The affairs of the World Trade Organization seem a long way from the everyday concerns of most Montanans. But just as last week’s meeting of the WTO collapsed over conflicts between the rich and poor nations of the world, don’t be too surprised if the policies of the Bush administration and their corporate schemers cause the same kind of “class warfare” to erupt right here in the good old U.S.A.
Whenever the WTO meets, violent anti-globalization demonstrations are assured. Unlike the relatively mild protests here in the U.S., the enraged citizens of other countries throw themselves into conflict with the cordon of security forces all such meetings require. At last week’s WTO meeting in Cancun, Mexico, a 55-year-old Korean farmer climbed a barrier and plunged a Swiss Army knife into his heart, killing himself out of frustration and anger over the hopelessness of farmers in the face of globalization’s unfair trade policies.
The opposition to the WTO’s globalization plans exists because the rich nations treat global resources as their huckleberry, ripe for the picking, while the poor nations struggle for survival, raped both economically and environmentally, and are left to deal with piles of toxic wastes that cause death and injury for generations to come. Sound familiar? It should, since it’s basically a condensed version of Montana’s past.
At the same time the Korean farmer was bleeding his life out in front of the world’s powerful trade ministers, Montana had its own visit from a Bush administration official, telling us how the energy resources of “the West” are vital to the nation’s security. To no one’s surprise, Rebecca Watson, once a lawyer for the infamous, corporate-funded Mountain States Legal Foundation, told the corporate-funded Western Governors’ Association it was imperative that our oil and gas resources be developed immediately. This includes Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and eastern Montana’s coalbed methane deposits.
To accomplish this, the Western Governors were told that the states had to do their part by getting rid of any and all burdensome environmental regulations. Just like the natives in Brazil, we Montanans will now get to watch the multinational oil companies blast roads to build transmission and pipelines through our forests and farms. Just like the Africans, and just like all the poor countries in the world, we happen to be sitting on something the corporations of the rich countries want.
Only now it’s happening to us—again.
Let’s see now, have they cleaned up the poisonous, toxics-filled pit at Butte, the 100 miles of dead river, and the poisoned flood plains left over from the Copper Kings’ pillage yet? No, they haven’t. They haven’t even managed to get rid of the crumbling Milltown Dam—and it’s been more than 20 years since it was declared a Superfund site. Without even cleaning the state up from the last corporate gang rape, they’re at us again.
More and more, Montana—and indeed most of America—is beginning to feel like a banana republic. We are now experiencing firsthand what has routinely been happening around the globe. The big money corporations come in, they wine and dine our elected officials, they fund their campaigns, and then they donate their “expertise” in making decisions that somehow always end up benefiting their corporate goals, while relegating local citizens and their concerns for health, environment and economic stability to the trash-heap of “progress.”
This week, NorthWestern Energy finally declared bankruptcy. Oh, “don’t worry,” we are told, “the lights will stay on”—provided, that is, that we agree to pay whatever inflated costs for energy the corporate boards decide is “necessary.” But once again, the twisted truth runs rampant. A concurrent AP article on the developing wind power industry in the Pacific Northwest opens its second paragraph with this sentence: “Despite a regional power surplus, the Northwest has become a hub for wind farm development…”
Did you get that? While Montanans are forced to pay 30 percent more for the electricity produced using our own water resources and the hydroelectric dams we financed and built, our region has “a power surplus.” By all the rules of supply and demand, our power costs should be going down, not up. But those rules apparently apply only when corporations argue that we must eliminate taxes and regulations so they can be “competitive.”
The same goes for the natural gas Becky Watson told us we must peel back the Rocky Mountain Front and drain the groundwater of eastern Montana to get. Yet, while Montanans have been hit with a 70 percent increase in the price we pay for natural gas to heat our homes, schools and government buildings because there is supposed to be a “shortage,” the actual market price for this vital commodity has fallen by 30 percent since May 2003 (which you can see for yourself at www. oilnergy.com/1gnymex. htm).
We are being squeezed on every front, every day, for every penny, by the unscrupulous mega-rich. Former President Bill Clinton said this week that “Bush is throwing money at us,” in referring to Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Ostensibly, this massive transfer of our nation’s wealth is supposed to “trickle down” to us, the little ant-people swarming around their feet, working away and dying in droves when they step on us or release their toxic byproducts. And of course the little ant-people obviously cannot question the decisions of the Masters of Commerce, War and Lies.
But sooner or later, the ant-people will revolt. When the burdens become unbearable, we, like the poor nations of the world, will rise to assail the castles of the rich in a class war between the few haves and the rapidly growing multitudes of have-nots. And just like in Iraq, it will be a war of Bush’s own making—unnecessary, unwise and unwanted, spawned by the uncaring, inequitable policies of Bush, Cheney and the corporate barons now running our country.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.