Recipe of obstruction

As the party conventions roll out this week and next, big business and its lobbying organizations like the Business Roundtable will be making big political donations and entertaining the influential in style.  Their collective message, says Donald Cohen, will be about “the ‘burden’ and ‘uncertainty’ of government action to remove toxic air pollution, stop climate change, stem the dramatic increase of workplace repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel and give consumers information about calories in our Big Macs and human rights abuses built into our iPhones.”

In his opinion editorial in The Huffington Post Cohen scolds big business for its consistent failure to acknowledge the problems it creates and its resistance to finding real solutions.    

“They use a cookbook of standard rhetorical devices and public relations campaigns designed to avoid responsibility for the pollution they create, the unsafe food and consumer products they produce, the dangerous work conditions they manage and the complex, indecipherable and ultimately dangerous financial devices they invent,” writes Cohen.

Cohen lists big business’s recipe of obstruction:

“First, they deny. Remember, smoking doesn’t cause cancer, global warming is a hoax, fats and sugars don’t cause obesity and the list goes on and on.

Second, they say it’s not their fault. Remember, it’s the “nut behind the wheel” that caused auto accident deaths, irresponsible workers cause workplace accidents, and women earn less than men because they just don’t have the skills.

Third, they say the free market, not government action, will take care of problems. Business leaders assured us they just wouldn’t produce unsafe cars, food or toys since consumers wouldn’t buy them, financial markets will spread risk and self-correct and employers wouldn’t be able to hire workers if their workplaces were unsafe.

Fourth, they brand every new rule as a job killer. They said seat belts would kill the auto industry, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) would be a “disaster for U.S. business” and the minimum wage will destroy civilization as we know it.

Fifth, they bemoan the loss of American freedom. Social Security was “the end of democracy,” the minimum wage is an “alien philosophy” and calorie counts on restaurant menus puts government in control over what we eat.

Sixth, they warn that unintended consequences will actually make the problem worse. Child-resistant caps on drugs and toxic household products would “lull” consumers into unsafe behavior, raising the minimum wage hurts poor workers and understandable credit charges would only confuse consumers.

And seventh, they claim that it just can’t be done. Remember, catalytic converter technology to reduce auto pollution didn’t exist, nor did substitutes for asbestos or ozone-depleting chemicals (CFC’s).”

Cohen wants corporate America to “end their campaign of denial, delay and obstruction and become part of the solution to America’s most pressing problems.”

That would be great.  But for right now I would just like big business interests to stop using one of their most popular and effective tactics of obstruction not on Cohen’s list—protecting small business.

Whenever you hear big business claim they oppose a solution to a problem because it would hurt small businesses, just start laughing.  We can talk for ourselves and we want to help solve the country’s problems—not obstruct.
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