Editorial, Multinational Monitor magazine, October
Corporate interests and their proxies are looking to exploit
the September 11 tragedy to advance a self-serving agenda that
has nothing to do with U.S. national security and everything to
do with corporate profits and dangerous ideologies.
Fast track and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. A corporate
tax cut. Oil drilling in Alaska. Star Wars. These are some of
the preposterous "solutions" and responses to the terror
attack offered by corporate mouthpieces.
No one has been more shameless in linking their agenda to
the terror attack than U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.
Writing in the Washington Post last month, Zoellick proclaimed
that granting fast-track trade negotiating authority to the president-to
assist with the ramming through Congress of a Free Trade Area
of the Americas, designed to expand NAFTA to all of the Americas,
among other nefarious ends-was the best way to respond to the
September 11 tragedy.
"Earlier enemies learned that America is the arsenal
of democracy," Zoellick wrote, "Today's enemies will
learn that America is the economic engine for freedom, opportunity
and development. To that end, U.S. leadership in promoting the
international economic and trading system is vital. Trade is about
more than economic efficiency. It promotes the values at the heart
of this protracted struggle."
No explanation from Zoellick about how adopting a procedural
rule designed to limit Congressional debate on controversial trade
agreements advances the democratic and rule-of-law values he says
the United States must project.
Getting fast track passed isn't big business's only priority
for the shrinking legislative calendar. The Fortune 500 has been
whimpering since George Bush was elected president and top administration
officials told the business community to silence their demand
for corporate tax cuts until after passage of the inequality-increasing
personal income tax cut.
Even before the September 11 attack, business interests and
the anti-tax ideologues were increasingly making noise that corporate
tax cuts were the solution to the coming recession.
Now they are beginning to argue that capital gains tax cuts
and corporate tax breaks are America's patriotic duty.
In releasing a study purporting to explain how a capital gains
cut would spur economic growth, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU)
touted a capital gains tax cut-a tax break that exclusively benefits
the wealthy-as an anti-terrorism initiative. "By reducing
the rate at which capital gains are taxed, President Bush and
Congress could help revitalize the sagging economy and bring new
revenues to Washington -decidedly aiding our war against terrorism,"
said NTU director of congressional relations Eric Schlecht.
As the economic situation worsened after September 11 and
Congressional consensus emerged around the idea of an economic
stimulus plan, corporate lobbyists began pushing favored tax breaks
as their patriotic proposals. In what one lobbyist told Congress
Daily was a 'total, out-of-control feeding frenzy," corporate
interests lined up to demand a repeal of the alternative minimum
tax, federal subsidies for state sales-tax holidays, hyper-accelerated
depreciation schedules and a host of other handouts.
Not wishing to be outdone, Senator Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska,
didn't wait long to explain how the terror attacks make it imperative
to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). "There
is no doubt that at this time of national emergency, an expedited
energy-security bill must be considered," the Alaska senator
announced shortly after the September 11 attack. "Opening
ANWR will be a central element in finally reducing this country's
dangerous overdependence on unstable foreign sources of energy,"
Neither Murkowski nor the oil companies pushing for opening
ANWR have ever been able to offer a coherent explanation of how
using up U.S. oil reserves heightens energy security. Security
rests in maintaining the reserves. Real energy security and independence
can only come from renewables (particularly solar and wind)-where
the supply is plentiful and infinitely renewing. Only a failure
of public and private investment leaves the country (and the world)
unable to harvest renewable energy efficiently.
And, of course, the purveyors of Star Wars couldn't let the
opportunity pass them by. The Center for Security Policy-the center
of a web of defense industry-backed think tanks and organizations
pushing for a National Missile Defense program-urged President
Bush in advance of his address to Congress to announce that "this
Administration will use every tool at its disposal to ensure that
the resources and latitude needed to develop and deploy missile
defenses are made available."
A missile defense system-even if it overcame the technical
obstacles which have so far proved insurmountable, after billions
spent-would have done nothing to stop the September 11 attack.
Nor would it do anything to stop any other conceivable terrorist
attack on the United States, none of which involve might missile
Opportunism and cynical manipulation of tragedy are nothing
new in Washington. But the proposals to exploit the September
11 tragedy for narrow corporate aims mark a new low.
The United States is emerging from a national mourning period.
Now is the time to proceed with caution and care, as the nation
seeks to address legitimate security concerns (e.g., airport security)
and tend to victims of the attack. It is no time to rush through
proposals on matters essentially unrelated to the attack, especially
damaging and foolhardy proposals that have been unable to win
popular or Congressional support when the public has had a chance
to consider them dispassionately, and on the merits.