Is ethical capitalism an oxymoron?

A headline in USA Today Dec 10-12, 2010, by Gary Strauss reads: As health costs rise, CEO perks bolstered – Execs keep benefits as workers’ dwindle.

My take on the trend is that of an entity granting a cadre of people extra privileges at the expense of others. Corporate directors are bestowing gold-plated perks on their executives (elitism), while sacrificing the subsidized medical benefits of rank-and-file employees (discrimination).

It’s just another dimension of the golden parachute syndrome, as far as I’m concerned. The problem for me is that golden parachutes do not require that the recipient perform successfully to any degree. Many individuals with a history of high-performance experienced that first-hand as employees of a certain Pennsylvania chip maker. Its CEO failed to promote a unified vision for success and left a legacy of layoffs and losses in his wake. And what was his penalty? A golden parachute with a $3.6 million lining. And what was the reward for the 950 non-union employees who were younger than 65 when they were retired through the number-crunching process? The company pleaded poverty and reneged on the medical subsidy portion of their retirement contracts.

Yes, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Socialism, or the redistribution of wealth, is not the only way to correct this ill. It can be done from a capitalist mindset.

What about the ethical decision of business owners, stock holders, and boards of directors to sanction themselves? The onus is on these business governing units to consider the welfare of all its employees. Not to sacrifice the many for the few.

The onus is also on our governing body to sanction itself for elitism, such as imposing the Health-Care Reform on the public they individually pledged to serve, while exempting themselves from its impact. And for seeking pay and benefit cuts from union members, members of the armed forces, the elderly, and everywhere, except in their own compensations.

If ethical censure fails, what is the recourse for we, the people? One form is the sanctioning demonstrated on November 2, 2010. Another effective counter-action is the continual publicizing and protesting of elitism and discrimination. So I say “kudos to USA Today and Gary Strauss”.

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