Also sorry to be late to this party. But I just HAD to respond to this question.
As a disclaimer, i am the sole owner of a corporation that you guys so despise and think are the ruin of America. I provide jobs, service, wealth, and the extra strain on my business for the welfare state you think you are entitled to, could make it go away. Funny, i treat my employees well and they make the business even more profitable......most successful business operate that way. You don't survive long if you don't. When you say "corporations" what and who do you actually mean? Can you name 5 that do all the evils that you say and are still successful?
I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand the question. What are you asking? You want someone to name 5 corporations that do “evil” and are “successful?” In what industry? And what sort of evil?
There is lots and lots of evil done by corporations in the name of profit. Some of it has to do with the acquisition of raw materials. Some of it has to do with the use of third world labor in the assembly process. Some of it has to do with fraud and misrepresenting profits and losses and manipulating tax systems and begging for federal (and local) subsidies. Some of it has to do with maintaining expensive lobbyist’s to promote the passage of laws that benefit the corporations at the expense of communities and consumers. And some of it has to do with manipulating the press (often via lawsuits) to ensure that substandard products or services are not presented as such in the media, or that their “evil deeds” in other countries are not documented.
I could write a full-length dissertation style document on each of these offenses. Or I could pick one specific industry and write a book on the multiple levels of offenses. Or I could pick a region of the world and focus on first world abuses there. Do you want contemporary scenarios, or historical ones? Are you looking for espionage style epics, which show the relationship between government leaders and corporate leaders and secret was fought to promote corporate profit? Do you want to hear tales of exploitation on the supply side? The consumer side? The tax payer bailout side? Do you want simple tales of corporations acting badly as “citizens” and members of the communities in which they gather resources of manufacture or market? Or do you want shoulder-shrugging stories of corporations who feign ignorance of what goes on in the mines or fields that provide the resources, or the factories that manufacture their products. Do you want the polluters? The manufacturers of dangerous and deadly products that have been marketed to the public over the years? The financial institutions that engaged in predatory lending practices?
So many potential directions to go in, I don’t know where to start.
Let’s start with raw materials and international human rights violations. I’m interested in the mining industry, so let’s take a peek at a couple of different raw materials that come from mines, in very different parts of the world, and have very different journeys through the corporate jungles to their end-product lives in the hands of consumers.
Let’s start out with coltan. I’m hoping you’ve heard of it. When refined, it turns into tantalum, a product that populates the inside of your cell phones and computers and just about any high tech thing you’ve got in your house. The Bush years were a free for all on the free market, and as the demand went off the charts, the beautiful free market rose to the occasion with an ample supply to meet our needs. In one 18 month period a few years back, the Rwandan military made $250 million from selling coltan to some of your favorite US high tech corporations, such as Motorola, Apple, Intel, Compaq and IBM.
The only problem is, there is no coltan in Rwanda. According to a group known as Rights Monitoring, “Over the past ten years, wars for control of mineral resources have cost about five million deaths in the DR Congo, a forgotten genocide. Among these resources is one for which it is still fighting the coltan whose price has come in some cases above that of gold.” http://www.rightsmonitoring.org/2011/08/report-the-distribution-and-the-exploitation-of-illegal-coltan-mining-in-dr-congo/
President Obama hates the free market, and in 2010 he issued an executive order prohibiting US companies from buying coltan from the region surrounding the Congo. Now these companies have to buy it from places like Australia, where workers get paid a little bit more than the 70 cents per hour that they were risking their lives to make in the Congo. But it is really the shareholders who suffer most. Want a little more info? Here you go. http://www.globalissues.org/article/442/guns-money-and-cell-phones
Let’s go visit mines in another side of the world. One of my favorite places on planet earth is the tiny Central American nation of Guatemala. Guatemala has nickel mines. Lots of people want nickel. It populates your cell phones too. It is great for food preparation equipment. And of course, the US government buys it to make those little 5 cent coins they weigh down your change purse. A Canadian corporation called SKYE Resources did most of the nickel mining in Guatemala until recently, when some pesky Mayan people started some lawsuits against them over land rights, and they sold their interests to some sucker mining corporation in Russia. I’m not going to tell this story. This is the rare rare case in which the affects of corporate practices was caught on film, and shown to the world.
