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Walgreens and the exporting of the American Dream

July 17, 2014 1 comment

Walgreen’s is contemplating moving its headquarters overseas to avoid paying federal taxes. Unfortunately, this has become more and more common. For an American corporation, born in the United States, to pack up and leave simply to avoid paying taxes is traitorous.

These corporations have been built on the backs of American workers. They enjoy the benefits afforded by the American system of government and monetary policy. The Coast Guard and Navy provide transportation channels free of piracy to ship their products to and from overseas. They take advantage of a domestic system of paved roads and bridges to ship their products to market. An energy grid built with government subsidies provides them with continuous, reliable power for their stores and warehouses. A national intelligence and law enforcement network keeps them and their businesses safe. An Internet built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) using public money allows them to open their doors to the entire nation. They rely on a national weather service to warn them of potential disasters that could harm their assets and employees, and; should they need it, they take advantage of government subsidized flood and natural disaster insurance. They hire employees educated in public schools to perform the labor necessary to generate profits. Walgreen’s, in particular, profits from the massive government subsidies given to pharmaceutical companies for research, and billions in Medicare funding and healthcare plans for public employees and retirees. They’re protected by the largest, strongest military every built in the history of humanity to secure lines of communication and logistics and access to natural resources. The taxpayer underwrites almost all of the food products they sell – especially if they are sweetened with corn syrup. And most importantly, they enjoy the benefits of a stable currency provided by all of the above and more. Without all of these things, they would have nothing. Every morning, they would have to chase off thugs and thieves from their front doors just to open for business. But they don’t want to pay for any of that.

They want the privilege of profits without the responsibilities of citizenship.

Hobby Lobby Update #2: the hits just keep on comin’

Categories: Uncategorized

Hobby Lobby update

July 5, 2014 8 comments

Well, this was faster than I thought.  I wrote yesterday that the line at the Supreme Court’s door would wrap around the block.  It’s already forming.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/07/04/the-supreme-court-opens-the-floodgates/?tid=recommended_strip_1

Hobby Lobby: Corporate Personhood with a Prophet as CEO

July 5, 2014 3 comments

For-Profit Corporations that believe in god.

Humans are the only organisms capable of pure imagination – pure invention – the ability to create a separate reality from whole cloth and then act upon it. Elephants do not pray and whales do not dream of an afterlife. Only humans do this. Only humans create religious beliefs. Until now. The Hobby Lobby decision bestows upon corporations the human characteristic of supernatural belief.

By claiming that certain elements of the ACA’s contraception coverage mandate violated their company’s deeply held religious beliefs, Hobby Lobby convinced the US Supreme Court that corporations are capable of having religious beliefs. Their argument was that in regard to these religious beliefs, there is no difference between The Corporation and The Human Owners. And the acceptance of this argument by the Supreme Court represents an astounding shift in legal thinking. Corporations, effectively, now have more rights and privileges than do actual flesh-and-blood human beings because unlike corporations, humans cannot insulate themselves from liability for their actions, which is the essential reason for the existence of the legal status of incorporation.

By incorporating, a person or group of persons insulate themselves from personal liability regarding claims that may arise as a result of their business enterprises. The corporation may be sued, but the founders and stockholders are not held personally liable. The corporation is a wholly synthetic construct, like a marionette, providing a legal separation between it and its human operators. This is rather insidious when you think about it. It is the illusion of the ventriloquist made real. “I’m sorry your husband died in one of our cars, Mrs. Henderson, but it’s not my fault. The dummy did it.”

Yet this is the essential privilege of incorporation: personal immunity from litigation. Corporations are not encumbered by the vicissitudes of ordinary existence: they do not have a limited lifespan, they cannot go to prison for their actions, and they never get called for jury duty. And therein lies the danger of the concept of corporate personhood. It allows corporations to have it both ways. They get to hide behind their artificial facade of existence when they want to shield their human operators from recrimination but don the garb of humanity when it will advance their interests. No other organism on earth, natural or synthetic, gets to do this.

David Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby successfully convinced the court that there is no difference between himself and his company – that they are both one and the same. The court granted him this concession. But rest assured, should the day come when a shelving unit falls over on a customer and kills them, he will not stand behind this claim. He will say, “I’m sorry about your husband, Mrs. Henderson, but you can’t blame me. The dummy did it.”

 

Religious Offence as Legal Standing.

The ridiculousness of the Hobby Lobby decision is breathtaking. In one ruling, the Supreme Court extended the already ludicrous concept of corporate personhood by granting it the human capacity of religious belief and, at the same time, elevated the intellectually bankrupt notion of religious offence to the level of legal standing.

