Impeachment Day 1
This has been a painful day for me. First of all, watching that video and reliving Jan 6 was hard. It was bad enough that day watching from here; I can only imagine how it must feel to have been there. It was very painful to watch Trump’s lawyers make incredibly preposterous arguments – when they delivered an argument at all.
More painful, though, is that a year ago his entire party supported what he was and did, after having already destroyed so much of our government and rule of law. Painful that half a million people died in the last year with a government doing nothing, even encouraging actions that made it so much worse.
They tried to destroy the rule of law, and with that vote today they mock it.
Republicans will escalate until they face consequences.
Ford pardoned Nixon, Reagan picked up where Nixon left off. W Bush did the same. Trump … well what can we say?
Trump still has not once faced consequences for anything he has done. Neither have Republicans. Republicans in Congress and criminal administrations do what they do and get huge payoff jobs when they leave government.
Rinse and Repeat
Republicans will escalate until they face consequences.
We can repeat this after each worse-then-the-last Republican atrocity. Until they face consequences they will escalate.
Or until they get their beloved, fascist, Handmaid’s Tale state.
What was left of our “system” has now passed the turning point.
We wanted accountability for crimes we could clearly see with our own eyes. But Republicans effectively killed investigations or oversight in the Congress. The people at the top of the FBI and Justice Dept were removed and the rest held under threat of ruin. The entire system of checks and balances was besieged.
We the People were left hopeless and helpless, no part of our government able to step up and tell us why the crimes we could see happening were continuing. So we put all of our eggs in the Mueller basket for any remaining hope to save us.
We all saw collusion and obstruction in plain sight, and believed the Mueller investigation knew even more. We KNOW there was money laundering, extortion, bribery, fraud, lies and lies and lies and you name it. Don Jr lied to Congress and we know it. Erik Prince did, and we know that. Flynn and Gates and Cohen and others were given light or no sentences so they could tell us what happened.
We know that at the least Trump had lied about his plans to build Trump Tower Moscow. The Russians knew at the time that he had lied so he was compromisable. And he acted compromised. (Meeting alone with Putin with no transcription? Ending sanctions?)
Our remaining hope for accountability lay in Mueller’s investigation and we were let down. The basket dropped and our remaining eggs are broken. Those who want accountability have lost. We failed to kill the king and now we face the consequences. The right’s media/propaganda/lie machine has an ability to set the discourse and reach the public that outweighs our ability to do anything about it. Trump is now exonerated for every crime or future crime and will be beyond reach.
The right-wing drumbeat to leave Trump alone will now become merciless. Dems will now be cast as sore-losers who engaged in a plot to to smear a good, Godley man and his family for political gain. Anyone questioning Trump’s divine right to rule will be marginalized, ostracized, called you name it. Democrats will be the radicals who want to force us into communist training camps
I asked in May, 2017, “Will our system withstand the attack? We don’t know. Kleptocracy is powerful.”
Now we know the answer. The promise of a “taste” of the kleptocracy will buy Republicans a lot of good will. (Stock buybacks alone have topped $1 trillion since the tax cuts.)
The Republican project is complete. Accountability is over. Corruption rules. The rich and powerful are fully in charge. “American carnage” reigns.
So far President Trump has signed very few bills. One lets coal companies dump waste into streams. The other lets oil companies bribe foreign dictators in secret. And he is moving to block a Labor Department “fiduciary rule” that requires financial advisors to act in the best interests of their clients when advising on retirement accounts.
Here’s the thing: this isn’t just Trump doing this. The Republican House and Senate passed those two bills, and the Republicans have been fighting that fiduciary rule tooth and nail.
It’s not just Trump, Republicans as a party are using Trump to engage in a general assault on protections from corruption, pollution, corporate fraud and financial scams.
This is who they are.
“You better keep your eye on your kids. We know what car you drive.” That’s the kind of threats a local union official is getting after President-presumed-Elect Donald Trump tweeted something bad about him.
“You gonna die. Death is coming to you real soon.” A Florida woman is arrested for threatening the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook. Trump-tied “fake news” sites claim the shootings there were a “hoax” intended to push gun control.
