Cradle to Grave: How Dirty Business Has Destroyed Small Town America

coal ash jesup gaOp-Ed by Phil Butler

The world is getting dirty due to corporate malfeasance and excesses. The business of cleaning it all up, sweeping hazardous waste under the rug, has never been better. Billionaire investors, hedge funds, pensioners living on the margins, are steered to companies like Waste Management, Republic Services, Covanta Holding Corp., and other securities as they are told they represent secure investments. Here is a story about how such companies milk the public dry, from cradle to grave.  I will demonstrate  how real-life slavery has been reinstituted, how small town America has been drugged and deceived, and how “rotten business” is destroying a great people’s once ultimate dream. Here is the ongoing saga of corporate abuses in the small town of Jesup, Georgia.

I kiss the soil as if I placed a kiss on the hands of a mother, for the homeland is our earthly mother. I consider it my duty to be with my compatriots in this sublime and difficult moment. — Pope John Paul II —

The multinational corporations of this world are “the” problem. Many of you have probably already come to this same conclusion. Americans have acquiesced in promoting the fallacy that huge conglomerates are some kind of necessary evil. Few Americans realize that lawmakers have sold out individuals to the bankers.  To illustrate this, we take the example of a small town in Southern Georgia, which represents the betrayal of all of America. It is a long story, but well worth your time. That is, if you ever want your country back. While Donald Trump and other politicians demand that we all “take America back,” it is you and I who must do what is necessary to regain the America that once was.

Beasts of Burden

The term “Cradle to Grave” is used to describe the environmental life cycle of a product. In a bitter irony, it is also business parlance for treating humans as a commodity to be exploited. I recall the first time I became aware of this, when my father first spoke of it at his law offices in Jesup, Georgia in 1974. “Well, they have managed to commoditize us finally.” He added,  “Instead of personnel, we are resources for big business to use up,” I recall him saying chidingly. And while few took notice of such things back then, my dad was always reading, discerning, assessing law, and especially the US Constitution. He would use the occasion to teach: “Let me illustrate something for you, before we move on.”

Some of you may recall that employers used to have “personnel departments,” which were later transformed into “human resources.” Human resource experts of today are taught in college how this was some kind of noble business experiment. This is reflected in a recent report from Science for a Smarter Workplace, by Terranova Consulting Group’s Karen E. May:

The shift from “personnel” to “human resources,” for example, was part of the movement to acknowledge the value of employees as an organizational resource…

Maybe readers will catch the distinction, or the paradigm that emerged when big business altered its dogma. The difference between a department that deals with employees, and a resource that can be weighed, categorized, shuffled, stamped, signed, sealed, and delivered. The English teachers amongst you should be the first to grasp the full meaning. In the early 1970s, Americans leapt into a spiraling crevasse, without even knowing. This is where we were made into “resources,” which is of course a euphemism for slaves. Please think about this, as I continue to build a case against the likes of Republic Services and others.

Revenge of the Yuppies

In 1973 and ‘74 America went through some major changes. From the “Nixon Shock” to that president’s resignation over Watergate, everything about our society changed. While dramatic at the time, most of this change took place on an almost subliminal level for the average American. Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal. The 26th Amendment to our Constitution allowed 18-year-olds the right to vote. We launched Skylab, the first space station, and created a hundred other “firsts.” In 1975, while all of us at Wayne Country High School were thinking about dates, fun and finally escaping from the drudgery of education, Bill Gates founded Microsoft. In ‘77, the Commodore became the first home computer. Elvis died in ‘77 too. Encapsulating what the “seventies” was all about is painstaking, but historians agree that the 1970s were (if anything) a “pivot of change.” In terms of world history it was about economic upheavals. Yuppies, the “me generation” came about as a result. We really started to think about mainlining (a drug term) super-capitalist ideals. And corporations fed us all we could stomach. Those history lessons you hated in high school and college, the nightly news reports you were too tired or stoned to watch, they foretold a real Orwellian nightmare.

