Watch Reporter Manhandled For Trying To Ask Question Of Powerful CEO At Public Event

Mike Elk, of In These Times, attempted to ask Honeywell CEO David Cote a question, at a Capitol Hill event. Watch what happens.

More from Republic Report: Video: On Capitol Hill, Reporter Attacked For Daring To Ask A Question To A Powerful CEO,

Republic Report attended a conference for “entrepreneurs” and small businesses today on Capitol Hill hosted by Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC). Although it was advertised as a lively discussion about economic policy, we witnessed the only staffers violently grabbing the mic from the only reporter who asked a critical question during the forum.
Mike Elk, a journalist for In These Times magazine, was called on during the question and answer portion of a morning panel to ask David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, about his efforts to bust labor unions at a Honeywell-owned uranium plant. Elk asked Cote, who earlier in the event boasted about his company’s profit margins, about his labor practices and the recent news that a poorly trained worker used to replaced Honeywell’s organized workforce had allowed a release of radioactive gas. But before he could finish his question, a man in a suit working for the event repeatedly grabbed the microphone away from Elk.

Please read the rest at Republic Report. This is what happens when the wealthy plutocrats come to believe they are in charge, and are not answerable to We, the People or our press.
Note – Mike Elk has written for Campaign for America’s Future.

Democracy Improves Lives In China – And Here, Too

Democracy properly applied brings widespread prosperity because when people have a say what they say is give everyone good wages, benefits and a share of the pie. They say reinvest some of the profits in infrastructure and education to keep the good times rolling. Last but not least they demand equal enforcement of the rule of law. Undercut those things and what you get is … well, you get what we see happening all around us today…

Democracy Improves Lives

Here is a surprise that isn’t a surprise in the WSJ today: Democracy Improves Lives of People in China,

A little bit of democracy has gone a long way to improving people’s lives in China.
Such is the conclusion arrived at by four economists who recently published the results of an investigation into the economic effects of China’s village elections.
Studying elections from 1982 through 2005, the quartet found villages that elected their leaders spent 27% more, on average, on “public goods” such as schools, tree plantings and irrigation canals than villages that didn’t hold elections. Elected officials also helped vastly reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Why the gains? Largely because elected leaders pay attention to their constituents as a way to assure their re-election. “The increase in leader incentives is an important driver” of change, write Monica Martinez-Bravo of Johns Hopkins University, Gerard Padro i Miquel of the London School of Economics, Nancy Qian of Yale University and Yang Yao of Peking University, in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper. [emphasis added, in order to add emphasis]

Prosperity Is Fruit Of Democracy

This is not a surprise. When people have a say, they say they want better. And when We, the People are were in charge, we got it. Because Americans had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends… we protected the environment, we set up Social Security. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.

Unions Enforce Democracy

Before unions came along to enforce the idea of democracy we didn’t get the share of the prosperity that democracy promised, after unions we did. Before unions we had 12 (or more)-hour workdays, seven days a week. Before unions we had low pay. Before unions we had no benefits. Before unions we certainly didn’t get vacations. Before unions we could be fired for no reason. Before unions a wealthy few were able use their wealth to pay off influence legislators and keep the rules bent in their favor. Unions organized and forced changes that brought a larger share of the pie to We, the People.
Unions enforce the concept of democracy. Yes, We, the People were supposed to be in charge. Yes, the economy was supposed to be for our benefit. Why else would We, the People allow corporations to exist in the first place? It was unions that gave people the power to enforce that idea. People organized together and demanded that We, the People get a share of the pie, and the results grew the pie. Unions are why we have had a middle class.

Our Prosperity Made Us A Big Market

That prosperity meant that we had a very big market that the rest of the world wanted to sell to. This market power gave us leverage. We protected that market by refusing to let in goods made by exploited workers without applying a tariff. This tariff kept the price of imported goods from undercutting the prices of goods made here by people who have a say, and said they were going to get a share of the pie. The tariffs helped pay for good schools and good infrastructure that gave our companies a competitive advantage in the world, even where people were paid less.

“Free” Trade Undermines Democracy

But for decades the democracy experiment has run the other way. Our “free” trade agreements have undercut our democracy. We allowed goods made by exploited workers to come in and undercut the good wages that we were receiving because we had a say. The exploited workers elsewhere were used as a hammer over our heads: “Accept lower wages and cuts in benefits or we will move your job out of the country.” From Democracy V. Plutocracy, Unions Vs. Servitude,

Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won[t have any job at all. They are given no choice.
Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.

