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The Merging of Government and Industry

Thursday, 26 May 2011 08:12 By Evaggelos Vallianatos, Truthout | Op-Ed
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The 20th century was the bloodiest and most violent in human history. This led some countries to fascism - a system characterized by the state and large business becoming almost indistinguishable. The first decade of the 21st century suffers from that anti-democratic legacy. 

The government of the United States, for example, is largely rented to corporations. Big business sends multiple thousands of lobbyists to Washington, DC, to buy favors and get their point of view across in Congress and the executive branch: The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the new war in Libya have been a boon to munitions manufacturers, "security" companies and private mercenary armies. They are part of a permanent war economy, making the US the world's sheriff.

This so-called "defense" has spawned America's largest businesses, besides being the mother of the military-industrial complex. One company, Lockheed Martin, gets more than $29 billion per year for making weapons for the Pentagon. Lockheed Martin also makes foreign policy for America.(1)

The financial meltdown of 2008 proved beyond reasonable doubt that the government is in the pockets of, in this case, banks "too large to fail." President Barack Obama, elected to redress the injustices of the George W. Bush administration, ditched his promises and ethics to bailout banking billionaires.

The BP poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 2010 was a consequence of BP making energy policy for the US government.

The federal government often sides with manufacturers of hazardous products. I know this from personal experience. I worked for 25 years for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has been manipulating science with the blowing of corporate wind and political interest.

The EPA nearly always is using science to cover up the hazardous and biocidal nature of American industry, including the poisoning of nature and humans by nuclear power plants, which are siblings of nuclear weapons.

This is happening not because we don't know the effects of nuclear power. We know too much, in fact. We know, for example, that uranium and plutonium, fueling both nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants, are toxic for almost an eternity. John Gofman and Arthur Tamplin, who made contributions on the effects of radioactivity on humans and the environment and worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Livermore, California, called nuclear power "poisoned power."(2) Leonidas Petrakis, a former senior scientist and department chairman at Brookhaven National Laboratory, did nuclear scattering experiments at the Berkeley accelerator and, otherwise, is an expert on energy. In a personal note, he equaled "nuclear" to "insanity." Helen Caldicott, a pediatrician and former professor of medicine at Harvard, called her 1978 book "Nuclear Madness." She repeated that charge in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on March 30, 2011. Petrakis says it would take 250,000 years for an area contaminated by plutonium-239 to be safe again. This is why he dismisses as irresponsible any talk by "experts" or "nuclear hawks" recommending "glass encapsulation of the nuclear waste," storing it in salt caves in Nevada or New Mexico for 1,000 or more years. These nuclear advocates, he says, "prefer to ignore the scores of isotopes involved in nuclear waste (including Pu-239) and talk only about iodine-131, which has a half life of 8 days, and for which conveniently there is 'a pill' (as a society we love those pill solutions!)"

The reason behind the barbarism of manufacturing nuclear bombs and using bomb technology to boil water for electricity is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its efforts to legitimize the monster of the nuclear weapons. In addition, the owners of nuclear power plants influence politicians and scientists to support their lethal product.

In the same corrupt way, the EPA has been licensing toxic and cancer-causing farm chemicals that, essentially, poison our food and drinking water while causing harm and death to wildlife. These chemicals came out of the cauldron of WWII. Many are neurotoxins and many hurt our immune system, damaging the female animal more than the male. Some of these toxins castrate the male animal, including man. They also change the sex of animals, stopping their reproduction. And many of these pesticides injure or kill wildlife at extremely low amounts, contributing to a massive extinction of species, which is unprecedented in history.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation organization in San Francisco, pesticides are a "significant threat" to both endangered species and biological diversity. On January 19, 2011, the Center sued the EPA for its failure to protect endangered species:  The wave of extinction decimating plants and animals, according to the Center, is the worst since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. Species become extinct at a rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate.

Pesticides are also pushing honeybees to the brink of extinction. Honeybees give us honey and pollinate one-third of our crops. And according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, pesticides kill on average 72 million birds every year.

