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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/7/20

How CEOs Are Ruining America

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From Robert Reich Blog

Today, America's wealthiest business moguls like Jamie Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase claim that they are "patriots before CEOs" because they employ large numbers of workers or engage in corporate philanthropy.

Rubbish.

CEOs are in business to make a profit and maximize their share prices, not to serve America. And yet these CEOs dominate American politics and essentially run the system.

Therein lies the problem: They cannot be advocates for their corporations and simultaneously national leaders responsible for the well-being of the country. This is the biggest contradiction at the core of our broken system.

A frequent argument made by CEOs is that so-called "American competitiveness" should not be hobbled by regulations and taxes. Jamie Dimon often warns that tight banking regulations will cause Wall Street to lose financial business to banks in nations with weaker regulations. Under Dimon's convenient logic, JPMorgan is America.

Dimon used the same faulty logic about American competitiveness to support the Trump tax cut. "We don't have a competitive tax system here," he warned.

But when Dimon talks about "competitiveness" he's really talking about the competitiveness of JPMorgan, its shareholders, and billionaire executives like himself.

The concept of "American competitiveness" is meaningless when it comes to a giant financial enterprise like JPMorgan that moves money all over the world. JPMorgan doesn't care where it makes money. Its profits don't directly depend on the well-being of Americans.

"American competitiveness" is just as meaningless when it comes to big American-based corporations that make and buy things all over the world.

Consider a mainstay of corporate America, General Electric. Two decades ago, most GE workers were American. Today the majority are non-American. In 2017, GE announced it was increasing its investments in advanced manufacturing and robotics in China, which it termed "an important and critical market for GE." In 2018, over half of GE's revenue came from abroad. Its once core allegiance to American workers and consumers is gone.

Google has opened an Artificial Intelligence lab in Beijing. Until its employees forced the company to stop, Google was even building China a prototype search engine designed to be compatible with China's censors.

Apple employs 90,000 people in the United States but contracts with roughly a million workers abroad. An Apple executive told The New York Times, "We don't have an obligation to solve America's problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible" and showing profits big enough to continually increase Apple's share price.

American corporations will do and make things wherever around the world they can boost their profits the most, and invest in research and development wherever it will deliver the largest returns.

The truth is that America's real competitiveness doesn't depend on profit-seeking shareholders or increasingly global corporations. The real competitiveness of the United States depends on only one thing: the productivity of Americans.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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