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July 14, 2009
Big Greed's Dream
By Chaz Valenza
How, why and what to do about the tyranny of Big Greed, the corporate power that is decimating the American working class.
::::::::To Big Greed you are a consumer. A consumer is a human person that needs things to live and can be forced to pay Big Greed for part of that privilege. Big Greed thinks nothing more of you.
Even should a human persona be affixed upon your entity, i.e. the television machine depicts your plight of being chewed up by Big Greed and spit out onto the thoroughfare, any compensation you may receive is a financial calculation weighted against potential sales to other consumers.
Big Greed loves the fact that the aggregate noun for the U.S. population of all ages is consumers. Babies are consumers, showered with a swag bag of offers for goods and services at the moment of birth. The dying are the best consumers of medical services, for example.
The term consumer makes you into nothing more than a machine that devours goods and services. It's dehumanizing. It implies that you are indiscriminate and insatiable, a glutton with little redeeming value and you deserve the rawest of raw deals. The consumer as parasite.
Under the capitalist system every potential trade begins with a conflict between buyers and sellers over the value of goods and services. Every completed transaction is the resolution of that conflict. Don't be fooled, Big Greed does not succeed by complying with such win-win fairness of a negotiated trade when it comes to consumers.
Corporate persons ( corporations current are endowed with the rights of personhood via a fluke in the U.S. law, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood_debate ) would never disparage fellow corporate persons by labeling them consumers. They are business-to-business customers or clients. Together corporate persons forge supply chain alliances.
Suppliers, notice how sellers in the business-to-business transaction set themselves up as subordinate to buyers with the idiom supplier, pride themselves on being the single source or the preferred source to the team that is creating this or that service or product at their client/customer.
"Microsoft consumes our computer servers..." "Merck is a consumer of our feed stock #86..." No, I don't think those are phrases you will ever hear uttered in the corridors business. It's more like, "We supply Wal*Mart's __________," this sentence now usually spoken in Chinese.
Businesses treat other businesses like persons. Businesses recognize that fellow businesses must to be treated fairly otherwise they won't survive, and they must survive because they're all in it together.
Many businesses do treat you the human person like a client or customer, with respect and transparent offers of good value, but usually their prices are higher then those offered by Big Greed. Why is this?
These businesses are usually owned and operated by persons of the human type. This doesn't mean that all human persons in business are fair, but they generally don't have the means to manipulate the market or the luxury of living cloistered safely away from the consumer rabble. Notice how the market does operate more fairly within a smaller human community.
Big Greed, on the other hand, cons consumers into believing that Big Greed brands are better, cheaper and faster. We've all fallen for this scam when we refuse pay a nickel more than Big Greed's price for a given product or service.
Big Greed Box stores, known among themselves as "category killers," are an excellent example. This is Big Greed's strategy to eliminated "Mom & Pop" businesses in entire retail groups by promising lower prices and better selection. This con has worked. What consumers don't get is service and quality, even though both are excessively promised. And, until recently, we consumers have rarely factored the cost of fuel, wear and tear on our vehicles and our own time in transit into the cost/price bottom line.
The real price also increases when Big Greed emporiums surreptitiously persuade us to purchase impulse items, both large and small, that we didn't need or want previously. And, finally, after the local competition has be neutralized, category killers raise their prices, especially on the necessities, i.e. your choice four wood screws $1.59 or fifty for $7.59, while the local hardware store charges ten cents each, any quantity.
To keep this myth strong and unchallenged, Big Greed does a song and dance about how highly they value your business. They shout it from the television machine constantly.
In reality, Big Greed has a number of advantages, all to your determent, which they neglect mention. In the world of economics these sloughed-off costs are called an externalities. For example, they pollute legally in foreign countries where they have a low labor cost because they can exploit workers there in a way they can't here and their materials are cheaper because they are inferior, sometimes dangerous. Think lead paint on children's toys and melamine plastic in baby formula.
But Big Greed's knows "perception is reality" and if you believe they are cheaper and better, they are.
Or, just the opposite, Big Greed is expensive. In fact, the entire industry is expensive because all the competitor corporations are part of Big Greed, which has formed an industry association, and paid millions of dollars to lobbyists to get laws passed so they alone can provide a regulated service. The $$$ spent on the lobbyists comes back to Big Greed hundreds and thousands fold in the form of extraordinary profits. For human person consumers: Think medical insurance, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, credit cards. For self-employed human person businesses: Think business insurance and business services required by law.
Once we look beyond the myth that Big Greed loves you, and is treating you like gold, the truth is clear. Big Greed treats human persons as the inhuman abstraction consumers. If you live, get hurt or die, Big Greed doesn't care. There will always be another you to exploit. But finding another original equipment manufacturer that appreciates their premium widgets, that's another story.
When Big Greed dumps us all into the kettle labeled consumers it makes us faceless chattel to be exploited. Yes, Big Greed owns the consumer. It can and does manipulate the rules of trade. Everyday it creates false desires and sells products that promise more than they can ever deliver. They don't call it deceptive trade practices; they call it advertising. But that's the least of it.
Big Greed wants, and currently gets, a disproportionate share of the wealth, wealth created by you the consumer.
Consumer? Wait a second, that doesn't sound quite right because no consumer creates wealth, only workers can do that. Consumers can't spend us into a thriving economy, only workers can add value, and with their hard work create a thriving economy, one where human persons earn and spend.
You remember now. You're not just a consumer. You're much more.
Only workers can find, extract and refine raw materials. Only workers can take materials and make them into useful products. Only workers can build the shelter and machines. Only workers can operate the machines. It's the workers that clean up the mess, direct the traffic, grow the food, transport the goods, prepare the food, draw the plans, educate the young, care for the ill, keep others safe, provide the art and entertainment, do the research, conduct the experiments, purify the waste water, care for the live stock, butcher the meat, and install and maintain the conduits for the basic utilities.
Then why is it, right now, in the United States of America, we reward workers less than ever before? And why have we abandoned the economic engines, that formerly employed millions of American workers, to other less developed countries? (See answer above: externalities.)
Why is it that policy wonks, straight faced, state an obvious oxymoron: the way to fix the economy is for consumers to spend? Why is it that while Big Greed grabs the lion's share of the wealth derived from those who performed the labor, workers continue to be called consumers?
The answer is it's Big Greed's Dream.
In Big Greed's Dream there are no workers. There are only consumers. And in Big Greed's Dream, Big Greed sucks up all the wealth it can by stealing it in unregulated financial markets, by flinching on coverage promised for insurance bought and paid for, by letting consumers pay for the environmental clean-up, by pillaging the spoils of war, by creating entities called corporations that never die and, therefore, need never return money borrowed and equity invested, and by manipulating markets that drive "self-employed" workers out of business leaving all but Big Greed's "national brand" options available.
How's Big Greed's Dream working for you Mr.& Ms. Consumer?
Yes, there are things you can do if you don't care for Big Greed's Dream. Unfortunately, believing that President Obama is going to do them for you is not one of them.
Human people can start by considering these Three Rules for Ending Big Greed's Tyranny:
1) Recognize the actions of Big Greed in your life.
2) Minimize and/or eliminate your transactions with Big Greed.
3) Repeat as necessary.
Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration caused the greatest tragedy of the space age based on Richard C. Cook's book "Challenger Revealed." He is a former Director of Public Information for Planned Parenthood of NYC. His website is: www.WordsWillNever.com