Short video segment from a talk by Don Patterson at the annual meeting of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York in January 2012 at Saratoga Springs, 12 minutes. Clicking on the link plays the movie clip.
Corporate Amoralization of the U.S. Democratic Ideal—As if That Could Be Beneficial This text, in an earlier, less detailed form, was used as an e-mail signature during the months from March 2010 and March 2011 when the work to gather the plaintiffs for our lawsuit was ongoing. Fundament survival issues have been left unaddressed for many years, sometimes so the political parties and their associated minions can use them to pursue partisan advantage, whipping up constituencies, raising campaign funds, and exploiting the issues instead of constructively addressing them. Especially important in diverting and subverting discussion of these issues has been the money used to gain lobbying access to government officials and collaborative assistance from them.
The Constitution designed U.S. governing processes to be deliberative, but recent behavior has made them exploitative. If policy needs are addressed too quickly, they cannot be milked for funds or to activate constituencies. Thus, an observed preference is seen for slowing down the processes of government much more than should be necessary and even creating gridlock intentionally and shamefully. This allows issues to be milked for as long as possible.
Problems may only be addressed and problems solved after all the partisan juice has been wrung out of them. That can take years, and in the meantime, the democratic ideal is discredited and trashed. Apart from the dignified stone monuments that make things look better than the should look if the facade was stripped away, this is what the U.S. Government looks like.
The issues we are bringing to the courts are among the most shamefully-exploited, neglected and even ignored issues. They are many times more important than most other issues, maybe as important or more important than climate change.
Probably, we would have no legal controversy with Monsanto if they had not been able to use monetary power through lobbying, campaign contributions, and leveraged political appointments to rig the governing system and the law to their own advantage. Along with others, they have created a new form of modern corporate feudalism where farmers are their contractually-controlled and legally-dominated serfs.
The government has allowed this to happen and promoted it because Jefferson’s ideal of agrarian democracy has posed a threat to the Federalist elite going all the way back to the Daniel Shays Rebellion in 1786 and 1787. It was among the reasons the Constitutional Convention was called. The elite needed a way to gain control over perceived excesses of democracy. The Whiskey Rebellion and other less publicized local rebellions represented similar challenges to elite authority. That may be the reason George Washington went personally to command the response to those standing up against the whiskey tax. He was the sitting President commanding militia from four states to carry out the objective.
At the time, whiskey was used as currency on the frontier, so taxing it was like the taxes imposed by Renaissance princes. Back then, the came and shaved the coins or took a portion of an stored grain. This created an incentive to spend money or sell commodities before the next time the tax collector came. The tax acted as an economic stimulus, but Washington's motivation was different. He and Hamilton wanted to assert centralized federal control and find ways to collect money the federal government needed to operate. The whiskey tax was levied partly because some states had not paid the money they can committed to support the Revolution.
Washington, it should be noted, was a brewer and seller of whiskey, so if he had to pay the tax, he wanted others to pay it. Those who did not pay the tax were given a competitive advantage over those who do. Washington had a personal ox in the whiskey arena.
A big issue for the Shays Rebellion was the abuse of farmers by the Courts acting on behalf of creditors. Like those involved in the Whiskey Insurrection, most of the farmers involved in the Shays Rebellion had served in the military during the Revolution, but the government could not pay them for their service, so they had to take an I.O.U. in the form of a government bond. Time was needed to get back to the farm and earn income after the war, but bills and taxes had built up and the taxes needed to be paid to cover the cost of government services.
Money was raised by forcing the farmers to sell their bonds in exchange for cash, and the Courts were an instrument of this process. Most of the citizens of this era were farmers, more than 9 in every 10 people, but there were some with enough money to buy the bonds, if the discount was good enough.
In this buyers’ market in Massachusetts, John and Abigail Adams were among those who enriched themselves from buying bonds. They made a fat profit over subsequent years when the government was in a position to make good on the bonds. John Adams would have bought land with the money he was paid for his government service; he was a farmer as well as a lawyer, and so he wanted more land, but he sent the money back to Abigail in Massachusetts. She saw an opportunity to buy up the bonds from farmers who had to cash them in, and she took it.
This process was the nation’s first wealth transfer from poor farmers to rich investors and also the first story about the exploitation of farmers to fund the political agenda set by the Federalist elite. The U.S. Constitution created a government managed by a relatively small group from each state, and most of the people in a position to be elected had come to know each other through service in the Continental Congress and though other service during the war. They could not overcome the tide of democracy spawned by the war, but they wanted to get it under control. Under the Articles of Confederaion democratic interests worked at cross purposes, so a guiding principle was needed to create an harmonious governing process able to given foreign investors and creditors confidence the United States would be able to meet its obligations..
The core guiding economic principle under the Constitution was simple: if everything could be made to work for the benefit of the elite, they could create a system that would allow income and well-being to trickle down to everyone else. The goal was to prevent too much undisciplined democracy from creating economic chaos and dysfunction. Everyone lived in close community, so the interests of the elite were not as alienated from the interests of the people as they have become over the subsequent centuries.
A system was created allowing the Commons to be built in the collective interest, and over the ensuing two generations, the national debt was paid off. In the process, the elite was funded at the expense of the farmers who had to sell their bonds at deeply discounted prices, but there were also differences of opinion about the way the economy should be built, how the government should be funded, and how democracy should work. Divergencies took shape around the two political parties with Hamiltonian Federalists on one side and Jeffersonian Republicans on the other.
From the point of view of Federalists like Gouverneur Morris, the funding of both the elite and central government was a good thing. He is the author of the Constitution, drafting from the various resolutions of the Constitutional Convention during the summer of 1787. He also wrote the preamble to the Constitution as a manifestation of his political philosophy and the philosophy of most of the participants in the Constitutional Convention. That event was a Federalist exercise, and the Republicans did not feel welcome. Some of them came initially, but they did not stay. They were not on the same wave-length as the Federalists who had made sure more of the delegates were of their persuasion.
Morris said there never was “and never would be” a nation without an aristocracy, so he aimed to see one created and established as soon as possible. He and others viewed this as a necessary step in getting the nation under control, and whatever was good for the aristocracy was considered good for the nation. This idea came back most of two centuries later during the Eisenhower Administration when the CEO of General Motors, Charles Wilson, said at his confirmation hearing following appointment as Secretary of Defense: “Whatever is good for General Motors is good for the United States.”
Wilson’s remark was protested at the time, but it has been a foundation stone of Republican economic ideology, and it came back even stronger after 1980 when President Reagan introduced Supply Side Economics, a benign sounding idea that aims to enrich the weathy and deliver trickle down to everyone else, if they are lucky enough to be in a place where the trickle-down trickles. The Reagan program which was the Morris and Hamilton idea on steroids in a climate of less community harmony, more antagonized competition, less collaboration, and greater alienation between the rich and the poor as the middle class was increasingly pushed down into the ranks of the poor.
The new Federalism of President Reagan intensifed exploitation and the principle of “each for himself” under the viewpoint that increased economic equality over the previous 50 years had promoted economic stagnation, even “stagflation” (economic stagnation and inflation at the same time), and reduced economic incentives. Greater income inequality was promoted as the way to increase productive economic pressures, and out of that has come the exploitation of the Commons to speed up the process of elite advancement.
Monsanto is a poster child of this political philosophy, and it got started on its current agricultural path soon after President Reagan was elected. Back then, a way was needed to get uppity farmers and the farm economy under control. In 1979, farmers in the American Agriculture Movement had driven tractors across the nation to Washington from most agricultural areas, except the dairy states of the Northeast, and their encampment had filled the national mall where they were fenced in by city buses, parked nose to tail.
The farmers' goal was to end the squeeze no farm income and stop the continuing transfer of agricultural wealth out of the rural-farm economy and into the industrial sector (including the industrializing farm economy). Elite corporations were seeking increased control over major commodities through whatever tactics they could employ. They wanted to prevent farmers from manifesting organized political pressure at the expense of agribusiness. It was a classic war between Jeffersonian Republican democrats and Hamiltonian industrializing Federalists.
Even many larger farmers were hurting under the policies of that time, and President Carter was seen as more Republican and Federalist than he was Jeffersonian and Democratic in his economic values. He was a peanut processor from Georgia with the ideals of an agribusinessman, even though he called himself a farmer and did have a farm. In the view of many of the farmers, Carter was identified with the consolidating, controlling objectives of the Trilateral Commission and its allies. The building of industry during these years was part of the strategy believed necessary to increase productivity and win the Cold War.
The trouble is: the industrialization of agriculture has expediently ignored the consequences for the public health and the environment, and politicians of both parties have supported it in exchange for the campaign contributions that are the essential, modern, political lifeblood and mother’s milk of the U.S. governing process. Politicians have wanted to keep the money flowing as long as they could, and as part of that, they have assumed that all of Monsanto’s roughly 250,000 farmer customers support and should support the government’s pro-Monsanto agenda.
In contrast, they see only about 15,000 organic farmers, and they have not investigated the issues enough to know what they should be doing and are not—in the broader public interest. They follow the money and the larger voting blocks, and when politician act only according to the numbers of votes and contributer dollars, they neglect other knowledge and other needs even to the point of running the nation down a rat hole. This is where the formerly honorable democratic ideal has ended up.
By failing to address the issues we are raising against Monsanto, political Washington has been able to keep the contributions flowing from the biotech industry with Monsanto as the leading corporate sled dog and largest feeder at the government trough—or beneficiary of the promoted pro-biotech policies. Most prominent among the results is favoritism for biotech agriculture and its associated chemicals, and a range of policies have been promoted directly in service to Monsanto and others with similar economic objectives.
The most recent idea (at the time of this writing) is in the form of a bill introduced by Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur aimed to obligate the growers of Monsanto’s crops to register with the government any part of their crop they may save and might subsequently use as seed. This strengthens collaboration between government and the biotech agricultural corporations in asserting patent-based control over the seed supply and thus over farmers and food.
Kaptur is the member of Congress who was gerrymandered into the same district as Dennis Kucinich, and she defeated him in the 2012 primary. The redistricting project was the work of Ohio’s Republican legislature, and the district stretches from Cleveland to Toledo including much more of Kaptur’s original Toledo-based district and even adding more of the Toledo area at the last possible minute seemingly to guarantee a Kaptur victory.
Kucinich was almost the only member of the House of Representatives willing and informed enough to speak out against Monsanto and introduce food labeling bills long before the issue was on anyone else’s radar. Thus Monsanto and their political allies could have been active in finding a way to defeat him. Kucinich’s district was more urban while Kaptur represented north central Ohio farming areas and would have had some connection with Monsanto’s allies in the Farm Bureau.
This part of Ohio was formerly represented for many years by Democrat Donald J. Pease, and before that back to the mid-twentieth century by Republican Charles Mosher. They both knew that most of the well-established farmers they represented were political conservatives close to the Farm Bureau, a strong Monsanto ally. The Farm Bureau is the pro-corporate, pro-biotech farm organization, but it is not really a farm organization so much as it is an insurance company and agribusinss connglomerate marching in lockstep with others of the same ideological persuasion.
Kaptur’s bill would transfer to taxpayers much of the cost of investigating what Monsanto refers to as “seed piracy.” Reportedly, Monsanto maintains a staff of 75 with others on contract and spends about $10 million annually to investigate roughly 500 farmers for patent infringement and contract violation, but until now, they have not had a way to know when farmers saved some of their crop unless they would have an inside track with the commodity buyers. In most of the “piracy” cases, farmers cannot afford to fight Monsanto in court, so they agree to pre-trial settlements. The receipts from these settlements were estimated by the Center for Food Safety to range between about $80 million and $160 million as of 2010.
This money added to the $23.6 million received from court awards in patent infringement lawsuits. Monsanto reports using the pre-trial settlement money to award scholarships to rural students and to fund other rural charities. The source of the funds is advertised, so the gifts are used by Monsanto wave a big and intimidating stick at farmers wanting to oppose them. As the charity curries favor with recipients it makes a visible but veiled threat against farmers.
Monsanto’s lobbying also led to a 2012 provision of the Agricultural Appropriations Bill, called the Farmer Assurance Provision - Section 733, also called by critics The Monsanto Protection Act. Monsanto lobbyists were looking for a place to hide the Provision, and they finally succeeded in putting it into the Continuing Budget Resolution in March 2013. Missouri Senator Roy Blunt was the covert agent of their mission, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski subsequently apologized publically for what had happened.
The provision effectively prevents the courts from putting a hold on the release of transgenic crops by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to overrule them upon the receipt of a request from a farmer. The court did stop the release of both transgenic alfalfa and transgenic sugar beets because of the government’s failure to fulfill the requirements of law prior to the public release of the crop. The new provision of law has now stopped the courts from performing this judicial review of governmental failures and unconstitutional actions in the future, but it is only in place until the Continuing Resolution expires in September, 2013. Then, effort will be seen to find a different piece of host legislation for the provision to cling to.
Judicial Review has been a centrally important to the Supreme Court role ever since Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the decision in Marbury v. Madison in 1801, but the Congress could choose to overturn it. It is a long-accepted function not supported by any constitutional provision. Most people agree it has served the public interest, but criticism has arisen sometimes. The Citizens United decision following the 2008 federal election has stimulated countering effort through a constitutional amendment, but this is not the usual response to court decisions involving judicial review. Most have been accepted.
Monsanto has worked in the past to win other special provisions under law. They spent millions lobblyinng to win a law to prevent dairies from advertising their milk as free of Monsanto’s transgenic bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST), and they won a circuit court decision telling Vermont they could not require dairies selling rBGH milk to label their milk so consumers could know. This labeling was found to be a violation of free commericial speech allowing dairies to escape from a requirement that was against their interests. Presumably, Monsanto intended to proceed similarly when they threatened to sue Vermont in 2012 if they passed a law requiring the labeling of transgenic food.
Alternatively, Monsanto could also argue that the labeling of transgenic food is a federal matter under the commerce clause of the Constitution, and thus it needs to be managed or not by the FDA. The King Amendment to the 2013 farm bill asserted this position in a way seemingly intended to address transgenic food labeling and a number of other state agricultural regulations that are more strict than any federal regulations. State regulations governing the labeling of rBGH milk could be addressed the same way.
In the course of all the rBGH controversy in Vermont and the news it attracted elsewhere, the public became alerted to the asserted dangers of the milk from cows given Monsanto’s transgenicly engineered hormone, and the market collapsed. As a result Monsanto sold that enterprise, and most dairies have stopped using the product. In conclusion, as a result of all the information now known, it can increase milk production briefly, but other consequences make it undesirable for both cows and humans. It increases levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) and with that comes greatly increased cancer risks.
These are only some examples of Monsanto’s efforts to use government to serve their corporate objectives ahead of the public interest. Even if Kaptur’s bill and the Farmer Assurance rider do not prevail and are not reintroduced repeatedly in a continuing effort to get them passed, they allow Monsanto to know who their friends are. These are then the members helped to win reelection the next time campaign funding is needed. This is how the political system works, and those who like the way it works think it should work that way, especially if it helps them keep their own partisans in the Congress and the White House. With that, they can also make sure the courts are filled with appointees of the same persuasion.
Don Patterson speaking to a group of Quakers following a vigil they conducted outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse on Worth Street in New York City on January 31, 2012 during the oral arguments on Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit against them. The photograph is a frame from the movie, “What Do You Know about Monsanto,” explaining the issues of concern in the lawsuit and the state of public knowledge about Monsanto in 2012. Clicking on the photograph and any of the photographs below on this page—or the link above will play the movie.
The Design of the New Corporate Feudalism As many costly issues have been ignored to help favored companies and industries generate and preserve profits at public expense, the formerly admirable democracy has been turned into a pay-to-play system. Just as fees went with the acquisition of a feudal fiefdom during the previous millennium, fees are now paid in the form of campaign contributions. Narrow elitist ideological preference also help allow the creation of a political system where corporations are the deregulated super-citizens in much the same way the landed, castle-dwelling aristocracies were the empowered controllers over life and survival under the feudal system in the Middle Ages.
The long- delayed action on egg safety is a modern example of an ignored issue serving corporate interests ahead of the public interest, but an even bigger example is the willingness to permit and encourage unhealthful, environmentally irresponsible, and nutritionally compromised industrialization of food production. Monsanto is at the heart of this destructive, imperiling, integrity compromising, industrialized farming and food system.
The subsidized, cheap, transgenic corn and soy fed to cattle and other livestock makes the resulting meat as unhealthful for people as the feed is for the livestock, and massive quantities of antibiotics must be used to keep the animals standing long enough to slaughter. They say the antibiotics are used to fatten animals more quickly, and it is true that animals fighting disease, inflammation, and infection caused or promoted by close animal confinement and unnatural feeding does not permit the animals to prosper. Antibiotics make the expedient feeding regime possible, but it is not sustainable because the result is antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Cows cannot remain healthy on a diet of transgenic corn and soy or even non-transgenic corn and soy; they need an all-grass diet to remain healthy, but grain-fed, feedlot meat is cheap to produce under the supporting U.S agriculture policy, and it has an additional corporate benefit for the healthcare industry: it increases the profitability and necessity for cardiac care. A palate preference for fat “marbled” beef has been cultivated in service to the feedlot-factory method of beef production, but the health and human costs are not tabulated.
