Say what you will about our government, but arguably, there is no greater success story. We take many of the benefits of living in the United States of America for granted. Essentially, government mandates are proposed to ensure the safety of the citizenry. These are just a few of the more widely known programs: The Clean Air and Water programs, Occupational safety (OSHA), Drug and Food safety (FDA), Trade regulation (FTC), Banking Insurance (FICA), National Defense, National Weather Service, Employment Benefits , Retirement Benefits (SSI), Nutritional programs for needy people worldwide, Student financial Aid, National Parks and Recreation, Infrastructure, Scientific Research Funding, and Federal Investigations (FBI, CIA). Most programs are successful in their mission, providing a safety net to society. Some programs are not so successful, like the No Child Left Behind Act.
Some argue our government is too large. Which programs should we do without? If government payrolls are cut who should lose their job? Where does that job go? If the job goes to the private sector isn’t it possible that job could be outsourced? It would be interesting to have someone from India collect your Federal Income Taxes over the phone. A person with a government job normally has a secure position, earns a good living wage to raise their family, and benefits if they get sick.
On one hand; the “Conservative Right”, closely allied with the Republican Party, tout fiscal responsibility, religious principles, individual rights, and generosity toward industry. On the other hand, the “Liberal” Democratic Party doctrine touts that people be treated as equal in all arenas: politically, economically, and socially. It advocates the removal of economic inequalities among people. The Republican party normally refers to Democrats as being Big Government, Tax and Spend Liberals. The Republican criticism of Democratic governance is that the Democrats expound a government which has grown too large, corrupt or inefficient; or a government that oversteps its boundaries into public policy. Democrats counter that Big Business is unnecessarily involved in special legislation. Some argue that Big Government may not be the problem. The real problem may be government officials, from either party, who are courted by special interest groups to support deregulatory legislation; in exchange for campaign contributions. They infiltrate government programs and subvert the public interest. Below are some recent examples of big businesses who have received their favors at our expense:
1. Exxon Mobil made billions in profits, and yet paid not one dime in federal income taxes in 2009.
2. The 2005 energy bill had a little known provision, commonly called the Halliburton Loophole, which exempted natural gas drilling from the Clean Water Act. The result? Water so contaminated that you can light it on fire. – This is called “Fracking.”
3. Massey Energy was cited more than 2400 times for safety violations in its mines, but chose not to fix potentially lethal problems because low penalties meant it was cheaper to simply keep paying the fines. This spring, 29 miners were killed in an underground explosion at a Massey mine in West Virginia.
4. Michael Taylor was the FDA official who approved the use of Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone in dairy cows (even though it’s banned in most countries and linked to cancer). After approving it, he left the FDA—to work for Monsanto. Until last year, when he moved back to the government—as President Obama’s “Food Safety Czar.” No joke.
5. Internal Toyota documents outline how the company was successful in limiting regulators actions in the recalls last year—saving hundreds of millions while the death toll continued to climb.
6. GE and its lobbyists—including 33 former government employees—have successfully lobbied Congress to override Defense Department requests to cancel a GE contract to work on a new engine for the Joint Strike Fighter jet. GE will need $2.9 billion to finish the project.
7. Top executives at 9 big banks including Citibank, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley paid themselves over $20 billion in bonuses just weeks after taxpayers bailed them out to the tune of $700 billion .
8. During the waning days of the Bush administration, officials responded to a long-term lobbying campaign by pre-empting product liability lawsuits for dozens of industries. They bypassed Congress entirely and rewrote rules ranging from seatbelt manufacturing regulations to prescription drug safety.
9. Sunscreen manufacturers including Johnson & Johnson and Schering-Plough, in the interest of profits, are opposing an FDA proposal requiring full reporting on sunscreen labels. The New York Times just confirmed that current SPF ratings don’t even measure sun rays that cause cancer.
10. BP—a company with a record of 760 drilling safety and environmental violations—was granted safety waivers in order to operate the deepwater drilling rig that ultimately created the worst environmental disaster in US history.
A good solution is to be an activist not a pacifist, lobby for more transparency. Campaign reform has been talked about for years; without legislation in sight. The people may not have the money the special interests have; but we have all the strength we need in numbers! Instead of propagating confusion with stereotypical words (Big Government); we can conceptualize the facts and the nature of the arguments by using plain language that everyone understands. Legislation the population must live by is certainly legislation the business community must adhere to, without exceptions. If the money and favors were taken away, the public interest would be at the heart of our government. Until then, think wisely about who you do business with; are they consumer and environmentally friendly? Should you use Bank of America , or your local credit union. Is WalMart good for everyone? If we make government once again, “for the good of the people,” think about what a place we could hand down to our children!
1. “BP’s latest plan succeeding, but may make spill worse,” Newsweek, June 2, 2010.
2. “GE, Exxon Paid No U.S. Income Taxes in 2009,” ABC News, April 6, 2010
3. “Why is Dick Cheney Silent on the Oil Spill?” Newsweek, June 10, 2010
4. “Other Massey Mines Showed A Pattern Of Violations,” NPR, April 13, 2010
5. “Monsanto’s man Taylor returns to FDA in food-czar role,” Grist, July 8, 2009
6. “Toyota tried to cut costs on recalls,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2010
7. “GE vice chairman openly challenges Gates over F-35 fighter jet engine,” The Hill, June 17, 2010
8. “Bankers Reaped Lavish Bonuses During Bailouts,” The New York Times, July 30, 2009
9. “Bush Rule Changes Curtail Rights of States, Consumers,” Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2008
10. “UVA Reform: It’s Not PDQ,” The New York Times, June 23, 2010
11. “BP’s latest plan succeeding, but may make spill worse,” Newsweek, June 2, 2010.