The oil embargo of 1973 by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) affected me personally, and “oh-so” harshly. My little orange Mercury Capri, that me and my pals scooted to the beach in, now cost $6 dollars to fill up rather than $3.50. But in reality, my dad gave me a charge account at Purcell’s Union 76 gas station (or was it Exxon?), so the misery was deferred. But the gas crisis was not about Arabs wanting more money, or punishing America for meddling in Arab affairs. 1973 was about a new kind of economic world, something known as “neo-liberal” economics. The end result of this revised economic theory is best expressed by citing the Wikipedia entry:

The implementation of neoliberal policies and the acceptance of neoliberal economic theories in the 1970s are seen by some academics as the root of financialization, with the financial crisis of 2007–08 as one of the ultimate results.

For the sake of brevity (and your sanity), we will simply say that the forms of neoliberal economic changes seen in the ’70s and early ’80s were the highest form of hyper-capitalism. And in the end, as we are seeing, the results of turning the corporate dogs loose are turning disastrous. But our story here is not about graduate level economics, it’s about a Southern Georgia community, and how laissez-faire or free market capitalism has affected society, especially at the local level.

We all wanted to be “Yuppies,” and to have it all; now let me show you how our leaders drugged us into a capitalistic overdose. The last four decades have been a failed experiment in what the famous neoliberal German philosopher and economist Franz Oppenheimer would call the merging of the political state and the corporation. The form of socialism he and others proposed combined the political and economic means to fulfill every Yuppie’s desires. Yes, while we were busy coaching basketball or attending PTA meetings, other forces were at work.

While you and I earned and spent fortunes living the American Dream, our enslavement was being chiseled into the system. The theorists behind this enslavement were at first in a heated battle with people like consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

It is irrefutable what effect neoliberalism had on our society. The deregulation of the financial sector through the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act, and later Bush-Clinton era disguises for neoliberal values, led us into our current mess. Militarism, deteriorating family values, and especially ecological malfeasance mark the synthesis begun in the early 1970s.

Now we have had our socio-economic history lesson, we can more intelligently assess what has happened in the South I grew up in. Let me show you a small town called Jesup, Georgia, and how deregulation and free market madness have affected my friends there.

Rotten Business From Start to Finish

Republic Services has a dirty job. The second largest non-hazardous solid waste management company in the United States, after Waste Management, Inc, it has to get rid of not just our garbage, but the unwanted byproducts of our free market capitalism.  The corporate executives who sit in offices on the 4th floor of Republic Services headquarters must lay awake at night perplexed by every decision. I am sure Republic’s President & CEO  Don Slager spends countless hours in discussions about alternatives to the opportunism evil corporations are always known for. He probably goes to church on Sunday, and prays that his god (note the little “g”) will forgive the hard decisions he has to make in order to please billionaire stockholders like Bill Gates (see Cascade Investments), F. William McNabb III (see Vangaurd Group’s $3 trillion dollar man), Franklin Templeton Investments, Joseph L. Hooley (see State Street Corporation investments in Republic), and dozens of other vested interests in Republic Services (RPG).

Digest, first, my reasons for cynicism. Believe me when I say that most of the people and institutions mentioned above are inextricably linked to the 1970s neoliberal shift I showed you. But in researching all this, I found a name and an association that ties my argument for a “lost America” in a nice, tight, empirical knot.

Wallace L. Nutter is the second biggest individual investor in Republic Services, behind the CEO Don Slager. Nutter is also on the board of directors of another company important to Wayne County and Jesup. The company is simply called “Rayonier” in Jesup, but stock investors will know it as Rayonier Inc. Rayonier, for those of you unfamiliar, built the (then) largest paper mill on Earth in Jesup, Georgia back in 1954. Wayne Country residents will understand where I am going now, but the casual reader may not. Every kid who ever lived in Wayne County has memories of the burning rubber stench of this paper mill, of the massive pollution over the years, of the impacts of huge business both good and bad. Rayonier helped Wayne County thrive in a consumerist age.

