pork and chicken.
Approval of the Cargill-Continental merger does come with a few gossamer-like strings attached. Joel Klein, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's antitrust division, said the full proposed acquisition would have eliminated an important competitor for the purchase of crops from U.S. farmers and other suppliers. Among the conditions of the acquisition, Cargill is:
- prohibited from acquiring an elevator in Missouri;
- required to enter a "throughput agreement" to make one-third of the capacity at its Havana, Ill., elevator available to an independent grain company;
- prohibited from acquiring a rail terminal facility at Salinas, Kansas;
- required to divest itself of four port elevators in Seattle, Texas, California and Chicago; of three river elevators in Illinois and one in Missouri; of one rail terminal in Ohio.
But these are minimal demands and Klein himself boasted at a field hearing on the farm crisis in Montana this summer that more consolidation in the food industry might be needed "in order to make American agriculture more competitive internationally". Klein naturally passed over the fact that NAFTA, GATT and other international treaties pressed by the big agribusiness firms and Clinton and Gore have done much to undermine the fragile balance sheets of independent farmers in the United States.
Take a look at the situation in the grain/soybean region in the Upper Midwest: western Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and eastern South Dakota. In this region, Continental Grain accounts for 50 percent of all soybean purchases and 30 percent of all corn purchases. Meanwhile, in the same region, Cargill accounts for 44 percent of all soybean purchases and 23 percent of all corn purchases. As noted above, combined they will control 94 percent of the soybean and 53 percent of the corn market.
According to the industry publication GrainNet, Cargill's swallowing of Continental Grain means that Cargill will now control more than 40 percent of all US corn exports, a third of all soybean exports and at least 20 percent of wheat exports. Cargill isn't done yet. Cargill executives say they want the corporation to continue doubling in size every five years. According to the Wall Street Journal, the purchase price of Continental Grain was only $1 billion. That means the company probably has another billion or so a year in profits to spend buying out other interests. Cargill could buy two operations the size of Continental's global grain operation with one year's earnings. That's leverage.
Continental executives say they felt they had no alternative but to surrender to Cargill. They blame the rise of biotech alliances, such as Monsanto and Cargill and ADM and Novartis (the Swiss conglomerate that includes Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy). Paul Fribourg, CEO of Continental Grain says, "We couldn't stay competitive as a grain trader because our competitors were cashing in on the more profitable businesses of milling and crop biotechnology".
Grain is not the only product where concentration is extreme. In the Midwest three of every four sheep are slaughtered by ConAgra; Superior Packing; High Country; and Denver Lamb. Four of every five beef cattle are slaughtered by IBP; ConAgra; Cargill; and Farmland Beef. Three of every five hogs are slaughtered by Murphy Family Farms; Carroll's Foods; Continental Grain; and Smithland Foods. Six firms process half of the nation's chickens: Tyson Foods; Gold Kist; Perdue Farms; Pilgrim's Pride; ConAgra Poultry; and Continental Grain. 95 percent of American broiler chickens are sold under contracts to less than 40 firms. Nationally, 76 percent of the grain (corn, wheat and soybeans) is sold to four companies: Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Continental Grain and Bunge.
"One often hears the statement that agriculture is changing and we must adapt to the changes", says William Heffernan, a professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri. "Few persons who repeat the statement really understand the magnitude of the changes and the implications of them for agriculture and for the long-term sustainability of the food system. It is almost heresy to ask if these changes are what the people of our country really want or, if they are not what is desired, how we might redirect the change. These changes are the result of notoriously short-sighted market forces and not the result of public dialogue, the foundation of a democracy. Neither are the changes the result of some mystical figure or an 'invisible hand'."
Earlier this year the Farmers' Union hired Heffernan to undertake a study on consolidation in agricultural trade. Heffernan concluded that once you disentangle a web of subsidiaries, mergers, joint ventures, parternships, side agreements, marketing arrangements and alliances you find that "three food chains dominate the global food production system". These chains are: Cargill/Monsanto; ConAgra and Novartis/ADM. Even so, Heffernan notes that because of lax reporting requirements it's difficult to get a fix on precisely what these companies own and how they go about doing business. "Cargill has operations in 70 countries and it's a privately held firm. How do we get all of the necessary information? We've exposed the tip of the iceberg, but exposure only indicates the type of information needed to understand the global food system."
Heffernan points to the Cargill/Monsanto cluster as one of the most dangerous of the new alliances. In 1998 Monsanto and Cargill announced that Cargill had sold its vast seed operation to Monsanto (the world's leading biotech outfit) and entered into an agreement with the chemical company to develop new kinds of crop biotechnology. This alliance presents distinct benefits to both companies but dangers to consumers, farmers and the environment. A case in point is the alliances' so-called terminator gene. "No longer will Monsanto have to depend on access to farmers' fields for collection of tissue samples to make sure farmers do not keep seed from one year's crop to plant the following year", Heffernan warns. "Use of the terminator gene will mean that all crop farmers must return each year to obtain their seed from seed firms, just as corn producers have had to do for the past half-century."
If the press, which rarely mentions agricultural issues anymore, doesn't take this turn of events seriously, the corporate leaders of the agri-conglomerates certainly do. And they are not the least bit bashful about what's at stake. Dwayne Andreas is the politically wired former CEO of Archer Daniels Midland. He recently boasted to Reuters that he wanted to make ADM the world's dominant agriculture firm because, to his way of thinking, there's simply nothing more powerful than controlling the world's food supply. He said agribusiness is more powerful than the oil industry.
"The food business is far and away the most important business in the world," Andreas said. "Everything else is a luxury. Food is what you need to sustain life every day. Food is fuel. You can't run a tractor without fuel and you can't run a human being without it either. Food is the absolute beginning."
In response to the new corporate combines, the farmer cooperatives themselves are merging, creating an ever-narrowing vortex of concentration. On May 12 of this year, two of the nation's biggest farmer coops, Farmland Industries and Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives, announced their intention to marry. The new entity will be known as United Country Brands and will probably do more than $6.7 billion in revenues every year. United Country Brands will rank as the United States' third biggest grain company, behind only Cargill and Archer Daniels Midlands.
The CEO of Cenex said the union with Farmland was dictated by the growing might of Cargill. "Moving grain is expensive", Estenson told the Wall Street Journal. "We need to spread these costs over more bushels."
But the merging of the farmer coops spells doom for the small farmer in the end, as stranglehold economic policies take their toll. One estimate has the number of family farms falling from 300,000 to less than 25,000 by the year 2025. There's a real crisis brewing and no one is paying much heed. "Increasingly, our agriculturally based communities are looking like the mining communities of the old West," Heffernan concludes. CP
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WTO, GMO and Total Spectrum Dominance
WTO rules put free-trade of agribusiness above national health concerns
By F. William Engdahl, March 29, 2006
(Previously published in GlobalResearch)
In February, a private organization with unique powers over world industry, trade and agriculture, issued a Preliminary Draft Ruling on a three-year-old case. The case was brought by the Bush Administration in May 2003 against European Union rules hindering the spread of genetically-engineered plants and foods. The WTO ruling, which is to be final in December, will have more influence over life and death on this planet than most imagine.
The ruling was issued by a special three-man tribunal of the World Trade Organization, in Geneva Switzerland. The WTO decision will open the floodgates to the forced introduction of genetically-manipulated plants and food products-- GMO, or genetically-modified organisms as they are technically known-- into the world’s most important agriculture production region, the European Union.
The WTO case arose from a formal complaint filed by the governments of the United States, Canada and Argentina—three of the world’s most GMO-polluted areas.
The WTO three-judge panel, chaired by Christian Haberli, a mid-level Swiss Agriculture Office bureaucrat, ruled that the EU had applied a 'de facto' moratorium on approvals of GMO products between June 1999 and August 2003, contradicting Brussels' claim that no such moratorium existed. The WTO judges argued the EU was ‘guilty’ of not following EU rules, causing ‘undue delay’ in following WTO obligations.
The secretive WTO tribunal also ruled, according to the leaked document, that in terms of product-specific measures, the completion of formal EU government approval to plant specific GMO plants had also been unduly delayed in the cases of 24 of 27 specific GMO products that the European Commission in Brussels had before it.
The WTO tribunal recommended that the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), the world trade policeman, call on the EU to bring its practices ‘into conformity with its obligations under the (WTO’s) SPS Agreement.’ Failure to comply with WTO demands can result in hundreds of millions dollars in annual fines.
Trade über Alles
SPS stands for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. On the surface it sounds as if health concerns were part of the WTO considerations. The reality is the opposite. Only minimal health standards are to be allowed to be enforced under WTO free trade rules, and any nation attempting anything more strict, such as the EU ban on import of US hormone-fed beef, can be found guilty by WTO of an ‘unfair restraint of trade.’
Today the EU must pay a fine of $150 million yearly to maintain its ban on the US hormone-fed beef. WTO rules in effect put free-trade interests of agribusiness above national health concerns. That means, de facto, that the EU Commission must complete its approval process for the 24 outstanding applications to plant GMO crops in Europe once the final ruling is made later this year.
That will mean a flood of new GMO products in EU agriculture. Monsanto, Syngenta and other GMO multinationals have already taken advantage of lax national rules in new EU member countries such as Poland to get the GMO ‘foot-in-the door.’ Now it will be far easier for them. Pro-GMO governments such as that of Angela Merkel in Germany can claim they are only following WTO ‘orders.’
What is the significance of this WTO ruling, assuming it remains as is in final form by December? It represents a major, dangerous wedge into largely GMO-free EU agriculture, permitting powerful agribusiness multinationals such as Monsanto, Dow Chemicals or DuPont to overrun national or regional efforts to halt the march of GMO. For this reason, it is potentially the most damaging decision in the history of world trade agreements.
A strategic Washington matter
The case first came before the World Trade Organization in a filing made by the Bush Administration in May 2003, just as the military occupation of Iraq was entering a new phase. The US President held a rare press conference to tell the world that the US was formally charging the EU, accusing the EU ‘moratorium’ on GMO approval of being a cause of starvation in Africa. Their twisted logic argued that so long as a major industrialized region such as the EU resisted planting GMO crops domestically, it caused sceptical African governments to harden their resistance to US food aid in the form of GMO crops. That, Bush charged, was causing unnecessary ‘starvation’ in Africa because some countries refused USDA food aid in form of GMO crop surpluses.
The issue of breaking resistance barriers in the European Union to the proliferation of GMO crops has been a matter of the highest strategic priority for those controlling policy in Washington since 1992 when then-President George H.W. Bush , the father of the current President, issued an Executive Order proclaiming GMO plants such as soybeans or GMO corn to be ‘substantially equivalent’ to ordinary corn or soybeans, and, therefore, not needing any special health safety study or testing.
That ‘substantial equivalence’ ruling by President Bush in 1992 opened the floodgates to the unregulated spread of GMO across the American agriculture landscape. As basis for its 2003 WTO filing against the EU, Washington, on behalf of agribusiness interests including Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and others, charged the EU with violation of the American ‘substantial equivalence’ doctrine!
So long as the world’s second most powerful agriculture trade region, the EU, firmly resisted the introduction of untested GM plants, the global spread of the GMO revolution would remain strategically crippled. For the past decades, breaking up the system of domestic agriculture protection of the EU, centered around its Common Agriculture Program, has been a strategic political and trade goal of the US Government and US-based agribusiness. The creation of the WTO in 1995, a result of the GATT Uruguay Round trade talks during the 1980’s, opened the possibility for the first time of forcing the EU to drop its defenses on US threat of sanctions.
The secret process behind WTO
When the final WTO Panel ruling is published and official this coming December, assuming no major changes take place in the 1,050 page preliminary ruling of February 7, a major barrier to the global spread of largely untested and highly unstable genetically modified foods will be gone. This will become unstoppable, as it was in the USA, unless political pressure from a sceptical European population forces the EU Commission to pay a WTO fine or penalty, in lieu of acceding to the demands of the WTO.
It’s relevant to ask what is this body, WTO which exercises such enormous power over laws of nations? What is its mandate and who controls its policies?
The negotiations of world trade since the establishment of the Bretton Woods postwar monetary system at the end of World War II, had been made through a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a series of trade rounds on specific issues between specific member countries. In September 1986, on US -led pressure, the Uruguay Round of GATT was launched in Punta del Este Uruguay. The result was creation of a new, powerful private international agency, the WTO.
In late 1994 the US Congress voted to join the WTO, the new permanent trade body established by the GATT Uruguay Round. There was almost no debate. It was clear in Washington who would dominate the new body. Unlike GATT which had no enforcement power, and which required unanimous member vote for sanctions, the WTO would be given tough sanction and enforcement powers. More important, how it reached decisions was to remain secret, with no democratic oversight. The most vital issues of economic life on the planet were to be decided behind closed doors in Geneva WTO headquarters or in Washington and Brussels. It could choose its ‘experts’ as it saw fit and ignore what evidence it saw fit. In the EU GMO dispute, three of four initial scientific experts chosen were from either US or UK institutions, two countries most in favour of GMO. (1)
Two years earlier, in 1992, at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Rio, 175 UN governments signed a convention to on the safe handling and treatment of GMOs, a major vote of the world community to examine the health and economic impacts of GMO agriculture before it could be allowed in a country. The US Government of President George Bush Sr. aggressively opposed the CBD, arguing that a Biosafety Protocol was unnecessary. Under the CBD agreement, a country could prohibit GMO imports.
