Monday, October 24, 2011

A Narrowing Sense of Loyalty

David Carr has a pertinent column today. Maybe it explains why the news media has been dismissive of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It also raises, again, a key element in the current crisis. It's a matter of loyalty.

When a business ceases to be concerned with what it delivers to its customers and only interested in delivering cash to its owners, we have a problem. When this is the model everyone is copying our society is in trouble. When our news is crafted in a way that supports this model we have a hard time resisting it, but that is the picture we get from most of our reporting class––most uniformly on FoxNews and on radio. That, in the words of the recent Bush White House, is "our new reality."

Pay cuts for workers are seen as a revenue source by those further up the food chain. It's unattractive, antisocial, predatory, but it's described admiringly in the business press. American business used to have three key loyalties: to customers, employees and owners. (I've written about this before.) But there's been a dramatic shift in the past forty years; the first two have been degraded to feed the last loyalty. We are loyal to our companies but our companies have ceased to be loyal to us.

All obligations to employees and customers are set on the debit side and seen as negative to the only true value, profit, and profit feeds the bonus machine. So employees and customers are, in a very fundamental sense, seen as the enemy in many or possibly most executive suites and also by the economists and accountants who equip business plans with their rationale. Look at our present economy: 99% of Americans are in financial difficulties and afraid, but very eager to work for whatever they can get. This is a very pleasant picture for the lucky few.

Look at the Austerity model being pushed by Republicans today. Is it telling us that we never deserved the broad prosperity of the recent past? Was the postwar boom an illusion or an aberration or a problem that it took the executive class forty years to eliminate?

Does prosperity belong only at the top of the pyramid? We get to build that pyramid and admire it from a distance, but in the economy built by Reagan and Milton Friedman and Grover Norquist and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the pyramid is purely for the glorification and enjoyment of the small class whose names are engraved at the top. And this circles back to something I wrote in 2002 and posted to this blog's first entry in 2004. Who are we working for? What are we creating with our labor? What is this vast efficient machinery meant to do? Who is it meant to serve?

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home