Multinational Monitor

SEP 1999
VOL 20 No. 9


AIDS Drugs for Africa: Grassroots Pressure Overcomes U.S. Industry's "Full Court Press" to Block South Africa's Affordable Medicine Program
by Robert Weissman

Pills, Prevention and Profits: The Case of Tamoxifen
by Amy Allina and
Cindy Pearson

The Ties That Bind: Industry Sponsorship of Patient Groups
by Lisa Hayes


The Politics of Drug Safety
an interview with
Dr. Sidney Wolfe


Behind the Lines

Moving Gently on East Timor

The Front
Too Big to Debar? - Kathie Lee Goes on Defense

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Book Notes
Big Business, Poor Peoples: The Impact of Transnational Corporations on the World's Poor, by John Madeley - Reclaiming America, by Randy Shaw

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

The Rich Get Richer

The 1999 Forbes 400 - the 400 richest people in the United States - own as much wealth as the bottom half of the U.S. population put together -- over a trillion dollars.

The average Forbes 400 member's wealth grew 177 percent in the last 10 years and more than 55 percent in just the last two years. In contrast, the median U.S. household lost $4,700, or 8.6 percent of its net worth between 1989 and 1997.

Most new members of the Forbes 400 list released in September are tied to computer-related businesses. Nineteen of the newest names made their fortunes off internet-related businesses.

Apart from Bill Gates, who retains his position as the richest person in the United States (and the world), 11 other Microsoft names appear on the list, including the second richest (co-founder Paul Allen, whose worth is estimated at $40 billion) and number four, company president Steve Ballmer ($23 billion).

Others in the top 10 include Warren Buffett, five members of the Walton (Wal-mart) family and Michael Dell of Dell Computers.

In contrast to the large number of multimedia and computer moguls, only eight made the list from the manufacturing sector, including Ty Warner (maker of Beanie Babies, number 39, $5 billion).

Forbes magazine publisher and perennial presidential candidate Steve Forbes, whose wealth is estimated at around $400 million, did not make the list. The minimum net worth needed to qualify for the the Forbes 400 rose to $625 million from $500 million in 1998.

Commenting on the new Forbes 400 list, United for a Fair Economy co-director Chuck Collins says, "We're seeing the effects of 20 years of regressive tax, monetary, labor and trade policies, all of which have enriched the Forbes 400 and the rest of the top 1 percent and drained the assets of working Americans."

Corporate Subsidy Report

Maine businesses have given a cold reception to a new state corporate accountability law. Corporations in the state have been slow to comply with a new law requiring companies receiving state subsidies to report on the amount of subsidies received as well as what benefits taxpayers are getting in exchange.

The 1998 Corporate Accountability Law requires corporations to report seven different kinds of tax breaks and business subsidies. It requires corporations to set job creation and retention goals when applying for tax breaks. The law also establishes a commission to evaluate corporate welfare programs and recommend reforms to the state's subsidy programs.

According to state agencies responsible for tallying the data, the seven subsidy programs cost Maine taxpayers nearly $50 million in 1998, including a special deal for Bath Iron Works (General Dynamics), which costs $12 million each year.

Chamber of Commerce officials explained the filing delays by pointing to flaws in the way the state has administered the new reporting system. They complain that the state gave businesses just two weeks, during tax season, to reply to the mandated subsidy disclosure.

Public interest groups agree that the state must improve the way it implements the law.

"There are also numerous other tax breaks and subsidized loan programs that are not being tracked yet," says Arn Pearson of the Maine Citizen Leadership Fund. "We hope to expand the scope of the disclosure law in 2000."

Following Minnesota, Maine is the second state to enact a detailed job-subsidy disclosure law.

Giving Taxpayers the Shaft

Thanks to regulatory loopholes, taxpayers in the United States will pay millions of dollars to reclaim and clean up modern mines operated by private companies on public land, according to the Mineral Policy Center.

"Six Mines, Six Mishaps," a September report issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Mineral Policy Center, describes how six "state-of-the-art" hardrock mineral mines either threaten to become or have already become major environmental problems as a result of the 1872 Mining Act, which continues more than 125 years after passage to govern mining on federal lands. The Act contains almost no environmental protection provisions.

Although the industry is exempt from right-to-know reporting requirements, modern mining practices produce more waste than all other industries combined. Modern, highly mechanized mining results in huge tailing impoundments, and uses toxic chemicals such as cyanide to extract minute quantities of ore.

The six mines studied by the Mineral Policy Center are leaking cyanide, heavy metals and acid pollution into rivers, lakes and streams, some of which are already biologically dead.

Three of the six mines have been abandoned by companies which posted bonds that will not cover the total cost of cleaning up the mess left behind.

In addition to the 1872 Act, the Mineral Policy Center blames the current and pending mining mishaps on Bureau of Land Management regulations that are too antiquated to adequately abate the impacts of toxic mining techniques introduced since the regulations were last updated in the early 1980s under James Watt. Mine state senators have used the threat of anti-environmental riders to delay the development of new regulations three times in the past three years.

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