TITLE: CORPORATOCRACY OR DEMOCRACY?

ABSTRACT: Here are three current examples of corporate power and influence.

Tax dodging: Burger King is the latest corporation to announce plans to move its legal headquarters to a foreign country as a way to avoid paying taxes in the US; a so-called “inversion.” Corporations suffer no consequences as a person would if he or she renounced US citizenship. The tax burden increases on the rest of us to pay what these corporations don’t. I encourage you to contact President Obama and urge him to take action to prevent, or at least discourage, these corporate inversions.

Fracking: In an effort to get favorable treatment of fracking in North Carolina (and elsewhere), the oil and gas corporations have been telling legislators and the public that there are no documented cases of fracking contaminating water supplies. That lie was dramatically exposed recently when the state of Pennsylvania released previously hidden details of 243 cases of water contamination between 2008 and 2014.

High-speed Internet: The fastest Internet access in the US is in Chattanooga, TN. It is about 50 times faster than the US average because it is provided by the municipally-owned electric company. The big cable companies had vigorously tried to prevent Chattanooga from building a publicly-owned network. They don’t want competition for their stranglehold on the slower, more expensive internet service that they provide. Despite their multi-billion dollar annual profits, internet service in the US is worse than that in thirty other countries, including Uruguay.

Conclusion: Corporate power and influence over public policies and our governments is achieved through campaign spending and lobbying. It is hurting our health, our quality of life, and our pocketbooks. It’s time to elect leaders who will stand up to corporations; stand up for consumers, workers, and the middle class; and change our campaign finance and lobbying laws. This is essential to preventing our democracy from becoming a corporatocracy.

FULL POST: Here are three current examples of corporate power and influence that affect our daily lives.

Tax dodging: Burger King is the latest corporation to announce plans to move its legal headquarters to a foreign country as a way to avoid paying taxes in the US; a so-called “inversion.” Although it would, in effect, renounce its US citizenship, everything else remains the same: the same executives and employees, the same stores and facilities, the same customers, and the same benefits from the publicly supported infrastructure in the US, including education of its employees, public benefits for its low wage employees (food stamps, subsidized health care and child care, etc.), transportation, police, fire, and military protection, etc. The only thing that does change is that it pays fewer taxes in the US.

As Senator Elizabeth Warren noted, “If a person did that we’d call them a freeloader. We’d insist they pay their fair share. And that’s exactly what our tax laws do for people who renounce their American citizenship.” However, corporations suffer no consequences; they are treated better than a person would be.

Senator Dick Durbin stated that, “With every new corporate inversion, the tax burden increases on the rest of us to pay what these corporations don’t.” This growing problem is an example of the tremendous corporate influence on our politics and policies through campaign spending and lobbying. [1]

I encourage you to contact President Obama and urge him to take action to prevent, or at least discourage, these corporate inversions.

Fracking: In an effort to get favorable treatment of fracking in North Carolina (and elsewhere), the oil and gas corporations have been telling legislators and the public that there are no documented cases of fracking contaminating water supplies. That lie was dramatically exposed recently when the state of Pennsylvania released previously hidden details of 243 cases of water contamination between 2008 and 2014.

The industry has pressed hard to keep cases of water contamination from being made public. Pennsylvania’s inspector general stated that problems with fracking have overwhelmed state regulators who were “unprepared to effectively administer laws and regulations to protect drinking water and unable to efficiently respond to citizen complaints.” [2]

High-speed Internet: The fastest Internet access in the US is in Chattanooga, TN. It is about 50 times faster than the US average because it is provided by the municipally-owned electric company. This has spurred the local economy, including a growing high tech sector.

This all happened because the electric company needed a high-speed network but the country’s big cable companies wouldn’t be offering service there for a decade or more. So Chattanooga raised $220 million through bond financing and won $111.5 million in federal stimulus dollars and built the network in 3 years.

The big cable companies had vigorously tried to prevent Chattanooga from building a publicly-owned network (as they have in other places). Chattanooga’s electric company had to lobby the state government for permission to participate in the telecom market. It had to win several court battles with Comcast and the state cable association.

Twenty states prohibit or restrict municipalities from doing what Chattanooga has done due to lobbying by the big telecom and cable companies. They don’t want competition for their stranglehold on the slower, more expensive internet service that they provide. They are taking legal steps to stop any further expansion of Chattanooga’s internet service, calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to block its (and another city’s) plans to expand public high-speed internet services for local residents.

Meanwhile, Comcast and Time Warner, 2 of the giants in the field, are seeking approval for a mega-merger, saying it won’t hurt competition or quality of service. However, Time Warner just paid $1.1 million to resolve an investigation by the FCC that found that it did not properly report multiple network outages, which is a violation of FCC rules.

Furthermore, despite their multi-billion dollar annual profits, internet service in the US is worse than that in thirty other countries, including Uruguay. With the deregulation and glorification of big business corporations, we’ve seen America go from being a leader in many fields to falling further and further behind even many third world countries, such as in Internet speed and access. [3]

Conclusion: Corporate power and influence over public policies and our governments is achieved through campaign spending and lobbying. It is hurting our health, our quality of life, and our pocketbooks. It’s time to elect leaders who will stand up to corporations; stand up for consumers, workers, and the middle class; and change our campaign finance and lobbying laws. This is essential to preventing our democracy from becoming a corporatocracy.

[1]       Germanos, A., 8/27/14, “Burger King ‘inversion’ allows it to profit off public, dodge taxes, say critics,” Common Dreams (http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/08/27/burger-king-inversion-allows-it-profit-public-dodge-taxes-say-critics)

[2]       FishOutofWater, 8/29/14, “Pennsylvania makes public 243 cases of fracking contaminated water, “ Daily Kos (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/29/1325694/-Pennsylvania-Makes-Public-243-Cases-of-Fracking-Contaminated-Water)

[3]       Steven D, 8/30/14, “Fastest Internet in US? It’s Chattanooga, TN, thanks to local and fed $$$ (Ps. Big cable very angry),” Daily Kos (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/30/1325887/-Fastest-Internet-in-US-It-s-Chattanooga-TN-Thanks-to-Local-and-Fed-Ps-Big-Cable-Very-Angry)

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