Columns » Hightower

Corporate kumbaya



Don't count on corporations to give up plutocratic rule. - MIKER / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • miker /
  • Don't count on corporations to give up plutocratic rule.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote of being leery of a fast-talking huckster who visited his home: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons,” Emerson exclaimed.

Likewise, today’s workaday families should do a mass inventory of their silverware, for the fast-talking CEOs of 181 union-busting, tax-cheating, environment-contaminating, consumer-gouging corporations are asking us to believe that they stand with us in the fight against… well, against them. From Wall Street banksters to Big Oil polluters, these profiteers are suddenly trumpeting their future intentions to benefit workers, reduce inequality, protect the environment, etc.

But vague proclamations are cheap, and it’s worth noting that these new champions of the common good propose no specifics — no actual sacrifices by them or benefits for us. A few media observers have mildly objected, saying it’s “an open question” whether any of the corporate proclaimers will change how they do business. But it’s not an open question at all. They won’t. They won’t support full collective bargaining power for workers, won’t join the public’s push to get Medicare for All, won’t stop using monopoly power to squeeze out small competitors and gouge consumers, won’t support measures to stop climate change, won’t back reforms to get their corrupt corporate money out of our politics… won’t embrace any of the big structural changes necessary to reverse the raw economic and political inequality that has enthroned their plutocratic rule.

And who are these new allies in our historic battle against corporate plutocracy? The CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Walmart, Amazon, and nearly 200 other giant corporations. They’re members of the Business Roundtable (the chief lobbying front for America’s biggest corporations), and they’ve declared their solidarity with all of us by issuing a grand declaration titled “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation.” For 50 years, that purpose has been ruthlessly clear: maximize their investors’ profits, no matter who or what they have to run over. But now, the barons of big business are putting on a softer face, proclaiming that their “fundamental commitment” is not merely to serve shareholder greed but to benefit every “stakeholder” (which is what they call employees, customers, suppliers, et al). It’s corporate kumbaya, y’all — solidarity forever!

Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, was designated to write the Roundtable’s new declaration of concern for the common people. He later expressed a historic sense of pride in the task: “There were times when I felt like Thomas Jefferson,” Gorsky gushed.
But wait — this is the guy who presided over Johnson & Johnson’s profiteering role in spreading deadly opioids throughout America. An Oklahoma jury just assessed a half-billion-dollar fine on his corporation for foisting the opioid horror on the common people he now professes to love.

So forgive me for not believing for a moment that there’s one iota of sincerity in this sudden assertion of egalitarian sentiment by the soulless organizers of today’s corporate plunder. They’re still going to plunder your unions, paychecks, jobs, health, environment and overall well-being. The only difference is that they now want you to think they feel bad about it.

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