From Terry Gross's interview on Fresh Air from WHYY, December 5, 2012
In her new series for The New York Times, reporter Louise Story traces the complicated relationship between localities and the corporations they want to lure to their states, counties and cities to help promote economic growth.
According to Ms Story, U.S. states, cities and towns are spending billions to attract or retain corporations to their boundaries, and the system has now attracted "brokers" who negotiate the "deals" for the corporations, while pocketing some 30% of the incentive. So the higher the incentive offered, the more profit for the broker, who then, as in the case of one such broker in Texas, becomes a significant "donor" to the Republican party, thereby, in effect, generating a network of political power that is extremely powerful, extremely connected and growing quite rich.
Meanwhile, in many of these same towns, cities and states, schools are going hungry for budgets, classrooms sizes are increasing, teachers are being laid off and the states are veering toward bankruptcy.
Some have speculated that the National Football League was the new religion of the United States, or the Major Baseball Leagues, but it appears to this observer that one could postulate that the new religion in the United States is the corporation. It is the most pursued, the most significant beneficiary of the tax loopholes, the most free to make decisions which, after all, are dedicated to the pursuit of the greatest profit, for the benefit of the investor....all in the name of "freedom, democracy and personal happiness"....
Too much corporate wealth has sat idle in bank accounts for the last several months, as they cried uncertainty about the future of the American economic and tax policy, but really they were imposing on the American body politic just another form of hostage taking of the middle class whose unemployment numbers range from 8-15% or higher depending on the demographic. Latinos and African Americans have been in the upper echelons of those numbers, as the corporations sought production in the developing world where wages, environmental protection standards and labour standards are below what North America considers acceptable, thereby generating wages of $1 per day, in many cases in sweat shops, like those in Bangladesh that recently burned to the ground killing hundreds making brands proudly sold and worn by North American, especially US citizens.
So let's add up some of the factors in this picture to see what's going on in the United States society/economy/politics and culture:
- high unemployment
- low rates of investment by corporations
- extensive "perks" as incentives to attract corporations to towns and cities in a highly competitive playing field
- brokers pocketing 30% of the incentives they negotiate for those corporations
- companies like General Electric paying not a single dime in federal income tax, corporate tax...through the benefit of high-paid lawyers and tax accountants who shield them by stashing profits in tax havens around the world
- many of the wealthiest Americans employing those same lawyers and tax accountants to hide the private estate holdings in tax havens
- two wars "on the credit card," neither of which has made either the U.S. or the world safer from terrorism
- decreased tax revenues to states, cities and towns, requiring school closings, teacher firings, firefighter firings, police firings
- and those riding the "gravy train" including the corporate executives, the brokers, the 1% at the top increasingly purchasing the votes of too many Republican Congressmen and women
- and the U.S. falling to 32nd among the world's "developed" nations in educational ranking of their children....
If only they, the American public, could see that the country has lost its bearings, its compass of what is really important....and stop worshipping at the altar of the
glitz and power of their very own altar, the acquisition of money for its own sake...and realize that the people of the country deserve better, need more and are quickly slipping into a "second-class" state, around the world, notwithstanding the uber-military and economic power the U.S. continues to hold.