Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “corporate greed”

Irony: NFL vs. The Little Guy – Roger Ingalls

By now most sports fans have heard about the NFL scab-referee debacle. In case you haven’t, the NFL locked out the top-tier professional referees once the employment contract between the two parties ended before the start of this season. Replacement refs have been used during the pre-season and for the first three weeks of the regular games. It’s been disastrous.

This past week was particularly bad. Illegal hits and tackles were rampant due to players testing the limits of the scab-refs and finding they could get away with unsportsmanlike play. An Oakland Raider receiver was hospitalized with a brain injury because of a hit to the head. Another player had part of his ear-lobe ripped off when he was illegally hit on the side of his head. American professional football with the big and fast participants can get extremely brutal when the referees controlling the game are not respected.  And that’s now happening. The players don’t respect the authority of the replacement refs because they make bad calls and are indecisive.

Now, the NFL team owners are finally coming to the table and talking with the professional referees they locked out. What brought is all to a head was the last game of the week on Monday night when millions of people witnessed a final second play that gave the win to the wrong team due to bad decisions by the scab-refs. It was awful. Even members of the winning team said they were given a gift because replacements didn’t interpret the play correctly.

Why is this issue important? The NFL by itself is an $11 billion industry and if you consider gaming, food and beverage, fantasy football and other fringe markets, we’re talking about a $20 billion market. It’s a big part of our economy and integrity of the game is paramount.

I find two things ironic about what’s happened in the past few weeks. First, what brought the two parties back to the discussion table was the bad call that put the Green Bay Packers on the losing end of that Monday night game. There are 32 teams in the NFL and 31 of them are owned by very rich men and only one team is from a small market and is owned by the community… that team is the Packers. The little market “people’s team” pays the ultimate price because of the greedy rich.

The second ironic aspect of recent events is how the NFL parallels Big Business. The rich team owners locked out the real refs because they didn’t want to increase pay, wanted to have the ability to replace refs at will and wanted to stop paying into pensions. Keep in mind, NFL refs make anywhere from $25K to $100K which is peanuts compared to owners and players. The owners are bullying the little guys. See the parallel? Big Business pensions have been replaced with 401Ks which are cheaper for business and riskier for employees. They are also trying to make union bargaining illegal which minimizes worker rights and limits collective wage-benefit negotiations.

I’ve always said, “football emulates life” so I guess it’s not a stretch to say that NFL greed parallels the new American economy. What a bummer.

UPDATE: Owners and Referees come to an agreement Wednesday evening.

Apple, $700 per Share – Roger Ingalls

This week Apple Inc. hit $700 for a single share of common stock and, as a whole, the company is now valued at $656 billion which places them at the top of the market valuation list. These dollar figures are incomprehensible.

The company has been very successful over the past fifteen years and the employees should be proud of their accomplishments but I wonder what the success of Apple says about our society. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade but for all intent and purposes, Apple supplies entertainment products. If all the company’s products were to suddenly disappear, the human population would not go extinct and other companies could supply similar gadgets.

As a species, we need food, water, shelter, care (love, nurturing and healthcare) and external energy. These five needs are essential to our existence yet the most valued company in our society is one that provides a luxury product. To be fair, ExxonMobil is an external energy company and very similar to Apple in market valuation. As much as I hate fossil fuel based companies, it is much more justifiable, in my mind, for an oil company to have a higher market value than a company providing a non-essential product such as Apple.

It agitates me that a company selling luxury products sits at the top of the value list when a significant portion of our nation does not have access to healthy food, are an event away from homelessness and can’t get adequate healthcare.

I know connecting Apple with the basics for human existence is not a legitimate discussion but it would make more sense if companies that helped us with essential survival were at the top of the valuation list.

Ironic observation: The Occupy Movement protested against corporate greed while having Apple earbuds stuffed in their ears.

Charging for… Not Charging?

The recent move by Bank of America and others to charge people for using their debit cards provides a porthole into the mind of the corporate person. The corporate person is not a real person that works for a corporation, it is the legal entity that the corporation itself has become – especially in light of recent supreme court rulings.

A corporation is, of course, not really a person and should not be legally treated as such. A corporation much more resembles an ant colony – it’s mindless automatons performing whatever task is needed to satisfy the never-ending hunger of the nest.

Corporations are armies raised to seek profit. There are many ways to make a profit, and to increase your profits. The “free market” fantasy professed by so many politicians (and their corporate owners) promotes the good, old-fashioned way – by making something better than your competitors or somehow offering more value to your customers so that consumers buy more of your products/services.

Another way to make more profit is simply to charge more for the product or service that you already offer. Banks know that it’s a pain for customers to change to another bank, and if gradually ALL the banks charge for the things that used to be free, there won’t be any incentive to change anyway.

To a corporation, an incomplete opportunity to make a profit is seen as a cost. Let me say that again, because it’s an important insight into the inherently disfunctional corporate mindset: If there is some way that money COULD be made, but it is not being fully exploited, that it seen as a LOSS.

Through the lens of this contorted thinking, bankers at BofA and other banks realized that they make lots of money when customers use credit cards, but not debit cards. Hmmmm… How to fix this? It’s simple: charge your customers for using their own money.

How do banks and other corporations get away with changing the basic terms of a debit card or other contract? When you enter into an agreement with a corporation, say for a bank account or something like cell-phone service, the contract explicitly states: “This agreement is subject to change.” What???? Well I certainly don’t have the power to change it. Only they can change it and, guess what? It’s never once been to my benefit.

I’m writing my bank now, in type size 2 (here’s an example), and informing them that they are now paying me 99% interest on my deposits – weekly. I’m sure it will work.

-Tom Rossi


Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com


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