Rayonier has played a pivotal role in socio-economics in Jesup. The company at times run roughshod over any who would criticize or condemn even its most repugnant offenses. The giant paper mill embodies everything that went wrong about the United States. Regulators have, for decades, given an almost free rein to Rayonier, a plant that uses 72 million gallons of Altamaha River water a day. Walter Nutter’s investments are indubitably safe, insured as it were, by the people sworn to protect citizens’ health and well-being. The corporate heads of this company effectively ruled Jesup and Wayne County, right alongside railroad executives and the local politicians owned by the likes of Georgia Power, Southern Company, and so on.

But it was people like Wallace Nutter that empowered Rayonier, and now empower Republic Services, to use us. Wallace Lee Nutter is Chairman at J.M. Huber Corp. and Independent Director at Republic Services, Inc. He’s also on the board of directors of the American Forest & Paper Association, Inc., the National Council for Air & Stream Improvement, Inc., and Columbia Pipeline Group, Inc. Nutter was also an independent director of NiSource, Inc. and at SunTrust Bank.

The Putrid Truth in the Murky Waters

The coal ash Republic Services wants to bury at the company landfill site outside Jesup will have a dramatic ecological effect. Republic Services cannot prove that the toxic waste produced by Georgia power plants will not. Anyone being able to prove that a landfill liner will not leak, FOREVER, is inconceivable. And beneath this landfill to the south of the city, is one of the most important aquifers in the state. The wetlands Rayonier took advantage of for more than half a century to the North of Jesup entrap Wayne County families between past and future corporate malfeasance now.

At least this is my objective view: Georgia Power needs to resolve its legacy of coal ash pollution, and Wayne County Georgia is the graveyard for that company’s hyper-capitalist profiting. The same town Rayonier sold big industry to is about to be finished off with the last gasps of American greed.

I cannot lay off Mr. Nutter here. What he symbolizes is every bad think I ever heard happened to an innocent friend. From the schoolyard bully to the politics of race, popularity or social status, the predators of this world come in many shapes and sizes. It is not Bill Gates reaping vast fortunes off of us that bothers me, for these billionaires would be nothing without the Nutters of this world. The 10 million or so Nutter has invested in 4 or 5 key funds has been multiplied 100,000 times by his clones. The Nutters of this world are the ones who really own us.  Bill Gates and the Warren Buffetts of this world are penniless by comparison.

Let me show you how people like this operate, via some of Wallace Lee Nutter’s investments:

Wallace Nutter owns roughly $3,879,755 dollars worth of stock in an energy company called NiSource, Inc. This company was criticized back in 2011 for paying zero taxes, while at the same time paying $1.83 million for lobbying and raking in $227 million dollars in tax rebates. This is to say nothing about the company’s role in natural gas fracking and its environmental dangers.

Wallace Nutter owns about $4,369,996 in stocks of a NiSource offshoot, Columbia Pipeline Group Inc (CPGX). News last week (Wall Street Journal) that TransCanada Corp. intends to buy this company in order to “end run” US legislation on the infamous Keystone pipeline is all you need to know here.

Wallace Nutter has been chairman of the J.M. Huber Corporation since 2006. One of the largest family-owned businesses in the United States, this company produces a variety of products that go into everything from toothpaste to food starch. It’s a global company, with a massively growing footprint.

Finally, Wallace Nutter is not unlike other familiar rich folks such as Bill Gates, or even the notorious George Soros. His investments in industries that always skirt environmental law are counterbalanced by his positions in bodies supposedly designed to monitor such legalities. A good example is his position on the National Council for Air & Stream Improvement, Inc. This position mimics George Soros’ alleged efforts at fostering democracy via his Open Society Foundations. Nutter is joined in his passion for crystal clear stream waters by executive colleague Daniel S. Fulton, who is associated with anything and everything to do with real estate, timber and the unsustainable development America has seen over the last 40 years. Fulton was the President & CEO of Weyerhaeuser Realty Investors Corp., CEO of Cornerstone Columbia Development Co., Executive Vice Chairman of Weyerhaeuser Co. and President of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Co. and also the American Forest & Paper Association, Inc., the National Alliance Of Forest Owners, the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, Inc, and more. The linkages between these businessmen are astounding, and reading the network is like literally walking on the corpses of environmentalist and consumer advocates.

