February 22, 2012

Top 6 Corporations to Occupy

The Occupy Wall Street movement has permeated across the country – the 99 percent have changed the dialogue of the 2012 election and our country’s understanding of economics, inequality, and democracy. As organizers start to regroup and set their sites on the spring, groups in 34 cities have agreed to “a day of nonviolent direct action” on Feb. 29 against corporations they accuse of working against the public interest. We nominated six we think deserve an Occupation (some are already on an initial target list):

1.    Corrections Corporation of America

Headquarters: Nashville, TN

Profiting off keeping people locked away is certainly a siren call for protesting the practices of Corrections Corporation, the country’s largest for-profit prison company. The corporation has recently sought to purchase prisons in 48 different states. But this offer will do little to lessen the long-term strain on state coffers. Even worse, the corporation stipulates that state prison populations must remain at least 90 percent full – not something any democracy should ever strive to pursue. To complicate matters, Corrections Corporation has deep pockets and uses its considerable might to lobby, finance, and otherwise influence politicians across the country. Corrections Corporation, based in Nashville, manages over 60 facilities in 19 states and D.C.

Meanwhile, the Occupy movement is already starting to join up with prison reformers, who seek to change the conditions that make American prisoners the most abused population in our society. Hundreds of protesters gathered at California’s state-run San Quentin prison this week to demonstrate against high incarceration rates and deplorable living conditions for inmates. Recognizing that prison reformers and Occupiers share similar goals, one Occupier, activist Barbara Becnel, quoted a message she said came from San Quentin death row prisoner Kevin Cooper: “We have merged the prison rights movement with the Occupy movement. The 99 percent has to be concerned about the bottom 1 percent.”

That should go for the bottom 1 percent who are under the jurisdiction of companies like Corrections Corporation.

 

2. Exxon

Headquarters: Irving, TX

ExxonMobil raked in huge profits last year. The oil company’s profits increased by 31 percent in 2011 as compared with 2010. But somehow, this happened while its oil and gas production fell – by 5 percent over that same period. So how does Exxon make more money while producing less oil and gas?

Tax breaks.

Exxon paid an effective tax rate of 17.6 percent, which as the Center for American Progress points out, is 3 percent less than what the average American family paid in taxes. Exxon and other big oil companies don’t pass on the benefits of these tax breaks to consumers. Instead, as CAP writes, “their board members, executives, and shareholders are the ones that profit.”

So how do these oil companies like Exxon get to spend American tax dollars on themselves? By putting even more money into the political system.

Exxon joined four other oil companies in spending $65.7 million on lobbying to retain their tax breaks. For every $1 spent on lobbying, they received $30 in tax breaks, a 3,000 percent return. Additionally, Exxon and its brethren donated over $1.6 million in campaign contributions last year, further securing the policies they like in the future.

Exxon is especially dirty among the Big 5 oil companies. It lobbied for the Keystone XL pipeline and supported climate change denial campaigns, spending $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to such groups. That’s the wrong way to spend taxpayer provided subsidies. All of this is reason enough for some to have already called for an Occupation of Exxon.

3. General Electric

Headquarters: Fairfield, CT

GE is one of the world’s largest corporations, with 2010 profits of $14.2 billion ($5.1 billion of which came from U.S. operations). But how much did it pay in taxes that year?

Nothing.

In fact, as the New York Times reports, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. Furthermore, from 2008 to 2010, G.E. spent $84 million lobbying the federal government, joining 30 other major corporations spending more on lobbying than on taxes.

In October, Occupiers recognized the symbolism behind G.E.’s exploitation of the tax system, and set out to demonstrate on CEO Jeff Immelt’s front lawn:

“In the land of the free they tax me but not G.E.!” read the invitation to take an hour bus ride to Immelt’s family home to join the protest, organized by liberal political party Connecticut Working Families. “General Electric made billions last year; they paid no taxes, outsourced thousands of jobs, and got over $3 billion in tax refunds! Join us on a free bus trip to G.E’s CEO’s front lawn to see how our friends in the 1% live.”

Given all that and considering the fact that Immelt serves as chair of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, even though during his tenure GE has steadily shipped jobs overseas, perhaps it’s time to re-Occupy.

4. Monsanto

Headquarters: St. Louis, MO

This giant agricultural biotechnology company is already the focus of activist groups and for good reason. Not only is Monsanto the overwhelming leader in producing genetically engineered seeds used in the United States, it also actively works to squeeze out competitors and control seed prices. The company has also targeted small farmers with ruthless legal battles, essentially forcing them to use Monsanto-branded seeds. Because of these dirty practices, Monsanto was the target of an antitrust investigation last year.

