Also a report on how we might curtail the rape of our natural and human resources by multi-national corporations, a petition to the Mayor and an announcement about our KSFR radio show.
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Change in KSFR Retake Our Democracy Show. KSFR asked us if we’d like to move our radio show to 8:30am on Saturdays to allow us to follow Richard Wolff’s tremendous broadcast. We love the idea of following Wolff, as we share his socialist views and we feel that it is more likely that people will make a habit of listening to the in its entirety at 8:30 before folks head out on Saturday errands. At 11, many people are out and about and so listen while in their car until they reach a destination. We hope the shift will encourage supporters to make a morning of it and listen to Wolff and Retake before heading out for the day. This Saturday will be our last 11am show with the switch occurring on July 28. This Saturday’s show will feature Roxanne and I reporting on our remarkable visits to activists in Detroit, Cleveland and Madison and the common themes that are emerging from this tour.
National Governor’s Conference & Their Corporate “Sponsors” Need to Hear from You. If you need motivation to show up and raise your voices, here is an excerpt from today’s New Mexican. “The gathering also will include invitation-only roundtables with governors and representatives from companies that have supported the association, known as platinum partners. Current platinum partners include consulting firms Accenture and Deloitte, the tobacco company Altria and pharmaceutical companies Glaxo, Smith, Kline and Mylan, according to the association’s website. Getting facetime with top public officials is marketed as part of the sponsorship program’s appeal. The association touts its partners program as providing one-on-one connections to governors and their staff through roundtables and dinners. There are meetings, networking and workgroup opportunities, as well as what the organization describes as ‘resources and content sharing.’ ” Resources and content sharing = an exchange of corporate-developed language for future state legislation. These corporate lobbyists cozy up to our elected officials at roundtables and cocktail parties, while our voices are only heard from the streets. Let’s make sure they hear us! There are protests planned. Click here for details.
Petition to Ask Santa Fe to Expand and Extend Community Input for the Santa Fe University of Art & Design. I am not usually a big fan of petitions, but on a local level I do believe petitions can have an impact and there is an urgent need to send a clear message to the City: the Santa Fe University of Art & Design’s outreach effort needs to be expanded and extended. The City’s process was very well-intended and did effectively reach a large segment of the community. But it also missed almost entirely the low-income, largely Hispanic community that also has a stake in this development. The petition asks the city to slow the process and ideally to work with community organizations in Santa Fe to expand outreach and better engage residents of the south and west sides. We want to reiterate that effectively engaging under-served populations is not an easy task and is best conducted by organizations with a history in the community who are trusted by residents. One of the fundamental goals of the new Mayor’s administration is to unify the City. Expanding the SFUAD input process is a gesture that would contribute significantly to that goal. Click here to sign the petition.
Five Ways to Curb the Power of Corporations and Billionaires
If for no other reason, the Sigmoid Curve, dictates that humanity can not continue to use the earth and its resources as if they are endlessly renewable. The Sigmoid Curve, developed in the 80’s by the Salk brothers, projects population growth over time, illustrating how over time humanity must shift from unrestrained growth to one that acknowledges the limits of growth. Failure to acknowledge those limits can imperil human existence.
While the Paris Accord represents one strategy for moving the world toward a more sustainable future, it is both far too modest in scale and ultimately is unable to curb the unrestrained abuse of the earth and its resources conducted by multinational corporations who are driven by one and only one thing: profit. While acknowledging that for the planet to survive, we must invent or adopt a more sustainable economic system to replace capitalism, Jeremy Lint proposes a radical five point strategy for reining in multinational corporations. While I am not expecting corporate America to rush to adopt these reforms, they reflect the kind of radical thinking that is necessary to ensure a just transition to a sustainable world.
In an article originally published in Patterns of Meaning, Jeremy Lent notes that while changes in personal consumption are important to addressing resource limitations and climate change, they are: “ultimately inconsequential compared with the impact of the transnationals that have come to dominate our global economic and political system. Of the world’s hundred largest economies, sixty-nine are now corporations. Political parties in many of our so-called democracies are funded in large part by billionaires, while government cabinet positions are staffed by corporate executives. International bodies setting global policy are infiltrated by corporate agents so successful at entrenching corporate power that even those governments that still prioritize their people’s needs can no longer make autonomous decisions without risking crippling lawsuits from the transnationals whose interests they threaten. Meanwhile, countries and cities compete with each other to beg their corporate overlords for investment dollars, even it means undermining public services and legal protections for their own populations.”
Lent goes on to assert that only by redefining what a corporation is by changing the rules of how corporate charters are obtained and renewed can we change the larger corporate culture and the international corporations that drive that culture. He identifies fwo reforms that directly impact how corporations would operate and then three others that impact other aspects of the corporatocracy. He recognizes that these five reforms represent only a minor tweak to an utterly rapacious corporate capitalist culture, but feels that should these tweaks be achieved it might represent a shift in thinking that ultimately leads to our creating a system based upon more “life-affirming principles than upon wealth maximization.” I have thoughts on this, as well, shared at the end of the post.