The GMO industry, led by Monsanto, DuPont and Dow of the US, sabotaged this agreement. A group of six countries controlling the world Biotech or GMO market—Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia Chile and USA-- forced a clause into the CBD text which would subordinate the Biosafety Protocol to the WTO. They argued that limiting trade based on ‘unproven’ biosafety concerns should be considered a ‘barrier to trade’ under WTO rules!
Traditional liability law holds that a new product must first be proven safe before being allowed on market. This WTO rule placing the burden of proof not on the producer of a new GMO product, but on the potential victims, turned prudence and health safety issues on its head. In the end the US destroyed the Biosafety Protocol by refusing to include soybeans and corn, 99% of all GMO products, making the Protocol near worthless regarding GMO health issues.
The WTO serves as the weapon for the powerful coalition of Washington and the powerful private GMO giants, led by Monsanto. Earlier in 1992, Bush, on advice of Monsanto and the emerging US GM giant companies, ruled that GM organisms were ‘substantially equivalent’ to ordinary seeds for soybeans or corn and such. As ‘substantially equivalent,’ GM seeds required no special testing or health controls before being put on the market. This was crucial to the future of Monsanto and the GMO lobby.
By Presidential Executive Order, the US had defined GMO seeds as harmless and hence not needing to be regulated for health and safety. It made sure this principle was carried over into the new WTO in the form of the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), which stated, ‘Food standards and measures aimed at protecting people from pests or animals can potentially be used as a deliberate barrier to trade.’ The US charge against the EU in the present GMO dispute charged the EU with violation of the SPS agreement of WTO.
Other WTO rules in the Agreement to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) forbid member countries from using domestic standards or testing, food safety laws, product standards, calling them an ‘unfair barrier to trade.’
The impact of those two US-mandated WTO rulings meant that Washington could threaten that any government restricting import of GM plants on grounds they might pose threats to health and safety of their population, could be found to be in violation of WTO free trade rules!
This is what the US Government, on behalf of its agribusiness private corporations has done against the EU restrictions on GMO.
Under the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade, the US has argued that no labelling of GMO plants was required, as the plants have not been ‘substantially transformed’ from normal or non-GM soya, corn or other plants. This conveniently ignored the fact that Washington simultaneously insisted that GMOs, due to the genetic engineering process, are sufficiently transformed, i.e. NOT equivalent, to be patented as ‘original’, and protected under WTO TRIPS intellectual property patent rights. (2).
The Agreement on Agriculture
The heart of the WTO machinery is the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), which under the sheep’s wool of ‘free trade,’ hides the wolf of private agri-business GMO monopoly power. Under AoA rules, since 1995 poorer developing countries have been forced to eliminate quotas and slash protective tariffs, at the same time the Bush Administration voted to increase its subsidies to US agribusiness farming by $80 billions.
The net effect has been to allow the powerful monopoly of five grain trading giants—Cargill, ADM, Bunge, Andre (formerly) and Louis Dreyfus—to dramatically increase the dumping of food commodities globally, ruining millions of family farmers worldwide in the process, while maximizing their private corporate profits.
The AoA of WTO ignores the reality of agriculture markets which are qualitatively different from, say, the market for cars or CD’s. Agriculture and national food safety and security are at the heart of a nation’s sovereignty, and its obligation to its own citizens to support the basics of life. Agriculture is unique in this respect, along with water rights.
The AoA was written by the US-dominated agribusiness giants such as Cargill, ADM, Monsanto and DuPont, to serve the agenda of these global supranational private companies, whose sole aim is to maximize profits and market monopoly, regardless of human consequences. Their focus is the domination of the $1 trillion global agriculture trade. The actual author of the AoA of WTO was Daniel Amstutz, a former Vice President of Cargill Grain, who was at the time in the Washington US Trade Representative’s Office, before going back to the grain trade.(3).
Who controls WTO?
The essential control of WTO decisions, decisions which have the full power of international law and can force governments to repeal local laws for health, safety and such is held by private interests, by a global US-centered agribusiness cartel. There are no public or democratic checks on the power of WTO.
On paper, WTO rules are made by a consensus of all 134 member countries. In reality, four countries, led by the United States, decide all important agriculture and other trade issues. As in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Washington exercises decisive control behind the scenes. And it does so in the interest of the private agribusiness cartel.
The four WTO controlling countries, known as the QUAD countries, are USA, Canada, Japan and the EU. In the QUAD, in turn, the giant agri-business multinationals exercise controlling influence, most clearly in Washington.
The WTO is designed to impose the wishes of giant private companies over the legitimate democratic will of entire nations and duly-elected governments. WTO has one mission: enforce rules of a ‘free trade,’ an agenda which is in no way genuinely ‘free’ but rather suits the needs of agribusiness giants.
Under the secretive WTO rules, countries can challenge another’s laws for restricting their trade. The case is then heard by a tribunal or court of three trade bureaucrats. They are usually influential corporate lawyers with pro-free trade bias. The lawyers have no conflict of interest rules binding them, such that a Monsanto lawyer can rule on a case of material interest to Monsanto.
Further, there is no rule that the judges of WTO respect any national laws of any country. The three judges meet in secret without revealing the time or location. All court documents are confidential and are not published unless one party releases it. It is a modern version of the Spanish Inquisition, but with far more power.
The EU banned the import of US beef treated with growth and other hormones, and the US lodged a formal WTO complaint. There was a long report from independent scientists showing that the hormones added to US beef were ‘cancer-causing’. The WTO three judge panel ruled that the EU did not present a ‘valid’ scientific case to refuse import, and the EU was forced to pay $150 million annually for lost US profits. (4).
The powerful private interests who control WTO agriculture policy prefer to remain in the background as little-publicized NGO’s. One of the most influential in creating the WTO is a little-publicized organization called the IPC-- the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council, shortened to International Policy Council.
The IPC was created in 1987 to lobby for the GATT agriculture rules of WTO at the Uruguay GATT talks. The IPC demanded removal of ‘high tariff’ barriers in developing countries, remaining silent on the massive government subsidy to agribusiness in the USA.
A look at the IPC membership explains what interests it represents. The IPC Chairman is Robert Thompson, former Assistant Secretary US Department of Agriculture and former Presidential economic adviser. Also included in the IPC are Bernard Auxenfans, Chief Operating Officer, Monsanto Global Agricultural Company and Past Chairman of Monsanto Europe S.A.; Allen Andreas of ADM/Toepfer; Andrew Burke of Bunge (US); Dale Hathaway former USDA official and head IFPRI (US).
Other IPC members include Heinz Imhof, chairman of Syngenta (CH); Rob Johnson of Cargill and USDA Agriculture Policy Advisory Council; Franz Fischler Former Commissioner for Agriculture, European Commission; Guy Legras (France) former EU Director General Agriculture; Donald Nelson of Kraft Foods (US); Joe O’Mara of USDA, Hiroshi Shiraiwa of Mitsui & Co Japan; Jim Starkey former Assistant US Trade Representative; Hans Joehr, Nestle’s head of agriculture; Jerry Steiner of Monsanto (US). Members Emeritus include Ann Veneman, former Bush Administration Secretary of Agriculture and former board member of Calgene, creator of the Flavr Savr genetically-modified tomato.
The IPC is controlled by US-based agribusiness giants which benefit from the rules they drafted for WTO trade. In Washington itself, the USDA no longer represents interests of small family farmers. It is the lobby of giant global agribusiness. The USDA is a revolving door for these private agribusiness giants to shape friendly policies. GMO policy is the most blatant example.
Brussels also dominated by GMO lobby
The power of the giant GMO companies and US-centered agribusiness companies extends to control of key policies in Brussels at the European Commission. Typical is the fact that former EU Agricuolture Commissioner Franz Fischler is a member of the powerful pro-GMO IPC.
For years it has been common knowledge among EU farm experts that grain policy was not set by national governments but by the Big Five private grain traders led by Cargill and ADM. Now the powerful weight of Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and the GMO lobby has been added. This is clear in the recent announcement of a new EU program, SAFEFOODS, a successor to the controversial pro-GMO ENTRANSFOOD project. ENTRANSFOOD was set up to ‘facilitate market introduction of GMO’s in Europe, and therefore to bring the European (sic) industry into a competitive position.’
ENTRANSFOOD, now called the more innocuous SAFEFOODS, claims to combine different views on GMO food. In reality, its key Working Group 1, responsible for ‘Safety Testing of Transgenic Foods’ consists of representatives not from independent consumer organizations, but from Monsanto, Unilever, Bayer Corp., Syngenta and BIBRA International, a consultancy close to agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry.
As well, Dr. Harry Kuiper, a Dutch scientist member of the food safety GMO group of SAFEFOODS in Brussels, is Coordinator of SAFEFOODS. Kuiper chairs the EU European Food Safety Authority GMO Panel. He also has also been leading the vicious slander attack campaign to discredit genetic scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai who dared to go public with alarming evidence of organ damage from rats fed GMO potatoes and was fired on the intervention of Monsanto in 1999.(5).
The WTO today is nothing more than the global policeman for the powerful GMO lobby and the agribusiness firms tied to it.
With the new German coalition government under Chancellor Angela Merkel and Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer now officially on record supporting the role of Germany as a future leader in biotech crops and GMO, the impact of the latest WTO ruling on food safety in the EU and beyond has put European and hence, world food safety world in danger.
1.Abreu, Marcelo de Paiva, “Brazil, the GATT and the WTO: History and Prospects”, September 1998, Department of Economics, PUC, Rio de Janeiro, No. 392.
2. GMOs and the WTO: Overruling the Right to say No,’ By World Development Movement, November 1999, www.wdm.org.uk .
3. Murphy, Sophia, ‘WTO Agreement on Agriculture: Suitable Model for a Global Food System?’ Foreign Policy in Focus, v.7, no. 8, June 2002.
4. Montague, Peter, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO, The WTO and Free Trade, Environmental Research Foundation in www.garynull.com .
5. PR Operation on GM Foods again exposes EFSA industry-bias,” Press release, 29.12.2004. www.gmwatch.org.
The four WTO controlling countries, known as the QUAD countries, are USA, Canada, Japan and the EU. In the QUAD, in turn, the giant agri-business multinationals exercise controlling influence, most clearly in Washington.
The WTO is designed to impose the wishes of giant private companies over the legitimate democratic will of entire nations and duly-elected governments. WTO has one mission: enforce rules of a ‘free trade,’ an agenda which is in no way genuinely ‘free’ but rather suits the needs of agribusiness giants.
Under the secretive WTO rules, countries can challenge another’s laws for restricting their trade. The case is then heard by a tribunal or court of three trade bureaucrats. They are usually influential corporate lawyers with pro-free trade bias. The lawyers have no conflict of interest rules binding them, such that a Monsanto lawyer can rule on a case of material interest to Monsanto.
Harold and Sue Karber Oklahoma
HOSTILE TAKEOVER - THE CORPORATE CONTROL OF SOCIETY AND HUMAN LIFE |
Autor(a): Stephen Lendman --> firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW PREDATORY GIANT CORPORATIONS DESTROY SOCIETY AND PEOPLE
HOSTILE TAKEOVER - THE CORPORATE CONTROL OF SOCIETY AND HUMAN LIFE - by Stephen Lendman
Large transnational corporations are clearly the dominant institution of our time. They're preeminent throughout the world but especially in the Global North and its epicenter in the US. They control or greatly influence what we eat and drink, where we live, what we wear, how we get most of our essential services like health care and even what we're taught in schools up to the highest levels. They create and control our sources of information and greatly influence how we think and our view of the world and them. They even now own patents on our genetic code, the most basic elements of human life, and are likely planning to manipulate and control them as just another commodity to exploit for profit in their brave new world that should concern everyone. They also carefully craft their image and use catchy slogans to convince us of their benefit to society and the world, like: "better things for better living through chemistry" (if you don't mind toxic air, water and soil), "we bring good things to life" (for them, not us), and "all the news that's fit to print" (only if you love state and corporate friendly disinformation and propaganda). The slogans are clever, but the truth is ugly.
Corporations also decide who will govern and how. We may think we do, but it's not so and never was. Those national elections, especially the last two, only looked legitimate to most people, but not to those who know and understand how the system works. Here's how it really works. The "power elite" or privileged class C. Wright Mills wrote about 50 years ago in his classic book by that title are the real king and decision makers. He wrote how corporate, government and military elites formed a trinity of power after WW II and that the "power elite" were those "who decide whatever is decided" of importance. The holy trinity Mills wrote about still exists but today in the shape of a triangle with the transnational giants clearly on top and government, the military and all other institutions of importance there to serve their interests. These corporations have become so large and dominant they run our lives and the world, and in a zero sum world and the chips that count most in their stack, they do it for their continuing gain and at our increasing expense. Something is way out of whack, and in this essay I'll try to explain what it is and why we better understand it.
