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Takin' Care of Business
Author: BobR    Date: 04/07/2010 12:34:15

It is a basic tenet of Republican and Libertarian philosophy that the best way to treat business is with a hands-off approach. The market will reward the good companies and the bad ones will go out of business, they say. Government regulation and interference does more harm than good they say. And yet - we've seen the economy nearly crash this country due to practices by banks and investment firms, actions that were once illegal. Business will always take care of business first, swallow the competition, and create monopolies that are "too big to fail". They'll also skirt the law and even break it in search of a little more profit. People first?... hardly.

The most recent devastating example of that is the recent mining disaster in W. Va. A blast there killed 25 miners (so far), in what is described as one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history. If this were a "one-of" unforeseen happenstance, it might be forgivable. The reality, though, is that Massey Energy - the owner of the mine - has had accidents before, and has been cited 600 times in the last year and a half for safety violations:
The coal mine rocked by an explosion that killed at least 25 workers in the nation's deadliest mining disaster since 1984 had been cited for 600 violations in less than a year and a half, some of them for not properly ventilating methane — the highly combustible gas suspected in the blast.

The disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine has focused attention on the business and safety practices of the owner, Massey Energy, a powerful and politically connected company in Appalachia known for producing big profits, as well as big piles of safety and environmental violations and big damage awards for grieving widows.
Upper Big Branch is one of Massey's biggest underground mines, with more than 200 employees, and it is not uncommon for big coal mines to amass hundreds of violations a year — and to contest many of them, as Massey does. But most big mines don't have as many serious infractions as Upper Big Branch, industry experts said.
Testimony showed Massey CEO Don Blankenship suggested firing two supervisors for raising concerns about conveyer belt problems just before the belt caught fire...

With the recent court ruling seeming to grant corporations the right to contribute to campaigns as if they were people, isn't it about time to bring people like Don Blankenship to trial for negligent homicide?

The courts also ruled yesterday that "pay to play" is acceptable for internet users and internet content providers by shooting down the net neutrality provision:
A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that regulators had limited power over Web traffic under current law. The decision will allow Internet service companies to block or slow specific sites and charge video sites like YouTube to deliver their content faster to users.

The court decision was a setback to efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to require companies to give Web users equal access to all content, even if some of that content is clogging the network...

Although this may seem to make sense, it effectively gives companies like Comcast the ability to squelch voices in what is one of the few venues left for free speech. Most people do not have the means to speak out via television, radio, or newspaper. However, the internet provides a forum for everyone that can get to the internet (and most public libraries have free access for those who can't afford it) to be able to get their message out to all that care to listen. With this ruling, companies can jack up rates on those they wish to silence until they're no longer able to be heard.

All of this wouldn't be so infuriating if the corporations were doing their fair share to help financially support the infrastructure they use when doing business. Sadly, no. Companies like Exxon pay no income taxes while enjoying record profits:
...According to the GAO, the vast majority (66%) of 1.3 million corporations, pay no federal income taxes. A quarter of the 1000 largest U.S. corporations (those with over $250 million in assets or $50 million in sales) fail to pay any taxes.

At a time when Americans are suffering the most, many corporations refuse to give back to the country.
...check out the behavior of ExxonMobil, a frequent target of vituperative screeds, but deservedly so. In 2009, Exxon paid zero dollars in US income taxes...

In 2008, then-candidate Obama pledged to close loopholes that allow companies like Exxon to hide profits in offshore accounts to avoid taxes. Here's hoping that actually happens. Companies are enjoying the right to contribute to campaigns, shield company CEOs from criminal prosecution, and stifle free speech. There has to be a balance between taking care of business, and giving them the whole store.

23 comments (Latest Comment: 04/08/2010 03:39:07 by BobR)
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