Who would have thought it? Proposed legislation to somewhat re-regulate corporations passing UNANIMOUSLY in the Senate? And yet that’s just what happened last week. Think political earthquake, or at least warning tremors.
Of course, expecting the Democratic-led Senate to get to the bottom of the corporate fraud and crime scandal is truly wishful thinking of the highest magnitude. After all, as reported in today’s New York Times, 41% of the soft money, $449 million, given by corporations during the ’90s was given to the Democratic Party. The “party of the common man” has thoroughly and voluntarily joined itself at the hip with big money.
It’s time for the progressive third party movement, and all those who consider themselves genuine progressives, to come forward with a clear program to address this crisis. Such a program must be coupled with renewed energy and activism so that on election day, November 5, a message is sent loud and clear that a popular revolt is underway against the choices of evil, whether worser or lesser, usually given to the voters by the two-party duopoly.
Below is my contribution to the process of developing such a program.
1) There must be vigorous criminal prosecution by state and federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission of criminal corporate executives like Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skillings of Enron. SEC Chair Harvey Pitt should be replaced with someone who will be serious about corporate oversight. People like Delay and Skillings must be put away in prison for years. They must be made an example to their corporate colleagues.
2) We call for the enactment of state and federal legislation to establish “clean money,” voluntary public financing of elections, as is currently practiced in Maine, Arizona, Vermont and Massachusetts. We must end the domination of government by corporate interests through large campaign contributions and other legal bribes.
3) State laws which charter corporations must be reformed so that corporations which betray the public trust can have their right to operate in a state revoked. Corporations are not persons, they are not entitled to Constitutional rights, and they should be subservient to the people’s needs and will.
4) Stronger whistleblower protections and inducements must be enacted to reward those from within corporations who come forward to provide evidence of illegal activity. Whistleblowers are heroes; we should treat them as such.
5) The SEC needs to be given the responsibility to assign licensed, non-indicted auditing firms to conduct comprehensive and accurate audits of major corporations. No company should be able to select its own favorite auditor.
6) The SEC and Justice Department budgets for prosecution of corporate crime should be significantly increased. Funding for these budgets should come in part from penalties imposed upon convicted corporate executives.
7) There should be a public exposure of the identities and individual assets of the ten largest corporate shareholders and the ten highest paid corporate executives whenever a corporation cannot pay its lawful debts due to bankruptcy. Laws must be reformed so that these assets can be used to pay the debts. All corporate tax returns must be made public, and the tax returns of the ten most highly compensated individuals at any publicly traded company must be made public.
8) Corporations must include on their governing boards democratically-elected representatives of their workforce and consumer representatives. Without some chickens to watch the foxes, there will be even more carnage in the henhouse.
9) The federal government must enact labor law reform, including repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, to strengthen the power of workers. Unaccountable CEO and corporate management power is at the root of the corporate crime wave. Unions at the corporate workplace are one way to balance this power.
Progressives must sieze the time! Most of us have been saying for decades, since at least the Ronald Reagan era, that corporate welfare, ideologically-driven privatization, huge tax cuts for the wealthy and widespread deregulation of business are fundamentally wrong. Their deeper roots lie in the absurd belief that ‘pure,’ unregulated greed, the pursuit of great power and wealth regardless of human or environmental consequences, will somehow benefit everyone. This belief has been exposed for the lie that it is.
Only a comprehensive and wide-ranging set of reforms can begin to reverse the tremendous damage caused by this legally-sanctioned lie. But these reforms will not happen unless the American people rise up and demand them. One way they can do so is to vote for Green Party and other independent candidates this fall. The November elections must become a referendum on two-party malfeasance in office.