Dec 2, 2012
I know people like to blame the industry for taking advantage of the incentives, but you go back to what your fiduciary responsibility is to the stockholders. As long as you’ve got people that are willing to better the deals, the management owes it to their stockholders to try to get the best economic deal that they can.

This is quite possibly the best, most succinct, summation of what is wrong with the balance of power today. It comes from a retired real estate executive at G.M. but really it’s a summary of the corporate ethos. “Fiduciary responsibility” and “maximizing shareholder value” are two of the more awful, pernicious justifications for corporate malevolence and yet they’re basically taken as givens.

I’m going to say that the story this quote came from (about the real price of corporate tax breaks to local governments) is the most important political story you’ll read this year — yes, this, an election year full of all kinds of nonsense, promises, and pronouncements, this story about local governments, tax breaks, outsourcing, and state budgets is at the heart of so many of the big problems we’re dealing with. Read it (and spend some time with the accompanying interactive co-produced by our own Tiff Fehr) and try not to be outraged by the giveaways to already wealthy corporations. Try not to seethe with rage at the billions of dollars going towards “maximizing shareholder value” instead of fire departments, schools, roads, or public transportation.

While I’m typically a rather proud, unapologetic partisan, this should be a non-partisan issue. This should be the kind of thing a functioning democratic government is meant to protect us from, not be complicit in. And while it’s infuriating to watch this happen, I want to believe that this is the kind of thing we can help fix. So far, my thoughts are around public accountability and using data to help local governments stand up to well funded multi-national corporations. What are your ideas?

Jim Ray, like it says on the tin You can subscribe via RSS.