A funny thing happened in America and no one noticed.
At some point business and morality got a divorce. Nobody told the kids.
We should have seen it coming. Maybe we were too blind to notice or maybe we were hoping it was one of those spats that would just blow over and we’d go out to McDonald's and feast on Happy Meals.
But all the hints were there.
Business kept saying things like, “The business of business is to make money” and, “Corporations are only responsible to their shareholders” and, “The only thing that really matters is the bottom line.”
Meanwhile morality couldn’t stop talking about sex, like that was the only thing she was interested in.
Like I say, we should have seen it coming, but we never believed they would really break up until it was over.
The wreckage is all over the place.
Like Apple that uses all sorts of tax gimmicks to avoid paying more than ten per cent in corporate taxes and refuses to build its products in the country where it makes much of its profits and pays most of its retail employees a substandard wage; all while generating $37 billion dollars in profits and paying its CEO almost half a billion dollars a year.
If business and morality still lived together, maybe Apple would recognize its responsibility to improve the lives of the employees or contribute a fair share of taxes to the country that made its rise possible or even invest some of the billions its holding overseas to avoid taxes to built factories and create good jobs here.
Evidently when morality goes, patriotism gets thrown to the curb too.
If business and morality were still married, maybe Caterpillar would take some of its record profits and share them with its employees instead of freezing their wages for the next six years and making them pay more for their healthcare.
That’s what you do when jobs are scarce and people are afraid and you haven’t got morality to nag at you anymore. You do what you can get away with. So what if it hurts people? So what if your company is participating in a pattern of lowering wages that weakens our country’s economy? It’s every man for himself, right?
After all, thinking about other people, thinking about communities, thinking about the good of the country; that’s so passé. At least since the divorce.
It didn’t used to be this way. Not when morality was still in the house. I remember my first job in 1968. I was sixteen, delivering office supplies for Perry Office Supply in downtown Syracuse. I was making $1.60 an hour, the minimum wage. That’s $10 an hour in 2012 dollars. Imagine a sixteen year old today with no responsibilities making $10 an hour on his first job. Today the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and grown men and women with families to support are lucky to make $9 an hour in Staples, the miracle Mitt Romney wrought.
In 1968 my dad was making the equivalent of $25 per hour plus benefits as a beginning factory worker. Today a new hire in a GM factory makes $18.50 an hour.
Businesses are wondering why no one is buying what they’re selling. Maybe its because none of their employees has any money left over after they pay for rent and food. Maybe if businesses actual felt some responsibility to care about their workers, people would have something extra to spend and demand would increase. But feeling responsibility for others is something morality does and you packed her bags and threw her into the street.
It would be good for the economy and good for business to pay people more, especially at a time when businesses are experiencing record profits. In fact, it would be a smarter policy than deliberately impoverishing your own customer base.
I guess morality got your intelligence in the settlement.
At least now that the divorce has gone through, life is simpler. With morality out of the picture you’ve got no responsibility for anyone but yourself. It’s nice in some ways. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you pay your fair share in taxes. Use your lawyers, take advantage of tax havens, pay less than everyone else, because really, what duty do you have to others or to your country? And without morality around, you can even brag about how little you contribute to the general good. We all know that only the little people pay their fair share of taxes.
And by all means don’t think about the unfortunate when you try to balance the budget. Just get the figures to work and the hell with whether people go hungry or without healthcare. Make sure you take care of your rich friends so they’ll keep taking care of you, but don’t even think about asking them to help folks who are down and out. Really, who needs them? After all, caring about the poor is something morality would demand and you gagged and bound and dropped her off the end of the pier a few days after the divorce was finalized.
Besides, we don’t want people to develop a sense of dependence, do we? What comes after that? We’ll be expected to be our brother’s keeper? How totally uncool.