WTO: Fix It or Nix It

The first rule of crisis management: Put down the shovel. There’s no sugar-coating it: deregulation of the financial service industry is the main reason we’re in an economic hole. Corporations were expected to police themselves, and the free market would sort out any problems. To Alan Greenspan’s surprise, it didn’t happen, and now there’s nothing ‘free’ about the high cost put on shareholders, taxpayers and pension holders.

But have we learned any lessons? Will we put down the shovel, or will we dig deeper into the hole, past any point where we can climb out?

In September, President Obama told the Group of 20 Nations (G20) that we need to tighten up financial controls on international financial giants. Unfortunately, there is a tremendous contradiction between this communiqué calling for more regulation, and the push for deregulation under the WTO Doha Round expansion.

Our leaders cannot have it both ways.

The Doha Round — the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) negotiation from 2001 — would require further financial service deregulation for the 154 signatory countries, including America. And right now, our position at the Doha Round is the same as before the crisis, as if we haven’t learned a thing.

As the President hinted at Pittsburgh, we need to set a global regulatory floor, and oppose any efforts to impose a ceiling. This includes rules on consumer protection, systemic risk, derivatives, shadow markets, accounting practices or other financial areas.

But to really put down the shovel, the President must develop a plan to review and repair existing WTO limits on financial service regulation.

To stop the digging, we need to devise a WTO agenda that takes into consideration the harsh lessons of our current crisis.

To metaphorically fill in the hole, we need to make changes to the WTO’s financial services agreement (FSA), and ensure governments have policy space to establish sensible regulations.

It’s not surprising that a majority of people across the country support more corporate financial oversight, but this won’t happen under current WTO rules or the Doha Round.

As they chanted in the streets of Seattle 10 years ago this week, “Fix it or nix it!” It’s time for a trade turn around, or at the very least, it’s time to put down the shovel.

Andy Gussert
Washington, D.C.
The writer is national director of Citizens Trade Campaign (citizenstrade.org)

The Best Congress that Money Can Buy

Have you wondered why it is so easy to pass $800 billion plus annually for national security or a bailout of the financial industry and can’t pass $89 billion for health care, legislation to reduce its cost or a single-payer plan?

Properly aligned, US senators representing only 12.2% of the electorate can frustrate any and all legislation going through Congress. The US is not a democracy; it’s a republic that guarantees minority rule. The Defense Department alone owns or operates 4,564 bases and other defense sites in the 50 states, tentacles reaching into every important political constituency in the country (2008 Base Structure Report). For fiscal years 2004–08, over half of all federal spending was for national security and wars past, present, and future, including the servicing of war-incurred debt of almost $9 trillion. Most went to private corporations. It’s also our system of legalized bribery, where money and wealth fund our elections — the lobbying establishment of corporate elites, government contractors, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and the very wealthy. Funding war is patriotic; funding health care provides for those ‘ne’er do wells’ that can’t earn enough money to take care of themselves.

The US has become a plutocracy where the rich rule. I believe it was Simon Cameron, President Lincoln’s Secretary of War, who first said, “An honest politician is one who stays bought.” If that’s the case, we have a lot of “honest politicians” in Congress. Congress no longer represents those who elected them.

G. Ross Stephens
Leawood, Kan.
The writer is professor emeritus of political science and public administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Health and War

It was certainly refreshing to finally see someone with a backbone who will call a spade a spade and point out the fact that we can’t afford national health care but somehow can afford to continually fight unjustifiably useless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan [“Health, War-Peace, Hypocrisy and Taxes,” by Roberto Rodriguez, 11/1/09 TPP]. This is something our great, useless mainstream press can’t bring itself to do. It has always amazed me how our gutless political class can on the one hand continually justify the death and destruction industry and their wars and on the other hand whine and cry that we can’t afford a national health care system and spread their filthy lies about it. Lets face facts here: having continuous wars is good for the multitude of bombs and bullets industries in each and every state whether they are making canteens, Tomahawk missiles, combat boots or F-22s and is thereby good for our “economy.” We keep people employed from the foot soldier to the fat cat profiteering company CEO. We need to be able to sell “bombs and bullets” to keep our death and destruction industries alive and well. A large portion of our economy is based on this. This country needs enemies. If we don’t have one we will go out and find one. Think about this.

