Why Is Our Government Working for the Private Good over the Public Good?

It's been over two years since a massive chemical spill in West Virginia left regulators puzzled over basic questions like, how toxic is this chemical? Does it pose a threat to pregnant women and children? How long will this chemical stay in the environment, or in people's bodies?

The reason we couldn't answer those questions was simple.

Chemicals that were invented or discovered before 1976 - thousands and thousands of chemicals that were developed in the early 20th century - were simply "grandfathered in" to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 and presumed safe until proven dangerous.

There was a massive public outcry in response to the Elk River chemical spill, and Congress quickly took up action to reform and strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act, also known as "ToSCA".

So, over two years later, how's that new legislation coming along?

If you happen to be on the board of a multi-billion dollar agrichemical giant called Monsanto, it's going great!

Not so much though, if you happen to be a private citizen who actually wants accountability when corporations poison communities or expose them to cancer-causing chemicals.

Right in the middle of the sweeping new chemical safety bill that Congress is working out, Republicans in the House of Representatives have added one paragraph that would save Monsanto, and only Monsanto, hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits.

The clause relates to "PCBs", which are non-flammable Monsanto-produced chemicals that were used extensively in electronics, caulk, paints, pesticides and thermal insulation in buildings for most of the 20th century.

Starting in the 1930s, Monsanto manufactured nearly all of the 1.25 billion pounds of PCBs that were produced and sold in the United States.

In 1977 Monsanto stopped producing PCBs because of health concerns, and the EPA banned the chemical with few exceptions in 1979.

PCBs don't break down easily though: they stay in the environment and in sewage systems, they accumulate in the fat tissues in animals and humans, and they cause health problems like cancer.

Just last year, cities and school systems tried to sue Monsanto for hundreds of millions of dollars to get them to pay part of the cost to reduce PCB levels in sewer discharge and in construction caulk to meet federal and state regulations.

At the same time, another group of individuals with non-Hodgkins lymphoma related to PCB exposure sued Monsanto for damages.

If the House version of the new chemical safety bill passes into law though, those cities and schools will be stuck with the bill to clean up Monsanto's cancer-causing chemical, and individuals will be stuck with the bill to treat the cancers that the chemical caused.

That's a real possibility, because our government has stopped working for the public good, and now it works mostly to line the coffers of multi-billion dollar corporations.

Thanks to the court rulings in Citizens United, Buckley v Valeo, and Santa Clara County v. the Southern Pacific Railroad, Monsanto is technically a person, and the money that Monsanto spends to put their shills in Congress is technically "free speech".

But these corporations apparently aren't happy with being seen as merely being equal to living, breathing human beings under the law.

No, they also use their incredible financial resources to go to court to make sure that certain laws just don't apply to them.

Right now, Monsanto is suing the state of California to make sure that consumers in California don't know that "Round Up" is probably cancerous.

Under a California law that was passed by ballot initiative back in 1986, it is illegal for businesses to knowingly expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving a clear and reasonable warning, and the discharge of such chemicals into a source of drinking water is prohibited.

Just makes sense right? Companies should tell consumers when they're being exposed to dangerous chemicals, and those chemicals should be kept out of people's drinking water.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found in 2015 that glyphosate, the main ingredient in "Round Up", is "probably carcinogenic".

So this should be an open and shut case.

Monsanto produces a chemical that's recognized as cancerous, and the law says that they have to label products that contain cancerous chemicals.

But, Monsanto is suing, saying that it's unconstitutional for a state agency to use findings from any international organization.

And that's just flat-out insane, because WHO research and the international exchange of public health data is critical to answering questions like "is this chemical linked to cancer?".

The fact is that these corporations don’t really care about public health, they care about their bottom line.

They figure that it's cheaper to sue the state of California than to potentially lose out on sales by telling people about the fact that chemicals like those in "Round-Up" can cause cancer.

And that's the same reason why Monsanto pays to get Monsanto-friendly politicians into Congress.

Buying elections might be expensive, but owning lawmakers who can write loopholes is cheaper than paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Our government should be protecting people's health, not corporate bottom lines.

We need a government that we can count on to inform us about health risks and protect us, because not everyone is a scientist, not all science is created equal, and people just don't have the time to research every chemical that they're exposed to.

We need a government that we can trust to protect us from corporations that only care about shareholder profits, even when their products are killing Americans.

That's why it's time to repeal Citizens United and to pass a constitutional amendment that makes it clear that a corporation is not a person and money is not speech, because our government should work on behalf of the living, breathing citizens of this country.

As the Founders of our nation said, it should be all about "We, the People", not "they, the corporations."


ChristopehrCurrie's picture
ChristopehrCurrie 8 years 15 weeks ago

The politician(s) who inserted that Monsanto-protecting paragraph into that legislation should be exposed and voted out of office this November!

c-gull's picture
c-gull 8 years 15 weeks ago

I think Thom is really bringing up the central question of moral corruption. The ancient Greeks used to say that " if you walk with lame men you too will develope a limp". I am reminded of Hannah Arendts statement about Adolph Eichmann. In her description she used the term "banality of evil". Eichmann was not a natural born or spontaneous monster but rather a bureaucrat that accepted the behaviors the prevaled inside the iron cage of bureaucracy. He was slowly conditioned to participate in what most of us would consider crimes against humanity. He slowly parceled out what was left of his soul to be "something and be somebody" inside the bureacratic institution.