Even pigs need a more diverse diet than corn and soy, but U.S. consumers have been weaned away from all knowledge informing them what quality pork should taste like. They have been weaned away from the knowledge informing them the reasonable flavor expectation that should be associated with all foods. Even organic foods can be grown in ways that deprive them of the full range of nutrients. They need to be grown in fully nutrient-dense soil, but they may not be.
Monsanto’s system of chemically dependent, transgenic agriculture is especially damaging of nutrient quality, both in the food and in the soil. Both are impacted by the transgenics and by the herbicide, and that makes the system the dominant cornerstone of an imprudent, myopic, multilaterally destructive industrialized food system. This is coupled with the corporate feudalization of an illness-causing agricultural economy growing increased pollution and run-off antibiotic-resistant bacteria as 80% of the entire U.S. antibiotic supply has gone into livestock feed, then out in their highly acidic and toxic feces.
This toxic waste is not even good for fertilizer anymore, but it can be used to generate methane through fermentation. The trouble is that much of the methane is generated before the feces come out of the cows, and that goes into the air as a greenhouse gase many times more potent than carbon dioxide. It is not as potent as the nitrous oxide generated by the modern farming system, but the impact of all three and their interrelationship is still not as well understood as it needs to be. More studies on that are needed.
Without optimally nutritious and fully healthful food, citizens cannot work, armies cannot move, students’ minds grow foggy, and healthcare costs rise. Many people live fatter and die younger as the advancement of civilization stalls when the importance of food as the foundation of all culture is disrespected. Modern democratic nations have become devitalized, and people have become sick just so corporations can profit. The U.S. “cheap food policy” carries high public costs that policymakers have ignored and swept aside because they are under the control of the profiteers operating freely in exchange for campaign contributions. This happens because of the close relations the political system promotes between corporations and politicians.
Elected officials have been grateful to the corporations and the corporately-funded who help them have the money they need to become elected and stay elected―and they also fear the money sometimes focused to defeat them if they do not do as the corporate kahunas require. Money, not analytical wisdom, has become the essential resource under U.S. governance, including especially and grievously agriculture policy. Corporately-derived money has replaced citizens as the foundation of the governing plutocracy, and as part of this system, many citizens have been manipulated as voters or diverted from civic participation because they feel they have limited power to overcome corporate political dominance. At least, citizens need to make an enormouse effort to overcome corporate power arrayed against the citizen interest.
Informed citizenship has been replaced by entertainment, sports, and other diversions at the center of the U.S. system of communication allowed and facilitated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the face of all the provided diversions, many people feel no desire, need, obligation, or responsibility to pay attention to the issues affecting their lives. They turn that over to the government or their employer corporation the same as the vassals of the past depended on their governing prince or duke. Many people have shown a preference for ignorance and dependency both in the past and now, but a bumper sticker was recently seen: “If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Are Not More People Happy?”
If diversions were not systemically important in keeping the people docile and diverted from civic interest, the use of the airwaves for educational purposes would have long been more important than it is, maybe even centrally important, and education might have been made free for everyone just because it is so important to effective citizenship. Education is costly so young people can be milked exploitatively and forced to take corporate jobs just so they can pay off their student loan debts.
The cost of education makes a loud and painful statement about the unimportance of citizenship. Students have joined farmers as engines of wealth transfer helping to fund the system and the elite who operate it for their own primary benefit and only secondarily for the benefit of others—as long as they agree to remain compliant in their obsequious acquiescence. The dumbing down of the people through entertainment and other diversions is an important part of creating citizens who may do little more than work at corporate jobs and consume corporate products when they are not being entertained much the same as Romans in the Coliseum. No matter the original importance of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, spiritual wisdom and insight are no longer as important as they once were. They do not need to be when everyone is under corporate or political control with their needs met by people who feel smarter than God with no further need for natural wisdom or even the natural law considered important when the nation was founded.
Marx worried about religion as the opiate of the people, but he did not yet foresee all the other more effective opiates that would marginalize also religion and morality for many people living in the modern feudal culture of dependency, but much religion has also been dumbed down to become a form of entertainment. The past ideal and its emphasis on morality has been made to seem foolish even by people who make noise about the importance of religion alongside the asserted importance of Second Amendment gun rights to protect “freedoms” already lost or given away.
Some have become slaves of the gun industry only in the sense they stay home to avoid being caught in the cross-fire of warring gangs or Good Samaritans with easily used concealed weapons. As a result, alienation and isolation is promoted, and the fabric of the culture is torn asunder as people participate less in the economies and lives of their communities. Violence or the threat of it is proposed as the answer to many needs, just as violence is done to animals and other food as part of the conventional way of thinking.
As long as most people have been fed, clothed, housed, entertained, made sufficiently mobile, and provided with jobs or unemployment checks, they have been docile about the democratic freedoms they have given up, sometimes in the interest of gaining increased security. This has happened as the result of the now virtually incessant pursuit of corporate profits and the associated private wealth. A violent culture has been created to promote the sale of guns, and an equally disrespectful system of agriculture has been created to promote the sale of chemicals and technologies that are equally violent against life and health. Monsanto is the drum major of this system, marching with full arrogant impunity.
Few have marched in the streets to protest the destruction of the democratic ideal or risen up against one or another corporate tyranny as a volunteer army of farmers did in 1776 against a British tyranny that was much less significant than the one now being faced. The historic self-governing legacy they hoped to pass along for generations into the future has been slowly and inexorably thrown away, allowing the corporately-funded plutocratic oligarchy to advance their own profitability while creating public costs so high, their revenues are dwarfed by comparison.
The contemporary macroeconomic accounting system enables this, because it does not count public costs and debit them against the promoted and sometimes even subsidized flow of corporate revenues. Policy and practice enable whatever the people allow, and when public costs are not counted, they are neglected, marginalized, and continuously ignored.
Because of the importance of money in the system, members of the Congress and others become responsive to the power of corporations as if they were empowered to print money at will, and corporately-derived funds in the hands of individuals are equally influentialand damaging. Those without corporate power are intimidated, subservient, marginalized, impugned, or targeted for economic elimination because they lack access to money. They need to defend themselves against the expansion of corporate political and economic power, but they have not, and maybe they cannot because they are corporately dependent, under many corporate dependencies..
Among those wielding power against the farmers Jefferson hoped would be the independent backbone of democracy have been banks, agribusinesses, and chemical firms, pseudo farm organizations more allied with corporate interests than with the interests of their own co-opted farmer members, the allied biotech industry, and others in the corporate phalanx, including now a range of astroturf organizations often created broaden the perceived base of support for the corporate agenda.
A pseudo-farm organization providing cheap insurance and other products manipulates and abuses its members against their own interest with many of these members collaborating in their own abuse without realizing what is done with the dues they have paid. The result is democracy subverted in the interest of plutocratic corporatocracy―as if that should be a good idea.
Subversively undermined is both the U.S. national interest and the capitalist ideal—unless everyone agrees that the corporate interests are synonomous with the national interest. Those ready to believe that are equally ready to pay money to a sewer rat for purchase of the Brooklyn Bridge. From the inside out, worse than throug h the embrace of a foreign totalitarian ideology, exploitation has been learned as if U.S. democrats and capitalists had eaten the brains of their former adversaries or feudal antecedants.
Creating the Debt-Based Economy as a Mechanism of Wealth Transfer from the People to the Corporations For decades, agricultural policy has helped bankers increase family farm debt as a way of increasing bank income, borrower dependency and enhancing the concentrated power of money in the political system while also transferring wealth from the many to the few. Under law, the U.S. economy, particularly the farm economy, has been converted from an income-based to a debt-based system. As part of this process, a continuing flow of farmers have been put out of business as if that should be a good idea. Some are now coming back to practice agriculture differently, but they are still a small minority.
Control over agriculture has been consolidated in the hands of ever fewer companies and an ever smaller group of politically-favored and already wealthy and economically empowered individuals. The goal is to empower the elite for their own benefit―under the self-serving assumption they possess greater wisdom because they may funnel some of the subsidy money into campaign contributions and work to keep their political sponsors in office. The smaller the farmer, the less likely they are to make political contributions, so policy has favored those who —and provide them subsidy funding so they can.
Over the last 30 years, especially, agricultural policy has been used to help keep the heartland states in the Republican voting column, but that is not the worst of it. The worst is the system of agriculture policy has favored over the most recent 15 years―with Monsanto and patented transgenic seed at the center of it.
As the system has been refined over the years, particularly during the recent periods of Republican congressional control, the transfer of taxpayer resources to farmers and others who own rural land has been used to solidify the strength of Republican constituencies in the states where voting has been cast in Republican cement. Operatives can put “the arm” on the recipients of the federal largess to assist with the achievement of political objectives, and both parties have done that, but most important has been the use of the system to win rural support for a system that myopically serves agribusiness more than it serves either farmers or consumers. Even Republican farmers have had the wool pulled over their eyes.
If the impact of policy were not counter-balanced by some people returning to the land to try to replace the dominant, ecologically exploitive, health-destructive agricultural model favored by federal policy with a new more sustainable, small-scale farming ideal related to the increased selling of produce through farmer’s markets and community supported agriculture (CSA), the pro-corporate, health-imperiling, environmentally damaging control over farming and food would have advanced more monopolistically than it has. Nonetheless, this need alternative food production model accounts for less than 10% of the food consumed in the United States and only a tiny fraction of the nation’s farmers, and because the way the USDA has used its influence, transgenic and chemical damage is only evaded if individual farmers are conscientious and diligent.
Even the U.S. national organic program (NOP) allows transgenic contamination at high levels if farmers do not know about it. They are not required to know about it, and the program creates an incentive not to know. Percentages of small scale local market farming with trusted relations between farmer and consumer are higher in some localities and regions, but despite rapid growth, the national numbers are not yet remotely impressive in the total food marketing picture .
A longitudinal health study needs to be made comparing the well-being of people who eat locally produced organic food with those who eat the standard chemically-produced food sold by most grocery chains. The biased comparison produced by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in 2012 was no more than corporate propaganda used to help defeat Proposition 37 on transgenic food labeling. The study was made by people dedicated over many years to the production of distorted pro-corporate studies. Better studies by honorable, objective, independent people and research institutions would be one way to answer the claims that chemically-raised food is as healthful as organic food.
The methodologies of some of the studies included in the Hoover meta-analysis as well as the Hoover study itself have been criticized by many analysts (articles on this subject are included in the bibliography on this Web site), but a major, full-scale rebuttal of the Hoover assertions would need to come from a long-term study examining the nutritional quality of the diet of the study participants and the health results. That is hard to accomplish when most of the money is in the hands of corporations and not available to fund independent, objective, unbiased analysis. Now that hydroponics have become more widely used, the study would need to sort out the impact of hydroponic practices and the less complete nutrition resulting from them.
The original intention of the federal farm law was to maintain essential economic balance between the farm sector and the rest of the economy, but that objective has been subverted, particularly under Republican leadership but not much less under Democrats. Farm policy has not only helped reinforce the Farm Bureau’s pro-corporate, pro-agribusiness bias, but it has also strengthened the ideological polarization even within the Republican party between the Tea Party faction and the moderates. The disunity within the Republican caucus is strong enough to cause some in the “red” states of South and West to talk about seceding from the union.
Under the U.S. political model, parties and politicians in all states need money to compete, so they pursue the people and corporations who control more of it, and that helps them increase their control. Gratitude is shown toward the allied wealthy for the received help by writing laws (or not writing them) to serve the plutocratic interests. The Farm Bill is one of the laws they write, and that law is always written with the interests of agribusiness centrally important. The law has been prominently used to restructure the rural economy and to make most farmers more dependent on capital, fuel, chemicals, and now transgenic technology.
When politicians help those who have helped them with their money needs and the neediest farmers at the bottom of the system do not get enough income from the trickle down to make campaign contributions, their interests become ignored, neglected, even punitively spurned. This has happened to the point where many farmers have taken off-farm jobs to support their farming habit part-time. Just as bankers give loans mostly to those wealthy enough to not need them, so do policy makers give most of their policy-driven beneficence to those who need it least. Many of these are agribusiness corporations. This the way the capitalist model has been distorted to favor monopoly and oligopoly power.
Regulations and farm program management have been used to marginalize and eliminate those who do not and cannot help to provide the system's essential political lubricant: campaign funding. This has been seen even in the regulations governing organic agriculture as those with greater financial and lobbying power have been favored. For example, the regulations governing organic egg production favor the largest producers, not the smaller, and as a result the organic certification has been made meaningless.
Organic eggs should come from pasteured chickens, but the NOP standard considers a small enclosed porch good enough to meet the outdoor access requirement. As a result, people who want quality eggs need to find those who do much better than the USDA organic regulation require.
Most recently, Secretary Vilsack also stacked his appointed AC21 Commission so they could recommend a taxpayer-funded and exploitive insurance program to promote a fruitless, destructive, abusive, and ultimately impossible co-existence between transgenic and organic agriculture―as if this idea could ever be prudent, wise, or in the public interest. It only serves the corporate interest of biotech companies like Monsanto and insurance companies like the Farm Bureau.
The taxpayer funded insurance program would profit the companies administering it, and it would attempt to buy off the complaints of organic farmers against transgenic agriculture by using taxpayer funding to pay them for any damage they incur. The system assumes organic farmers are only in business for the money and have no principles or integrity undergirding the system of agriculture they have chosen to practice.
Organic farmers may be only about one percent of the total farmers in the nation, but most of them are unlikely to be bought off as easily as the AC21 Commission and Secretary Vilsack have assumed. More likely the program has been put forward as an answer to our lawsuit against Monsanto in the event judges do not stiff arm us well enough. The proponents of the insurance idea would assert it as the answer to our expressed need for a Declaratory Judgment to provide protection against patent infringement lawsuits. A Declaratory Judgment is needed, in part, because a damage suit against Monsanto or the farmers growing their products is impossible as long as the law allows them to countersue for patent infringement requiring payment of royalties in the event of crop contamination. That is what the “strict liability” principle in patent law allows them to do.
While chemically-dependent farmers growing transgenic crops may not be as concerned about the health-destructive issues being posed by their kind of agriculture as long as it pays the bills, organic and biodynamic farmers and the others choosing to avoid transgenic crops and the chemical methods associated with them are not likely to be as mercenary in their attitudes even if the food they grow does deliver to them a price premium. They are more likely to operate smaller farms closer to the people who eat what they grow, so they are less likely to want to accept an insurance payment as sufficient recompense for the contamination of their crops.
If farmers lose their certification and their market, and it takes them years to recover, no insurance is likely to be sufficient to cover all the resulting damage and costs of recovery. If the taxpayer subsidy of the program covered all the costs, the program could be seen as a strategy to alienate consumers from organic agriculture. Many would see the cost to themselves without seeing the benefits of the watered down program no long able to assure quality nutrition because of the pro-corporate cutting of corners.
Farmers foregoing the use of chemicals and transgenics as a matter of principle are less likely to take the money and keep going as if nothing happened. In any case, the system is unlikely to work, because the non-transgenic farmers receiving a contamination insurance payment this year are likely to need another one next year and the next until all non-transgenic farmers are receiving payments every year like a form of entitlement. This is no better than a healthcare system that disconnects the sources of illness from those who pay for its treatment and those who care about the costs of the system. Responsibility for the ethics of the system and the examination of those ethics need to start somewhere, and clearly are not going to start with Secretary Vilsack or President Obama. They have been trying to evade the obligation the same as others before them. That’s how things work in a plutocratic corporatocracy.
Many of the farmers who have survived over the years by using Monsanto’s agricultural system are not happy living in decimated, economically depressed rural communities that were formerly robust and collaborative as part of the nation’s democratically-valued rural backbone. As corporations have tightened their control at the expense of both farmers and consumers, they have manipulated prices through monopoly and oligopoly, reduced food quality, increased the use of chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and petroleum while contributing to the destruction of soil fertility. All this has been done to enlarge corporate profits and increase farmer dependency on transgenic crops as well as increasingly toxic chemicals―as if this short-sighted expediency could never have any consequences. Before repair is possible the culture needs to rethink the way it operates, and the morality formerly exhibited to the rest of the world also needs to be restored.
Lowering Food Quality and Increasing the Gap Between Rich and Poor Food quality has suffered as a direct result of policy and the failures of policymakers, and so has public health also suffered along with the decline in food quality. As with the promotion of transgenic and chemically-dependent agriculture, corporate interests have been put ahead of the public interest on healthcare and the public concern about the costs of healthcare. Short-term corporate profits, including Monsanto’s, have been put ahead of long-term environmental, agronomic, nutritional, economic, and democratic sustainability. The public interest in many nations has paid the price. One anti-democratic result of this and other corporatization has been a widening gap between the rich and the poor. It is as wide now in the U.S. as it was before the Great Depression, and government policy, including farm policy, has facilitated the gap’s growth.
Continuing exploitative pressure has been imposed on the working middle class, including the farmers, who once were the cornerstone of the nation’s middle class. The income of working people has remained the same or has declined in real terms over the past 30 years since 1980, and that is a statement of cultural values. Wage stagnation has not occurred because productivity growth has stagnated; it has occurred becasuse worker leverage has declined, and it a culture of “each for himself,” morality and sense of community justice has declined.
