If somebody else makes more money than you solely from the work you perform on a daily basis, you are a serf. The only time this isn’t true is if you have a real love for what you do for a living.
At the same time, it’s clear that the corporate structure has delivered prosperity and plenty to the developed world.
While the developed and industrialized world feasts itself numb on all that plenty, other parts of the world are kept in the dark and in need of basic necessities. In America, Nestlé is pumping clean water out of the state of Michigan — home to Flint, Michigan, where thousands of homes still don’t have potable tap water — and then bottling it and selling it back to us. The company pays the state $200 per year for the permitting.
Bill Gates delivers water filtration technology to some developing nations. Charities underwritten by successful corporations and billionaires build schools and train doctors in poor countries.
Corporations are a double-edged sword if ever we’ve seen one. It’s true that they help us organize our talent and our efforts and build tremendous things. As for actually providing for peoples’ needs? Corporations do so with breathtaking selectiveness. From this perspective, the corporate structure appears to function like a sieve, capturing resources and wealth and hoarding them far away from where they might be able to do some good.
Whether it’s overpaid and corrupt CEOs, low wages for workers or the generally poor distribution of wealth and resources in companies and society in general, it’s clear that the influence of Corporate America — both here and abroad — is inconsistent at its best and absolutely malignant at its worst.
Overpaid, Wildly Corrupt CEOs
Let’s start at the top, shall we? The business practices of Donald J. Trump make the Clinton Foundation look like an actual charity. This is the example being set for CEOs today — but it didn’t start with Trump. The trend of overpaid and corrupt CEOs is as old as the hills.
We’re getting wise to it, though. The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is now on the government’s and the people’s radar. In the first federally mandated disclosure of CEO-worker pay ratios, Honeywell admitted its CEO made 333 times as much in a year as their average employee.
Is this okay? Do you believe this ratio reflects the amount of work being done? Is there a world in which any person’s standard of living should be 333 times as comfortable as anybody else’s?
As for the corruption of these wildly rich CEOs, evidence indicates CEOs who are compensated with stock options are much more likely than modestly-compensated CEOs to release faulty and dangerous products to the public. Stock options increase in value as the company finds success, but they don’t actually lose value if their stock price falls.
It doesn’t make sense, but it’s “business as usual.” If paying CEOs grotesque sums of money doesn’t actually result in a superior — or even necessarily safe — product, then what’s the point?
Unequal Distribution of Resources and Wealth
Lots of conservative-minded people believe “redistributing wealth” is a crime against humanity. They fundamentally don’t understand what a word like “socialism” means because pundits have told them everything they need to know.
Here’s what a real redistribution of wealth looks like.
In 2012, the Economic Policy Institute noticed something amazing. CEO pay in America has grown by more than twice as much as the entire stock market has grown, in the same amount of time.
This is what a rigged economy looks like. They’re literally just siphoning money out of the system and hiding it from us.
Of all the forms of corporate bullying, the hoarding of wealth is probably the most unforgivable. Remember how easily Jeff Bezos could end homelessness? Remember how easily billionaires could feed the world’s poor?
All it takes is a tiny handful of wealthy mammals to decide to pull their weight in a system that is undeniably broken and sets many up for failure from the get-go. It means they’d have to very slightly adjust the ratio of their earnings to, say, the sum they pay in taxes. But instead of making our tax brackets more granular and raising rates on the highest earners, Republicans and Democrats — though mostly Republicans — time and again conspire to reduce the number of tax brackets and lower rates for the wealthiest among us.
During the period generally referred to as the “fall of the Soviet Union,” thanks to basically no public oversight, 22 wealthy business-owning oligarchs siphoned off 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and made off with it. They left behind 150 million of their fellow citizens to live in destitution and desperation.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Tell me once again that we don’t need a strong central government to make sure one group of folks doesn’t inevitably turn against or turn its back on another group.
Corporate America and Fetishized Rivalry
The laundry list of things that needs to change about Corporate America is very, very long. One thing we haven’t gotten into? Their general contempt for nature and the health of our planet isn’t just short-sighted. It’s barbaric. The people of the world recognize a global crisis when they see one. There’s only one reason why we’re not united in our efforts to curb global warming: profit.
There’s just not enough profit in being environmentally friendly. There’s also, apparently, not enough profit in being cooperative, either. The prevailing ethos the industrialized world has chosen is cutthroat capitalism. Because it delivers “progress.” Because it delivers “jobs.” But when you interviewed for and got that last job you love so well, 400 other people went home empty-handed.
Who benefits the most from cutthroat capitalism? People who are most willing to cut peoples’ throats. We’ve seen literally no proof that throwing money at somebody will compel them to behave pro-socially or rationally. Until something changes about how we think about doing business, turning a profit and what’s expected when one person employs another, corporate bullying will continue to hold us hostage.