Molly Ivins' column, "Oooh, are we ever gonna regret this new banking bill" (11/15/99 PP) hits the nail right on the head with respect to her insight about natural and unnatural disasters tying banking and financial services to the insurance industry.
In the Ponzi scheme that IS corporate globalization the only risk to the pyramid accumulation of all wealth by the few is the discovery that corporate activities are causing more negative externality costs than they are profits. As Mokhiber and Weissman accurately point out in their "Dow 3600" column, negative externality costs are about five times greater than total corporate faux-profits. As long as pollution, climate and genetic damages remain better hidden than the societal health care costs caused by cigarettes, this Ponzi scheme can prosper. But when the auto, oil, chemical and utility industries are tagged with the multi-trillion dollar damages that they have caused, it will make the cigarette industry's few hundred billion dollar fine look penny ante.
The accumulated (and so-far carefully disguised) negative externality costs, which are the dirty by-product of all this financial success and consolidation, can no longer be swept under the rug. When the massive scale of real damages is as well understood as smoking and populist juries start to award damages the effect on corporations and their insurers will cut through all their reserves, profits and market values -- like a hot knife through butter. How large is the damage award for destroying the genetic capability for human reproduction? How about the damage award for sea level flooding of all coastal cities?
No. Repeal of the Glass Steagall Act is not about cross-selling of financial services, and it's not about gouging more than $350 billion in fees beyond the ATM con, it's not even about the mega-merger scam of inflating market valuations in all three industries at once.. The real purpose of the Financial Modernization Act is to tie all the ill-accumulated gains together in one big banking-stock market-insurance lump that will be defended as "too big to fail", so that when "We the people" try to assess damages for destroying the world their false profits will be beyond reach.
No. This is not a scam to continue the Ponzi scheme of accumulation -- this is the end-game plan to protect the assets of those at the top, as the Ponzi scheme is starting to collapse.
I offer the following follow-on comments to a letter to the editor by Gilles Stockton of Grass Range, Mont. [11/15/99 PP]. Gilles is certainly on the target regarding the greedheads at the Farm Bureau Federation, but he's off in the ozone layer regarding a few other things. Gilles notes that wolves are only OK as long as they stay within their "boundaries." Wild, native critters like wolves, however, don't give a damn for the political boundaries (including the boxy line around Yellowstone National Park) us humans like to draw on maps, and who can blame them? Bald and golden eagles aren't bound by such petty things as state lines or municipal boundaries. And, Gilles, who decides what the "appropriate numbers" of bison (not buffalo as you wrote) might be for Yellowstone National Park? You? Hardly. You note how wolves are "incorrigible wanderers." Well, what the hell is wrong with that? That's a good trait, not a bad thing. We need more predators like wolves, not fewer, especially here in Pennsylvania where the white-tailed deer herd has reached such mammoth proportions that nearly every woodlot left standing in the state is being browsed to death. The reasons: An absence of big predators, and "wildlife management" policies that are driven by politics, not science.
Wildlife and wild places are in grave danger across this continent because we humans can't seem to find it in ourselves to NOT wander into habitat shared by wolves, grizzly bears, northern goshawks, marbled salamanders, cricket frogs, bog orchids and many thousands of other native animals and plants (the flora and fauna that formerly distinguished North America as a special place). Society derives much from just knowing that wolves are still on the planet with us. Anyone who can't see this is probably watching too much tee vee.
All the critters that we share this wonderful blue-green Earth with deserve better than what we're dishing out to them. Our brethren in the biotic world -- those who crawl, swim, dive, run, fly, hop, squiggle and jump -- have just as much right to their existence as we do to ours. How dare anyone insinuate otherwise.
ALAN C. GREGORY
Before Jim Hightower dismisses Donald Trump's candidacy ("Anyone Can Run for President," 12/1/99 PP) he ought to acknowledge his proposals on taxes and health care.
Trump's proposal to pay off the national debt and cut social security taxes for working people is absolutely fantastic. He would tax wealth above $10 million for an individual at a one time rate of 14.3 percent. According to Trump, the tax would raise $5.7 trillion dollars, which would pay off the national debt and eliminate the $200 million interest payment each year. This $200 million savings could be used to pay present beneficiaries and cut social security taxes for working people.
Trump has also proposed a single payer, universal health care system that would break the backs of the insurance companies. If just these two proposals from Trump were enacted, the overwhelming majority of Americans would be much better off. On the kingpin issues of taxes and health care, "the Donald" is downright radical.
College students have formed a coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, and demonstrated around the country that they don't want their schools to buy goods from transnational corporations that violate human rights and abuse the environment. Good for our children; adults seem too busy to care for other than their immediate concerns.
A most important part of sweatshops that students and others need to be concerned with is the use of child labor and women of all ages in almost slave-like jobs around the world, robbing children of their childhood. What can our kids in Lake County, California, do about these insidious practices of international corporations? How about declaring our school campuses "WTO (World Trade Organization) Free Zones"? What does the WTO have to do with it?
Any attempt to prevent big business from using child labor is "restraint of trade" and a violation of NAFTA's rules, and now its big brother -- the WTO. Does anyone still wonder why our California Gov. Gray Davis has dropped plans to phase out that water polluting gasoline additive MTBE? Under NAFTA, the Canadian company that has the patent for MTBE is threatening to sue California for $970 million if we try to protect our citizens' health.
At Seattle late this month, the WTO will meet and discuss how big business can make more money by depriving global citizens of their rights and mistreating our environment and natural resources. How about us using capitalism's techniques to counteract these forces? I will donate $100 to the first campus in Lake County to declare itself a "symbolic" (no legal status) WTO Free Zone. I'm sure there are chapters of the Alliance for Democracy that would also raise funds for this purpose. How about it, kids, can you do it? Do you care about other kids in the world?