Here are two stories about corporate America’s current role in our politics and common life. In one, the country’s biggest companies are growing a conscience, prodded along by shifts in public opinion and Donald Trump’s depredations and their own idealistic young employees, and becoming a vanguard force for social change — with the recent disassociations from the N.R.A. by major airlines and rental car companies just the latest example in a trend that also includes recent high-profile corporate interventions on immigration and gay and transgender rights.I wonder how much longer this will work. Yes, guns and gay rights remain important for liberals, but I have a sense that a renewed emphasis on wages is coming.
In the other story, corporate America just performed another bait and switch at the common good’s expense — making a show of paying bonuses and raising wages after the passage of the corporate-friendly Republican tax bill, but actually reserving most of the tax savings for big stock buybacks, enriching shareholders rather than employees in an economy where wage growth still disappoints.
These are not two stories, though; they’re different aspects of the same one. Corporate activism on social issues isn’t in tension with corporate self-interest on tax policy and corporate stinginess in paychecks. Rather, the activism increasingly exists to protect the self-interest and the stinginess — to justify the ways of C.E.O.s to cultural power brokers, so that those same power brokers will leave them alone (and forgive their support for Trump’s economic agenda) in realms that matter more to the corporate bottom line.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
The Two Faces of Corporate America