Dwight Eisenhower warned us to be wary of the military-industrial complex back in the 1950s. Now we are neck deep into it. Every politician in this “peace loving” country wants to keep the war products industry in his/her district going strong. War is good for business. As Mr. Rodriguez says, “we gladly spend hundreds of billions every year to kill ‘other’ people but don’t want to spend a dime on health care to save lives in this country.” Our unhumanitarian middle class killing Republican party is especially guilty of this. Their goal is to go back to the economic system we got rid of a century ago where the rich own everything and us middle and lower class zombies are merely mindless wage slaves and cannon fodder.

Robert G. Reed
Bay City, Mich.

Corporate Personhood

In Jane Anne Morris’s “Corporate ‘Personhood’ Must be Challenged” [11/1/09 TPP], she helps illustrate the fact that one of the biggest (perhaps the largest) problems with our democracy is the protection corporations are afforded under the 14th Amendment. They get the benefits of “personhood,” while at the same time those who run them are protected by having limited liability status. They act in ways that would land most of us in prison or on death row. I do not believe it is going too far to say the majority of our country’s (and the world’s) ills are due to morally corrupt corporations (not all are bad). From wars (the biggest business on the planet — don’t let the “war on terror” mantra fool anyone into thinking it’s really about national security) to lack of healthcare for all to environmental destruction to agribusiness’s production of nutrient-poor foods and more, too many corporations negatively influence public policy. Most of our elected representatives care greatly about the corporate welfare state (to finance campaigns), but don’t give a damn about their fellow Americans. Until we annul corporate personhood and rein in corporate power (as the great Republican trustbuster, Theodore Roosevelt, tried to do) and get that money out of politics, the best we can hope for are corporate politicians in the White House (yes, Obama is a corporatist first, last and always) and the Congress (both major parties) who say one thing, but act contrarily, much to the detriment of America and its people.

Alex Clayton
Stanton, Calif.

Don’t Cut Aunt Slack

[Re: Don Rollins’ article about his family reunion, 9/15/09 TPP.] Don, you need to stop giving your Aunt Cindy, and others like her, a free pass since she is “not an evil woman” but is rather “blinded by privilege.”

Allowing oneself to be blinded by privilege is not an excuse — it is evil. It was evil for the Germans who by dint of their privileged surnames were able to stand silently by, turning blind eyes while their neighbors were taken away and slaughtered; it is evil now, and it needs to be confronted, not pardoned.

These people who are too lazy to read and to ask questions, and who thus allow themselves to be blinded and brainwashed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, those who showed up at McCain rallies shouting “Kill him!,” have a responsibility as citizens of a democracy to think and to ask those questions, but they abrogate that responsibility and do not deserve the benefits of citizenship. They showed up again at town hall meetings, armed with unquestioned lists of disingenuous “talking points” provided to them by sinister ministers of disinformation, shouting down voices of reason and compassion to denounce what they’ve been told is “socialist” health care reform. They need to be called to account for this blindness, this abrogation of their civic and human responsibilities.

It would take only a bit of effort on their part to understand that tomorrow it could easily be their own life and their own family’s well being, not those of some unknown, “undeserving” victim, that’s at risk when they’ve lost their insurance or are denied coverage for the health care that they suddenly and desperately need. It would take only a bit of effort on Aunt Cindy’s part to imagine that those dirty blankets and broken toys could just as easily be her own, if her current good fortune, momentarily granted by the undeserved grace of God, should suddenly abandon her, as it has for those at whom she now scoffs — but she is unwilling to make that effort. 