The Power of Transnational Corporations and the Harm They Cause
As corporations have grown in size they've gained in power and influence. And so has the harm they cause - to communities, nations, the great majority of the public and the planet. Today corporate giants decide who governs and how, who serves on our courts, what laws are enacted and even whether and when wars are fought, against whom and for what purpose or gain. It's for their gain, who else's, certainly not ours. Once we start one, they can even make profit projections from it like on any other business venture. For them, that's all it is - another way to make a buck, lots of them.
The central thesis of this essay is that giant transnational corporations today have become so dominant they now control our lives and the world, and they exploit both fully and ruthlessly. While they claim to be serving us and bringing us the fruits of the so-called "free market," in fact, they just use us for their gain. They've deceived us and highjacked the government to serve them as subservient proxies in their unending pursuit to dominate the world's markets, resources, cheap labor abroad and our own right here. And they've done it much like what happens in the marketplace when a predator company attempts to take control of another one that prefers to remain independent. They launch a hostile takeover, going around or over the heads of the target's management, their employees and the communities they operate in. They go right to the target's shareholders and promise them a better deal, meaning a premium price on the stock they hold.
They do this, as in a friendly merger, for a variety of financial and strategic reasons, but essentially it's to achieve any possible immediate gain as well as over the longer term greater market dominance that will build future profits. But what happens in the wake of a takeover. Assets get stripped, spun-off and/or sold-off. Plants are closed. Jobs are lost. And all this is done for the primary bottom line goal - "the bottom line," higher profits, whatever the cost to people, communities or society.
Think of it this way. Large corporations today everywhere, but especially the largest ones in the Global North, are a destructive force, hostile to people, societies and the environment. They're nothing less than legal private tyrannies operating freely with virtually no restraint. Everything for them, animal, vegetable or mineral, is viewed as a production input to be commodified and consumed for profit and then discarded when no longer of use. And to achieve maximum profits, costs must be rigidly controlled. That means the lowest prices paid for goods and services, the lowest wages paid to workers (below privileged higher management who reward themselves richly), as little as possible spent on essential benefits like health care and pensions, and increasingly little or no concern about the long-term cost of exploiting, plundering or even destroying the natural environment and the future ability of the planet to sustain life. These issues, however recognized and grave, are for someone else to deal with later.
For now all that matters is today, the next quarter's earnings and keeping the stockholders and Wall Street happy. They only understand numbers on financial statements and are blind, unconcerned and even hostile to human and societal welfare or a safe environment that will protect and sustain all life forms. They call it "free market capitalism." It's really the law of the jungle. They're the predators, we're the prey, and every day they eat us alive.
Does all this make sense? And do corporate chieftains who live in a community, love their wives and children, contribute to charities, attend church and believe in its teachings really go to work every day and think - "who and what can I exploit today?" They sure do because they have no other choice. No more so than breathing in and breathing out.
How the Law Affects Corporate Behavior
Publicly owned corporations are mandated by law to serve only the interests of their shareholders and do it by working to maximize the value of their equity holdings by increasing profits. That's it. Case closed. Think of these businesses as gated communities of owners (large and small), the welfare of whom is all that matters and the world outside the gates is to be used and exploited for that one purpose only. Forget about any social responsibility or safeguarding the environment. The idea is to grow sales, keep costs low, increase profits, and if you do it well, shareholder value will rise, the owners and Wall Street will be happy, and you as a CEO or senior executive will probably get a raise, good bonus and keep your job. Try being worker-friendly, a nice guy, a good citizen or a friend of the earth and fail to achieve the above objectives and you'll likely face dismissal and even possible shareholder lawsuit for not pursuing your fiduciary responsibility. Anyone choosing this line of work has no other choice. To do the job well, you have to think only of the care and feeding of your shareholders and the investment community, ignore the law if that's what it takes to do it, and obey the only law that counts - the one that helps you grow the "bottom line."
There's nothing in the Constitution, which is public law, that gives corporations the rights they've gotten. It never mattered to them. They just crafted their own private law, piece by piece, over many years with the help of corporate-friendly lawyers, legislators and the courts. And today it's easier than ever with both major parties strongly pro-business and the courts stacked with business-friendly judges ready to do their bidding. The result is big business is now the paymaster, or puppetmaster, with government and the halls of justice their faithful servants. There's no government of, for and by the people, no public sovereignty, no democratic rights or any choices but to accept their authority and bow to their will. It's a democracy for the few alone - the privileged elite. Our only choice is to go along to get along or get out of their way.
A Profile of the World's Largest 200 Transnational Corporations
In December, 2000 The Institute for Policy Studies released a report called "The Rise of Corporate Global Power." It was a profile of the 200 largest transnationals that showed just how dominant they are. A summary of their findings is listed below.
1. Of the world's 100 largest economies, 51 are corporations.
2. The combined sales of these 200 corporations (called "The Group" below) in 1999 equalled 27.5% of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and are growing faster than overall global economic activity.
3. The Group's combined sales exceed the total combined economies of all nations in the world except the largest 10.
4. The Group's combined sales are 18 times the income of the bottom one fourth of the world's population (1.2 billion people) living in "severe" poverty.
5. Despite their combined size and percentage of world economic activity, The Group employs only 0.78% of the world's workforce.
6. From 1983 to 1999 The Group's workforce grew only 14.4% while their profits increased by 362.4% or about 25 times as much.
7. The largest employer in the world, Walmart, employed 1,140,000 in 1999 (1.6 million in 2005) or 5% of The Group's total employment. It's also a model (and increasingly a target) for corporate union-busting, widespread use of part-time workers and a practice of avoiding giving its workers needed benefits like health insurance.
8. 82 US corporations are in The Group, twice as many as Japan with 41, the next highest contributing country.
9. 44 of the US corporations in The Group didn't pay the full 35% federal tax rate from 1996 - 1998. 7 of them paid no tax in 1998 and also got tax rebates, including Enron and Worldcom now exposed as corporate criminals.
10. The percent of The Group's sales from the service sector (not manufacturing) grew from 33.8% in 1983 to 46.7% in 1999. In the US, the service sector comprised 79% of the total economy in 2004.
How Corporate Behavior Affects the Public Interest
Big corporations have almost always thrived in the US. But a crucial, defining moment happened in 1886 when the Supreme Court granted corporations the legal status of personhood in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway - a simple tax dispute case unrelated to the issue of corporate personhood. Incredibly it wasn't the Justices who decided corporations are persons, but the Court's reporter (J.C. Bancroft Davis) who after the decision was rendered wrote it in his "headnotes." The Court did nothing to refute them, likely by intent, and the result was corporations got what they had long coveted.
That decision granted corporations the same constitutional rights as people, but because of their limited liability status, protected shareholders from the obligations of their debts, other obligations, and many of the responsibilities individuals legally have. Armed with this new legal status corporations were able to win many additional favorable court decisions up to the present. They also gained much regulatory relief and favorable legislation while, at the same time, being protected by their limited liability status. As a result, corporations have been able to increase their power and grow to their present size and dominance.
Although corporations aren't human, they can live forever, change their identity, reside in many places simultaneously in many countries, can't be imprisoned for wrongdoing and can change themselves into new persons at will for any reason. They have the same rights and protections as people under the Bill of Rights but not the responsibilities. From that right, corporations became unbound, free to grow and gain immense power and be able to become the dominant institution that now runs the country, the world and all our lives. Most important, they got an unwritten license from all three branches of the government to operate freely for their own benefit and others of their privileged class and do it at the public expense everywhere. They've exploited it fully as they're grown in size and dominance, and the result has been lives destroyed, the environment harmed and needless wars fought on their behalf because they open markets and grow profits. It's no exaggeration to say these institutions today are real "weapons of mass destruction."
In the early days of the republic it all might have been different had Thomas Jefferson and James Madison prevailed over Federalists John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson and Madison believed the Bill of Rights should include "freedom from monopolies in commerce" (what are now giant corporations) and "freedom from a permanent military" or standing armies. Adams and Hamilton felt otherwise, and the final compromise was the first 10 Bill of Rights amendments that are now the law but not the other two Jefferson and Madison wanted included. Try to imagine what this country might be like today had we gotten them all.
We didn't, of course, so the result, as they say, is history. It allowed small corporations to grow into giants and so-called "free market capitalism" to become the dominant state religion of this country and the West. We may say it's free, but it only is for those own and control it, and notice we never hear the system called "fair." That's because in most key industries a handful of corporate giants dominate and now work in cartel-like alliance with their "friendly" competitors here and abroad to control (read: exploit) the markets they serve. They're also able to co-opt the leaders and business elites of countries in the developing world, or work in partnership with them in the larger ones like China, India and Brazil, to allow them market entry. As an inducement, they offer to invest their capital and offer their technology in return for a business-friendly climate and access to the host country's cheap labor. It's an alliance based on pure exploitation for profit at the expense of people who are used, abused and discarded when they have no further value.
This essay is mainly about how these same corporate giants dominate and exploit here in the US. They can't get away with the flagrant abuses commonplace in sweatshop labor countries, but they're moving in that direction. It's no longer like the past in this country when I was young and beginning my working life (a distant memory of better times) when manufacturing was strong, jobs paid well and had good benefits, and workers were protected by strong unions that served their interests even while partnering with management and willing to do the bidding of government.
I still remember well an incident early in my working life when as a newly minted MBA I worked as a marketing research analyst for several large corporations prior to joining a small family business. At one of those companies in the early 60s, my boss called me into his office on my first day on the job. He jokingly told me he was so happy with my work he was giving me a raise. We both chuckled, and he then explained on that day everyone in the company got an inflation-based increase. It was automatic from the lowliest worker to top management because the unions (then strong) got it written into their labor contract. In that company, everyone got the same benefits as union members. Try finding anything like that today even for union members alone. It's almost unheard of.
Today, the country is primarily dominated by service industries many of which require little formal education, only pay low wages and few if any benefits, and offer few chances for advancement. The US Department of Labor projects that job categories with the greatest expected future growth are cashiers, waiters and waitresses, janitors and retail clerks. These and other low wage, low benefit jobs are what many young people entering the workforce can look forward to today. You don't need a Harvard degree for them or even one from a junior college - and for the ones listed above, no degree is needed, not even a high school one.
The continuing decline of good job opportunities is a key reason why the quality of education in urban schools has deteriorated so much in recent years and school dropout rates are so high. In my city of Chicago, half of all students entering high school never graduate and of those who do 74% of them must take remedial English and 94% remedial math at the Chicago City Colleges according to a report published in the Chicago Sun Times. The situation isn't much better in inner cities throughout the country, nor is the level of racial segregation that's grown to levels last seen in the 1960s according to Jonathan Kozol in his new book The Shame of the Nation. Again in Chicago, a shocking 87% of public school enrollment was black or Hispanic, and the situation is about as bad or even worse in most other big cities.
The lack of good job opportunities for a growing population of ill-prepared young people is also a major reason for the growth of our prison population that now exceeds 2.1 million, is the largest in the world even ahead of China with over four times our population, and is incarcerating about 900 new prisoners every week. I wrote a recent heavily documented article about this called The US Gulag Prison System.
The US Has Always Been the Unthinkable and Unmentionable - A Rigid Class Society
The US has always been what the "power elite" never admit or discuss - a rigid class society. But once there was a thriving middle class along with a small minority of rich and well-off and a large segment of low paid workers and the poor. That majority in the middle could afford their own homes, send their kids to college and afford many amenities like new cars, some travel, convenience appliances and decent health care. I can still remember buying a health insurance plan while finishing my graduate work in 1959 that cost about $100 and change total for respectable coverage for a full year. Honest, I'm not kidding.
Fewer people each year can afford these "luxuries" now, including decent health care coverage, because of the hollowing out of the economy, stagnant wage growth (to be discussed below) and skyrocketing costs of essentials like health insurance, prescription drugs and college tuition for those wanting a higher education. Services now account for nearly 80% of all business while manufacturing has declined to about 14%, and total manufacturing employment is half the percentage of total employment it was 40 years ago and falling. Also, financial services of all types now comprise the largest single sector of the economy at 21% of it. But most of it involves investment and speculation running into the hundreds of trillions of dollars annually worldwide (and the US is the epicenter of it all) just for transactions involving currencies and so-called over-the-counter and exchange-traded financial derivatives. It's not the purpose of this essay to explain the nuts and bolts of this kind of trading except to say they produce nothing anyone can go in a store and buy or that enhance the well-being of the majority public that doesn't even know, let alone understand, that this kind of activity goes on or what the inherent dangers from it may be.
The dismantling of our manufacturing base, however, is a subject that should make daily headlines but is seldom discussed in the mainstream. It's crucially important because one has to wonder how any nation can avoid eventual decline when it allows its manufacturing to be done abroad, reduces its need for a highly trained work force and ends up destroying its middle class that made it prosper in the first place. There are distinguished thinkers who believe as I do that the US has seen its better days and is now in a downward trajectory economically. Unless a way is found to reverse this destructive trend, the US will be Number One only in military spending and waging wars. And no nation in history based on militarism and conquest has ever not failed ultimately to destroy itself.
I'd like to quote two distinguished thinkers who've addressed the issue of growing inequality in the US. On most social matters they'd likely disagree, but not on this one. One was former liberal Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis who explained: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can't have both." The other was distinguished "free market" economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. In his view: "The greatest problem facing our country is the breaking down into two classes, those who have and those who have not. The growing differences between the incomes of the skilled and the less skilled, the educated and the uneducated, pose a very real danger. If that widening rift continues, we're going to be in terrible trouble.....We cannot remain a democratic, open society that is divided into two classes."
