October 07, 2007

Costa Rica, CAFTA, and the Lobbyists

Well, the Costa Ricans passed CAFTA, and that's a shame. It may well mean the end of universal health coverage for Costa Ricans like the family I stayed with last summer.

That family makes about $160 a month, plus a couple thousand a year from their coffee harvest, and they are never going to be able to afford corporatized medicine. But they can buy into the national health care plan for $8 a month and no one in the house ever had to worry that they couldn't see a doctor when they didn't feel well. I can't tell you how angry it makes me to think that this could be taken from them.

Costa Rica's approval of CAFTA in a nationwide referendum by the narrowest of margins follows a series of threats issued by the Bush administration and catapulted by their own president after all the groups that represent the public interest protested the deal. And while this trade pact may be referred to as a lobbyist-written document, don't let that distract you.

You can't keep people from knowing things about Congress. That's basically what a lobbyist does.

They know congressional staff. They know the law. They track when the voting is scheduled and who's on which side. They know donors and districts and polling numbers. They know how to hurt or help chances at re-election.

Someone is going to know these things and I wish that more people did. They comprise a concentrated set of the knowledge required to petition the government. Everybody has a right to petition the government, but most people fail to exercise it.

The problem, again, is not people who know how to petition the government.

The problem is who hired them. Every time someone talks about corporate lobbyists, they're talking about people hired to work for a corporation or set of corporations to perform a specific task. It's like talking about corporate accountants, corporate lawyers, etc. Someone hired them, they did their job.

That's not an absolution from blame, but consider: If you weren't getting paid for it, can you see yourself huffing around in a suit in the sauna that is DC, taking meals with staffers and bureaucrats, obsessively hanging on every rumor pending about some arcane piece of legislation that's "huh?"-worthy in all normal circles of company, poring over old versions of the same legislation, spending your weekends doing legislative scutwork for understaffed congressional comittees, taking calls at all hours, spending hours closeted in rooms full of Type A types, etc.?

The problem is that conscienceless corporations whose main legal obligation is to make money for their shareholders pay people who know how to petition the government to petition it to do bad things that hurt people.

You understand that when a mob hit goes down, the boss who ordered the hit is the one the prosecutors really want. You understand that the drug kingpin is more culpable for bringing drugs into neighborhoods than the two-bit, low-level street dealers they employ. You understand that President Bush holds more responsibility than anyone else, the ultimate responsibility, for the violent chaos of Iraq because he gave the order.

Major corporations hire lobbyists to destroy public services and gut regulations so that they can profit from the inevitable market failure and restricted access to public goods. They hire lobbyists to get the government to give them working capital and intellectual property and all-access passes to the resources of 'our' country for private profits that they then turn around and hire lobbyists to get them out of paying taxes on. Big, multinational corporations want these things done, find people who know how to make it happen, and then they put out the hit.

The next step is, inevitably, people complaining about the trigger men. I find that very tedious.

Posted by natasha at October 7, 2007 10:14 PM | Costa Rica | TrackBack(2) | Technorati links |

yes. =(

Posted by: lucy at October 12, 2007 10:31 PM