And the result was that our share of the pie got smaller and smaller. The concentrated wealth has been used to undermine our democracy, and we are in a downward spiral — a “race to the bottom.”

Decades Of “Free” Trade Has Made Us Poor

Corporate conservatives like Speaker Boehner like to say “We’re broke“:

House Speaker John Boehner isn’t going to step in to stop proposed cuts for a low-income heating program.
Asked specifically about why now is time to be cutting LIHEAP and other key programs to help poorer Americans, the Ohio Republican said, “Everything is on the table. We’re broke. Let’s be honest with ourselves.”

If, as they claim, “we’re broke,” then how did we get that way? By undercutting our democracy with “free trade” agreements, that led to terrible trade deficits. The Trade Deficit Keeps Draining Money From Our Economy,

Another month and another terrible trade deficit report. Why is it that DC elites who profess to care so much about deficits say so little about our worst deficit? The trade deficit drains money from our economy, lowers our wages and forces us into an ever-lower standard of living.
…Here is the formula since Reagan:
1) We open our borders to imported goods made in places where people don’t have a say, so they don’t have good wages or environmental protections. We send our factories over there and import “cheap goods” into the country.
2) This sends dollars over there, and they don’t buy back from us (that would be actual trade), so they accumulate the dollars as they drain our economy.
3) Then we borrow those dollars back to fund the tax cuts for the rich. Our rich get richer, the rest of us get poorer, while they gain more and more power over us. The tax cuts force us to cut back and cut back on schools and infrastructure and other things that make us competitive
4) Meanwhile the imports from over there are used to break the unions and drive wages and benefits down over here.
5) Bob’s your uncle, here we are where we are today.

The economic result of decades of these trade agreements demonstrates that when we let in products made where people don’t have a say it undercuts our own economy. We opened the borders and let the big companies move the jobs, factories and industries over the border of our democracy, to places where workers don’t have a say, so they are exploited. And the result was the big corporations were able to come back and cut our pay, and get rid of our pensions, and tell us, “take it, shut up, or we will move your job, too.” We allowed the 1%ers to make the benefits of democracy into a competitive disadvantage! From Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have Both,

How often do you come across arguments that “globalization” and “free trade” mean that America’s workers have to accept that the days of good-paying jobs and US-based manufacturing are over? We hear that countries like China are more “competitive.” We hear that “trade” means that because it’s cheaper to make things over there we all benefit from lower-cost goods that we import.
How often do you hear that we need to cut wages and benefits, work longer hours, get rid of overtime and sick pay? They say we should shed unions, get rid of environmental and safety regulations, gut government services, and especially, especially, especially we should cut taxes.
What they are saying is that we need to shed our democracy, to be more competitive.

The 1%ers Say Jobs Solution Is Be “Business-Friendly”

With our wages and benefits cut out from under us and our working hours lengthened the corporate conservatives demand more, saying we need to be more “business-friendly” to compete with countries like China. They oppose the minimum wage. They oppose pensions. The oppose health care benefits. They oppose unions. They say we have to cut taxes on the rich and corporations or they will leave, taking their jobs elsewhere. “Business friendly” means giving the 1%ers everything they want.
In fact, China Is Very “Business-Friendly”. So was the South, before the Civil War.
But it remains a fact, where democracy flourishes prosperity follows. Where democracy is weak, so is the economy for regular people. And when regular people are not doing well there isn’t much of a “market.” Democracy is the only economics that works.
Join me at the June 18-20 “Take Back the American Dream” conference.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Why Do We Have Corporations?