That’s the problem with you do-gooder Christians who, above everything else, don’t want to dare offend anyone, heavens no. So you piously smile and tolerate Aunt Cindy’s occasional racist or elitist or homophobic innuendo, staying in her good graces in order to continue being welcomed into her home and offered her pies and Girl Scout cookies, in the name of some imagined Christian duty of family civility, rather than performing your true Christian duty by confronting her blindness and challenging her to think and to feel beyond the confines of her own comfortable skin. 

Who told you that being Christian means enabling everyone to stay nice and comfortably cozy in their blindness? 

You need to sit down with Aunt Cindy and a copy of Martin Niemoller’s sermon — “When the Nazis came for the Communists, I remained silent; I was not a Communist ...” and revisit those dirty blankets and broken toys.

Dr. Jon Koerner
Burnsville, N.C.

Health Care: We’re Screwed

Just read on HealthJustice.org that any talk and debate on single payer and public option is dead, again. That makes this connection even more critical in understanding (and preparing for) the future of health care in our CSA: Corporate States of America.

Just when I thought American Capitalism couldn’t get any meaner I read Ralph Nader’s “Rolling the Dice Again” [10/15/09 TPP]. It bares the cruel reptilian souls of the ruling class, most notably the Investor, Bank and Insurance firms of Wall Street. These same firms that ruined the economy with incomprehensible bundled mortgage schemes now want to do the same with life insurance policies. Please note that the same corporations selling life insurance also sell health insurance. Please note again that many also sell investment portfolios and are all part of the Wall Street cartel that received TARP funds either directly or through back door deals.

The way these investments would work is that the younger one dies, the greater the payoff. If a policy holder lives beyond the statistically “expected years,” the investor loses money. If they can profit grandly from clients dying early, the last thing they would want is a healthy population living longer. They already make huge profits taking premiums and denying treatments and now they want to create another means to profit when you die early because treatments were denied. This is why they are fighting so hard to keep medical decisions in their hands and why this cannot continue.

It looks like the worst ideas will prevail in the end. My only advice is to refuse to cooperate. Send all fine notices to your alleged representatives. Send them unpaid medical bills that you can’t afford anyway and certainly never vote for anyone affiliated with the two constitutionally established mobs.

Paul Ames
Eureka, Utah

Goofing Up Health

Jim Hightower’s “Goofing Up Health Care Reform” article in your 11/1/09 issue touches upon a point that needs to be greatly expanded and constantly repeated to arouse public demand for reform.

The progression of health care reform legislation in Congress demonstrates in plain view the grossly antiquated and inadequate Congressional procedures and practices. While the problem is obvious in that case, it exists for the full range of matters requiring Congressional action, whether it is confirmation of appointees to federal office, or passage of environmental/energy and financial reform legislation, or adoption of annual budgets. In all matters Congress is failing to act in a timely, representative manner, so it isn’t functioning effectively as the legislative arm of a democracy.

Isn’t it obvious that we desperately need Congress to reform itself, radically, thoroughly, and without delay? With Congress so sick, how can the nation be healthy?

James VanVliet
Bristol, Ill.

Thanks Van Der Pol

I have been so glad to see the return of Jim Van der Pol to TPP’s pages, and I especially appreciate his thoughtful “hopeful letter” to the President [“Pretty Speeches Only Take Us So Far, 11/1/09 TPP]. It is too rare these days to see commentary that couples good analysis with gentle wisdom, and when one has been chafed beyond bearing by the reckless folly of politicians and media demagogues, it is truly comforting to come across such a column. The whole world has not gone mad, and knowing there is at least one decent man talking sense out there makes it easier to pull up my socks and try again.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Baltimore, Md.

Gut Check

After reading Greg Palast’s “The S-Word and Dr. Kevorkian’s Accountant,” [11/15/09 TPP], I couldn’t help but paraphrase Voltaire’s wish to see the last king strangled with the intestines of the last priest.

My wish is for the day to soon arrive when the last health insurance CEO is strangled with the intestines of the last lawmaker on his payroll!

David Quintero
Temple City, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2009


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2009 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652