The Downward Trajectory of American Workers
Over the past generation working people have seen an unprecedented fall in their standard of living. In the past (except for periods of economic downturn), workers saw their wages and benefits grow each year and their living standards improve. Today it's just the opposite. Adjusted for inflation, the average working person in the US earns less than 30 years ago, and even with modest annual increases is not keeping up with inflation. In addition, the federal minimum wage is a paltry $5.15 an hour and was last increased in 1997. That rate is now at the lowest point it's been relative to average wages since 1949. It's incentivized individual states to raise their own which they have the right to do, and, as of mid-year 2005, 17 of them and the District of Columbia have done it covering nearly half the US population. That helps, but not enough.
Some of the world data is especially shocking, appalling and indicative of the economic trend in the US. According to the UN 2002 Human Development Report, the richest 1% in 1999-2000 received as much income as the bottom 57% combined, over 45% of the world's population lived then on less than $2 a day, about 40% had no sanitation services and about 840 million people were malnourished. In addition, 1 in 6 grade school children were not in school, and half the global nonagricultural labor force was either unemployed or underemployed. Most shocking and disturbing of all is that many millions (likely tens of millions) of people in the less developed world die each year from starvation and treatable diseases because of abuse and/or neglect by rich nations that could prevent it. And these numbers reflect the state of things at the end of a decade of overall impressive economic growth. But it shows how those gains went mainly to a privileged upper class who got them at the expense of the majority below them, especially the most desperate and needy.
The same trend is evident in the US although not as stark as in the less developed world. Except for the mild recession in 2001-2002, overall US economic growth for the past 15 years has been strong and worker productivity high. But the gains from it went to the privileged at the top and were gotten at the expense of working people who saw their wages fail to keep up with inflation and their essential benefits decline. In 2004 the average CEO earned 431 times the income of the average working person. That was up from 85 times in 1990 and 42 times in 1980. It's hard to believe and even harder with the real life example below.
I'd like to nominate a "poster executive" who for me symbolizes classic gross corporate excess and greed. He's the chairman and CEO of Capital One Financial, the giant credit card company that's awaiting the finalizing of its acquisition of North Fork Bancorp. At completion of this deal, the Wall Street Journal reported on March 24 this lucky fellow will realize a gain of $249.3 million from stock options he exercised last year. That's in addition to the $56 million he earned in 2004. What on earth will he spend it on, and how many less fortunate ones will have to ante up to pay for this in the de rigueur job cuts that always follow big acquisitions.
And what will all those other lucky CEOs and top executives spend theirs on as well. If you're not already gagging, let me make you choke. According to a study just released by two Ivy League academics based on interviews with CEOs and top managers of the largest 1,500 public US companies, the top five executives collectively at those companies pocketed $122 billion in compensation from 1999-2003 plus at least $60 billion more in supplemental benefits from SERPs (Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans). Also, other data show average annual CEO pay rose from about $1 million a year in 1980 to an estimated $14.4 million in 2001 and rising - plus all those juicy benefits. I repeat - what on earth can they spend it on. They could never even count it.
Reasons for This Unabated Downward Trajectory
The reasons for this decline were as follows:
The shift away from manufacturing to services.
The growth of so-called "globalization" sending many jobs abroad including high-paying ones.
The decline of unions to levels last seen before the mass unionization struggles of the 1930s because of government and corporate antipathy toward them and corporations using the threat to close plants and move jobs offshore to force workers to take pay cuts and accept lower benefits. And then they still move jobs abroad.
Deregulation of key industries including transportation, communications and finance, which opened these industries to low cost competition that put pressure on unions and forced workers to accept lower pay and benefits to keep their jobs.
The growth of high technology allowing machines (mainly computers) to do the work of people, thus reducing the need for them.
The effects of racism and sexism (in a society with deep-rooted racism, sexism and classism) as seen in the data showing 30% of black workers and 40% of Latino workers earning poverty wages with women in both categories most affected. And the average black family owns only 14% as much as the average white family.
The unabated downward trajectory of workers' real income already discussed. The only family income gains have come from two income households, in many cases because wives were forced to enter the workforce out of necessity.
Statistics Documenting the Decline
Hot off the press from the latest US Federal Reserve triennial survey (and most comprehensive one of all) of household wealth published in late February, 2006:
--Median American family income grew a paltry 1.5% after inflation between 2001 and 2004, but there was a widening gap between upper and lower income households.
--While the richest 10% rose an inflation adjusted 6.5%, the bottom 25% fell 1.5%.
--Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America, explained - "While the typical American household basically ran in place, less affluent households actually lost ground."
Even hotter off the press, the US Department of Labor and Congressional Budget Office reported in late March that in the last 5 years ending year-end 2005, inflation adjusted GDP per person rose 8.4% but the average weekly wage fell 0.3%. Following a long-term trend since the 1970s, those in the upper income percentiles gained the most while those in the lower half of them lost the most. And the income gap between rich and poor continued to widen.
--The racial disparity was especially dramatic. The median white family's net worth in 2004 was $140,700 compared with $24,800 for the typical nonwhite family.
According to the 2005 Federal Poverty Guidelines, 12.7%, or 37 million people, lived in poverty in 2004. However, because of an acknowledged flawed model to measure poverty, the true number is far higher - at least many millions more and increasing even in times of prosperity.
In December, 2004 the New York Times reported the US ranked 49th in world literacy, and the US Department of Labor estimates over 20% of the population is functionally illiterate (compared to about 1% in Venezuela and Cuba, two of the countries we demonize the most). It's also true, as discussed above briefly, that the quality of public education has been in decline in urban schools for many years. In addition (also mentioned), the extent of racial segregation is now as great as in the 1960s, despite supposed but unrealized gains from the civil rights legislation of that time. Further, state and local education budgets aren't keeping up with a growing need or are being cut. It's also no better for those needing college aid as federal Pell grants have been frozen or cut for three straight years, and it was just reported in late March by public college finance officials that state higher education funding has fallen sharply from $7,121 per student in 2001 to $5,833 in 2005. It means a growing number of lower income students are now deprived of a chance for higher education - and it's getting steadily worse.
The World Health Organization ranked the US 37th in the world in "overall health performance" and 54th in the fairness of health care. And in 2004 about 46 million people had no health insurance and millions more were underinsured. These appalling numbers are in spite of the fact that the US spends far more on health care per capita than any other country. And all developed countries in the world, except the US and South Africa, provide free health care for all its citizens paid for through taxes.
The European Dream reported US childhood poverty ranked 22nd or second to last among developed nations.
The US ranked last among the world's 20 most developed nations in its worker compensation growth rate in the 1980s with conditions only slightly better in the 1990s.
The New York Times reported 12 million American families, over 10% of all households, struggle to feed themselves.
The NYT also reported the US ranks 41st in world infant mortality.
All this and many more depressing statistics are happening in the richest country in the world with a 2005 Gross Domestic Product of $12.5 trillion.
The dramatic effects of social inequality in the US are seen in the Economic Policy Institute's 2004 report on the State of Working America." It shows the top 1% controls more than one-third of the nation's wealth while the bottom 80% have 16%. Even worse, the top 20% holds 84% of all wealth while the poorest 20% are in debt and owe more than they own.
Corporate Gain Has Come at the Cost of Worker Loss
Not coincidentally, as workers have seen their living standards decline, transnational corporations have experienced unprecedented growth and dominance. And that trend continues unabated. How and why is this happening? Begin with the most business-friendly governments the country has had over the last 25 years since the "roaring" 1920s when President Calvin Coolidge explained that "the business of America is business." He, and two other Republican presidents then did everything they could to help their business friends. But they were small-timers compared to today, and the size, dominance and global reach of big business then was a small fraction of what it is now. And back then, job "outsourcing", GATT and WTO type trade agreements, and the concept of globalization weren't in the vocabulary. Now they're central to the problem as they've put working people in corporate straightjackets and created a severe class divide in the country (not to mention the developing world where it's far worse) that keeps widening.
How World Trade Agreements Destroy Good Jobs and the American Dream
World trade between nations is nothing new, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has been around since it was formed in Havana, Cuba in 1948. But with the signing of NAFTA that went into effect on January 1, 1994, the notion of so-called globalization emerged big time. NAFTA brought Mexico into the 1989 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement as part of a radical experiment to merge three disparate economies into a binding one-size-fits-all set of rules all three had to abide by regardless of the effect on their people. To sell it to each country's legislators and people, NAFTA's backers made lofty pie-in-the-sky predictions of new jobs that "free trade" would create. They never were nor was this a plan to do it. It was a scam to outsource jobs and thus eliminate many others, enrich the transnationals and make working people pick up the tab and take the pain.
NAFTA was just the beginning. It was planned as a stalking horse and template for the World Trade Organization (WTO), that replaced the GATT one year after NAFTA went into effect. The WTO along with an alphabet soup of trade agreements (passed and wished for) like GATS (covering all kinds of services), TRIPS (for intellectual property), MAI (on investments and most all-encompassisng and dangerous one of all if it ever passes even in separate pieces) and all the regional agreements like CAFTA and FTAA are intended to establish a supranational economic "constitution." It's to be based on the rules of trade the Global North nations want to craft that would override the sovereignty of all WTO member nations. In other words, the plan was and still is for the US primarily, along with the EU, Japan and other dominant Global North countries to establish a binding set of trade rules (a global constitution) they would write for their benefit for an integrated world economy and then force all other nations to abide by them. NAFTA, and what was to follow, were and are not intended to create jobs and raise living standards in the participating countries, despite all the hype saying they would and will. These agreements are solely plans to benefit big corporations, legally allowing them the right to dominate world markets, override national sovereignty to do it, and exploit people everywhere for their gain. Bottom line - these "agreements" mean big corporations win and people everywhere lose.
So far the jury is very much out on whether the grand plan will succeed as key countries in the Global South have caught on to the scam and aren't buying it - Brazil, India, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and others. And China is big enough to be a club member, agree to the rules, and then bend them at times to protect its own interests.
But if NAFTA was a template to disguise a WTO attempted world "hostile takeover," look at all the carnage it's created so far. Instead of creating jobs in all three countries, it destroyed hundreds of thousands of them. In the US alone it's responsible for the loss each year of many thousands of high paying, good benefit manufacturing jobs now exported to low wage countries like Mexico, China, India and many others. And most of the workers losing them only are able to find lower paying ones with fewer or no benefits if they can find any job at all. This is an ongoing problem in good as well as poor economic times and gets worse every year. It's also led many older workers, who wish to work but can't find jobs, to drop out of the work force or take lower paying part-time ones when they can find full-time ones.
The result has been a huge shift upward in income, wealth and power in the US (and in Canada, Mexico and all other WTO member countries) benefitting the business elites and corrupted politicians. And it's cost working people billions of dollars, many thousands of good jobs and a permanent drop in the average American worker's standard of living. It's also created an enormous migration problem all over the world comprised of desperate people looking for work because there's none at home. I wrote at length about this in the US in my recent article called The War on Immigrants. The problem gets worse every year including in the US. And here a low unemployment rate hides the fact that many workers have dropped out of the work force or must take whatever part-time jobs they can find because they can't get full-time ones as mentioned above.
I'm now working on a new article in which I discuss the view of some US economists who explain that if the unemployment rate today was calculated the same way it was during The Great Depression when it rose to a peak of 25% of the working population, the true current figure would be about 12% instead of the reported 4.7%. The current calculation method includes part-time workers who work as little as one hour during the reporting period. It also excludes discouraged workers who wish to work but who've stopped looking because they can't find jobs.
One might logically wonder why big US corporations run by smart people wouldn't be trying to ameliorate this problem to build rather than weaken the purchasing power of people in their home country - the ones they need to buy their products and services. It's not just for their obvious need to control or reduce costs to enhance profits. It's because these companies are only nominally US ones. They may be headquartered here, but they could as easily be home based anywhere. The US may be their biggest market and most important source of revenue and profit, but their operations and markets span the globe. If they desired, they could pick up and leave and set up shop in Timbuktu or Kathmandu. That's why they're called "transnationals."
Once Our Government Protected Working People
At one time US governments had a social contract with its citizens, imperfect as it was. Most governments in Western Europe still do, although they're being weakened. But since the 1980s and especially after the election of George W. Bush, that contract here is being dissmantled, program by program, year after year with the ultimate goal of making every one self-sufficient with little or no safety net for protection. The most vulnerable poor are hurt most and their numbers grow each year, but the middle class is suffering too as those in it are declining as a percent of the total population. And the very definition of a middle class is changing as the wealth gap keeps widening between top and bottom along with the hollowing out of the middle.
Bush and his cabal of acolytes are so intent on destroying the US social contract with its citizens that their motto might as well be: you can have anything you want - as long as you can afford to pay for it. If not, you're on your own.