Over the the same time period, the national debt has increased from less than one trillion dollars to almost $16.9 trillion in July 2013. This has happened as the politically empowered and wealthy have been unwilling to pay for the work the government does to try to keep democracy functional in the face of the economic and political pressures recently operating to undermine and destroy it. Working through the Republican party and their officeholders, they have wanted to use reduced revenue flow to weaken the government and advance their own interests against the public interest.
These are the forces of entropy and plutocratic oligarchy at work to destroy the collaborative creation and maintenance of a democratic community where relative equality, harmony, and peace is needed before the building of community can promote the emergence of a wanted consensus. The ethics of starving the government of revenue while also increasing the debt through wars and other expenditures few seem willing to pay for―but corporations want to profit from―can only be the mark of a dysfunctional, sick and moribund culture.
Ten trillion dollars of the debt was added since the year 2000, and at least $6 trillion of that can be traced to a systematic ideologically-driven effort to weaken the federal government while strengthening the power of corporations in their position against the government. As Bush-Cheney ally Grover Norquist put it, the goal was to shrink government until it was small enough to be “drowned in a bath tub.” When the government is weakened to the point it cannot perform its formerly important functions, corporations are the beneficiaries. This has been seen in on a smaller scale in Detroit, but the story of that city is only the largest and therefore most visible of the bankrupt cities in the United States.
Monsanto has been a major beneficiary of the failure of the government to provide needed oversight on food safety, health, and environmental impacts. It was given the deregulated freedom to do as it wanted when Bush-Quayle deregulatory ideology was deployed to arbitrarily profligately decide transgenic food was “generally recognized as safe” despite the concerns to the contrary from the overruled scientists at the Food and Drug Administration. The Doctrine of Substantial Equivalence was not a scientific finding even though it was made to look as if it was. It was an expedient construction by corporate executives and politicians established for their own benefit and at public expense.
Many policies, including the Bush-Cheney policy justifying war in Iraq have been reached similarly. These policies have been used to transfer wealth from taxpayers to favored corporations. High-cost mercenary contractors were used instead of soldiers, so an unpopular draft would not be required and most people would not be impacted as long as the wars were fought by volunteers and paid for with borrowed money. Roman democracy died as the result of similar mercenary preference and the empowerment it provided, but few policies have been more destructive than the farm policies used to enable the enrichment of Monsanto and the other biotech agribusiness companies similarly exploiting the Commons.
Policy has also left taxpayers holding the bag much as bond holders suffer as policy-permitted inflationary pressures allow debts to be depreciated long before they are paid off. Mortgage holders cannot do that, because they must pay monthly from the moment they borrow, and interest rates may be adjusted upward from the low teaser rates used at the beginning with many recent loans, but nations can transfer the burden to their lenders as long as the lenders have no leverage to do anything about it. The modern buyers of government bonds do not even have as much power now as medieval bankers had over the power of kings and the destructive pillage they used to pay off their debts.
As the debt to GDP ratio has increased, the economy has weakened, food imports have increased along with job exports, and the United States has become more like a banana republic in its political values and behavior. In many policies, the rich have been favored over the poor, and the number of poor has been increased. The Republicans favor one group of rich, while Democrats favor another, though some float between both parties and give money to both.
Both parties need to attach themselves to some group of rich people or corporations as long as money is the mother’s milk of politics. Politicians need money the same way cows need grass, but it would not have to be this way. A political system less dependent on money is possible to imagine and possible to create. First, people would need to want it, and they would need the organized power to make the alternative happen.
Many people understand the way politicians and the economically powerful have abused them, and it makes them angry even if their responses may sometimes be ill-conceived, misdirected, and even ultimately self-destructive. The poor are politically self-destructive, for example, when they do not figure out a way to exercise political leverage, going toe-to-toe with their political adversaries, matching their money and organization as well as out voting them. If they could manifest this kind of power, they could change the system to better serve their own needs.
Instead, the people are usually powerless against corporate abuse of democracy, just as millions have been powerless against the ogre Sequester when the opposing forces did not find ways to prevent it. The people paid the price, not those who failed to agree on a way to prevent the public abuse. Some, including farmers, lash out irrationally at people who should or could be their allies in fixing the problem. Nominal farm organizations, for example, especially the Farm Bureau, have for many decades used divisive social issues to advance a pro-corporate divide-and-conquer strategy.
The Farm Bureau has effectively isolated farmers from constituency groups representing consumers that might have been their allies in helping to fix food safety and health abuses if they had not been alienated as part of the divide and conquer, pro-corporate, pro-agribusiness project. Their efforts have been more on the side of Monsanto and other biotech agribusiness companies than they have been on the side of farmers and consumers, and that is why they have worked with Monsanto and other agribusinesses to create astroturf organizations much like those used by the tobacco industry to help them protect their interests.
The public debate has been turned unconstructive with right-wing talk shows, pundits, and others perpetually funded by corporations to assist in advancing corporate goals. The companies have the revenue stream to behave as they want to, but their customers have given it to them. Many of these customers lend their support because they have bought into the corporate project and identify with the corporate interests. That is part of the reason why the country is about equally divided between the two political parties, but theresult is political dysfunction requiring government-created grievances to be addressed to the courts in the hope justice can be found there when it is not available from the political process at either the state or the federal level.
Because of the way the political system does not work, even issues as central to survival of civilization as the protection of food safety and quality must now be addressed by the courts. That is the as the only remaining, partially operational government branch maybe still available to do what the other two branches can no longer do.
Policy Written By Corporate Lobbyists to Serve the Corporate Interest As standard practice, farm policies have been written by corporate lobbyists to suit their own objectives, and many other policies have been written the same way. Because of the power of money, lobbyists have more power in Washington than disempowered, relatively impoverished, and unorganized citizens, and they distort and misdirect the debate on many matters. This has occurred on: ―the recent so-called healthcare reform, Obamacare, delivering too much toxic smoke in the form of benefits to insurance companies and others in the healthcare industry and too little illuminating benefit under the belief and claim the program has been the best that was politically feasible within a corporately-dominated government, ―Medicare Part D, the prescription drug program, made overly complex and frustrating for citizens by the pharmaceutical lobbyists who wrote it for the benefit of their employers; that was part of their way of transferring billions from citizens to the pharmaceutical corporations, and ―the heavily-lobbied Wall Street banking regulations written into the Dodd-Frank Bill that failed to focus resources on the kind of community-responsive investment and bank lending needed to set an admirable, impressive, and ethical banking and investment example around the world.
In all these cases, the public has been made marginally better off for the short-term while policies will continue to benefit corporations over the long term. The healthcare system and the banking system have been and still are little more than a way for slowly and inexorably transferring wealth from the people to those at the top of the system in the strongest position to benefit.
The economic collapse of 2008 left many citizens in dire straits while the bankers were both too important to be allowed to fail and also too important to be prosecuted. They had to be bailed out, and they continued to take home their bonuses. The problem grows bigger the more debt-based the economy becomes.
At the end of World War II banking was about 4% of the U.S. economy; in 2010, the assets of the six largest banks in the United States totalled 63% of GDP and all banks assets totalled over 200% of GDP, while annual household expenditures on financial services (and insurance) grew from $15.9 billion in 1963 to $807 billion in 2011. For comparison, federal government interest payments increased over the same period from $9.3 billion to $312.4 billion and corporate profits in the financial sector grew from $8.3 billion in 1963 to $494.7 billion in 2010. Over the same period population has grown by about 50% but that is not close to the size of these numbers.
The picture would likely look even worse if the Federal Reserve was not managing to keep interest rates near zero as their way to stimulate the economy. These numbers show the size of the wealth transfer, and it is not that much different from the one participated in after the Revolution to make John and Abigail Adams more wealthy.
So far in early 2013, the banking industry has been allowed to continue with business as usual just as biotech agribusiness has―despite the ignored wealth destruction caused for many millions of people in the United States and abroad. Continued is the financial industry emphasis on speculation and the creation of paper wealth at the expense of broadly beneficial and productive, job-creating community wealth.
With many recent policies favoring corporations over the public need but serving the public interest just enough to appear to some as a partly valuable improvement, most people have continued to be politically passive. They should not be fooled, but they are; they need to look carefully to understand the full results, hidden costs, policy shortcomings, and multiple failures to address real needs more than marginally.
The U.S. healthcare system, with or without the recent “reform” is a shameless mechanism to promote wealth transfer from the people to the companies who control the system, and in this, it is little different in impact from the subverted depression-era agricultural laws that now transfer wealth from farmers to corporations, including the banks. The favored have continued to be advanced at the expense of the many.
This has been going on for decades since Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, under a succession of three Republican Presidents, began the project as a way to push farmers off the land and into industrial jobs. His goal was the building of the industrial economy, and he needed to find the labor to support that. He found them in rural communities, living “underemployed” on farms. This was the antithesis of the Jeffersonian democratic ideal, and it robustly disrespected democracy, sustaining the ideas of Gouverneur Morris, but it was done to build industry at time when industrial production and growth was the most important national priority.
Without industrial capacity, the United States would not have been able to quickly shift to war-time production of armaments during World War II in response to the Nazi alliance with industrial corporations in Germany, and the resulting favoritism given to war-making continued after the war as a deterrent against the possibility of Soviet aggression. The labor force to allow the conversion from an agrarian economy to and industrial economy came initially from the farming sector, but then it also came from women and the flow of immigrants.
The policy pressures and the creation of associated stock market bubble caused the Crash of 1929, and the subsequent Great Depression was the consequence, and it transferred the costs of an overly aggressive project to the people. The Great Recession of 2008 was the result of the over-aggressive pursuit of a different kind of profit. Both represented an exploitive myopic failure of balance and prudence, and nothing suggests the growth of the political will to make the needed changes. At best, the appearance of change is cast much as it would be by the Wizard of Oz.
Replacing the Steagall Amendment with Government in Corporate Lockstep Many believe the United States would not have come out of the Depression without World War II as the economic stimulus, and they expected the nation to fall back into Depression after the war ended, but that did not happen. Economic strength continued in major measure because of a little known and less understood law put in place by the Steagall Amendment to the 1941 war funding bill. The amendment established parity pricing under agriculture, and it was made possible politically because senior leaders in the Congress still represented rural districts, and Senators from virtually all states still had large farming constituencies.
With roughly 25% of the nation’s people still on farms and more in rural communities supported by farming, a broad, robust, decentralized multiplier effect was established under the U.S. economy, and it remained in place after the war ended to help drive post-war prosperity and economic growth. At least, the policy remained in place until it was changed under the Republican desire to overturn the income-based economy the war-time policy had enabled.
When Republicans returned to power in the Congress and the White House, they wanted to reestablish the same squeeze on the rural sector used during the 1920s to continue building the industrial and banking sectors that were their political base and at the core of Republican political power. They wanted to grow the military-industrial complex the Cold War was believed to require as a deterrent against Soviet ambitions. The centralizing elite-driven financial formula of Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneour Morris, among others, was pursued once again.
Democrats soon joined the Republicans in their support for this pro-industry and pro-corporate project, just because it had been made stronger during the war, and those empowered by war wanted to continue growing during the post-war era. They especially did so as the center of national political power in the nation moved to the emergent suburbs where most people were dependent on the corporate economy.
With the G.I. Bill used to educate the new workforce corporate jobs required, the nation became centered in the cities and the suburbs close to the jobs, and growing numbers were forced to move away from the farms. The anti-Jeffersonian, pro-elite motto was: “Many smart people moved away from farms and rural communities, and the smarter they were the sooner they moved.” Agriculture was not viewed by most people as the most promising place to be.
For three decades, as a result of the dominant public attitudes and the policies supported by them, farms died at a minimum average rate of 1000 per week until they fell to a total of about two million or less than 2% of the nation’s population around 1980. This was a time when capital-intensive, chemically-dependent, fossil fuel-reliant farming was growing massively as the very definition of agricultural progress. The consequences were not foreseen for food quality, the destruction of the environment, or the character of the nation’s political ideals.
Chemical agriculture was the by-product of the chemicals produced as part of the war effort, and the war mentally was applied to weeds and insects. The project was thought of as a great advancement in civilized wisdom giving mankind increased control over its natural enemies. The same attitudes drove the creation and development of the healthcare industry.
Plutocratic corporatocracy was dressed in civilizing democratic clothes as a public relations matter, but the result was a form of modern feudalism enabling corporate enterprise to establish a new kind of fiefdom ultimately overpowering and subverting the U.S. democratic ideal and the economic independence needed to robustly support it. As corporations were turned into super-citizens established in between the people and the government, they became a collective dog-in-the-manger imposing controlling power between the people and the real sources of health and economic well-being.
Industry grew along with the banks and alongside the stated goal of making farming more efficient than it was thought to have been in past, but the perspective depended on the definition of efficiency applied to the issue. The favored definition used more capital and less labor, more chemicals and chemical fertilizers, more fuel and mechanization, and it did not worry about what happened to the land or to the environment. This was the U.S. definition of rural progress.
Monsanto and the other biotech agricultural corporations claim the people of the world could not be fed without their “innovations,” but that is a fictional, self-serving red herring designed to terminate constructive debate in search of real sustainable wisdom―and to promote citizen fear and subservience as control over food is used to increase control over farmers and ultimately the lives of the people, just as Henry Kissinger reportedly proposed in 1970. “Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people; control money and you control the world,” Kissinger is reported to have said when he served in the Nixon administration first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State; he also only half-jokingly once said his preferred job title would be “King.”
Maybe Kissinger’s kingship ambition is the reason he maintained a German accent when his brother did not have one. Brother Walter reportedly said it was because he (Walter) learned to listen to other people but Henry did not! Henry Kissinger was young enough when he came to the United States to have learned to speak differently than he does if that had been his desire.
In the face of the damage and destruction caused by Monsanto, as a German-style company created in the same image as I.G. Farben, many members of the Congress have lacked the technical experience and training to manage the complex issues requiring their attention―and their staffers have been no better prepared than the members they serve or the citizens voting them into office. For this reason, they depend on lobbyists to “help” them know what to do.
Through their collaboration with lobbyists, many former members of Congress and their staffers have secured a corporate career opportunity for themselves once they leave the government, and this has sometimes been a secure place from which to reenter government when their services may be “needed” again in the future. The convenience of the arrangement would not have been possible if the urban and suburban population had not also been closely linked to the corporate economy as the rural population dwindled into political insignificance.
The cultural disconnection from the sources of food is a hidden and largely unassessed measure of U.S. moral, cultural, and political dysfunction. Traditionally, morality has been roo ted in rural life more than in urban life just because it depends on living closer to nature. To be effective in the modern era, many people serving in government need improved access to objective technical expertise and a closer personal relationship with natural wisdom in the case of agriculture, but this has not been easy to attain.
Judges also need this access to technology as much as those in other branches of the government, but when a budget item was proposed to enable the courts to have technical experts to consult on matters related to the cases before them, the Congress would not fund it. They would have been even less likely to fund the need to consult more with farmers hopefully still closer in touch with the truth of nature, but they have needed that, too. They have needed it as a vaccination against the hubris and arrogance seen often when laws and decisions need to be issued on rural matters.
Instead, officials and judges have often been guided by a prejudice suggesting rural inferiority—as if rural culture should forever be seen as backwards while urban and suburban culture is forever the place where wisdom is rooted. Corporations have exploited this prejudice to serve their own interests. It has been a useful part of the divide and conquer strategy.
Two recent examples of the ubiquitous revolving door between corporations and the government have been the employment of Monsanto’s chief lobbyist Michael Taylor as the Obama Food Safety Czar, and the lauded biotech industry advocate, Thomas Vilsack as President Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture. These men have been empowered to assist the biotech industry inside the government, and their actions have readily demonstrated how effectively they have labored to carry out the pro-biotech mission. Their pro-biotech biases have been made clear in the course of their work in the administration as have their biases toward corporate solutions to all problems.
President Obama has lauded Secretary Vilsack for his service to the biotech agricultural industry, and he might not have been appointed if he had not had close ties to the industry when he was Governor of Iowa. Vilsack has been a particular fan of pharmaceutical transgenics where drugs are grown instead of being synthized or harvested from a natural habitat. To support him in his work, Vilsack hired as USDA General Counsel the former Chief Counsel of another large biotech company, Dupont: Ramona Romero. The choice helped to make the pro-biotech, pro-corporate bias more clear, but the appointment was pleasing to Latinos who saw one of their own getting the benefit of a government job
No doubt, Latinos have no better understanding about the health price paid for the pro-biotech regime than most of the rest of the population. Tolerating corporately self-serving appointments and allowing transgenic corn to be used to make taco shells and tortillas being eaten along with the meat animals fed transgenic feed carries a hidden health cost most people have been unable to assess as long as all the research has been controlled by the patent holder.
The pro-corporate politics of the issue are so grotesque that Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, a liberal favorite for her commitment to farmers markets and the farmers growing food for them, refused to take questions about the labeling of transgenic food when she spoke at the University of Virginia only a month before the Election Day vote on Proposition 37 in California. But the decision was not so much made by Merrigan as it was by her USDA PR handlers. That made it impossible to know Merrigan’s personal position on the issue.
The refusal to address the labeling issue, by itself, showed the clear USDA commitment to the corporate interest and the willingness to ignore the public interest. At a forum months earlier, in response to a question from the audience, Merrigan down-played the dangers of transgenic food and agriculture, but that was before the politics of the issue grew hotter during the fall of 2012 as the campaign on Proposition 37 was advancing and the controversies were up front.
