May 29, 2012

US Corporates Control Lawmaking & Copycat Indian Model

US Corporates Control Lawmaking & Copycat Indian Model
In the evolutionary ladder of governance, societies have moved up from the tribal model when the warrior chief, sometimes the head priest too, was the ruler. Security of the tribe and wars was their major preoccupation.
As the human beings and societies evolved further, it had to be organized to create surplus and some sort of money and scribes to maintain accounts. This can be seen in the many Mesopotamian civilizations and Egyptian hieroglyphics.
During mediaeval periods of history, the military rulers encouraged the scribes or accountants and the money handling Baniya community, a role played by Jews in Europe and elsewhere. In India i.e. in Rajasthan and Gujarat for example , the trading community was invited by the rulers , since money for running the state came from taxes and levies in exchange for personal protection and security and also of the trade routes ( as by Mongol and Turkish rulers in Eurasia of Silk routes).
If we look at the Brahmanical system of division of labour in the society into four castes, the role of Brahman who ruled directly or indirectly through Kings and Rajputs and other warrior castes has remained constant .The rise of communism, which has now been set aside for the time being, in which the deprived, the have-nots, the peasantry and the workers expropriated the wealth of the rulers and ruling classes could in Hindu terminology be described as the rule of the Dalits.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, U.S.-led West and the Straussian philosophy and ideology of neo-liberal capitalism has taken over most of the space in the world. Its excesses however are leading to its decline and to its fall sooner or later.
At the end is an article, on how in US, financiers ,bankers and corporate interests control the lawmakers and in fact tell them if not dictate how and what laws to legislate which will suit them .The result is there to see in Occupy Wall Street in hundreds of places in USA .
In India too, the ruling classes have also been imitating a similar model with very unsatisfactory and perhaps very disastrous results. The over whelming role of corporate interests and their agents and lobbyists was partly uncovered by the Radiia tapes.
 Somebody should file a PIL that the Supreme Court must appoint amicus curiae to look at the tapes, take out strictly personal/private conversations but release the rest which will expose the truth of the unholy nexus between political class, corporate interests and bureaucracy and even media whores.  

In India, the society is divided on caste basis and hence inequality is embedded in the DNA. The various caste leaders have become the neo- Brahmins of their castes. In Hindu mind there is no concept of absolute truth and everything is relative. Punishment varies from caste to caste. There is no conception of equality before law and worse, neither of conflict of interest or perjury. Asatyemev jayate has become our national logo. 

Below is an article from Outlook exposing how rich industrialists, traders and other business people have become members of Parliament, even ministers ( mostly by money power including purchase of voters ,even of assembly members ) and influence policies and decisions of the government of India. No wonder the artificial prosperity based on steep valuation in the price of land and property and increasing equity from incoming investment i.e. from stimulus funds in USA amounting to more than $ 3 trillion, which have nothing to back them and exist only on computer screens, have made stock exchanges over the world like casinos. Without increased industrial growth and progress in agriculture the economic growth story will remain ephemeral and shaky. 

Mera Bharat Mahan .
K. Gajendra Singh 29 May, 2012, Mayur Vihar, Delhi.

  Conflict of interest ?


Su Casa Es Mi Casa OUTLOOK

Businessmen-turned-MPs and public policy.


 Insider Trading?

P.B. Kore of the BJP, M.A.M. Ramaswamy of the JD(S), D.R. Meghe, Cong: standing committee on health though they are in the management of medical colleges 

Venture capitalist Rajeev Chandrasekhar, industrialist Vijay Darda: finance committees 

Vijay Mallya, owner of Kingfisher airlines: civil aviation committee


It's an intriguing time for a private member's bill to come on 'conflict of interest'. Congress MP from Tamil Nadu Sudarsana Natchiappan moved one such, titled Prevention and Management of Conflict of Interest Bill, on April 27. About the same time, another Congressman from Tamil Nadu, Union home minister P. Chidambaram, was being attacked by the Opposition for allegedly protecting son Karthi Chidambaram's business interests in a telecom deal when he was finance minister. 

Besides the immediate uproar, this is a serious issue that's been eating into the "integrity quotient" of Parliament. Two years ago, the then Union urban development minister S. Jaipal Reddy had cautioned that nearly one-fourth of all Lok Sabha members could potentially have conflicts of interest with the business of the House. He was quoting a study conducted by the National Social Watch Coalition, which claimed 128 out of the 543 members of the 15th Lok Sabha belonged to the business class, which potentially may have conflicts of interest while participating in parliamentary deliberations on public policy.

Navin Jindal, Industrialist Navin Jindal, Congress MP, was on the PAC till last year

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Venture capitalist from Karnataka one of few MPs on finance panel

Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher head on the standing committee on civil aviation

Rahul Bajaj, Bajaj Auto boss asks queries on auto industry. CPI (M) MPs object.