The Balance Sheet Documenting Corporate Gains
Worker loss has been corporations' gain - big time. In 2004 the world's largest 500 corporations posted their highest ever revenues and profits - an astonishing $14.9 trillion in revenue and $731.2 billion in profits. And top corporate officials, mainly in the US, are raking it in, rewarding themselves with obscene amounts of salaries, bonuses in the multi-millions and lucrative stock options worth even more for many of them. That level of largesse is only possible at the expense of working people here and everywhere. Oliver Stone may have been thinking of them when he made his 1980s film, Wall Street. In it was the memorable line spoken by the character portraying the manipulative investor/deal-maker when he explained that "greed is good."
Except for two brief and mild recessions, corporations in the US have prospered since the 1980s in a very business-friendly environment under both Democrats and Republicans. The result has been rising profits to record levels, enhanced even more by generous corporate tax cuts (and personal ones as well mostly for the rich), especially after the election of George Bush. Under this president, one of their own in the White House, US corporations have never had it better. It's been so good that 82 of the largest 275 companies paid no federal income tax in at least one year from 2001-2003 or got a refund; 28 of them got tax rebates in all 3 of those years even though their combined profits totaled $44.9 billion; 46 of them, earning $42.6 billion in profits, paid no tax in 2003 and got $4.9 billion back in tax rebates. And the average CEO pay for these 46 companies in 2004 was $12.6 million.
Along with big tax cuts and generous rebates, big corporations are on the government dole big time in the form of subsidies, otherwise known as "corporate welfare." It's also known as socialism for the rich (and capitalism for the rest of us). In 1997 the Fortune 500 companies got $75 billion in "public aid" even though they earned record profits of $325 billion. They got it in many forms - grants, contracts, loans and loan guarantees and lots more. Today there are about 125 business subsidy programs in the federal budget benefitting all major areas of business.
Some examples of this government largesse include:
Selling the rights to billions of dollars of oil, gas, coal and other mineral reserves at a small fraction of their market value.
The giveaway of the entire broadcast spectrum to the corporate media, valued at $37 billion in 1989 dollars.
Charging mostly corporate ranchers (including big oil and insurance companies) dirt cheap grazing rates on over 20 million acres of public land.
Spending many billions of dollars on R & D and handing over the results to corporations free of charge. "Big Pharma" is notorious for letting government do their expensive research and then cashing in on the results by soaking us with sky-high prices and rigging the game with through WTO rules that get them exclusive patent rights for 20 years or longer when they're able to extend them through the courts.
Giving the nuclear industry over $100 billion in handouts since its inception and guaranteeing government protection to pick up the cost in case of any serious accidents that otherwise might cost the company affected billions and possibly bankrupt it.
Giving corporate agribusiness producers many billions in annual subsidies.
You and I, the individual taxpayers, pay the bill for this generosity. But we actually pay these corporations twice - first through our taxes and then for the cost of their products and services. And they don't even thank us.
The Biggest Recipient of Government Handouts
In the old game of "guns vs. butter", guess who wins? Clue - they have shareholders, and their chiefs are called CEOs. Guess who loses? You know that answer chapter and verse by now.
The Wall Street film character who explained that greed is good might have added war is even better. Call it greed made easy or without even trying. Since WW II the Pentagon and military-industrial complex have always been at the head of the handout queue to get their king-sized pound of flesh in appropriations. The amounts gotten varied in times of war and peace or with the whims or chutzpah of a sitting president, but they're always big. The Pentagon, defense contractors and all the other many and varied thousands of parasitical corporations servicing the defense industry are umbilically linked. All these corporations profit handsomely in our military-industrialized society that takes our tax dollars and hands them over to them by the hundreds of billions annually. Their gain is the public's loss. If the process were audible we'd be able to hear a "giant sucking sound" of public resources wooshing from our pockets to theirs. It's also the sound of our lifeblood being sucked away as we have to pick up the tab and give up our social benefits as well.
Once the cold war ended after the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet Union became 15 independent republics, there was some hope for a peace dividend - meaning less for the military and more social spending. That wasn't what the first Bush administration and Pentagon had in mind as they frantically searched for and easily found new potential enemies as a way to make the case for continued militarized state capitalism. Our language manipulation experts came up with and sold to the Congress and public the threat of "growing technological sophistication of Third World conflicts" which "will place serious demands on our forces" and "continue to threaten US interests," even without "the backdrop of superpower competition." Our defense strategy would thus be based on maintaining global "stability" (more code language meaning assuring obedience to US dominance).
In the 1990 National Security Strategy, the Pentagon presented its defense budget to the Congress using the above stated pretext to justify what they wanted. It called for strengthening "the defense industrial base" (code language for the high-tech industry in all its forms) through generous subsidies as incentives "to invest in new facilities and equipment as well as in research and development." They got what they wanted, and it set off the high tech stock market boom that lasted until the speculative bubble burst in March, 2000 when the economy slowed and slipped into recession. Three years later in a post 9/11 environment, the economy was again growing as was annual defense spending, and the stock market began another ascent that's so far continuing.
The many corporations now benefitting from Pentagon largesse are so addicted to it that they become the main promoters of and cheerleaders for conflicts or preparations for them because they guarantee bigger handouts that are so good for business. It's a dirty business, but isn't that the fundamental predatory nature of large-scale capitalism that relies on a state policy of imperialism to thrive and prosper. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge explained it in 1895, in an unguarded moment, when he said "commerce follows the flag." He might have added that the flag also follows commerce. The great political economist Harry Magdoff, who died this year on New Year's day, also explained it well in his 1969 book The Age of Imperialism when he wrote: "Imperialism is not a matter of choice for a capitalist society; it is the way of life of such a society." And historian Henry Steele Commager wrote about how a national security police state and its bureaucracy lends its great talents and resources "not to devising ways of reducing tensions and avoiding war, but to ways of exacerbating tensions and preparing for war." I guess the conclusion is that in a capitalist society dominated by big business this "bad seed" must be in our DNA and we can't help ourselves as a result. In another article I'm working on I refer to our addiction to war. So far we haven't found an effective antidote.
The reason, of course, is because war is so good for business. In the last 6 years alone, and especially since 9/11, along with all their other largesse and waste, the Pentagon outsourced on average $150 billion a year in work to corporations. Almost half of it was in no-bid contracts and three fourths of that was to the five largest defense contractors headed by Lockheed Martin and Boing. L-M is the undisputed king of contractors. They literally run the enterprise of empire from the inside and out. They're not only its biggest beneficiary, they also help shape the policy guaranteeing it - to the tune of $65 million every day (from our pockets into theirs). And they collect their loot even when their killing machines don't work right.
Then, of course, there's Halliburton and Bechtel. They're always big time winners in the handout sweepstakes. These two well-connected companies have been at the head of the queue in the looting of Iraq and the US Treasury. They've gotten huge no-bid contracts worth many billions which they then freely supplemented with gross (read: criminal) overcharges and gotten away with most of it. And we can't ignore the notorious Carlyle Group, the nation's largest privately held defense contractor with the tightest of ties right to the Oval Office. They practically sit in the traditional Kittinger chair there, or whatever other brand George Bush may prefer. His father, and former president, of course, is on their team (and payroll), and they use him as needed as their main "door-opener" and "wheel-greaser" (especially in the lucrative Middle East). And the old man reportedly earns a hefty half million dollars for every speech he makes on behalf of his generous employer. At that pay scale he must be hard-pressed to keep his mouth shut.
Guess How Big Funding National Defense Really Is
The Center for Defense Information reported that since 1945 over $21 trillion in constant dollars has been spent on the military. And it's been done largely to benefit US corporations even though the country had no real enemies all through those years - except for the ones we attacked with no provocation or invented to scare the public so they'd buy into the scam that we needed industrial strength military spending for national security. Ronald Reagan was very adept at scare tactics and duping the public. He fathered the Contra wars in the 80s in Nicaragua and scared half the public into believing the ruling Sandinista government was a threat to invade Texas and threaten the whole country. He tried and failed to get Mexican president Miguel de la Madrid to go along with him. The Mexican president said if he did 70 million Mexicans would die laughing. It's hard to believe the US public could ever fall for a threat about as great as I'd be (all 120 lbs. of me) in the ring against Mike Tyson in his prime. But although there was none and the nation was at peace during his tenure, Reagan expanded the military budget by 43% over what it was at the height of the Vietnam war (and ran up huge budget deficits doing it). The public suffered for it with the loss of social benefits, but business loved it and him, and the stock market took off on an 18 year bull run.
But after the 9/11 attack, the floodgates really opened wide. In fiscal year 2000 the military budget was $289 billion, but up it went steadily after that reaching $442 billion in 2006 and currently is requested to increase to $463 or higher in 2007. Add to that over $41 billion for Homeland Security in 2006 (another public rip-off as part of a move toward a full-blown national security police state) and annual multi-billions in funding off the books for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that in fiscal 2006 alone amounts to about $120 billion now and may increase. Add it up and the current budget for the military, 2 wars off the books and Homeland Security, and it comes to over $600 billion this year. That kind of spending, with billions more available at the drop of an add-on presidential emergency request gives a whole new meaning to the term "war profiteer." And while the big defense contractors reap the biggest benefits, many thousands of US corporations are in on the take as the Pentagon is a big buyer of everything from expensive R & D and high tech weapons to breakfast cereals and toilet paper. Using the false Bush slogan about leaving no child behind for his failed education program, the Pentagon for sure leaves no corporation behind in its generosity. Corporations wanting a piece of the action need only remember and abide by the scriptural message from John 16:24: "ask and you shall receive." And probably a lot as the Pentagon is notorious about being sloppy, "spilling" more than many good sized corporations earn.
Here's the 2 key questions to ask. Does anyone feel safer, and who'll pick up the tab? If you hadn't noticed, you, the average worker, didn't share in those big tax cuts, your income is losing the war to inflation, your benefits are eroding, and someone some day has to pay that $8.275 trillion national debt that keeps rising $2.2 billion every day. And along with that burden, we've never been less safe, and we, the public, have to pay the bill because corporate America never does. They're in another queue for more tax cuts, and we'll see more social benefits cut to pay for them too. In the political game of musical chairs, corporations get them all every time, and John Q. Public is always left standing (out in the cold).
How Did We Get Into this Mess, and How Can We Get Out of It
I've already explained what happened. As to how, it's because we let them. They delivered the message, and we bought it like lambs led to the slaughter or believing the "foxes" were really "guarding" us. Back in school we all learned and sang those lovely lyrics that began "Oh beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain." We believed it and most of us in our stupor still do. It's long past time we realized it was just a song intended to lull us into complacency to accept the message and go along with it. It was a false message, although there is an America the Beautiful, but only for the privileged few and no one else. And every year it gets worse - a race to the bottom with no end in sight until we either get there or wake up in time and do something about it. Unless we act to cauterize our collective wounds we'll never begin the healing process; in fact, we'll bleed to death. We have to find a way to reclaim the democracy we're always being reminded we have, but don't. If we really had it, they'd never have to remind us about it.
People Power Is How We Get Out of It
It's not too late to turn it around - yet. And it's simple to know what we need to do but always hard knowing how to go about it - take to the streets, throw the bums out (we've tried that one before and only put in new bums). Anyone have some good suggestions? I don't have sure-fire ones, but I've got a piece of good wisdom based on the past and the present. History shows that when things get bad enough people first stir and then react. If nothing changes and the pain gets bad enough, then at some point down go the barricades, and people power steps into the breach. The many always win out over the few when they're fully committed to do it. I"ve quoted famed Chicago community activist Sol Linowitz before who understood it and once said "the way to beat organized money is with organized people." Three recent and current examples make the point and show us how.
All over France for two months up until April, millions of angry young people and union members mainly engaged in strikes, sit-ins and mass street protests to demand the revocation of the new First Employment Contract (CPE) for workers under 26 years of age. French youth refused to become what they called "a Kleenex generation" - to be used and thrown away at the whim of employers who want the "flexibility" to do it. The law was based on the insane notion that indiscriminate firing was a way to create more jobs and reduce unemployment. If it had gone into affect, it would have given employers the right to hire young workers on a two year trial basis and fire them at will at any time during that period. The protesters understood the sham and how it would hurt them and stayed out long enough to get the Chirac government to back down and effectively cancel this outrageous law.
A second example is now happening on the streets in Nepal as many thousands of people from all walks of life including professionals have been protesting since early April in a mass civil uprising against King Gyanendra demanding an end to autocratic monarchal rule and the restoration of democracy. At this writing they still don't have it, but the king had to go on national television and promise to meet their demands. The protests continued after his first public statement forcing the king to go further and agree to the major demands of the main seven-party alliance including reinstating the lower house of parliament and giving power back to elected officials. Doing that would then clear the way to create a new constitution, hopefully a more democratic process and an end to the mass protests. At this writing it remains to be seen whether resolution has now been reached, but it appears a major step has been taken toward it.
The third example has been happening here in the US as millions of immigrants and working people of all races have taken to the streets in cities all over the country. They've seen their rights denied or threatened, their jobs exported, unions weakened or destroyed, wages stagnated and essential benefits reduced, lost or never gotten. Their protests are continuing, and they demand equity and justice. Congress has already taken note and softened some of their hostile anti-immigrant rhetoric. But it remains to be seen how this will turn out. The Congress will resume its immigration legislation debate in its post Easter break session with a final resolution now unclear. What is clear is that if a final bill emerges it will be less harsh than the original House version that passed and the Senate one still being debated prior to and during the mass protests.
