Thursday, September 17, 2015

Republican Debate: A distraction from what really matters.

People at GM could have prevented this but put profits over people. Source
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I had to retreat from the Republican debate last night after a mere 45 minutes or so. I just couldn’t stand it anymore, watching a bunch of rich business people, real estate speculators and other millionaire representatives of the capitalist class squabble about who is best qualified to rid the country of immigrants, protect us from the Iranian hordes chomping at the bit in anticipation of nuking us and destroying our precious way of life and generally waging war against the forces of evil. It was like a Klingon convention.

If there wasn’t any reference to the crimes “illegals” commit I would be surprised as this is another thing “real” Americans must concern ourselves with and it is why we must build that wall to keep them out. Here in the bay area a Latino immigrant has murdered a woman, tragic indeed as it could have been prevented, but it’s gotten plenty of mass media coverage, more fuel for the xenophobes.

Cruz and Rubio supporters don’t fret, they’re not Mexicans OK. Cruz is an immigrant but from the north and he’s Spanish and Irish/Italian, from a solid oil drilling family. Rubio is also of Spanish descent and from a landowning family. Both have Cuban ties.

I can bet there’s one sort of criminal behavior that wasn’t on the agenda last night and that’s corporate crime and the winding down of the GM ignition switch issue.  Perhaps people have been following this case although it has not yet been able to dislodge Trump’s immigrant bashing from the top billing.  More than 100 people were murdered and more than 200 injured due to a conscious decision by individuals at General Motors to ignore a defect in the switch that led to these deaths. 

After many hours of talks the legal arm of the capitalist state is charging GM, one of its major manufacturing outfits, with “Wire Fraud” and these two capitalist institutions have almost sealed the deal. A company or corporation in our society is classed as a person endowed with the same legal rights as a person which is why we read in the news that “BP” said this about the Gulf spill or “Apple” said that about the discrimination suit. It’s in order to protect the humans whose decisions resulted in catastrophic loss of life or environmental damage or any other misfortune.

Along with the criminal wire fraud charge, GM is expected to fork over $900 million for its transgressions. The deal is what is called a “deferred-prosecution agreement” where the state will dismiss the case as long as the company abides by the deal’s terms according to the Wall Street Journal. 

What occurred here is that people at GM were aware that there was a defect in the ignition switch that led to these deaths but covered it up. The 1%’s media describes this sort of thing as making “misleading statements” or “concealing information” much nicer than “lying” or “covering up”. These deaths could have been avoided but the people responsible refused to initiate a recall for more than a decade. They did this “…despite signs of a deadly problem.”, the Journal reports.  Perhaps part of the reluctance was the huge profits, some $25 billion, GM has made since the company went through bankruptcy proceedings in 2009 after the Great Recession.

No individual has been prosecuted even though the US Justice Dept. issued a memo last week stressing policies that were written in 2014 calling for investigations of this sort to prioritize the prosecuting of individuals at these corporations before a financial settlement is agreed upon.  The prosecutors have not been successful in this case as there are  “roadblocks” the Wall Street Journal adds.  What sort of roadblock could that be the reader asks?  Well, magically, by accident, by an act of god or gods perhaps, there are “….limitations with federal law that calls for civil fines but forecloses criminal penalties when an auto maker fails to alert regulators to a safety defect in a timely manner…”.

Interesting, but this is not magic.  Lobbyists spend a lot of money bribing legislators to write laws in this way. It’s called freedom, or free market capitalism.

GM, in actuality, the auto bosses, were bailed out to the tune of $50 billion when public money dragged the capitalist system from the edge of the abyss after the Great Recession hit.  The industry was nationalized but not under the democratic ownership, control and management of the working class but of the capitalist state. Their media described it as “conservatorship” to avoid using the dreaded N word. Marx was not wrong when he described the state apparatus in the capitalist mode of production as the executive board of the bourgeois class as a whole.

There was an attempt to include further charges of bankruptcy fraud, that GM lied to “concealed from” the bankruptcy court in 2009 that there was a safety defect at all. But that didn’t fly; the prosecutors couldn’t prove it. It doesn’t matter really------- this is all a sham. We must all recall how GM and other auto related manufacturers shut down the highly efficient and environmentally friendly electric tram system.  It got away with that though it was fined $5,000 and its then treasurer H.C. Grossman, was fined $1. The automobile is not the most efficient form of mass transit but it has made many investors very wealthy.

A number of lawyers and engineers have been fired due to these deaths and injuries but no one has been named the culprit and no one ended up in jail. As for regulators, let’s not forget the energy industry and the regulations for deep water drilling prior to the deaths of 11 workers and the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The government regulators in this instance, the Minerals Management Service, an agency of the Interior Department, was supposed to regulate deep water drilling but left the regulation up to the industry itself.  

The 100 deaths from this GM episode are just the tip of the iceberg. There are literally hundreds of thousands of US deaths each year from a lack of health care, housing, poverty and just the stress of living in a system which glorifies individualism and self promotion. As James Conolly, the Irish socialist executed by the British, pointed out, It is an economic system that promotes an ideology of the strong devouring the weak. “ Its theory of the world of men and women”, he wrote, “…. is that of a glorified pig-trough where the biggest swine gets the most swill."

There were a lot of pigs looking to get their snouts in the trough last night.

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