January 8, 2013

Kneel Before the "Job Creators"... Or Stand for Something Better

A great piece on the Nike deal.

By Nicholas Caleb

[T]he idea that the public good is synonymous with the economic good, as defined by the success of very narrow set of monopoly and individual interests, dominates our political system. If democracy and community interests get in the way of this ideology, as they often do, they are seen as dispensable.

Nike's recent coup d'état to secure itself a virtual exception from paying anything close to a reasonable tax rate for up to 30 years on large scale developments -- no matter what fiscal conditions emerge in the future -- marks a significant departure from the way big money usually influences state policy.

As if corporate interests didn't have enough influence in government through back-room deals, lobbyists, campaign contributions, the revolving door, and front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, Nike openly and flagrantly signed its company name to a not-so-veiled threat against the State and its embarrassingly pliant lame-duck legislature: "Give us what we want right now or we'll take our secret jobs to another state!" Because numerous articles have already laid bare Nike's economic excesses and bad corporate citizenship -- like their already astonishingly low tax rate, outrageously high executive compensation, and off-shore tax havens -- I am interested in exploring a narrative that extends beyond the debate around tax policy and into questions of what we actually mean when we use the words “democracy” and “representation” in local and state politics. Rather than an exception to otherwise decent policymaking, I see this Nike tax deal as a prime example of a disturbing trend where public process is relegated to something barely more than a formality between the narrow desires of the wealthy and their eventual satisfaction.

Despite Oregon's progressive reputation, the last few months have shown that we are on the verge of becoming a state where large corporations can simply invent a crisis (or just invoke the word "JOBS" in light of the current economic desperation) and demand whatever concessions they want. In addition, it has become possible that coal will run down our rivers and railways as a “green” state opens the gates to climate suicide, our public water will be sold to private firms so they can sell it back to us at upwards of 10,000 times the price of a gallon of water, and we will waste tax revenue on a bridge that will increase sprawl when we should be developing sustainable cities. In short, the inconceivable became conceivable almost overnight as the veil of progressivism was lifted to reveal a political machine apparently unwilling to oppose bad policy or offer any new ideas in the age of austerity.

Read more here.

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