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Nader writes: "For the past 30 years, the business lobbies have pushed Congress and the executive branch to disassemble the regulatory system that has protected us from the worst excesses of Wall Street and Big Business."

Ralph Nader being interviewed during his 2008 presidential campaign, 08/01/08. (photo: Scrape TV)
Ralph Nader being interviewed during his 2008 presidential campaign, 08/01/08. (photo: Scrape TV)

The Cruelty of Big Business

By Ralph Nader, Reader Supported News

07 April 13


t's time to start paying close attention to the mechanisms of the deregulation machine. For the past 30 years, the business lobbies have pushed Congress and the executive branch to disassemble the regulatory system that has protected us from the worst excesses of Wall Street and Big Business. The catastrophic effects of this dismantling are well known -- the misbehavior of Wall Street brought us the financial collapse, the global recession, and the dominance of the largest banks being both "Too Big to Fail" and their culpable executives "Too Big to Jail".

Despite negative public sentiment and the rise of the Occupy movement, the avarice on Wall Street arrogantly continues on. The big banks are now even bigger and more powerful than they were in 2008 when they were bailed out by the U.S. taxpayers.

The effects of deregulation stretch to all walks of life. The profit-driven practices of big corporations have led to the deaths and preventable illnesses of thousands of Americans every year. Roughly 60,000 die from workplace related diseases and injuries, 200,000 from medical malpractice and hospital-induced infections, 70,000 from air pollution and 100,000 from side effects from dangerous pharmaceuticals.

Where are the regulators? Often, they are unable to assert their power over these wrongdoings due to small budgets or weakened authority. Others are simply unwilling to act thanks to the "revolving door" -- imagine regulators being recruited from the very industries they are meant to police and having plans to someday return to those industries.

For all the talk of "hope and change", little of note has happened under President Obama to properly regulate Big Business. See Lisa Heinzerling's review of Simpler: The Future of Government by former Obama administration "regulatory czar" Cass Sunstein for an enlightening look at how regulatory efforts are stagnant under the Obama Administration and a do-little Congress. Heinzerling writes: "If this is the future of government -- legally suspect, politically unaccountable, preternaturally secretive -- I'd like to think we can do better."

The saga of deregulation is well illustrated by the fight to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. Glass-Steagall was passed in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929 and was designed to stop commercial banks from engaging in risky investment banking. The banks attempted to undermine it for decades, finding new ways to subvert the law, such as using bank holding companies to conduct their investing. After several legislative attempts in the 1980's and 90's, the defense against the pro-business onslaught collapsed in 1999 when Glass-Steagall was finally repealed.

The repeal was heavily promoted by Bill Clinton and his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin--formerly of Goldman Sachs -- who played a key role in the approval of legislation before joining Citigroup to make millions of dollars in a few months. His successor as Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, hailing from Harvard and Wall Street, joined him as a member of the "oops oligarchy" whose decision to back a repeal of Glass-Steagall would place the United States on the road to unfettered casino capitalism.

When Congress ultimately passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, it once again granted big banks the freedom to gamble with other peoples' money for fast profits from speculation in securities and derivatives. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, who was instrumental in the legislation, said of the occasion: "Glass-Steagall, in the midst of the Great Depression, thought government was the answer. In this period of economic growth and prosperity, we believe freedom is the answer." Gramm cashed in and joined the financial industry in 2002 and still has not recanted.

Legislative victories of the 1960s and '70s led to safer automobiles, cleaner air and water, safer workplaces and safer consumer products. It was a renaissance of progressive ideals that resulted in citizen power over corporate misconduct. But big corporations rallied in the following decades and have built a deepening corporate government -- a corporate state -- in Washington D.C.

Take Monsanto -- the seed production conglomerate has successfully fought off attempts by the federal government to require the labeling of genetically modified foods (GMO's) despite overwhelming consumer sentiment. Just last week, Monsanto gained another significant outrage with an un-noticed rider to a large appropriations bill that passed Congress, which allows agribusiness concerns to avoid court intervention by the people and continue to grow GMO crops that may be harmful. The rider was attached by Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.)

