October 22, 2002

The Anti-Business Party

Not the supermarket tabloid, but another Star: TheStar.com is currently posting a powerful indictment of the business community by David Olive called CEOs find war talk a good fit.

Bush has the tacit support of the business community in his plans to attack Iraq again, and Olive poses the question: Why?

The GOP, in conventional wisdom the "business party," the "conservative" party, has an absolutely abysmal economic record in its short, disastrous time in control of the White House. Quoting a "statistical report card" of Bush presented by Rep. Henry Waxman of California, Olive tells us:

The federal budget has gone from an $87 billion surplus, excluding Social Security, in 2000 to a forecast 2002 deficit of $314 billion the sharpest budget decline in history. The U.S. jobless rate has soared from a 30-year low of 3.9 per cent in October, 2000, to 5.7 per cent. Median household income, which peaked in 2000, has since declined in every income group except households earning more than $150,000. In this year's second quarter, a record number of Americans, more than 400,000, filed for bankruptcy.

Other social indicators tied to economic performance are heading in the wrong direction. The number of Americans without health insurance rose by 1.4 million last year to more than 41 million people. Health insurance and prescription drug costs are rising far faster than the inflation rate. After dropping to a 28-year low by 2000, the crime rate jumped 2.2 per cent last year; and illicit drug use increased 13 per cent in 2001.

Of course, the "bad economy" is good for some. Who? The super rich, who are increasing their lead on everyone else in this little economic catastrophe, and who just happen to be Bush's constituency. They pay him so much money he doesn't need the rest of us.

Why then do businessmen support Bush's war? "The majority of Fortune 500 CEOs have kept shamefully silent on the world's most urgent issue," says Olive, "focusing instead on lobbying against Congressional efforts to rein in excessive CEO compensation. Their silence implies consent."

The part of the business community that supports the war couldn't care less about regime change, or even weapons of mass destruction, but sees the war as a way to "jump start" the economy, says Olive.

Ignoring the fact that corrupt accounting and other criminal corporate behavior has fueled the catastrophe on the stock market, Richard Salsman, president of Intermarket Forecasting Inc., blames it on the failure of the government to wage war in the Middle East. "Those business leaders who openly push for a military confrontation in Iraq explicitly tie victory over Saddam to a resurgence in the stock market," says Olive."Their motive appears to be not so much 'regime change' in Iraq as an opportunity to jump-start a recovery in swooning share values."

There it is. Blood for dollars. Isn't there a better project for stirring up economic activity. Remember Roosevelt's public works projects? There are no end of productive jobs that need doing. Things you could do with the money being poured into the defense department to make weapons to destroy civilizations and mass murder populations. What about the search for less deadly energy sources? The trouble with the Bush administration is still, as it was with Poppy, "The Vision Thing." These men are barbarians. They see only killing and death. They are tied to fossil fuel fortunes and are determined to keep America hooked on oil till the last drop.

These are not "pro-business" interests. It amazes me that people who consider themselves businesspeople can see the Bush mob as pro business. Business has gotten a bad name, but there is nothing inherently unethical about doing business. There is nothing inherently murderous or tyrannical about it.

A group of extreme and amoral people has gradually taken control of the political and economic systems of the U.S., but there are also truly creative business people who are not fascistic, and whose business activities actually create value and contribute to the general welfare of the community. In this sphere, real creativity, initiative, integrity do count. There are people who succeed in business without using lobbying money to fix the game and give them unfair advantages. These are the people who need to come forward now and reassert leadership in the business community.

The true business leaders who are not thieves and manipulators like Ken Lay and his ilk, are the people who actually create the world the next generation will inherit. Their role is essential in the community. It is from that kind of initiative that the alternative energy systems will be developed, that ways to ward off environmental catastrophes will be found, that an enhanced -- not destroyed -- environment can be passed on to our heirs.

Actually, there are rumblings that this may be happening on a small scale. Olive says a small group of businesspeople called Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, led by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's, has mounted an anti-war campaign. In full-page newspaper ads this group asks: "How can blowing up buildings and killing people (in Iraq) be good for business, unless it's the body-bag business?"

The fascists, the mobsters, the tough guys, the hawks, the psychos don't have to be creative because they can always rely on force. At least that's what they think. But the game always runs out on bullies. Sooner or later they will be sobbing that they will take their ball and go home.

This childishness has gone on long enough. Let's throw the bastards out!

-- By David Cogswell

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