I’ve had some server issues over the past couple of weeks. That, combined with no free time, means I haven’t done any updates recently. But now my server is back online (I hope), my blog theme is updated and in place (mostly), I finished editing the book I was working on (for now), and the OWS protesters have been kicked out of Zucotti Park, which, like the butterfly creates the hurricane, somehow affected my writing.
I’ve never been a fan of protesting. It’s something that needs to be done at times, I suppose, but I’ll be about the last one out there holding a sign (unless they raise the price of the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger at Wendy’s again). So with the Occupy Wall Street movement losing steam, and the Tea Party but a wisp of its former self, we can all just go back to our homes and feel discontent in private and exercise our rage in unread tweets.
It’s all the corporations’ fault, of course. Specifically, corporations that fall under Title 26, Subchaper C, or C Corps, and meet the test of Section 6655(g)(2). That’s large corporations, for those of you who are better than me and decided not to do tax accounting. We all know small businesses are good and holy, so we’ll save our anger toward them for some other day, like when we find out we can get a better deal at Walmart or Amazon.
I often wonder if people even know what a corporation is. Based on the signs from Occupy Wall Street, it’s clear that many of them do not. From the blame I’ve heard in the media, it seems like a lot of them don’t really have a clue. I doubt anything I do will solve that, but I can try.
The facts: A corporation is a legal entity. It’s a name on a piece of paper. It is not a person or an animal or a creature or an unholy demon. As an entity, it doesn’t do anything, since nothing about it is alive.
Most corporations are small. The “small businesses” everyone talks about are more often than not corporations. The ones that aren’t are partnerships, which are just like corporations except they have way more confusing laws.
The majority of people work for corporations, big and small. The 99%. The 1%.
Corporations are owned by shareholders, who invest money with the hope of getting more money back. For large, publicly traded companies, the shareholders are everyone, including the parents and grandparents of the OWS protestors (maybe even them if they’ve ever invested anything). The shareholders choose leaders to run the company. If the leader doesn’t provide a return worth the risk of investing in the company, the company either goes under or the shareholders pick someone new to run it.
The opinion: We personalize small corporations and dehumanize large ones. It makes sense: we can understand our hard working neighbor spending night and day to make the grocery store down the street work. We can understand that person’s plight when Walmart comes in and suctions off their client base. We can empathize when the owner has to shut the door.
On the other hand, how do you feel bad for a multibillion dollar corporation? It’s like trying to comprehend a trillion dollars—it’s just too different from anything we’ve ever experienced to be comprehensible. So instead we treat it as if it were some strange beast.
“The pack of Corporations circled around the small business, sniffing the air, tasting its weakness.”
Corporations are not creatures. It’s a legal entity, that represents a group of people trying to provide a product. Yes, occasionally we get bad leaders like Kenneth Lay, who create crazy scams like Enron. Yes, sometimes we get accountants who are willing to go along with the scam. But most CEOs aren’t corporate fat cats. They’re just men and women trying to get a job done, keep thousands to millions employed, and offer a return on investment for all their shareholders, including sweet little grandmas clutching the remainder of their 401(k)s.
We might not always like what every corporation does. We might not understand why they do it. That doesn’t make them evil. Humanize it a little bit: If the government were to shut down Walmart tomorrow, millions of people would be hurt. Would that be worth it to save the jobs of a couple people? What’s the cost and what’s the benefit?
Think, for example, when Enron was shut down, how much everything was damaged, how many people were laid off, and not just in the company. But they were doing something illegal, run by people trying to trick the system. It hurt, but they deserved to be shut down.
(NOTE: although this could theoretically be the same argument used to bail out companies, that is not what I’m talking about. That is a huge topic of its own. I am just talking specifically of tearing a corporation down just because we don’t like it.)
Very few companies are like that. They aren’t run by bad people. If a corporation is doing something you don’t like, don’t buy there. Post an online petition. Picket that particular company if you want. But just because the leaders of ABC Co. are doing something you think is wrong, it doesn’t mean that the cashier at ABC Co. is, and it certainly doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with XYZ, Inc., and the rest of the business world in general.
And please, if nothing else, stop acting like corporations are pack of wolves. Nothing makes a reporter look more clueless or a protestor look more ignorant than when they do that.