There's nothing going on at the call center I really want to talk about today. Same old, same old. But I saw something on TV last week that I have been thinking about for some time.
I saw a reporter on TV interviewing an executive from one of the oil companies. The reporter asked him about their record profits, to which he admitted that his company was were doing better than it ever had before. The reporter then asked him the question we all wanted him to ask:
"Would you lower prices temporarily since you are doing so well?"
Without missing a beat, or taking a millisecond to think about it, he said:
"Oh no, we couldn't do that. We're in the business to make money. My stockholders wouldn't stand for that."
I turned it off after that and thought about his answer. I'm not an idiot, I know he needs to make money, be profitable. Needs to stay competitive in a global marketplace. All those hackneyed phrases that I hear on MSNBC, or on Marketplace. All those phrases that business people always utter when they are making the "hard decisions". But I really don't buy the whole package any more.
How does he know his stockholders wouldn't stand for it? Maybe that's because he's a stockholder, and the board is a stock holder, and everyone he knows is a stockholder. There are some of us who would hold onto stocks if we could know that they weren't evil. There are even mutual funds set up for that purpose.
The main thing that struck me was that there is an automatic disconnect between doing things for the good of the world at large and doing things that are good for the corporation. Behind the disconnect is this feeling that being a corporation means that profit always guides decisions, and always determines what is right and wrong. Profit is always right, even if its wrong.
I know there are some of you reading that may be thinking that I'm too simplistic and don't know about the day to day pressures of surviving in the business world. That I don't realize what it took for that oil company to get to this point. You could point out how the production of oil is an incredibly complicated process, spanning so many political, international, scientific and environmental issues that I was just being foolish to break things down to such platitudes.
The world is a complicated place, but some people enjoy making things complicated so that we won't look at things clearly. The oil companies are making bigger profits than they ever have before. They are not suffering. There is more to this world than profit. Our economy may be doing well, but there are still not real increases in wages, if nothing else many people are under-employed. There has never been such a pro-business administration. Hell, it's run by two Texas oil men!
They could lower the prices.
They could take in less than obscene profits for a while.
They could do good, but they won't...
Let's look at it from a different perspective. I heard someone say that the leaders we get are a representation of the people that we are. When Bill Clinton was in office, people said that he represented the slide in moral values of America as a country. I wonder if George Bush represents the slide in our economic values.
We lament the loss of call center jobs and the loss of manufacturing jobs, but we shop at Wal-Mart and Dell computers to get the cheapest goods from China and the cheapest tech support. We, the consumers, trade local jobs, local profits for cheapest prices.
The oil companies may be obsessed with profits to the detriment of the public good, but they aren't alone.
Thanks for reading,
Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
By Rage Against The Machine