Drill Baby Drill Judge Pits Mega-Corporations Against The Rest Of Us

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
American deregulated corporatism: Short-term profits for a very few at the expense of the rest of us. The Gulf oil spill is driving home the “expense of the rest of us” part of this equation. And the corporatist/conservative reaction to government’s efforts to reign in an industry that provides so much of their funding highlights for us the battle lines of the equation.
Conservatives say that getting a company to set up a fund to compensate its victims is “Chicago-style thuggery” and a “shakedown” and apologize to the company! Instead we demand they apologize to democracy for this.
But this is not really about “corporatism” it is about raw bigness translating into raw power. This is big industries and companies and a few extremely wealthy people that “have” vs not-as-big industries, companies and the rest of us that “have not.” Big, centralized oil is a “have.” Fishing, tourism, alternative “green” energy – these are industries and corporations too — and democratic decision-making are “have nots.” This is not corporations vs democracy, this is big corporations (really, the wealthy few people who control their resources) against smaller corporations and the rest of us.
Yesterday a Reagan-appointed, oil-stock-owning judge set aside the Obama administration’s moratorium on exploratory offshore oil drilling, citing “potential economic harm to businesses and workers” in the oil industry while ignoring the not-potential threat of harm to the fishing, tourism and other industries now being destroyed by that industry. Big oil’s wishes, a judge appointed by the guy who took Carter’s solar panels down from the White House roof and dismantled mass-transit and alternative energy programs, and an anti-government conservative movement out to dismantle democracy combine to push back against the “thuggery” of a public daring to attempt to assert that safety is assured. The battle is over who is in charge.
The administration placed the moratorium while they develop new safety standards and procedures. This followed the revelations of near-complete regulatory capture of the Minerals Management Service by the oil industry, resulting in the chain of safety-ignoring, cost-saving diversions from standard procedure. They filed a xeroxed spill plan citing dead phone numbers and dead consultants, and the dead regulatory agency never bothered to read it before approving it. The blowout preventer wasn’t working and they knew it but didn’t want to take the time or expense to fix it. Etc, and etc.
Since so much was wrong on this rig the government wants to take a look at the other rigs drilling offshore and make sure they are operating safely, and get procedures that work in place. The industry is infuriated that government is “interfering’ in their profit-making enterprise. Their oil is under our water and they want it now.
The industry threatens to just move oil rigs out of the Gulf to other areas, taking the jobs with them. Democratic oversight of corporate behavior is again held hostage to the threat of moving jobs across a border. The judge lets them get away with it.
This is the fight. The big and wealthy industries, corporations and people against the smaller industries, corporations and the rest of us. This is the same fight as that unleashed by the recent Citizens United case. It is not corporations vs democracy, it is the the wealthy few people who control the resources of the biggest corporations against everyone else.
And it is in no way clear who will come out on top.
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m4s0n501

Who Is Our Government For?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
dday, writing in Giving Away The Tax Argument at Digby’s Hullabaloo blog, asks why so many California newspapers have “tax increase calculators” but no calculators that show people how much the budget cuts affect them.

In my life, I have never seen a “spending cut calculator,” where someone could plug in, say, how many school-age children they have, or how many roads they take to work, or how many police officers and firefighters serve their community, or what social services they or their families rely on, and discover how much they stand to lose in THAT equation. Tax calculators show bias toward the gated community screamers on the right who see their money being “taken away” for nothing. A spending cut calculator would actually show the impact to a much larger cross-section of society, putting far more people at risk than a below 1% hit to their bottom line.

[. . . The media already highlights the tax side of the equation over spending, dramatically portraying tax increases while relegating spending cuts to paragraph 27. It feeds the tax revolt and distorts the debate. And it’s completely irresponsible.

In Why Are Public Assets Being Cut Right When We Need Them Most? Jay Walljasper, of OnTheCommons.org wonders why public transit, libraries and other things the government does for us are all being cut at exactly the time people need them? As the economy turns downward more people need to take the train or bus, or use the library. Jay makes the connection,

Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, proposes closing the state’s budget gap by reducing corporate taxes and slashing state aid to local governments. This will mean painful cuts in public assets, such as transit and libraries.

. . . This loss of our public assets is an alarming threat to our society. The things we all own in common and depend upon–libraries, transit, parks, water systems, schools, public safety, infrastructure, cultural programs, social services–are being gradually but steadily undermined.

For many years I have been blogging at Seeing the Forest, often coming back to a question, “Who is our economy for?” For some time now regular incomes have stagnated, while incomes at the very top just go up and up. The GDP keeps rising, productivity keeps going up, but regular people see less and less of the benefit of this increase. In fact, if you look at charts and data, the stagnation of incomes started almost exactly at the same time as President Reagan took office and started implementing the corporate agenda of anti-tax and anti-government policies. So is this a coincidence?

Throughout human history we have seen one scheme after another wherein a few people seize power and devise a system to hold it and use it to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. This is human nature and through history we have seen it happen over and over.

America formed in reaction to the British monarchy’s exploitation of its people. We, the People formed our government to band together and protect each other from attempts by the powerful few to exploit us. Our Constitution was supposed to be include a system of checks and balances to account for the nature of power.

It is time for the people to take back that power and use it to again benefit each other. And it is time for California’s newspapers to do something for We, the People and include a “budget cuts calculator” as well as tax increase calculator. It is just as important, maybe more so, that we all understand how we’re injuring and jeopardizing our future with the budget cuts the Republicans required in this year’s budget negotiations.

Click through to Speak Out California