James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Corporate killers: truths we won't face

There is no essential difference between an American health insurance company and the American and Italian Mafias.

There is no substantive difference between a big pharmaceutical corporation and a Mexican or Colombian illegal drug cartel.

There is no qualitative difference between New York and Chicago mobs and Blackwater (Xe) and most of the other pieces of the profiteering “defense” industry.

If you work for any such organization you are, in a rational moral sense, equal to a button man, a contract killer, a bag man, a dealer selling drugs to kids on street corners or a mob lawyer.

Of course, if you work for one of the deadly but legal organizations, you no doubt have covered yourself in ignorance and denial of how evil they are. Given the fact that they are legal, you can justify your involvement to your own satisfaction. Maybe.

Yes, I mean those statements literally.

Seeing that, many Americans would immediately identify me as a left-wing nut, an extremist, and quite possibly dangerous. Even many who think the tea party loonies are just slightly off center would have no hesitation in calling me a radical and probably crazy.

In reading those opening four statements, many who think of themselves as “liberals” will suck in their breath a bit and think to themselves that I have, at least, wildly exaggerated the situation. Some will feel unease in the chest or gut, or wherever they usually first register fear and uncertainty. They will not under any circumstances associate themselves with what I have said.

The United States of America, even more than most other countries and much more than many, is built on myths. One of the most false of those myths is that this is a benign country, one that cares for its people and all the peoples of the world. Another is that we are a brave nation, willing to fight and die for justice and humanity.

In fact, and the fact is plain if you dare to face it, this is a country that is entirely self-centered, eager to grasp wealth wherever it is available, more than willing to do terrible harm to those who might try to get some piece of what our ruling elite desires.

And this is, at the same time, a cowardly country, peopled in majority by the constantly fearful.

More than anything else, this country and its people quake before uncomfortable truths, truths that lay bare our grasping and selfishness, our cruelty and, especially, our legions of fears. We won't admit them or talk about them, our “media” will not acknowledge their existence. We are terrified by the fact that we are afraid.

And so what I said in those first four sentences of this little essay will be rejected by almost everyone who reads them.

They are true nevertheless.

Our insurance corporations and pharmas and arms industries profit enormously from death and mayhem. That is established fact.

More criminally, they increase their profits by increasing the suffering of others, and they do that through the use of every tool at their disposal. They cheat and lie to their customers and to the government (which knows it is being lied to and does nothing in response). They do everything in their power to avoid doing what they have promised to do, to avoid paying what they legitimately owe, and they are extremely successful at that avoidance. That also is established fact.

And by avoiding what they've promised to do, in refusing to deliver what they have claimed they would deliver, they cause death and enormous physical suffering, not to mention financial ruin, for the people they claim to serve. That, too, is established fact.

Everyone in this country knows that you are extremely lucky to actually get a health insurance company to pay what it has promised if and when you get seriously ill. We know, every one of us, that insurance companies regularly come up with phony excuses for not paying –- you had a “pre-existing condition” or you somehow brought your suffering on yourself or, or, or... They took your money until you needed to use your insurance; they won't pay but they won't give back what you paid them over years, perhaps many decades.

The cases run to the hundreds of thousands, probably the millions. We all know it, because documented examples of such corporate behavior are reported all over the country daily.

A few days ago as I write this, Rachel Maddow talked about this on her MSNBC television show. I was disappointed, even offended, though, by her repeated statement that paying out on the insurance they sold “is not the business” of the insurance companies. They are “not in the business of paying,” she said again and again. “They are in the business of taking our money and making profits.”

She was right, of course, but she was very wrong to accept this as just the way things are.

To take money and use dirty tricks and hide behind laws that they paid to have written (or have written themselves) and to cause people to suffer and die and sink into homeless poverty as a result is, in a moral sense, as criminal as selling cocaine and heroin at school doors or forcing children into sex slavery.

The death and the physical agonies and the ruined lives are equally terrible whether the cause is cocaine or heroin or the withholding of a needed medication or the refusal to pay for treatment of cancer.

To sell needed pharmaceuticals at multiples sometimes hundreds of times the cost of making them, and to withhold supplies to those who cannot pay those outrageous prices, certainly is as criminal, in a legitimate if not legal sense, as fostering addictions and then charging users prices that demand they commit other illegal acts in order to pay to feed their habits.

And don't buy the pharma claims that they need the money for research. Get the facts. Governments pay for most pharmaceutical research. That legal drug prices in this country are set at what should be criminal levels is easily demonstrable: The same drugs that are sold in this country are sold by the same companies all over the world for prices that often are no more than a small fraction of what we pay. The proof is easy to find; it's been reported over and over.

They sell to us at insane prices, and refuse us the drugs if we can't pay, simply because they can get away with it here; the drug companies write the laws that affect their industry.

Push back your conventional American acceptance of all things corporate and think about this: Doing things deliberately that kill and maim and cause great suffering in order to profit is what it is, whether done under the umbrella of an outlaw gang or a legal corporation. People get just as dead, their physical agonies are just as horrible, the poverty caused is just as real.

As for the war racket: I shouldn't have to go into great detail about the likes of Blackwater. It was created by a gang of professional killers and given its source of income – from our tax dollars -- by a bunch of politicians who were friendly with its founders. It serves no legitimate purpose. What it does legitimately should be done by our military. Those things were done by our military until the Bush gang came along. That the company routinely acts criminally has been shown over and over; just go to Google.