The lesson is clear. Mass people actions, if large and strong enough, get results. Lots of great thinkers through the years knew this and said it many different ways. I quote some of them often for inspiration, and I'll end by doing it again - 2 jewels from one of my favorites - the Mahatma. Ghandi wisely observed that "even the most powerful cannot rule without the cooperation of the ruled." He proved it. He also famously said - "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." He proved that too.
Anyone ready for a fight? I hope you are, and if so, you and we too can win. And just in case I need to remind you what you're fighting for, it's for your future, the kind your parents hopefully had, the kind you want for your children, the kind where you know you live in a country with a real democratically elected government that works for all the people and one where there's equity and justice for everyone, not just for the privileged the way it is today. It's also to save the republic and reverse the present course we're now on that may destroy it. Think about it, and start fighting for it. Your future depends on it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog address at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
THE FORCED COLLECTIVIZATION OF U.S. AGRICULTURE
from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Recent trends in US agriculture provide a dramatic illustration of how farmers can be worse off even as society pays more for the food it consumes. In this edition of Macroscan, C. P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh examine trends in retail food prices and farmgate prices received by cultivators in the US, and investigate the role of large corporate control over agriculture in pushing such a process. This also has ominous implications for countries such as India, where similar corporatisation of agriculture is currently being encouraged.
IT IS no secret that the US, like most other developed economies, provides large subsidies to its farming sector. It is also no secret that these subsidies have not really been reduced after WTO was formed, and that despite the GATT Agreement on Agriculture, farm subsidies in most of the OECD countries are now back to pre-GATT levels.
What has been a relatively well-kept secret, however, is that these subsidies have not really benefited farmers so much as they have contributed to greater profits of the giant corporations that now control the distribution and marketing of food products. This is marked in the US, which is particularly striking because the US economy is widely cited as one with relatively low marketing margins among developed countries.
At first glance, this appears hard to accept. After all, expenditure on food in the US has been rising at a significant rate over the past decade. And this has been combined with subsidies of various types which have circumvented the GATT restrictions by using `Green Box', restructuring and other provisions to provide subsidies which are now as high as a proportion of the final value of output as they were in the late 1980s.
The paradox can be explained in terms of the widening margins going to marketing and distribution. The share of this in total value added in the total food expenditure in the US has gone up dramatically since 1980. While total food spending has ballooned, farm receipts have barely risen even in current price terms, and the gap between them has increased most strikingly over the 1990s.
Obviously, this is even more marked in terms of real values. In constant price terms (that is, calculated at 1982-1984 real US dollars), between 1970 and 1999, consumer food spending increased by 30 per cent, the marketing bill rose by 54 per cent, and farm value actually declined by 21 per cent. Much of this process was due to specific trends of the 1990s. US consumers spent $618.4 billion on food in 1999 (excluding imports and seafood), up 37 per cent from the amount spent in 1990.
Between 1990 and 1999, marketing costs rose 45 per cent and accounted for most of the 37-per-cent rise in domestic consumer food spending. In comparison, the farm value of food purchases climbed only 13 per cent between 1990 and 1999.
The higher marketing costs not only raised consumer food expenditures, but also increased the share of expenditures attributable to marketing. In 1999, marketing costs accounted for 80 per cent of the total consumer food spending, with farm value accounting for the remaining 20 per cent. In comparison, the marketing bill accounted for 76 per cent of 1990 consumer expenditures and farm value 24 per cent.
While these figures are cited in current dollars, the story is similar when they are adjusted for inflation. Between 1990 and 1999, marketing costs rose 14 per cent, while consumer food expenditures climbed 8 per cent in real dollar terms. Meanwhile, the farm value of food purchases dropped 11 per cent.
Most mainstream analysts have attributed this to shifting tastes and patterns of demand, reflecting not only Engels Curve type changes but also changing work participation rates of women. Thus, consumers bought a larger volume of food, value-added processing and packaging of at-home foods increased, spending at restaurants and fast food outlets grew, and prices for marketing inputs rose. A changing workforce -- comprising more working women and more two-income households -- meant that busy consumers of the 1990s demanded quick, easy-to-prepare convenience foods. The strong economy of the late 1990s raised incomes and allowed more consumers to pay for highly processed convenience foods.
It is typically suggested that all of these factors were the dominant contributors to the jump in food spending during the 1990s. Certainly, they played a role, but there were other important changes in production organisation which were probably even more significant. This is discussed in more detail below, after a look at the detailed trends.
Consider the case of meat products. Until the mid-1980s, not only did the two indices move together, but farm value changes tended to be more than retail prices. From 1986 onwards, that pattern has been reversed. And from 1990, farm values have been declining quite sharply even as retail prices have continued to rise. By the late 1990s, the gap between the two was enormous.
Very similar trends are evident for poultry and for dairy products, the only difference being that in the 1990s in these two sub-sectors farm values do not decline as in meat products, but remain broadly stagnant. Similarly, for fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. However, the point about the latter two is that there is less scope for further and further processing in these, and therefore the discrepancy between retail price and farm value may be more reflective of increases in marketing margins rather than actual changes in the degree of processing.
This is especially evident in the case of fats and oilseeds, where the extent of processing is largely unchanged over the period. Farm values for oilseeds show a volatile, fluctuating pattern similar to that of foodgrains and a number of other agricultural products. Furthermore, these are cyclical patterns around a stagnant secular trend. However, retail prices of fats and oilseeds show a rising trend, and by the 1990s, this trend shows rates of increase which are not only smoother but substantially more than the change in farm values. And the same holds for bakery and cereal products.
This is not something that can be explained only or even dominantly by changes in levels of processing, changed consumer tastes and preferences, and so on. Clearly, something else has been going on. And that other process, which has operated to increase the share of value accruing to the distribution, is the increasing corporatisation of food production and concentration of agro-industries, not just in the US but also in the rest of the world.
The process of concentration of industry is one that has affected virtually all productive sectors in the world economy. It is just as evident in the food processing and marketing sector, which was already a more concentrated sector at the beginning of the decade of the 1990s. As a consequence, a handful of large companies now handle, control or are involved in some way in almost all aspects of production and distribution of food. In the US, the process of corporatisation of agriculture is not only well advanced but has accelerated over the 1990s.
Consider the companies that now control certain important food sectors in the US economy:
* In grain trade and processing: CARGILL (which swallowed Continental, the second-largest grain trader), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), CON-AGRA.
* In beef packing and distribution: IBP, CON-AGRA, CARGILL (as owner of Excel).
* In cattle feed: CARGILL, Cactus Feeders, CON-AGRA.
* In pork processing: Smithfield, IBP, CON-AGRA, CARGILL.
* In hog raising: Smithfield (the largest pork processor has bought the largest and second-largest hog producers, Murphy Family Farms and Carroll's Foods), CARGILL, Seaboard.
* In biotech and seeds: MONSANTO, CARGILL, DuPont/Pioneer, Novartis, Aventis.
* In supermarkets: Kroger, Albertson's, Safeway, AHOLD (Giant), Winn-Dixie, WALMART.
The repetition of a few names confirms the point that, as in some other interconnected industries, a few diversified firms are positioned on many sides of the market at once. Increasingly, the process of mergers and acquisitions are connected through a complicated system of ``strategic alliances'' and cross-ownership.
Thus, Smithfield, the world's largest hog producer and pork processor, recently bought a 6.3 per cent stake in its rival company IBP, the second-largest pork processor. ADM already owned a 12.2 per cent share of IBP. This kind of cross-ownership is likely to continue, as IBP itself is now to be acquired in a friendly takeover by the Wall Street brokerage firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (which was recently bought by Credit Suisse First Boston). CARGILL and MONSANTO have a complex and elaborate web of joint ventures that runs from fertiliser and seeds to grain and raising cattle, hogs, turkeys and chickens, then on to the butcheries and packing plants.
According to one recent estimate (William Grieder in The Nation, November 20, 2000) THIS MEANS A FRIGHTENING DEGREE OF CONCENTRATION SECTOR BY SECTOR. FOUR FIRMS CONTROL 82% OF THE BEEF PACKING INDUSTRY, 75% OF DELIVERY OF HOGS AND SHEEP, AND HALF OF CHICKENS. Major supermarket chains are now concentrated regionally within the US, though not nationally. Four firms hold 74 per cent of market control in 94 large cities; experts anticipate a new merger wave that could swiftly increase that percentage while doubling the four firms' overall national concentration up to 60 per cent.
It is not just that the `consumers' so beloved of mainstream economic theory are adversely affected by these levels of concentration and effective monopoly. It is also precisely this kind of market leverage that has GIVEN THE LARGE COMPANIES A PRICING ADVANTAGE OVER FARMERS AND RANCHERS. And it is this which explains the rising spread between the prices received by farmers and livestock breeders, and the retail prices, that is so evident from the charts.
Thus, COMPANIES REGULARLY EXPLOIT THIS MARKET LEVERAGE, AND THE DEGREE OF CONTROL CREATED BY VERTICAL INTEGRATION OF BREATHTAKING DIMENSIONS, TO DEPRESS MARKET PRICES FOR INDEPENDENT, RELATIVELY SMALL PRODUCERS. IN SOME CASES, THE CONTROL IS DIRECT. Thus, owning feedlots, or (an increasingly common practice) signing output contracts with individual farmers for poultry, hogs, cattle and even grain and soyabean, GIVES THE PROCESSING COMPANIES ACCESS TO THEIR OWN CAPTIVE SUPPLIES.
Even when there is no such overt control, the ability of marketing giants to hold their own private stores of livestock or grain or oilseeds means that they no longer have to rely on the traditional auction-based purchases in the open market to provide most of their supply. This has affected the auction markets as well, RENDERING THE PRICES FOR FARMERS LOWER AND MORE VOLATILE.
The recent crashes in world trading prices have speeded up these processes. Two consequences of this are now clear. One, is that it drove many American farmers into rushing to accept whatever new technology offered -- cost cutting or output increasing effects. Thus, farmers sought more capital-intensive cultivation, and MONSTANTO and other companies were also easily able to persuade farmers to adopt their genetically modified seeds for corn and soyabean in particular. The other impact of the price collapse is that it has driven many more farmers into accepting the status of contract producer growing crops of livestock under fixed-price contracts with the corporations.
This model is eerily reminiscent of the process of forced commercialisation in Indian agriculture over the nineteenth century, when small farmers were incorporated into a global economy through a process of debt engagement or through contracts of purchase where the ultimate buyer (say, for example, the opium or indigo planter) also offered inputs such as seeds and other working capital and bound the formerly independent producer into a subservient relationship.
Of course, in the US this process is occurring in an already capitalist agriculture which is highly sophisticated in terms of techniques and production organisation. For that reason, it also bears similarity with the pattern of organisation in contemporary major industrial sectors in developed economies. Here a large corporation -- say Nike or Benetton -- organises a complex but disparate and shifting network of affiliated producers, sub-contractors and distributors, who all adhere to its brand standards.
This entire process has been dramatically described as follows: ``Farmers can see themselves being reduced from their mythological status as independent producers to a subservient and vulnerable role as sharecroppers or franchisees. THE CONTROL OF FOOD PRODUCTION, BOTH LIVESTOCK AND CROPS, IS BEING CONSOLIDATED NOT BY THE GOVERNMENT, BUT BY A HANDFUL OF GIANT CORPORATIONS. While farmers and ranchers suffered three years of severely depressed prices at the close of the 1990s, the corporations enjoyed soaring profits from the same line of goods. Growers are surrounded now on both sides -- facing concentrated market power not only from the companies that buy their crops and animals but also from the firms that sell them essential inputs like seeds and fertiliser. In the final act of unfettered capitalism, the free market itself is destroyed.'' (William Grieder, `The last farm crisis', The Nation, November 20, 2000)
AMERICAN FARMERS ARE EFFECTIVELY BEING INCORPORATED INTO A PECULIAR COLLECTIVISATION OF AGRICULTURE, WHERE THOSE IN CONTROL ARE LARGE MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES OPERATING ALL THE WAY ALONG THE VALUE CHAIN. And it is this model of growing corporatisation of agricultural and agro-processed commodity production which is being upheld as an example for other countries, and which is effectively being pushed on to a whole range of developing countries such as India. In fact, the current Indian government has already shown that it is very much in favour of such a trend, and has provided further incentives to strengthen such a process in the recent Budget as well as in the latest Exim Policy.
The effects of such a policy on American farmers, who are already quite well off, and financially and politically strong, are now apparent. But this process is likely to be much more devastating in terms of its impact on Indian cultivators, a majority of whom are already operating at the margin of subsistence.
Asserting Democratic Control
of Food and Agriculture
By Dave Henson
Published September 2002
The corporate media have been filled with opinions in recent months saying the same thing about the current famine in southern Africa: technology can save the day if those ill-informed opponents of progress would just get out of the way.
But despite intense promotion of industrial-scale and chemical-intensive agriculture by the U.S., the World Bank and large corporations, landlessness, poverty, and hunger all have increased worldwide over the past four decades. The "Green Revolution" has failed to deliver on the promise of increased yield and reduced hunger through industrialization. For example, between 1945 and 1993 pesticide use in the U.S. increased by 3,300% while crop loss due to pests increased by 20%.
