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Growth at all cost

Wealth Inequality is capitalisms biggest problem. The statistics have been spewed everywhere but in case you have heard I'll briefly go over them here. The 3 richest Americans (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet) have more wealth than the bottom 50% Americans. On a global scale the 26 richest people hold more wealth than the bottom half of the world. These numbers aren't getting any better. Here in the United States the recent tax cuts saw the richest 20% of the country net 65% of the gains. Thankfully, the issue has finally reached national coverage with 2 of the top 3 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates proposing some sort of "Billionaire tax". The American public is starting to catch on. Recent polling suggests that 61% of voters are in favor of a tax on billionaires. Without change the future is bleak. Wages are stagnant, housing and healthcare costs have skyrocketed, and the automation bogeyman is soon going to be a reality. History suggests that structures that hold up absurd levels of inequality eventually fall. What's to happen next?

How the wealthy react

The wealthy are beginning to take notice. Some like Bill Gates, Ray Dalio, and Marc Benioff love to talk about how much more they should be paying to the government. Benioff went so far to write an op-ed in the New York Times titled "We Need a New Capitalism". Give me a fucking break. These people have no problem saying one thing in public and deploying their army of lawyers in private to make sure those words never become a reality. Nevertheless the rich are starting to take notice. A surprising recent example of this is the updated "Purpose of a Corporation" put out by the Business Roundtable, a group consisting of CEOs from America's largest companies. The updated language purportedly upends a fundamental principle of American capitalism: "to maximize shareholder value to the exclusion of all else". The revised statement says: "If companies fail to recognize that the success of our system is dependent on inclusive long-term growth, many will raise legitimate questions about the role of large employers in our society." Do I suddenly think that Amazon (whose CEO was one of the signees) will start paying more in federal income tax than I do? No of course not. Growth at all costs culture is so ingrained into the fabric of the typical American megacorp I'm not convinced they could survive if it was suddenly removed.

Growth at all costs

Herein lies my true motive, to rant against the "Growth at all costs" nature of most American businesses. Capitalist greed has made the once honest small business forgo their values for the never ending desire to be big big big. They'll sell you on how much good it'll produce, they'll celebrate the "wins" with you, and they'll be nonplussed when you ask for modestly better work environments. Growth, which only those at the top will ever see, is the end all be all. Instead of trying to get ahead with fair wages and safe and rewarding work environments companies rely on cult-of-personality CEOs, free M&Ms, and outlandish mission statements. Nearly every company I can think of has an employee retention "problem" yet they all perpetrate the same behaviors that have produce the "Burnout Generation" of millennial workers. They somehow still wonder why the "problem" exists. And why should we show any allegiance towards the companies we work for? Productivity (aka profits) has sky-rocketed but wages are flat and the degradation of work/non-work distinctions has created the expectation to be always available. Companies are asking more from us but are shocked when we ask for modest increases to our shitty salaries. I'm sick of companies celebrating explosive growth one day but say there is no budget for fair wages the next. They intend to grow at the expense of others and they are okay with it. I believe the easiest way for a business to stand out in today's world is to not be so damn greedy. You don't have to grow only for the sake of growing. You don't have to make budget cuts to keep a steady increase in profit margin. If being good to the people around you isn't enough it's also good business! Your employees will do better work when you show them (not just tell them) you care. You won't have an employee retention "problem". Stop worshiping at the alter of the balance sheet and stop apologizing for inaction. Stop using your employees for your own personal gain. Start sharing success with those who've helped build and maintain it. And for the love of God please stop acting so surprised when talent leave. Your shock only shows how out of touch you really are.

Published on October 26, 2019