When Gov. Phil Murphy got some pushback from NBC’s Chuck Todd on this past Sunday’s Meet the Press for the Governor’s enthusiastic description of himself as a “progressive” and a “cold blooded capitalist” the former Goldman Sachs executive doubled down.
TODD: You think progressives accept you as a progressive if you call yourself a cold-blooded capitalist?
MURPHY: I don’t know. I don’t mean this literally but I kind of don’t care. That’s who I am. And I would put up both our economic record and progressive record up against any other American state over the last five years.
Perhaps not having to run for re-election has Murphy feeling unfettered, no longer willing to throttle his inner Goldman Sachs world view. That certainly would explain his recent decision to end the New Jersey Corporate Business Tax Surcharge that exacted $600 million from the world’s biggest corporations like Amazon that realized hundreds of billions of dollars in COVID windfall profits.
“This is a tax cut for some of the biggest businesses in the world, plain and simple,” said Nicole Rodriguez, president of the New Jersey Policy Perspective, in a statement. “With corporate profits at record levels and millions of New Jersey families struggling to keep up with rising costs, this represents the absolute worst of trickle-down economics. To be clear, this would not benefit mom-and-pop businesses but corporations like Amazon and Walmart that make billions of dollars every year off the backs of low-paid workers.”
NO PENDULUM SWING
What Murphy’s back to business mentality appears to be discounting is just how distorted the American economy has become over the last three years and what that’s meant for tens of millions of American families on the wrong end of the massive wealth slide. And unlike with the tides, there doesn’t appear to be some planetary gravitational pull that’s going to move it back in the other direction.
The Council of Foreign Relations asserts that “income and wealth inequality is higher in the United States than in almost any other developed country, and it is rising” with “large wealth and income gaps across racial groups, which many experts attribute to the country’s legacy of slavery and racist economic policies.”
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, a non-profit advocacy group, when the United States hit one million COVID-19 deaths, the wealth of America’s ‘cold-blooded’ billionaires swelled to $1.7 trillion, a spike of 58 percent just over the first two years the pandemic.
“This troubling juxtaposition underscores the story of unequal loss and sacrifice during the worst pandemic in a century,” observes Inequality.org, an IPS publication. “While billionaires have seen their wealth surge,” millions had lost their livelihoods.
While Murphy’s self-description smacks of the salesman’s hyperbole aimed to connect emotionally to close the deal, it actually displays a complete disconnect with what low regard ‘cold blooded capitalism’ is held in right now. After a mass death event, driven in large measure by scarcity of masks, testing, healthcare workers and even healthcare access, there’s a growing sense it’s exactly Murphy’s brand of “cold blooded capitalism” that’s got the planet’s survival hanging by a thread.
And the hits keep on coming.
There’s the infant baby formula scarcity fiasco, which is ongoing. Then there was the recent near Bhopal like rail disaster in Ohio where a Norfolk Southern train with 150 cars in tow, derailed sparking a conflagration that inundated the area with toxic smoke requiring regional evacuation and air monitoring for carbon monoxide, oxygen hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen cyanide, phosgene, and hydrogen chloride.
Amidst the twisted wreckage of dozens of derailed freight and chemical tank cars the railroad initiated a control explosion followed by the draining of the unstable chemical tanker cars of their toxic cargo into the track bed. Now, after having been ordered to evacuate on penalty of arrest, residents are being told to head back home despite reports of a significant fish die-off and dead chickens in their yards.
GREED OFF THE RAILS
While the official National Transportation Safety Board probe is underway, preliminary reports indicate the derailment and environmental catastrophe are a consequence of government regulators becoming captive to the industry they were entrusted to hold accountable. Whether it was the government’s not requiring the state-of-the-art braking systems for tanker cars or letting the railroad not classify the Ohio train as hazardous—even though it most certainly was.
“Documents show that when current transportation safety rules were first created, a federal agency sided with industry lobbyists and limited regulations governing the transport of hazardous compounds.,” reports the Lever. “The decision effectively exempted many trains hauling dangerous materials — including the one in Ohio — from the ‘high-hazard’ classification and its more stringent safety requirements.
