Profits Vs. Death: Why Good Government Matters


Corporations are in business to make money. They have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to responsibly provide a return on investment. Secondary goals might include providing employment and being good citizens in their communities. Most major corporations have charitable foundations, their executives serve on boards of not-for-profit organizations, they donate to youth programs, mentor students, and provide scholarships. Corporations absolutely do a whole lot of good, except sometimes when they don’t.

Looking back, cigarette makers have produced a product that literally kills people. Big Tobacco initially hid the fact that one of the major ingredients (nicotine) was highly addictive, over the years they altered the chemical configuration so that cigarettes now contain twice the amount of nicotine, according to a 2014 Surgeon General’s report. Sugar and flavors were added to make the smoking experience more pleasurable. Additives helped the smoke enter your lungs and effects reach your brain faster. Today’s smokers have a greater risk of getting lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases while smoking fewer cigarettes than those of previous generations. These corporations knew they were killing people, yet made the determination that their need for profit was more important than their responsibility to the public. The government, in particular men and women in Congress, accepted millions in donations and for the most part, did nothing.

In the last week, a Boeing 737 Max 8, crashed in Ethiopia, killing everyone on board. It was an almost new plane, and it was very unusual that it crashed so early in its service. It was an aberration, except for the other Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed early in its service, six months ago. Other nations responded almost immediately, grounding their Boeing 737 Max planes until the cause of the crashes was known and a solution provided. The United States was different, the FAA while sending representatives to investigate the cause of the crash, saw no reason to ground the planes, while literally the rest of the world did so. Surely it couldn’t be because the C.E.O. of Boeing, called his personal friend President Trump and assured him everything was fine? The FAA could have shut down Boeing 737 Max flights, the Secretary of Transportation had the same power. Both did nothing. Eventually, with the weight of the entire world’s different decision and new satellite evidence showing similarity in the two crashes, did the United States government order the Boeing planes grounded. Prior to that, Boeing and some government officials had engaged in a public relations campaign to assure us there was no similarity in the two crashes and there was nothing to see here. The concern for lost profits was put ahead of the safety of the American people.

Would that these were isolated incidents, or limited to the excessively pro-business Trump administration. Yes, he turned over the EPA to people that don’t believe in climate change. His Cabinet is full of people whose primary mission is to eliminate regulations that protect our air, water, and land. Corporations are allowed to knowingly poison each of these while our current government greases the skids. Campaign finance makes our legislators dependent on corporate contributions to get elected or re-elected. Citizens United keeps us from knowing which donors gave what. Climate change which threatens our very extinction is being denied by those that make the calculation that profits are the most important variable in the equation, death comes in a distant second.

As we approach the 2020 Election and every other election. It’s time to identify and vote for people at every level that will concern themselves more with the effect of their legislation on peoples lives, whether it be gun control, climate change, or destroying the environment than fundraising and getting elected. If they’re going to serve corporations and not the people. They don’t deserve to be in office in the first place.