Perhaps we should learn from African farmers rather than issuing condescending accusations of irrational technophobia. In Nigeria, many farmers use parasitic wasps rather than toxins to fight infestation by the Cassava Mealy bug, a persistent nemesis of crop farmers. Each dollar they've invested in wasps decreases crop losses by $178.
Industrial agriculture has separated people from the land, their food, and understanding of the natural systems on which our lives depend. Independent family farmers have been driven from their livelihoods, unable to compete with vertically-integrated agribusiness giants. Over the past century, the number of U.S. farmers as a percentage of the population has crashed from 40% in 1900 to 1% in 2000. Rural communities are collapsing in the wake, and with them often their seeds, biodiversity and culture.
Moving Beyond Damage Control
While the trends are bleak, a small but growing movement for truly sustainable agriculture is emerging. How can this movement use better strategies to overcome corporate control of the food system and regain food security.
The U.S. sustainable farming and environmental movements have long relied on regulatory laws to limit the environmental and human harms caused by industrial agriculture. Citizens' organizations have focused on tactics such as getting relief for small farmers in the latest farm bill, limiting the levels of pesticides that can be put in our water tables and rivers and limiting corporate mergers to prevent outright monopolies.
These strategies for merely regulating corporate harms ultimately have failed to protect our health and quality of life. For example, since 1972, 56 pesticides have been banned or their use greatly restricted in the U.S. Can there be any doubt that we ingest many other dangerous toxins simply because their threat has not been proven conclusively? Meanwhile, we continue to permit U.S.-based chemical corporations to manufacture and export most of those pesticides banned domestically.
Instead of solving structural problems, our regulations have licensed an unsustainable level of ecological destruction and the ongoing elimination of family farmers while failing to protect rural communities and adequate guarantees for safe food. As activists resist corporate assaults against nature and communities one by one, corporations focus their attention on consolidating control over Congress and the agencies that supposedly control agriculture businesses. It is agribusiness that frames the arena of struggle and the terms of the debate, limiting us to incremental compromises.
Corporate vs. Democratic Decision-Making
Consider the national struggle around federal organic standards at the end of the 1990s. Congress appointed a blue ribbon panel of organic farmers, nutritionists, scientists, organic product manufacturers, and retailers to propose a new law. After several years of research and hearings, the panel presented comprehensive recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In 1999, however, the USDA rejected these and substituted draft "organic standards" proposed by corporate agribusiness and the "life science" corporations. It proposed that the U.S. certify as "organic" products with genetically altered ingredients, food grown with toxic sewage sludge used as fertilizer, and irradiated products.
It took almost two years of mass mobilization and a record 275,000 letters to the USDA to expose this outrage and force the adoption of a meaningful definition for "organic."Did citizens "win?" What could have been done in two years with 275,000 people mobilized to eliminate carcinogenic pesticides or eliminate taxpayer subsidies to giant food corporations? What can we do to stop fighting these defensive battles where a victory means merely maintaining the status quo?
Challenging Corporate Control of Food and Agriculture
Industrial agriculture corporations control the food system through massive corporate subsidies and make the public pay (monetarily and otherwise) for the damages they inflict on the environment and our health through routine use of carcinogenic pesticides. They are enabled through the power of money in our political system and the revolving door between agribusiness corporations and the government agencies that design and enforce regulations.
To effectively challenge corporate agriculture's control of the global food system, ownership of life, and influence on economic decision making, our movements must rapidly evolve new and more complex strategies. We need to act in three realms simultaneously:
Fight Fires: For the past 30 years our sustainable farming and environmental movements have focused on "fighting fires." We have built thousands of local and national groups to challenge thousands of corporate assaults on nature and people. After a long campaign, we may stop a clearcut or dam, but the corporation will be back to retake the trees or river as soon as it can maneuver a change of judge or politician, or take advantage of a lull in our vigilance. We have to resist their harms forever; they have to win just once.
Of course we have to fight fires - people's lives and critical ecosystems are at stake. However, since this form of struggle alone rarely addresses root causes of ongoing corporate destruction, we are likely just to chase the corporation to another community.
Create Alternatives: The ecological farming movement has grown steadily for the past 30 years. We now have many models that provide vision and practices reflecting the values of ecological, economic and cultural sustainability. But in building alternatives which model "how it can be," we must remember that corporations can and will buy out, make illegal, marginalize or destroy people's most successful efforts to get off the corporate treadmill.
Dismantle the Mechanisms of Corporate Rule: While we fight the fires forced upon us, let's not confuse reaction to a problem with proactive strategy. And while we build sustainable alternatives, we will create space for sustainable practices to become the norm only if we dismantle the mechanisms of corporate rule.
To redefine who's in charge and to claim our rightful sovereignty as citizens over corporations, we must choose appropriate arenas of struggle. Our most effective campaigns will be about what we put in our state constitutions, corporate codes and corporate charters and about the laws we pass at the state, county, city and town council levels to define and enforce limits to what corporations may do. In other words, we need to promote real democracy.
How can we succeed in these three realms?
Taking Local Action
To succeed in rolling back the corporatization of our food supply, we'll need to build strategic alliances to address questions of scale, not just practices, i.e. how big or how integrated should we permit corporations to be?
Health advocates and environmentalists may disagree with small farmers on pesticide use or animal welfare practices, for example, but we can work together on those issues over time if we maintain a united stand against the greater common threat of democracy-destroying corporate control.
To build organizing capacity for long-term work, we must address issues important to local people. Here are examples of city, township or county resolutions and initiatives that assert local democracy:
* Keep your community free of plantings of genetically altered crops. While many cities - including Cleveland, Boston, San Francisco, Austin, and Minneapolis - have passed resolutions against GE crops, they are largely non-binding. Boulder, Colorado has a policy that bans GE crops from city-owned land.
* Pass a new or rewrite an existing "Right to Farm" ordinance, as many rural and semi-rural areas have done. It should define agriculture in sustainable terms,mandating that subsidies and tax credits only go to non-toxic agriculture and that agriculture that harms public commons should be discouraged through market disincentives or disallowed.
* Pass a local anti-corporate farm ordinance. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has helped 10 townships in Pennsylvania pass these ordinances in recent years. They now are working on a statewide Family Farm Protection Act.
* Get elected to your local resource conservation district, water board, city council or school board. As one example of what can be accomplished through local political efforts, Sebastopol's city council in Northern California banned all pesticide use on city-owned land.
* Organize local Food Policy Councils - forums for farmers and environmentalists to craft new policies that use local government resources to support sustainable agriculture. Pass directives at city councils and school boards to promote the purchase of safe, sustainable, locally-farmed or produced food in municipal institutions like schools, hospitals and jails. The Berkeley Food Policy Council has pioneered much of this work.
Ultimately, we need to take our campaigns to the state level, including changes to our state constitutions -the most defining statements a people can make. For starters, we can ban non-family owned corporations from owning farmland. It's been done in Nebraska (Initiative 300 in 1982), South Dakota (Amendment E in 1998), and to varying degrees in seven other U.S. states (see newrules.org/agri/banning.html).
Other future state initiatives or legislation might include prohibiting patents on life forms; instituting the "polluter pays" principle (100% corporate liability for long-term costs of corporate harm) and the "precautionary principle" (no public release of new technology until it has been independently proven safe); and reviving defining language in corporate charters and corporation codes.
When challenging corporate rule on the local levels, we will face legal attacks and economic threats. Corporate attorneys will say our measures violate their corporate "free speech" and their "private property rights," trying to associate genuine rights of real people with fictitious rights for something that merely is property. Corporations will take their case to the WTO, asserting that our new local laws are protectionist and barriers to trade They will say our local government is violating the U.S. Constitution's "commerce clause" and Constitutional guarantees to equal protection and due process for all persons.
These corporate attacks can create a crisis of jurisdiction, pitting one level of government against another. This can be a deliberate strategy on our part if we rethink our notion of "victory." If a federal court or WTO tribunal overrules our well-thought, democratically produced local ordinance, it gives us an opportunity to agitate, educate and mobilize disregarded citizens. At that point the essential question of our struggle is made clear to all: "Who is in charge of making the decisions in a democracy, and in whose interest? Is it transnational corporations and financial institutions or people and the common good?
The writer is the director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and is a principal member of the Program on Corporations Law and Democracy, a close ally of ReclaimDemocracy.org.
February 7, 2006
Posted on 02/07/2006 10:13:40 AM PST by Calpernia
How do you say No NAIS in Japanese?
Say no to the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)
The USDA and the agricultural business giants have been crafting a national animal identification scheme that threatens the freedoms of the citizens of the United States of America. The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is the creation of various businesses, such as Monsanto Company, to monopolize American food production by using fear tactics to advance their agenda. The NAIS scheme was not created by any act of our government. NAIS is merely a presumptuous bureaucratic dictate.
So who is Monsanto Company?
In the late 1970s, Monsanto developed a longer-term strategy that would enable it to reduce its dependence on low-return petroleum-based products. A central feature of the strategy involved an increase in activity in the areas of nutritional chemicals and agricultural products and a move into the new area of health care. Biotechnology, particularly genetic engineering, was attractive since it affected all three of these areas. In 1979 Monsanto hired Dr. Howard A. Schneiderman, a biochemist from the University of California, Irvine, who became a senior Vice-President and Chief Scientist in charge of the Corporate Research and Development Division. It was Schneiderman who spearheaded the company's drive into biotechnology and genetic engineering. To facilitate its move into new areas, the company's R&D budget was increased considerably, from 2.6% of sales in 1979 to 5% in 1983 and 7% in 1985 (Monsanto, 1985). In 1985, 57% of R&D expenditure was in the area of life sciences. With 1985 sales of $6,747 million, the R&D budget for 1986 is around $470 million, implying a research budget of about $270 million in the life sciences. Monsanto has followed a number of paths in its attempt to build its biotechnology-related capabilities. To begin with, Monsanto has established links with universities. Most important of these has been a link with the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. Monsanto provided the university with $23.5 million over five years in return for cooperative research projects in biotechnology. One benefit the company has received from this relationship is G.D. Searle & Co.'s development of atrial peptides, which control high blood pressure; these compounds were originally isolated and identified by Professor Philip Needleman, Head of the Pharmacology Department at the University. Monsanto has signed research agreements with a number of other universities, including Harvard, Oxford, and Rockefeller Universities. The company's university links were the subject of a congressional enquiry, headed by then Congressman Al Gore, which concluded that the relationship was not detrimental to the university system.
Intellectual Property and Research
The company's univeristy links also show an interesting intellectual property rights issue. Example, with the Monsanto-Washington University link is intended to facilitate cooperative work between company and university scientists working collaboratively on research projects. An eight-member advisory committee divided equally between Monsanto researchers and Washington University faculty makes the final decision regarding research funding. The agreement stipulates that 30% of the research will be basic research, while 70% will be research directly applicable to human disease. The United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment Report on Biotechnology (1984) summarized the provisions regarding intellectual property rights: 'Washington University faculty members will be at liberty to publish results of any research done under the Monsanto funding. Monsanto will exercise the right of prior review of draft materials, because they may contain potentially patentable technical developments. If they do, Monsanto can request a delay of submission for publication or other public disclosure in order to begin the patent process'. Patent rights will be retained by Washington University but Monsanto will have exclusive rights to licences. If Monsanto chooses not to license a patent then the university will be free to issue the licence to others. Royalties will go to Washington University and not to the individual researchers, but will normally go to their laboratory.
Monsanto then gives the universities access to their vast corporate digital library initiatives. Monsanto's online solution was a pioneering effort that provides a vast knowledge sharing through the Internet that includes data and solutions for:
- a basic technology infrastructure including some or all of the following: email, Intranets, search engines, and groupware-like collaboration.
- One or more separate repositories for capturing and storing critical information, typically in the form of documents.
- Subject matter experts who format, catalog, and administer submissions to the repositories and act as researchers to aid in retrieval of needed information.
Monsanto and Biotechnology
Along with universities, Monsanto has been linking with biotechnology firms through acquisition and mergers, marketing agreements, contractual agreements to provide assets, and joint ventures.
One such company Monsanto has developed a relationship with is Mitsubishi Pharma Corp. Mitsubishi itself has an interesting corporate history. The smaller businesses that eventually merged into Mitsubishi Pharma Corporation are worth mentioning.
Green Cross Corporation was founded in 1950 as Japan's first commercial blood bank and became a diversified international pharmaceutical company producing ethical drugs for delivery or administration by doctors and healthcare workers. It included war criminals such as Kitano Masaji who performed human experimentation in Unit 731 of the Japanese military during World War II.
The company merged into Yoshitomi Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd On April 1, 1998, and renamed to Welfide Corporation on April 1, 2000. Finally Welfide Corp. and Mitsubishi-Tokyo Pharmaceutical Inc. were mereged to form Mitsubishi Pharma Corp. on October 1, 2001.
Throughout their history of company names, there follows a history of tainted blood scandals.
Japan's HIV-tainted blood scandal, known in Japanese as, yakugai eizu jiken, refers between one and two thousand cases in the 1980s in which Japanese patients with haemophilia contracted HIV via tainted blood products. The man that was found guilty of professional negligence resulting in these deaths, Matsushita Renzo, former head of the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Pharmaceutical Affairs Bureaum, became president of Green Cross and after serving his jail time.
