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Have You No Shame? July 26, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship appeared at the National Press Club last week. If you remember, Blankenship is the owner of the coal mine that exploded in April killing 29 mineworkers while exposing numerous safety violations and irresponsible business practices. Blankenship is also a vocal opponent of climate change science and an anti-union demagogue. Blankenship told the assembled reporters that industry needs less regulation and fewer legal obstacles because such safeguards are impeding the ability of businesspersons to “pursue their careers or their happiness.”

I guess the pursuit of happiness by those 29 mineworkers just doesn’t count.

Blankenship’s cluelessness motivated Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column on the conflict between the pursuit of profit and government regulation.

Poor CEO Blankenship. That mean federal government is not allowing him to pursue his happiness, just because his employees are dead. It brings to mind the sad plight of the BP CEO, Tony Hayward, who visited the Gulf Coast that his company has wrecked and complained that “I’d like my life back.” Happily, Hayward got his wish and returned to yachting.

It’s easy to paint Blankenship as a villain, with his moustache, double chin and rough edges (he twice lamented the “abstract poverty” in the world). But his theme — and his complete absence of corporate responsibility — is very much the message corporate America has adopted in this mid-term campaign year: If you’ve got a problem, blame the government.

Consider the efforts this month by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, once a center of moderate Republicanism that worked with both parties but now a sort of radicalized corporate Tea Party, spending $75 million this fall mostly to defeat Democrats. The chairman of the group’s board — on which Blankenship served until recently — accused the Obama administration and congressional Democrats of a “general attack on our free enterprise system.” Specifically, the chamber accused the Democrats of “an ill-advised course of government expansion, major tax increases, massive deficits, and job-destroying regulations.”

Taxes? The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in May described Americans’ tax burden in 2009 as the lowest since 1959. Job-destroying regulations? The lack of regulation on Wall Street led to a financial collapse that killed millions of jobs. Massive deficits? One of the biggest causes of the gap is the $800 billion stimulus package supported by — wait for it — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the chamber wants the government to spend even more: It demands that Congress “quickly pass a multiyear federal surface transportation bill.” That would costs hundreds of billions more. And let’s not forget the chamber’s desire to “get the money from the government” to help pay for the BP oil cleanup.

Milbank accuses corporate culture of having “lost its sense of shame.”

Indeed. But it is not just corporate culture. As long as the public views government as the problem, there will be no one to push back against sociopaths like Blankenship and his ilk.

We get the democracy we deserve.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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