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July 23, 2009

9 Things You Can Do to Stop Big Greed

By Chaz Valenza

Big corporations are destroying our lives, but what can we do? Here are some ways to begin to deprive Big Greed of a little bit of the lifeblood that keeps it so damn strong.

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We've been sold a bill of goods. Big Greed has convinced us they are the only game in town. In some cases that might be true, but where we do have options let's use them. Must we always eat Big Greed's bad food? Or loan Big Greed money? Or buy Big Greed's sweatshop products from Big Greed Box stores that are miles away?

In Big Greed's Dream I suggest Three Rules for Ending Big Greed's Tyranny:

1) Recognize the actions of Big Greed in your life.

2) Minimize and/or eliminate your transactions with Big Greed.

3) Repeat.

The scourge of Big Greed is now obvious, but let's review just to get your blood pumping, for it's your lifeblood Big Greed is sucking out of you. Nothing the government is doing or plans to do will stop Big Greed.

As you read this, Big Insurance lobbyists are working hard to derail any substantive health care reform or, at minimum, make it as favorable to them as possible.

Big Finance is changing the terms on tens of millions of credit cards from fixed rate to variable rate in order to skirt the rate hike protection supposed gained in recently enacted "reform."

Big Energy will continue to obstruct any efforts that might circumvent their control of power production and delivery.

And, Big Food will continue its price pressure on small farmers and independent retailers & restaurants to assure their strangle hold on the food supply.

According to the Wall Street Journal (July 21, 2009), based on an analysis of the Social Security Administration data, "highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all the pay in the U.S..." And get this, that doesn't count billions of $$$ in compensation that is not included in the federal wages and salaries number, like stock options.

Big Greed continues to ship jobs overseas where it can dodge costs, use inferior materials and exploit workers. Mike Elk documents just such a case in "GE Promotes Manufacturing Jobs in US... Then Ships 'Em Overseas." (July 21, 2009). 

Elk reports on ATI, an American company, which invested $30M in a Michigan plant to supply wind turbine parts to General Electric. GE backed out of the deal when a Chinese firm underbid ATI's price. Even after offering to match the Chinese manufacturer's price, GE refused to return the business stateside. Three-hundred and two union workers were laid off and the modernized plant shuttered.

The June figures from the government put unemployment at 9.5%. Shadow Government Statistics  and its economist John Williams who takes the time to adjust a number of government issued indicators to more accurately measure the real situation, puts the June unemployment rate a 20.6%.

What can you do...? If you want jobs to be created here again? Or to stop the race to the bottom of worker wages? Or to crimp the siphon of profits that are sucked up and out of your community, your state and your country by Big Greed into some netherworld of corporate excess?

Buy an American car? Okay, but a typical car is now made from parts and assemblies sourced from all over the world.

Grow you own food? The percentage of Americans in a position to be sustenance farmers and/or hunters is minuscule.

Don't pay taxes? Sure, you go first.

Let's understand who Big Greed is: large corporations that have all the rights of a person, but never die. This gives them one huge advantage over us mere mortals. Because they never die they never intend to pay back one cent of the money they have borrowed or that has been invested in them. They get by with paying only interest on their debt. And when they can no longer make those meager payments they will file for bankruptcy protection without compunction.

The recent government bailouts took Big Greed favoritism to a surreal advantage. Several firm were picked for immunity from all consequences for failed business practices. Some received taxpayer loans even though their actions were, in fact, criminal fraud.

I don't know if we can bring Big Greed down, in fact, I rather doubt it.

What I'm suggesting is we begin by slapping a tiny hurt on it. Kick it in the shins and run if you will. Then, come back later to do some more damage. No, it's not a magic bullet approach. It's only revolutionary in its grassroots, guerrilla warfare style. But I believe we must start somewhere.

Let's think baby steps. Let's think things that may be a small sacrifice now but will pay off in changes down the road. Things all of us can do to some degree.

Here are some ways to begin to deprive Big Greed of a little bit of the lifeblood that keeps it so damn strong. Please, please, please contribute more ideas and/or amend these to be more doable and effective:

1) Buy local. Buy food raised and grown here, not abroad, and if local produce is available buy that. Buy as close to home as possible. Not just food, everything. I've found this is easier said than done, but we must take back what we can and keep our money as close to home. The global market, products shipped anywhere, anytime plays a role in both obfuscating true costs and makes us dependent on distant suppliers for necessities that should always be available locally.

2) Do buy Made-in-America whenever you can. Consider the entire cost of your purchase in terms of value, environmental and economic impact, not just the price. Low prices do not necessarily mean low cost. Big Greed has a hundred ways to pass costs onto you later, including out-sourcing your job, wasting your gas, polluting the earth and limiting your choices, allowing them to charge you more another day.

3) Minimize purchases at Big Box Stores, a.k.a. Category Killers. Sad but true, we are now to the point where many things can only be purchased at these community wreckers. Do what you can. Don't drive miles to the home center when the local hardware store, if you still have one, has what you need. If there's a locally owned market, give them your local business.

4) Get out of debt. Pay off your credit cards. If you can't, pay down your credit cards. Do whatever it takes to divest Big Finance of those interest payments and fees. If you are in a dire financial situation do consider bankruptcy protection. Don't feel bad about it, Big Greed corporations use it again and again.

5) Bank local. Big Banking offers a lot of convenience, but we're feeding the machine. Find a local FDIC insured bank or credit union that will appreciate your deposits and where they have a chance of being invested locally.

6) Weatherize your home. This is a great way to thumb your nose at Big Energy. Green advocates report this low-tech approach to residential energy savings is a big winner. Under $1,000 can cut your energy bill by an average 20%. You'll be creating local jobs and most of the materials will be made in the United States. Many homeowners are eligible for DOE grants for these improvements. See: National Low Income Housing Coalition website for more information.

7) Stop driving. You know you can drive less, you just don't want to. This is important. Leave the car whenever you can. This action will save you money.

8) Don't invest in stocks and bonds. Don't lend Big Greed money, as we've seen without the proper regulation of these markets the risk is just too high it will be stolen from you. Right now, with U.S. Treasury Series I Bonds are paying 0.0%. So, perhaps the best place to put your money is an FDIC insured savings account even though they don't pay much more. I'm sure someone will recommend a safe way to bank some cash in gold or silver, but I won't propose this option because I haven't found it.

9) Don't buy unnecessary insurance. Review all your insurance contracts now. What you'll find is your buying options and features that are ridiculous or aren't right for you. Shop around for insurance that covers only what you need or you must have as mandated by law.

Yes, some of the above will cost us more in the short-term. The prices we pay at the checkout will be higher, but if you consider the other costs of doing business with Big Greed it's a long-term bargain.



Submitters Bio:

Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration caused the greatest tragedy of the space age based on Richard C. Cook's book "Challenger Revealed." He is a former Director of Public Information for Planned Parenthood of NYC. His website is: www.WordsWillNever.com

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