by Ralph Nader
Friday, July 4, 2008
originally posted July 2, 2004
During this 4th of July weekend, why not assess the behavior of giant U.S. chartered multinational corporations by the yardsticks of patriotism to the supportive country of their birth? These standards for the corporate entities themselves are important for the moral, legal and political persuasion necessary to improve their patriotic performance?
Let a few examples do for many.
1. During the Vietnam War the Department of Defense learned that the second leading cause of hospitalization for the troops was malaria. Fed up by the refusal of the profit glutted drug companies to research for new medicines, the Department established its own in-house, first class drug research division at Walter Reed Institute of Health. Many new medicines to treat malaria and other tropical diseases were discovered and made available to the world with staggering efficiency compared to the private drug companies. These drug companies continue to avoid investing their money in vaccines or other related medicines needed for Americans and natives in tropical regions. This is the same industry that receives billions of dollars each year in NIH research and development (e.g. Taxol, AZT) and tax credits. UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR.
2. U.S. corporations, with your taxpayer subsidies, are selling weapons of rapid destruction to regimes all over the world — many of which are dictatorships and oligarchies oppressing their people and reshipping these weapons wherever they please. Moreover, these corporations for years have been pressing to over-ride export controls and sell advanced computer technologies to countries hostile or potentially hostile to our country. These arms sales range from fighter planes to lethal “anti-personnel” weapons that slice into innocent children and adults. UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR.
3. Wal-Mart systematically pushes wages, standards and benefits downward in the U.S. — below the level required by western countries where Wal-Mart is operating. They treat American workers worse than Western European workers. Moreover, they advise their low-wage workers how to qualify for federal welfare like food stamps. Wal-Mart is demanding more and more that their U.S. suppliers meet the “China Price” — meaning that they either cut their workers wages and benefits or close down and open up in China with its government’s dictatorial repression of workers. UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR.
4. U.S. multinationals export industries (e.g., auto parts) and jobs to oppressive regimes utilizing an assortment of tax and other governmental incentives and promotions. Attempts in Congress to end these subsidies for fleeing America and tax havens in Bermuda, etc., have been defeated by corporate lobbyists and President Bush who loses no sleep over such callous behavior that hollows our communities and leaves families in desperate straits while some worry about their sons and daughters in the Iraq quagmire. UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR.
5. Pentagon audits and General Accounting Office audits have repeatedly found Halliburton and other companies ripping off Uncle Sam in their contracts with the Pentagon — even including large overcharges for meals for the troops. Many more gouges and profiteering will be disclosed with further audits and, it is hoped, Congressional investigations. UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR.
6. Chemical, nuclear power, bio-labs and other vulnerable “ports of call” for potential stateless terrorism have been resisting federal demands and certifications for upgrading security. These firms call these upgrades “over-regulation.” The EPA has pointed to 100 chemical plants in the U.S.where the sabotage of one could cause a million casualties. This resistance is broad and deep, as the Department of Homeland Security knows full well. UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR.
7. For many decades corporate polluters have been relentlessly using our air, water and soil as their private, toxic sewers. Despoiling, poisoning and ruining the natural and inhabited land of our country has made large swaths of America uninhabitable due to deeply toxic territory. Year after year, with lobbyists and campaign cash, oppose or undermine the laws, regulations and enforcement to reduce the sources of cancer, respiratory ailments, genetic damage and other diseases and property damage on innocent Americans. UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR.
Has corporate globalization ended our expectations to demand allegiance to the country that has bred and raised these large companies, subsidized these companies and has defended them abroad with the lives of American soldiers for over a century?
At stake is whether the constitutional sovereignty of the people can prevail and subordinate the imposed sovereignty of multinational corporations in the interests of our country and posterity. Let the debate expand.