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Corporate Privilege: Premeditated Murders, Civil Fines and Miscarriages of Justice

You know they do it on purpose right? Corporations intentionally sell deadly products and introduce hazardous goods to the marketplace because they know they can get away by paying civil fines instead of facing jail time when dead bodies start being counted. They call it risk/benefit analysis in corporate jargon, what they are really doing is maliciously calculating whether the profits to be gained will be greater than the suffering they will unleash every time they release defective cars, unsafe toys, fatal medicine or toxic foodstuffs to the public. Corporate suits see nothing wrong with humanity being sacrificed at the alter of P/E ratios and cash flows, they commit felonies knowing that the “punishment” is a couple of million dollars once they’ve realized billions in profits.

Last evening, CNN reported that Johnson & Johnson was hit with a $25.75 million verdict for selling baby powder that has asbestos in it. This news was buried under an avalanche of Trump shenanigans, salacious tidbits and celebrity gossip. The headline made it seem like one of the leading pharmaceutical corporations in the world finally got their comeuppance and that justice was delivered. Alas, nowhere in the article does it mention that Johnson & Johnson has a market cap of over $327 billion dollars. Their fine for killing people with their cancer powder is an afterthought, this is not a punishment but an encouragement to keep putting profits above people. Of course CNN did not cover this aspect—Johnson & Johnson is one of CNN’s main advertisers and even sponsors some of their health related show—they were not about to upset their cash cow and risk losing their own profits.

To appease their advertisers, CNN skipped over damning evidence of corporate depravity. The article doesn’t call out that internal memos revealed that Johnson & Johnson knew about their baby powder having asbestos in it nor does it mention the number of people who were harmed. Neither does the article give context to the suffering of the victims and the internal memos which show that Johnson & Johnson knew about the dangers their baby powders pose. Just think about this for a minute, a product laced with a deadly poison that causes cancer is being sold for use on babies and infants to this day around the world and it barely causes a ripple in mainstream media.

Asbestos is responsible for killing between 12,000 to 15,000 people on an annual basis; the idea of asbestos being within a thousand feet of a newborn baby would be enough to induce nightmares upon parents. Not for Johnson & Johnson, instead of taking every step to safeguard the most vulnerable among us, they had no problem marketing their toxic powder to unsuspecting mothers and fathers. It takes a warped and depraved approve commercials with babies smiling while carcinogens are being sprayed on their bodies—Johnson & Johnson is proof that money calcifies the heart and inverts the souls of humans. They knew about the dangers of talc as far back as the 1970’s, an unnamed official posed a question that is insidious and criminal; in a penned memo, the executive asked:

“If Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos at a level of, say, 1 percent, how much of the cancer-causing substance would a baby inhale when dusted with the powder?”

This question is not an outlier, it’s a query that countless C-level executives ask of their departments as they figure out how far they can bludgeon humanity before their actions cause repercussions that might harm revenues and profits. Without the fear of criminal prosecution, corporations have been given a free rein to focus exclusively on top and bottom line growth even if that means killing a few thousand people. Homicides have become a cost of doing business. If they are found guilty of “negligence”, they know the most they will pay is a fraction from the boons they stand to realize. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson are being incentivized to commit premeditated murders because the proceeds from their malfeasance will always be greater than the sanctions.

Some will try to excuse the mendacity of Johnson & Johnson and dismiss this article’s content as a relic of the past. However, according to numerous studies and advocacy groups such as the Mesothelioma Group, talc and its association with asbestos is an ongoing issue that is just as relevant today as it was in the 1970’s. There is a reason why Johnson & Johnson includes warning labels on baby powder bottles. Talc and asbestos tend to naturally form together; even if every precaution is taken, talc products still run a risk of being cross-contaminated with a toxin that kills more people than bullets on any given year. This is the loaded gun that is being sold for use on babies.

Only a corporation has the audacity to advertise themselves as lovers of babies even though they acknowledge that their product is harmful to babies.

Make no mistakes about it, premeditated murder is exactly what these corporations are committing. When fatal commodities are being offered to unwitting customers and their harmful affects are covered up by slick advertisements, this is not a matter of negligence but of deliberate and calculated malice. Corporations operate above the law; time and again they commit atrocities and larcenies only to be fined with couch change. In 2008, the largest theft in recorded history was committed by a cabal of bankers and their punishment was bailouts while their victims were made homeless. Not one high level executive from Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and their accomplices in the banking mafia went to prison. Wealth means never having to say you're sorry or face justice. Click To Tweet

Instead of justice, they are slapped with civil fines and keep getting away with murder. Yet even these paltry penalties are being fought tooth and nail by the corporate class and their plutocrat masters. Taking corporations to court is an onerous burden, one that few could accomplish on their own. Which is why class-action lawsuits are so vital to keep corporations somewhat in check. This is why Wall Street and their lackeys in DC are taking a hammer to the rights citizens have to band together and seek redress. Just this week, the supreme frauds at the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can force their workers to give up their rights to take part in class-action suits. They will keep nibbling away at our rights until they are able to operate without rules and repercussions—Flint, Michigan was but a prologue for America.

One of the things that repulsed me when I was pursuing an MBA at Johns Hopkins was the incessant focus on the next marginal dollar during finance classes. A company that is making a million dollar in profits today will go out of business in a blink if they don’t make a million plus the next quarter. They are more concerned about keeping investors happy than keeping humanity safe. Month over month, year over year, the focus is always on revenue growth; the price society pays comes by way of baby powder that has asbestos in it and Great Recessions that wipe away our life savings. The corporate class and the oligarchy will continue to make fortunes as they squeeze our blood in order to eek out more profits. #CorporatePrivilege

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The poor labor by their hand and languish; the rich succeed by cunning and flourish. The hand grows weary, the cunning should be leery.

Check out the Ghion Cast below where I talk about how corporations are the root of global suffering and how we are empowering our own subjugation. There is a better way forward, we can #corpxit.

Teodrose Fikre
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Teodrose Fikre

Founder at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikre is the editor and founder of the Ghion Journal. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Teodrose Fikre
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