The United States: Governing its Way to Foreign Rule

A recent article in Foreign Policy points out the growing amount of foreign companies buying and taking over long time American favorites.  A few highlights from the piece:

The company leading the purchase of Heinz is a Brazilian private equity firm, 3G. Never heard of it? Well, 3G also happens to own Burger King Corp., which it bought for $3.3 billion in 2010.

Budweiser, that great American icon and Bud Light, the best-selling beer in the United States, are now owned by a consortium headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and run by a Brazil-born CEO.

Europe-based multi-nationals and investors already own a bevy of American brands. The names may surprise many Americans: Gerber, Holiday Inn Hotels, Vaseline, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Alka-Seltzer, Ray-Ban, LensCrafters, Lysol, Woolite, Motel 6, Trader Joe’s, and on and on.

Nothing illegal to see here. Struggle along now.

The Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Company is owned by SABMiller, a company launched in South Africa in 1895…now based in London…While Chrysler Motors is owned by Italy’s Fiat, the iconic Chrysler Building in New York City is owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council.

Grupo Bimbo, a Mexico-based food conglomerate, bought the North America bakery operations of cakes maker Sara Lee in 2011.

So, should this concern us?  Well, if we were rational people with rational election and lobbying laws, it shouldn’t since the influence of these companies would not matter much once their ownership became foreign.  The problem is we aren’t rational people and neither are our laws.

Last year, I commented on the idea of unrestrained capitalism leading to a one world-type of government conspiracy theorists fear so much.  It seems we are continuing down that path with all the business transactions mentioned in the Foreign Policy article.  Citizens United opened the floodgates for these corporations to use their money to influence our elected officials at every level and they are sparing no expense to do just that.

Take a look at a couple of the corporations mentioned and their spending on influencing politicians.  Anheuser-Busch spent $1.5 million on campaign and PAC donations and another $7 million on lobbying in the 2012 election cycle.  HSBC’s tab: $387k and $5 million in those areas.  And let’s not forget Fox News’ parent, News Corp, also owned by a foreigner.  Its bill: $1.6 million in contributions and $13 million on lobbying efforts.

If corporations have no trouble spending this kind of money on elections in the U.S., what is to stop them from passing all the laws they want in every democra$y that will li$ten?  The answer is essentially this: nothing.

The key point we have to remember is, despite the Supreme Court ridiculously ruling that corporations count as people, these corporations are run by people and these people have self-serving agendas when it comes to the laws governing what they do.  If they can buy their way into the government and shape the laws into what they want, they will do it in every country that will allow it leading to every country having the same laws on the books for these corporations.

And if we are truly patriotic, why would we allow this when we can see it coming?  Or what should really be asked, who are the people telling us we should allow this and what is their interest?  When we turn on Fox “News”, I wonder what the opinions on this issue would be from the pundits on there?

Oh, well.  We can probably ignore this one.  I’m sure whoever is pedaling the influence has the best interest of their countrymen in mind…whoever their countrymen might be…

What if Unrestrained Capitalism is the Catalyst for One World Government?

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was in the news this week receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and criticizing some recent decisions made by the bench where he used to sit.  One of the main targets of his comments was a decision made while he was still a justice and was a dissenter: the highly controversial Citizens United case.  Stevens wonders about the decisions’ effect on voters’ contributions versus non-voters, for example corporations and foreign entities whether business or a hostile group.  He says the issue will return to the Court in some form and it will likely be addressed in a way that restricts non-voters contributions to campaigns in some way.  That’s a nice assessment and positive outcome for the future in one area but will those restrictions even matter?

This is not to suggest an apocalyptic world of death and oppression with some seedy gentleman in a three-piece suit pushing a bunch of buttons in a fortress somewhere.  But it does create some questions as to the long term effects.  Even if we are able to restrict parties’ and candidates’ campaign contributions from foreign entities, will we be able to truly restrain spending by Super PACs?  And if that spending is not restrained, what’s to stop global corporations from running governments around the world through their propaganda?

A reality playing a role here is global corporations would run smoother if the rules they had to play by in every country they did business in were the same (or if the rules just didn’t exist).  If, for example, environmental laws concerning the dumping of hazardous materials were the same in all countries, a corporation could easily move a factory from one country to another with more raw materials without having to update their equipment.  This is a cost saving factor for the business so the owners obviously want the same rules everywhere they play regardless of the effects on the local populace.

At this point, a decision would be made as to the cost versus profit if a company can financially influence elections.  Is it profitable in the long term to spend some money on Super PACs to get favorable representatives into government so the rules can be changed to what the company wants?  If the bottom line says yes, what’s to block them from doing this?  In reality, not much.  Even if the company does not headquarter its operations in the U.S., it can still transmit contributions and influence through its branches.  Toyota would be a perfect example.

To some extent, most Americans probably aren’t bothered by this idea.  Since we are (for now) the richest country on the planet, corporations pedaling their influence typically means American corporations pushing their ideas on others outside our borders and little concern is shown for this in the U.S.  The recent scandal with Wal-Mart in Mexico is a fitting example here.  The backlash in the U.S. and Mexico was relatively quiet for different reasons.  Americans are okay with the exporting of our ideas and culture because of pride and if that happens through corporations, so be it.  Mexico is okay with the corruption because, well, they aren’t going to attack their largest employer in the interest of their GDP no matter how egregious the violation.

A key point should be made here.  Once a foreign corporation becomes so ingrained in a country that they are one of the largest employers their influence on elections is virtually unstoppable despite where their headquarters might be and who ultimately calls the shots.  Just imagine if the shoe had been on the other foot in the Wal-Mart scandal.  What if (a complete hypothetical here) one man stood at the top of a corporation that had tons of influence in the U.S. through the media and some of those organizations even played a significant role in elections?  What if that guy was not American and was from…I don’t know…let’s say Australia?  Imagine how outraged Americans would be if they knew something like that was going on.

Oh, wait.  That already happened.  I must have missed the outrage.

The question now becomes how tolerant will Americans be of this type of influence?  There really is nothing stopping this from happening at this point.  We have to ask ourselves what the new standards will be and what will be a violation of law, if there are any, when governing this area?  Will our attitudes eventually mimic that of Mexico toward Wal-Mart at some point when it would be too costly to prosecute these actions?

We have stood idly by and seen banks become “too big to fail.”  Will we soon see foreign corporate influence in American elections become “too big to punish”?  And when that happens, will we see it begin its spread across the world?  Maybe a better question: has it happened already?