5 of the Biggest Acts of Corporate Hypocrisy in America

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Yves here. Readers may have their own ideas as to what belongs on the “five worst” corporate greedfest list…

By Paul Buchheit, who teaches about economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org. Originally published at Alternet

American ‘exceptionalism’ exists in the minds of super-patriots who are more than willing to overlook their own faults as they place themselves above other people. The only question may be which of their self-serving hypocrisies is most outrageous and destructive.

1. Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees’ Wages

Citizens for Tax Justice just reported that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore for tax purposes, with estimated taxes due of over $600 billion. But high-profile businessmen Peter Georgescu and Warren Buffett both recently recommended that government subsidies be used to increase worker wages, and Marco Rubio agreed, suggesting that government should pay the sick leave for corporate employees.

Georgescu proclaimed: “This country has given me remarkable opportunities.” In return, he concludes, taxpayers should “provide tax incentives to business.”

2. Mourning American Lives, But Not Foreign Lives

Two days after President Obama expressed grief and anger about the Oregon school shootings, a hospital in Afghanistan was bombed by the U.S., killing 22 people. Our government admitted its mistake. But we haven’t apologized for funding Saudi Arabia’s attacks in Yemen, which are killing hundreds of civilians. Or for our drone strikes in Pakistan, which led one 13-year-old to say, “I no longer love blue skies…The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman assured us that “If necessary, the President would implement changes that would make tragedies like this one less likely to occur in the future.” But these are empty words. Professor Marc Herold’sresearch has shown that “as the U.S. bombs get smarter, civilian casualties increase.” The military is encouraged to “drop bombs on sites which previously might not have been hit for fear of causing widespread civilian deaths.”

3. Caring About Unborn Children, But Not Living Children

The anti-abortion element keeps attacking Planned Parenthood, even though the long-successful and essential organization saves women’s lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services.

Little mention is made of the 65% rise in homeless children in less than ten years. Or of the fact that only the United States and South Sudan have failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It’s a curious phenomenon that a safe and secure fetus garners more attention than a child exposed to the harsh realities of the world outside.

4. Demanding Self-Reliance of People Who Can’t Find a Living-Wage Job

The Koch-funded Heritage Foundation proclaimed, “Helping the poor should mean promoting individual freedom through self-reliance..” The Cato Instituteadded, “SNAP helps breed dependency and undermines the work ethic.”

Here are the facts: Nearly two-thirds of all working-age poor are actually working, but unable to earn a living wage, forcing them to rely on food stamps, which only provide about $5 a day per person for meals. In addition, over 83 percent of all benefits going to low-income people are for the elderly, the disabled, or working households.

Black families have the least opportunities, and are most maligned. The Wall Street Journal blurted: “..Too few blacks…have taken advantage of the opportunities now available to them.” But a recent study found that job applicants were about 50 percent more likely to be called back if they had “white” names. A hiring analysis study found that white job applicants with criminal records werecalled back more often than blacks without criminal records. Over half of the black college graduates of recent years were underemployed in 2013, working in occupations that typically do not require a four-year college degree.

Perhaps worst of all, Congress vilifies the poor for laziness while doing little to provide employment opportunities. In 2011 Senate Republicans killed a proposed $447 billion jobs bill that would have added about two million jobs to the economy. Members of Congress filibustered Nancy Pelosi’s “Prevention of Outsourcing Act,” even as a million jobs were being outsourced, and they temporarily blocked the “Small Business Jobs Act.” In April, 2013 only one member of Congress bothered to show up for a hearing on unemployment. When asked what he would do to bring jobs to Kentucky, Mitch McConnellresponded, “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.”

