Saturday, 4 June 2005

Cox Appointment Solidifies Corporatocracy

With the resignation of William Donaldson, the reform minded insider who Bush was shamed into appointing as head of the SEC in 2002 by the Harvey Pitt embarrassment, this administration will waste no time in filling the vacancy with an ideologue who answers first to corporate America. Christopher Cox will of course talk the talk of continuing reform, but his record is there for anyone to see. He played a major role in the mid-nineties in shielding corporations such as Enron from investor lawsuits. The resulting Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 was dubbed by Ralph Nader as the "Swindlers & Crooks Protection Act."

While this appointment has not gotten a lot of attention in the blogosphere, there is a good article at Bloomberg about it, which quotes former Republican Congressman Vin Weber as saying,
I've known Chris Cox since he was elected to Congress in 1988 and I will be shocked if he's anything other than a very strong deregulator.
Donaldson is being rightly hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike as having been an effective reformer. A Republican himself, it was only because he frequently sided with the two Democrats at the SEC that many of those reforms came to pass. I think it's a pretty good bet that many of those same corporatocrats who are publicly praising Donaldson, are privately elated that his departure gives Bush this opening to shift the balance back to business as usual. Then they'll express surprise six years hence when a new round of Enron / WorldCom / Adelphia type scandals plague us anew.

Any Democratic opposition to Cox will be labeled as strictly ideological, and won't likely have any political legs, but the appointment will stand as yet another pillar in the corporatocracy that is further overtaking our government at an alarming rate. Cynicism that corporations own both parties anyway is quite understandable in these times, but the fact that Donaldson and New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have forced real reforms even in the Bush era, which have ameliorated real ill effects of corporate greed cause me to insist that exposing that greed at every opportunity to every possible audience remains our best weapon in fighting it.

I can't be bothered with strategizing about losing ground to create the necessary outrage to "bring on the revolution"; revolutions are messy and undesirable; we still have the machinery to bring about peaceful reform. It may take a few years now, but think about the mountains that Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Gandhi, Dr. King, Lech Walesa, and Nelson Mandela stood at the foot of, and tell me we should either give up and submit to the will of the multi-nationals, or see violent revolution as the only solution. The corporations' money and power may be daunting, but corporate executives are still human beings, and I'm convinced that many want reforms that they are just not willing to publicly admit they want.

One more reflection seems relevant here. When Bush jokes, as he did on at least three occasions in his first term that a dictatorship would be easier, he is acknowledging that he is still subject to political considerations, so it's incumbent on both Democrats and more moderate Republicans to enforce those political conditions. Donaldson's tenure at the SEC and moderate Republican Christine Todd Whitman's tenure at the EPA are two examples of that reality keeping corporatism slightly in check. John Biggs almost appointment to lead the oversight board to check corporate abuses, though it did not happen is another example that Bush can be pushed to less than radical choices, even when corporate pressure succeeds in reversing them. These are small things, but they remain significant because even lip service to having checks and balances keep that conversation alive. We must keep that conversation alive. That conversation and many others.

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