A guy shows up at a Pizza shop based on conspiracy theories — some pushed out by Trump insiders, others by the same Trump-related websites and radio shows that pushed the Sandy Hook hoax — claiming Hillary Clinton runs a child sex trafficking ring from its basement. He brings an assault rifle,
… terrifying customers and workers with his assault-style rifle as he searched Comet Ping Pong, police said. He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States…
Is this the “new normal” for our country?
Trump Attacks Local Union Leader
The latest example of this top-down attacking involves Chuck Jones, the president of United Steelworkers (USW) local 1999. Local 1999 represents workers at Indiana’s Carrier furnace and air conditioner manufacturer.
After Trump falsely announced that he had made a deal to “save” 1,100 Carrier jobs Jones said Trump had, “… for whatever reason, lied his a– off.” (See LA Times, Trump’s Carrier jobs triumph looks more like a sham every day.)
Trump publicly responded to Jones on Twitter,
Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
This is the next President of the United States publicly attacking a guy who is president of a local union in Indiana, singling him out for national attention. And this national humiliation and endangerment by the next President of the United States is because the guy told the truth after Trump did not.
According to the Washington Post report, Donald Trump insulted a union leader on Twitter. Then the phone started to ring., “My first thought was, ‘Well, that’s not very nice,’ ” he told The Washington Post on Wednesday night. “Then, ‘Well, I might not sleep much tonight.’ ”
Then things started to get bad,
Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.
He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.
“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”
But there’s more to it. Attacking a union’s leadership, saying “no wonder companies are fleeing the country,” the union should have “kept those jobs in Indiana” and saying the union should “spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.” is classic management anti-union propaganda. Saying the union is costing jobs is a union busting tactic intended to drive a edge between the union and rank-and-file workers.
This anti-union action shows the mindset of Trump toward working people. It sends a signal. If unions try to help their membership, and challenge Trump’s tactics and facts, Trump will attack them and threaten their leadership.
Support For Jones: #ImWithChuck
Not everyone is intimidated by these attacks on individuals by the next President.
In response to Trump’s attack on Jones, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued this statement,
Chuck Jones is a man of passion, conviction and integrity who would do anything for his union brothers and sisters. President Gerard is exactly right – Chuck is a hero. An attack on him is an attack on all working people.
Chuck is right to call out the president-elect for inflating the number of jobs that will be saved at Carrier. He understands better than anyone that these are more than numbers—they are people with families to support and bills to pay.
Instead of attacking those who have been working hard to save jobs, the president-elect needs to engage with local union leaders at Carrier and at his hotel in Las Vegas. Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is breaking the law by not bargaining with its newly unionized employees. Mr. Trump will soon occupy the White House. His words and actions need to befit that office.
Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing tweeted this about Jones,
Chuck’s a man of deep integrity. He’d do anything to keep jobs here. Trump got half a loaf for workers. Chuck’s right to call Trump out. https://t.co/kxeVukiHZw
— Scott Paul (@ScottPaulAAM) December 8, 2016
Also on Twitter, the hashtag #ImWithChuck has messages of support of Jones.
This Is The Next President?
Trump, believe it or not, is President-elect on the United States. That is a position of great power, commanding great influence over what people think and do. When Trump or those around him “punch down” and publicly attack individuals or advance bizarre conspiracy theories, it puts people in danger. Trump and those around him don’t seem to care. And by publicly not caring and continuing to do it, it starts to look like intent.
Trump and the people around him are, in essence, sending these nuts after people. Provoking. Inciting. But with the tweets attacking Chuck Jones using classic union-busting propaganda Trump is also strategically attacking the interests of all working people.
Exclusive: Zach Galifianakis Wants You to Know How Bad Gerrymandering Has Gotten
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was forced to testify on Wednesday before a Republican impeachment committee. Republicans are doing this because the IRS (under a previous commissioner) dared to check whether organizations applying for special IRS nonprofit status were following the law or illegally promoting candidates.
Republicans in Congress want to send the IRS and other government agencies a clear message: If government employees try to make corporate/conservative movement organizations follow the laws and rules, Republicans will make their lives miserable, bankrupt them and ruin their careers. And thanks to the huge sums of “dark” money flowing to Republican candidates from billionaires and corporations, they have the power to do it.