5. Turning Away People Who Were Displaced by Our “Free Trade” Pacts

Many Americans have sympathized with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant sentiments, despite his cruel assessment of Mexican people: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Apparently few Americans are aware of, or concerned about, the hardships faced by Mexican families since the beginnings of NAFTA. Subsidies to U.S. corn farmers led to lower prices and a tripling of corn exports to Mexico over the first ten years of the trade pact. Prices collapsed in Mexico. Corn that earned growers 2.00 pesos per kilogram in 1994 dropped to .50 pesos in 2001. Production became concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy landowners. Over 1.3 million jobs were lost in agriculture since 1994, while 500,000 manufacturing jobs were gained, most of them at lower wages than before NAFTA, and many of them in the crime-filled and disease-ridden maquiladora factory towns at the U.S. border.

Ana Luisa Cruz would leave her house in Ciudad Juarez at 5 AM to work at a maquiladora factory for $7.60 a day, which was not enough to pay for both food and school fees for her three younger children. Mexico’s wages fell further as factory jobs were lost to even lower-wage countries. For many like Ana Luisa, there was nothing else to do but seek work across the border, in the United States.


Banks get bailouts, but homeowners and students can’t declare bankruptcy. Drug companies increase prices by 5,000%, but Medicare is not allowed to negotiatefor lower drug prices. Charter schools are public when the money is being passed out, but private when we want to look at their books.

The list goes on and on.

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  1. Benedict@Large

    Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits, Asking Taxpayers to Pay Their Employees’ Wages

    The implication here (I think) is that corporations should pay more for their employees’ work than their employees demand. The question then becomes “Why?” Since when are corporations in business to pay more for their inputs than those inputs cost?

    The problem is that we are suggesting a microeconomic solution that benefits one of the parties involved in the problem and not the other, and that’s not how our economy works. Which is something we are likely to do when we try to use microeconomics to solve a macroeconomic problem.

    1. Jonathan

      “Why should I offer a hundred dollars for a slave if the auctioneer is only asking ten? That ain’t how our economy works.”

    2. jimhicks

      To Benedict@Large.
      I assume that you actually believe what you say. It sounds like you’re saying that workers demand and get just what they want. On its face that is laughable. You actually think workers at Walmart WANT to go on food stamps rather than DEMAND enough pay so not to have to? Gov subs to workers at Walmart subsidize the Walmart’s family billions. THIS is welfare. Yes we are suggesting micro solution but we want the solution to benefit the poor rather than the micro that is benefiting the rich. You pretend that laws that the rich made don’t favor the rich at the expense of the poor.

    3. Ulysses

      Employees who attempt to unionize and more effectively demand higher wages are easily fired, and extant unions are easily busted in the current pro-corporate, anti-worker legal climate here in the U.S. Are you suggesting that the notion, that capitalists share a bit more of their profits with the labor that adds value to their capital, is unfair to the capitalists? Are you concerned at the psychic damage a billionaire might suffer if he or she slips into mere centa-millionaire status?

      This comment is hard to understand unless the assumption behind it is that those with the most should, quite naturally, exploit to the fullest those with the least. It is a comment that suggests the commenter would have been completely cool with the enslavement of native Americans to work the silver mines. After all, since they were worked until they died from exhaustion and malnourishment, without ever effectively demanding better treatment, this was just hunky dory for everyone concerned!

      Why should the conquistadors properly feed their mining slaves? What’s in it for them? That’s not how the economy works!

    4. Alejandro

      Not sure what you mean by “our” economy, but if by “our” you mean OUR, then it isn’t working’.

      Notice the hypocrisy in “estimated taxes due of over $600 billion”, i.e., unpaid to the ‘entity’ that made the “over $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits” possible to begin with, while asking for more?

      If the formally known as “the defining issue of ‘our’ time” is still considered somewhat important, then “fiscal policy” can be the “great equalizer” or it can continue being the great “exacerbator”…

    5. Jim Haygood

      ‘Corporations Hoarding $2 Trillion in Profits’

      One third of sales for the S&P 500 is international. Corporations aren’t going to repatriate all their profits, because their overseas branches need working capital.

      Is $2 trillion enough, or too much, working capital? It’s a question that deserves investigation, starting with a comparison to working capital held in the U.S. Just because $2 trillion is “a lot” doesn’t prove it’s “too much.”