This spring the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement arrived at corporate shareholder meetings, with the 99% Power coalition demanding decent corporate governance that serves the interests of We, the People rather than just a few people. There are results inside and outside of the big corporations. Most visibly, last week Amazon dropped ALEC and earlier, Citigroup shareholders said stop the executive gravy train. Even bigger: the public is learning that We, the People actually can make a difference when we stand up and demand change.
Leo Gerard, Workers Of The World Unite — With Shareholders

At Citigroup, shareholders had their say on CEO pay — and they yelled, “No damn way!”
Concerted action by shareholders, workers and public interest groups compelled corporate change in several other cases this spring as well.
At least three CEOs resigned. Executives truncated one shareholder meeting to 12 minutes. And across America and Europe, CEOs lamented the end of automatic approval for excessive executive compensation.
A wave of corporate change is rising because the rabble and the stockholders share an interest: decent corporate governance. To shareholders, decent means more long-term corporate vision providing reasonable returns and fewer risky, quick-profit schemes benefiting only executives. To workers, the unemployed, community and environmental groups, decent means operating corporations in the best interest of the nation, including treating workers with dignity and refraining from polluting. Together, the rabble and the shareholders wield power.

99% Power Coalition

The 99% Power coalition includes citizens groups, workers, retirees, job seekers, families fighting foreclosure, students burdened by debt, immigrants and environmentalists.
Organizations invloved include The New Bottom Line, The Unity Alliance, Jobs with Justice, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Alliance for a Just Society, National People’s Action, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Pushback Network, Right to the City, Public Campaign Action Fund, MoveOn.org, Service Employees International Union, Public Citizen, Enlace, UNITEHERE, Common Cause, Rebuild the Dream, Restaurant Opportunities Centers, Health Global Access Project, United Steelworkers, International Labor Rights Forum, Food Chain Workers’ Alliance and The Other 98%.
These are organizations of We, the People.

ExxonMobil Meeting Wednesday

This Wednesday’s ExxonMobil shareholder meeting is a big one because ExxonMobil is a really, really bad one. Leo Gerard again,

Steelworkers and Occupy Dallas activists worked with the 99% Power coalition to organize the protest outside the ExxonMobil meeting. USW-represented refinery and clerical workers will protest ExxonMobil’s greedy and dangerous corporate behavior. This corporation, which last year gave its CEO a 20 percent pay increase, has refused for two years to approve much smaller raises for its all-female clerical staff at Baytown.
In addition, ExxonMobil, among the most profitable corporations in the world, is denying safety measures to workers the Baton Rouge refinery — measures that it has agreed to implement at four other facilities. This refusal comes just two years after an explosion at a Tesoro refinery killed seven workers and seven years after a massive blast at BP’s Texas City refinery killed 15 and injured 170.

Why Do We Have Corporations?

A very dangerous question: why do we have corporations? Where did they come from? Do they serve us?
We, the People are the reason corporations exist at all. They are legal structures enabled by our legislatures and enforced by our courts to serve our purposes. We, the People decided to allow this form of legal structure to serve us by aggregating the needed resources to accomplish large-scale projects that serve us. They are supposed to provide us with benefits in the form of goods and services and good jobs and taxes.
Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?
Let’s reflect and think about that for a while. Let’s remember that We, the People are supposed to be in charge here and we do things like enable corporations to serve us. Why else would we have allowed corporations to exist in the first place? We, the People are the only reason these things exist. We, the People enabled them. We, the people did it to serve us. We, the people did it for our benefit.
Corporations are just legal structures, created by us and under our control as all legal structures are supposed to be. They are supposed to accomplish projects that we want done, for our benefit. They are supposed to provide good-paying jobs, pensions, and other benefits to the people who work in them. They are supposed to be for the good of society — all of us, not just a few of us, and certainly not at the expense of so many of us. They are supposed to provide us with taxes that (literally) pave the way for our continued prosperity.
Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?
And if these things we created are not serving We, the People — all of us not just a few of us at the expense of the rest of us — then isn’t it time for We, the People to change things and bring them back under our control?
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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HOW Many Houses?

I forgot, HOW many houses did Sen. McCain have, when he ran for President?
McCain Defends Romney And Bain Capital As Part Of Free Enterprise System,

“The only place in the world that I can recall where companies never failed was the old Soviet Union,” McCain said. “And yes, the free enterprise system can be cruel,” he said.

Never failed? What percent of Bain’s deals made money for them? (Did ANY lose money?)
Another “risk-taker”: Mayor Bloomberg shells out $25million for TWO new houses (that’ll be homes number 10 and 11, then),

The property in North Salem, New York, is adjacent to a 20-acre residence that Mr Bloomberg purchased in 2001 for his equestrienne daughter, Georgina, according to the New York Times.
The estate includes a barn, a free-standing three-car garage, an additional cottage and a horse-riding rink, according to the newspaper.
Three months later, Mr Bloomberg bought a 35-acre Hamptons estate for $20million.
The mayor now owns properties in Manhattan, Bermuda, London, Southampton, New York, Vail, Colorado, and Wellington, Florida.

