Sunday, March 19, 2006

American love stories

Just a couple of headlines jumped immediately out at me upon boot-up this morning:


"Corporations Stiffing Government on Fines"

"When a gasoline spill and fiery explosion killed three young people in Washington state, officials announced a record penalty against a gas pipeline company: $3 million to send the message that such tragedies 'must never happen again.'"

"When nuclear labs around the country were found exposing workers to radiation and breaking other safety rules, assessments totaling $2.5 million were quickly ordered.

"When coal firms' violations were blamed for deaths, injuries and risks to miners from Alabama to West Virginia, they were slapped with more than $1.3 million in penalties.

"What happened next with these no-nonsense enforcement efforts? Not much. The pipeline tab was eventually reduced by 92 percent, the labs' assessments were waived as soon as they were issued, and the mine penalties largely went unpaid."

The story describes how many high profile cases resulting in great damages as a result of corporate accidents or neglect often receive very stiff penalties. It's part of a governmental crackdown on such incidents.

That's the headline. But it's all just dog and mirrors. A big smoke and pony show. The follow-up story doesn't get much, if any, press. That would be when those stiff fines and penalties are negotiated down or dismissed totally.

Included is a map breaking down by state the $35 billions in unpaid corporate court fines. Excite

It's not much of a story, I suppose. This revelation of industry stiffing the government on fines imposed but never paid. They stiff the government on taxes too. They stiff American employees on benefits by cutting them. Workers get stiffed with jobs gone abroad. The government doesn't really mind. That's because big business is the government.


"Major Changes Raise Concern on Pensions Bill"

"With a strong directive from the Bush administration, Congress set out more than a year ago to fashion legislation that would protect America's private pension system, tightening the rules to make sure companies set aside enough money to make good on their promises to employees.

"Then the political horse-trading began, with
lawmakers, companies and lobbyists...weighing in on the particulars of the Bush administration's blueprint."Excite

Okay, let's just stop it right there. Anyone else notice sometime missing in that last sentence? Namely, the folks Bush administration is supposed to be protecting? The employees? Why are they not being heard on the particulars of Bush's blueprint?

I guess if you're a rancher losing sheep to the wolves, one solution to protect your flock would be to tear down your fences, forgive the wolves, and invite them in to suggest how to secure a safer future for your sheep.

Or, maybe we might consider yet a third story. Those would be reports of other sheep. But not of our American flock who seem asleep in the meadow as they're being picked off by the wolves, one by one. I'm talking about sheep of different breeding who haven't the capacity for complacency, for apathy, of the American breed, especially in cases of their own best interests.

Unlike Americans, they haven't been bred to just bend over and spread 'em a little wider. I'm talking about those French who are rioting again, this time over reduction in their job protections. And peoples across Latin America and everywhere who are willing to defend their self interests at the risk of further losing more of them.

It's a foreign concept. One that once birthed the nation we now "enjoy" before lying down in the meadow to sleep, ceding our self interests to the special interests of others in conflict with our own.

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