When the U.S. government was first created, the founding fathers took great pains to distribute power across three branches of government to avoid the tyranny of concentrated power that most of them had crossed the ocean to get away from. The idea was to create a system of checks and balances, to keep certain human tendencies like greed, corruption, ideological extremism and abuse of power from getting out of hand. They also made sure to keep the church and state at a safe operating distance for more or less the same reasons.
Today, we may have drifted about as far away from those original intentions as we ever have in our history, though there may have been a couple of other times when we those stretched those principles nearly as far.
During such times, industry, in fact, became a fourth branch of government, and money become a new religion, one that was not at all separated from the state. This new fourth branch of government proceeded to throw its weight into tipping the balance, overcoming any attempt to check its influence, or to allow the rights or concerns of common working people to get in the way of the ambitions and aspiration of the privileged elite it represented.
Many corporations have shown that they will resist any attempts to limit their power by whatever means possible. It was Thomas Jefferson who famously said, “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
This past week, we seem to have taken another major step in breaking with precedent and apparently doing away with the very principle of checks and balances, in what some might describe as another step in the takeover of our government by business.First, we declare ten investment banks too big to fail, meaning that whatever reckless investments or imprudent risks they might make, we the people will pick up the tab for any catastrophic losses in the form of higher taxes or reduced services.
Now, we are declaring biotech chemical companies to be above the law. We are removing what little oversight had remained in the wake of their previous lobbying victories when it comes to regulating genetically modified crops. This final measure all but eliminates the ability of the government to restrict or regulate these organisms based on any environmental concerns.
Section 735 is a rider that was slipped into the interim funding bill at the last minute. The bill is needed to allow the government to keep operating.
It authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to “immediately grant temporary permit(s) or temporary deregulation in part, subject to necessary and appropriate conditions consistent with section 411(a) or 412(c) of the Plant Protection Act, which interim conditions shall authorize the movement, introduction, continued cultivation, commercialization and other specifically enumerated activities and requirements, including measures designed to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects, if any, relevant to the Secretary’s evaluation of the petition for non-regulated status, while ensuring that growers or other users are able to move, plant, cultivate, introduce into commerce and carry out other authorized activities in a timely manner.”
In other words, it bulldozes the protections previously offered to those concerned about environmental impact by allowing the companies to continue using the products, even if the “regulated status” of those products has been called into question.
This authority supersedes that of a federal court to issue an injunction, which means that essentially, nothing can be done to stop the spread of these genetically modified crops, provided that farmers continue to buy them. Unless, of course, consumers stop buying them, which is very difficult to do since these genetically modified food products are currently not labeled.
Critics are calling it the Monsanto Protection Act. The same rider had been attempted last year, but failed to pass. Now that it has passed both the House and Senate, all that remains is for the President to sign it.
At this time, no one knows who inserted the rider into the bill. No one has taken responsibility for it. It was inserted by someone in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
We do know that some 383 members of Congress have received a total of $7.5 million in campaign contributions from PACs representing these companies.
Here are the five top contributing companies and the amounts they have given.
|American Crystal Sugar||$1,306,500||$1,861,000||$175,000||$3,342,500|
|American Farm Bureau||$336,209||$601,312|
|National Cotton Council||$201,854||$347,378|
|Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative||$189,900||$238,500||$31,000||$459,400|
Below are the top ten recipients and the amounts they have received.
|Collin Peterson||$ 169,581.00|
|Martha Roby||$ 152,752.00|
|John Boehner||$ 137,000.00|
|Frank Lucas||$ 118,000.00|
|Debbie Stabenow||$ 90,500.00|
|Tom Latham||$ 82,000.00|
|K. Conaway||$ 77,947.00|
|Jim Costa||$ 74,500.00|
|Dave Camp||$ 73,000.00|
|Roy Blunt||$ 70,592.00|
It’s worth mentioning that Roy Blount is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. All together, some 24 members of the committee received $371,000 in contributions.
It seems likely that the President will sign the the bill with the rider. He will not risk sending it back, as he needs to keep the government from shutting down.
Not long ago, we worried about corporations being given the same rights as people, but now they have bought themselves rights that individuals could never dream of.
Anyone who thinks that this still is a democracy in anything but name only is kidding themselves. It’s certainly not what Jefferson and the founding fathers intended.
We need to take our Democracy back. This has to stop. We need to get the money out of politics. And we need to pass GMO labeling laws in every state.
[Image credit: Environmental Illness Network: Flickr Creative Commons]
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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