HIGHTOWER: Stopping Corporate Killers

If you robbed a convenience store and, in the process, killed the clerk . . . do you think you could get away with paying a $1,000 fine and serving no jail time?Hey, who do you think you are . . . a corporation?Our so-called "Justice" Department applies a much more lenient standard to corporate criminals than it does to the human variety. Take the recent case of seven manufacturers of diesel truck engines. I'm talking about brand names like Mack trucks, Caterpillar, and Volvo. In the words of the head of the EPA, "they cheated" on our country's anti-pollution laws. They made diesel engines that they knew would pollute, chugging out tons of toxics that cause everything from respiratory diseases to cancer. In other words, their pollution robbed people of their lives.But how did they get around our pollution laws? By outright criminal deception. These manufacturers installed computerized devices in more than a million of their diesel engines, allowing the engines to pass federal inspection for air-contaminants as the trucks rolled off the assembly lines, but as the trucks rolled out into the traffic of our cities, the devices essentially clicked off . . . and the polluting engines were free to spew cancer-causing filth into our air.So what is their punishment? The Justice Department settled for a billion bucks, hailing this as one of the harshest penalties ever applied to polluters. Sounds like a lot, but wait a minute, these industry giants make more than 43 billion dollars each and every year. This one-time billion-dollar payment is like a thousand dollar fine on someone who holds up a convenience store. Plus, they get no jail time. And, get this, unlike human criminals, the corporations get to deduct their billion-dollar payment from their income taxesÑmeaning we taxpayers subsidize their crime. The bottom line is that it's cheaper for them to violate the law than it is to comply with it.This is Jim Hightower saying . . . If we started putting the executives of these corporate killers in jail . . . we'd stop their crimes.

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