People on the low rungs of society normally feel that corporate bosses are nothing but robberbarons. In the populist view, greedy capitalists not only grab more than their fair share of wealth,but they actually enjoy grinding workers deeper and deeper into poverty.
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Despite the patriotic flagwaving by Joe Six-Pack, he usually has political convictions not far from those of Vladimir Lenin.
The middle class, in contrast, normally feels more kindly toward corporate titans and moguls. Afterall, we middle-class folks sometimes meet and even shake hands with those at the top of the corporate heap. Many of us have sat at the same conference table with them. If we were asked our opinion on a matter, the top dogs usually nodded thoughtfully while we tried our best to impersonate intelligen thuman beings.
In short, the middle class has tended to identify with the bigwigs more than with the proverbial ditch diggers. Most of us have envied executives for the money they earn, and we admired them for how they were able to climb the corporate ladder. Deep in our hearts, we wished we were one of them.
All that has changed since people now realize that some of the biggest criminals in the world sit on mahogany row. The scandals have decidedly changed middle-class attitudes. When a group of upscale suburbanites are invited to a backyard cookout, you'll hear a lot of sarcasm and bitter remarks when the conversation turns to business and the economy. Rock-ribbed conservatives will describe corporate leaders as greedy, rapacious crooks worthy of nothing but scorn.
Some people are lucky enough not to have been hurt by the succession of corporate bankruptcies. But most of them are still disgusted by the fact that crooked corporate leaders always escape with their personal fortunes intact. The public wants more than justice. It wants vengeance, with the corporate miscreants ending up in the same financial ruin suffered by tens of thousands of their employees, stockholders, andsuppliers. Outraged people in the middle class are now beginning to sound like Karl Marx when talk turns to business.
Even the nation's most wealthy individuals share these sentiments. In a survey conducted last summer, the wealthiest top 1% of the population was asked how they felt about corporate executives and the stock market. Bear in mind that here we are talking about respondents earning more than $300,000 annually or having a net worth of more than $3.75 million. Two-thirds of them said they don't trust the top management of corporations. When it comes to the stock market, 73% said they don't trust the recommendations of security analysts. And 85% said the government should clamp down on how corporations report their financial position.
No less a personage than the Secretary of the Treasury said that business leaders who have abused our trust ought to be hung from the very highest branches. When he made that remark, which was in an address to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, it was met by sustained applause.
People want to see corporate crooks in handcuffs. And until that happens, the whole political spectrum of the United States is going to take a decided tilt to the left. Free enterprise, at least how it has been practiced over the last several years, has gained a bad reputation. The greedy capitalist swine have done more than just steal money. They have changed the political landscape of the entire country.
-- Ronald Khol, Editor
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