Corporate rotten eggs

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

What do a half-billion eggs have to do with democracy? The massive recall of salmonella-infected eggs, the largest egg recall in U.S. history, opens a window on the power of large corporations over not only our health, but over our government.

While scores of brands have been recalled, they all can be traced back to just two egg farms. Our food supply is increasingly in the hands of larger and larger companies, which wield enormous power in our political process. As with the food industry, so, too, is it with oil and with banks: Giant corporations, some with budgets larger than most nations, are controlling our health, our environment, our economy and increasingly, our elections.

The salmonella outbreak is just the most recent episode of many that point to a food industry run amok. Patty Lovera is the assistant director of the food-safety group Food & Water Watch. She told me: "Historically, there's always been industry resistance to any food-safety regulation, whether it's in Congress or through the agencies. There are large trade associations for every sector of our food supply, starting from the large agribusiness-type producers all the way through to the grocery stores."

The salmonella-tainted eggs came from just two factory farms, Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg, both in Iowa. Behind this outbreak is the egg empire of Austin "Jack" DeCoster. DeCoster owns Wright County Egg and also owns Quality Egg, which provides chicks and feed to both of the Iowa farms. Lovera describes DeCoster as "a poster child for what happens when we see this type of consolidation and this scale of production."

The Associated Press offered a summary of DeCoster's multistate egg and hog operation's health, safety and employment violations. In 1997, DeCoster Egg Farms agreed to pay a $2 million fine after then-Labor Secretary Robert Reich described his farm "as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop." In 2002, DeCoster's company paid $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Mexican women who reported they were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, abuse and retaliation by supervisors. Earlier this summer, another company linked to DeCoster paid out $125,000 to the state of Maine over animal-cruelty allegations.

Despite all this, DeCoster has thrived in the egg and hog business, which puts him in league with other large corporations, like BP and the major banks. The BP oil spill, the largest in the history of this country, was preceded by a criminally long list of serious violations going back years, most notably the massive Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people. If BP were a person, he would have been imprisoned long ago.

The banking industry is another chronic offender. In the wake of the largest global financial disaster since the Great Depression, banks like Goldman Sachs, flush with cash after a massive public bailout, subverted the legislative process aimed at reining them in.

The result: a largely toothless new consumer-protection agency, and relentless opposition to the appointment of consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to head it. She would give the banks as much oversight as the new agency would allow, which is why the bankers, including President Barack Obama's appointees like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and economic adviser Larry Summers, are believed to be opposing her.

The fox, you could say, is watching the henhouse (and the rotten eggs within). Multinational corporations are allowed to operate with virtually no oversight or regulation. Corporate cash is allowed to influence elections, and thus, the behaviour of our elected representatives. After the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which will allow unlimited corporate donations to campaigns, the problem is only going to get worse. To get elected, and to stay in power, politicians will have to cater more and more to their corporate donors.

There is hope. There is a growing movement to amend the U.S. Constitution, to strip corporations of the legal status of "personhood," the concept that corporations have the same rights as regular people.

This would subject corporations to the same oversight that existed for the first 100 years of U.S. history. To restrict political participation just to people will take a genuine, grass-roots movement, though, since Congress and the Obama administration can't seem to get even the most basic changes implemented. As the saying goes, if you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.

Amy Goodman is the co-founder, executive producer and host of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 450 public broadcast stations in North America.

No corporate owner. No government money. No endowment. No cost to visit and use rabble.ca. Please become a member of the community that makes rabble happen and become a member today (www.rabble.ca/membership).

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.