Trade agreement threatens laws and taxpayers

Commentary by DICK DORWORTH

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

Thomas Jefferson

More than 200 years ago the good and prescient Thomas Jefferson saw one of the primary threats to the health and well being of our country. It is reasonable to believe that only because he could not conceive of the technological advances that have taken place since the 18th century he did not warn the whole world.

Jefferson knew all too well aristocracy of whatever sort is not the friend of democracy and will subvert it at every opportunity.

What today is called the global economy is exactly what Thomas Jefferson warned his fledgling nation to avoid.

The aristocracies of monied corporations are crafting a challenge that may allow them to defy the laws of all nations. It’s called the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

The agreement shows, as Jefferson feared, the aristocracy of monied corporations are not crushed.

Trade negotiators from the largest corporations in 29 of the world’s richest countries have been hammering out the details of the agreement in Paris recently.

The MAI is spearheaded by American corporate interests and the Clinton administration.

Under the MAI, foreign investors in any country could sue taxpayers in an international court for compensation for any local, state, or federal law that interferes with a corporation’s profits.

This is like a doctor telling a patient that death is inevitable, so he should increase the dosage of the medicine that is killing him.

The MAI would give giant transnational corporations more power by requiring strict, new protections for their foreign property at the expense of the environment, native people and others who live within it.

For example, the Sumitomo Bank of Japan could threaten the California Coastal Zoning Commission for attempting to restrict development of the bank’s Pebble Beach golf course. The citizens of California would then have to pay the Sumitomo Bank to protect the coastal environment of California, or approve unwanted development.

Of course, American corporations could do the same thing in Japan. This corporate tit for tat will benefit corporations, but it will be a disaster for the environment, the economy and the democratic process.

The MAI shows all may not be well with the new global economy.

Two years ago, the two leaders of the World Economic Forum admitted as much. The forum is the primary proponent of the idea removing tariffs and other restrictions on the international flow of trade and investment creates economic opportunity and prosperity in the world.

Two years ago the forum’s managing director, Claude Smadja, and its founder, Klaus Schwab, observed that economic globalization is causing severe economic dislocation and social instability.

Multinational corporations were not creating new jobs. They were simply moving factories to places where workers are willing to work for less; where environmental standards are lax, unregulated or non-existent; and where it costs less to corrupt the political system.

Global corporations seek out places willing to give up the most in wages, subsidies, tax breaks, working conditions and environmental standards. In this way, they shift wealth away from communities and working people to corporations and their shareholders.

Schwab and Smadja observed technological changes in many global industries have eliminated more jobs than they have created. These technologies have been developed and embraced and put into place by the aristocracy of monied corporations.

Schwab and Smadja also noted the global competition "that is part and parcel of globalization leads to winner-take-all situations. Those who come out on top win big, and the losers lose bigger."

These forum leaders admitted, "Globalization tends to delink the fate of the corporation from the fate of its employees."

In other words, higher profits because of lower wages, less stringent environmental standards and cheaper politicians no longer mean more job security and better wages.

Schwab and Smadja warned that the very policies that the World Economic Forum and other globalization boosters have promoted could create a backlash of political revolt that could destabilize Western democracies.

To avoid a backlash, globalization boosters are proposing policies that will put even more power into the hands of the corporate aristocracy at the expense of the democracies’ local, regional and national governments.

One observer said this is like a doctor telling a patient death is inevitable, so he should increase the dosage of the medicine that is killing him.

Corporate ownership of some politicians in the U.S. could be the key ingredient in the prescription for disaster.

In democracies like the United States, corporations challenge government by purchasing politicians. While politicians of integrity, dedicated to democratic ideals, do exist, the corporate ownership of many politicians can be ascertained by a study of their voting records.

Politicians have been sighted living in the pockets of corporations in all places and times, even, if truth be told, in the small, unique state of Idaho.

A finished MAI agreement could come to the U.S. Senate next year for ratification.

It is to be hoped that there are enough Senators of integrity, dedicated to democratic ideals, to say "no" to the aristocracy of monied corporations and to defeat the MAI.


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