The Greed that Feeds
People often ask me why I hate free market capitalism so much. Truth be told, I’m actually a big fan of American capitalism. I’ve never lived in China or the former Soviet Union, but I feel confident that we have a pretty good thing going, all things considered. But what I do take umbrage to is unfettered laissez faire capitalism. You’ve heard Trump and other notorious Republicans decry governmental oversight as they advocate for deregulation. Why? Because they know that less rules and regulation mean that they can pull off more onerous scams at the expense of an unsuspecting populace. After all, I’ve never eaten a Trump steak, but I’ve also never met someone with a degree from Trump University. I like the idea of small business owners being able to eke out a living unencumbered by burdensome bureaucracy, but we all know where deregulation really leads, assuming you are old enough to remember the housing market collapse of 2008 ushered in by Bush-era deregulation. I guess what I really hate is corporate America. That’s because corporate America represents the type of unmitigated avarice that makes regulation necessary in the first place, and nowhere is that more evident than the employment practices they have adopted in the past couple of decades.
At this point, corporate America has all the loyalty of a debaucherous and intoxicated rock star playfully fondling a bevy of exposed groupies all shoving their tits in his face as they vie for attention in anticipation of a coke-fueled orgy. The median job tenure in corporate America is just over 4.1 years, meaning folks barely have time to figure out where the bathroom is before looking for another job. Gone are the days of someone working for the same employer for the duration of their careers and then riding off into the sunset with a gold lapel pin and a new office chair. Employees are now just commodities, tokens in a much-larger game with far-ranging implications. Corporations shrug off employees like Trump goes through wives, except that their settlements aren’t nearly as generous.
All of this, of course, comes back to a shift in business priorities, with corporate profits now ruling the day. Back in the 50’s and 60’s business owners were keen on making a living from their hard work and investment, but with the acknowledgement that they did so on the backs of the people who worked for them. This fostered a symbiotic awareness of the need to be good public stewards who served their communities as much as their communities served them. But in the 80’s, when Gordon Gecko’s creed of “Greed is good” became sacrosanct, corporations became bigger and bigger turning into behemoth conglomerates with offices scattered throughout the country. No longer did the boss know their employees or their collective populaces. The sense of community within the corporate environment eroded, and the only people CEO’s served anymore were the shareholders. And what do shareholders care about? Well, we all know it isn’t the people.
My girlfriend recently got laid off from her marketing position at Shopify Logistics. If you’re wondering, “What the hell is Shopify Logistics and why should I care?”, don’t worry- you shouldn’t. Just think of them as Amazon wannabes. Now, my girlfriend’s departure had nothing whatsoever to do with her performance. In fact, her recent performance review couldn’t have been more glowing. Fact is that she was just one of 2000 employees who were let go in a single day, a 20% reduction in work force that was preceeded by a 10% cut just a year earlier. The entire move was done as part of a reallocation of resources, otherwise known as an “acquisition” by Flexsport for $2.1 billion. But for these poor former Shopifolk (the egregiously impersonal term Shopify uses for its employees in an ironically desperate attempt to engender camaraderie and community in their workplace), the cuts meant they would be out of a job, that there would be no family trip to Disneyworld this year. But how did founder and CEO Tobi Lutke refer to the layoffs in his letter announcing the cuts and his subsequent heartfelt email to those he was letting go? He suggested that they were an effort to “pay unshared attention to [Shopify’s] mission” and followed that up by drawing an analogy between Shopify and video game mechanics, distinguishing between the company’s “main” and “side quests.” Meanwhile Lutke, an avid gamer with all the warm fuzziness of personality of a three day old rat carcass and who refers to his employees as “expansion packs” because they are, in gamer’s terms, expendable commodities to be used and disregarded, earned $10.6 million in compensation this past year for overseeing this train wreck of a merger. Shopify’s stock rose 24% on the announcement of the layoffs. And that, my friends, is all you need to know about how corporate America functions.
There is one and only bottom line in the world of corporate America: making money for the shareholders. Executives like Lutke are immune from the type of job insecurity they foster, as long as they make money for their investors. Humorously, they are then well-compensated for their greed and savagery. He gets a bonus while 3000 employees go looking for another job. And just what skill set does someone like Lutke have to offer in order to justify these eight-figure salaries? Well, given how badly he botched his communication, it isn’t for his interpersonal skills, leadership, or marketing savvy. No, it seems to me that the only thing these fuckers have in their skill set is a soullessness that allows them to engage in any dream-crushing act of malignancy as long as it makes them a profit. Call it the greed that feeds.
Trust me, this isn’t meant to be a gripe session. We will be just fine, thank you very much. But how many of those 3000 won’t be? No, this is a cautionary tale of where we continue to move as a nation, as an economy. It didn’t take long after the Supreme Court handed corporations the same rights to “free speech” as people for corporations to show us just how inhuman they really are. Is Tobi Lutke a self-serving douche with all the human empathy of Oscar the Grouch after he hits it big in the lottery only to trade in his trash can for the penthouse suite still right there on Sesame Street just so that he can walk his pantless ass out onto the balcony and piss on Abby Cadaby and all her other faerie friends for pestering him at 7am on a Saturday morning after he stayed up all night alone drinking tequila in his garbage can? Of course he is. But so are Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and most of the other Fortune 500 CEO’s that justify their billions by fucking up the lives of others. Run by executives who make enough money to distance themselves both literally and metaphorically from the rest of the working sector, corporations no longer stand for serving the common interest. Sure it’s fine that the sole aspirations for most corporations are profits. That is, after all, what they are there for. But we must then be sure to use government as an effective safeguard against their avarice run amok. Otherwise, left unchecked, corporate America will turn all of us into nothing more than expansion packs.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com