      Finally, $2 trillion is a stock, while wages are a flow. Comparing stocks to flows doesn’t elucidate much. If you’re underwater on a $500,000 house, should you be paying your gardener $12 per hour instead of $10? The info given doesn’t permit answering the question.

    6. Massinissa

      Are you saying there are people who DONT want to get more money for their work?

      Its not that people don’t want it, its that they cant get it.

  2. Jon Snow

    You mean why should corporations pay a living wage? Because we are talking about living, breathing humans, not about the fact that you can draw lines on a piece of paper and declare the intersection point to have absolute moral value.
    Because if corporations don’t want to have to deal with those pesky employees who want to leave in decent conditions, they should just ask the invisible hand to work for the price of the input costs.
    You do realize that not paying a living wage has costs, it’s just that those costs are not part of you shareholder maximization world view. It has costs on government and social security. If you complain about taxes like a good neoliberal and want those program cut, the costs will shift into crime and other society problems, because those people might dissapear from the work force (to keep your supply and demand numbers nice), but they will still need food and shelter.

  3. Northeaster

    The tax issue on corporate ‘Merica is going to get worse. Where I’m at (one of the largest players) and a foreign company, we just bought out an American company that is three-times the size of our market share in a particular industry. The subsidiaries which reside outside of The U.S. have large footprints in Canada and Mexico, which upon conclusion of the M&A (already approved), they will no longer have to pay U.S. taxes on the inversion. How much? $4 billion per year.

    Interesting you don’t hear about NAFTA being repealed (unlike Glass-Steagall) by those who voted for it (Senator Ed Markey). As far as illegal invaders, the author must not live in an area where they do in fact commit a lot of crime (including murder) and flourish (who should not otherwise be here in the first place), especially in states where: “It’s not illegal, to be illegal”. In particular, Massachusetts ignores the federal law of having a social security number in order to receive social welfare, putting Americans, including Veterans, behind invaders. Cruel? No. Just want Americans to be taken cared of first.

    1. Alejandro

      You “must not live in an area where” generations of corn growers’ livelihood was disrupted by the ‘invasion’ of subsidized (the ‘other’ tax issue) priced corn…I find it interesting that you would use “Americans” and “Veterans” separately in the same sentence, implying an exclusive definition of “American”…one of the most perplexing and unexamined words in the ongoing circus is “Again”, can you share any insights?

  4. Eric Patton

    Capitalism is an immoral economic system. It is not efficient (unless by “efficiency,” we mean efficient at transferring wealth and power from bottom to top). It is not equitable (here, “equity” must be defined, but I am not doing that here). It does not promote diversity. It destroys solidarity. And it denies people control over their own lives.

    Capitalism is truly evil. It must be relegated to the garbage bin of history. A discussion of what should replace it is vital, but I am intentionally not doing so here. People, sadly, are not ready for that discussion yet.

    But that day is coming.

  5. TedWa

    Capitalism seeks to destroy the self-reliance of nations because the banksters thrive (get filthy rich) on chaos, ie… Money laundering for terrorists (which should be a treasonable offense but isn’t), drug dealers, tyrants, weapons, etc..They have no loyalties above the buck. Financial terrorists is what they are. Why did we invade Afghanistan in 2001? NATO and the Taliban had opium production worldwide down to 10%. Shortly after the invasion opium production soared to where now 90%+/- of the worlds opium comes from Afghanistan. Follow the money and you find the dirty hands behind it all. Some say democracy is dead or dying, it’s actually democracy is being bled dry by zombie capitalism. Capitalism died years ago and it wants to take every good thing in the world with it. I say it died because there was a time where it had and deserved honor, no more. Doesn’t take long for Buffett to join their ranks does it. There, my rant is over.

  6. sam s smith

    I have no doubt that when the corporations have finished destroying the middle class they will turn on themselves.