Meanwhile, Monsanto has considerable pull within the U.S. government. Most notably, former Monsanto vice president Michael Tyler is now a senior advisor to the Food and Drug Administration. A petition has circulated recently demanded that the Obama Administration “cease FDA ties to Monsanto”:

“President Obama, I oppose your appointment of Michael Taylor,” the petition on Signon.org reads. “Taylor is the same person who was Food Safety Czar at the FDA when genetically modified organisms were allowed into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. This is a travesty.”

5. Bank of America

Headquarters: Charlotte, NC

“It’s not me, it’s you,” read one. “Just kidding, it’s you.”

“I’m not falling for ‘phase out’ again.”

“Who’s too big to fail?”

“It’s over, BofA.”

These were some of the Valentines sent by Occupiers to Bank of America earlier this month to break up with the bank over its controversial practices seen as unfriendly to consumers, including a recent attempt to impose a $5-a-month debit card fee. It’s too bad the government hasn’t also followed suit. BofA spent $3.2 million lobbying the government last year and about $3 million on campaign contributions in 2008.

Even while he has criticized the bank for the debit card fee and engaged with the bank on mortgage settlement talks, President Obama has decided to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, in part to sell more skyboxes to moneyed donors.

6.    Walmart

Headquarters: Bentonville, Ark.

This one might be a “Duh.” But Walmart is both deserving of an occupation and easy to occupy. Sure, the company’s Arkansas headquarters aren’t exactly easily accessible for Occupiers from across the country. But Walmart’s thousands of stores nationwide are an easy target for citizens concerned with the company’s standard-setting low wages, labor issues, and steamrolling of local businesses. Moreover, while the corporation had long ago inserted itself in rural America, it now has its sites set on the country’s cities. Walmart plans to open four stores in Washington, DC, for example, and has its sites set on even more locations.

Occupy has already targeted Walmart, most notably to protest the company’s decision to cut health care benefits for full-time workers and eliminate insurance for new part-time workers. But with Walmart continuing to spend about $7.8 million a year lobbying on issues including taxes and labor, it’s worth a continued Occupation.

 

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Filed under: General, Grassroots

Add a comment
  • Finnerman

    “Not only is Monsanto the overwhelming leader in producing genetically engineered seeds”

    So?

    Problematic when you marry your anti-technology prejudices with legitimate criticisms of corporate abuses

    • Dfd

      Put your straw man argument away. Just because someone opposes Monsanto and GMOs does not make then anti-technology. The science shows that GMOs do nothing to increase yield. They also have lower nutrition and over time erode soil (due to constant use of chemical treatment). What we need is healthy, organic, sustainable agriculture. That is not what Monsanto is interested in. They are interested in dominating agriculture and making everyone dependent on their patented GMO seeds. That is corporate abuse to its fullest.

    • http://twitter.com/emberrayneh Ember Rayne Hulett

      Fail, Finnerman.
      Pro Tech, Anti Bullying.
      The problem with Monsanto is not their fancy-dancy newfangled seeds they got them there…

      *spit!*

      It’s the fact that somehow the genetic code of Monsanto’s seeds is winding up in the plants of non-Monsanto seed-using farmers. And then those farmers are a) being sued for copyright infringement, b) watching their crops mutate into inedible messes, and/or c) being purchased after lengthy protracted battles to wear them down.

      Olive oil in New York in the good old days, anyone?

      The worst?

      These genes are showing up in other countries such as Mexico.
      They’ve grown their corn the same way for 10,000 years.

      10,000 YEARS man… father to son.

      And you’re telling me it’s cool for a corporation allow it’s seed to spread and cross pollinate and effectively EXTINCT their corn, then charge them to use the awesome new seeds Monsanto has, which happen to be EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE ONES THEY HAD PASSED DOWN FOR GENERATIONS FOR FREE.

      -_-

      Oh… except for that one little thing… you know… that if Monsanto gets a notion, say if you piss them off for example, or don’t pay… they can now turn the corn… OFF.

      Wake up, Finnerman.

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  • Keith

    @Finnerman,

    Actually, you are a moron. Opposition to Monsanto has nothing to do with opposition to technology. It has to do with opposition to techniques and practices that are detrimental to human and environmental well being. Genetic modification is destructive to both human health and ecological well being and sustainability. This is a scientific fact. So maybe you should check your sources before you brandish your nonsense.

  • Michael ryan

    While I fully support the concept that corporations have corrupted our democracy – let us not forget the real problem is that congress is corruptible! Thomas Jefferson stopped short when he wrote Article 1 section 9 –

    No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

    This article was written to keep foreign influence out of our congress. Corporations have no nationality and should be added to the list. The super rich don’t care about the common man and should be restrained as well. Our new amendment should at least include something to that effect. Something like…

    No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person or candidate holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, campaign funds, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any person, corporation or other entity.