Nanotechnology Micro-scale machines, such as DNA chips
The term "nanotechnology" was named in 1974 by Tokyo Science University professor Norio Taniguchi, author of "Nanotechnology: Integrated Processing Systems for Ultra-Precision and Ultra-Fine Products".
Before Bill Clinton left office, he authorized an 84% increase in the government's investment in nanotechnology research and development, National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and made it a top priority.
Genes and the products of genetic engineering can be patented and owned. In 1980, two federal landmark decisions influenced the business side of biotechnology. A Supreme Court ruling allowed patents to be granted for genetically engineered organisms, processes of transforming cells and expressing proteins, and genes themselves. More recently, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Patent Office decision and ruled that DNA sequences that code for particular proteins are patentable. The Bayh Dole Act rules that all intellectual property resulting from federal funding resides in the university, rather than in the government. Unless, the univeristy link is linked to funding by a company, such as Monsanto.
This is what is fueling the drive for a major restructuring of the agriculture, food, and fiber industries. The Bio and now Nanotechnology sciences have presented fundamental problems for the protection of intellectual property rights. As the main OECD publication on patent protection has put it (Beier et al., 1985):
"In the past the patent system rested safely on a semantically clear [and] objectively defensible separation between (patentable) invention' and (non-patentable) 'discovery'. The recent development of biotechnology where some scientific discoveries could be turned into commercial products almost immediately has blurred this separation. This may have far-reaching legal and practical consequences."
Monsanto has sued hundreds of farmers for saving gene-altered seeds from each year's harvest to replant their fields the following season -- a practice farmers have followed for years. In fact, three-quarters of the world's growers are subsistence farmers who rely on saved seed. Monsanto claims "seed piracy" and said replanting the company's patented, gene-altered seeds violates a three-year-old company rule requiring that farmers buy the seeds fresh every year. Monsanto does not sell its engineered seeds in the traditional sense but "leases" them, in effect, for one time use only.
The Creation of National Animal Identification System
MONSANTO AND OTHER AGRICULTURAL BUSINESS GIANTS HAVE SUCCESSFULLY LAID THE GROUNDWORK TO IMPLEMENT A "LEASE" ON ALL OF THE UNITED STATE'S AGRICULTURE. The NAIS plan requires two types of mandatory registration for everyone who owns even just one animal. First, owners must register their name, home address, telephone number and Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates of their 'premise' in a vast corporate digital library. Secondly, in order for any animal to leave its 'premise', the owner will be required to obtain an ID number for it which will be kept in a vast corporate digital library and have the animal microchipped.
The NAIS requirements have yet been forthright as to whether DNA samples will be required in the future.
Global Government and Its American Leadership
By Nancy Levant
The problem with having too much globalization knowledge is that you focus upon specific lies, deceptions, and scams while forgetting the most simplistic issues. Such thoughts come to mind when considering that none of our "elected" officials are ever required to address their global governance actions. In fact, they simply refuse to talk about the subject, pretending it doesn’t exist. The entire world is talking about the new global government, which already exists, but American representatives are dead mute on the subject. Worried about being hung, maybe?
Every "elected" official knows full well that America is being systematically, secretly, illegally, and bureaucratically dismantled. After all, they’ve been quietly and steadfastly working at global governance for over 100 years. However, they have never been held to account, and they never, ever bring up the subjects of their treasonous legislating and back door dealings. They speak no evil, whatsoever. Instead, they play the terrorism game while double-timing to implement their custom made fascist system of total corporate ownership of the entire world – including "all human resources (translation: all human beings)."
So, let us ask the simplistic question, "Why?" Why are "elected" representatives in the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative Branches simply not required to declare and explain their global deals and plans? Well, mass media is a global puppet, so it obviously won’t blow the whistle on its corporate/financial handlers. The main function of mass media is propaganda and social re-engineering, much like their counterparts – the American public schools. In fact, two are essentially one and the same. They are psychosocial consciousness changers. The are "envisioners." That is the primary function of American media and public schools.
The Federal Reserve, full of Ph.D economists and so-called geniuses, bankrupted the American nation and its people ever so strategically. They scammed the Federal Reserve into existence in 1913 with a handpicked quorum on December 23rd (vacation week), and they systematically destroyed the American economy and all opportunity for "the masses." Keep in mind that the Federal Reserve central banking system was Nelson W. Aldrich and Paul Warburg’s baby (Aldrich being the material grandfather of the Rockefeller clan and the Republican leader ((at that time)) in the Senate). The creation of the Fed made way for today’s America – where the nation is held artificially afloat by the debt of the American people. The Fed can pull the plug at any instance in time, and they will when the other manufactured crisis pieces are in place - pieces like America’s paramilitary systems, including Halliburton’s civilian labor camps, weather controlled crisis scenarios, which will eliminate more desired private property from "the masses," the complete plans for the forthcoming pandemic, and the readying of the global/U.N. disarmament of the American people. I also suspect that more members/numbers and coordination of United Nations "peacekeeping forces" are desired.
Of course, we see all of the above coming to fruition very, very rapidly, and at the same time. Once private property and guns are eliminated, food and water rights will follow suit immediately, of course. How do we know this? World history tells us that the landless are slaves and beholding to the landowners. History also tells us that the first badge of slavery is disarmament and the complete illegality of slaves to own or carry weapons. In other words, world history tells us that disobedience to masters is illegal. Any and all resistance is illegal. When you’re owned, you’re owned, and rights are no longer yours.
In a previous article entitled North American Reservation – Reap and Sow, I suggested that the world governors were gathering the world’s people into their new breed reservations. Here in America, we like to call them "deed restricted (water restricted, travel restricted, food restricted) communities." Heads up, folks. History is repeating like a conquering plague – or is that "pandemic?"
NAFTA and its super-duper militarized highway system are splitting the nation directly in half. Watch for more and more and more road removals. Our wilderness and primary natural resource areas are all but swallowed by global initiatives like the Biosphere Reserves and the World Heritage Sites. We are being herded out of America’s rural areas, while global corporations swoop in to collect and sell the bounty of America’s breadbasket to foreign nations. And we, the people, sit watching, silently knowing something is terribly wrong, but only demonstrating our concern by electing, re-electing, and re-electing America’s destroyers - both primary parties being dedicated and card-carrying CFR globalists.
And to top it off, we now sit back in dull observation while electronic voting machines are installed, at the demand of our globalist leadership, which will forever and permanently condemn our votes and opinions to those of the global elite.
So, what does it take for the globalists and fattest cats in the world to achieve total world domination? What stands in the way of complete ownership of all land, water, natural resources, and genetically desired work forces? Let us consider the possibilities.
Perhaps they have not quite achieved the desired technological expertise and scientific advantage(s). Perhaps they are concerned that "the masses" may rise up – being that "the masses" out-number them "massively" and globally speaking. Perhaps these 20-50,000 people just aren’t quite sure enough that they can actually pull off becoming the kings and queens of Earth. Perhaps their dollar bills, which use to be the dollar bills of all people on the planet, just aren’t quite enough of a weapon to fight global humanity. Perhaps their national political puppets haven’t been as successful as desired in their manipulations, deadlines, and secret deals. Perhaps too many people are waking up to what is happening – globally – at the hands of the global elite.
We do know that they have kick-started their global government missions more openly and at a furiously quick pace. Makes one wonder why the sudden hurry. Makes one wonder what deadlines are forthcoming. So many global-ecological-terrorism deadlines – so little time…
And please, people, remember that in 2008, a new and mandatory ID system gets set into stone. The Real ID combines your driver’s license, social security number, health records, and financial records. Let’s think about this for a second, as well. All the aforementioned information is retrievable from your Real ID card. This is private information that will become available to law enforcement, stores, medical facilities, banks, or anywhere you show or use the Real ID. The use of this card will permanently eliminate your privacy. I suggest that this card is merely a stepping-stone to mandatory chipping.
We have been force-fed the "identity theft" crisis. Imagine the theft or confiscation of your Real ID card. If ALL your personal and private information is retrievable from these cards, then "identity theft" becomes picture perfect and complete. Now how would one solve that problem? By replacing ID cards with sub-dermal/implanted chips – that’s how.
Also consider the following. Why would a national ID card be required UNLESS a new nation was being created? Every American citizen carries so much ID that’s it’s a joke. Driver’s licenses, credit cards, library cards, social security numbers, driver’s registration forms, proof of insurance, VIN numbers, license plates, medical insurance and prescription cards, debit cards, etc. Now, combine all the above onto one card, and "identity theft" becomes picture perfect, and it also makes way for the picture perfect solution of mandatory chipping.
Would you rather have control over your "identity," or would you rather "a government" control your identity through the vehicle of your physical body? The Real ID serves the new nation, which is not the USA, and it serves slavery. You, too, will be tagged, just like an NAIS animal. You better think this through, people. NAIS desensitizes you to the chipping concept, and then you’re next – guaranteed. Your Real ID will be chipped first, and then, for convenience sake, your body will be next.
Finally, a truly loyal and truth-speaking American wrote to me, stating that America would be sacrificed for the new world order. This struck me like a ton of bricks, and suddenly, more light bulbs went off over my head and much more sense was made.
America is a corporation. Most American people don’t realize this, and I will not bother trying to explain how or when this happened, because the American people have not read the Constitution and they don’t know which amendments have been legally ratified and which one’s have not – and they don’t, for the most part, care. This fact took a long time to sink into my dull brain. However, the elimination of the Constitution, which actually means the freedom and powers of the people, IS the PRIMARY mission of the global governors.
The belief in unalienable rights is a problem. Civil rights are a problem. Private property and gun ownership are big problems, though the globalists have just about accomplished the total collection of America’s physical territories. There is very little actual land left to buy in the United States. If in doubt, buy your county plat book or request a list of all property owners in your county. You will find that land development corporations, land trust organizations, transnational corporations, and government own most of your county lands. The West is all but gone. So is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (think Great Lakes, forests, and mineral deposits). So are the Appalachian Chain, most coastal areas, most forests and deserts, and most of the other mountainous and snow covered areas. Think corporate-governmental ownership of ALL natural resources. Feeling vulnerable yet?
Then add the environmental missions of partnership-based land conquering and the intent to disallow "the human footprint" on these lands. Think forests, wetlands, island, and watershed areas, in particular (all for nature’s sake, of course…).
Yes, indeed, America is problematic for the globalist monarchs and their pathological greed. America represents everything that they despise and fear – freedom and rights for "the commoner," which are most people on the entire planet. Us commoners are a particular problem in America because we tend to be armed and law abiding, and abiding by Constitutional law means that global efforts to dismantle our nation are 150% illegal. This government is our government, and our politicians are ours to LEAD, fire, or prosecute. This really, really bothers our global kings and queens. It bothers them because there are a whole lot of us and just a little handful of them. But nonetheless, they’re still not mentioning their global government dictatorship.
However, they have educated the American "masses" well. We’re not so smart these days. We’ve been trained to ignore our leaders and their doings, our governmental powers, our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and we’ve been systematically trained to be unaware of our Constitutional rights. Ask your neighbors and family members to name their Constitutional rights. Guaranteed – they don’t have a clue. So the "beacon of freedom" is literally forgotten right along with its history. This was clever. Our internal destroyers are very, very clever and calculating fascists. And they have a lot of money – money that was once ours.
To achieve the mastership of Earth, America needs to fall along with her history, founding religion, moral values, and the knowledge of her people. America falls when America and her government are forgotten through social re-education (mass media and public schools), debt, landlessness, and physical control of the people. Once landless, our guns will be collected because at that point in history, we will be desperate like all landless people in history became. No land = no food, water, and shelter. These requirements for survival are then provided at the discretion and whims of the landlords – whoever they may be and whatever nationality they may be. Globalism, after all, means global.
America is the sacrificial lamb of the globalists. Once America goes, freedom goes. Once freedom goes, slavery ensues in absolute full force. And again, total disarmament is the first badge of slavery.
American people will not read Agenda 21, the Earth Charter, the Millennium Goals 2000, the New Freedom Initiative on Mental Health, the CFR report on the North American Community or their SPP. They won’t read them because they don’t have time to read and deal with debt, youth sports, grass cutting, and dinner; and they won’t read because their reading abilities have been incrementally destroyed by the public schools system, AND they don’t know their history. Freedom is a foreign concept, and public schools don’t allow the teaching of Constitution, freedom, and civil rights. Schools haven’t taught these subjects for decades.
Our social re-engineering has worked like a magic charm for the global kings and queens, which is why they have turned on the gas, so to speak, and are accomplishing the finishing touches to their global domination. We have been trained into silence.
As you know, folks, it is to the choir that I am singing. While I can still sing, start a local A.C.E. chapter in your communities and try to re-re-educate your neighbors and family members. We must try until trying is criminalized. Our global monarchy is trying its best to do just that, so time is short. Request an information packet by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Let the choir members say that we tried our best and did everything we could for America and her children. She’s sinking like lead. Let history show that there were those who cared and believed in freedom from aristocratic terrorists and enslavers.
And one last thought, if you don’t make your "representatives" tell the truth, then none of this matters. And if you continue to vote them into office, then you and your children are already owned and condemned. I hope they feed and water you well.
FOLLOW THE MONEY!!