A Supreme Court justice has died. Normally (and according to the Constitution) the process is that the president nominates a successor, the Senate holds hearings, and there is a vote on whether to confirm that nominee. According to the Constitution, that’s their job, and they took an oath to do that job.
President Obama has said that of course he will fulfill his constitutional duty to nominate a successor to Justice Scalia. But this time Republicans have announced that they will refuse to participate in the constitutional process and will not consider any nomination that the president brings them.
This is part of an ongoing Republican attack on our form of government.
Ongoing Attack On Government And Rights
The country has been through years and years of Republican obstruction of everything government does. Why is that?
The architect of the modern conservative movement was corporate and tobacco attorney Lewis Powell, and his blueprint was “the 1971 Powell Memo,” titled, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” The memo claimed that “the American economic system” (capitalism) and “business” were “under broad attack” from “Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries.” It complained of “the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to ‘consumerism’ or to the “environment.” It called on business as a class to “conduct guerrilla warfare” against this on “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences” as well as politicians the public and the courts. The goal was for business to “consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.”
The memo led to the building of the massive corporation/billionaire-funded conservative “infrastructure” of ideological “think tanks,” activist organizations and media/propaganda “echo chambers” that constantly push corporate/conservative propaganda out to the public. Book after book, article after article, study after study has warned of this movement effort to alter our government away from democracy and toward a corporatocracy.
Once such conservative movement organization is the Federalist Society, established in 1982 and receiving funding since from conservative foundations including the Earhart, Bradley, Simon, and Olin Foundations, and the Carthage, Koch, and Scaife Foundations. Justices Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito were all members of the Federalist Society.
For how long did the Republican majority on the Supreme Court give us one highly partisan 5-4 decision after another, reversing one hard-won civil right, environmental gain, consumer right, worker right after another? Fifteen years ago the Republican Five even forced on us a president who didn’t receive a majority of the vote.
After Barack Obama was elected president, the Republican minority filibustered more than 500 important bills (on issues ranging from infrastructure funding to ending tax breaks for offshoring jobs) before they took control of the Senate – an unprecedented number. But it has not just been legislation; they have blocked nominees to positions that keep government functioning. They have blocked appointments to judgeships: there are 35 Obama judge appointees who were waiting for a Senate confirmation vote long before Senate Republicans conjured up their no-appointees-during-an-election-year stance, one as far back as September 2014.
Republicans have also continually obstructed by starving government agencies of the funds they need to operate – the Internal Revenue Service is a case in point. They have even shut down the government when they could.
Republicans also dismantle government in the states, cutting taxes for the rich and corporations while cutting the things government does for the state’s citizens. Many of these governors and legislatures achieved majority status following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of undisclosed corporate and billionaire money into the political process. Once in, they passed restrictive voting rights laws and extremely partisan redistricting plans to lock in their majorities.
After so many years of this, the public is, to say the least, disillusioned to the point of giving up on government – even our current pretense of democracy.
But this has only gotten worse. This year, President Obama submitted his budget to Congress and Republicans refused to even look at it. They refused to schedule hearings before the House and Senate budget committees. They won’t let the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) come to Congress to testify.
Now, to top it all, Republicans have said they will not even consider any presidential nominee to the Supreme Court. If they prevail, the court will operate with only eight members, and precedent assures us that important cases will receive a 4-4 tie.
This Makes No Sense, Unless…
Republicans won’t consider the President’s budget? Won’t consider a Supreme Court nominee – any nominee? Won’t allow important bills to pass? Won’t allow important governmental posts to be filled? Won’t allow important government functions to be adequately funded? Dismantle important state agencies? It’s like Republicans are saying, “No, we’re not going to let you have your constitutional government.”
What is going on?
Republicans are able to do these things to our government because the “framers” of our Constitution never anticipated that a (well-funded) ideology that opposes the very concept of democratic government would capture a political party, gain seats in the Congress and, as a strategy, simply refuse to participate in the processes of constitutional government.
The Founders did require an oath of office that assumes such participation, but they did not outline steps to take should obstruction be used to block operation of the government.
