Friday, September 25, 2009

U.S. is a citizen government, not a corporate subsidiary

During the health care reform debate, various health industry corporations and their lobbyists have had the upper hand in watering down or torpedoing legislation.

Consider: Individuals and political action committees have donated $3.9 million to U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and $2.7 million to Charles Grassley, the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican, respectively, of the Senate Finance Committee, which holds life-or-death powers on health care bills.

Baucus' state of Montana (population 902,195) is but 0.3 percent of the national population of 307 million, and Grassley's state of Iowa (population 3 million) is 1 percent, but health care industrialists don't give a flip about the homefolks.

Big money flowed to Baucus and Grassley because they control the legislation that could change the course of health care in the United States from industry control of the law to citizen control.

Even as millions of dollars are being spent on that battle, the U.S. Supreme Court is also about to decide whether to virtually reverse current laws to give corporations the same rights as individuals to spend on political campaigning.

If the high court opens the floodgates of more corporate millions to directly influence U.S. politics, as some fear, government by and for the people would become a handmaiden to business interests, which could throw around even more weight through political advertising to affect elections and influence votes.

Haven't Americans suffered enough from Wall Street's greed and influence?

Only the naïve believe that company shareholders would control corporate spending on politics. Boards are packed with CEO friends, who dependably render "yes" on executive decisions.

If the Supreme Court changes current law, it would effectively repudiate the wisdom that unlike citizens, corporations don't vote and don't have any of the human qualities of a person.

An example, albeit small, of the power of corporate money to influence was revealed just this week. The Food and Drug Administration cancelled Bush administration approval of a knee injury device, Menaflex, because it doesn't work. The original FDA approval came after four New Jersey congressmen—Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven Rothman—pressured the FDA.

Was it coincidence that each had earlier received campaign donations from the device maker, ReGen Biologics?

Rather than loosening restrictions on corporate influence over government, the court and Congress need to tighten them to prevent our democracy from becoming an oligarchy controlled from corporate executive suites.

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