By virtue of the U. S. Supreme Court majority opinion in Citizens United (slip opinion available at: http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/citizens-opinion.pdf), corporations have been rendered human with all the constitutional rights of any individual citizen. It would seem to follow that corporations would also have all of the responsibilities and obligations of any regular human being. It would also seem to follow that Siemens, the gigantic German conglomerate, could be hauled into the Hague and charged with war crimes for it role in extermination of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and anyone else who found themselves on the wrong side of Himmler’s SS. Instead, it is a seemingly upstanding member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In spite of the role this notorious natzified company and the natzified Siemens family in the Holocaust, Siemens is doing quite well at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer. In particular, Medicare has been enormously profitable for this multinational conglomerate. With the coming of health care reform, Siemens is looking to make unprecedented enormous profits. I will discuss this “citizen corporation’s” past and then examine its U.S. health care business.
Siemens was a leading corporate participant in Hitler’s “death through work program;” with slave labor factories at the following death camps: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Flossenberg, Gross Rosen, Mauthausen (Austria), Neuengamme, Ravensbruck, and Sachsenhausen (see Christopher Simpson, The Blond Beast: Money, Law, and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, Common Courage Press, 1995, pp. 290-310).
In addition to the profitable business of working people to death at Nazi concentration camps, Siemens did quite well in the so-called “Aryanization Program,” which was essentially the expropriation of Jewish businesses for resale at bargain basement prices to approved German companies. In 1936, the Frankfurter Zeitung, the mainstream business newspaper in Hitler’s Germany, listed “twenty-one very large transfers and consolidations in 1934; most were forced buyouts of multi-million dollar Jewish firms by their German competitors. In 1935, thirty-two such large contracts were reported, including two major acquisitions of Jewish firms by the Siemens group… .” (Simpson, The Blond Beast, p. 62).
Siemens general director during the Holocaust, Rudolf Bingel, was one of the senior German business leaders active in the notorious Himmlerkreis, the Circle of Friends of Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler. “The companies represented in Himmler’s circle became pacesetters in Aryanization, exploitation of concentration camp labor, seizure of foreign companies in the occupied territories, and similar business ventures that depended on SS cooperation” (Simpson, The Blond Beast, p. 154-155).
As Benjamin Farencz documented in Less than Slaves: Jewish Forced Labor and the Quest for Compensation (1979, Harvard University Press, pp. 116-122), Siemens, due to its lack of willingness to own up to its enslavement of Holocaust victims and theft of Jewish property, has not exactly been a remorseful citizen. In spite of the corporation’s image advanced through its “touchy feely” television ads, it is not a “moral” entity given to remorse and redemption. It has fought “tooth and nail” against victim organizations’ attempting to obtain admissions of guilt and reparations.
For these multinational conglomerates, the guiding ethic – the summum bonum, if you will – is profit, i.e. the bottom line. As a manufacturer of medical devices, Siemens has a large share of the health care business generated by the rapidly expanding medical imaging business. According to a medical device trade publication, “Siemens, Royal Phillips, Toshiba, and General Electric are benefitting from a 30 percent-per-year increase in the use of imaging tests such as PET scans for elderly people with cancer” (http://www.topdevicecompanies.com/2010/04/siemens-philips-toshiba-ge-pet-scans-grow-by-third per-year.html).
The overuse of medical imaging is of increasing concern to medical researchers (see, e.g. Dinan, et al. “Changes in the Use and Costs of Diagnostic Imaging among Medicare Beneficiaries with Cancer, 1999-2006,” JAMA, 303-16, 1625-1631, November, 2010). A report of the Congressional Budget Office in 2008 listed diagnostic imaging as a leading cause of health care cost inflation (“Technological Change and the Growth of Health Care Spending, p. 16). In essence, rather than being treated as patients Medicare and Medicaid recipients are being treated as commodities for the profit of medical device manufacturers and physicians who purchase their equipment.
Now that these multinational behemoths can pour money into Chamber of Commerce efforts to control the U.S. government, the commoditization and colonization of the U.S. population will only become more complete. In fact, the U.S. Chamber, in an award to Siemens, described the company thusly: “a global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering, and operates in the industry, energy, and health care sectors” (http://www.uschamber.com/press/releases/2010/april/us-chamber-and-siemens-corporation-announce-finalists-national-sustainabil). With 405,000 employees in 190 countries, Siemens reported worldwide revenue of $104.3 billion in fiscal 2009 with $21.3 billion in U.S. revenues.
The point of this post is that the global, capitalist elite, with the Citizens United decision for legal cover and operating through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other front groups, are treating the United States like a colony and taking excessive profits from government funded programs. Given the past of Siemens, it is clear that humanness and morality have no bearing on corporate behavior. While our jobs are shipped to Third World economies, we are forced to dump untold billions of our tax dollars into wasteful, unnecessary medical practices for the profit of multinational corporations.