To have USDA officials unwilling to speak to a major concern of citizens at a critical time is an anti-democratic, pro-corporate, pro-biotech atrocity, and it showed where the USDA stands on the issue. President Obama promised to bring change to Washington, but the kind of change he was referring to cannot be known. With no change on an issue centrally important to public health, the rhetoric about change was either political palaver or fraud—or both. Given the importance of the issue, this is no less true when it is known that politicians frequently renege on campaign commitments.
If the President had done as he said he favored doing, he would have advanced transgenic food labeling, and beyond that, he might have sought legislation to objectively and independently research the health issues related to transgenic food. Without that, he was and is collaborating in the use of the U.S. people as guinea pigs in a massive biological experiment to see what the impacts will be now and in future generations. The project is no less reprehensible than the projects of Joseph Mengele, not because it is similar to the reported work of Mengele (which he always denied), but because it is more far-reaching in its impact on many more people.
Even if Monsanto and their government allies claim transgenic food is safe, as they do, they have to know about the holes in their own research. There has to be some people within the company and within the government who do not believe the propaganda and the industry research. Some who have left the company are known to disbelieve it. That has been made known in reports. But maybe they feel they need to stonewall all doubts and questions just because the smallest admission would deflate their balloon—immediately.
Unanswered Questions Remaining About Proposition 37 in California and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Passage of Proposition 37 would have required transgenic food to be labeled in California and that could have driven the passage of similar requirements in other states if companies would not have started labeling food sold in all states in response to a victory on the California initiative. That could have happened just because California is a large market, the world’s eighth largest economy, larger than all but seven nations. According to the final count of the ballots issued by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the initiative failed by 2.8% but unexplained counting and balloting anomalies persisted at the end. Clarification of these questions is needed from Bowen or directly from as many as one-third of the California counties.
A privately sponsored recount was started, but it was derailed by the Republican Voting Registrar in Fresno County, Brandi Orth, who allegedly imposed illegally exorbitant fees for performing the recount. Certainty about the right of the county impose high charges may need a court decision sorting out the relevant statutes. More is likely to emerge on this issue, either through legal action or action in the state legislature if a this legislative response is not blocked by agribusiness lobbying and the power of industry campaign contributions to state legislators.
A legislative inquiry is needed to investigate the remaining questions whether or not new legislation on the cost of ballot recounts results from the recent events. As matters stand, depending on which interpretation of applicable state laws is accepted, the clerk of one county apparently can stop a recount at will just by inflating its price beyond the reach of all but the most deep-pocketed groups, and even they might be rebel against this tyranny.
Fresno county is a major agricultural county with a relatively large population (just under one million people), so it could have been targeted for vote manipulation in one way or another. The sponsors of the recount targeted their review of the count at counties where statistical anomalies in the voting pattern were found. Larger counties were the most likely targets for manipulation because larger numbers of false votes can be more easily hidden in the counties with a large number of voters. They also could have undercounted the late ballots which which were found to tilt in favor of Proposition 37 because of the influence of late advertising by the advocates for labeling.
An effort to change the outcome of the election would have needed hundreds of thousands of votes, and that increase in the total vote would have needed to be accomplished without increasing the voter turnout percentage enough to raise a red flag. They would not have been able to do as the manipulation in Ohio in 2004 allegedly did in some places: produce more votes than there were registered voters it the district.
Even without manipulations in the voting or vote-counting, the story of Proposition 37 demonstrates the power of corporate money to corrupt democratic ideals, morality, and rational voter analysis through the use of broadcast advertising aimed to scare and misinform. It was an illustration of clever lawyering with the California voters in the role of the jury.
Fifty-one corporations and two of their trade associations raised and spent $46 million dollars to influence the voting outcome, while those on the other side were only able to raise $8 million to support the labeling of transgenic food, and most of this money was raised too late in the campaign to have impact on the outcome. Half of the votes in California in 2012 cast were cast through early balloting, before the pro-labeling forces were able to get their ads on the air.
The $8 million raised by the proponents of labeling was matched by the amount of money Monsanto, alone, contributed to defeating the initiative. They were the largest contributor to the opposition campaign, followed by Dupont with $5.4 million. Two-thirds of the total funding of the opposition came from only 13 companies; yet, theirs was a pyrrhic victory that may need to be repeated in other states and again in California until the process finally allows voters to become more fully informed than they have been about the dangers and damage resulting from transgenic food. Many food companies may remove all transgenic ingredients, so they can avoid admitting their presence.
Meanwhile, employment of Monsanto’s former chief lobbyist, Michael Taylor (who was formerly employed at the FDA by President George H.W. Bush as Deputy Commissioner for Policy, and is now Deputy Commissioner for Food, referred to as the Food Safety Czar, under the Obama-Biden administration), suggests he was the best available person to provide badly needed oversight on food safety, even though the service in the Bush-Quayle administration during its final year and one-half had to be related to the promotion of Monsanto’s products. Even though Taylor reportedly recused himself formally from all decisions related to Monsanto’s products, a Monsanto-related reason had to exist for his appointment in July, 1991.
Someone knowledgeable about Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone and transgenic crops must have been needed to facilitate government support for these technologies, especially when the agency scientists raised concerns about safety, toxicity, and allergenicity, and potention new diseases. The inside story of the appointment is not known, but a new position seemed to have been created just so Michael Taylor could be hired to fill it. That raises questions.
If Taylor is not ready to retire when his service in the Obama administration ends and he is not continued in his job by the new administration (he will be over 60 in 2016), he could go back to continue his work for Monsanto or to continue other work in places where it would be possible to advance the messages he has promoted through his work at the FDA. Taylor started his career at the FDA straight out of law school, serving first as an an administrative assistant to the Commissioner, and some his FDA work has been viewed as beneficial to the public interest. If he were nothing more than a shill in everything he does, he would not have been able to persist in his job. He is valuable to Monsanto because he knows enough to balance his corporate service with other credible public service based on prior service within the agency.
The world can also watch over the coming years to see what Secretary Vilsack does for the rest of his career. Maybe he will be appointed to a corporate board or go back to work for a law firm serving agribusiness clients. Neither of these would be illegal even if lobbying the government for a specified period would be. Ideology, the power of corporate lobbying, and the motivation to advance personal interests at the expense of the public has subverted both scientific analysis and wisdom, replacing them with wolfish industry-funded pseudo-science in sheep's clothing, .
These are issues requiring continuing vigilance from someone, perhaps funded by a private foundation. The U.S. government has not provided it since 1992 when transgenic crops were first released, but a USDA-funded study at the University of Wisconsin was released in early 2013 showing transgenic crops do not enable increased yields as Monsanto has long asserted. The study found reduced yields were caused as a result of the transgenic modifications.
Perhaps more USDA-funded studies can now be expected on other related issues. Especially needed are studies examining the nutritional and health impacts associated with the consumption of transgenic food, and reportedly some funds have been released to scientists working with retired plant pathologist Don Huber to verify the existence of a new pathogen being given impetus through transgenic crops to cause fertility issues in livestock and people. Huber worked formerly at Purdue University where at least some of his research was funded by Monsanto, and as a result he was not able to speak publicly about his findings until he retired. Until then, he was gagged under the university’s research contract with Monsanto and Monsanto’s patent rights.
Don Patterson speaking in March 2012 at Rebecca's Natural Foods in Charlottesville, Virginia. Again, the photographs are frames from the movie: “What Do You Know About Monsanto.”
Dense Illness-Preventive Nutrition vs. Drugs and the Jeffersonian Republicans vs. the Federalists Wisdom would put emphasis on high quality, illness-preventive nutrition and less on short-term agricultural corner-cutting of the kind promoted by Monsanto without visible concern about nutritional and health compromises. The use of transgenics in combination with chemicals and the incorporation of pesticides in crops through the use of transgenic insertion seems similar to the pharmaceutical medicine used to control symptoms without concern for or attention to the causes of disease. When Monsanto seems more concerned about profits than they are about health consequences, they associate themselves with the expediencies of pharmaceutical corporations and other providers acting to enlarge their own profits without attention to side effects, public costs, and deaths.
The healthcare system resulting from the unbridled pursuit of corporate profit is an unhealthful tragedy of political expediency as bad as Monsanto’s agricultural system, no matter if Obamacare has been found constitutional under the government’s taxation powers and no matter if it provides marginal benefit for many consumers in helping to push back against some abusive practices. Nonetheless, the cost of healthcare is higher in the United States than in other nation and delivers less. It is a system subsidizing companies at the expense of the wise health management for the benefit of the people. As a result, the system stimulates and entrenches perverse incentives seeking to increase the use of pharmaceutical medicine, insurance companies, and costly practices promoting private profit at the expense of preventive care.
The most controversial part of the healthcare reform could put 30-40 million more U.S. people on the insurance company treadmill―in perpetuity. This is not the most beneficial approach to health especially when poor people unable to pay for their own insurance receive a government subsidy to buy it. Health insurance got started in the United States at a time when other benefits were frozen, and that enabled the health insurance industry to grow into a sizable political force seeking to protect its own position.
The problem with insurance is that it disconnects medical responsibility from those paying the bill, and that tends to incentivize the irresponsible milking of the system by both patients and providers. Patients do not care about the cost as long as insurance companies are paying the bills, and the oversight over costs provided by the insurance companies tends to be arbitrary and nonsensical. For example, dental insurance is not routinely included in healthcare insurance, and yet poor dental care has larger health consequences, raising costs in other areas.
The best possible approach to health and nourishment is not assured either by the currently enacted policy or the use of insurance to cover medical costs. Even if Obamacare was the only approach to healthcare that was politically possible to try to meet the healthcare need, that does not mean it is the best use of the available resources. More likely, it is no more than a political expediency applying policy band-aids when better answers cannot be enacted.
The one thing that is assured from the enlarged enrollment is greater income for insurance companies and the other companies in the healthcare industry while Monsanto and similar companies profit from a system of agriculture clearly working to increase the level of public illness. For example, doctors note the 40% increase in digestive afflictions since Monsanto’s products have been on the market. Increases in infertility and obesity are also believed to be associated with Monsanto’s products, but the worst issues are increased levels of inflamation and leaky gut. The combination of healthcare and agricultural policies could hardly be better designed to take the nation down a costly rathole, even a confusing maze of ratholes with the interrelationships poorly understood.
The approach used by Obamacare is much like the Monsanto treadmill the nations’ farmers have been forced onto by the increasing corporate control over the seed market and the kind of agricultural practices farmers must use because of this market domination. Neither is promising for the wise future of the nation or the world.
Without accepting over-simplified, often ill-informed and distorted Tea Party propaganda against the “ healthcare reform,” the system leads to greater citizen healthcare dependency and increasingly relinquished individual control over both health and life itself. The so-called reforms have depended on continuing citizen ignorance about the sources of real health in quality food with dense nutritional content. Illness-preventive knowledge is overpowered by pharmaceutical dependency. Profit flow for agribusiness and the medical industry depends on continued marketing of denatured food with more drugs used to control the symptoms of the resulting illness. These answers increase profits without promoting a productive and healthy citizenry. They address only symptoms, not causes.
As time will show, the currently promoted, myopic U.S. healthcare model cannot lower costs anymore than the celebration of ever-larger, consolidated, and abusive banks can stimulate the most productive and beneficial kinds of community-supportive investment and lending. Both only concentrate plutocratic political and economic control at the expense of the people with ever greater consolidation of control of over the nation’s wealth. Either we pay for a wise and healthful diet or we pay for the higher cost of the public health consequences as we are doing.
Members of the Congress and other government officials have proved they may follow well-informed and responsible public opinion only when their ties to corporate interests and their dependency on corporate political contributions have been exposed or otherwise overcome, but that needs to happen massively and systemically, not just occasionally and briefly. When it does happen as it has, subversion of the public interest may be stopped only temporarily without bringing the change needed to end gridlock and dysfunction or restore international public admiration of the U.S. governing model.
The political problem cannot be fixed until the system is changed, perhaps by one of the revolutions Jefferson thought would occur more frequently than has proved possible. Revision or amendment of the Constitution would be needed along with the revision of many laws and legal precedents put in place under the current system, but the prevention of that is likely to be the reason why the financially-empowered political elites promote the virtual worship of the unchanged Constitution―as if it had been handed down directly from God on a giant stone tablet. Even though the Constitution is redacted to suit expedient congressional purposes when it is read before the House of Representatives, the worship of it is still perpetually promoted, and Justice Antonin Scalia travels the country preaching the gospel of constitutional originalism often mostly to adoringly loyal, lockstep members of an ideologically unified choir.
The propagandistic intent of the exercise is revealed when Scalia declines to take questions from attendees, although he could also see himself as above the need to answer questions from the public. Questions can be awkward for a Supreme Court Justice if they should happen to say something bearing on a current court case, but the question persists about the obligation of a public servant to take questions or have a good reason explaining why particular questions cannot be answered on their own merits.
The public need is not addressed when questions cannot be taken. The refusal may be intended to make sure the Constitution remains on a pedestal above criticism, debate, or discussion, but the sacrosanct image is a fraud unless all the subsequent non-original revisions are fully included in the picture. That cannot happen if all wisdom is assigned to the assembled Federalists at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and none to the people who came after them to make improvements they have believed necessary, even essential to fix the original failures. The first of those is the Twelve Amendment fixing the problems with the Presidents were elected, but even the first ten amendments would not have been required if the work of the Constitutional Convention had been perfect.
If originalism is taken literally, voting would still be limited to white, male property owners, and slavery would still be legal. Originalism denies the belief that human progress is possible through the revelation of new insight. In fact, the Constitution was written by a small group of pre-industrial, wealthy, and self-protective elite with close ties still to the British aristocracy. The modern heirs of this legacy have become even more economically powerful than their antecedents in 1787.
The saving grace in the eighteenth century was a more integrated and mutually concerned economic community where the trickle-down from the elite lifted all boats beneficially. Now, it sends jobs to other countries and investments or banking anywhere around the globe to exploit opportunity at the expense of local communities in the places where the investors may happen to live, sometimes for tax reasons. Further, the community is polarized and alienated within a political environment of continuous campaigning and pursuit of partisan advantage. This is in stark contrast to the way things worked in the beginning. Back then, elections were partisan, but after the results were established, people got done to the work of governing in the public interest.
The 18th century elite did not think about sending jobs overseas or sending money to banks in the Cayman Islands—or spreading their income among off-shore subsidiaries to reduce their domestic tax burden. They had a common community stake in making things work better for everyone, because they lived and functioned in economically-integrated communities where people needed each other for everyone’s mutual benefit. Even so, the nation’s founding Federalists wanted only modest and limited democracy as a protection against the potential abuses of democratic citizen empowerment and the potential tyranny of an overly assertive elected leader. They feared democracy as much as they needed it for protection against tyrannies they had suffered under previously at the hands of the British king and members of his barely representative Parliament.
The founders wanted the exercise of minimal republican democracy controlled within a small and manageable club made up mostly of people who had worked together for years during the War of Independence and before that. With the members of the Congress at the beginning representing about 34,000 people (in a congressional district), fewer than most modern city councils, the political life of the nation was more close and intimate. The framers offered the nation a stewardship model of republican government with the elected serving as public protectors in much the way a kennel master protects his hounds. At the time, the white, male, property owning voters were only 6% of the total U.S. population. The Constitution was suited to this polity, but it is less suited to the modern one.
The advocates of representative or consultative democracy were feared as much as the partisans of the Whiskey Rebellion who were controlled by troops led by the pre-eminently Federalist but nominally non-partisan, George Washington, himself. Against the assembled Federalists in the hot Philadelphia summer of 1787, most of the Jeffersonian Republicans who came to the Constitutional Convention turned around and went home once they saw they would have no power against the wealthy Federalist majority dominating the proceedings and making sure their own group remained dominant. The Convention had turned out to be a rigged project.
The best the Anti-Federalist Republicans could get done in the end was the addition of the Bill of Rights, and that much they demanded as a condition required for ratification. They were in a weak position, because the pluralistic democratic idealism of the preceding Confederation had not worked any better than the present European Union is working now to create a unified democratic political culture or establishing and sustaining a serviceably unified and productive economic system.
The main advantage under the Articles of Confederation compared to the modern European Union was a common language enabling people to more easily carry on unifying political discussions; yet if the Confederation had persisted, the United States would have ended up looking more like Europe does today. That might be valuable in some ways, but it would certainly be less valuable in many others.
When all the nations and diverse peoples in a Confederation speak a different language and have no common culture or unifying values much beyond those manifested in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, they are only somewhat more able to organize themselves politically than an assembly of bellowing animals in a zoo or a group of Arab tribal leaders trying to form a modern, unified state at the end of World War I. This is part of the reason Monsanto can send a platoon of 16 lobbyists to Brussels to get done what they have found impossible to do by working with the individual nation states where corporate political power has less leverage.
In Brussels, the assembled elite have proved to be more pro-corporate and less concerned about the dangers of corporate dominance than the officials in the individual European nation states with more direct connection with the public attitudes. In this aspect, the central government in the European Union looks more like the central government in the United States, but most states are no better. Only is New England have public attitudes motivated state legislative action. Even in California and Washington states, the legislatures could take action and render voter initiatives unnecessary. This shows that legislators will not get off the pro-corporate treadmill until the voters force it to happen. The initiative is one way to make that occur, and that may be easier than getting organized to do extensive lobbying before the state legislature.