"When rich people come into Parliament, can you avoid a conflict of interest?" was the minister's candid reaction to the study. It is in this background that this bill acquires significance. First a caveat: several thousand private member's bills are said to be pending for introduction. The few which are introduced depend on a draw of lots. And what's more, the introduction itself may not mean much as members may have to wait before the bill comes up for discussion. The system allows very few such bills to secure the approval of both houses and become law. Which is why, Natchiappan, a lawyer by training, is realistic. "At least, the bill was introduced," he quips (see interview).




An NSWC study says 128 of the 543 members of the 15th LS come from the business class. Will this colour public policy?



Indeed, it would be fortuitous if the bill ever comes up for discussion. Shortly after the bill was introduced, the Opposition stalled proceedings in Parliament seeking facts on the Chidambaram matter. (On Thursday, May 10, PC made a statement in the House saying none of his family members had a stake in the involved telecom firms, but the Opposition clamour continued.) Conflicts of interest are not confined to just MPs and ministers but include virtually everyone active in the public domain. Other countries have taken the lead, and it's time India too initiates legislation to control such conflicts, says Natchiappan.


The bill seeks to bring all public servants, ministers, consultants in public bodies and consultative committees within its ambit. "It goes beyond the Lokpal Bill. While that bill seeks to address corruption, the conflict of interest bill looks at the very root of that corruption," says the MP.

For the MP, the bill began as an investigation into the possibility of mnc baby food manufacturers influencing public policies on malnutrition, which later became a full-fledged exercise in framing a legislation to tackle conflict of interest in the public sphere.

Says Arun Gupta, convenor of the Alliance Against Conflict of Interest, an umbrella of organisations and individuals, "The representation of corporate interests in committees which decide on drug policy, food and other essential items is a matter of serious concern. Public disclosures must be made on this."

 The alliance has pointed out instances where there were serious conflicts of interest: a former cabinet secretary, now in charge of a micronutrient organisation, pushing for a policy change in tackling malnutrition. Or the case of a former solicitor-general of India representing a multinational drug company, which has implications for the drugs patent regime. A 2010 report brought out by National Social Watch (see box) lists the potential of conflict that arises when MPs and industrialists are members of parliamentary standing committees.

As Natchiappan observes, he is appealing to the conscience of his fellow MPs when they raise questions or represent committees. The bill not only defines conflict of interest but also provides provision for a conflict commission and penalty in case of violation. Both imprisonment and imposition of fines have been provided for in the bill.

Across the political spectrum, there is some agreement that a certain rot has set in as parties have failed to prevent MPs from sitting on committees that oversee the very businesses they run. Yet no one acts on this, with the exception of the Left parties. The opening up of the economy has led to a host of pro-industry voices operating within Parliament, the same that is supposed to protect citizen's interests, not promote those of corporates. It's blatant, brazen and deeply worrying. So it was not without reason that former environment minister Jairam Ramesh bitterly complained to the speaker about MPs openly lobbying with him for their businesses. Call it CSR, maybe?

