The Business Roundtable, historically unlike the Arthurian round table and its chivalrous view of mankind’s greater purpose, unveiled an interesting statement on Monday.
The organization said the goal of corporations should be not solely about shareholder values and be a little more about, you know, life values.
This is like the hard-hearted capitalist Ebenezer Scrooge waking up on Christmas morning, haunted during a fitful night, and identifying as a squishy socialist.
This is like Jerry Maguire, also going sleepless, drafting a mission statement that sports agents should take a holistic approach in dealing with their athletes.
Maybe insomnia has become a link to this upheaval of a greedy order.
The Business Roundtable has a board of directors that includes the chief executives of some of America’s most prominent companies: General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Boeing, CVS, Walmart, among others.
Roundtable members employ 15 million people. In short, they play in the big leagues of the nation’s commerce. And now they insist that the group’s philosophy should be less Gordon Gekko and more Oprah Winfrey.
“Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity,” the statement said.
Meaning? Dignity? Where did this granola-infused, yoga-enthused, hipster-beard piffle come from?
When did Wall Street become the avenue of snowflakes?
It makes sense to preserve this moment, because it will not last.
The sudden introspection suggesting that income inequality has damaged the nation’s economic core, that corporate ethics must be a new aspiration, that “investing in our employees” should live as a mission, none of that smacks of permanence.
A motivation for this statement must exist somewhere. It might have something to do with big companies positioning themselves to avoid blame if the economy goes kerflooey, as it does at times.
High-ranking government officials spent much of the morning Sunday explaining why a recession seems unlikely. All signs look good, they said. One said Americans should bet on optimism.
This followed a number of days when other economists predicted a dire future, and the stock market felt particularly bearish.
As I pondered my own finances and future, considering my savings in the light of an inverted yield curve (of which I have no prayer of comprehension), it seems the space between optimism and catastrophe should be stocked with tissues, the better for those who cry easily.
The Federal Reserve had a report last year that said at least 40 percent of American adults, if faced with an unexpected $400 expense, would not have the savings to cover it.
Fortunately, I’m in the 60 percent of that group, but I consider what I’ve put aside, the liquid assets and the money quickly perishable in a stock market downturn, and recognize an uncomfortable lack of control.
When the dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000s and derivative marketers played their fast-and-loose game in 2008, I had a few years to recover the losses. Time does not favor me these days.
As I wait with the nation to see what side will be right, it dawns on me that smarter people with more to lose have just as little understanding and command.
Will the future hold bears or bulls? Will hard times bring misery or just a little inconvenience?
At least we know the top CEOs care about our dignity and whether our lives have meaning.