The concept of legal standing is the requirement that you have skin in the game. A litigant must show that a ruling by the court will either create an injury or redress an existing one. This is a tangible and demonstrative requirement. Lack of legal standing is precisely why the proponents of California’s Proposition 8 lost their case in the Supreme Court. They could not show legal standing. But they did not dare make the argument of religious offence even though, clearly, that was their primary complaint – that gay marriage violated their personal religious beliefs. Perhaps, in hindsight, they’re wishing they had. Hobby Lobby’s argument was religious offence and, it worked.

Proving legal standing, as with all arguments made in a secular court of law, demands exhaustively researched case law, statistics, hard-won data – in short, demonstrative evidence. But this is not the case with religious offence. With religious offence, no evidence is required. One only need to claim belief and it is accepted with the same weight and gravitas as any other empirical data ordinarily demanded by a court of law. Anyone else attempting to present a case before the US Supreme Court would be required to dump mountains of painstakingly acquired research on the bench. But with religious offence, one only need stand and claim belief. The argument from religious offence is nothing more than a semantically elaborate version of “I don’t like it.”

Let’s be clear: religious offence is precisely the same logic used by Muslims to justify going bat shit crazy over a cartoon.

Hobby Lobby’s owners didn’t have to prove that the legal, vetted, tested, FDA approved, and widely used contraception methods that they objected to were an affront to humanity. They only needed to stand before the Supreme Court and, state for the record that, they think they are. By stating that he “considers” these particular forms of contraceptives to be abortion, and that he “considers abortion to be murder,” David Green is playing prophet. Only by claiming to speak for god can anyone stand in open court and make such baseless claims and still be taken seriously. This is the poverty of the argument from religious offence. In no other arena of human discourse or endeavor are the standards of evidence so blatantly ignored. Religious offence becomes, then, the perfect defense – no evidence, logic, research, or comparative analysis is required. The statements made by the believer are accepted without question and, more importantly, assigned the same value of evidence demanded of others.

Religious beliefs are man made and exist outside objective reality. Religions that reject broad sectors of modern medicine (Scientology: Psychotherapy) or medical practice entirely (Christian Scientist) already abound. This decision sets a dangerous precedent. Anyone can now claim standing for whatever unsubstantiated fantasy they can cook up provided they can successfully couch them in the guise of religious belief. So, next up: the anti-vaccine crowd.

 

Corporations and the ownership society.

David Green’s argument was that he shouldn’t have to pay for medical processes he believed were sinful (and yes, sinful is exactly the right word). But is that really true? Corporations have a host of people who come to work everyday and labor in order to generate revenue for the company, which includes the workers themselves. Workers work for themselves. David Green’s workers don’t labor everyday to ensure that he is able to buy a new Mercedes Benz. They do it to pay their rent. The revenue they generate on a daily basis goes into a general fund from which all company overhead is paid. This overhead includes the pay and benefits that the workers receive. Workers work to generate their own pay and benefits. None of that money belongs to any particular person until it’s portioned out, including Green himself, who presumably receives a salary. Until then, it belongs to the collective for the benefit of the collective: the workers who earned it, the individual stores for the light bill, the company for future growth and finally, Green himself. This is his reward for founding the company. The ACA never called for Green to come out of his own, personal pocket to pay for worker benefits. It only called for his company to set aside a certain portion of the gross revenues the workers generate on a daily basis for the security of their future employment. Green’s contention that his pocket was being picked is specious and a modern leftover from the Antebellum South.

In the days of slavery, slave owners claimed that the fruits of the worker’s labor were theirs from the moment of creation and forever. When workers themselves were considered property, this argument might have made sense, but no longer. After slavery, this attitude persisted throughout the gilded age and the rise of the robber barons and it was precisely this attitude and its accompanying behavior on the part of the ownership class that resulted in the establishment of worker’s unions. Today, worker’s unions are on the decline and this idea that whatever the worker creates is automatically and instantaneously the property of the owner still persists.

This proprietary attitude that workers are beholden to the company for their every breath ignores the reality that the owners would have nothing without them. Certainly, Green never consulted his workers on this issue because he never considered their contribution to the general fund from which these monies would be distributed for their benefit. He only thought of himself.

Thus, Green becomes a prophet to his employees. This is the hubris of religious mentality – a mentality that declares, “I know what is best and it’s my responsibility to protect you from yourself.” Green successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the dollars generated by his thousands of workers was his, and his alone, from the very moment it was collected from the customer and that only he knows best how to spend it. Forget about allowing each worker to decide, along with their doctor, which procedures are best for them according to their medical needs and, if they feel, their religious views. No, David Green has made that decision for them without regard to their input, even though they’re raising the money to pay for it.

Going into the future I foresee more and more corporations, each one larger than the previous, lining up at the door to the Supreme Court to demand their own exemptions. For-profit corporations have a well-documented history of looking for ways to socialize their overhead and weasel out of government mandates. Now they have a whole, new tactic.

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