The EPA's acts cause much destruction. Yet, in some measure, they fall within the context of the law. Indeed, the tragedy of a government department, EPA, "protecting public health and the environment" is that, in reality, a department with such an honorable and necessary mission is really protecting the profits of corporations, not public heath and the environment. Pesticides' vast impacts are nearly invisible because Americans have been brainwashed to consider pesticides as "normal" for farming as apple pie. The EPA does what Congress and the business of America has enshrined into law. For example, it legalizes America's unhealthy and hazardous food.

I call the food Americans eat "unhealthy and hazardous" because, unless it is certified organic, it is contaminated by legal and illegal poison residues. Just because the EPA approves so much poison in the food, that approval does nothing to lessen the toxic effects of the poison residues. According to EPA data from the 1970s, these residues change the nutrition of food and pose immediate or long-term health threats to those growing and consuming it. EPA researchers pointed out in the 1970s that farmers die from cancer at twice the rate of those living in the cities. That farmer death rate must be much higher now.

The EPA pushes these unethical policies because America's chemical and agribusiness corporations make huge profits from selling farmers and householders pesticides and fertilizers. For example, manufacturers of pesticides earn around $40 billion per year. In addition, the US Department of Agriculture and the country's 65 agricultural universities have made possible the near extinction of small family farmers for the sake of large farmers and giant agribusiness corporations. Such a massive crime leaves our academic mandarins undisturbed. I taught at one of those "land-grant universities," the University of Maryland, during 2003-2004. With the exception of a couple of my colleagues, the other "resource science" professors even refused to use words like "family farmer" or "sustainable agriculture." Agribusiness is their calling.

This undoing of rural America, and the inevitable ditching of public health and democracy did not happen overnight. Rather, after WWII, the Pentagon decided that, for national security purposes, the US had to side with the large farmers and business corporations large enough to support an empire. 

Just like other government departments, the EPA also serves this empire, embracing the agenda of corporate America.

The latest demand of agribusiness is the genetic engineering of the food of America and the world for the corporate control of food. The EPA bought this scheme, knowing that it would exacerbate the pesticide effects of American agriculture. But genetically engineered food is hazardous to rats and risky to humans.(3)  In addition, genetic engineering is sold as an elixir for human immortality, at least, that's the spin of the engineers fiddling with the very structure of life. Both the government and the wealthy fund such a nightmarish prospect. According to Spencer Stober and Donna Yarri, experts on biomedical sciences, genetic engineers don't dispel the fantasy of engineered humans living forever.(4)

In addition, the EPA approves the release of the toxic effluents of animal farms, machines and factories into the air and water of the country with the result of harming both public health and nature.

These machines and factories are also fueled by coal, petroleum and gas, the burning of which is causing global warming, a long-term calamity for the earth and her people. For the most part, it is industry that is the chief beneficiary of government policies and actions. We fail to call such merging of government and industry fascist, lest we feel shame for such a plunge in civilization and degeneracy in political organization.

This demands drastic rejection of current political ideologies fueling the running of government for millionaires and corporations. Business institutions that have become gigantic must be cut down to size, and their privileges, including fake treatment as if they were persons, withdrawn. We should choose honest people to represent us while we forbid any private money for their election. We have to demand our government return to the fundamental values of democracy and justice we inherited from the Greeks. Yes, democracy is difficult, but it is the only antidote to plutocracy and its subsidiary, fascism. Another Renaissance would do us good. In fact, it is necessary for our survival.

Footnotes:

1. William D. Hartung, "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex," (New York: Nation Books, 2011).
2. John W. Gofman and Arthur R. Tamplin, "Poisoned Power: The Case Against Nuclear Power Plants before and after Three Mile Island," (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1979).
3. Jeffrey M. Smith, "Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods," (Fairfield, Iowa: Yes! Books, 2007).
4. Spencer Stober and Donna Yarri, "God, Science and Designer Genes," (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2009).

Evaggelos Vallianatos

Evaggelos Vallianatos is the author of several books, including "Poison Spring," forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press.


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