The Federalists in 1787 vs. Thomas Paine and Common Sense The empowered Federalists in 1787 tolerated a limited amount of democracy mostly only as a smokescreen covering the promotion and maintenance elite control, but they could not have done less than they did to incorporate democracy into the governing system because of the strongly democratic public attitudes underlying the foundation of the nation during and following the War of Independence. A strong portion of this attitude was owed to the idealism of Thomas Paine and Common Sense, the most popularly read publication in U.S. history with the possible but unlikely exception of The Bible. Historians say at least one copy of Common Sense existed in every household in the colonies not long after it was first published in January 1776. Multiple printings soon ensued in many places, and that resulted in its wide circulation.
The Bible by contrast is widely owned but not so widely read. Maybe even the Declaration of Independence was not as fully and widely read as Common Sense, but both worked together to help define the nation’s governing ideal and democratic aspiration. Despite the hypocritical influence of slavery against the asserted principle of human equality, the asserted ideal of democracy was powerful in its influence on the human imagination.
Then, as now, the people could exercise control if they were able to get organized sufficiently to do it, but mostly they have done that only occasionally and briefly, as they did, for example, when the Bill of Rights and the Johnson-era civil rights legislation were secured. They also did it to end the war in Vietnam. At other times, people have sometimes risen up but secured nothing.
The massive farmer mobilization from 1977 through 1980 secured relatively little in the end. The empowered elite waited the farmers out and mollycoddled them with sweet talk until they went home empty-handed to lick their wounds and plant their crops. The Congress does that routinely to most groups that mobilize themselves only briefly and cannot stay organized to maintain continuous political pressure.
Sometimes the police, a militia, or the army have been called out as was the case with Daniel Shays Rebellion in 1786 and the Bonus Marchers in 1932. Against Daniel Shays's group, they brought out field artillery, and that quickly served to scatter the assembled farmers. They were not prepared to walk straight into the teeth of cannon fire.
Better is also prevented when media coverage obscures facts instead of exposing them. In the United States, the mainstream press and media have been recently controlled by major corporations, so they can serve their own interests and and those of others in the corporate fraternity. In support of this objective, reporters may lack the knowledge and the time needed to cover their assigned subjects in full detail.
Internet publishers have started to fill the gap for those who may get their news through their computers and other electronic devices, but that has not been enough yet to create a fully informed electorate or present information with disciplined reliability. If the information gap could be closed, it could restore and broaden Paine’s democratic idealism and build a counter-weight against the rise of the modern Federalists and their new corporate feudalism, but that impetus has not grown strong yet.
At best, the public need for information and debate about transgenic agriculture may be served only weakly and marginally by the traditional media, but many people have limited time or commitment in the face of other life pressures to pay attention to all the news important to informed citizenship. The inferred goal of modern policy and practice is to keep most people on a work treadmill, so they will remain docile but sufficiently fed and entertained to leave government to those it empowers and showers with the incentives required to promote compliance with established systemic demands.
Organized corporate wealth enables the system to work, and the best many citizens can hope for is the time to cast a vote―if they reliably and regularly can do that much. In 2008, less than 64% of the eligible population reported themselves to be registered to vote, and in 2010, the number was less than 60% according to the Census Bureau records.
In the past Republicans have turned out on Election Day (or through the use of absentee ballots) in greater numbers than Democrats, but in 2012 a couple of million more Democrats showed an understanding of the consequences of not voting. They had seen what happened in 2010 when 63 congressional seats changed party mostly because Democratic citizens who had voted in 2008 did not vote in 2010. In that year, the Republican and especially Tea Party voters showed much greater motivation to turn out at the polls. They were angry about Obamacare and other policies, so they produced the biggest congressional swing from Democrats to Republicans since 1946.
Another big swing year was 1800 when Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans swept the Federalists out of the Congress and replaced them with a large Democratic-Republican majority. This caused out-going President John Adams to appoint John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with the role of protecting the interests of the Federalists for as long it would take for them to regain power in the other two branches of the government, but instead the Federalist Party went out of existence as a national party over the next 24 years, making it necessary for John Quincy Adams to run for President as a Democratic-Republican, not as a Federalist.
Nonetheless, Federalist ideals did not die, and they are massively more alive in the twenty-first century that they were in the eighteenth or the early nineteenth. The modern, pro-corporate Republican ranks are top heavy with philosophical Federalists, and Democrats are not far behind them in their tolerance for Federalist values; they cannot afford to be left behind in supporting the elite corporate agenda as long as elite political funding is needed by the candidates of both political parties.
Before the Internet broadened the base of political funding, time did not exist during a political campaign to open tens of thousands of envelopes and process many small checks. That served to keep the large contributors in the political driver's seat and Republicans in the White House for 28 out of 48 years during the late twentieth century (starting in 1953 and ending in 2001), but the Internet changed the funding imbalance, improving broad Democratic, small-contributor participation. That might have continued if the Supreme Court had not intervened to reassert dominance on behalf of the corporately organized wealthy through their Citizens United decision.
The 1976, Buckley v. Valeo did not seem to have done enough to satisfy the current Supreme Court majority when it made money equivalent to human speech. In both pro-money decisions, favoring those with the greatest ability to disseminate their opinions, the court was acting in the spirit of the original Federalists and their goal of empowering a small, centralized governing elite. The Justices were standing up against the progress of democratic idealism advanced by both Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and those working to keep their ideological flame alive.
Something more was needed from the vantage of the Federalist viewpoint to maintain the imbalance between the rising masses of small Democratic contributors and the weakened power of the corporately organized to protect their own interests, so the Citizens United decision stepped forward to address the issue like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. The Supreme Court acted to protect the interests of the modern Federalists in much the same way the founding Federalists had done in 1787 when they filled up the Philadelphia convention with people of like mind and made the anti-Federalists feel less than welcome at the mostly partisan conclave.
The majority of the Supreme Court Justices must have been concerned in late 2009 about the power of small contributions sent over the Internet from individual citizens to candidates mostly at the left end of the political spectrum but also on the cantankerous Tea Party right. By redoubling the power of corporate money in the system, they counterbalanced the rising power of the people including both the studiously well-informed and the angrily ill-informed no matter where on the political spectrum they might be found.
No doubt, the court wanted to assert a “stabilizing influence” under the Federalist belief suggesting government by the elite would better serve the collective interest both through the promoted trickle-down and the more moderate and cautious centralized control. They were voting again to reinforce the power of the modern U.S. aristocracy mostly empowered through corporately generated wealth.
The author of the Constitution and its preamble, Gouverneur Morris, emphasized his belief in the permanent importance of an aristocracy to the effectiveness of any governing system, and the Constitution enabled concentrated control through the empowerment of a new American aristocracy, which was not yet mostly an hereditary aristocracy, but it would have been well on the way to becoming one if John Adams and other Federalists would have been able to stay in power for more than 12 years. It is not possible to know now just how much the evolution of the nation would have been different if Adams had served as President for a second term.
When Adams was Vice President under President Washington, he had expected to run the Senate in the same authoritarian way a contemporary school master was expected to run a classroom. This is the man who signed the Alien and Sedition Acts to jail and constrain his opponents and he wanted the President and presumably also the Vice President to be addressed as if they were royalty: “Your Highness.” Fortunately, President Washington rejected the idea. Maybe Adams liked the idea because of his short stature. He may have needed a way to feel as tall as Washington.
Less a democrat than Washington, Morris was a critic of Thomas Paine whom he said had a “better hand to write than head to think.” The two were acidic towards each other, and when he was ambassador to France, Morris let Paine waste away in Robespierre’s prison almost to his demise before James Monroe replaced him as ambassador and successfully had Paine released.
Where Morris refused to accept the principle that Paine had earned a right to U.S. citizenship, Monroe did accept it with full belief in the righteous justice of it, given Paine's contribution to the the nation. Monroe brought Paine into his own house to nurse him back to health and to enable him to continue writing the second part of The Age of Reason. The first part had been completed and sent for printing immediately prior to his departure for prison.
The need was felt by Gouverneur Morris to put the Federalist elite in charge of the nation, and that was the attitude again when President Ronald Reagan reestablished a modern home for the Federalist ideals in 1980. Since then, Democratic (and democratic) forces have beaten back this perspective only sometimes. They did it at the beginning of the nineteenth century and during the middle years of the twentieth following the beginning of the Depression in 1932.
Permanent rollback seems unlikely, though that might have worked if the Democratic ideal of creating a rising tide to lift all boats had not been dissipated through the distortion of the Keynesian model and through distribution of Democratic largesse between 1945 and 1980. Too many came to view government programs as an entitlement, and that undermined the focus on building a productive community capable of lifting the collective welfare instead of feeding from it.
The need to keep the nation and all of its citizens productive in their equality was lost much as if many had been extended the opportunity to join a new democratically entitled aristocracy on the basis of a government welfare check.Given all the abuse they had seen and experienced, it might be hard to blame people for the self-serving opportunity they seized, but wisdom did not prevail as it needed to. People fell into the worst they had witnessed instead of manifesting the best they needed to imagine in the public interest.
The Democrats had many years of continuous power to create a system that prevented the “stagflation” of the Carter years, and they did not show the ability to do it. That gave the pro-corporate Federalist elites an opportunity to reassert themselves, and they used the next 12 years to do that. The model did not change much under the ideology of Clinton-Gore before Bush-Cheney reinforced it more powerfully than Reagan-Bush and Bush-Quayle.
Obama-Biden have not made a big change either. They have not been dedicated Jeffersonians, and especially not with respect to an agrarian vision underlying the democratic ideal. That vision cannot grow from the places President Obama has lived and studied, and Vice President Biden has not been a strong position to help him. They know where the power lies in the political system, and they have felt the need to accept that before anything could be accomplished.
Perhaps the capstone pro-corporate abuse of twentieth century, if not the whole history of the U.S. republic, was the announcement in 1992 by Vice President Dan Quayle claiming transgenic crops were “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). This was a policy act straight out of the modern, corporately-deregulating Federalist playbook. It was elite self-empowerment for the imputed trickle-down benefit of all, but it was actually negligent and profligate in exploiting the Commons at public expense. In response, nothing could be more appropriate than the words of Thomas Paine at the beginning of the first Crisis Paper written in late 1776 and, by order of General Washington, read aloud, in its entirety, to the troops at Valley Forge:
“These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”
Paine was speaking of the same freedom we have filed our lawsuit against Monsanto to protect, and Monsanto’s tyranny against this freedom, when fully understood, is worse than the tyranny Paine understood and fought against in his own time. Thus, we are called to respond with no less dedication in response to the imposed threat against our liberty and the similar liberty of future generations. We need to call upon many others to join with us in the common and much neglected public interest. Everything that is important to us all is also important for the benefit of all those who will follow us in the years, centuries, and maybe millennia to come.
Failures of Public Vigilance If the people possessed political power over the power of corporations, the Obama-Biden administration and the recently prior administrations during the Monsanto reign over agricultural wisdom would have delivered better service to the public on farming, food, and health issues. Some people would have also gone to jail over the years for their imprudent and self-serving profligacy. Instead, the worst they may have received is lampooning cartoons and protests from some on the left. This cannot match their praise and support from the right.
If public-spirited wisdom had been diligently evident during the Clinton years, the mortgage crisis eight years later might have been prevented and an agricultural vision might have been restored but the Clinton-Gore team let the economic good times roll for those creating new wealth for themselves. As much as any pro-corporate, pro-bankster Republican, recent Democrats have been mostly as Republican as the Republicans, and President Clinton was proud of it, once calling himself part “red” and part “blue,” as if he were the great bipartisan unifier.
Democrats did not refocus the principles of productivity and public service as much as they needed to be refocused, and an a man with the mind to play with Monica Lewinsky just because he could would never have possessed the leadership skill or the idealism to do that. He sought adulation and gratification too much to find a futuristic vision in his operating method.
Even if Clinton-Gore did address some of the worst citizen sense of welfare entitlement, they did not address it as broadly and strongly as it needed to be addressed. The performance of that task in full commitment to the collective interest is still awaited, and President Obama could address it as well as any if he would want to take up the challenge. So far in 2013, he has not shown that capacity. Instead of mastering the job he has been given, he has largely let it overpower him. Empathy with his challenges is easy, but he is the one needing to ride the bull. Under the system, the founders designed, it cannot left to others.
Favored policies of both parties have continuously showed where real power in the political system lies and where the elected want to let it reside for their own benefit and for the facilitation of their political allies. Those who create wealth for themselves, no matter the associated destruction, have been celebrated by both parties. The gerrymander has been repeatedly used to protect incumbency for the same reason, and the net result of it is idealogical polarization as mutually alienated districts have been created to protect the incumbents of both parties. The end result could end up looking like the partition of India ultimately into three nations. That is the direction the U.S. is headed but it may not know it yet.
Division has assisted conquest in service to the pro-corporate agenda at the expense of the Commons but not as much as entrenched dependency on corporately-derived campaign contributions has undermined democracy. The loss of the democratic legacy has proved to be the bigger loss; without it, the other problem cannot be fixed. It can only get worse.
Division has caused increasingly divergent, polarized ideology and resulting abandonment of the public interest following the dysfunctionality of rational, national debate, but dependency on the power of corporate money has done the worst destruction. The need of officeholders to spend a large amount of time raising campaign funds has weakened admirable government and strengthened the power of corporate lobbyists as the major actors in the political system. They are now much more important than even states and congressional districts full of citizens can ever again hope to be—without a major change.
The expediencies and abuses of the system have become appalling if something can still be done about them―and horrendous if nothing can be done to fix the tolerated corruption of the sometimes still asserted national ideal. Monsanto’s abuses have seemed to lie in the category of the horrendous because addressing them has seemed impossible for two decades, but maybe other similar abuses in the healthcare system and financial system can still be addressed if those with the needed vision can still be found to launch the effort.
The destructive industrialization of agriculture is difficult to address because of the unequal strength of the opposing constituencies. Neither healthcare nor banking suffer from as much inequality between the contending forces, though the constructive and effective organization of the citizen constituencies still remains to be achieved. Mostly, it remains to even be attempted.
Short-selling for personal gain has been considered as good as creating something useful or doing something beneficial, and sometimes it has been the only means of market regulation available―whether or not it is exploitative and destructive in the process. Monsanto has also demonstrated manipulative market exploitation for the benefit of a few and the harm of many. The purchase of over 70 seed companies was a way to corner the market for themselves.
Anti-competitively consolidated capture of the best seed lines has not served the needs of the people. Monsanto and other biotech agribusiness companies have all done similarly with adhesion contracts used to establish and maintain their power while liability is imposed on others.
The institutions needed to provide vigilance have been dysfunctional, as was made clear when the Department of Justice dropped its anti-trust investigation of Monsanto without taking any action. Anti-trust laws can have no meaning if Monsanto has not exemplified the abuses they were intended to address, yet the scope of the DOJ investigation seemed to be too narrow.
Continuing a willful distortion of the 14th Amendment that started with the 1886 decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the Supreme Court has provided what was needed to increase the political and economic monopoly power of corporately-derived wealth within the tolerated system. They have a monopoly within their major commodities and participate in an oligopoly in the larger biotech agribusiness arena.
Despite the end of the their patent on Glyphosate, Monsanto’s virtual monopoly over the sales of Roundup persists through their use of contracts requiring the purchase of Monsanto’s Roundup for use with their Roundup Ready crops. A monopoly is no less a monopoly because of the various methods used to enforce it. Monsanto gained court-sponsored monopoly empowerment from the J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer International decision in 2001 but even more from the Diamond v. Chakrabarty decision in 1980. Without the Chakrabarty decision, their seed enterprise would not have been launched, and without the 2001 decision transgenic seed would not have been given utility patents in profligate disregard for prior patent precedents, including the one from Judge Joseph Story who wrote in Lowell v. Lewis: “a new invention to poison people...is not...patentable….”
The J.E.M. Ag Supply decision was written for the majority by Justice Clarence Thomas, who had been a Monsanto attorney for four years a quarter-century earlier, addressing regulatory matters. Monsanto was the leading beneficiary of the J.E.M. Ag Supply decision even though the company was not a direct party in the lawsuit. The flood gates were opened for the patent-related abuses now occurring in routine multiplicity, and that decision is the direct cause of our need to take Monsanto to court over the infringement lawsuit threat and related harassment as well as the asserted invalidity of their patents, the unenforceability because of misuse, exhaustion in the case of unwanted contamination, and the lack of entitlement to remedies.
The outcome of the 2010 national election was partly the result of similar court-sponsored recreation of the political and economic system through the Citizens United decision (Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission) and the politically-dedicated money it unleashed into the political arena. The court majority claimed they were defending First Amendment rights, but that was a ruse to enable greater empowerment of the pro-corporate voice in the political arena. The impact was democratically destructive.
One result was seen when corporate lobbyists were hired to staff the offices of the newly elected members of the Congress and the offices of the new majority. No doubt they knew they would be able to return to their lobbying career in the future after their service in the government was concluded, and there can be little doubt about the biases they would bring with them into their government jobs. The Supreme Court sponsored and facilitated these abuses as if they should be a good thing. The point is: they are little different from the similar abuses also serving Monsanto.