    Add something about money is not speech so we can silence the super pacs – and I think we have it…

    Bravo for Representative Posey –

    http://www.republicreport.org/2012/republican-bill-posey-introduces-bill-to-ban-members-of-congress-from-lobbying-for-five-years/

    That’s one small step for a man – One giant leap for our congress… Let’s give him all the support he needs.

    • Rosemary Kean

      We have to get beyond thinking that fixing greed and corruption will set things straight. The problem is that corporations have more power than Congress and the government. Corporate lobbyists write the legislation. Yes Congress is corrupted but the reason for this is that corporations are the new monarchy and we are the colonized people. We have to take back the power from corporations. We must dismantle them. When this country was founded people had sovereignty over corporations and could, for any reason or for no reason, revoke a corporation’s charter, thus putting it out of business. We have been passive for 100 years letting corporate power take over all important decisions. A corporation is not a democracy, it is a
      dictatorship and too many Americans say “how high” when corporate entities say jump, including many in Congress. We have to not only occupy them, we have to dismantle them. (See the work of Richard Grossman, historian, for more on this.)

      • anonymiss

        I wouldn’t say corporations have MORE power than Congress, I’d say they have the power OF Congress, because they have bought Congress!

  • 1onionpeeler

    When corn kernels can be sold in Africa that will grow the next generation of kernels that will not germinate, I’d say Monsanto has a morality problem

    Agent Orange not withstanding, WA State honey bee colonies are collapsing and “Round Up” is a suspect.

    Not that Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, eastern Washington’s “representative” cares much. She only gets about 40% of her campaign money (and all of her salary) from the people she is supposed to be representing. Remember “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. She gets 60% of her funding from the RNC and K Street and her largest private contributor is a ” payday loan” company (probably to support usury). No less than the brain of Sarah Palin, Cathy ‘s agenda is a disgrace to the female gender.

  • 1onionpeeler

    When corn kernels can be sold in Africa that will grow the next generation of kernels that will not germinate, I’d say Monsanto has a morality problem

    Agent Orange not withstanding, WA State honey bee colonies are collapsing and “Round Up” is a suspect.

    Not that Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, eastern Washington’s “representative” cares much. She only gets about 40% of her campaign money (and all of her salary) from the people she is supposed to be representing. Remember “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. She gets 60% of her funding from the RNC and K Street and her largest private contributor is a ” payday loan” company (probably to support usury). No less than the brain of Sarah Palin, Cathy ‘s agenda is a disgrace to the female gender.

  • Herpderp

    It is much harder to occupy walmart than you think. Walmart might be horrible but it is a great place for people who cannot afford full priced items. It has saved my family of many hungry nights. We know Walmart is a monster, but you have to do what you have to do.

    • Dfd

      I understand your point, but it’s important to also understand that Walmart thrives on families that are struggling financially. This is why they have such low prices. They can afford to sell them really low since it means squeezing out the small, local businesses, thus making Walmart your only choice. McDonalds does the same thing. They thrive in poor areas b/c people can’t afford anything else.

      If we did away with subsidizing fast food and allowing companies to use slave labor in other countries, then Walmart and McDonalds wouldn’t be able to survive. This would allow small, local businesses to compete fairly.

      Having said that, there are also a number of people that are stable financially, yet still shop at Walmart and McDonalds. There’s no excuse for that.

    • anonymiss

      Wal-Mart is not any cheaper than shopping somewhere else. In fact, because they pretend to have such “low” prices, you generally end up spending more than you would have had the items been “full price”, because you buy more. Wal-Mart knows this, and that’s why they have modeled their business in this fashion.

    • http://twitter.com/Aradia1976 AnnaB

      My family is about as broke as you can be. We’re a family of 4 living on my husband’s GI Bill stipend. We buy as much from local and small businesses as we can. We’ve participated in Community Supported Agriculture and bought direct from local farmers for three years now to help with our budget. I can and freeze a lot of our food. I’ve started buying my canning jars from the local feed and seed, where I don’t have to buy a whole dozen and they have odd sizes you can’t find in the big box stores. We traded a friend that makes soaps our old cloth diapers when our last child potty trained and we have enough soap for two years. When we do use a grocery store, we go to a local chain that gives back to the community and partners with the local children’s hospital.

