I listened to the actor Ben Afleck talk on PBS this morning, nodding in agreement. He was describing how America has more and more the feel of a country in decline. I did not hear the whole interview but he remarked that we, including corporations, may do what is legal but we do not always do what is right.
It reminded me of a conversation I had yesterday with a retired employee of The Arizona Republic, the largest newspaper in the state. Glen, I will call him, receives a small pension each month from the newspaper. He said that at one time, there was a boat-load of money in the pension fund, enough anyway that would raise the amount of monthly payments to retirees. But of course there has been no increase. Why?
Hopes for pension raises ended when in 2000 the mega-newspaper corporation Gannett acquired the Republic from the Pulliam family. One of the first actions taken by Gannett, Glen said, was to raid the pension fund of its surplus. While the information I received from Glen is hearsay, it has a strong ring of truth. Gannett in this case did what was legal. But was it right?
The pension program is dead at Gannett, now replaced by the 401k retirement savings plans. I suspect the raided pension fund was incorporated into Gannett’s contributions to 401k for newer employees. In essence, former employees of the Pulliam era have been robbed to pay for the retirements of the Gannett-era employees at the same paper. And Gannett has a nicer look to its earnings reports to present to Wall Street.
Corporations have raped this country and continue to do so. Their greed knows no bounds. Government regulation has been weak. Corporate lobbyists run Congress with payoffs and other perks. Both parties, but especially the Republicans, are mere lapdogs to these rapacious businesses, businesses who do not care one iota about America. That is if you still think of America as comprised of individuals, not conglomerates.
Even sadder is this. Many Americans have chosen the corporate-way to deal with their personal lives. Cut throat, cold. No sharing OUR money with anyone. Yes, we are street-legal. But as Ben Afleck said it doesn’t feel right. Until we reset our moral compasses and become less acquisitive, this country as a whole will not prosper, even if corporations like Gannett do. Worse, for most of us the nation will continue to feel like its going to the pits.