My two prior columns commented on a piece that Forbes' publisher, Rich Karlgaard, wrote to defend Apple against complaints that its suppliers abuses of their workers had led to suicides. His column morphed into a screed about President Obama based on fictions that were the opposite of the facts.
I explored the sources and nature of Karlgaard's hate in the second column. Why did he and his friends develop a "cold loathing" for a president because he wanted to return the marginal income tax rate to where President Reagan set it? Why does he accuse the Obama administration of killing children by supporting the Reagan tax rate? Why do the non-heathens rage against Obama?
Karlgaard's "cold loathing" exemplifies the hate that suffuses hard-right ideologues. I discuss a small example from one of his prior columns that he wrote to downplay the threat posed by right-wing terror. I am less interested in his treatment of terror than the indirect manner in which his column led me to discover that when push comes to shove he serves as a self-professed "capitalist tool" even when doing so is contrary to his ethical views. Karlgaard claims that modern terrorist groups that threaten Americans are products of the left. The only ones on his list that are active and sometimes target Americans are Hamas and al Qaeda (he fails to mention Hezbollah). He fails to mention right-wing militias, skin heads/neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, each of which is ultra right wing. Attempting to classify the three terrorist groups inspired by fundamentalist Islamic religious views using political labels is a dubious proposition. Each of the Islamic terrorist groups demands and implements murderous repression against any "left" ideas such as freedom of religion, equal rights for women, equal rights for homosexuals, civil rule of law, and democracy. In researching Karlgaard's view on these issues I learned that he is one of the signatories of the Evangelical Manifesto, which opposes civil and religious same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
Karlgaard ignores openly right-wing terrorist groups and defines terrorist groups that favor ultra right-wing social policies as ultra left groups. I have shown that the facts pose no obstacle to Karlgaard when he writes about the man he views as the Great Satan -- President Obama. His "cold loathing" and eagerness to torture the facts extend to "the left." The left, in Karlgaard's world view, commits a series of biblically intolerable sins such as opposing discrimination against gays and supporting the right of women to be non-submissive and to control their bodies.
Karlgaard's general defense of Apple's suppliers' fraudulent, illegal, and brutal practices is every bit as bad as his attacks on Obama, but that is the subject of a future column. Here, I address one example of that brutality that Karlgaard ignored in his column about Apple's suppliers but which he should have found intolerable given his faith. One of the things that many of Apple's suppliers do, in violation of the law, is conduct pregnancy tests on female employees. The inevitable result, which every American opposes, is economic coercion to have undesired abortions. Apple knows from its audits of its suppliers that this practice is common.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the finding on January 13, 2012:
The report also found 24 facilities conducted pregnancy tests and 56 didn't have procedures to prevent discrimination against pregnant workers. Apple said that at its direction, the suppliers have stopped discriminatory screenings for medical conditions or pregnancy."
Apple does not in fact know that the suppliers stopped these illegal practices. Apple's audit found that its suppliers routinely continued to violate laws and contracts after promising Apple that they would cease doing so:
More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007, according to Apple's reports, and in some instances have violated the law.
Apple could stop the practice of coercing abortions by terminating a supplier that has repeatedly conducted pregnancy tests and announcing that it would terminate any supplier that committed similar violations. It is business as usual for a "capitalist tool" (Forbes' self-description) to serve as an apologist for Apple's suppliers' brutal, fraudulent, and unlawful assault on their employees that maims and kills workers and leads to coerced abortions. It should be an unacceptable role for a professed evangelical Christian.
Christians and other faith communities should be leaders in demanding that Apple and every other similar business change their policies that create the "Gresham's dynamic" (bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets) that makes inhumane assaults on workers the norm in much of the world. Karlgaard does not even want public employees to be permitted to organize unions and he lauds states in America (i.e., Alabama) that are hostile to unions for private employees. China's communist party (which long ago embraced a particularly corrupt form of crony capitalism) agrees enthusiastically with him. China makes it illegal to form a real union that represents the workers. (The problem is not limited to China.) In both world views, corporations have rights, workers do not.
China's communist party's leaders and capitalist tools have converged to worship the same holy writ -- the income statement. They share the knowledge that the only route to vast wealth for CEOs who are mediocre but unhindered by moral, social, or legal restraints against brutality or fraud is to cheat. The CEOs cheat their workers, their creditors, their shareholders, and their nations. The capitalist tools and China's leaders share the knowledge that CEOs can cheat with the greatest impunity in the most fraud-friendly nations. This is one of China's greatest "comparative advantages." China's leaders and the capitalist tools know that the victims of this Gresham's dynamic are not limited to the brutalized workers in China and other fraud-friendly nations. Honest American suppliers, managers, and workers will be the losers unless and until we break the Gresham's dynamic under which cheaters prosper and fraudulent CEOs and corrupt heads of state become wealthy by cooperating to craft crony capitalism.
As Jamie Galbraith explained in his most recent book (2008) (The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too), the capitalist tools gave up on capitalism two decades ago and embraced crony capitalism. Markets are not "free" under crony capitalism. The destruction that occurs when cheaters prosper is the opposite of "creative." If the capitalist tools wish to argue that we need to brutalize and cheat workers, coerce abortions, and illegally dispose of toxic waste (Apple found that one-quarter of its suppliers did so) in order to have innovative electronic goods let them say so explicitly. We will then send the capitalist tools to work the lines in their brutal factories so that they can personally enjoy the creative destruction of their bodies and spirits and the creative destruction of nature. It's the least they can do as capitalist tools.