USA: Wartime Opportunists

Publisher Name: 
Focus on the Corporation

Make way for the wartime opportunists.

Corporate interests and their proxies are looking to exploit the September
11 tragedy to advance a self-serving agenda that has nothing to do with
national security and everything to do with corporate profits and
dangerous ideologies.

Fast track and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. A corporate tax cut.
Oil drilling in Alaska. Star Wars. These are some of the preposterous
"solutions" and responses to the terror attack offered by corporate
mouthpieces.

No one has been more shameless in linking their agenda to the terror
attack than U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. Writing in the
Washington Post last week, Zoellick proclaimed that granting fast-track
trade negotiating authority to the president -- to assist with the ramming
through Congress of a Free Trade Area of the Americas, designed to expand
NAFTA to all of the Americas, among other nefarious ends -- was the best
way to respond to the September 11 tragedy.

"Earlier enemies learned that America is the arsenal of democracy,"
Zoellick wrote, "Today's enemies will learn that America is the economic
engine for freedom, opportunity and development. To that end, U.S.
leadership in promoting the international economic and trading system is
vital. Trade is about more than economic efficiency. It promotes the
values at the heart of this protracted struggle."

No explanation from Zoellick about how adopting a procedural rule designed
to limit Congressional debate on controversial trade agreements advances
the democratic and rule-of-law values he says the United States must now
project.

The administration has identified fast track as one of the handful of
legislative priorities it hopes to see Congress enact this year.

Getting fast track passed isn't big business's only priority for the
shrinking legislative calendar. The Fortune 500 has been whimpering since
George Bush was elected president and top administration officials told
the business community to silence their demand for corporate tax cuts
until after passage of the inequality-increasing personal income tax cut.

Even before the September 11 attack, business interests and the anti-tax
ideologues were increasingly making noise that corporate tax cuts were the
solution to the coming recession.

Now they are beginning to argue that capital gains tax cuts and corporate
tax breaks are America's patriotic duty.

In releasing a study purporting to explain how a capital gains cut would
spur economic growth, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) touted a capital
gains tax cut -- a tax break that exclusively benefits the wealthy -- as
an anti-terrorism initiative. "By reducing the rate at which capital gains
are taxed, President Bush and Congress could help revitalize the sagging
economy and bring new revenues to Washington -- decidedly aiding our war
against terrorism," said NTU director of congressional relations Eric
Schlecht.

Not wishing to be outdone, Senator Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, didn't wait
long to explain how the terror attack makes it imperative to open up the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). "There is no doubt that at this
time of national emergency, an expedited energy-security bill must be
considered," the Alaska senator announced last week. "Opening ANWR will be
a central element in finally reducing this country's dangerous
overdependence on unstable foreign sources of energy," he said.

Neither Murkowski nor the oil companies pushing for opening ANWR have ever
been able to offer a coherent explanation of how using up U.S. oil
reserves heightens energy security. Security rests in maintaining the
reserves. Real energy security and independence can only come from
renewables (particularly solar and wind) -- where the supply is plentiful
and infinitely renewing. Only a failure of public and private investment
leaves the country (and the world) unable to harvest renewable energy
efficiently.

And, of course, the purveyors of Star Wars couldn't let the opportunity
pass them by. The Center for Security Policy --the center of a web of
defense industry-backed think tanks and organizations pushing for a
National Missile Defense program -- urged President Bush in advance of his
address to Congress to announce that "this Administration will use every
tool at its disposal to ensure that the resources and latitude needed to
develop and deploy missile defenses are made available."

A missile defense system -- even if it overcame the technical obstacles
which have so far proved insurmountable, after billions spent -- would
have done nothing to stop the September 11 attack. Nor would it do
anything to stop any other conceivable terrorist attack on the United
States, none of which involve might missile delivery systems.

Opportunism and cynical manipulation of tragedy are nothing new in
Washington. But the proposals to exploit the September 11 tragedy for
narrow corporate aims mark a new low.

The United States is emerging from a national mourning period. Now is the
time to proceed with caution and care, as the nation seeks to address
legitimate security concerns (e.g., airport security) and tend to victims
of the attack. It is no time to rush through proposals on matters
essentially unrelated to the attack, especially damaging and foolhardy
proposals that have been unable to win popular or Congressional support
when the public has had a chance to consider them dispassionately, and on
the merits.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of
Corporate Predators: The
Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage Press, 1999).

AMP Section Name:Money & Politics
  • 106 Money & Politics
  • 107 Energy
  • 110 Trade Justice
  • 124 War & Disaster Profiteering