Tag Archives: Corporate Responsibility

Pro-Business Often Means Pro-Boss

An earlier post pointed out that many policies that are commonly called pro-business are really pro-management and advocates using that name. But in the spirit of using shorter words, why not call them pro-boss policies?

Boss is more emotionally charged than management and makes clear that the policies would benefit those at the top, not necessarily business as a whole.

What do you think? Is this accurate? Is it helpful to Framologists?

Smaller Government = Wimpy Government

Like a traffic cop, government should be strong, caring, and responsible enough to protect our rights and safety.
Like a traffic cop, government should be strong, caring, and responsible enough to protect our rights and safety.
Photo Credit: RobertFrancis via Compfight cc

Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist famously said that he wants the federal government to be small enough to drown in a bathtub. If we take this metaphor seriously, then he wants a wimpy government–one he could easily overpower.

If he got his way, Uncle Sam would be wimpy in specific ways, especially:

  • Too weak to protect Americans from abuse and neglect by Big Business (because of deregulation of business) and
  • Too weak to help Americans suffering poverty and hardship (because of slashing the social welfare system).

What if supporters of industry regulation and social welfare argued like this?

My opponent says he wants smaller government. What he means is he wants a wimpy government:

  • a government too weak to stop oil companies from drilling in dangerous ways in dangerous places,
  • a government too weak to protect us when employers fail to pay overtime and discriminate against employees,
  • a government too weak to say no when state and local governments try to make it harder for citizens to vote,
  • a government too weak to punish car companies when they sell us cars with dangerous defects,
  • a government too weak to extend a helping hand when we suffer unemployment and poverty,
  • a government too weak to insist that businesses, communities, and individuals leave America cleaner, safer, and healthier than we found it through environmental regulations,
  • etc.

That’s unacceptable! I believe America is greatest when the government is our strong ally and protector:

  • Strong, caring and responsible enough to protect our rights when they’re violated;
  • Strong, caring and responsible enough to insist that Big Business consider not just shareholder value but also the wellbeing of its workers, communities, and the natural world that makes life and commerce possible;
  • Strong, caring and responsible enough to tell Big Oil, “Sorry, it’s too dangerous to drill there.”
  • Strong, caring and responsible enough to tell Big Finance, “Sorry, what you’re asking for could lead to another crash like in 2008. We can’t have that.”


Whatever you may think of these specific examples, the construction “a government too weak/wimpy to…” do something that Americans deeply value is powerful. It exposes what the vision of “smaller government” could mean.

And opposing this vision of wimpy government with a vision of strong, caring, responsible government also is powerful. That is what progressives want. We should proudly say so.

What say you?

P.S. I’ve never been able to square the drown-in-a-bathtub image with a strong military.

Why Pro-Business Policies Aren’t

Everybody knows what pro-business policies are: low taxes, low minimum wage, less regulation, reduced ability to sue corporations, “right-to-work” laws (a topic for another post), etc. We “know” this because that’s what business lobbies usually want.

But these policies should be known as pro-management, not pro-business. That’s because they give management more power and money while depriving workers and the community.

To thrive, business needs not only management but workers, suppliers, customers, and a prosperous community. Real pro-business policies support all of these.
To thrive, business needs not only management but workers, suppliers, customers, and a prosperous community. Real pro-business policies support all of these.

But businesses also need workers:

  • Educated workers who can do their jobs with a minimum of training
  • Healthy workers who can come to work each day and do their best
  • Loyal workers who feel valued by their employers
  • Prosperous workers who can not only pay their bills but patronize their own and other businesses.

Businesses also need customers. In Economics 101, I learned that demand means the desire for a product or service plus the ability to pay for it. That means the community must prosper, not just management. People can’t patronize businesses without money. (And yes, this is related to the triple bottom line.)

And when we don’t trust a business or industry, we don’t want to support it. Wise government regulation of business helps create that trust.

So real pro-business policies would sound like this:

  • Strong support for public education to create an educated workforce
  • Strong public health efforts and ready, affordable access to health care, including preventive health care and mental health care
  • Support for workers’ work-family balance with family leave, child care, and so on
  • Support for living wages so the workers, community, and its businesses can thrive
  • Support for government regulations that give people confidence in business.

Do you think pro-management is a good reframe of pro-business? What might be better?

Why Corporations Want You to Confuse Your Rights with Theirs

When the New York City Council approved a ban on sales of soft drinks in containers larger than 16oz, ban opponents used some ideological sleight-of-hand. It was so subtle that I noticed it only now!

Big Gulp cup--32 ounces
The issue should have been whether corporations should be allowed to tempt people to use too much of an unhealthy product, not individual liberty.
Photo Credit: Majiscup – The Papercup & Sleeve via Compfight cc

By framing the ban as an issue of individual liberty, they obscured a crucial fact: the ban would have regulated the behavior not of individuals but of businesses. Individuals would still have been able to buy all the soda they wanted.

Therefore, the real issue was whether irresponsible corporations would still be allowed to tempt customers to use too much of an unhealthy product. All the talk about government overreach, the nanny state, and personal choice was really about the City’s treatment of corporations, not people.

All the talk about government overreach, the nanny state, and personal choice was really about the City’s treatment of corporations, not people.

This case demonstrates what corporations gain from confusing the rights of individuals with those of corporations and the harm this confusion can bring the public. It will be very difficult to ban harmful products if the bogus individual-liberty frame is allowed to define future debates.

However wise or foolish this ban proposal may have been, governments have a responsibility to regulate commerce within their borders and also a responsibility to protect the health of the community. In similar future cases, Framologists should name who is really affected by the proposal and identify the real issue as corporate responsibility, not individual liberty.

Do you know if soda-ban defenders used this approach? I’d love to hear about it!

Giant Psychopathic Corporations with the Same Rights as You?

The legal status of corporations is in an interesting ferment. With recent corporate legal challenges to the Patient Protection Act’s requirement that health insurance cover birth control, the idea of corporate personhood is back in the news. For example, the owners of Hobby Lobby claim that the company has a religion.

Although its website has a Ministry Projects page, the corporation is a structure–a metaphorical building. Even though corporations can be established for religious purposes, their legal and physical structures do not themselves hold opinions, religious or otherwise. It’s the people that occupy that do, and their right to religious expression does deserve legal protection.

Like these corporate lawsuits, Mitt Romney’s famous statement that corporations are people blurs the distinction between corporations and human beings. (I do not believe that, as some have claimed, he meant that corporations ARE human beings, just that people inhabit corporations and benefit from them.)

Part 1 of 4 mindmaps of ideas in the documentary The Corporation. See them all at https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deathtogutenberg/2339726414/in/photostream/ Photo Credit: Austin Kleon via Compfight cc
Part of a mindmap of ideas in the documentary The Corporation. See them al at https://secure.flickr.com/photos/deathtogutenberg/2339726414/in/photostream/ by scrolling left.
Photo Credit: Austin Kleon via Compfight cc

This blurring is dangerous because, as the 2004 documentary The Corporation has argued, if corporations were people, many would be psychopaths. Giant psychopathic corporations with all the rights of citizens are the last thing we need!

Another important development is the dawn of benefit corporations (aka public benefit corporations). In states that have created this category of corporation, the corporation has a fiduciary commitment not only to its own bottom line but also to the community and the environment. Supporters of benefit corporations may call these the triple bottom line: profit, people, and planet.

When extreme conservatives talk of corporate rights and corporate personhood, I think Framologists should respond with corporate responsibility and the triple bottom line. When extremists say that corporations are persons before the law, we can point out that, although they do have the rights to advertise their products, enter contracts, own property, and sue, they are not and should be citizens. Citizenship is for Americans. Corporations created by American states have responsibilities to those states and to the people and natural world that make their business possible.

But what do you think?