    1. flashinreno

      As I tell my macroeconomics students, competitive open markets at any moment have a weakest player who will soon be gone, by acquisition or bankruptcy. Over time every segment tends toward monopoly, but might find a stable oligarchy short of full monopoly. I call that a market segmentation, with a monopoly in each segment. The growing players become a monopsony on the purchase of labor, hence the demise of the middle class. As sam s smith notes, they then turn on each other, with each monopolist/monopsonist trying to find a way to undercut one of the others (remember John D. Rockefeller versus J. P. Morgan, with Rockefeller starting a pipeline business to get around Morgan’s railroads?). Along the way economic power consolidates and subordinates political power, leading to Mussolini’s fascism, which he described as corporatism. This is where we are rapidly headed.

      If you think you are a libertarian, I say you are a fascist who has yet to follow your ideology to its logical conclusion.

      1. Just Ice

        “The growing players become a monopsony on the purchase of labor, hence the demise of the middle class.” flashinreno

        Which invites the question why do we need to work for anyone else to begin with?

        And also, how did capitol become separate from labor?

        Government subsidies for private credit creation played a major role in stripping families of their farms and businesses and precluding the need for business and industry to share profits with their workers.

        1. flashinreno

          Which invites the question why do we need to work for anyone else to begin with? -Just Ice

          Capitalism is about not only ownership but control. Read some Richard Wolff on the subject. I’m a fan of collective reasoning and participation in decisions about resource allocation (distribution of profits), but have great reservations about how far to push the concept. Imagine JPMorganChase as a coop.

          And also, how did capitol become separate from labor? – Just Ice

          We have to differentiate between the scale of the enterprise and the scale of the product. There was plenty of specialization of labor in building the pyramids, so it wasn’t the labor specialization. In that case the product could only be built for a single buyer. On the other hand, Adam Smith’s pin factory could produce so many pins that they had to be sold in many markets, not just a single town square. From that I conclude that distribution and marketing are key to understanding the separation of capital from labor. It was a common understanding among economists in the centuries leading up to Adam Smith that an employer had to pay unskilled labor a living wage, since the “unskilled” laborer always had the option to be self-employed, making simple products to sell in the town square market. Modern distribution has removed that option. Even if I make a fine quilt, the local WalMart manager doesn’t have the authority to buy it from me, and his company has bankrupted the local mom and pop store who previously might have done so, and therefore I may have to work for a larger enterprise than myself. In recognition of the lack of self-employment opportunities, governments instituted minimum wage rules to replace the previous alternative to employment that laborers had.

          1. Just Ice

            Imagine JPMorganChase as a coop.

            Imagine banks without government privileges* and that’s hardly frightening since Las Vegas is full of gambling yet does not threaten the entire nation.

            *Including the large amount of unjust** debt they own.

            **Unjust because they used government privilege to drive the population into debt.

  7. PQS

    I’ll add to the list:
    6. Financing BS “Think Tanks” to push their no-tax, no-regulation, Greed is Good, destroy the middle class and the environment agenda and then pretending via PR and advertising that they are both “good corporate citizens” and NOT trying to do the very things they had to hire the PR to sugarcoat. (E.g., all those rancid “America’s Energy Source” ads featuring the woman known as “Lying Pantsuit Lady” extolling the virtues of Fracking and America’s Energy Independence via coal…. AND pretty much everything the Kochtopus does.)

  8. Just Ice

    Here’s some hypocrisy:

    Giving the banks, the rich and other so-called creditworthy the ability to confiscate the population’s purchasing power and then complaining when they do so.

    Yes, I understand the reason why (jobs and better goods) but that turned out to be short-sighted reasoning, no? But, oh so pragmatic, yes?

  9. armchair

    Another corporate hypocrisy. They criticize the government that they own. It is their government and they ask the population to direct their hate at it. Maybe it make sense as long as people believe that the government is distinguishable from the corporations.

  10. Massinissa

    “Or of the fact that only the United States and South Sudan have failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child”

    At least South Sudan has a semi-plausible excuse to fall back on: Its only been a sovereign country for four years.

    The USA doesn’t have any excuse at all.

Comments are closed.