Paid laws, American style

Powerful U.S. corporations have been writing bills themselves and giving them to state assemblies to rubber-stamp
The scandal of paid news in India, whereby politicians, private businesses, and perhaps others, buy space in newspapers to publish material which appears to have been written by the papers, has rightly attracted much critical comment, but the United States appears to be well ahead of India, with nothing less than a form of paid law. Powerful U.S. corporations have been writing bills themselves and giving them to state legislators — whose election campaigns they often fund as well — to rubber-stamp and pass on to governors for signature into law.
Main lobbying body
The main lobbying body behind this is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has existed for over 40 years. It numbers about 300 corporations, including oil majors Exxon Mobil and Shell Oil, the Koch energy conglomerate, IT firms Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, carmakers General Motors, pharmaceuticals producers Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer, the cigarette firm Philip Morris, the drinks giant Diageo, and the mammoth retailer Wal-Mart. Nearly 2,000 state legislators are also members.
ALEC now tracks all legislation in all 50 states; Mike McIntire, writing in the New York Times, adds that over 1,000 state bills a year are based on its models, and that about 17 per cent of these become law. ALEC itself says its mission is to "promote free markets, limited government, and federalism throughout the states", but the evidence reveals much more than that.
As Ari Berman points out in Rolling Stone, ALEC's agenda is highly systematic and covers several key areas, starting with an orchestrated campaign to 'disrupt voting rights'; in 2011, no fewer than 38 states introduced ALEC-inspired legislation which will impede voting. The restrictions include the need to prove citizenship before registering to vote, obstacles for campaigning groups which help people register, the abolition of election-day registration, reductions in early voting, the disenfranchisement of convicts who have served their sentence, and the requirement for government-issued identification at the polling booth. More than 10 per cent of U.S. citizens have no such ID, but the figures rise to 25 per cent among African-Americans and 18 per cent among young voters respectively; university students will also be excluded by residence conditions such as those in new Wisconsin law. African-Americans and younger voters tend to vote Democrat. Claims that the restrictive measures prevent voter fraud are absurdly exaggerated; U.S. voter fraud is almost zero, and strenuous Republican attempts to prove that it is widespread have all failed.
A second front is the attack on renewable energy sources, or renewable portfolio standards (RPS). ALEC claims that these, like curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions, harm the economy and have no environmental benefits, but Maria Gallucci of Inside Climate News notes (in an article reproduced by the online journal Truthout) that the $48.1 billion invested in clean energy technologies in 2011 constitutes a 40 per cent increase on the previous year. In addition, claims that RPS drives electricity prices up are countered by published evidence that RPS policies slowed the rate of price rises in 12 states; the introduction of the new technology has also helped create jobs.
Environmental issues
Needless to say, environmental issues pose ALEC some of its toughest challenges. Exxon Mobil has helped design state laws that enable energy companies not to name chemicals used in fracking for access to oil, claiming that the chemicals are trade secrets; keeping such secrets, however, makes a nonsense of ALEC's own ideology, which is that consumers are free to make their own informed decisions in a market system.
This evasion of accountability extends to shielding firms which receive substantial public monies despite overwhelming evidence of failure. Zaid Jilani and David Halperin, writing separately in Republic Report, detail how the for-profit education company Kaplan International, which is owned by the Washington Post Company and was an ALEC member for a year until August 2011, has a 68 per cent dropout rate — the worst among the top 10 recipients of post 9/11 education funding for military veterans — but its former CEO received a golden handshake worth $76 million when he left. Bridgepoint Education spent $2000 per student on recruitment in 2009 but only $700 on instruction and Corinthian College has the worst default rate, 36 per cent within three years, on student loans.
Such private colleges can get 90 per cent of their money, totaling over $30 billion a year, from federal funds, and also charge students very high fees. Only 11 per cent of eligible students attend such institutions, but they account for 44 per cent of all student loan defaults; the colleges concerned have also been exposed for deceptive and predatory recruiting practices, but have used expensive lobbyists and consultants to escape being called to account. Even the Chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, Brian Moran, lobbies for them.
ALEC, for its part, has also tried a form of indirect intimidation against analysts like Professor William Cronin, but the body has been severely embarrassed by other revelations. In particular, its then Criminal Justice Task Force, which Wal-Mart co-chaired at that time, was behind the so-called Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to attack others if they believe they themselves are in danger; under this law they do not have to retreat. The measure, enthusiastically championed by ALEC, has been passed by 24 states and has led to a 300 per cent increase in "justifiable homicide" verdicts since 2005, when Florida, overriding law enforcers' doubts, became the first state to adopt it. ALEC's involvement hit the headlines when George Zimmerman, a Florida resident, admitted shooting dead an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, on February 26, and police seemed initially to interpret the law as allowing them not to arrest Zimmerman (who has since been charged with second-degree murder). In the ensuing controversy, ALEC disbanded the committee concerned.
It is highly significant that the revelation of ALEC's involvement did not occur by itself. A whistleblower passed on details of 800 model bills, including some explicitly intended to restrict trade union rights, to the Center for Media and Democracy, a campaigning group which then put the bills on a dedicated website and has published its own investigations into ALEC. This level of public exposure quickly caused a dozen corporations to leave ALEC; among them are Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, PepsiCo, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mark Engler notes in Dissent that other departures include Blue Cross Blue Shield and Yum! Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut and KFC. By May 21, 2012, 51 state legislators, mainly Democrats, had also cancelled their memberships; earlier, ALEC had removed the model bills from its main website.
Those companies which have jumped overboard may confirm the truth of the head of Monsanto's remark to the then President Bill Clinton that corporates fear consumer backlash more than anything else, but the rapid departures raise questions about why ALEC has not defended its conduct more robustly. ALEC will of course find other ways to ensure that legislators draft the kinds of law it wants, particularly over regulatory matters and corporate taxation, but it could well face yet more problems, because its charitable status prohibits it from lobbying — which it has apparently been doing since its inception.
Wider issues
Wider issues also arise here, which are highly pertinent in view of the collapse of neoliberalism and the increasingly public global scepticism about austerity policies. For example, ALEC's recent problems show the kinds of tensions which are inherent in the relation between the mainly economic-liberal corporates and the political and moral conservatives who favor the free market but whose social agenda in the U.S. has been documented as aiming to restrict, for example, minority voting rights and women's rights, and as seeking to promote measures like the Stand Your Ground legislation. Nevertheless, the fact remains that with the recent exposure of ALEC's activities, U.S. citizens could well have to face the possibility that their country looks not like the mixed-economy system the political scientists called a corporate state in the 1950s and 1960s, but more like a like a corporate-puppet state.

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