The dominance of the business lobby in pushing its agenda is augmented by heavily funded rightwing lobbying organizations and corporate think tanks that have long spread the ideological notion that government regulation is anti-business, anti-capitalism and even, in the words of Senator Gramm, anti-freedom. With the resources to promote their academics, lobbyists and pundits in the mainstream media, a powerful and subversive narrative has been created by the giant corporations.

Now law professor Thomas O. McGarity -- who works with the Center for Progressive Reform -- has just released a powerful new book on this subject titled: Freedom to Harm: The Lasting Legacy of the Laissez Faire Revival. The book explores, in meticulously researched detail, how big business regained its profitable supremacy over the public interest, health and safety and destroyed or undermined many hard-won protections of the twentieth century.

Regulation is a modest and necessary instrument of law and order. After decades of constant rejection of regulatory standards, Wall Street and Big Business have positioned themselves above the rule of law. What is needed now, more than ever, is a new wave of comprehensive regulation and enforcement that responds to the biggest problems of the day.

We must address the reckless behavior of Wall Street and the excesses of big corporations by placing more cops on the corporate beat and giving them the resources necessary to do their jobs. The alternative is allowing the gamblers on Wall Street and the grossly overpaid CEO's of multinational corporations to continue to take, shred or stall the remaining regulatory system and run our country into the ground.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+35 # brux 2013-04-07 18:27
There is no way American corporations are going to be brought under control. The government by the people has been pulled out from under out feet leaving Americans looking like the biggest, dumbest most gullible dupes that ever lived.

Monsanto is shoving their products down our throats without our having anything say about it - even if we all agree. How is that democratic? How is that Republican - i.e. representative of the people's will.
+4 # maddave 2013-04-08 10:49
Capitalism is complex pump that powers our economic cycle. It consists of: an idea, capital (money); management; labor/ consumers. Capitalism cannot exist without al of these components: if one perishes, all perish.

Seeking a profit, investors finance the production of new products. Labor is paid to produce this product and in turn, spend their wages on those same (and other) products, thus returning a major part of Joe's wages on a tortuous, productive trek back to capital & management levels. With competent management this cycle grows stronger & stronger.
Accumulating profits are distributed in several ways:
Invested in new factories and new hires;
Shared on all levels as enhanced compensation;
Returned to consumers as lower priced goods;
Retained in corporate coffers;
Converted to outsized executive benefits;
Invested in seeking lower labor costs overseas; or
Pissed away on ego-enhancing toys and other garish edi-feces.

The first three options strengthen the economy; the the third is neutral; and the last few sap economic strength & growth by stifling the "magic-multiply ing" effect that money exerts as it passes hand-to-hand back up through the overall economic system . . . so the economy shrinks.

Today, greed rules American Management which looks upon labor-cum-consu mers as easily & cheaply replaced consumables.

Let 'em eat cake, eh?
0 # dkonstruction 2013-04-10 14:15
maddave, I agree with much of what you wrote but I disagree with characterizing "capital (money)" as an idea. Neither is capital/money a "thing." One of Marx's great incites was in understanding capital as a social relation (and money to for that matter but like everything in capitalism its true nature i.e., it being a representation of a social relation between the workers and the owners of the means of production is hidden and thus mystified).

Marx also describes capital as being more akin to a living being (which he also describes as being "monstrous" and "vampire-like". ..and these are far from just flights of literary fancy for him...he means this quite literally) and one who's only purpose is to grow and it will destroy anything in its way to do so.
+29 # WillD 2013-04-07 19:27
Really excellent article.
This is the heart of the matter.
+24 # phrixus 2013-04-07 20:18
"For all the talk of "hope and change", little of note has happened under President Obama to properly regulate Big Business."

