A real solution

George W. Bush’s speech on corporate crime was met with widespread skepticism. And no wonder. He’s part and parcel of the crooked get-rich-quick corporate crowd he is now claiming to crack down on. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd aptly commented, “How can Mr. Bush crack the whip on Big Business when he’s a wholly owned subsidiary of it?”

As has been widely noted, Bush’s anemic proposals will have little impact on corporate fraud. They are a panicky attempt to make it look like he’s doing something about the mounting scandals, while at the same time not turning off his fat cat backers.

Amid speculation about which giant corporation will be next to fall, and commentators talking about a growing loss of confidence in capitalism, Bush will probably have to accept more stringent measures like those put forward by Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), although there will be maneuvering to weaken even those limited restraints on corporations.

But more fundamental solutions are required.

The Bush administration is working to deregulate and privatize every area of life, from energy to schools. But the unfolding CEO crime spree makes it clear that our country has to stand up to corporate profiteering. The government must regulate essential services such as energy, healthcare and communications, and ultimately they should come under public ownership. Workers’ health care and pensions should not depend on the ups and downs of the stock market. Instead we need a national health service and expanded Social Security. And the federal government must promote investment in socially needed goods and services like public transportation, schools, housing and health clinics.

The Enrons and WorldComs are all about making quick millions without producing any social good. And why not? That’s the logic of capitalism. Capitalism is not based on the social good, it’s based on a constant striving to maximize the rate of profit, the public interest be damned. Ultimately, we need a system that puts people before profits and public ownership above private control – socialism.

The times they are a-changin’

President Bush and others who are laying plans to invade Iraq would do well to listen to Washington Post columnist David Broder who says a recent cross-country trip has convinced him that “the nine-month moratorium on dissent from Bush’s war on terrorism is coming to an end.”

Broder said his conclusion was based on interviews with people from Iowa to San Francisco where people challenged not just the war itself, but its effects on personal liberty and political dissent.

Broder said he was not talking about overall opinion but if he had “learned anything” in four decades of covering politics, “it is to pay heed when you hear the same questions – in almost the same phrases – popping up in different parts of the country … if Democrats begin hearing doubts about the costs of the war – and its consequences for civil liberties – from some of their most vocal constituents, that support may not last long … Developments in the war will slow or accerlerate this change. But you can feel it happening.”

A recent speech by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) blasting serves to underscore Broder’s conclusions.

Byrd blasted the Bush administration for its refusal to consult with “anyone outside its own inner circle” and compared its “arrogance and secrecy” to the Nixon administration. Byrd referred to the “past tragedies” of Korea, Vietnam and Somalia , saying that “it is dangerous” to present Congress and the American people “with a fait accompli on important matters of foreign affairs.”

“I am determined to do everything in my power to prevent this country from becoming involved in another Vietnam nightmare. This determination begins with Congress being fully and sufficiently informed on the undertakings of our government,” he concluded.

We couldn’t agree more. Byrd’s speech marks the sharpest Senatorial rebuke yet to Bush’s conduct of foreign policy. As such, is another arrow in the quiver of those of us who are concerned about matters of war and peace.