      It does take planning and a little more work to avoid Walmart and other chains, but it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Start small. Find one small business and commit to buying something from them once a month. Then add another item or another store and go from there. Network with your neighbors to trade and barter. We started out with doing CSA at the local farmer’s market. Then we added laundry soap and organic feminine hygiene products from a local small business. We also got art supplies for the kids there once a year.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5EVPIMDS2V7MNQUDTNMDOGP5K4 KathrynT

      I know all about living on little and I hear what you say but if you think about it, there is a lot that we are pressured to buy that we really don’t need. As Americans we also eat way too much. In addition, learning about gardening, say like porch gardening if you don’t have a lot of space and using places like freecycle.com and your local thrift stores to get as much as you your needs met can really help you free yourself from the chains of the corporatacracy. It takes some practice and planning, but it really is worth it; your kids will be healthier and you’ll begin to really think about how we, especially the low income among us, are really used and cheated out of precious money and in return we get a lot of nothing.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5EVPIMDS2V7MNQUDTNMDOGP5K4 KathrynT

      I know all about living on little and I hear what you say but if you think about it, there is a lot that we are pressured to buy that we really don’t need. As Americans we also eat way too much. In addition, learning about gardening, say like porch gardening if you don’t have a lot of space and using places like freecycle.com and your local thrift stores to get as much as you your needs met can really help you free yourself from the chains of the corporatacracy. It takes some practice and planning, but it really is worth it; your kids will be healthier and you’ll begin to really think about how we, especially the low income among us, are really used and cheated out of precious money and in return we get a lot of nothing.

    • http://twitter.com/emberrayneh Ember Rayne Hulett

      No. you. don’t.
      No. you. don’t.
      No. you. don’t.
      No. you. don’t.
      No. you. don’t.
      No. you. don’t.
      No. you. don’t.
      NO YOU EFFING DON’T.

      Stop believing the hype.

      A) Wal-Mart’s prices are NOT lower. THEY ARE NOT. NO. STOP FIGHTING ME YOU! NO.
      Seriously… check it out…
      http://zenith-consulting.com/research/walMart/Wal-Mart-Strategy.pdf

      https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ie=UTF-8&ion=1#hl=en&safe=off&sclient=psy-ab&q=is+wal+mart+cheaper&pbx=1&oq=is+wal+mart+cheaper&aq=f&aqi=g-s4&aql=&gs_sm=3&gs_upl=13406l18042l0l18280l26l22l4l0l0l0l167l1995l19.3l26l0&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=277de88f3b68c9dc&ion=1&biw=1280&bih=872

      B) You have do what’s right for your family. True. What’s right is to coordinate the spread of this information so that EVERYONE changes the way we do business and you can once again buy at fair prices from a real neighbor.
      Stop doing what’s EASY and realize that you do not HAVE to shop at Wal-Mart.

      Wake up sheeple, your Stockholm Syndrome is showing again.

  • K2xcthcxnep

    Pfizer shold be on the list, the drug companies are out of control!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5EVPIMDS2V7MNQUDTNMDOGP5K4 KathrynT

      Funny you mention that, they also have a plant on the river in E. St. Louis and have repeatedly violated EPA regulations for toxic dumping.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=62701159 Kelly Craig

      If I am not mistaken, Monsanto bought out Pfizer in the late 90’s, so it falls under #4

  • Craig

    Let’s not forget the military-industrial-complex: Lockheed Martin anyone?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5EVPIMDS2V7MNQUDTNMDOGP5K4 KathrynT

    I am part of an Occupy group that is planning to do a covert action at our local Wal-Mart to inform consumers of how their operations hurt small businesses and also how their labor practices hurt the people who slave for them everyday because there just aren’t a lot of options out there.

    Also, someone should “occupy” the Monsanto plant that sits on land that once belonged to East St. Louis, but they were able to incorporate the land their plant sits on into a town so they pay nothing in taxes to the residents of East St. Louis — which is a city that could use some tax revenue. They also are one of the major polluters in the country, still last I knew in violation with EPA rules over dumping toxic waste into the Mississippi River (duh, why do you think they planted themselves next to the river?) and polluting the ground water and soil that resides in East St. Louis.

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  • Noose4

    Verizon should be on that list they make multi billions in profit but are currently in negotiation with their union workforce bargaining in bad faith and asking for major give backs even though, I repeat again, they are making multi billions in profit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mlysle1 Mark Lysle

    How about adding a seventh: McDonald’s.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/NMLA3IP3VOTEFE56MLBFBKO2GY The Kingfish

    Goldman Sachs, The Federal Reserve (a private corporation), Archer Daniels Midland

  • Linda Nuttall

    So would May 1 be a good day to Occupy? GOP already thinks we’re socialist/commies. Yeah for May Day!

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers'_Day

  • TeamBritneyTULSA

    OCCUPY TULSA was here.

  • Chris_siris07

    Verizon needs to be added, there is a youtube video from CSPAN from a polician who openly mentions companies make huge returns while paying at the most under 2% or no taxes while actually getting tax payers money in the form of rebates. Exxon and Verizon are both non tax paying rebate companies.

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