Reprinted from Hightower Lowdown
When I was about six years of age, my Uncle Earnest showed me something that made my jaw drop, my eyes bug, and my mind boggle: four beans that, on their own, moved. Leaping legumes!
It wasn't trickery (or deviltry), but an odd twist in the natural world that creates the novelty of "Mexican jumping beans." They're not beans, really -- they're brownish seedpods from a desert shrub in northwest Mexico. A larva from a small moth invades a pod, hollows it out, attaches itself to the inner wall with a silk-like thread, and waits in relative coolness for its metamorphosis into mothdom. When you hold the "bean," however, the warmth of your palm discomforts the larva so that it twitches and pulls on that thread, causing the pod to "jump." It's actually more of a mini-hop or a rollover -- but still, pretty astonishing to a kiddo.
Decades later, I find myself wide eyed again, astonished by the odd movements of a new species of Mexican jumping bean I've named Corporados Greedyados. Far from being a creation of the natural world, these jumpers are enormously profitable, brand-name manufacturers. Native to our land, they've long reaped the benefits of being US corporations, including having highly skilled and loyal blue-collar workforces, corporate-friendly labor and consumer laws, publicly funded education and training, an interstate highway system, legal protection of special corporate privileges, extensive tax breaks, on-call police to safeguard their corporate order, military defense of their worldwide commercial pursuits, and much, much more. But now they're twitching in their conglomerate pods and abruptly jumping to Mexico. Giving no more notice than a cursory shout of adios, they're leaving US workers, communities, the future of our middle class, and our unifying ethic of fair play in the dust of their corporate greed.
Taking avarice to a news level
Yes, perfidious corporations have been jumping to cheap-labor countries for years, particularly since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), China's admission to the World Trade Organization, and other policies incentivizing corporations to export our blue-collar jobs. Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, 50,000-plus US factories have closed and more than 5 million jobs have been lost to the offshoring fad.
Unfortunately, that was just a warm-up. During the past decade, corrupted and compliant legislatures, courts, and regulatory agencies have effectively removed our society's reins on these profit-seeking powerhouses. Not since the robber barons of the late 1800s have those in executive suites felt so free (and even entitled) to work their will on the rest of us. And they are not hesitating. Their recent surge in abandonments of the Good Ol' USA is different from the offshoring of only a decade ago -- today's are bigger, cruder, greedier, and wholly narcissistic.
The real difference is a fundamental, regressive shift in the ethos of the elites who run major corporate empires. These inordinately rich executives and investors believe that what they think and do is what's best, and everyone else should just get out of their way. This has led them to adopt a thoroughly unethical ethic of social irresponsibility, unilaterally decreeing that they and their corporate entities owe nothing to the country and the people who have nurtured and even coddled them.
They've even packaged their conceit in a hokey doctrine they've dubbed "shareholder hegemony" (see the Lowdown, February 2016). It asserts that corporations exist strictly to benefit their shareholders -- ergo and hocus pocus, corporate managers bear a "mandate" to do whatever is necessary to increase stock values, no matter what this costs everybody and everything else.
Consequently, we're presently witnessing the murder of our country's manufacturing prowess by industry's own leaders. CEOs of even the most iconic, well-established, financially secure corporations -- companies with deep roots in our communities -- have gone bonkers, asserting a "moral duty" to shut down factories here, dump the workers, desert our hometowns, and hightail it out of country to any low-wage, low-environmental-standard refuge on the map.
Of course, the beneficiaries of this Kafkaesque doctrine of shareholder supremacy include not only the large stock owners, but also the very CEOs whose paychecks and bonuses depend on jacking up stock prices at our expense. It's a socially suicidal system, providing both an irresistible incentive and a moral excuse for executives to commit corporate treason, even as their moves expand the ever-widening chasm of inequality that cleaves our society.
And, by the way, CEOs and billionaire shareholders aren't moving south with their bottom-wage factories, preferring instead to enjoy their life of luxury in America the Beautiful. Apparently unaware that their elimination of middle-class wages is eliminating their own customer base, they also expect you and me to continue being the primary buyers of their now foreign-made products.
And they wonder why an angry, populist rebellion is spreading like a prairie fire.It's getting hot in Indianapolis
If the chieftains of industry and their political henchmen want to know what's roiling the riffraff, they could read Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty's landmark, 1,000-page book on inequality, or listen to one of Bernie Sanders's hour-long, tub-thumping speeches.
Or they could just spend 3 minutes and 32 seconds watching an online video showing a Carrier Corporation executive speaking to hundreds of workers in the air-conditioning giant's Indianapolis manufacturing plant this past February. The proud Steelworkers union members thought maybe they'd been called to the factory floor to hear about new orders for their quality products. After all, sales at parent-company United Technologies (UTC) were zooming -- expected to jump at least $2 billion to $58 billion in 2016.
Instead of receiving praise and good news, however, they got an ugly surprise. In the fuzzy video (recorded on a worker's phone) UTC/Carrier honcho Chris Nelson doesn't bother with any opening pleasantries. He gets right to the point, reporting in the dry tones of a corporate lifer that the bosses have decided, "The best way to stay competitive and protect the business for the long term is to move production from our facility in Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico." KABLOOEY! He couldn't finish his scripted sentence, for the entire assembly exploded like a human cluster bomb, with cries of disbelief, paroxysms of anguished working-class rage, raucous booing, and a steady barrage of "x#@! you."