The ExxonMobil Climate Scandal Reveals the Deadly Evil of Corporatism

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The Republican Party and its voter drones are always advocating for corporations, as though corporatism is the answer to federalism, as though corporations run by people we don’t get to vote for is a healthier choice for Americans than a government we do.

To understand how very wrong this is, you need only to look at the ExxonMobil climate scandal. Like the tobacco companies of a generation ago, ExxonMobil knew all about the dangers of fossil fuels – and sold them anyway.

Now the oil giant is being investigated by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has followed suit. Others may join them.

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And the fossil fuel industry is outraged. Corporate America is outraged. How dare anyone call their practices into question!

Because profits. They’re just trying to make a buck. Cut them some slack already.

If anyone does not see the danger in government for profit, it’s because they don’t want to. Think about it for a minute: a corporation cares only about profits. Not about people. A corporation will sell you something that will kill you – something they know will kill you – because by their reckoning, they will save money by letting you die.

In the corporate world of risk assessment, it is considered “suboptimum” to spend more money to fix something than they stand to lose. That means the person from whom all political power is supposed to derive (whether it does in practice) is, in the business world, often the sum of the equation to determine what is “suboptimum.”

That’s right. It’s more cost-effective to let you die, and to settle up afterward, than it is to go back to the drawing board and redesign the product.

In defense of ExxonMobil, Bloomberg mounted an unconscionable defense of profits over people: “failing to be a good corporate citizen isn’t lying, and isn’t a crime.”

People talk about an uncaring federal government. Nothing we see come out of the government is as cold and heartless as this simple statement.

The Bloomberg editorial board would have you believe,

Unless the company deliberately misled its investors, it’s hard to see why its scientific and public-relations efforts should be any concern of New York’s attorney general.

So the only possible crime here is misleading investors. Not killing millions of people. That’s just business.

What kind of warped morality is that? It is ethically indefensible.

You see the problem, of course. Corporations only have to be “good corporate citizens,” not good citizens of the world. The common weal means nothing when weighed against profits, and seeking profits can never be a crime.

This ranks right up there with the old Christian adage that “There is no crime for those who have Christ.” Now we have, “There is no crime for those who seek profits.”

Bloomberg concludes:

[E]ngaging in scientific research and public advocacy shouldn’t be crimes in a free country. Using the criminal law to shame and encumber companies that do so is a dangerous arrogation of power.

The thing is, it wasn’t scientific research ExxonMobil was engaging in, but promotion of junk science (i.e. disinformation) to “prove” that their business practices weren’t harming the environment – and its customers. To claim there is nothing wrong with that is beyond absurd. It’s obscene.

ExxonMobil told The Guardian this summer that “ExxonMobil does not fund climate denial,” despite giving millions to Republican climate change denialists in Congress.

We don’t get to vote for corporate boards of directors or CEOs. If they kill us for profits, we have no recourse. We can replace governments. We get a vote.

You can respond that politics are corrupt and that the system is fixed, but then you must explain how the corporate system is not fixed.

Republicans claim the whole economy will go down the tank if we don’t let corporations kill us with impunity. If you really think you’ll get a better deal from people who are willing to kill you to make a buck, you’re in denial too.

Photo: John W. Poole/NRP