It’s the murky stench of rancid water that flavors all you have read so far. Water, being so crucial to our planet and our survival, is just something we have all taken for granted for too long. And the water in the ground, that leading from the Republic Services landfill in Wayne County, will carry the next disaster heaped onto small town America. The economic stresses I’ve mentioned do not even come close to conveying the seriousness of America’s acute instability, which has been caused by these investors and their corporations’ unsustainable growth ideologies. Neither Wallace Nutter nor even Bill Gates seems concerned with the legacy being left to America’s grandchildren.

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I can hammer these industrialists and entrepreneurs into the ground deep as fence posts here, but the simple fact is that Wayne County Georgia is about to be in a horrible mess. And an irrevocable one too….

Trust in God and Yourself, and No One Else

I’ll leave the reader with this report from the US Geological Survey concerning something called “groundwater depletion.” To save you time, the report paints a nightmarish picture for many regions of the US, especially when you consider the pollution of what is left of this rapidly diminishing resource. In Southern Georgia, South Carolina and other regions, never before has water been in such demand. Even if the coal ash dumped into the Republic Services landfills were only moderately harmful, the concentrations found in aquifers (if and when there is a leak) will be higher than the industry can foresee.

My high school chemistry teacher (Mrs. Shaw at Wayne County High, I think) taught us about the dilution of compounds in liquid. Well, the same Altamaha River which Rayonier has puked compounds into for generations does not have the flow volume it once did. Look at the course of desertification globally. Study groundwater anywhere from California to China, and you’ll find people thirsty for humankind’s most valuable commodity.

And Republic Services is willing to screw with it, in Wayne County Georgia today, and your town tomorrow. Their “science” is based on profit and growth, and Bill Gates’ or Wallace Nutter’s dividends and shares. Jesup, Georgia is a pristine example of how Americans were first transformed into willing slaves, then whipped into neoliberal hyper-consumer frenzy, then abandoned by a failed system, then delivered the death spike before it became an utter ghost town.

All this is a mouthful, I know. It took me two days to research this, so I fret not for your ten minutes or less reading it. What is important to take away is how wrong we have all been. The blame for small town America’s decline must be shared by those of us who turned a blind eye as well as the pitiless investors who so callously ruined it.

As for burying millions of tons of coal ash in Wayne County, this really does spell the end for a way of life. I urge you to do your own research; do not even take my word, when it is the future of your children at stake.

Image Credit

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.

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4 Comments on "Cradle to Grave: How Dirty Business Has Destroyed Small Town America"

  1. “Matter as we now discern it, must have existed in primordial space. Therefore, these two always exist, viz., the inner potency, and the outer act; the concealed Idea, and the outer form; the inner meaning, and the outer event. Each in its turn a symbol of the other. Hence the saying on the Tablet of Hermes, as above so below. All outward things are, therefore, symbols, or embodiments of pre-existing Ideas, and out of this subjective ideal realm all visible things have emanated.”


    ” ‘Know thyself,’ said the old philosophy. ‘Improve thyself,’ saith the
    new. The great object of the So-journer in Time is not to waste all his passions and gifts on the things external, that he must leave behind —
    that which he cultivates within is all
    that he can carry into the Eternal

  2. “The human form, which we know as men, women and children, are not the real Man, but merely ever-changing aggregations of matter, endowed with an ever-changing consciousness, unsubstantial although living illusions, doomed to perish when the Spirit retires to its home, to rest from its labor; while the substantial, indivisible, and incorruptible Spirit is the real Man, although invisible to the perception of mortals.”

  3. What happened to the America we grew up in? Can we ever recovery it, if only a part of it?

  4. Fascism at it’s finest. Look how WallieMart has destroyed the Mom and Pop shops.
    The silver spoon crowd (boards and ceo’s) are continually fed by them. Whilst they pay crappy wages and put pressure on the actual worker bee, or get fired.
    Quit the merry go round and start your own more satisfying business.

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