If you were paying attention to the beginning of the video, you might have seen some references to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954. That is a great story. You see, a little company called United Fruit (later to become Dole Food Company) was making gobs of money selling bananas in the US. And then the Guatemalans elected a president who wanted to enact this radical land reform, which would have granted land ownership to the Mayan people who lived on their ancestral lands. It was the cold war era, and it wasn’t that hard for the good ole boys at United Fruit to convince the CIA to go in and overthrow the democratically elected government of Guatemala. Which they did, throwing the nation into decades of civil war and conflict. But fortunately, it has not impacted terribly on banana imports. Want to learn more about the “secret” US overthrow of the Guatemalan government? Here is a GREAT BOOK that I highly recommend. http://www.amazon.com/Bitter-Fruit-Story-American-Guatemala/dp/0674075900
But maybe you want something more contemporary. And something contained in the US, without all that messy third world labor. Let’s look at the financial industry. It is clean. No raw materials or assembly to deal with. No foreign wars or governments to overthrow. But there are a few dirty deals here and there. And lots of government handouts, thanks to really good lobbyists.
Here in NYC, city tax payers have given over $2,500,000,000 of our city tax dollars (not federal, city) in “economic development subsidy packages” to a variety of financial institutions in the period prior to the 2008 economic crisis. Recipients of these subsidies include AIG, Bank of America, JPMorgan, Chase, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and others. The purpose of these subsidies is to help these “job creators” to “create jobs” here in NYC. Each year, they are given a target of how many new jobs they are supposed to create with these funds. None of them ever seem to reach their targets. But in spite of severe city budget cuts (in the post economic collapse years) to schools, libraries, homeless shelters, literacy programs, centers for senior citizens, etc., the city continues to think that these subsidies are a good idea. Post economic collapse, Merrill Lynch got $12,500,000 of city tax payer money to create (I believe) 7000 jobs. They are 5000 short. But they seem to think that if taxpayers continue to give them our money, they will do better next time. http://goodjobsny.org/sites/default/files/docs/gjny_bailout.pdf
But I’m sure you’re saying “Silly NYC, bastion of liberal profligates.” Let’s talk about corporate subsidies that your federal tax dollars support. We all know that the oil companies are suffering. That is why we are all so willing to put out a few extra dollars at the gas pumps each week. Some of the CEO’s of these companies haven’t seen a 7 digit bonus in a couple of years. But times are tough all around. That is why annual subsidies for fossil fuel companies NEED to be about a trillion dollars a year. Now that is globally. But I promise, a chunk of your tax dollars are helping out. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jake-schmidt/phasingout-fossil-fuel-su_b_1600300.html
Do I support these evil corporations, directly and indirectly? Sure I do. I’ve got a cell phone in my purse and a few nickels floating around in there too. I love my imported veggies, especially in the dead of winter. I’ve got a 401K I’ve been putting into for a couple of decades. And although my financial advisor tells me I’m light on my large cap munnies, I cringe at the top investments every time he suggests a large cap munnie to balance out my portfolio. I’m getting ready to start a 529 college fund for my daughter, and I’ll face the same problems then. No matter how carefully I chose, I’m sure I’m investing in companies who represent everything I fight against. I know I’m doing it with my tax dollars. And my purchases. And probably with my hard-earned savings as well.
So are all of my investments and purchases clean? Of course not.
Are all corporations evil? Of course not.
There is Ben and Jerry’s, and the Body Shop prior to its L’Oreal takeover in 2006. I’ve owned shares of IMAX for many years, and I invested because I fell in love their end product on trips to museums. There are plenty of start-up and mid-sized publically traded companies that *try* to do good, clean, honest work, without exploiting labor, burdening the taxpayer, and by manufacturing products or providing services that make our lives richer or easier. And some of them do. Maybe your company is one of them.
There are times and places in which corporations seem so good. Many years ago, in the golden age of the Detroit auto industry, assembly workers proudly drove the products they assembled to work. They lived in nice little homes in the suburbs, and spent two weeks vacation at their beach house with the kids.
But that doesn’t really happen anymore. Assembly workers, even union members, generally don’t earn a living wage these days. And most assembly is done overseas, by people who earn dollars a day for their labor, and most certainly could not afford to purchase the products that they assemble. And the folks responsible for harvesting or mining the raw materials most certainly cannot afford the end products of their labor. Here in the US, the bank tellers make $10-$14 an hour. They don’t drive new cars or buy suburban starter homes or spend their vacations at a beach house on those wages. And the pyramid structure doesn’t really allow many of the best and the brightest to move up “in the company.” The coveted mid and upper level positions are taken by fresh MBA’s.
The system is broken. The computers and cell phones and photocopiers that we all depend on, you see, we could not afford them if the miners and harvesters and assembly workers were paid wages that would enable them to buy those sorts of things too. At least not if they were manufactured by companies whose CEO’s make the sort of salaries and bonuses that CEO’s have come to expect.