Photo Credit: davidlaw.com
I like Capitalism. Compared to all the other choices, it’s the best. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flaws.
I also like having money. That’s not to say I’d rather make money if it means you are going to suffer somehow.
Let me just put it this way. I’m not against any company making all the money it can. I think our Democracy works best when people are making money. Money, of course, shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. Seriously, if you die with a billion dollars, you’re still dead. Money is two things in my mind. First, it’s options. It gives you options that most people will never have in life. It takes away some of the stress. Emergencies in life come only when they truly are distressing, not because you don’t have the resources to deal with it. Let’s face it, an emergency you can just write a check to fix, is only a situation.
The other is, what that money allows you to accomplish in life. What kind of positive effect can you have on your community and others. Do you have employees you pay enough so they don’t need welfare? Do you or your company support causes that benefit people? Or does your company cut corners and make things cheaply, or overseas, just because it improves the “bottom line?” Or worse, does your company ignore, or violate regulations just to make a few extra dollars?
Too often, nowadays, the sheer amount of wealth accumulated has become the final score to the game of life, not the sum of benefit that has been realized. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to put every red cent you make back into charity, or wherever, but in my world, it should be a human imperative that someone’s life is bettered because I existed. That seems to be a better legacy than the number of commas in my bank account the day I die!
But, you might ask, how do you mean that some companies have lost sight of this big picture? Let’s look at some examples:
- Just last week, I wrote a post for our Ass Hat of the Week, about how the CEO of AETNA (health insurance) was planning on pulling out of the Obamacare insurance exchanges, if the DOJ went through with its plan to block their merger with Humana. A move which is predicted to increase their market share and profitability.
- Not naming any specific companies, but how many companies have uprooted and moved, or outsourced, manufacturing jobs overseas because labor is cheaper. Nowhere is this more evident to the everyday American than in the call center industry. How many call center jobs have gone to Asia in the last thirty years so that companies can pay the workers less? Finally, how many companies have set up a “headquarters” overseas just to avoid paying U.S. Taxes?
- Another Pharma CEO just came out and said it in an August 16th News Magazine Article titled:
- The pharmaceutical industry is one of the worst offenders of this philosophy. Pricing drugs astronomically high because “insurance companies pay most of the cost.” But, how can you put a value on something that could save your life, or at least make it live-able?
- Everybody knows Wal-Mart. When they first began gaining prominence in the 80s and 90s, they were the “all-American” company. Their main focus in advertising was how everything they sold was “made in America.” Every one of their commercials had an American flag flying high. They bragged about how many jobs they were going to create. Now where are they? You would be hard pressed to find an item made in the U.S. on their shelves. Their commercials are less patriotic, but tout how “Saving money helps you live better.” At what expense? They pay notoriously low wages and benefits. Are active union busters. In fact, when the company started, the largest employers in the nation were unionized manufacturing jobs. Now it’s low paying, low benefit, underappreciated Wal-mart jobs.Why? Everything they do is designed to keep their share prices climbing, and the flow of money to the Walton family going!
- But it’s not just Wal-Mart. Manufacturing everywhere is moving overseas, seeking cheaper labor costs. They make the parts overseas, then ship them back here for low-skill workers to put them together. That’s why the “Made In America” line that was so popular at the end of the century has become “Assembled in America.” I guess they hope no one will notice or realize the difference. Even the companies that are staying here are downsizing. Laying off veteran workers and replacing them with lower paid, non benefit receiving, temp workers.
- Oil and Coal companies are actively trying to defeat the anti-climate change movement. It is almost like they don’t care what happens to the planet, or those on it, in the future. Bribing politicians. Actively hiding research on the subject. Running multi-million dollar ad campaigns to convince us of the “safety” of fossil fuels. They want to pump it out of the ground like it’s an endless source. Never mind that nearly EVERY scientist in the world agree that Climate Change is a thing, and humans are speeding it up. But as long as their profits are steady, who cares what the following generations have to deal with, right?
- The NRA. I’ve done several posts about the gun lobby. I’m not sure there is a more egregious example of this behavior than that of the gun industry. Children are dying in the street, in schools, and in homes all across America! Yet, the gun industry, and its political arm, the NRA, would rather scare people into thinking they are going to loose their Constitutional Rights, than do something about it. Truth is, every time there is an incident, their sales go up!
There are tons of examples of companies putting the bottom line first. Corporations in America have fallen under the impression that share prices and dividends justify any means to obtain them. I’m sure that if you thought about it, you could easily come up with an industry or two to add to this list.
Just to clarify, because someone will think I’m a business hater. I want companies to make all the money possible. But I don’t see why it cannot be a dual goal, make everyone lots of money and benefit someones existence?Perhaps it’s my Liberal side, but I’m OK with that!
What I DO NOT want is for companies to surrender to the idea that their people are just one more tool in the pursuit of greater market capitalization. Nor do I want them to see their consumers as just puppets who deserve nothing but cheap prices at any cost. Or shareholders who feel no responsibility for the companies actions as long as the checks show up quarterly.
How do we fix it. That is the true question for the ages. I’m sure a good mix of regulation and enforcement would be a good start. However, for a more permanent change, the culture needs to change. And that, my friends, is a tougher row to hoe. People have to change the way they think. They need to think about the “real cost” of that cheap item they buy at Wal-Mart. They need to empathize with those parents whom have lost kids to senseless violence, instead of believing the “government’s gonna take their guns.”
Yes, ultimately, society needs to change and realize, we’re all stuck on this planet together, and so our fates are wove together. For good or bad, we are our brother’s keeper.
Look deep inside and see, for society to change, what part of you has to change first?
PS, I’ve started using the hashtag #Profitsoverpeople when I’m sharing articles, etc. related to this. I hope you do to. Maybe its small, but it’s a start!