When I drive an 11 hour shift and make only fifty or sixty bucks I feel pretty sour. This doesn’t happen often. But, it does happen a few times a month during this time of year when demand for cabs in the City is seasonally low.
My angry mind jumps first to the cab company. How can this evil cab company charge me so much for my taxi, gas and dispatch services when I’m just barely making money to pay rent? What sort of evil people must they be to squeeze pennies out of the pockets of immigrants and hard working laborers?
(I don’t usually feel these thoughts. In fact, I have a great deal of respect for the cab company I work for.) But, many cab drivers feel these thoughts often. Some of them have posted on this blog or others to express their frustration at high gate fees and poor treatment.
Many American workers have these same thoughts about their employers. Whole websites are dedicated to venting these thoughts about individual companies.
STOP! Take these angry thoughts elsewhere: Aim them at your government.
Robert Reich is former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and a regular commentator on my favorite radio program, Marketplace. He has an hour full of extremely wise words on a past edition of the Commonwealth Club of California radio program. (Unfortunately, these wise words are only available in Real Audio format.)
Among many other thoughts he shares in this program, one I latched on to with the whole of my heart is that American citizens can never look toward corporations for true social change. A corporation is a machine. It is a machine with one relentless goal: to create value for its shareholders. Let’s not judge this as bad, good, or whatever. It just is.
Accepting the fact that corporations are value creating machines let’s revisit our anger from above. Let’s not blame Wal-Mart for bad wages. Let’s not blame the taxi company for a high gate fee. Let’s not blame health insurance companies for refusing to accept high risk subscribers. These corporate entities are nothing more than the result of an evolution of best practices to create value for shareholders.
The only true accountable way of making significant societal changes such as a minimum wage or universally available health insurance is ONLY through government regulation, not through the magic of an oxymoronic corporate conscience.