Public health has been sacrificed in service to the interests of corporate food and medicine providers, and these interests have become diabolical in putting their own short-sighted material interests ahead of the public interest, while sweeping consequences and risks of their behavior aside. Research into the impacts of the corporate compromises related to health and nutrition has been squashed under the power of money in the university research system as much as it has at the EPA, USDA, FDA, and elsewhere.
Universities follow the money as much as elected government officials, and in that interest, they prepare their students for jobs within the corporate system more than for their now neglected roles as wise and thoughtful citizens dedicated to the protection of the public interest including the interests of their own grandchildren. Under corporate values and their short-term time horizons, everyone is encouraged to live for today, letting tomorrow fend for itself, as if no better should be possible. Collective citizenship interest is thought foolish by many as they advance themselves and their companies at the expense of others. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is invoked to justify the behavior as if his ideas were as valid today in the complex corporately-dominated economy as they were upon publication of the book in the very different economic environment of 1776.
The Petty Minor Corruption in Other Nations Compared to the Massive, Ignored, and Tolerated U. S. Corruption Other nations are considered corrupt because their petty corruption is seen and its dollar value is tabulated by international watchdog organizations, but nobody is prominently measuring or assessing the massive impact of the levels of moral corruption observed in the U.S. political-industrial system, especially in the domain of healthcare, food, and agriculture―but also in other economic sectors. Self-interested behavior, even deadly behavior, is accepted as normal, because it is the way the capitalist system has recently been expected to operate.
Destructive, short-sighted, risky, and expedient behavior is taken for granted in the United States as if it should be normal. While British Petroleum is put under scrutiny for the environmental injury it has caused, the far worse damage caused by Monsanto and other biotech agribusiness companies is neglected and ignored. Neither is assessed as corruption and tallied side by side with the assessments of petty, self-serving corruption observed with disdain and incessantly criticized in other nations.
The public health and environmental compromises and the associated political behavior of food chemical, medical, and financial corporations (as well as others) have discredited the U.S. democratic ideal in the eyes of people in other nations, and they have failed to set an admired example at a time when that is badly needed among nations needing to learn better. U.S. image, standing, and influence in the world has been reduced and impaired, but the financially empowered in the U.S. do not seem to care as long as they can force their will on others―as they have done. The fines they sometimes get are not even a serious spanking.
Maybe British Petroleum would have been let off easier if it were a U.S. corporation and not a British company with a U.S. subsidiary. Much worse could occur as the result of the drilling in Arctic waters or from the toxic crude extracted from Canadian tar sands but these projects advance as if future tragedies were unlikely and the risks should be allowable.
The biggest question remains unanswered and even unasked: What gives this generation of the U.S. people and others around the world the right to extract and burn the world’s full endowment of fossil resources in the course of a few human generations just because we have learned how to do it. One day, we are likely to know the full alternative value of the resources we have burned for their lowest-value use. Its like burning down the house to stay warm for one night, and yet we take it as a birthright. With such a myopic attitude taken for granted, it cannot be any wonder that Monsanto has been flagrantly, negligently, and profligately allowed to do as it has done.
The U.S. nation is the first and most vociferous, longest-serving, but now shamefully arrogant, defensively imperious, and morally-compromised advocate for the marriage between democracy and Capitalism. It has turned into a poster image of exploitation, expediency, neglect of hidden and deferred costs, and incessant citizen abuse for the benefit of the corporately obsequious governing elites and their politically-assisted, well-oiled, money-generating allies.
Most of the U.S. people no longer speak for themselves; they are forced by their depressed and disempowered circumstances to let corporate interests, their trade associations, and their friends in the Congress overwhelm their ability to speak politically for themselves. The financially and politically empowered speak for them―preemptively, aggressively, and destructively. This is what happens when the top 1% control 40% of the nation’s total wealth and their income has risen by 18% over the past decade while most others have lost income or at best hung on the best they can at the same level for the past 30 years since 1980.
World wide the picture is worse. One percent of the world’s people earn 96% of the annual income, compared to 25% in the United States. Under this circumstance, the political power of the wealthy has grown to match their control over the wealth. This is what happens when the political system is wealth driven and many are driven into poverty to feed the wealth transfer. Any other outcome would be anomalous. The system could not possibly deliver any other result.
The political power of corporate money and its power over the people has become systemically dominant, and this has been observed repeatedly in the governing policies issued like sausages from a whole-hog meat grinder. Sometimes, the policies are better and sometimes worse, but they always first consider the needs of the pro-corporate elites before they can advance. This happens because they are the controlling players in the system, and they are imagined to generate the trickle down needed by everyone else. This has been the reality from the beginning and to help continue it from the Supreme Court after the Federalists were thrown out of power in the Congress and the White House in 1800, Chief Justice John Marshall was appointed.
Marshall was able to use the Supreme Court to exercise dominating Federalist influence for 34 continuous years outlasting and sometimes overruling the short-term democratic impact of the Democratic-Republicans, now often thought of as simply Democrats (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson). In that, the superior power and focused intensity of the judicial role was asserted as if the Supreme Court was a collective U.S. king perpetually controlling and overruling the follies of the other two governmental branches. The Justices are still doing it with the assistance of the lower courts, and they still manifest the same values as they did when they were ruling against the farmers who joined the Daniel Shays rebellion.
The Role of the People if They Want to Assume It Seeing the way the system is rigged against them and their likely inability to better it, 40% of the people do not vote in Presidential election years and 60% do not vote in the off-years. That 20% difference makes disjointed dysfunctional governance worse, because it is the difference between achieving a majority and losing it. More of the 20% who only vote every four years are Democrats or Independents, and they make the government and the political system even more nonsensical by voting less in the off-year congressional elections. They may be as bad or worse in their impact than those who never vote and think their votes will not make any difference.
Maybe many people are so involved with their own life pressures and struggles they cannot find time to be involved in the political life of the nation or even of their own communities—or they can only be involved in federal elections through voting every four years and not every two years. Many may be so preoccupied and distracted by corporately-provided entertainment, commercial sports, and electronic games, they may accept the stewardship version of the democratic ideal allowing the elected to apply it the same way farmers tend livestock and crops, milking them for their own benefit. From this, people might not get the government they want but they might get the one they deserve as the result of their inattention. Perhaps they get the best one they are informed enough, committed or active enough, to promote and allow.
Whatever the public thinking about the political issues needing attention―or the absence of thought about it, entertainment and other distractions are used in the United States much as Roman Emperors used circuses, and the people permit that. Presumably, they even want that, because they like the distractions they have been provided to prevent them from paying attention to civic and political concerns.
For many, a superficial, self-narrowing definition of happiness seems to have been good enough, and a simplistic definition of freedom has also appeared to be sufficient. The freedom to participate politically is no longer an actively important concern for half of the people (40% and 60% delivers a running average of 50%), and maybe they cannot afford to have it be important to them. Too much time and money might be needed for that to be possible given their other commitments and level of knowledge, but they could not deny the dumbing down of the broadly hoped for and democratically expected meaning of happiness.
For some, owning a gun for self-defense may be more important than voting or becoming informed enough to vote wisely, and the collective result of this behavior could be dysfunctional government making the need for the gun more likely than it would be if everyone worked together to create the kind of government and community that would make the use of violence less likely to be needed. Defensive attitudes become more prominent when a multiplicity of self-defensive attitudes collectively replace past interest in community building as a means of creating a non-violent Commons for everyone's benefit, but if that were possible and wanted, the corporate interests would not be able to divide and conquer for their own benefit.
Maybe such a change in the common cultural values could have resulted from twenty years of Reagan-Bush, Bush-Quayle, and Bush-Cheney emphasis on “each for himself”―with the accompanying elimination of many beneficial government services just to help the most wealthy pay lower taxes. Republican Presidents have seemed to think people would take greater responsibility for themselves if the safety net was removed, so the question is: what is the best way to create a culture where people assume enough public responsibility to advance the collective interest? Is the objective best achieved by creating a highly competitive dog-eat-dog culture, or it is best achieved by demonstrating the collective humanity able to help people and unify them in a common purpose.
Is improvement best achieved by throwing grandmother off the train or by creating services and educational opportunities, so people can advance to a better place? Under the current system, students are milked as much as any other element of the Commons to benefit the wealth transfer system and start getting people on the treadmill of debt at an early age. That is part of the modern feudal reality and the modern serfdom. If the role of people as citizens was more important, education would be either free or less expensive than it is, and more people would be in a position to serve the public interest as their life work. Instead, they need to take a corporate job, so they can pay off their educational debts.
We can know from historical observation of both the competitive and the public service models that some people will take advantage of others under both scenarios. Some will hurt others through aggressive and exploitative competition, and others will take advantage of others by taking whatever is given to them and not working to fairly and gratefully return the favor.
So the question persists: what program or combination of ideals leads to the most productive and mutually beneficial system? Pure cases of both create a very different social outcome, so it seems most likely that the best outcome results from a dialog leading to a balance between the two with emphasis on preventing both from becoming destructive of the Commons.
This is important, because Monsanto’s approach to agriculture has been allowed from the start to be competitively destructive of the Commons in multiple ways: through the damage to the cultural seed stock, the gene pool, the soil, the water, the public health, the environment, and more. This has been permitted, because of a lack of public vigilance enabling people to learn about and understand what has been going on. The nation's agricultural legacy has been trashed, but it was also well on the way toward being trashed before Monsanto joined the effort.
Many people, including many farmers, have given up in the face of corporate political and economic power, and many of the rest vote on the basis of manipulated or captivating ideology without fully informing themselves about what would be best for everyone. Analytical neglect leaves many people vulnerable to inflammatory political advertising now often paid for anonymously with corporately-derived funds. This is a result of the Citizens United decision, and it could be seen in 2012 battleground states in support of Senate candidates as well as in support of the Presidential candidates, especially during the Republican primary contests.
Corporate expenditures to defeat Proposition 37 in California also drove home the scope of the trouble resulting from the disproportionate way money becomes available to some at the expense of others. With the Supreme Court believing it wise and constitutional for corporations and the corporately empowered to have free speech rights commensurate with their wealth, citizens and non-profit advocacy groups have been marginalized and overpowered in the role they formerly played to advance the collective welfare. In the process private and corporate interests have been made more important than the public interest and the public need.
Some of this is traceable to the legacy of the 1971 memo Justice Lewis Powell wrote to the National Chamber of Commerce shortly before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. He suggested the Chamber and its members fight back against the efforts of Ralph Nader and others to improve the public responsibility and the regulation of corporations. The memo offered strong and prominent encouragement on behalf of intensified self-serving corporate amorality―if not actively abusive immorality and even malfeasance.
Powell would not have put it that way, but that was the impact and clearly much work has gone into following up on it in myopic ways even at high cost to the corporations themselves and their shareholders. That is what self-serving expediency eventually does. It shoots its own hapless advocates blindly in the foot, and it eats its own seed corn. No doubt Monsanto read the Powell memo along with those advising them, including Williard "Mitt" Romney in his role at Bain Consulting. The competitive system in its concentration on building wealth loses all understanding of objectives needed to serve the common, collective need.
Even when corporations meet a market need, attention to that need results in loss of attention to larger needs. Someone needs to address those larger needs, but the political class is not available to play that role once they have been coopted as allies in service to the corporate agenda. This is the place the United States has ended up, and this is how the U.S. governing system has become discredited and even hated by some. Terrorism against the United States and its allies is the result of hatred against observed abuses.
Unless the U.S. democratic ideal should be trashed in favor of corporately-funded and legally-mandated, corporatized oligarchy, corporations cannot fruitfully be given the same rights as citizens just because they have been viewed as legal persons as a result of Supreme Court precedent, but this nuance was not clear to either Powell or the Chamber of Commerce and others who have aggressively pursued the Powell agenda over the ensuing decades. Because corporations are required to focus on their own short-term financial success in service to their shareholders, they have not demonstrated the same moral capacity as non-corporate people, and by law, they are prevented from exhibiting that capacity more than minimally and propagandistically because their primary obligation is to shareholders.
Accordingly, under the existing U.S. Constitution without regard for a any better Constitution that might written under expanded modern understandings, corporations should be prohibited from entering the political arena in any way: no lobbying by them and no campaign contributions should be allowed, and neither should it be possible for anyone employed by them to accept a government appointment where they might be able to serve a corporate interest ahead of the public interest. Corporate loyalists should not be put in a place where a temptation could exist. This ought to be widely obvious if people can understand the inability of corporations to serve long-term moral objectives at the expense of short-term profitability and fulfillment of their business plan.
Corporations are not empowered to vote as citizens, so they should not be able to impose themselves as amoral super-citizens in service to their own interests and at the expense of the collective interest, and if they would be accidentally and briefly allowed to do that, the cost and disservice to the collective interest should be tallied and published for all to know. It should not just be made available for those who know how to find it. It should be published more accessibly, maybe on centrally located Jumbotrons in every city or maybe as an e-mail message sent to every citizen.
Some form of publication of the assessed costs should be a bright line constitutional rule, and the fact that it is not yet simply makes clear how far the U.S. system has strayed from the needed morality any functional democratic culture would need to exhibit. Before the United States can win moral respect from the rest of the world and win the hearts and minds of people around the world, morality must be restored—at least for the benefit of those not already in the tank with the amoral corporate program. This would be the modern moral equivalent of posting the red capital A on Hester Prynne, a muzzle on a potentially dangerous dog, or a bell on a bird-eating cat.
Because of this need, and because the Supreme Court has destructively empowered corporate amorality for decades, the unfettered capacity to demonstrate morality should be asked of everyone before they are allowed to contribute campaign money, vote, or serve in a government position. This is important because many people have served as agents of various corporate or otherwise limited agendas. Because so many people believe the ideal from Adam Smith that service to one's own interests can result in service to the collective interest, people need to be asked to demonstrate their understanding of the limits of that ideal.
In the present environment where many people have demonstrated the personal practice of corporate-style amorality in their own personal behavior, compliance with a beneficial moral standard is not guaranteed among human citizens anymore. Individual behavior would need to be observed to make sure people would be able to live up to expectations. For example, if morality were strong in U.S. culture, energy conservation and development of renewable energy would be preeminently import just to protect resource availability for future generations. That would be a moral imperative, but most people do not think about this at all. They behave the same as Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. They do what they want to do because they have the ability to do it. This is corporate style amorality now made habitual, tolerable, and widely accepted among people the same as it is among corporations.
Because so many people have lost the ability to understand the meaning of morality apart from the dominant corporate model suggesting the standard of morality most people have automatically accepted, either as a result of their employment, the value-setting games they play, or the entertainment they pursue, a way is needed to get back to some reasonable common and widely agreed upon understanding about what morality should mean. Many understand what it should mean in personal relationships, whether or not they practice it, but fewer know what it should mean in a broader social and cultural context. On wider concerns, people find it easier to cave in to less conscientious norms generally accepted because corporate values have infused into the lives of almost everyone.
Perhaps, an objective course about cultural morality should be incorporated into educational curricula. This is important because democracy cannot function apart from citizen adherence to some moral ideal capable of protecting the long-term collective interest from erosion. It is also important because many people serving in elected office have lost the ability to understand this moral need. It is eroded partly because the time horizon of elected officials is generally no further in the future than the next election. The erosion can be seen when partisan interests are made more important than the common, collective interest without regard for the consequences.
To support this ideal, campaign funders, voters, and those serving in government positions should be required to affirm their commitment to the public interest the best they can understand it, and their behavior should be continuously assessed against this standard. The pledge of officeholders to uphold the Constitution is not good enough even to protect the integrity of the existing Constitution, so a more fundamental affirmation is needed committing people to a diligent effort to understand and service the broader public public interest.
With the Constitution having been written from the central objective of protecting elite interests against excessive democratic erosion while also providing just enough democracy to hopefully enable a valuable check against tyranny, no one should be surprised to see the government put elite interests ahead of the common, collective interest. Corporations were created to serve the elite interest in maintaining organized control over the means of production and the flow of revenue. If this were not true, much more emphasis would have been placed on decentralized answers to many problems.
For example, solar, wind, and river turbine energy would have been developed much sooner than it has been if energy systems had not been designed to keep the elite in the driver's seat. Decentralized alternatives have not been emphasized because centralized control over the energy resources and centralized control over the generated revenue flow has been more important. That is and has been intended to establish, maintain, and protect elite dominance, and under this objective, any attention to democracy is secondary at best.
The emphasis on democracy has often been used to make the people believe they are more important in the governing project than than they have been allowed to be. Many people believed that President Obama was going to restore democracy and prevent the kind of abuses many criticized during the Bush-Cheney years, but instead, the Obama-Biden administration has continued many of the Bush-Cheney policies. Probably, they felt they had to continue these policies because of the power of the elite in the political system and the economic system.
Because the Commons have been repeatedly damaged to serve narrow interests, it is not good enough for people to vote and make campaign contributions to serve their own interests; they must be asked to think more broadly in the collective interest, and that requires something more than the narrow interpersonal morality emphasized in most conceptions defining the meaning of morality, including those emphasized by religion. Officials must be asked to do more than simply uphold a Constitution that was written in the first place on the narrow grounds suggesting the protection of elite interests should be good enough to protect everyone. Giving the elite a controlling position certainly cannot any longer, in the modern economy and political environment, result in the protection of everyone’s interests—if it ever could even in the past. No one should any longer be able to fool themselves about that.