1. Triple P Bottom Line Charter. Lent asserts that a century of case law affirms that a corporation’s only goal is to maximize profit no matter at what cost to people, the planet or communities. He then claims that if corporations were people, this kind of behavior would be labelled psychopathic. To address this, Lent proposes to “recharter” corporations and direct them to expand their scope of purpose to People, Planet and Profit through what is called Triple P Bottom Line, a measure already used by over 2000 B-corporations today. Lent would expand the Triple P measure to all corporations, with each corporation being required to report to shareholders on clearly defined ‘outcomes’ for each of the three P’s. Of course, without some kind of external system to hold corporations accountable to all three P’s, the rechartering would be meaningless. Hence reform # 2.
2. Five-Year Charter Renewal Process. Lent describes how today corporations enjoy virtually eternal authority to exist with no check other than shareholder satisfaction and sufficient revenues to continue operations. But if corporations had to renew their charters every five years and present documentation that they had met goals in relation to all three of the P’s, then there would be a mechanism for an international regulatory body overseeing charter renewals to insist upon corporate responsibility or risk losing their charter and going out of business. In effect, a corporation could enter into something like a Chapter 11 court where their continued viability was contingent upon not just fiscal responsibility, but social and environmental responsibility.
3. Tax Stock Trades Based Upon Length of the Holding Period. Currently stock trades are not taxed and fund managers use software that makes trades in just milliseconds.The practice encourages speculation and over-values short-term return on investment. Bernie Sanders proposed taxing trades to fund his college without tuition plan and to discourage rapid fire trading. Lent’s plan goes further, increasing the tax rate by orders of magnitude, and differentiating based on the length of the stock holding. For example, the tax rate might look like this:
- 10% if the stock is held less than a day
- 5% if less than a year
- 3% if less than 10 years
- 1% if less than 20 years
- Zero if more than 20 years
Lent notes: “The effects of this single step would be enormous. The financial services industry would be transformed overnight. High frequency stock trading and same-day traders would disappear. The short-term orientation of the stock market would be replaced by carefully considered long-term investment decisions. A typical mutual fund, which in the US currently turns over its portfolio at the rate of 130% a year, could no longer afford to do so, and would have to change its investment decision-making based on sustainable returns.” Imagine that, actually incorporating long-term strategies into decision making.
4. Create a Cap on Billionaire’s Assets Over $5 Billion. Lent begins with some astonishing statistics: “The combined wealth of the world’s 2,754 billionaires is now $9.2 trillion, an amount that has doubled in the past six years, and increased tenfold since the beginning of this century. The magnitude of this wealth is difficult to conceive. The top six billionaires own as much as the lower half of the entire world’s population.” Lent explains that most modern billionaires have ‘earned’ their billions by taking advantage of technologies that were the result of the research and development conducted by others and that there is really no rationale human benefit to such obscene wealth accumulation and concentration. So he proposes a radical idea: as an individual (or family) reached their wealth plateau future ‘earnings’ would be put into a charitable trust managed independently to avoid some of the questionable practices and expenditures we have seen from the Clinton, Trump and other family foundations. Clearly some form of guidelines would need to be developed for what is deemed “charitable,” as today all kinds of charities sponsored by the Koch and DeVos’ of the world are devoted to undermining democracy and advancng the interests of the 1%.
5. Create a Crime of Ecocide with the International Criminal Court. Lent points to a recent and yet unpublished UN study that found that multinational corporations had caused over $2 trillion in ecological devastation, with accountability for that destruction being virtually non-existent. Lent’s proposal is to give the International Criminal Court (ICC) the authority to charge corporate CEOs with ecocide in cases of egregious violation of environmental standards. Personally, I would add in abuse of labor practices to the set of standards developed. Lent notes that: “The ICC is an independent judicial body set up by international treaty, the Rome Statute, in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, genocides, and crimes against humanity. While it continues to face serious challenges to its enforcement powers, it has had the effect of putting tyrants everywhere on notice that they can no longer act with impunity. If ecocide—the loss, destruction, or severe damage of an ecosystem—were declared a crime by the ICC, this could have a similarly daunting effect on those corporate tyrants.” To read the full report and to find links to studies supporting Lent’s recommendations, click here.
I’ll be honest, the five suggestions seem at once utterly just and at the same time beyond idealistic and impractical. I suspect the majority of Retake readers would sign off on all five reforms with about 30 seconds of thought. But as noted in the last post, part of the problem of life in the 21st century is the narrowing of the imaginations of mainstream America so that, as a nation, we can’t even imagine alternatives to our current capitalist system.
But who invented a justice system in which willfully ignoring environmental safety precautions resulting in the spewing of methane in the atmosphere is not a criminal offense while a black teenager can spend years in jail for shoplifting or some other minor offense? What imagination came up with that? So, while these reforms may seem almost unthinkable, their “unthinkableness” points to just how constrained we have become and the degree to which corporate needs have entirely usurped human and environmental concerns.
Paul & Roxanne