Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Corporate States of America: Toxic Waste Edition

Only in a banana republic can a CEO of an anti-union corporation just found criminally responsible for polluting the earth with radioactive waste suddenly become a government-appointed expert on waste in health care spending.  David Cote has jumped on board yet another Obama Administration PR initiative, this one called Partnership for Patients.

This is the same David Cote, you may remember from a previous post, who locked out a Steelworkers Union local last year after members blew the whistle on dangerous conditions at the Honeywell plant in Metropolis, IL The company was found guilty and paid a hefty fine, but the money and accountability didn't come from Cote or any other human. Nobody went to jail.  In fact, the scandal (which received virtually no coverage in the mainstream media) did nothing to affect his close personal relationship with Barack Obama. Despite cries of anti-unionism from labor leaders, Obama invited Cote to join him on his India trade junket last year.  He had already tapped him for the infamous Deficit Reduction ("Cat Food") Commission which advocated "reforming" Social Security. 

And now, besides being a leader on foreign labor relations and the deficit, Cote is also apparently an expert on health care, and its runaway costs. To prove it, he co-authored, with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius  an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  At least the opening sentence was somewhat honest, conceding that "many" Americans actually do get health care. I guess his definition of many excludes the 50 million-and-growing uninsured Americans who are just a drop in the bucket  out of a total 300-odd million citizens --  maybe only a fifth or sixth.

But back to PP, which may as well stand for the Public/Private Cabal.  Right off the bat, when you see the words Public/Private, the stench of the neo-fascist corporative takeover of the USA assails your nostrils. And now that the Cat Food Commission and its particular rancid odor has gone into the great circular file destination of all wasteful programs addressing waste, a new one will take its place in the wonderful world of Political Kabuki Theatre. From the editorial:
" That's why the Obama administration and employers such as Honeywell have joined doctors, nurses, hospitals, health insurers, and patient advocates to launch the Partnership for Patients, an unprecedented alliance that will promote innovations to improve hospital care and reduce wasteful spending nationwide".
According to Chilmark, a health care policy research group, PP is just another feel-good publicity stunt to appease the deficit hawks and pump up the Affordable Care Act.  It takes a problem we can all agree needs addressing: the shocking morbidity and mortality levels in American hospitals -- and then spends $1 billion to bring in Honeywell, G.E. and some other conservative-placating corporations to help figure out how to reduce physician reimbursements and trim Medicare and Medicaid costs. This is $1 billion that we can apparently afford to spend, while Home Heating Assistance and block grants to poor neighborhoods were deemed wasteful by this purportedly Democratic White House.  This is akin to the CEO-laden White House Commission on Jobs and Competitiveness taking the place of truly addressing the defacto 25 percent unemployment crisis in this country.

And speaking of jobs, those whistle-blowing Honeywell union members are nearing the first anniversary of their lock-out by Cote.  They recently traveled to New Jersey to confront Cote and the Board of Directors over their status.  From the Steelworkers' website, here is an update with video.

And speaking of Metropolis, home city of Superman, even our favorite comic book action hero is apparently fed up with the USA, and is renouncing his American citizenship.  It apparently has more to do with his disgust with American foreign policy than with the toxic sludge of Honeywell, but I'm sure once he gets wind of this latest public/private corporate hypocrisy he will petition to have the statue erected there in his honor removed as well.

Truth, Justice, and the Corporate Way


Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I can't believe the people Obama is choosing to surround himself with! David Cote is the scum of the earth! . . . Although, he IS a great advertisement for why we shouldn't be looking to the nuclear industry to monitor itself and to solve our energy needs.

Great blog posting! This is the sort of story that I SHOULD be reading on the front page of the big newspapers. Thanks, Karen!

John said...

Thanks for shining the Garcia Spotlight on yet another unseemly appointment by the Obama White House. Let me count the ways this Administration fails to protect the interests of The Commons, not to mention those of my declining middle class.

You got me interested in David Cote, so I googled him, and right off the top Google pointed me to -- where else? -- Forbes Magazine. In its mini-biographies of CEOs Forbes measures people by their salaries. Cote is way up there. You can see the breakout of his income on the table provided. The best is yet to come: a short video of Cote interviewed by Forbes himself. Here are the take-away lines by Cote speaking for himself and other corporate chiefs:

"We are not the problem!" (repeatedly)

"Why should we 'give back'? We never took anything." (again, repeatedly)

Appointing David Cote and similar Friends of Forbes to represent everyday Americans at taxpayer expense is irresponsible. CEOs like Cote and Jeffrey Immelt of GE are incapable of understanding the obvious or of fixing it. Google this link and scroll down to play the "Myth of the Villainous CEO" and judge for yourself.

Jay - Ottawa

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks both of you and thanks for the Forbes link, Jay. I had missed the coverage of him there. This just makes his inclusion in the Obama Administration, no matter how oblique, even more of an insult to the American people. We have been so distracted by the Osama killing, foreign policy events and the Republican shenanigans, that we are not noticing stuff like this as much as we should. And of course, DSK and the Pigmen got me really riled up.