Recently the progressive blogosphere was abuzz with approving links to billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s latest New York Times op-ed, ”Stop Coddling the Super Rich.” In this piece, Buffett concisely exposes the various loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans to pay far fewer taxes than their middle class, working class, and poor counterparts. While the tax code in all its complexity certainly privileges the wealthy at the expense of most Americans, this barely scratches the surface of the ways the state oppresses poor and working people to line the pockets of the opulent. Buffett’s article never mentions direct corporate welfare or the numerous privileges that the wealthy hold thanks to intellectual property, the land monopoly, regulatory barriers to entry, suppression of labor movements, and imperialism, to name a few. To illustrate the extent to which government intervention privileges the super rich at the expense of everyone else, I will examine Warren Buffett’s stock portfolio and expose how his wealth stems from violence, coercion, imperialism, and statism.
Coca Cola, Human Rights, and Labor Suppression
According to http://warren-buffett-portfolio.com/, the #1 corporation in Warren Buffet’s stock portfolio is Coca Cola. Coca Cola has an abysmal human rights record, most noteworthy thanks to its colorful history of repressing labor organizing. According to an article by Jeremy Rayner for the John F. Henning Center for International Labor Relations:
There is mounting evidence that American companies are complicit in the persecution of trade unionists at their Colombian operations. In the case of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Carepa, where Isídro Segundo Gil was murdered, the union Sinaltrainal argues that Coca-Cola knowingly stood by and allowed the plant’s manager to bring in paramilitaries to destroy the union. The workers at the Carepa plant had been asking both Coca-Cola and its bottler, Bebidas y Alimentos, to intervene on their behalf for two months before Isídro Segundo Gil’s murder. The plant manager, Ariosto Milan Mosquera had announced publicly that he had asked the paramilitaries to destroy the union. His declaration had been followed by a series of death threats from the paramilitaries, which had prompted the union to send letters to both Coca-Cola and Bebidas y Alimentos asking that they intervene to secure their workers’ safety. And this was not the first time that threats against workers had been carried out. Just two years before, in 1994, the paramilitaries had killed two trade unionists at the same plant. It should have surprised no one when two and a half months after the union’s plea for help, Isídro Segundo Gil was murdered and the union busted.
Unionists have also been assassinated at other Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia, both before and after the incident at Carepa. One unionist, José Avelino Chicano, was killed at a Coca-Cola plant in Pasto in 1989. In 2002, despite the limited publicity surrounding the events at Carepa, a union leader named Oscar Dario Soto Polo was killed during the course of contract negotiations at the plant in Bucaramanga. Despite the remarkable courage and perseverance of Colombia’s labor activists, the campaign of intimidation has necessarily taken its toll on worker organizing. The president of Sinaltrainal, Javier Correa, reported last year that the number of unionized workers at Coca-Cola plants had dropped by more than two thirds since 1993-from 1,300 workers to only 450.
Such campaigns of violent intimidation have been aided and abetted by US tax dollars. Many of those involved with these anti-union campaigns of violence were graduates of the Defense Department’s infamous School of the Americas. The right wing paramilitaries which regularly slaughter labor organizers are closely connected to the Colombian military, which receives huge amounts of aid from the US government so as to fight the drug war as well as a dirty war against the anti-capitalist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Thus, even if Warren Buffett were to pay more in taxes, at least some of that money would go to violence against labor organizers.
In addition to brutality in Colombia, Coca Cola has been implicated in violence and intimidation against unionists in Guatemala. These and other Coca Cola human rights violations are profiled in detail at http://killercoke.org/.
Note that, contrary to Buffett’s progressive image, he profits immensely off of Coca Cola’s human rights violations. If Buffett really wants to “get serious about shared sacrifice,” he should sacrifice the profits he has gained through the corrupt tactics of Coca Cola and use some of his immense wealth to help the Coca Cola workers suffering throughout the globe thanks to those tactics. He should also repudiate the US government’s military aid and imperialist intervention in countries like Colombia.
Wells Fargo and the Prison Industrial Complex
The number two corporation in Warren Buffet’s stock portfolio is Wells Fargo. ...