Jim Hightower

Patriotism, Inc.

Corporate America has been running a blizzard of patriotic ads since September 11, wrapping their corporate corpuses with our flag, and declaring “United we stand!” But are they really with us?

Some of today’s most ostentatious corporate flag-wavers are the very global giants that just weeks ago were insisting that they owe allegiance to no nation, but instead are “borderless” entities that rise above America’s national interests, with loyalty only to their multinational investors. For example, in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist Bill Greider tells us that Colgate-Palmolive, which grew to enormous prosperity in our country, now says: “The United States does not have an automatic call on our resources. There is no mindset that puts this country first.”

For the past two decades, these corporations have been abandoning America’s workers and communities, hanging such job-destroying albatrosses as NAFTA, WTO, and the new Free Trade Area of the Americas around our necks. General Motors, GE, Boeing, Motorola, and Dell are among the brand-name, global hot shots who have shucked the red-white-and-blue and moved their capital, jobs, and loyalty offshore. Some, like GE and Boeing, have not only offed America but have demanded that their suppliers also abandon our country.

We’ve lost some 700,000 more jobs since September 11. Our economy is tanking. Now is the time for these giants to put their muscle behind their patriotic rhetoric. Come home, Corporate America! In this time of crisis and hurt, don’t just fly the flag, bring jobs back to America… and give us a reason to be proud of you.

GOLD FEVER When it comes to government policies, George W.’s administration tells us that “everything changed” on September 11. But not quite—one thing that remains constant is Bush & Co.’s enthusiasm for doing special governmental favors for greedheaded polluters.

The latest is a terribly sweet goodie that Bush’s interior department slipped to mining industry executives in late October. While the media and the public were focused on the terrorist attacks and anthrax threats, the department’s Bureau of Land Management quietly altered its rules so global mining corporations that extract lead, zinc, copper, and gold from our public lands can do so without the fuss of having to worry about the severe contamination that their mining causes to the land, water, surrounding communities, and people.

These corporations have been able to take billions of dollars-worth of our publicly owned minerals out of our public lands without even paying royalties or fees to us. Worse, they make a deadly toxic mess, then walk away from the damage they cause. So a rather modest rule was adopted last year that simply said the interior secretary could veto any permit for mining on our public land if the mine could cause “substantial and irreparable harm” to the community.

Oh, squealed mining executives, this is not what we want! They needn’t have worried though, because, lucky for them, Bush was put in the White House this year, thanks to the help of big campaign contributions from—guess who—the mining industry.

Almost exactly nine months after taking the oath of office, George W. delivered for these contributors. An interior department spokesman explained the policy reversal by declaring that it was “not fair” to hold these poor corporations to such a tough standard. Under Bush’s new rule, these global mining giants are free not only to do harm to our environment and communities… but to do “irreparable harm.”

CHINA OR BUST “This is a defining moment,” declared the head of the World Trade Organization. “The world has now changed.”

Indeed it has. He was not referring to the September 11 crash-bombing into the World Trade Towers, but to another attack on the well-being of workaday people here in America and all around the world. This is the assault by global corporate greedheads and their political henchmen on: 1) the jobs, wages, and middle-class aspirations of workers; 2) the purity of the world’s air, water, and food supply; and 3) the very sovereignty of free people.

What made the WTO’s head man so exultant was that the corporate creators of this anti-democratic, secretive powerhouse had just managed to bring China into its ranks. Most of our Congress-critters, funded by these same greedheads, rationalized their support of this by claiming that WTO membership means China will have to open its markets to more U.S. products. Horsefeathers. China’s people are overwhelmingly impoverished. The corporate powers are not after China’s markets, but after the dirt-cheap labor, cheap land, and non-existent enforcement of environmental protections. WTO membership opens up China’s unlimited production capacity to global corporations, and it prohibits our country from putting any tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions on the China-made products that they’ll flood into our markets. There’ll now be a gold rush of corporations moving their manufacturing and agricultural production over there. Indeed, Motorola, an eager proponent of getting China into the WTO, announced just one week prior to the vote that it would invest $6.6 billion in new Chinese factories, abandoning more jobs and communities here. To support bringing China into the WTO is like chickens giving a henhouse membership to Colonel Sanders. n

Jim Hightower’s latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates. Find him at www.jimhightower.com.

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Published at 12:00 am CST