Saturday, July 12, 2008

Corporate Masters Unite!

I'm not sure why, but conservatives have really made a lot with the "Trust our Corporate Masters" meme. I understand why they say it, but I just don't understand why anyone listens. Of course some big muckamuck for Big Corp Inc. thinks he should be allowed to do just about any damn thing he wants, and it just makes sense that the Cheneys of the world do what they need to in order to get ahead. I understand all that.

But the big question always has been: Why should Joe Schmo Limbaugh Listener agree? What's in it for them? They're never going to be in the big corporate seat calling the shots. They're basically handing over any control of their lives to some shadowy group they'll never be a part of. We're simply to trust that corporations fulfill their basic requirements to society, rather than allow us to use the government to limit corporate interference in our lives.

Even the idea of forcing corporations to obey the same sort of laws us citizens do (eg, no littering) is supposedly so onerous that it's simply more preferable to allow them to make this shit up as they go along, rather than have any sort of enforcement mechanism whatsoever. It's good for GM to ship thousands of jobs out of the country, so it's good for America. Case closed. And why does this happen: Because GM made crappy cars that people didn't want to buy, and rather than improve the quality of their product, they decided to pay people in another country less to build them, which is likely to reduce the quality of the already crappy car. And for that, we give these people raises.

And so now we're supposed to rely upon these corporate wizards to help steer our country through harsh economic conditions, placing infinite trust in their infinite wisdom; yet we know for a fact that many of these over-paid boobs couldn't fix their bottom-lines any better than they could fix their own asses. Too many of them have short-term solutions to long-term trends and couldn't see the writing on the wall if it was written in their own blood. For every Bill Gates and Warren Buffet out there, there are thousands of do-nothing corporate execs who imagine that "Do what the other guy did" is some grand mantra of success. No one ever got fired for buying IBM, and all that.

Flat-Footed Fools

And in the current case, I'm talking about the Big Three automakers and their sudden rush to get a fuel-efficient car on the road as quickly as they can. Now look, this is the very shit liberals have been pressing for for years and were told that we were dangerous commies for even suggesting that we could regulate fuel efficiency and whatnot. But now we see that these guys were totally caught flat-footed and completely blew this basic issue.

And what's worse is that this wasn't an unpredictable situation. Could they really have imagined that oil prices would never go this high? Even if it wasn't now, they would have been just as flat-footed in 2010, or 2015, or whenever this happened. Did they really imagine that the oil would last forever? And why not get the ball rolling on this? Is it really impossible to imagine that people might have liked this technology even with low gas prices? It's not like nobody was talking about it. They fought us on this...for decades! And now they're yet again behind the curve and desperately playing catch-up.

And sure, it's expensive to introduce new technology. But they were going to need it anyway, so it just made sense to do it. And hey, if they really got a big breakthrough, they'd have a good marketing tool and could really get ahead of the game. Is it that they had some deal with the oil companies, like they're getting kickbacks or something for keeping fuel efficiency low? I fail to see how this one made sense. And hell, if they were smart, they'd have produced more of these minimal gasoline models long ago and then just jacked-up the price of gas. Instead of paying $50 for 13 gallons of gas, you'd pay $30 for 2 gallons of gas, and it'd last you just as long. Sure, that doesn't help the consumer out much, but I think it would vastly improve the profitability of gasoline.

But no, they all preferred to keep their heads in the sand. They're a sort of monopoly and as long as none of them were really working on a fuel efficient car, everything's fine. And they fought us on this. They thought it was fine to get a public blackeye for stopping legislation to raise fuel efficiency, a popular measure that Americans wanted. Anything to avoid doing what they're now wishing they had done two years ago. But of course, that's what these people always think, because they're always two years behind the curve.

Human Error

But it's not just them. They're symptomatic of basic human incompetence. And I'm not attacking them in this. People make mistakes. Corporations are big things and things don't always work the way you plan them to. Honestly, I'm pretty sure if you put me at the helm of some giant corporation, I'd struggle too; and I'm a CPA who's worked in the business world for many years. I'm not here to blame them for being imperfect and I definitely approve of the basic corporate structure and the idea of people pooling resources to create something bigger than they could alone. I'm all for that kind of thing. I'm just pointing out the absurdity of allowing these guys to do whatever the hell they want to, as if we should assume these guys know what's best for all of us. And if they want to use dangerous chemicals in our toothpaste or untested heart medicine on the market, who are we to say otherwise? After all, it's only our country, but it's their money.

They can't run their own companies properly, yet we're going to allow them to create ad hoc policies on pollution, labor laws, and whatever the hell else they want to control. And hell, I don't even blame them for wanting this. I suppose if I could get my life tailor-made the way I'd want it, I probably would. No, the real problem is that anyone thinks it's a good idea to give it to them. Individuals who imagine that we need to protect powerful corporations from a government that is trying to protect the individuals from the powerful corporations.

It's really quite sad when you think about it, all these conservative individuals devoting their lives to the pursuit of being screwed-over by Corporate America. People who get angry just thinking about how all those cruel environmentalists won't stop victimizing Big Oil. And that's the part of this where everything falls apart. Especially as these people don't really give a shit about Big Oil at all; they just hate us liberals. They hate that there is this group trying to do these things and they don't care what it is; they've just been told to oppose it and that's good enough for them.

And honestly, even contrarianism has its place. It's good for society to have opposing viewpoints and diehards who are utterly convinced that their eyes are lying to them. The problem comes when these people are actually put into positions of power, when they're actually expected to do things. That's where it all falls apart. It's good to have a little ballast on the fringe weighing down the other side; just as long as they stay on the fringe. Corporate America gets to combine together to push their agenda, just as long as the rest of us still get to push ours. And that's what good government is all about.

1 comment:

Broadway Carl said...

Why should Joe Schmo Limbaugh Listener agree? What's in it for them?

It's the idea that they belong to a class that they perceive as better than they are. No one considers themselves "poor white working lower class." Poor is poor no matter what race, religion or gender. But no one wants to consider themselves part of the poor tribe. And poor white man doesn't want to be in the same tribe as a poor black man, especially if they're being constantly told that their plight is all the immigrants' fault, or those welfare blacks, or those damned socialist liberals who want to spend more of your tax dollars.

So, as Digby usually explains, it's all a sense of tribalism or a tribal culture of wanting to belong to something or some group that they subconsciously think is better than their current life.

And that's why they always vote against their own best interests.