The Lever’s reporting continues. “Amid the lobbying blitz against stronger transportation safety regulations, Norfolk Southern paid executives millions and spent billions on stock buybacks — all while the company shed thousands of employees despite warnings that understaffing is intensifying safety risks. Norfolk Southern officials also fought off a shareholder initiative that could have required company executives to “assess, review, and mitigate risks of hazardous material transportation.”
What the baby formula supply crisis and the Ohio rail disaster have in common is that they are products of what happens when an economy has also become captive to monopoly. Whether it be the handful of baby formula makers or the seven Class One freight railroads, down from almost 50 in the 1980s’, these are the 21st century trusts that use campaign cash to ward off ANY regulation.
Murphy, who was in Washington D.C. to preside over the winter meeting of the National Governors Association as its chairman, was on with the NGA’s vice chair Gov. Spencer Cox (R-Utah). The conceit of the segment was to portray the nation’s Governors as a more affable and practical species of politician than their beltway counterparts who just bicker and don’t govern.
Murphy contrasted the raucous heckling during President Biden’s State of the Union address with where, as Murphy described, mild-mannered and even keeled deliberation at the NGA.
“I wish the American people could have had a camera inside the National Governor’s meetings these past several days– completely at odds with that sort of craziness we saw Tuesday night, civility, respect, a thirst for common ground—acknowledging we are not going to agree on a whole long list of things but let’s find where we can agree,” Murphy said. “We are the ones that wake up with the responsibility for our residents, we balance the budgets, we run our states.”
Todd seemed to go along with the bi-partisan gubernatorial love fest and didn’t ask about why
if Governors were all so enamored of each other, did they weaponize undocumented asylum seekers by sending them several states away making them another Governor’s problem?
That’s something Tim Russert would have asked.
The segment ended with Cox lifting up several Republican Governors as potential 2024 Republican nominee Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), as well as former Governors Asa Hutchinson (R-ARK) and Nicky Hailey (R-SC). “I prefer Governors, that’s an easy call for me—every day of the week,” Cox said. “I will take a President,” quipped Murphy.
Both Cox and Murphy suggested during their Meet the Press segment there was something inherently more productive going on with the NGA and our state governments than at the national level. Perhaps they want us to believe the states and the NGA are laboratories of innovation, because it’s bipartisan, above the fray of our corrupt national politics awash in corporate campaign donations.
While there’s been some in depth reporting on how the Republican Governors Association and Democrat Governors Association act as fronts for dark corporate money corrupting our politics, the NGA appears to have gotten much less scrutiny because of that bi-partisan cover story.
What a review of the NGA’s website and related IRS tax filings reveals is a non-profit network that solicits large donations from big corporations and gives them access to a national platform. Whether it be at the Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze level of support, so-called NGA Partners are given a prominent seat at the table.
On NGA’s related National Governors Association Center for Best Practices IRS 990s there are donations listed from individuals ranging from $2.82 million down to $420,000, with no name or address listed. In the 2018 IRS 990 the top NGA Center for Best Practices salary was $639,834 with an additional $42,825 in other compensation. (Emails and a call to the NGA were not returned.
Notorious labor law scofflaws like Amazon and Starbucks are listed as “partners” as well as behemoths from big pharma and big oil and of course Norfolk Southern that’s doing damage control in Ohio.
OILING THE WORKS
“NGA Partners — founded in 1988 as the NGA Corporate Fellows Program — promotes the exchange of information between the private sector and governors and stimulates discussion on emerging trends and factors affecting both business and government,” the group’s website explains.” Working through NGA’s nonprofit arm, the NGA Center for Best Practices, the program generates a spirit of partnership through meaningful dialogue between leaders of the public and private sectors.”
“Collaboration with our private sector partners is invaluable in helping NGA provide governors with critical information and real-world solutions that work,” the NGA website proclaims. “Partner organizations and their executives are well positioned to contribute business expertise and policy perspectives as well as share state government success stories.”
And there’s more, so much more.
“The NGA Partners program brings the energy of NGA and our governors and their senior staff to your organization’s state government relations efforts. The NGA Partners program offers benefits that meet a variety of needs and delivers a strong return on your organization’s contribution with resources, engagement, collaboration, impact and value by connecting the top leaders and thinkers in public policy, business and innovation.”
Just what the likes of Amazon and Norfolk Southern need, more access.