The Bankruptcy of Corporate America
by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds
Posted originally June 10, 2011
The bankruptcy of Corporate America has seeped into the society and those who toil in its machinery.
CORPORATE AMERICA IS PROFOUNDLY BANKRUPT. Not in a financial sense, of course; the Federal Reserve’s slow destruction of the U.S. dollar has boosted corporate profits most handsomely as the majority of their earnings and profits are obtained overseas; when stated in dollars, those outsized profits swell even higher.
No, the bankruptcy of Corporate America is not found on the bottom line; it is measured by altogether more profound metrics than mere money. Corporate America is bankrupt on levels which are difficult to describe; morally and spiritually bankrupt, not just in the pathologies that guide corporate goals and behaviors, but in the Potemkin shell of free enterprise they present to the world in ceaseless propaganda, and in the manner in which they have cut America loose from their corporate souls.
Corporate America only resides in America because it controls the machinery of governance and regulation here for pathetically modest investments in lobbying and campaign contributions. It would be impossible to replace the global Empire that protects and nurtures it, and so Corporate America maintains its headquarters in America, the better to shape policy and skim gargantuan profits from the Empire and its Central State in Washington.
The return on investment for lobbying and campaign contributions is simply unmatchable anywhere else; it is without doubt the highest return on investment on the planet. And the risk-return is immensely favorable; there is simply no risk that the Empire or the Central State will ever go against the “best interests” of its corporate partners.
Corporate America is not about free enterprise and competition; it’s about eliminating competition and forming highly profitable cartels and quasi-monopolies protected by regulations and barriers erected and vigorously maintained by the Central State.
Here are two first-hand reports on Corporate America’s pathologically exploitive soul. The first is from inside management, the other is from someone who lost their job inside The Machine and is looking at the well-dressed troops still working inside.
In my spare time I am pursuing the opportunity of being an entrepreneur. Very long, drawn out and hazardous path it is as you know. Meanwhile I am still part of the rat race and can give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on out here. I work at one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and I am in management in a department that had sales of 2.3 billion last year. The manufacturing department I am in not only had record sales, we increased productivity by 40% and decreased deviation investigations by 30%. Won’t bore you with all the details but we accomplished so much that we were awarded the companies global lean six-sigma award.
Moving forward to today, for all our efforts and accomplishments, we, the management received a 2% salary adjustment and a small bonus. Also, we are now being told that we will no longer be paid overtime. This will mean a $10,000 a year pay cut for me, a $30,000 a year pay cut for some of my co-workers. In the effort to increase short-term profits quite a few other horror shows are being rolled out that we must accept or leave.
As you know “leaving” in the current economy is a very hard prospect. Although we are all grown professionals, our morale has been destroyed. Not exactly how you think a company would reward its highest performing department. Basically an overall mood of “who cares” and “what difference does it make” is now the theme of the people I work with. I am so glad I have something else I am working on and have started preparing quite a long time ago for the devolution that is coming.
As an endnote, I just sat through a grueling 1.5 hour “meeting” (job interview) with the new corporate killer they put in charge. Basically I had to genuflect to this person and assure him I am not an obstacle to his insane need for more profitability. Being phony is not my strong suit but I am survivor and I believe I may have bought myself a few more years of servitude.
I know some readers will object to this characterization by saying, “the purpose of corporations is to make a profit for its shareholders.” That is true, but the great entrepreneurs don’t restrict themselves to such an atrophied view of an enterprise’s purpose.
That fact that the “profit is the only thing that counts” value system is so widespread is just more evidence of how deep the rot has eaten into the social and moral fabric of the nation.”
Elizabeth S.’s commentary summarizes the experience of someone who lost their position inside Corporate America, and who has a renewed appereciation for her own life and time as a result:
John Greer a.k.a. the Archdruid calls people in my status economic nonpersons. We are on the forefront of the deindustrialization of the planet. I am starting to be OK with that.
Since I last wrote, I have acquired another part time job. The other day while getting out of the car I noticed a bus going by. Oddly enough it was the bus I used to take when I had a “real job.” The bus was packed with people, so much so that I could see many riders standing up. Two things happened together in my mind when the bus crossed my line of vision. First, I got the eerie, irrepressible feeling that I was seeing the equivalent of the cattle cars the Nazis used to fill for the concentration camps.
The other impression was of what I used to have to do to go to my fancy job in the city- the clothes, the makeup, the bitchy boss. There I was, standing in my old jeans, next to my old car and suddenly feeling incredibly FREE and happy and sane. (I did not feel poor, downtrodden or left out.) I realized I was no longer on a suicide mission called “gainful employment.” Now, I do wish sometimes that I had a more secure income future? Of course, but, would I trade that for the mind-blowing, excruciatingly refreshing personal growth curve of the last three years? I have to say, “No.”
I was also surprised that I felt no better or worse than the people on the bus either. Actually, I felt genuinely sad for them and strangely glad for myself. I feel that I am a much better person, a stronger and more resourceful person now than the one who last rode that bus going into town.
The Value of My Time
I have stopped thinking about it, the value of my time. This winter I helped my uncle who was recovering from open heart surgery. Besides cleaning and dressing his wounds, taking him to the doc and running errands, I also tore his house apart from one end to the other and cleaned or painted every reachable surface. I also tore out old carpets, etc. I probably spent hundreds of hours on that house. I did not expect payment.
My mother gave me money for food and gas. (My uncle is her brother.) My uncle is a carpenter and he knows what that kind of labor costs. He was appalled that I did so much for him and he could offer nothing in return. It was very hard, very dirty, mind-numbing, exhausting work. But, what kept me going was that it NEEDED to be done by somebody and I was the one available in that moment to do it. So, I did it.
I used to laugh with my husband and mom about much money I would make if I were paid for all the work I did. Then I just forgot about it. I showed up and did the work. Day after day. Oddly enough, my parents got money from somewhere and paid me $1,000 and my uncle decided to make me his heir. So, one day, I may own a house. Who knew that was going to happen?
I am thinking that to say I know the actual value of my time is a kind of arrogance. Perhaps. At least to me. I used to say, “I am worth at least $20.00 an hour. Blahdy, blah, blah.” As if I could even know that. Perhaps I am worth a whole lot more. Perhaps the worth of something is just how badly something is needed in any given moment. I don’t know, but I am pondering this.
And so might we all.