Maybe those invoking Adam Smith in the complex modern environment should be required to spell out the details of their ideal in a 25 page essay and post it on a Web site set up for the purpose. Maybe they should be required to answered particular questions about how their idea can be made to work. This might help to increase the public commitment to analytical thinking based on relevent modern reality, and the elimination of shibboleths and self-serving ideology from the discourse. At least the leverage might exist in some environments to put this kind of corrective, therapeutic approach in place, and at best, it might do it by posing a constructive challenge.
The Principles Needed to Create a Better Governing Model The distinction between the public interest and a limited, profit-promoting corporate interest has been lost in the U.S. political arena as the thinking of the erstwhile Charles Wilson, Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, George W. Bush (and the Supreme Court majority he enabled) as well as the corporate “people” backing them have become increasingly preeminent in the U.S. and internationally. As more people have become shareholders, both through their pension plans and in other ways— or even aspire to be shareholders—broader moral dysfunction has been promoted, even encouraged as if amorality could prove to be a better idea.
Many identify with the interests of the plutocratic system because they have acquired a few corporate shares or a corporate job (or maybe only hope to get such a job in the future). Even without that, they may think and behave the same as corporations because corporate ways of thinking have become infused into the establishment of moral norms in the United States and other places where the corporate form of organization is now prominent and dominant.
In the beginning, property ownership was a requirement before voting was permitted, and that showed the extent creation of a plutocracy was intended by the nation’s founding Federalists, but under the proposed modern standard, excessively high levels of property ownership might become a reason to disqualify people from voting just because that much ownership might link them too closely with corporate interests and property-protective interests adverse to the public interest. At least, this could be an issue to be discussed and scrutinized.
If the need to disempower the plutocracy is understood, the related need to reflect on the moral errors of the past must be part of the process of thinking about what is needed to make sure similar error is not pursued to the point of collective self-destruction in the near or distant future. On this, Monsanto’s activities could prove more self-destructively imperiling than global warming and its results. That hypothesis is suggested based on much that is becoming known now when it should have been known before any of Monsanto’s products were released onto the market. Prudence has not been the strong suit in the United States, and it never is in a culture where expedient agendas trump reason.
One of the errors of the past has been the error of giving too much credence to those who place excessive emphasis on the acquisition of property. Jefferson understood this issue when he used “happiness” instead of “property” in the Declaration of Independence, but the founding Federalists did not remember the importance of this distinction. Maybe they automatically felt the two would be synonymous. More importantly, maybe they would not have understood how happiness would relate to serving the common public interest for the benefit of everyone, while the pursuit of property as a private self-centered matter might or might not deliver common benefit to all. A red flag rises when the pursuit of property and wealth is seen as ultimately destructive of the collective benefit. The pursuit of happiness, in contrast, is likely to have broader qualities for most people.
The founding Federalists were mostly men of property themselves (and those who were not engaged in work serving the needs of those who were), so the issues surrounding control over property were likely to be more prominent in their minds as a result of the threats posed to property under the Articles of Confederation. The property issues might not have loomed so large at the time when the Second Continental Congress met to consider the Declaration of Independence, but they would have been more prominent a decade later—just as they loom large now given the importance of property ownership to national self-image and the measurement of GDP.
Acquisitive values have led, for example, to the United States, with 6% of the world’s people, to annually consume 25% (more or less) of the world’s annual production of non-renewable and non-recyclable energy resources. This consumption has been wastefully profligate in its inattention to the consequences for the future, and if the people of the United States wanted to set a morally responsible example, they would have wanted to reach agreement about the climate change issues as soon as possible, starting at least two deccades ago. Farmers would have wanted to be in the lead on this because the nitrous oxide they create through their farming methods is 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas and 30 times more potent than methane, which the U.S. method of raising livestock also generates in excessive quantities.
This need for responsible and accountable morality does not address the alternative uses for the resources to serve other higher purposes in the future. In the United States, thoughtless and continuous consumption is important because acquisition and wealth are important—and because Gross Domestic Product is the core preeminent measure of national well-being and national wealth. Before the people of the United States could think differently, they would need to keep their accounts different. They would need to stop ignoring the public costs associated with private gains and wealth building. At a minimum, there would need to be a way to heavily tax people and companies according to the public costs they impose on everyone else both in the United States and around the world.
Now that a U.S. company has created the world’s first plastic airliner (Boeing 787), thoughts might turn to the resource waste resulting from the burning of petroleum. This resource could be much more important in the future than iron, steel, aluminum, and other metals have been in the past. The theoretical potential for plastics has not yet been much explored, but it would have been if people did not feel free to burn the resources needed to make them.
When people are certain they want to do one thing, they become less willing to consider the other things they might be doing instead. Those who have decided they want to play football are less likely to feel remorseful that they are not playing soccer, and those who have chosen to play golf are not likely wish they were shooting craps or bowling. Those who want to wear suits are not likely to wish they could wear over-alls, and this way of thinking becomes habit, sometimes even silly habit. Alexis de Toqueville reflected on the way the people of the United States thought about their ambitions and aspirations almost two centuries ago but not enough people have read what he said for their habits to have changed much over the intervening centuries.
Concern about the future availability of petroleum is just one resource issue among many. Soil is another, as is the gene pool and the oceans―and the now polluted fresh water. The profligate use of the collective resource legacy of the Earth needs more scrutiny than it has received, and with this goes the examination of irresponsible acquisitive, consumptive, and exploitive behavior.
At the time when the Declaration of Independence was written, others previously had addressed the natural law principle allowing people to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of property, but Jefferson asserted the belief that happiness was more important and more universally valuable than the pursuit of property. Nonetheless, the authors of the Constitution reasserted the importance of property not just to voting but to an underlying right to assert political control by drafting the document under which the work of governing would be conducted. They expected to be establish themselves and other property owners of like mind in a position where they would be able to maintain political control.
As it turned out, the Federalists were not as clever, at least initially, as they thought they were; they were able to retain power for only 12 years before they were thrown out in 1800. That is how long it took them to outwear their welcome with the voting public, but they had been clever enough to entrench themselves more permanent in the judicial branch of the government. The founding Federalists wanted to consolidate political control in the hands of a new, somewhat more democratically-constituted aristocracy, but the central importance of some kind of aristocracy was essential to their ideal, and ownership of property was a means of measuring which people met the test of aristocratic entitlement. Ownership of property was needed to give people the time and wealth to address their common interest in governance, and that is the reason why those gathered for the Constitutional Convention in 1787 were men of means. They did not make sure their group included a fair cross section of the people, and they felt no need to do that anymore than they felt the need to extend the right to vote beyond the tiny minority who were property owners. They did not want to reach all that much beyond what the British did when they created their Parliament.
Little attention seemed to have been paid to the way the new U.S. aristocracy would gain possession of their requisite means as long as they shared the common purpose of ending to the threats to elite wealth posed as the result of inexperience, intention, and dysfunction under the Articles of Confederation. Mostly, they needed to have enough wealth to have others able to manage their affairs for them while they were away on their collective task of writing the new Constitution and addressing the need to govern after that.
The founders needed the means to spend the summer in Philadelphia fixing the problems they saw in the Articles of Confederation by creating a different idea able to win the support necessary to replace the Articles with a new governing system, and some who could not stay in Philadelphia for the entire summer had to go and come as their livelihood permitted. At least, that was possible for some who lived close enough.
Most of those with the required means were the elite Federalists with a political philosophy to match their own interests and those of the people with whom they wanted to associate. If the Convention had included a broader range of views, they might not have achieved the agreement they needed to create the document they did create. It was a comfortably conservative document appropriate to the needs of its own times, and the reflected attitudes were not greatly inconvenienced by the need to accommodate the Bill of Rights. The assembled decision makers were more concerned about how policy would be written and who would be authorized to write it.
The hoi polloi were not welcomed at the Convention, and when some of them showed up, the attitude toward them was sufficiently clear to cause them to go home. Most people were prevented from knowing what was going on. Despite the sweltering heat, the windows were kept closed, and when a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what they were doing, he said they were creating a republic―“if you can keep it.” Even Franklin did not show great confidence in ability of the people to prevent tyranny from returning, and of course women were powerless anyway, apart from whatever influence they might have with their husbands.
Women had to wait almost 150 years to get the right to vote, and by the time they did get it, men had rigged the system to make the votes of even half the people much less significant, though it is getting more significant almost a century later. By 1920, men had enough experience with the system to think they were capable of maintaining control. Maybe most thought they would still turn out more voters than the women would, and if they thought they would not be influential in shaping the thinking of women, they probably would have been less willing to pass the suffrage amendment.
At the time, most of the important work was done by men in smoke-filled rooms, and they probably expected things to continue that way. The candidates people were allowed to vote for were selected in conventions attended by a small minority, and that level of control would have seemed sufficient. To be clear, women got the right to vote because they pushed the issue, but men would not have allowed it if they were not confident about their ability to maintain control. Other subsequent expansions of the franchise would have been considered in the same way.
The gathered Federalists in 1787 did not need to meet a high bar in the work they accomplished in drafting the new Constitution, and they certainly did not intend to more than minimally empower the people; they just needed to fix the problems they saw in the then existing system. Because many people understood the dysfunctionality incumbent with the Articles of Confederation and the way they had worked out in practice, the gathered Federalists in Philadelphia were performing an easily supported public service.
The task of the Constitutional Convention was a limited one, and no one showed a belief they needed to create the ultimate government, exemplary around the world for the next two or more centuries. They just needed to fix the problems with the previously created idea and prevent the reoccurrence of the troubles encountered with King George III. Their work product did not necessarily need to establish a permanent democratic benchmark against which all future governments would be measured, and anyone suggesting the modern U.S. system of governance is the best achievable should sit in the corner in a dunce hat.
The celebration of constitutional originalism is a more recent idea designed to lock the original objectives in place for as long as that would be possible, and body English is being applied to make that term last as long as would be feasible. If the effort is not made, the forces of constitutional change would be likely to gather opposing momentum. Some of those advocates for change, like the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato have written books to propose multiple new ideas.
The people have never shown significant collective ability to determine whether their government would function effectively, and accordingly, they have exhibited little combined ability to determine if the republic would live or die. Mostly, on policy, procedure, and even structure, people do not know what they want until they see it. Others are relied on to craft the ideas and give them to the people to consider.
The polling now used to determine what the people think is no more than a way to reduce the thoughts of the people to the lowest common denominator of more or less unenlightened opinion. It is not a way to develop and winnow out the best ideas, and as a result it may be limited to the worst—with popular misconceptions and misunderstandings perhaps rampant. If this is the best people can understand to do, self-government has little hope. Unless the human brain has atrophied lately, as it might have under the dominant farming and food system, success in the future is not likely to be wisely protected under the best system eighteenth-century Federalists could create and twenty-first century decendents could keep alive.
In 1787, wisdom had to be linked with what had been perceived in the past, and as part of that the founding Federalists had seen how the European aristocracy had proved to be a valuable check on the excesses of autocracy. In the context of that time and the contemporary understandings, aristocracy had brought increased morality and prudent constraint to governance and that acted as a check on the excesses of arbitrary power. It was a step, and it would take more than ordinary vision to overcome the actual and potential limitations of aristocratic empowerment and project the enlargement of those into the future—especially with the still unanticipated growth of corporate power and the self-satisfied sense that wealth and property should provide entitlement to political power and also power over the Commons. Vision into the future was not easily found or encouraged, and it still is not.
When law is written as a substitute for morality by and in the interests of those empowered by money, the financially disempowered might still be able to assert authority if they could get organized. At least, they probably still can act if they choose to in the United States and other developed nations. The pro-corporate tyranny is probably not yet so vast it could not be reversed if the people wanted to stand up and demand it, but most have not shown the will, the time, or the capacity to do that.
In the case of the tyranny against the public interest wrought by Monsanto, most people do not even know what it is or what it does. That would need be fixed before anything else could be fixed, but steps in a promising direction have been taken during 2013. Before it was seen, no one could have foreseen marches against Monsanto around the world in more than 450 cities and 40 nations or 169 U.S. Mom’s marches for transgenic food labeling on July 4, 2013. If everyone could more quickly and easily recognize how the power of the people had been usurped over the past two decades, they might do something about it.But first they would need to find the time to do the work and the way to pool the resources.
As People Assume the Amorality of Corporations When so many people identify themselves with corporations of various kinds, they behave like the rich as much as if they were scheduled to win the lottery or a casino jackpot from a one-armed bandit, and they may vote the interests of the self-centered rich the same way lizards may dream about becoming crocodiles or mice might dream of turning into elephants. When many people work for corporations and become dependent on them, they identify with corporations and think like those who think for corporations―with the same narrow and short-term amoral horizons. As a result of this evolution in the public way of thinking, many more people may want to identify themselves with the powerful than want to identify with those seeking to prevent the injustices, manipulations, and myopia of the powerful.
With many citizens commonly and regularly voting and acting as if they should be allowed to neglect the public interest the same as corporations do, they often seem to gratify themselves by magnifying a fictitious self-image adverse to their own reality. In promoting the corporate program above their own and above the larger collective and common wisdom, they subvert morality at public expense and it even at their own expense. The behavior can be witnessed widely and repeatedly. Many U.S. citizens have become like docile frogs waiting in stupefaction as the water in their man-made puddle is raised to the point of languorous and delirious immobility. Until the economic system finally collapsed under excesses of manipulative greed, the surrounding pro-corporate circumstances felt good to them.
Stupor has proved easier than its more demanding alternatives. Non-participation and non-involvement in the political community might have been less easy in the beginning when each member of the House of Representatives represented only 34,000 people, but back then, the U.S. governing ideal had novelty. That might have been enough to satisfy if a Frenchman named Alexis de Tocqueville had not alerted some people to hope for better by commenting notoriously and with disappointment in 1835 about the way the U.S. system worked and was motivated to work.
In his book, Democracy in America, de Tocqueville wrote about the limited extent of the U.S. national ambition and the paltriness of the individual aspirations comprising its all too limitedly visionary human ingredients. If he were to come back for a second look, he might be surprised to see what had been built as a result of the national ambition and its components, but he would still also likely be disappointed to see the state of individual moral aspiration. With it, he would see the general public willingness to take care of personal needs for today while leaving the future and the common collective interests to take care of themselves. Maybe God is trusted to provide bounty the same way Monsanto has been trusted, and maybe the two are now confused.
Now Members of Congress represent close to three quarters of a million people, and as a result most people may more easily lose a sense of connection with their elected representatives and the decisions they make. Effort is needed to stay in touch with political events. Personal responsibility has been easier to discard when it has become more distant and the challenge of understanding the issues has become more complex and difficult. Still worse, many people feel justified, even entitled, or impelled to let the work of citizenship be carried by others.
Paying attention to the collective interest is commonly viewed as irresponsible when personal advancement and the formation of personal wealth is seen as more important than the preservation of the Commons. As a result, mostly only the financially empowered and self-interested may become politically active. It was that way in 1787 when the system was created, and it is still that way now. The systemic incentives have not changed. Many, if not most, vote their perceived personal interest, not the collective interest needed to protect everyone now and in the future, but if morality were stronger, consciousness would be more refined and systemic understandings might serve the collective interest more robustly. At least, they might if they had not been eroded for decades, even centuries. Better has proved possible occasionally, but it is far from guaranteed.
Following the self-interested capitalistic model, most people probably believe they should vote according to their self-interest, not in service to the larger public interest, but this is a reflection of the narrowing of the collective moral conscience under the ideal Adam Smith is wrongly believed to have asserted. Following this model, people behave as if they were managers and owners of self-serving corporations, but Smith was not arguing against morality, he was writing down what he had seen from observing the operation of a particular kind of simple competitive economy where needed information was easy to see and not obscured under the now reigning corporate and institutional complexities and intentional obfuscations.
As corporate money, lobbying, and organizational power have dominated politics, the virtues of civic collaboration in the common interest have been significantly undermined, marginalized, diminished, ignored, and neglected. The ideal of inter-tribal competition (with collaboration only within the tribe) has been corporately enlarged and applied systematically to replace it. Corporations, after all, are only a new form of now semi-feudally-organized tribe with a different economic purpose. The change in attitude has killed democracy replacing it with plutocratic oligarchy as if that should be a basically important objective following Adam Smith’s embraced ideal. People have allowed themselves to be set against each other to the point they cooperate in the destructively polarizing competition, their values have enabled and encouraged.
The competitive model has been promoted through competitive sports, competitive academics, competitive games, and a generally competitive culture. It has come to the point where cooperation and collaboration in the common interest has been impugned, belittled, marginalized, and undermined. People behave after the example set in competitively vicarious sports, gladiator-style spectacles, reality television, dog-eat-dog business competition, and wars of choice to impose control over others. All this exemplified competitive behavior has consequences adverse to the democratic public interest, and it diminishes the importance of the Commons while increasing corporate damage as if that should be the publicly-supported objective.
Following the Idea of Joseph Goebbels Democracy would want to build peace, at least if we believe in a natural desire of people to pursue collaboration and build networks of communication and harmony over the tendency to magnify fear and to retaliate against insult. If all people wanted help each other reach the best they are capable, they would be harder to lead into war, but in 2003, the people of the United States were easy to lead into war in Iraq.