If you look at all of this from a perspective that Republicans are working within our form of government, it makes no sense at all. They have a constitutional duty to pass budgets, but instead allow the government to shut down. They have a constitutional duty to confirm (or not) appointments to government positions and judgeships, but they obstruct. They have a constitutional duty to consider Supreme Court nominees, but they refuse.
But if you consider that their purpose is to fundamentally change our form of government, it all makes more sense.
People who see much of the public as “takers,” who view taxes as “theft,” who view roads, schools and social services as “free stuff” are not people who prefer a democratic form of government. They (or at least those funding them) want a different form of government where the haves have the power and the don’t-haves don’t, instead of We the People sharing the power and the country.
At some point you have to take them at their word and accept that they mean what they say: “We want to get the government small enough to drown it in a bathtub.” We are not looking at a disagreement over how to run our government here, we are looking at a disagreement over our form of government.
But our Constitution is clear on the form of government We the People have. That is why they are intent on setting the Constitution aside. We must tell Republicans that they took an oath to support the Constitution and its processes – or step aside and let We the People have our government back.
What The President Should Do
President Obama should nominate a known and dedicated liberal/progressive to the court, to balance the movement conservatives on the Court now. However, unlike the conservatives, this nominee should mean it when she or he states support the Constitution, and be ready to decide cases based on the Constitution and law, not ideology.
Republicans will always nominate a dedicated movement conservative who is sworn to advance the anti-government (and therefore anti-U.S. Constitution) conservative project, against voting rights, consumer rights, environmental rights, and for corporate rule.
It’s time the right-wing ideologues are called out for their obstruction of democracy – and to make to clear that the presidential candidates who have participated in or have endorsed that obstruction have no place in our government. It’s not just about a budget or a Supreme Court justice; it’s about restoring the principle that the United States must act as a democracy of the people, every day of every year.
Here are two petitions that you can sign to tell Republican senators to “do their job” and consider President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court:
● The Sierra Club petition: “We Need Three Functioning Branches of Government. Don’t let Congress’s dysfunction spread to the Supreme Court. Tell your senators to do their job and go through the normal constitutionally mandated process of choosing the next Supreme Court Justice.”
● Senator Sherrod Brown petition: “Senators, do your job.” “Tell Republicans: Do Your Constitutionally Mandated Job. The Constitution is clear — the president nominates Supreme Court justices, and the Senate confirms or rejects them. But Republicans in Congress want to ignore the Constitution. They’re saying they won’t consider anyone President Obama nominates. We, the undersigned, are tired of Republicans’ hypocrisy. A Senator’s Constitutional oath applies regardless of which party controls the Oval Office. Stop making excuses and do your job.”
George McGovern was the Democratic nominee against incumbent Richard Nixon in the 1972 election. He lost in a landslide. Just as the events of the 1980s shaped the current economic environment, the 1970s “Nixonian” politics of division shaped the current political environment. Did Democrats learn the right lessons from that election?
That’s the core question being asked as “establishment” Democrats worry that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders would be “too far to the left” to compete against the Republican nominee in a general election.
McGovern, son of a poor pastor who was a war hero and eventually a U.S. senator for South Dakota, had a reputation as a decent man who sided with the people. He campaigned on ending the Vietnam War, cutting military spending, helping economically distressed Americans and confronting Republican lawbreaking.
The “omnibus” budget for the next year is out. Here are some of the winners and losers.
With a Republican Congress, every budget battle is about ratcheting down the things our government does to make our lives better. Every budget battle is a defensive action, with Democrats fighting to keep things that help the public for another year or two. Republicans fight for tax cuts for the rich and corporations to defund government. Then they can claim that government doesn’t have any money, so we need to cut budgets. (Note that almost all corporate shareholders are largely the same rich people, so corporate tax cuts are really just tax cuts for the rich.)
What We The People Get
This time We the People “get to keep” tax incentives for wind and solar for another five years. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) (for low income people with income from work), Child Tax Credit (CTC) (for people who have children), American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) (for sending kids to college) were actually made permanent. We get to keep providing health care for 9/11 responders who got sick from helping at the World Trade Center site after the 2001 terrorist attack — all of which Republicans tried to strip out.
Making those tax credits permanent is a big win. These help lift 24 million working-class families.
