We think of big businesses as job creators, and for a long time in America they were. But times have changed, and so have they. In the 21st century, this is what they do: Big Business subverts democracy and destroys healthy companies because that’s where the money is.
President Calvin Coolidge, one of the staunchest defenders of capitalism in the 20th century, never said “The business of America is Business.” He certainly didn’t mean it.
What he did say, in a 1925 speech, was that we should never be ashamed of wanting wealth — but that “the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence,” and that there are things we should want very much more, such as “peace and honor.”
That ought to be the standard by which businesses are judged: When they make money, do they comport themselves with honor?
At Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s specialty was to buy healthy companies that were making money and treating their employees well (like Georgetown Steel, in South Carolina; like American Pad & Paper in Marion, Ind.; like the Amco mill, in Kansas City) and gut them. After purchasing the company for little money down, Romney would transfer the company’s assets out to his investors, and then have the company take out massive loans, the capital from which would also be given to his investors — leaving the purchased company with little real assets and massive debt. Romney would hide the losses on the company’s books by cutting staff and wages, and no longer maintaining equipment. Then he’d sell off the company — which still looked all right on paper — and get out.
The companies he bought and sold usually went bankrupt afterward, and people lost jobs and families lost health insurance, but what did he care? It was all legal, and he and his investors made a mint.
If you want to know what happened to American manufacturing: Mitt Romney happened. American manufacturing companies that could compete against Japan and China were gutted by American financiers in search of a quick buck.
Mitt Romney’s now the candidate of evangelical Christians. I wonder how many carpenters he’s laid off.
Wal-Mart, according to reporting by the New York Times, managed to expand in Mexico through a systematic campaign of bribery at every level, from cabinet ministers down to zoning boards. They actually had lawyers walk wads of cash over to municipal offices in order to get their permits expedited. The free market wasn’t good enough for them, so they bribed and lied and corrupted democracy until it gave them the results they wanted.
In a statement to the New York Times, Wal-Mart said that this wasn’t representative of their corporate culture — this isn’t what we do. But of course it’s exactly what they do, because it’s what they did. When their own corporate counsel brought it to their attention, they put one of the executives accused of making the bribes in charge of the investigation. He cleared everyone, and buried it.
If you want to know why the free market isn’t working for American workers the way it used to, it’s because big businesses decided that a free market was too free, and they’ve paid big money to break it.
More reports show how Apple — the favorite company of bandwagon liberals everywhere — has sidestepped billions in taxes by opening offices in low-tax states and having them officially invest its profits.
Mind you, Apple wants to have its headquarters in high-tax states. It likes the services those governments provide, and the workforce it has access to. It just doesn’t want to pay for these things. It wants other people, ordinary Americans, to pay for those things. Like Mitt Romney’s, its actions are entirely legal — but they are clearly without honor.
We think of big businesses as job creators, and for a long time in America they were. But times have changed, and so have they. In the 21st century, this is what they do: Big Business subverts democracy and destroys healthy companies because that’s where the money is. Big businesses like Goldman Sachs sell investments that they are secretly betting against; big banks like Bank of America foreclose on homes that they can’t prove they own; they bring the economy collapsing down.
And we let them. We keep thinking these same businesses will be good for America again if we just give them more of what they want — even if it’s the shirt off our back.
But businesses that foreclose on homes they don’t own are never going to create good jobs for ordinary Americans; businesses who lie to their customers can’t be trusted to manage an economy; businesses who cover up bribery scandals can’t be trusted to police themselves. The people who run them are not on our side.
America deserves a better class of capitalists. In the meantime, we should protect ourselves from the ones we have.
Benjamin Wachs writes for Messenger Post Media, and is the editor of Fiction365.com. Email him at Benjamin@Fiction365.com.