Eighty-five percent of the U.S. population favored the war without much stopping to reflect on what they were being told about the strategy or the costs. They did not think much either about the likely beneficiaries. They wanted to retaliate against somebody, and Iraq seemed as good a target as any, no matter if they had anything to do with 9/11. Some also wanted to assert U.S. authority over the rest of the world. This was viewed as a post-Cold War entitlement.
We might want to believe in the ideal of collaborative peace and harmony if ways were not continuously being fabricated to work against it. If greater morality was empowered and enhanced, one thing would happen, and when amorality is encouraged the opposite occurs. Peace will not be built and the Commons will be destroyed when morality is undermined―and life is viewed as a hostile zero-sum competition to corner resources and gain control. Under morality, resources could be conserved for the future, but under amorality, short-term, myopic exploitation and competitive abuse are likely to continue.
Morality emphasizes the long-term preservation of civilization, and amorality systemically and systematically works to destroy it—as the behavior by Monsanto has shown for two decades. The record shows they do not care about preservation of anything beyond their own benefit and those benefiting with them. This we will show in court if we win the right to present our arguments there—and our right to that opportunity is not stonewalled repeatedly.
Any democratic desire to achieve the best for the future and for the Commons can be subverted, and it has been. As the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels well understood when he laid out the way to accomplish the destructive objective, the subversion of democracy through inflamed fear makes possible the promotion of continuous war, the preparation for war, and the promotion of other competitive, control-pursuing agendas. Following the Goebbels idea, Monsanto has promoted fear of hunger as their way of advancing chemically-dependent and transgenic agriculture. By magnifying fear of an inability to grow enough food, they have profited just as they have destroyed the capacity to grow abundantly nourishing food, and proof of this contention will be discussed as part of the arguments in our lawsuit against them.
Despite the need to rein in the myopic and destructive behavior of some corporations, corporations are needed to do important work that cannot be handled by individuals. Their economic role is necessary, but they should not be allowed to assume control over the political system just because they have the money and the virtually immortal organization enabling them to do it. That is like letting the machines take over the factory or allowing President Clinton to put Monica Lewinsky in the knee hole of his Oval Office desk just because he could do it. Neither people nor corporations should be allowed to do anything they want just because they have figured out how to do it. They need to prove through independent, objective confirmation the beneficial value of what they want to do.
The studies need to be of long duration because short-term studies (90 days has been the norm used by Monsanto) are not long enough to reveal the required answers. Animal studies need to go through several generations to enable an understanding of the inherited impacts. Foreign studies need to be duplicated in the United States and elsewhere before the findings they illuminate can be considered sufficient. Until this work is accomplished, we only have clear indications and suggestion about the genetic damage. Confirmation is needed—with full examination of all the possible methodological flaws. When truth is important, attention needs to be paid to making sure it is found, but in the United States that is not the norm anymore.
Once the impact of lobbying, campaign contributions, and the associated political leverage can be overcome, the government should be expected to make sure the demand for proof is not evaded. If government officials have been bought off or persuaded as the result of examining only industry studies, they have not done their job, and they should be prosecuted for the failure. When their failure impacts the public health and the environment, there needs to be consequences.
The work corporations are organized to perform should not be compromised by the narrow self-serving political behavior of their owners and managers working in concert with collaborating politicians. Enforcement is required, even if a new branch of the government is required to provide it. The important work corporations are empowered to do must not be compromised and discredited because they have become entangled in devious and destructive politics. The work corporations can do is too important for that to be allowed. Better is essential.
In the common public interest, corporations need to be saved from themselves for the sake of everyone and all life, but until that might be accomplished—and inasmuch as they have now been given the same rights as people under the law—they should be required to fulfill the same moral obligations as people. The planet needs to be saved from corporate power just as much as the world's people do. Unless Earth is shattered in a celestial collision, the planet seems likely to outlive human existence. At least, that would be a reasonable conclusion given the rate human failures of wisdom are destructively and short-sightedly proceeding. With more respect for nature, we could have done better, and if we had that, we might have maintained the planet in the condition it was when human beings first became able to make a home out of it.
This is a question about whether or not people and their now monstrous and undisciplined corporations are entitled to destroy life because they have learned how to accomplish that. No corporation should be allowed to do anything that incurs irreparable public costs, and an accounting system is needed to continuingly assess both the incurred costs and the delivered benefits. If any costs are incurred at all, they need to be reparable as part of the cost of doing business. This should be obvious, but it has been ignored under the standard operating capitalist model.
The present U.S. accounting system sweeps the public health and environmental costs aside in the process of creating a distorted picture of the benefits commonly referred to as the Gross Domestic Product. This cannot be tolerated unless the world’s people are prepared to run themselves off a figurative cliff as if they were a herd of buffalo running obliviously toward a cosmic buffalo jump. Perhaps, attention needs to be paid to the model being refined in Bhutan, measuring Gross National Happiness. Jefferson would certainly be applauding that idea.
The narrow need to build wealth for shareholders without regard for the higher public costs cannot be acceptable when it cheapens, subverts, and undermines the essential values of the culture and even destroys the respect people must have for civilization to survive. The free pursuit of private interests can no longer be assumed to promote the public good. We are not living in the world Adam Smith envisioned anymore, and there are many countervailing forces. When people are set against each other because they have lost and undermined the ability to reason together in mutual respect and pursuit of wisdom, democratic possibility is discredited and the interceding arrogance needs to be stopped before the edge of the cliff or the point of failsafe is reached.
We cannot allow ourselves, our system of government, our civilization, or our respect for the pursuit of truth to commit suicide, not even if it is impelled to do so by decision of the U.S. Supreme Court or any other court. Without civic commitment and the time it requires, the longevity of the democratic ideal will not be preserved. It becomes no more than a nostalgic and hopeless fiction—as the power to protect life from corporate intrusion is profligately abandoned. If the end of democratic idealism is allowed and promoted as it has been been by U.S. political, informational, educational, and even religious institutions, we can expect no accident of history to deliver us a reprieve.
With money now worshiped for its own sake as if we lived in with the Pharisees in the temple at Jerusalem when the tables of the money changers were righteously overturned, honest reform is no less needed―from the inside out or the bottom up. In the spirit of this democratically imperative ideal, an article in the first 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review is recommended. It outlines the steps needed to get the proper and promising relationship between democracy and the Capitalism back on track: http://hbr.org/2011/01/the-big-idea-creating-shared-value/ar/1 This project is important in agriculture, healthcare, education, politics, and elsewhere―even in the life of families because corporate amorality is either sustained from there or it is overturned. We can all learn how to be more productive in creating shared value as an admirable public service. If the U.S. people can do that, the standing of the United States in the eyes of the people of other nations could be restored. So far, much more is required than has been delivered or yet even promised.
Much better is demanded to live up to the nation’s legacy. Both the people of the world and the other creatures being impaired by Monsanto’s system of agriculture and food domination are waiting to see what we will decide to do. Because the U.S. people have cornered so much of the world's wealth and power, the lives and future of billions of others depend more on what the people of the United States do. Others are affected by the United States and its policies more than they are by any decisions they can make for themselves. In U.S. behavior lies the difference between morality and tyranny and the difference between life and death. The issues at stake are no less important than that.
(This article may be circulated and published with attribution, including author’s name and the Web site URL in the cited credit. For many purposes, a link to the page may be enough.)
A Personal Note about My Name and Related Motivations For most of my life I have not used my middle name. It was used by my family and in school up until I completed high school but not much after that. When I was young, it was used to differentiate me from my father, but when I went away to college, it became difficult to constantly explain that I was not associated with an Air Force base outside of Dayton, Ohio.
The base is partly in the same county where my second great grandfather, Richard Wright, and his family farmed: Greene County to the east of Dayton. The inquiries about the Air Force base arose partly because I attended college in Ohio. It might not have been as big an issue in other states, but the Base is the largest Air Force Base in the United States, so it is well-known everywhere.
When Wright Air Field (where Orville and Wilbur Wright tested their planes) was joined with another nearby airfield named after Lt. Frank Stuart Patterson to establish the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1948 when I was 11 years-old, the problem was caused for me, but it was not a concern until I was in college. Also, because I worked as a news writer starting in college, I needed to use a by-line, and I did not want to use one that had other easy associations for Ohio people.
So far as we know, our family is not related to Orville and Wilber Wright. Their father was a Mennonite minister in Indiana with ancestry tracing to Connecticut. Our family comes from Chester County, Pennsylvania in the seventeenth century (having come to Pennsylvania with William Penn’s Fleet), and then to what is now Frederick County, Virginia after 1730, and after 1819 to Greene County, Ohio along with many other Quakers who were migrating to the area at that time to get away from slavery in the southern states.
Also, as far as I know, our Patterson family is not closely related to the Patterson family in Dayton. Lt. Patterson was the son and nephew of the founders of the National Cash Register Company in that city, and he was killed while testing a way to synchronize machine gun fire with a turning airplane propeller in 1918.
Before 1900, many Pattersons came to southwest Ohio, and my family came there from Ireland at the end of the U.S. Civil War. They settled in Bellefontaine in Logan County and some members of the family later moved to Kenton in Hardin County, but I do not know how all the many Pattersons there interrelated. That genealogical information has not been passed down to me. The most that I know, and have only recently found out is the place where my great-grandfather was born in County Mayo in Ireland and the place where he and his wife were married in County Donegal.
In identifying myself for the lawsuit, I chose to use my full name partly for the same reason John Hancock wrote his name larger than others on the Declaration of Independence. He wanted to make it sure King George III could identify him and read his name without needing his glasses. Because of the power Monsanto wields in the U.S. political system, they can be viewed as asserting similar imperialistic and monopolistic agribusiness autocracy, but more important may be the role of their obsequiously collaborating allies in the government.
Further, there are many other people named Don Patterson (including a famous and now deceased jazz organist and an early animator who worked at the Walt Disney Studio). There is also a well-known Pennsylvania watercolorist named Donald W. Patterson, and no doubt there are others. As much as possible, I want to prevent my name from being confused with them or maybe their children with the same name. It would be a upsetting (and also unfair) if pro-biotech thugs and security consultants were to happen upon the wrong person as they have done in the past. Precautions against that are important. Even prejudice toward others should be avoided as much as possible. A close-up picture of me is provided on this co-plaintiff page for the same reason.
In the past, Monsanto is known to have employed Blackwater and others to infiltrate, undermine, discredit, intimidate, and antagonize opposing groups and organizations. Sometimes, they have not needed to hire anyone because various allies, dealers, customers, freelance investigators, and maybe shareholders have helped to make life difficult for their opponents.
The most notorious of the hired hatchett people were unleashed against Prof. Ignacio Chapela after he and one of his graduate students found Monsanto’s contamination in native Mexican corn varieties. Those were ultimately traced to a public relations company apparently or allegedly employed by Monsanto to execute a hatchet campaign on their behalf.
The Farm Bureau has been one of their supportive allies, and so have several allied astroturf organizations funded and supported by Monsanto. They seem to breed new groups to promote advocacy on their behalf faster than rabbits, and the same has been true of aliases prowling the Internet to protect Monsanto’s interests against objective science and a varety of critics.
The Farm Bureau can be viewed as an astroturf organization pretending to be a farm organization because it is an insurance company and agribusiness conglomerate requiring its customers to buy a membership in the parallel organization. They artfully created this “farm organization” to exercise political influence in opposition to the populist farm groups forming in the West at the same time the Farm Bureau was organized by the Chamber of Commerce in New York at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Through their commercial strategy of linking the sale of inexpensive insurance and other products to the creation of a membership organization, the Farm Bureau has exercised powerful influence in shaping U.S. rural and farm policy to suit their corporate needs and the needs of their corporate allies. The routine exploitation their customer-members to pursue corporate objectives was established as part of a Congressional investigation of the Farm Bureau conducted over 40 years ago by New York Congressman Joseph Resnick as part of an investigation into the sources of rural poverty .
Because of their aggressive efforts to sell insurance and other products mostly in rural areas, they have built up a substantial “farmer” membership. In doing this, they are liberal about the people they consider to be farmers, though the membership rules vary from state to state. This is about the only way the Farm Bureau can be called liberal, but they are conservative only in the sense of seeking to protect their own profitability and the profitability of other allied corporate agribusinesses.
If people accept and tolerate what the Farm Bureau does—and the way they do it, they should think about how they might feel if all purchasers of automobiles or maybe all train-riders were obliged to buy a membership in an organization that then used its gathered resources to lobby on behalf of the associated corporate interests, all the while maintaining the image of protecting the interests of automobile owners or train riders.
To learn more about the Farm Bureau, see Dollar Harvest—An Exposé of the Farm Bureau by Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger. It can be found in many public libraries or obtained by them on inter-library loan. It badly needs to be updated, because the story is worse now than it was when the book was originally published almost 40 years ago, but the story is worth reading anyway as a report on important pro-corporate, democracy-subverting history. Berger was an assistant to Resnick starting when he was a law school student, and he wrote the book from the results of the investigation after Resnick died unexpectedly and prematurely at the age of 45. Used copies of the book are sometimes for sale on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B001W1POJ8/ref=dp_olp_used_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=used
The Farm Bureau is mostly an agent for interests different from the farmer interests it appears to be serving, but it has also worked to turn the politics of many farmers to the right in support of their agenda. Their success at that has been astonishing, but they are not the only agents of this effort. There have been many, including some now being used against us and our allies who are seeking to win legislation to label transgenic food. The most recent group to appear is called: The Alliance to Feed the Future. That name is interesting when Monsanto's is understood to be both unsafe and unsustainable.
Some efforts were made against our group of co-plaintiffs by a public relations company called APCO International that seemed to have been employed by Monsanto right after our lawsuit was filed, or they were given a mission of focusing attention on us at that time. APCO International is the group that helped the tobacco industry craft its campaign against state government and other public opposition through the formation of astroturf organizations and other diversionary strategies.
It is illegal for contractors working for a defendant in a lawsuit to harass the plaintiffs suing them, so they were told to desist. Since then, they have complied with the law as far as we know, but Monsanto might not feel the need to do much against us inasmuch as the courts have protected their interests well enough by preventing our lawsuit from going forward.
Meanwhile, aggressive astroturfing strategies have been employed and have been employed against the labeling of transgenic food in California, Washington state, and elsewhere. So far, in Maine and Connecticut, they have been overpowered by the strong desires of the people to see transgenic food labeling enacted. Both state legislatures voted in favor of the labeling bills by lopsided margins, often unanimously. Bills are moving forward in Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere.
Because of the focus on labeling campaigns, no felt need for harassment against other groups and activities may have become important among the priorities of Monsanto and its allies. Monsanto announced in the spring of 2013 the termination of work to influence Europe in favor of transgenic crops, and they may have done that not just because they were failing to make headway there; they may have decided to concentrate resources on the battles over food labeling in the United States. Without success with that, they are not likely to have continued success with anything. If an informed public turns against their products and the meat fed their corn and soy, farmers will need to grow something else. With that, they may be required to relearn farming methods they have now forgotten.
About a year prior to the Monsanto decision to give up on their lobbying efforts in Europe, a decision was made by BASF regarding their transgenic agriculture business in Europe. They, too, decided to refocus their transgenic efforts on the United States. The U.S. climate was considered friendlier to their technology than the political climate in Europe. Efforts to penetrate into emerging nations have also been advanced because the laws there are weaker and political leaders may be easier to influence than they have been in some places, excluding the United States where Monsanto has repeatedly been like a hot knife through butter in cutting through the political process and winning support from elected and appointed officials.
Finally, and most important, in using my middle name, I want to honor my Wright ancestors who farmed with the kind of simple and honest Quaker integrity we need to protect and preserve. If we still had it, we would be better off with greatly lower healthcare costs and a better protected environment. These ancestors deserve to be named:
• James and Mary Bowater Wright, my fifth great grandparents who farmed in Chester County, Pennsylvania before they moved with their family to what is now Frederick County, Virginia in about 1730; they settled on Apple Pie Ridge north of Winchester;
• Thomas and Esther Hiatt Wright, my fourth great grandparents in Frederick County, Virginia;
• Jonathan and Hannah Ridgeway Wright, my third great grandparents in Frederick County, Virginia;
• Richard and Rachel Smith Wright, my second great grandparents, born in Frederick County, Virginia but migrating to Greene County, Ohio in 1819 because of the difficulty they had by then competing against slave-based agriculture and because they wanted to get away from the slave culture in the southern states; they did not own slaves in Virginia and were known as abolitionists. In Ohio, they served as conductors on the Underground Railroad helping to move slaves out of the South and northward toward Canada. They may have moved, in part, to advance that work.
• David and Mary Charlotte Jefferson Wright, my first great grandparents. Even though David was born into a pacifist Quaker family opposing war, he joined the Tenth Ohio Artillery during the Civil War and died in a Memphis Hospital after contracting disease at the siege of Vicksburg. He was not yet 30 years old and never had a chance to see my grandmother before he died.
Also, part of the extended farming family in Greene County, Ohio were Mary Charlotte Jefferson Wright’s parents, Thomas and Mary Randall Jefferson, and also her siblings. Three of the children of Richard and Rachel Smith Wright married children of Thomas and Mary Randall Jefferson, and the combined families lived and farmed together near the northern edge of the county next to Clark County and near the small community of Selma, Ohio. Richard Wright was the founding Clerk of the Greenplain Friends (Quaker) Meeting in that community. Don Patterson