The “Cadillac Tax” that was set up as a disincentive to employers to offer high-quality health insurance coverage is delayed for two years. This means people will be able to get better health insurance with lower co-pays and deductibles. (See the post “What Is This ‘Cadillac Tax’ Health Insurance Thingy?” for details.)
Because of all the tax cuts, the country’s public schools are generally underfunded to the point where teachers are using their own money to buy books for the students and supplies for the classrooms. The budget lets teachers forced to do this at least have a tax deduction from their income.
What We The People Stopped
Republicans were fighting to block the “fiduciary rule” that requires financial advisers to give advice that is in the interest of their clients, instead of tricking their customers just to make money for themselves — or at least disclose to customers if they have a conflict of interest. They didn’t get that rule blocked, so financial advisors cannot continue their fraud-based business model.
Republicans were trying to chip away at the Dodd-Frank bank-regulating rules, so Wall Street can expand its fraud-based business model. They were trying to strip power from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and cut the ability of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to do its job. They didn’t get those.
Republicans Got Tax Cuts To Further Defund Government And Enrich Billionaires
Republicans fought for more corporate tax cuts and got $650 billion, including the “active finance exception” for multinational financial corporations and what Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) calls “the much-abused research credit.” CTJ says these “are nothing but ineffective giveaways to the nation’s wealthiest corporations.” CTJ concludes, “As a whole, this tax package is mostly a lobbyist-wrapped Christmas present for our nation’s biggest corporations.”
Republicans also won tax breaks for special interests including NASCAR, horse racing and film and television productions.
Having won another $650 billion of government defunding while handing $650 billion to big corporations, Republicans will soon come back and complain about “deficits” and demand a new round of cuts in the things our government does for us.
Oil Companies Get The Oil Export Ban Lifted
But Republicans especially fought for lifting the ban on exporting U.S. oil. This was their highest priority.
This is a typical news reports on the budget deal: “By far the biggest win for Republicans, besides the extended tax cuts, is a measure that would lift a four-decade-long ban on exporting crude oil.”
Why is this a “win” for “Republicans?” Because oil companies wanted it, period. The Republican Party is nothing if not always, always in service to oil companies. A political party placed ending the oil export ban as their highest, highest, do-or-die priority. It does nothing for the public, the country, the climate, jobs or anyone or anything else except for the oil companies, and this is what the Republican Party laid itself down to get done.
This puts more oil on world markets, just after the Paris climate talks. The reasons oil companies wanted this so much are:
1) In the short term, this gets some of the glut of oil out of the U.S., thereby raising gas and other prices within the U.S. (This was the real goal of the Keystone pipeline. Canadian oil is already coming into the U.S., the pipeline would take it to Gulf ports so it can be gotten out of the U.S., thereby reducing the glut and raising U.S. gas and other prices.)
2) The Paris climate agreement is a signal that the era of fossil fuel is ending. A lot of the oil that is still in the ground is going to have to stay there. The question is whose oil will have to stay in the ground, and producers are trying to get their oil out of the ground as fast as they can. Producers are now fighting with other producers to dump their oil before they are forced to stop. Saudi Arabia and OPEC are pumping oil as fast as they can. Lifting the U.S. oil export ban lets U.S. producers fight directly with them to get their own oil out of the ground first.
Democrats traded this in exchange for keeping tax incentives for wind and solar for another five years, and some of those other things We the People got to keep for a while longer.
P.S.: This Was Not Cool At All
By the way, the budget bill repeals a law requiring Country Of Origin Labels (COOL) on meats, because a corporate court decided We the People should not be allowed to know where the meat we purchase comes from. This cuts into the profits of giant meat producing corporations that are not U.S.-based.
For background on this see “Corporate Court Overrules U.S. Congress, Public.”
Again and again we hear about corporations doing bad things so they can make more money: polluting, selling contaminated food or otherwise harming people’s health, selling products that injure people or just don’t do what they advertise, tricking and scamming people out of their money, selling banned goods or providing financial services for terrorists or drug cartels, and so many other things that are not good for people or society.
Wouldn’t it be great if there were some entity that was more powerful than these corporations, whose purpose is to protect us, reign these corporations in, make and enforce rules, prosecute offenders and put a stop to this stuff?