Of course, in America, if something is legal, as the profit-sucking activities of the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are legal, we accept it as legitimate. We might complain, but we don't really do anything. We still see the executives of those corporations as outstanding individuals, because we admire wealth above all else. We think it's fine if our neighbors work in jobs that, for example, consist of finding ways not to pay policy holders who now need their insurer to deliver what was promised.

We also honor our legislators and our judges. But the great majority of our legislators are no better than cops who take bribes from gangsters to look the other way as arms and drug deals are perpetuated on our streets. A large and growing number of our judges –- up to and including the majority of five on what we used to call the Supreme Court –- are on an exact moral par with judges who take direct payments from the New York mob or the Russian mafia.

What they do may be “legal” since they wrote the laws, but it is criminal in the true sense.

That's the way it is in America.

Apparently most Americans approve, since they don't choose to do anything to bring change.


At some point, we should talk about treason.

Some on the right no doubt would call me a traitor should they happen on my little essay on corporate criminality. But, believe it or not, treason is defined not as opposing corporations or corporate rule but as “acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign” or “a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or state.” -- Random House Webster's College Dictionary.

So unless you regard corporations as sovereign – which, come to think of it, many Americans do – opposition to the criminal behavior of corporations is not treason.

But, given the true, traditional and dictionary definition of treason, this country needs some serious discussion of the activities of politicians who push our country into war for the sole purpose of profit for the economic elite.

We should talk about a major political party that is openly and uncompromisingly dedicated to making our government fail -– with the help of some equally dedicated but slightly less open members of the other major party.

We should talk about a growing segment of our judiciary -– and most especially the five-member majority of our highest judicial body -– which ignores the oaths it swore on Bibles in which the members claim to believe and has dedicated itself to tearing down the Constitution of the United States in order to benefit that same tiny elite.

Perhaps another time.

Monday, March 01, 2010

State Republicans can crush people, too

March 1, 2010

The Minnesota House of (you may laugh) Representatives failed Monday (today) to override a veto by right wing Gov. Tim Pawlenty of funding for General Assistance Health Care, a program that provides, until now, health care for poor people, mostly elderly, children and many military veterans. The vote was 87 to override, 46 against – 3 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override.

Very quickly, off the top of my head:

I attended the “rally” at the Minnesota State Capitol this afternoon in support of a House override of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a bill to continue GAMC (a health-care program for the poor.)

Would guess about 150 – 200 people showed up to stand around outside the front door to the House chamber and, eventually, wander around the nearby halls. Ran into my state rep., good guy Frank Hornstein, in the hall outside the chamber. He told me that the Dems already knew the Republicans were taking a page from Congressional Republicans and voting as a block – no exceptions – to prevent an override. Republican minority wins again.

I was allowed into the House gallery and listened to what is loosely called “debate” for about half an hour. The stench of hypocrisy, combined with the stink of Republican smugness and the sounds of weak Democratic whining disgusted me and I left.

If you want to go on believing that “representative democracy” works, do not actually listen to what passes for debate in a legislative body.

Republican side was best represented by Rep. Tony Cornish, who is chief of police of Lake Crystal, Minn., a very small town in Blue Earth County in southern Minnesota.

The stylish Rep. Cornish – really nice, well cut sports jacket and what appeared to be razor-cut hair -- declared that he and other Republicans have “no need to be ashamed” of refusing to override the veto nor of supporting Pawlenty's decision to stop funding GAMC. “We can't afford to take care of everybody,” he declared with jutting jaw. Besides, funding health care for the poor “hurts other people” by forcing them to pay more taxes, he said.

The representative of – who the hell are this guy's constituents? -- also said he would “not be intimidated” by the very quiet people out in the halls and warned other Republicans against being intimidated. Very brave. Those elderly veterans and mostly gray haired matrons probably looked pretty dangerous to a tough cop.

Cornish also objected to frequent references to god and Biblical dictates of caring for others from Democrats. Cornish said he would put his church attendance record up against that of any other member of the House. He added that “I have a heart, too,” but he offered no evidence to support that contention.

I had to agree with him on the god references. It was a sad display by the Dems. They offered few real arguments for supporting GAMC and sounded merely pouty; they already had surrendered.

The other major argument, made by less forceful Republicans, was that there shouldn't be an override “because negotiations with Gov. Pawlenty and Republicans” are still continuing. That's eyewash for the press, soundbites for television. The Republicans have stuck, just like in Congress, and consider “negotiations” to mean the other side surrenders all.

Oh yeah: Cornish said most plainly something that came more obliquely from other Republicans: If people are going to use the Bible for justification of actions like supporting GAMC, then they have to stand by (his opinion) Biblical bans on abortion and gay unions and other things Republicans don't like.

Comment: Forget the old sausage-making analogy. I've seen the making of sausage. It doesn't come close to being as ugly or nauseating as the process of legislating for the rich and against the vast majority of citizens. It's not even as off-putting as the weak-kneed performance of Democrats when confronted with strong opposition from the right.

I used to subscribe to the common feeling, when seeing or hearing of someone's suffering because of great illness, severe injury or financial disaster: “I wouldn't wish that on anybody.”

Well now I do wish it. The right wing sociopaths will never concern themselves with the pain of the poor until their own insulation, or perceived insulation, is stripped away. So I will rejoice every time one of those heartless bastards is taken down by the kind of misery that afflicts so many who are not as well protected by relative wealth, family and other resources.

The exceptionalism of such people will prevent them from learning anything even if they are hit by physical or financial disaster, of course. When it happens to others, it is deserved, or at least a result of their own imprudence. When it happens to them, members of the smug right, only then does it become truly unfair, a victimization.