and Robert Weissman
Fleischer is a nice guy. He likes baseball. We like baseball. That’s about where
the similarities end.
Fleischer is the most recent in a long unbroken line of press secretaries of
corporate presidents of the United States.
decided recently to test Ari’s knowledge of the workings of the corporate state.
We give the test by attending the daily White House Press Briefing and asking
Ari questions. We’ve been to five so far, and hope to attend at least the next
100 or so. Our pitches are slow, and right down the middle.
week, we asked Ari if he had seen the Bill Moyers PBS special on the chemical
industry. He did not see it.
PBS, Moyers makes allegations that the chemical industry over the past 20 years
knew it was exposing workers to hazardous chemicals and as a result these
workers died. We pointed out that there’s a criminal prosecution in Italy in a
similar case. Manslaughter charges were brought against 31 chemical executives
for exposing workers to these same chemicals.
Ari, would President Bush support a manslaughter prosecution against chemical
executives in this country for that kind of behavior?
"That’s not a topic I have discussed with the President," Ari says. "And I won’t
comment on shows that I haven’t watched."
Ari, there’s a report out by the Center for Public Integrity (www.public-i.org)
that the President’s decision on carbon dioxide emissions was routed through the
legislative affairs director, Nicholas Calio. In 1997, Calio’s firm was paid
$420,000 to lobby on this issue by Tenneco Automotive, which is one of the
largest auto exhaust systems companies in the country. We were wondering if the
President is concerned about a growing public perception of corporate lobbyists
coming into the White House and making public policy decisions on issues they
were paid to lobby just a few months ago?
President makes his decisions on the merits, makes his decisions on what he
believes is in the national interest," Ari says. He fought off big business on
tax breaks, remember?
about this Ari? USA Today runs an editorial titled "More Public Drilling? Let’s
Collect Bills First." (April 6, 2001) It says that the President has recommended
more oil drilling on public lands, but there is a history of these big oil
companies not paying the royalties. So, over the past couple of years Shell Oil
has paid $110 million in penalties, Chevron $95 million, ExxonMobil $52 million.
The editorial says "let’s collect from the oil companies before we open up to
more drilling." Does the President agree?
total dodges the question, and starts talking about a cabinet level review to be
chaired by Vice President Cheney "to take the steps necessary to secure
America’s supply of energy, particularly as we head into the travel season over
a second, Ari, what about the oil companies ripping off the government? (Ari
the President has said that we are going to get rid of the death tax "to keep
farms in the family." Yesterday, the New York Times, on the front page, ran an
article, quoting tax experts saying they have never found a farm lost because of
estate taxes. Even the American Farm Bureau Federation, which supports repeal of
the estate tax, says they could not cite a single instance of a farm lost
because of estate taxes. So, what did the President mean when he said we are
going to get rid of the death tax to keep farms in the family?
"Well, one of the reasons for that is that farmers have to go through a tortuous
process just to keep the farm in the family hands," Fleischer says.
Actually, according to the Times, farmers find avoiding the estate tax easy.
Only the richest two percent of Americans owe estate taxes — that’s because the
estate tax is not applied on the first $1.35 million of a couple’s estate. And a
farm couple can pass $4.1 million untaxed, as long as their heirs continue
farming for 10 years, according to the Times.
the specifics weren’t going over well, we decided to broaden out the inquiry and
ask a question about President Bush’s political philosophy.
a couple of months ago, Business Week magazine did a poll which found that
three-quarters of the American people believe that "business had gained too much
power over their lives." And in an editorial, Business Week called on
corporations to "get out of politics."
the President agree with three-quarters of the American people that "business
has gained too much power over their lives" and with the editorial that they
should "get out of politics"?
skips over the question and sends out this all purpose put down: "The President
believes that in this nation we are all in our economy together. I’m reminded of
the old adage that you can’t be for employees if you are against employers."
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt
for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage