When You Assume . . .

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I recall an episode of The Odd Couple where Felix was in court representing his roomie; much to Oscar’s dismay. As Felix was questioning a witness about his interpretation of events, the witness said: “Well I assumed. . .” Felix cut him off saying “Ah-ha! You assumed! You should never assume because when you assume;” Turning to the white board Felix spelled out the word and then pointing to the individual syllables he said: “You make an ASS of U and ME.”

Throughout May and June of 2021, we heard governors around the country make asses of themselves as they assumed the only reason people aren’t scrambling for dead-end jobs is because of the enhanced unemployment benefits. Actual fact-finders are learning that, even when such assistance is blocked, many of the people that were unceremoniously and abruptly terminated from what were poverty-wage jobs, are starting their own businesses. They’re tired of working for employers that are intent on getting the people out of the loop through reductions in force. Intentional consumers are on the side of the workers and don’t want to help smooth any return to an outmoded economy.

McDonalds is now implementing artificial intelligence to take your order in the drive-thru. Uber is making huge investments in developing driverless cars. Walgreens has informed employees, with almost a quarter century of service with the company, that they will no longer pay insurance premiums upon that employee’s retirement. And, the most dishonest politicians, are still pushing the obvious lie that employer based health insurance is the way to go for comprehensive health care.

It’s hard to maintain a work-life balance when you’re swing shifted or having to work multiple piddly-ass jobs just to make ends meet. Some employees object to wearing a silly looking uniform that advertises to the world that the employee’s will has been completely subjugated at the whim of company marketeers. And, then there are those employees that simply don’t respect a company managed by executives too incompetent to maintain a rainy day fund.

So-called non-essential employees have had a year to think about mapping out a better life. They’ve concluded that any business person, that is unable or unwilling to pay a living wage, should move over and let someone more competent run the business. In 1997, the federal minimum wage was $5.15 an hour. It remained at that rate for ten years. In 2009 the minimum reached $7.25 per hour where it has remained for twelve years. This means the minimum wage increased by less than half the rate of inflation, about 29%, while the cumulative cost of living increased over 66% during the same period.

The Economic Policy Institute reported that, over the course of about forty years, corporate CEO pay increased 940% while the typical worker’s pay increased only 12% during the same period. Employees are often forced into conditions of peonage where they must seek nutrition, energy, housing, and other forms of public assistance while the employers are avoiding taxes and otherwise operating in parasitic fashion. The employees, as actual taxpayers, don’t want to support that business model. And what person of conscience can blame them?

The 1920s are remembered as an era of mass consumerism. The 2020s will be about Intentional Consumerism and what we choose to support. The shareholder rights movement has been led to expect every indulgence while buying low, selling high, skimming the cream and effectively sucking the life plasm out of a company for which they are holding any stock. Unlike the entrepreneurs that built the company, those on the take are not going to contribute anything that might help a company through tough times? 

Employee owned companies will undoubtedly emerge post-pandemic to challenge the parasitic business practices whereby some of the most integrity challenged among us exert an outsized influence on our public discourse and our national life. This will be a healthy thing, even though the professional backbiters employed by faux news organizations will characterize the movement as something other than healthy.

Certain justices on the United States Supreme Court have displayed an abysmal ignorance whenever they have held that corporations should have speech rights over and above those employees that have associated for a common purpose to act corporately. Whenever SCOTUS defines a company as something other than the group of people working in company with one another, the Court corrodes the democracy underpinnings of our constitutional republic.

While some justices may have minds too atrophied to learn anything new, responsible consumers can hold fake corporations accountable for the dark money contributions they make to advance public policy that actual citizens find abhorrent. While most of us are held accountable for our speech, companies should not be able to skirt accountability through court sanctioned subterfuge. It may be a big mistake to assume; but we can actively engage in a disciplined form of forensic investigation. Suppose a company is not accounting for significant expenditures. It could be an indication of engagement in corrupt political influence. We should not be giving them the benefit of any doubt. We should also not be throwing any of our hard earned dollars their way.

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