There are many bureacracies in America. Bureaucracy does not just exist in the government. There are also religious bureaucracies and corporate business bureaucracies. For example Mitt Romney belongs to the Morman church which has a huge hierarchical bureacracy and has massed the most physical wealth of any church on earth. The distinction between church and business is very unclear. Should we really be surprised that a person from this kind of social environment would help the Monsanto corporation glaze over its flawed public image which sent them on their way to be one of the most damaging entities on earth. Monsanto was essentially condemed for dealing in death (pesticides, dangerous chemicals etc) by got new "life" when Mitt's public relations outfit worked its miracle of propaganda.

There is an unsung hero that has written some very important works reguarding the social problems inherent in bureaucracy. His name is Ralph P. Hummel. In a nutshell he noted that depending on personality types, the bureaucratic organization tends to bring out the pathological tendencies of human behavior. This is what we have been witnessing recently. So rather than make this comment too much longer, I would recommend that readers find a copy of Ralphs book-The Bureaucratic Experience. Sociology may be a challanging read-but remember we probably have only about one generation of what we could call "normal" life left.

In closing I wanted to say that I heard Thom say that if one votes for an "outside" or "third" party that the vote is essentially wasted. I hope Thom rethinks what he said.

I will not vote for what people so often call the "least of two evils" when speaking of candidates. The lesson here is not to vote for any evil. Do not compromise your soul. Find the person that has not given up their soul to big money or hierarchical authority. Figure out a way to vote for them-even if its not conveniet or popular with you buddies-- always remember what Chris Hedges recently said- "I fight Fascists because they are fascists not because I think I'll win".

humanitys team's picture
humanitys team 8 years 15 weeks ago

Where is the profit if the very people who work for the corporations and the politicians who do there bidding are getting the cancers as well ?

Short term gain always leads to long term loss .

Thanks for showing us just how primitive some of us are .Why would you want to despoil the land and cause cancers to your own workers and the politicians that do your bidding .Where's the profit in that .This has been going on for too long now .Profit before the highest good of all.

A stewardship act has to be passed and adheard to .A corporate death charter that puts caring for our planet first before the interests of Corporations .Bringing consciousness into commerce and caring for our ecosystem must come first.

A new guiding principle for humanity that at any time if your not honouring good stewardship of the land if shall know longer be kept in your care . Can you imagine how many corporations would have to give up doing business and how much the ecosystem and health of the people would improve .

This can only happen though through raising awareness and raising the collective consciousness so we all agree what's the best way forward and serving highest good of all .

Ownership has done so much damage to the Human species the insistence that you can own stuff land,people the resources .A model that could work is off responsibility where one feels personally responsible for caring and stewarding those things in our care .We are talking about mutual dependency of all living things hounouring all living species keeping the systems in balance and at the forefront of our minds .

We have so much growing to do as a species .Who are we ? What are we trying to do ?,Where are we going ?

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 15 weeks ago

That's Republicans as well as Democrats who work for the private good of financial and business elites and piss on the public good.


Very important and informative video.

And if you're STILL thinking of voting for Hillary after that try this..


petercvs's picture
petercvs 8 years 15 weeks ago

Comment from a Kiwi

You guys need to change your electoral system.

We had a 2 party FPP (First past the post) like yours. All you could do is chuck out the old party by voting in the one you voted out last time. And big business owned both.

Now we have 6 parties in Parliament, and a Government that represents the people both in racial diversity and gender.

Americans should change to STV. Each state should vote for a group of congressmen and voters list their preferences in order. This would prevent votes for smaller parties being wasted. If a state had 5 congressmen for example you would probably get 2 Rep, 2 Dems and 1 Green Congressmen. Eventually the best parties would survive and the worst will die.

Your system preserves 2 corrupt parties and there is nothing you can do about it unless you change. I suggest STV. It can be done. We could show you how!

nkyriazi's picture
nkyriazi 8 years 15 weeks ago

We don't have capitalism in this country or any other. We have corporatism.

We have powerful governments that have exceeded their Constitutional and moral authority and we have corporations that control those governments to benefit themselves to the detriment of the consumer and their competition.

Your proposal to limit freedom of speech is myopic. As long as we have a powerful central government, guess who will end up controlling it? The anwer is to reduce the power of the central government. Then wealthy people and corporations will stop trying to control it. No one lobbies the dog-catcher.

In Pittsburgh, a local group known as GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution) had to sue the EPA to enforce its own laws in the Monongahela Valley. Why even have an EPA? Local groups such as GASP can conduct their own studies to prove pollution, prove that they harm the public, and with a private judiciary with no allegiance to industry, sue the company directly.

As a corollary to the libertarian principles that we created government to protect us from force and fraud, no one has the right to pollute the common air, water, or land. Private freelance judges, who must be accepted by both parties, are the corrective answer to our present system.

More freedom, not less, is the answer to the Monsanto PCB issue.

Frank Mancuso's picture
Frank Mancuso 7 years 43 weeks ago

Stephen Hawking believes the world will be destroyed by greed and stupidity. I give you CEOs. They pollute our oceans, foul our air, sever our mountain tops, frack, develop our lands, burn our forests, cause wars, own governments, the media, create terrorists, give us most cancers, many diseases, their companies are considered people in court despite having the money and power to defeat real people. They warm the planet and are slowly but surely depleting clean water supplies and ocean and atmospheric oxygen levels. As for stupidity, we just need to look in the mirror. We are fighting the wrong terrorists.

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