Capitalism Failed

Sara at AlterNet: Capitalism Has Failed: 5 Bold Ways to Build a New World

The problem, in a nutshell, is this: The old economic model has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems — state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism — have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn’t an option.

m4s0n501

Sara Robinson On Virtually Speaking

This week I had a conversation with Sara Robinson on Virtually Speaking. It went very well, and I invite you to listen to the recording.
We talked about the early days of the blogosphere, how the bloggers were right while all the corporate-mainstream pundits were wrong, the threat from and meaning of fascism, how close we came under Bush, how that is changing, what happens if Romney wins, what future studies is and how it relates to the progressive movement, Sara’s project at AlterNet and many other subjects.

Listen to internet radio with Jay Ackroyd on Blog Talk Radio

Dave Johnson Sara Robinson Virtually Speaking 05/22 by Jay Ackroyd | Blog Talk Radio

At Shareholder Meeting Amazon Drops ALEC, Dodges Tax Questions

At today’s Amazon shareholder meeting in Seattle the company announced that it is dropping support for ALEC, while fudging questions about its taxes and voting down proposals to report its efforts to address climate change and to disclose its political spending.


The Meeting

Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting took place in Seattle this morning. It was a brief, pro-forma event that took place in a small auditorium in an art museum and lasted only about 45 minutes. The general meeting was run by two corporate communications staffers, with CEO Jeff Bezos appearing (in jeans) for a brief presentation. There was a brief “mic check” disruption at the close of the meeting and a crowd outside protesting the company’s practices.

These shareholder meetings are often displays of corporate arrogance and near-defiance of government requirements to hold public meetings. Amazon’s meeting today was notable, with the company announcing the results of shareholder balloting even as the ballots were being collected from attendees. The real voting had already taken place; the shareholders who count — the 1% owns 50.9% of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds, the next 9% own another 39.4% — had already spoken.


Dropping ALEC

At one point in the meeting attendees at the meeting were able to ask questions, and a question about Amazon’s funding of the shadowy right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was answered with the announcement that Amazon is dropping their support of the organization “for this year.” The company’s corporate-speak wording was approximately thus: “We regularly evaluate our memberships in different organizations and we have determined that we will not renew our support of ALEC for this year.” At the end of the meeting a shareholder said he was disappointed that the company “bowed to political pressure” and dropped their support of this wonderful organization that did so much good. But he was happy that Amazon has provided such good returns.


Tax Dodging

Amazon dodged a question about dodging its taxes. During the presentation, Amazon CEO Bezos said that in the last two years the company has paid $1.3 billion in taxes, including withholding and property taxes. Withholding means money collected from employees that includes Social Security and personal income taxes. Called on this later, a company spokesman hedged and obfuscated, without providing information on just how much the company pays in actual corporate taxes.


Shareholder Proposals

There were two shareholder proposals presented at the meeting, with Amazon’s board recommending that shareholders vote against both.

The first was a proposal that Amazon assess the impact of climate change on the company — specifically risks related to greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and logistics — and announce the corporation’s plans to publicly disclose this assessment. The board recommended that shareholders vote against this proposal. It was announced during the collection of ballots that this proposal was rejected by the shareholders.

The second was a proposal that Amazon disclose its political spending. This proposal asked Amazon to join with best practices of corporate governance and recognize the need to participate in their community in positive ways. The Board recommended that shareholders vote against this proposal. It was announced during the collection of ballots that this proposal was rejected by the shareholders.


Working Conditions

Another criticism of Amazon has been its working conditions, particularly in it warehouses. Amazon said at the meeting that they are installing air conditioners in older warehouses, and newer ones have air conditioning. A spokesperson also said that the company matches the “metrics compared to industry benchmarks.” Attendees who still have souls were left speechless.


Disruption At End

As the meeting drew to a close there was a “mic check” with several attendees joining in, linking arms, and being led out of the meeting by police. There were no arrests.


Crowd Outside

As the meeting took place there was a large crowd — maybe 200 people — outside the building, holding signs and repeating chants led by people with megaphones.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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