Ain't that the damn truth...
+19 # Erdajean 2013-04-08 06:40
Excuse me for saying -- see, it's unpopular to complain -- that Obama seems to sleep pretty cozy in the cage with the beast he promised to tame.
Not only do our "peace-loving" neighbors get upset when a victim speaks out -- the idea still abounds that the Rich got Rich because God loved them best, our Congress is there to Protect us, and Big Business knows way more than we do about right and wrong.
And in case we hadn't noticed, in America the Customer is Always WRONG!
We may think WE'VE got it bad, but the horror comes when our children fully inherit this Whirlwind.
Unless, of course, we who Complain get active enough to thwart this avalanche toward total Fascism.
+9 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-04-08 08:55
Get active in backing an effort for regime change in this nation. We must change this rotten government. We need to share ideas on how we can do this. Time is running out. The police state is being set up with drones and tanks to 'keep order'. That means to keep you down.
+15 # The Voice of Reason 2013-04-07 22:06
They've been doing this for 30 years and NOW it's time ?? I think 30 years ago was the time. Now it's too late, just wait and see how much of our money they let us keep. The Oil Criminals and the crooked politicians they own have long ago sold us out. But we have the Best System in the World! Go Americans.

You guys will buy anything as long as it's full of blather. 'A man will believe anything you tell him, so long as there is not a measure of truth to it.'
+8 # kevns007 2013-04-08 00:46
so the banks and big business are out to harm us no doubt, and the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security coordinate with local police departments to quash any civil disobedience. and we have these amazingly corrupt politicians like blount and basically all Republican politicians Plus Harry Reid who should be exposed also for selling out to big business and the NRA. he's worse than any Republicans because everybody thinks he's on the side of the common man and he's not. prdrobably the biggest whore of them all. Anyways with all this against us what are we going to do? rather, what can we do?
+10 # obx1212 2013-04-08 01:51
OK, Ralph. How? "Unfair At Any Level"? Where is this generation's "Ralph Nader" when much more than a Corvair is unsafe? We're not just dealing with General Motors anymore. Maybe a cabal of independent voices should consider becoming a coordinated "party"? How about: Nader, Sanders, Jill Stein, Michael Moore, Soros, Chomsky, Rachel Madoff, etc. Individually you all sound great but are as much less effective that you would be in concert. Put aside the individual egos?
+13 # grouchy 2013-04-08 02:22
Simple basic formula: It's businesses role to make profits, it's government's role to regulate that process. IT'S A BALANCING ACT! What we have had in recent years is NO BALANCE! Thus us citizens have taken it in the ear!
+13 # lark3650 2013-04-08 06:46
Common sense and a sense of humanity have been replaced by dollars and cents.
+10 # Salus Populi 2013-04-08 07:52
Should we ever elect a demonstrably accountable government, the first thing the AG should do is to apply RICO. the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, to our corporate criminals.

Way back at the dawn of the Reagan administration, Forbes Magazine said that organized crime was simply big business taken to its logical extreme. In a similar fashion, big business is simply organized crime that has taken over the lawmaking and enforcing apparatus -- it is the dictatorship of a crueler and more brutal _capo_ regime.

If the most blatant and arrogant felons of sqWall Street were publicly hanged, and all the rest put in prison for life and their corporations nationalized with no compensation, we might begin to recover our republic, if not our democracy.
+3 # charsjcca 2013-04-08 08:08
Who said we were lost? Not I, said the cat. Actually, we know the difference. we just do not like the consequences. If we boycott Exxon-Mobil there would be no Exxon-Mobil. When the doors close we move to Chevron-Texaco and do the same. By that time we will have changed the culture and lifestyle of America and we would have a society driven by human responsibility. We would not face these phony debates about 'guns' and ammo.
+1 # brux 2013-04-08 22:51
I think that is a good idea ... or at least the start to finding ways to exert power, because without power we are just a joke to these people and their corporations. Corporations used to kill people indiscriminatel y in the streets for less, and now they've come back to do it again.
+2 # da gaf 2013-04-08 13:20
The true Enemies of the people... who will fight these monsters?..they get uglier ever day..or we all going to just sit down and watch them getting more and more destructive and powerful? and saying, "oh well..what can i do?"..the people have to unite together to get rid of these modern day dragons.

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