In today's On the News segment: The poor are way more ethical than the 1%; the city of Portland, Oregon is breaking up with Walmart; last week, news broke of yet another massive media merger; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. The rich love to demonize the poor, but it turns out that the wealthy are the ones who need a little shaming. Paul Buchheit over at Alternet compiled various reports, studies, and analyses, and found clear evidence that the poor are way more ethical than the one percent. In fact, after reviewing all the data, Paul found clear correlations between wealth and unethical behavior, between wealth and a lack of empathy, and between wealth and being unproductive. In other words, the rich work less, care less, and cheat more often than the working poor. For example, an analysis of seven psychological studies found that so-called "upper-class individuals" were more likely to lie in a negotiation, break traffic laws, take valued goods from others, and even cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize. Numerous studies also found that those in a higher social class were more narcissistic than poor individuals, to the point of even looking into the mirror more often. In addition, the wealthy didn't fair well in studies about understanding the needs and feelings of others, about contributing to charity organizations, or even about taking on the risks of an entrepreneur. For decades, we've heard right-wing memes about welfare queens and takers, but it looks like all of that was just a diversion to keep us from figuring out that the rich are scoundrels. The one percent has tried to convince us that it's our fault we can't get ahead, and that it was hard work that put them at the top. Now we know that it was actually a complete lack of ethics that made them their fortunes, and that kept us from sharing in the prosperity. We need to disprove the cliché that "nice guys finish last." Let's take our economy back from the cheaters and the crooks.
The city of Portland, Oregon is breaking up with Walmart. Portland is divesting $36 million dollars of bonds from the low-wage retailer, and moving their money in to socially responsible investments. In fact, they've already moved $9 million dollars away from Walmart, and they will move the remaining $27 million into other investments by 2016. That city has even set up a special committee to make sure that all of its future investments are socially responsible. While moving their money away from companies with low wages and abusive labor practices is certainly the moral thing to do, it may also be the best economic decision. In the first quarter of 2014, Walmart's net income fell by 5 percent, and their stock shares dropped by 2 percent. Of course, the retail giant blamed their losses on bad weather, but this is the third time in a little more than a year that Walmart has failed to meet Wall Street's expectations. It appears that unethical labor practices are finally catching up with Walmart, and leaving fewer people willing to shop at or invest in that corporation. Portland may be the first city to divest funds from Walmart, but it's doubtful that they will be the last.
Last week, news broke of yet another massive media merger. This time, it's a $48 billion dollar deal between AT&T and satellite-TV operator DirecTV. Just like the proposed Comcast – Time Warner merger, instead of innovating and investing, these companies are simply buying up the competition. Craig Aaron, CEO and President of FreePress.net, explained that "For the amount of money and debt AT&T and Comcast are collectively shelling out for their respective mega-deals, they could deploy super-fast gigabit fiber broadband service to every single home in America." However, because the internet has not yet been declared part of our commons, these corporations think that becoming a monopoly is more important than serving their customers. There was a time when companies were blocked from destroying all their competition, and when our access to basic communication service was guaranteed by our federal government. History shows that it's possible to break these monopolies up, declare that the internet is part of our commons, and ensure that every American has access to basic service. We can do that all again, but we have to start by saying "No" to massive corporations that would rather be bigger than better.
McDonald's CEO Don Thompson thinks that his company offers "real careers" and "competitive wages." Last week, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the company's annual meeting in Chicago. The protesters called on the company to raise their pay to $15 dollars an hour, and 139 people were arrested for saying they deserve a living wage. Rather than try to appease the protesters or offer better wages, Mr. Thompson – who made $9.5 million dollars in 2013 – said, "I think McDonald's provides more opportunity than any other company." Talk about adding insult to injury. Mr. Thompson makes almost 600 times the pay of his average worker, so perhaps he should share a little of that "opportunity" with his employees. The workers and activists at the protest chanted, "Hey, Hey...Ho, Ho... $7.40 has got to go." Perhaps it's time for Don Thompson goes too, and time for McDonald's to replace him with someone who understands what life is like for people living on minimum wage.
And finally... When the owner of the Atomic Grill in West Virginia read a review saying that his female staff should "show more skin," he didn't get mad – he got creative. As a father, a husband and the brother of five sisters, the restaurant's owner Daniel McCawley decided to change his menu instead of his dress code. Rather than pushing for shorter skirts, Mr. McCawley offered a new potato skin special and donated the proceeds to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information Services. The inventive response received outstanding support from the community, and the Atomic Grill got donations from people as far away as Australia. Mr. McCawley said, "We couldn't have asked for such a great response." And, it sounds like the staff at the Atomic Grill couldn't have asked for a better boss.
And that's the way it is - for the week of May 26, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.