Corporate America’s Grand Failure


I’m not sure what Steven Pearlstein had for breakfast this morning, but to misquote Abraham Lincoln, “Tell me what brand of cereal Pearlstein eats. I would like to send a case of it to my other columnists.”

Another great week for Corporate America!

The economy is flatlining. Global financial markets are in turmoil. Your stock price is down about 15 percent in three weeks. Your customers have lost all confidence in the economy. Your employees, at least the American ones, are cynical and demoralized. Your government is paralyzed. Want to know who is to blame, Mr. Big Shot Chief Executive? Just look in the mirror because the culprit is staring you in the face.

….When it started out all you really wanted was to push back against a few meddlesome regulators or shave a point or two off your tax rate….Somewhere along the way, however, this effort took on a life of its own. What started as a reasonable attempt at political rebalancing turned into a jihad against all regulation, all taxes and all government, waged by right-wing zealots who want to privatize the public schools that educate your workers, cut back on the basic research on which your products are based, shut down the regulatory agencies that protect you from unscrupulous competitors and privatize the public infrastructure that transports your supplies and your finished goods. For them, this isn’t just a tactic to brush back government. It’s a holy war to destroy it — and one that is now out of your control.

….Please don’t tell me about your mealy-mouthed letter warning Congress not to play politics with the debt ceiling. By that point, the Frankenpols you created were not interested in your advice. The only thing that might have got their attention was a threat to cut off the flow of political money. You didn’t — and now they know they can ignore you with impunity.

The thing is, they won’t really care until all this chaos affects corporate earnings. So far it hasn’t, and America’s CEOs — who have never suffered noticeably from a lack of self-regard — probably think that if they can guide their companies to higher profits even through the Great Recession, they must be geniuses. And why should a genius have to worry about their minions on Capitol Hill getting a little friskier than they intended?

And if it all comes crashing down? It’ll be someone else’s fault. Something Obama did, probably. They’ll never learn.

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