Free Enterprise Socialism
ttention, class. Were now going to study the new and improved concept of free enterprise, which has been redefined by modern corporate executives as the availability of free government money to make their enterprise profitable. Lets turn to the sterling example set by Cabelas Inc. This giant retailer of hunting, fishing, and other outdoor products recently graced the state of Texas with one of its megastores, but only after demanding and receiving a rucksack filled with government subsidies, including $600,000 cash, $36 million in road and construction costs, and $20 million in highway improvements. What we have here is the giveaway of roughly $57 million of Texas taxpayers money to an out-of-state corporation to bribe it to come here and compete against local businesses that, ironically, are taxed to pay for Cabelas subsidy. Our governor, whos dimmer than a burned-out flashlight, hails this as a triumph of free-enterprise. For its part, Cabelas is unabashed about its dependence on corporate socialism, even declaring in its annual report that grabbing public money is key to its business plan. But while it thrives on government giveaways, the retail chain has added a new twist to the game by demurely declaring that, as a private, for-profit company, its privacy rights would be violated if details about its public subsidy were revealed to the public. Thus, Cabelas has sued our state attorney general, claiming that it would suffer substantial competitive harm if the terms of its deal with the governor were publicly disclosed. A private corporation is funded by the state to give it a leg up on its local competitors, then declares that it must be exempt from the states public disclosure law to protect its competitive advantage. Are we clear now on the new definition of free enterprise? GLOBAL REBELLION Remember just a few years ago when the Powers That Be pointed to Latin America as their glowing example of globalizations glories? Washington, Wall Street, and the media were all beaming at a new generation of business-minded presidents in Central and South America, hailing them for privatizing their nations public resources, waving in foreign corporations, cutting public services, and generally implementing the free trade ideology. Have you noticed that the Powers That Be no longer beam at Latin Americas grand globalization experiment? This is because it didnt take long for the ordinary people in these countries to realize that free trade is just another euphemism for the same old corporate exploitation, expropriation, and domination. Indeed, free trader is now a curse word in Latin countries, and an anti-globalization movement is sweeping the region. This is particularly inconvenient for W. and the corporate powers who are presently pushing for passage of a new glob of globaloney called CAFTAthe Central American Free Trade Agreement. The media in our country have largely ignored CAFTA, but it has become big news and a political flash point in the six Latin nations it would affect. Thousands of Guatemalans have poured into the streets in opposition, and the army there opened fire on them, killing two. In Honduras, angry protesters surrounded the capitol building after their congress rushed through CAFTAs approval, forcing the terrified lawmakers to flee. The protesters took over the chambers, proclaimed themselves the true representatives of the Honduran people, and scrapped the congressional approval of CAFTA. Opposition is so intense in Costa Rica that the president wont even submit CAFTA for legislative approval. To join the global rebellion against corporate globalization, call Global Trade Watch at 202-588-7777. JUST PEACHY Thankfully Republicans are in charge of several state governments, as well as our national government. We can always count on them to take care of the big problemssuch as making sure that the wages of Americas work-a-day majority stay low. Of course, W. and the congressional GOP have done their part, rejecting an effort earlier this year to hike the national minimum wage, which has been stuck since 1997 at a paltry $5.15 an hour. Thats $10,500 a year gross for full-time worka poverty wage that mocks moral decency. But I was particularly impressed by the extraordinary move recently by GOP leaders in Georgia to enforce this low-wage ethic in their state. Governor Sonny Perdue has now signed House Bill 59, barring any city in the Peach State from requiring corporations that get city contracts to pay higher wages than the poverty pay set by the federal government. This means that the states so-called conservative leaders have come out flat-footed against local control, forcing duly-elected local officials to comply with a federal, low-wage standard. Of course, the governor and his gang are corporatists, not conservatives, acting at the behest of contractors who were apoplectic that Atlanta has been considering a living-wage ordinance that would set a $10.15-an-hour wage floor to be paid by corporations that profit from government contracts. Thats hardly lavish payabout $21,000 a yearbut it would allow working families a middle-class possibility and would restore some integrity to the promise of Americas work ethic. Lucky for them theyve got stalwarts like Sonny Perdue ready to usurp local authority and stiff his states working families. Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.