In the Public Interest By Ralph Nader
It is time to apply the standard of patriotism to the U.S. multinational corporations and demand that they pledge allegiance to the United States and “the Republic for which is stands…. with liberty and justice for all.” This July 4, 2011 would be good day for Americans to demand such a corporate commitment.
Born and chartered in the U.S.A., these corporations rose to their giant size on the backs of American workers and vast taxpayer-subsidized research and development handouts. When they got into trouble, whether through mismanagement or corruption, these companies rushed to Washington, D.C. for bailouts from American taxpayers. When some were challenged in foreign lands, the U.S. marines came to their rescue, as depicted decades ago by two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Marine General Smedley Butler.
So what is their message to America and its workers now? It is not gratitude or loyalty. It is “we’re outta here, with your jobs and industries” to dictatorial or oligarchic regimes abroad, such as China, that know how to keep their impoverished, and abused workers under control.
Note that these company bosses have no compunction replacing U.S. workers with serf-labor, but they never replace themselves with bi-lingual executives from China, India and elsewhere who are willing to work for one-tenth or less of the huge pay packages executives get from their rubber-stamp boards of directors in the U.S.
Just this week, the Wall Street Journal headlined “Big U.S. Firms Shift Hiring Abroad.” Veteran reporter, David Wessel writes:
“U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers, have been hiring abroad while cutting back at home, sharpening the debate over globalization’s effect on the U.S. economy. The companies cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million, new data from the U.S. Commerce Department show.”
While Mr. Wessel acknowledges that other economies, especially in Asia, are growing rapidly, he noted that “The data also underscore the vulnerability of the U.S. economy, particularly at a time when unemployment is high and wages aren’t increasing.”
Keep in mind that, while receiving all the public services, subsidies and protections in this country, large corporations have been abandoning America by shifting jobs overseas and by making our country perilously and unnecessarily dependent on foreign governments that naturally put their own interests first.
For example, the drug companies no longer have any plant in the U.S. to manufacture essential raw ingredients for important antibiotics like penicillin. In 2004, Bristol-Myers Squibb closed the last such factory in East Syracuse, N.Y. The drug industry always made lots of money here. One of every two Americans are on a prescription medicine. But the pharmaceutical companies want to make more so they have moved their production to Asia.
In 2009, The New York Times reported that “the critical ingredients for most antibiotics are now made almost exclusively in China and India. The same is true for dozens of other crucial medicines, including the popular allergy medicine prednisone; metformin, for diabetes; and amlodipine, for high blood pressure.
This flight to Asia raises serious questions. Senator Sherrod Brown (Dem. Ohio) held hearings because he accurately believed that “the lack of regulation around outsourcing is a blind spot that leaves room for supply disruptions, counterfeit medicines, even bioterrorism.”
Industrial scale production of Penicillin was developed by the U.S. war production board in World War II and many drug companies made it in U.S. plants, until the Chinese government lured the industry there with many freebies and weak safety regulations. A few years ago 95 Americans died from a Chinese produced counterfeit ingredient in the drug heparin, an anticlotting drug needed for surgery and dialysis.
As Belgium drug industry consultant, Enrico Polastro, told The New York Times: “If China ever got very upset with President Obama, it could be a big problem.” The Times concluded: “So for now, like it or not, China has the upper hand.”
Who gave China that dominant position? U.S. multinational drug companies, who along with other big U.S. companies, pushed through Congress, with Bill Clinton’s support, ratification of both NAFTA’s and the World Trade Organization’s “pull down” trade agreements. They created the very globalized structure that they now claim they are beholden to in order to meet the global competition. Clever, aren’t they?
Other unpatriotic acts include the oil companies who, despite being given a rich oil depletion tax allowance to invest in energy in the U.S., invested in oil production overseas. The U.S. is now dependent on foreign sources for most of its petroleum. Don’t forget the military-industrial giants that thrive on U.S. military expansion abroad and sell modern weapons to many dictatorial regimes which they use to oppress their people and endanger our own national security.
U.S. multinationals that export jobs abroad, show too little regard for our country, or to the U.S. communities that sustained them for decades. Greedy corporate lobbyists continue to press for more privileges and immunities, over those held by real humans, so as to be less accountable under U.S. law for corporate crimes and other mis-behaviors.
If U.S. companies continue to expand their rights of personhood through U.S. Supreme Court’s political decisions (eg. the latest being the notorious 5 to 4 Citizens United case opening up the floodgates of corporate cash against or for electoral candidates), then, they should be judged as “persons” and evaluated for their loyalty to their country of creation.
Since corporations are clearly “artificial” entities and not real human beings, narrower civil liberties standards can be applied to the impersonal and massive concentrations of power, capital and technology known as corporations
Independence Day July 4th presents an opportunity for a national attention to the need for calling out these runaway corporate giants who exploit for profit the patriotic sensibilities of Americans, but decline to be held any patriotic expectations or values.
Readers interested in joining such an effort for July 4, 2011 contact firstname.lastname@example.org.