This Week: VW
This week we are hearing about Volkswagen (VW). For years the company claimed they were selling “clean diesel” engines, but they were tricking their customers, the public and governments around the world. Their cars are really a public health threat, putting out up to 40 times the legal limit of pollutants that cause asthma and other disease.
VW built a “defeat mechanism” into as many as 11 million cars. This mechanism let the cars pass government tests, even though they were polluting like crazy when driven in the real world. The mechanism made the engine run clean during government tests, then when it detected that the tests were finished it set the engine to start polluting again.
For years these cars have been harming people and until now VW was getting away with (and making big profits from) this. They were finally caught, and we will see whether executives are prosecuted, or if this will be one more case of weak (or corrupted) government issuing a fine that lets a company make its shareholders pay the cost instead of holding the executives that did it accountable.
The Fix For The VW Cars
This is huge. Up to 11 million cars have these “defeat” mechanisms in them. These cars have to be fixed because their emissions can cause people to develop asthma and other respiratory diseases. But fixing this is a big problem.
According to Wired, in “VW Owners Aren’t Going to Like the Fixes for Their Diesels,” there are two choices for fixing these cars – and either choice means the car owners end up losing a lot of what they thought they had paid for.
The first is to update the software so the cars always run in the “test mode” that defeated the emissions tests. But the changes the software made to the engines to get them to operate within the legal emissions limits while being tested will cause the car to either have poor acceleration or poor gas mileage.
The second is to actually fix the problem that causes the engines to pollute. According to Wired, VW would have to add a “urea” tank and the means to inject this into the catalytic converter:
The standard way of making a diesel run cleanly is to use selective catalytic reduction, a chemical process that breaks NOx [mono-nitrogen oxides] down into nitrogen and water. Part of that process includes adding urea to the mix. The super effective system can eliminate 70 to 90 percent of NOx emissions, and is used by other diesel manufacturers like Mercedes and BMW. The downside is that it adds complication to the system, and cost — $5,000 to $8,000 per car. And you need to periodically add the urea-based solution to your car to keep it working.
… So it seems the logical way to get those cars to perform like their diesel cousins is to add a urea. VW’s unlikely to embrace that option, because adding hardware to half a million cars would be far more expensive than a computer update. It wouldn’t be any fun for the TDI owner, either. Not only do you have to spend an afternoon with your local dealer, you have to make room for the tank. That could mean sacrificing cargo space or giving up the spare tire.
The cost to VW will be huge, and the customers lose either way. Never mind all the people suffering asthma and lung disease resulting from the pollution these cars were emitting.
VW Not An Isolated Case
The New York Times reports, in “Volkswagen Test Rigging Follows a Long Auto Industry Pattern,” that,
For decades, car companies found ways to rig mileage and emissions testing data. In Europe, some automakers have taped up test cars’ doors and grilles to bolster their aerodynamics. Others have used “superlubricants” to reduce friction in the car’s engine to a degree that would be impossible in real-world driving conditions.
Automakers have even been known to make test vehicles lighter by removing the back seats.
… [In 1973 the EPA] fined Volkswagen $120,000 after finding that the company had installed devices intended specifically to shut down a vehicle’s pollution control systems. In 1974, Chrysler had to recall more than 800,000 cars because similar devices were found in the radiators of its cars.
[. . .] Beyond emissions, the industry has long been contemptuous of regulation. Henry Ford II called airbags “a lot of baloney,” and executives have bristled at rules requiring higher mileage per gallon.
VW might not even be the only company that is scamming government testing labs with “defeat mechanisms’ right now. From the report,
“We call it the tip of the iceberg,” said Jos Dings, the director of Transport and Environment. “We don’t think this will be limited to Volkswagen. If you look at the testing numbers for the other manufacturers, they are just as bad.”
The Times report lists several examples of the auto industry engaging in profit-making by endangering their customers. There was the “unexploded Pinto” problem of gas tanks blowing up. There were 271 deaths from the Ford-Firestone tire scandal. There were the Takata airbags that either don’t work or injure people. There was Chrysler selling as new cars that had been driven for 60,000 miles with the odometers disconnected. Click through, there’s plenty… But no one has been put in jail.
