At the recent Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meeting, Chairman Brownie Newman gave two reasons for overriding his conscience about giving tax incentives to war profiteer Pratt & Whitney.
First, he said that decisions about foreign policy are made at the national government level and so localities have no say in things like wars waged in our names.
Second, he said that location doesn’t matter for defense contractors — if they don’t come here, they’ll just go somewhere else. So why not have them come here so we can get the jobs?
First, to abdicate personal and local responsibility for U.S. imperial terrorism is complicity. We always stand morally somewhere in this life, whether we acknowledge it or not. To say we have no decision-making role in foreign policy is a dodge from our moral responsibility. It’s not, “I was only following orders,” but, “It isn’t my area of responsibility.”
Second, if Raytheon were to take its ball and go elsewhere, that would be a victory for peace and climate justice, and maybe we’d have tax incentives for local businesses and social services instead. To say that we may as well take the deal because if we don’t, someone else will — this is quite the immoral stance. It’s like saying, “I may as well throw my lot in with the criminals, because if I don’t do it, someone else will.”
“Economic development” is a proven strategy of neoliberalism, getting people to feel grateful for a small payoff in jobs after their wealth and prosperity have been stolen by austerity policies. It is the phrase used by oil companies to justify their continued ecocidal drilling, by logging companies for the destruction of our forests, by Congress for its bogus tax breaks for the rich. The phrase is corporate propaganda.
We don’t need local acquiescence to corporate bribery. That has always meant the extraction of wealth from local communities and workers. How ironic that we are in Appalachia, where this has been happening for so many years with coal companies. With this present proposal for Asheville, what will be extracted is cheaper labor (thanks to the North Carolina “right to work” law) and “public-private” dollars (the land, the bridge, the no-taxes). It is a devil’s bargain. And this particular devil has a direct link to the horrific genocide and mayhem being perpetrated in Yemen and elsewhere.
Shame on the Buncombe County Commission.
— Ken Jones