Thanks to a vigilant reader, I’ve come across the website of America’s largest, oldest, busiest, and most successful corporation. At least, that’s how this outfit defines itself. It’s not Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, or GM—it’s the Pentagon. Go to www.defenselink.mil and you’ll find “DoD 101: An introductory overview of the Department of Defense.” This official site presents the U.S. military not as a government agency, but as a corporation. The Pentagon puffs itself up like a corporation running an image ad. It brags that the DoD is “the nation’s largest employer” with more than two million employees, and that it has the highest level of annual revenues of any company in the country. The site points out that DoD Inc. far outdistances such competitors as Wal-Mart, the number two employer and revenue generator. In a section titled “Who we work for,” the Pentagon goes completely corporate. “Our chief executive officer is the President of the United States,” it declares. “Congress… acts as our board of directors.” And “our stockholders are the American people.”
Excuse me, but our government is not a business. It’s a government with broad and deep democratic responsibilities that no corporation can achieve. By their very nature, corporations are top-down, hierarchical operations that exist not to serve the public good, but to profit the few. They are anti-democratic, excluding the vast majority of people (including shareholders) from decision-making. They operate in a closed culture of secrecy and are aggressive expansionists, relying on PR, lawyers, and lobbyists to cover up their waste, fraud, corruption, environmental contamination, and abuse of people. The corporate model is anathema to a free, just, democratic society. It’s both telling and damning that the Bushites view the Pentagon as a corporate entity.
STEALING LOCAL AUTHORITY
Have you been pre-empted yet? You probably don’t know it, but chances are that your state legislature either already has passed or is considering passing laws to steal an important level of local authority from you and the other folks in your city, town, or county. The present focus of this pre-emption power grab is on local governments around the country that have been responding (as they should) to the corporate effort to contaminate our food supply with genetically modified organisms. These GMOs literally alter the DNA of the food we put in our family’s mouths, including transferring animal genes into fruits and veggies. There has been no longterm testing of the human and environmental impacts of these Frankenfoods, yet the federal government has meekly let Monsanto and a few other purveyors of genetically-manipulated seeds to put this stuff into our food supply—without even having to label the foodstuffs as having GMOs in them.
Consumers, farmers, environmentalists, and other sane people don’t want the Monsantos to use us as their guinea pigs, so they have already gotten more than 100 local governments to ban GMO crops within their area. This has infuriated the corporate powers, who have spent tons of money to defeat these local bans—but lost. So, for the last couple of years, they’ve been sneaking off to state legislatures to pass laws (often with no debate) that take away our local control over this health issue. To date, 14 states have stripped this decision-making power from local people; corporate lobbyists are moving to take it away from local governments everywhere. To learn what’s happening in your state, call Environmental Commons: (707) 884-5002.
WAR PROFITS AND PARTY FAVORS
David H. Brooks loves his little girl and, like any good dad, wanted her to have a memorable Bar Mitzvah. So, last November, David booked both floors of New York’s opulent Rainbow Room for her party and sent private jets to fetch such musicians as Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Kenny G, Don Henley, 50 Cent, and DJ AM to entertain her and 300 of her best friends, each of whom was also given a little “party favor”—a bag of electronics and other goodies worth $1,000. Total cost of the Bat Mitzvah bash: $10 million. You could just write this off as yet another crass example of the excesses of the super-rich, except for the source of Brooks’ wealth. He is a war profiteer. His company, DHB Industries, got a lucrative Pentagon contract after 9/11 to provide bulletproof vests to our troops in Iraq. Unfortunately, the vests were flawed, and both the Marines and Army had to recall more than 23,000 of them last year. Meanwhile, David had used his company’s war windfall to line his own pockets. Prior to the Iraq war, he paid himself $525,000 a year. That’s a nice payday, but in 2004, he jacked up his take to $70 million—a 13,000 percent increase! That’s not all. He also made a massive selloff of his DHB stock that same year, pocketing another $186 million. But the sight of the CEO suddenly dumping his own stock spooked other investors, who drove DHB’s stock price from $22 a share to under $7. Brooks is presently under investigation by the SEC for financial wrongdoing, and he faces several lawsuits by investors for fraud and insider trading. To learn how we can stop such obscene war profiteering and other excesses by greedheaded CEOs, contact the Institute for Policy Studies and see its report entitled “Executive Excess 2005” at (202) 234-9382.
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.