So what VW was caught doing is “not an isolated incident” and, in fact, VW had already been caught doing the same thing in the 1970s.
Not Just Auto Industry
VW is hardly the only company in the auto industry engaged in these practices, and the auto industry is hardly the only industry engaging in this kind of activity.
● Of course, tobacco still kills over 480,000 Americans each year and no one even talks about doing anything about it. Everyone understands this is because of the great wealth and power of the tobacco companies as well as their influence over a certain political party. More than 480,000 terrible, painful deaths each year!
● The “Obamacare” health reform was written the way it was because it was understood from the start that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies had enough power to block anything they didn’t like. So we didn’t get Medicare for All or even a “public option.” These industries had already blocked the administration of President Bill Clinton from reforming the health care system, leading to more decades of deaths, untreated illness and bankruptcies.
● In 2000, The Nation reported, in “The Secret History of Lead,” that the lead industry knew and kept secret for decades that they were poisoning people with lead in gasoline, paint and other products, and instead of doing something about it they protected their profits by covering this up and attacking government efforts to do something.
The leaded gas adventurers have profitably polluted the world on a grand scale and, in the process, have provided a model for the asbestos, tobacco, pesticide and nuclear power industries, and other twentieth-century corporate bad actors, for evading clear evidence that their products are harmful by hiding behind the mantle of scientific uncertainty.
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum reported on just one of the societal consequences of this decades-long crime, in “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead.” His investigative report concluded that lead may be “the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic.” That whole put-millions-in-prison thing that has ruined so many lives? Oops, it might have been the lead industry’s doing. Are any lead industry executives in jail for that?
● The fossil-fuel industry is notorious for polluting and for causing climate change. The industry has captured an entire political party and has them fight the development of alternative energy sources, taxes on carbon, fuel-saving public transportation initiatives, other energy-saving efforts, etc. The industry funds a climate denial cult that threatens the entire planet.
These are just a few of so many examples.
Big Government Prosecutions Can Make A Difference
Corporations save money by cutting corners. Dumping carbon into the air. Putting lead in gasoline. You name it. They price the potential fines into the product as a cost of doing business. And company shareholders pay those fines. The executives who commit the actual wrongdoing are rarely if ever held accountable themselves.
Many companies can safely assume that the government isn’t even going to catch them or do anything if they do. Government cowed by intense anti-government propaganda. We hear that “government can’t do anything as well as business can,” that “big government threatens us,” and “government takes money out of the economy.” We hear about “burdensome government regulations” that “kill jobs” on a 24/7/365 basis. Government and democracy do not have an advertising budget to counter this relentless propaganda.
Government is underfunded because the propaganda elects corporate-backed anti-government politicians who convince people to allow tax cuts (on the corporations and their owners) paid for by cutting back on government. And especially cutting back on government regulation and enforcement. The result is government enforcement is backing down all the time.
Industry executives revolve through the door into government and then back into plush corporate offices where they collect rewards for protecting their industries. Our “captured” government notoriously refuses to bring corporate criminals to justice. Not one banker, for example, was prosecuted for obvious crimes leading to the 2008 financial crash.
However last week we saw one rare instance of a prosecution of individuals for corporate crime. The people running Peanut Corporation of America, a Georgia peanut company, were prosecuted after a salmonella outbreak that sickened and hospitalized hundreds of people and killed 9 of them. Company executives knew for years their product was made in unsafe ways that were causing contamination — but instead of spending what was needed to fix the problem they covered this up. So the owner was sentenced to 28 years in prison and other executives were sentenced to 20 years.
Thanks to an actual prosecution resulting in prison terms for company executives it is likely that the public will suffer fewer food-safety problems, at least for a while.
Our government supposedly exists to protect We the People from wealthy and powerful interests, including other countries. Our revolution against the wealthy British aristocracy and the King’s corporations testify to this. A government that is “of the people, by the people and for the people” should be big enough, strong enough and funded enough to reign in companies and billionaires, and protect We the People from the kind of corporate misbehavior we saw from Volkswagen — long, long, long before it involves 11 million cars all spewing out serious threats to public health.