WHORING FOR A "BETTER" AMERICA
A PARTY THAT MOST OF US MISSED
The bastions of conscience that are America’s corporate giants can hardly wait to spend the fruits of their latest income tsunami resulting from Trump’s corporate windfall tax scheme. As we speak, Amazon is on the prowl for a second corporate headquarters, promising 50,000 new jobs to the winner of its location lottery.** Amazon’s corporate kingpins are ringing the bell of “prosperity” for communities across America, as supposed community leaders line up to line corporate pockets with taxpayer money.
Just the other day, the Republican governor of the little state of Maryland stepped up with a $5 billion proposal for Amazon to locate their prosperity pill in even littler Montgomery County, Maryland. For those of you who don’t live there, it is already one of the richest localities in America with some of the least affordable housing on the planet, and monumental traffic congestion. Just think of what 50,000 new jobs, 50,000 more cars, and multiples of 50,000 new neighbors could do for that community.
Or maybe, just think what $5 billion could do for that community without the new jobs and the new “prosperity.” The state and local funds might be able to subsidize construction of affordable housing for teachers, nurses, cops and low-income families, relieve overcrowded schools, and make a dent in congestion with community-based transportation infrastructure investment. But guess what happened, almost all of Montgomery County’s state legislative delegation had a collective orgasm and hoped on the governor’s bribery bandwagon.***
Apparently it never occurred to these fearless leaders that perhaps their constituents might prefer to increase school budgets and create more green space with their tax dollars. Nor, dare I say it, that quality of life concerns should be taken into consideration before jumping into bed with Amazon without so much as a public hearing to air those concerns or to consider the souring relationship between Amazon and the Seattle, Washington community in which its initial headquarters is perched.
Maybe 50,000 new folks dedicated to chasing packages by day and night in their midst might not contribute much of anything to the Maryland community as a whole nor to many other communities whose public officials seem so ready to throw public money at the feet of corporate kingpins and shareholders. If Amazon wants a new headquarters, how about putting it somewhere in Appalachia or in some inner city where there are few decent jobs and limited infrastructure. And, instead of begging for bribes to do so, maybe this corporate “citizen” could lead the way by providing some of its wealth to train new employees and by providing a large measure of the infrastructure they say they require.
Not to be outdone and next up for a corporate pole dance are Apple, Facebook, and Google. These charter members of the corporate conscience community spent millions on lobbying the Trump cabal to ensure their place in line for the just-enacted corporate tax windfall. Along with the ever-present Amazon, these companies alone spent over $50 million in 2017 attempting to influence the U.S. government, the most in their corporate history.****
While some of the influence peddling was for a good cause or two (e.g. immigration reform), you can bet your stock portfolio that most of the funds were spent fighting for the tax windfall and against meaningful regulatory frameworks designed to protect the public from their ubiquitous presence in our lives.
Meanwhile, ensconced in the snowy splendor of Davos, Switzerland, the very rich and the very powerful have just finished convening at their annual globalization gala. Each year, these folks and others like them gather to divide up the spoils of their corporate greed and fret over the state of a world for which they bear much responsibility. And like clockwork in recent years, Oxfam International dropped a turd in their midst, its annual report on global inequality.*****
This report, of course, doesn’t even take the air out of those Davos soufflés. Nor does it pause the collegial rush to glorify the current world order that many in attendance have done so little to infuse with anything resembling a moral compass. If you take the time to review the Oxfam report, it will become increasingly clear how that world order has failed so many with so little.
While sounding the economic inequality alarm is nothing new, the Oxfam Report speaks to a renewed urgency for the rest of us to wake up and start demanding a new and different world order that more fairly and equitably distributes global wealth. Take a moment to carefully read the following critical findings from that report:
"Last year saw the biggest increase in the number of billionaires in history, with one more billionaire every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide. Nine out of 10 are men. Billionaires also saw a huge increase in their wealth. This increase was enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. 82% of all of the growth in global wealth in the last year went to the top 1%, whereas the bottom 50% saw no increase at all." *****
It should be obvious by now that the gleeful gathering in Davos and the related celebratory partying in America are little more than self-congratulatory bows to the partygoers themselves. While it would be nice to see, no homeless people, hungry children or underpaid workers were on any of the guest lists. However, I imagine that a few from the latter group cleaned the rooms and served the champagne.
From small stage to grand stage and from the streets to the gilded halls, a global message of protest must be shouted loud and clear to global corporate “patriots” – start using real chunks of your resources to educate children, train adults for a global workforce, build infrastructure and provide fair and equitable wages to those without whom there are no dividends to pay yourselves or your shareholders.
While a world war on corporate greed might be the only way to get through, it would sure be nice if we could find a way to force our politicians and our corporate leaders to free themselves from the opioid of corruption. That opioid blinds them from their potential to confront the inequities in the world order they have created, and bring the homeless, the hungry, the uneducated, and the underpaid in from the cold.
***** https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2018-01-22/richest-1-percent-bagged-82-percent-wealth-created-last-year . This link includes links to the report itself and other supporting documentation.