U.S. Politics and the Economy

Lethal Business

How corporations get away with murder and get paid for it!

By Bonnie Weinstein

According to a Truthout article dated October 14, 2016 by Kyla Sankey titled, “Ecuador’s Legal Battle With Chevron Foreshadows Global Corporate Coup D’état,” reprinted in this issue of Socialist Viewpoint, Texaco (now Chevron) arrived in Ecuador in 1964 and, since that time, “…has devastated the land, water and natural resources on which the Indigenous tribes of these regions have depended for more than 8,000 years.”

But, instead of having to make reparations for the devastation their oil-grab brought to the land and its people, Chevron brought Ecuador to the permanent court of arbitration at The Hague in 2006 in order to protest a $9.5 billion judgment by Ecuador against Chevron for polluting its land and poisoning its people.

Believe it or not, not only did Chevron not have to pay the $9.5 billion judgment, the court ordered Ecuador to pay a $112 million fine to Chevron for “lying, meddling and corruption in the proceedings!”

So, not only did Chevron get away with murder, (according to the article Ecuadorian tribes suffered irreversible health problems and two of these tribes have, in fact, ceased to exist due to the deaths of all their members,) but they got paid to do it!

Turning victims into criminals and criminals into victims

This in only one example of how capitalists turn the criminal corporations into the victims and the victims—those injured or poisoned by these corporations—into the criminals.

In a September 13, 2016 article that appeared in the New York Times by Sabrina Tavernis titled, “Black Health Experts Renew Fight Against Menthol Cigarettes,”

“The effects are devastating: About 45,000 African-Americans die each year from smoking-related illnesses—the largest cause of preventable death, more than homicides, AIDS and car accidents. Black men have the highest lung cancer mortality rate of any demographic group.”

And according to another New York Times article dated September 12, 2016, by Anahad O’Connor titled, “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat,”

“The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

“The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published…in Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at UCSF and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper.”

And, according to the same article,

“Last year, an article in The New York Times revealed that Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, had provided millions of dollars in funding to researchers who sought to play down the link between sugary drinks and obesity.”

These are just two examples of products that cause irreparable harm and death to people young and old while reaping billions-of-dollars in profits yearly.

But what is most insidious about these last two examples is that the capitalist class has attempted, and succeeded in most cases, to tax the victims of these lethal products.

We have seen in the elections this year in California, ballot measures that add extra taxes onto cigarettes and soda forcing those addicted to cigarettes and anyone who drinks a soda—including children—to pay an extra tax for their poison!

There have been relentless adds on TV of doctors and nurses pleading to pass these tax measures to “save children from diabetes and obesity,” and to “prevent children from starting to smoke.”

These ads imply that smokers and consumers of sugary drinks are responsible for causing healthcare costs to go up. The ads demand that smokers and soda drinkers “pay their fair share of these costs” through extra taxes on these products they are addicted to even though, sick or not, they still pay taxes just like everyone else (except for the multi-billion-dollar corporations, that is.)

Never is there a word about making these corporations pay a dime, let alone, demand they stop production of these products altogether!

Making the victims pay while paying the criminals

Making workers pay for health and environmental destruction caused by irresponsible industries is capitalism’s modus operandi.

It’s happening right now in Flint, Michigan, where workers are paying astronomical fees for poisoned water to be delivered to their homes—water that was contaminated by industry.

Meanwhile, the commanders of these industries have just pulled up stakes, leaving their filth behind, and left for cheaper labor costs across the globe, leaving the workers here in the dust, decay and poison of their abandoned and contaminated factories.

Workers are paying in every way, with their health, with the lack of union jobs, decrepit schools, lack of housing, deteriorating infrastructure, and higher taxes on everything—all to foot the bill for the “cost of doing business,” while deadly businesses and their CEOs worth billions get windfall tax breaks!

A workers party

If we had a mass, democratically organized and independent party of the working class we could put forward the kinds of demands that put the blame for human misery where it belongs—on capitalism—with the goal of making the capitalists pay for the damage they have caused!

To begin with, we could demand:

  • No taxes on any individuals or businesses earning less than $250,000-per-year; and a sliding scale of taxes from 50-100 percent on all individuals and businesses earning over $250,000-per-year.
  • Confiscating the profits of corporations and their CEOs that manufacture products that cause harm to people or the planet; and put that money towards free healthcare for all, and the cost of cleaning up the environment they contaminated.
  • Shutting down the manufacturing of all products known to be poisonous to people or the planet (including the war industry,) nationalize these industries, and transform them into industries that will produce products that promote the wellbeing of people and the planet.

These are reasonable and achievable demands if we stand together and fight for them.

Ultimately, workers the world over must democratically take the control of production into our own hands, finally overthrow capitalism, establish socialism, and begin anew to safely and rationally produce products and services on the basis of need, want and safety, instead of private profit.

Getting rid of capitalism is the only way to solve these problems and to truly bring equality, freedom and justice to all.