Archive for the ‘Long Term View’ Category

Professor Says Bush Has Transformed Government From “Open” to “Closed” Organization

May 5, 2008

President George W. Bush has presided over the transformation of an open federal government in Washington to one of “pervasive secrecy,” a distinguished authority on communications and First Amendment rights says.

Since his inauguration, Bush has overseen changes that suggest “a dramatic growth of government secrecy, far beyond the secrecy occurring during the Clinton Administration,” writes Susan Dente Ross, an Associate Professor in the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University at Pullman.

“Through executive agency opinions, executive orders, statutory changes, and aggressive litigation, the Bush Administration has effectively limited the power of FOIA(Freedom of Information Act) and reversed the presumption that government records should be available to the public absent demonstrable proof showing that secrecy is needed,” Ross writes in The Long Term View, a journal of opinion published by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.

“The administration’s sweeping expansion of the power of federal government to classify records, and so hide them from public view, increases the range of information that may be classified and extends the lifetime of such secrecy,” Ross says. She noted that:

# Mr. Bush has increased the number of federal agencies authorized to designate information as secret and exempt them from public disclosure.

# The Department of Homeland Security removed the agency’s entire classification of information process from public scrutiny. The secretaries’ of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, have been granted the right to classify information “for purposes of national security and national defense.”

# The Defense Department has adopted a new policy that imposes strict limits on discussion of all its “critical research” from the “idea phase” onward.

# Mr. Bush has placed his own papers, and those of his father, the former president, “outside the public eye and empowered himself to keep Congress in the dark about intelligence matters.”

# Mr. Bush has increased the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency to empower its director to block declassification of CIA information unless disclosure is authorized by the president.

# Mr. Bush has extended time that information can be kept classified from 10 to 25 years and this period may be extended even longer.

“Blanket closures of INS(Immigration and Naturalization Service) proceedings and absolute gags on disclosure of related information eviscerate the time-honored constitutional protection of open public trials,” Ross writes. She noted the federal government “arrested and refused to identify hundreds of aliens who either may be connected to terrorism as material witnesses or who may have visa or other INS infractions.”

An INS directive issued promptly after September 11, 2001, mandated absolute closure of all deportation hearings in cases the agency determined to be of “special interest” to the war on terrorism, Ross said. The INS judges could gag aliens from disclosing anything learned in closed proceedings and an INS regulation requires states and localities housing federal detainees to withhold all information about them.

Ross noted, though, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge struck down the INS closures and a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington ordered the Justice Department to disclose the names of more than 1,100 non-U.S. citizens detained at some point in connection with terrorism.

Ross asserts, “Legislation championed as essential to protect the nation against terrorist threats allows the federal government to spy on its citizens, to detain them in secret without charges, to prosecute them based on secret evidence, and to prohibit parties to the trial from discussing related information.”

Ross writes the merest perusal of some Bush initiatives shows it has reversed the presumption of open government: “Although the now prevailing presumption of closed government is masked in subtle nuances of language and interpretive guidelines, we may liken the shift to the sea change that would occur in our criminal justice system if we moved from a presumption of innocent until proven guilty to an assumption of guilty until proven innocent.”

Granting the Bush administration has imposed its sweeping secrecy policies in the name of national security, Ross contends this exchange is “unacceptable.” “The trade-off, secrecy for security, is a sham,” she writes. “The citizenry gives up its vital check on abuse of government power and gains little in return.”

“A shadow government that operates in secrecy,” Ross continues, “does not advance the security of its citizens. Ignorance is not security. Safety is not increased when citizens are blinded by government deception and distortion. Government does not better serve its electorate when it operates with impunity.”

The Massachusetts School of Law, publishers of the Long Term View, is purposefully dedicated to the education of minorities, immigrants, and students from low- and middle-income backgrounds that would otherwise be unable to attend law school and enter the legal profession. Views expressed in the publication are not necessarily those of the law school.

MERGERS OF CORPORATE GIANTS NOT LIKELY TO BENEFIT CONSUMERS

April 9, 2008

MERGERS OF CORPORATE GIANTS NOT LIKELY TO BENEFIT CONSUMERS

It is doubtful the merger of corporate giants enhances their creativity or benefits consumers, a distinguished authority on business regulation writes. “There is little if any evidence that increased corporate size in already-large national and international firms produces greater technological innovation,” writes Elizabeth Sanders, Professor of Government at Cornell University.

“To the contrary, it probably leads to less, given lower competitive pressures, and the starving of research in debt-burdened companies.” Sanders writes the annual value of corporate consolidations — led by telecommunications, banking, broadcasting, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies—jumped 100-fold between 1980 and 1999, reaching three trillion dollars in the latter year, with cross-border mergers making up one third of the total.

“After the dust has settled, thousands of employees fired, surplus executives generously pensioned off and a vast new debt accumulated, the merged giant usually performs less well than did its major components formerly, and the stock price goes down in recognition of less favorable prospects,” Sanders writes in an article titled “Antitrust and American Democracy,” published in The Long Term View, a journal of informed opinion published by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.

Fifty-one of the 100 largest economies in the world are not countries but global corporations, Sanders points out, and the top 200 corporations now account for over a quarter of the world’s economic activity. “Consolidation has unleashed behavior for which the term ‘robber baron’ seems too tame,” Sanders writes. “Many mergers appear designed more to create new opportunities for the enrichment of CEOs and favored stock purchasers (and to gratify testosterone-fueled empire building?) rather than to shuck off excess capacity, create new ‘synergies’ or reap economies of scale.” “We have seen the shocking results in 2001-2002, as giant after giant reveals financial chicanery that enriched the managerial elite while looting the company, to the severe disadvantage of workers, pensioners, stockholders, and communities.” Sanders writes of “a broad expectation among businesses and citizens that conspiracies in restraint of trade, and other methods of unfair competition, will be prosecuted.”

The author notes the major antitrust laws of the 20th century — the Clayton and Federal Trade Commission Acts of 1914, the 1950 Celler-Kefauver Act, and the 1976 Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act—all originated in and were passed by Democratic Congresses.” Under President Ronald Reagan, by contrast, “consumer welfare” was “conceptualized almost solely in terms of the price of goods and services, stripping away the broader democratic concerns that had once been at the center of antitrust philosophy.” With few cases worth prosecution, Sanders noted, antitrust staff and budgets under Reagan were slashed, so that Antitrust Division personnel in the Justice Department dropped to half the level under President Jimmy Carter, while “merger and monopoly case filings dropped to half the level of 1970, and only the most extreme horizontal mergers were now suspect; vertical and conglomerate mergers were of little or no concern.” Sanders said if there is to be any revival of antitrust activity it will have to come from state attorneys general acting in behalf of state residents or from the European Union. The world, however, needs a strong U.S. antitrust policy, Sanders writes, not only because the U.S. worked hard over more than a century to develop one but because it is urgently needed today. “It is time, not to abandon it(antitrust policy), but to share it, to reinforce the fledgling efforts of other nations to develop their own policies, and to cooperate in the development of a tough international policy against economic concentration and corporate bullying.”

The Massachusetts School of Law, Andover, is purposefully dedicated to the education of minorities, immigrants, and students from low- and middle-income backgrounds that would not otherwise be able to obtain a legal education. Views expressed in The Long Term View are not necessarily those of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.