Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"It's not personal, Sonny. It's just business." - Michael Corleone

When I was a child in the 50's (the 1950s, that is) there was nothing more respected in America than The Businessman.  Oh, he (and it was almost ALWAYS a male, white, with a white dress shirt and a tie in a Hart Schaffner Marx dress suit) was the object of veneration.  It was assumed that he had Made It when he was seen tooling around town in a Cadillac, shopping at all the right stores, golfing at the right course, sending his 2.3 kids to the right schools.

That .3 of a kid was tough to teach, though.

It was all part of the comfortable environment of those days.  We kids went to school, learned math and science so we could beat the evil Russians to the moon, participated in atom bomb fallout drills (we were assured that getting in the school hall and covering our heads with our elbows would keep us safe from the effects of nuclear detonation) and did all we could as young citizens to make the world better.  The businessmen built and developed huge corporations to employ our dads, feed us, sell us cars and all was good.  We watched "Leave It To Beaver" and we felt good about things, because things that were out of the norm, such as alternative lifestyles, were swept into a corner as being only for "weirdos."  Just picture Red Forman from That 70s show.

Something happened somewhere along the line, though.  The line itself was blurred and people were hopping along either side of it. Just yesterday, I turned on the news in the morning to see that:

  • The head of a peanut business in Georgia, knowing that his product contained salmonella, told his subordinates to ship it anyway so he wouldn't lose out on the sales.  Now he himself is being shipped off to the stony lonesome for 28 years, and his lawyer whines that that is like a life sentence for a 61-year-old man whose foul peanut butter killed nine and sickened hundreds.
  • A company called Turing Pharmaceuticals jacked up the price of Daraprim, a medicine used for treating a food-borne illness suffered by AIDS patients and others with compromised immune systems, from $13.50 per pill to $750 overnight. That's a rather large markup, but Turing chief executive Martin Shkreli dismisses his critics as "people who don't think logically," and, when asked via Twitter how he manages to sleep at night, replies, "You know. Ambien."
  • Pharmacy Boss celebrates himself
  • Just a few years after Hitler and his atrocities threatened to obliterate the world, the Volkswagen car he had commissioned became popular the world over. Plenty of men who had fought World War II were driving VWs to work by 1960, little suspecting that in 2015, that corporation would be found to have cheated emissions control tests on 11,000,000 vehicles that were sold to people who thought they were environmentally sound.  
Don't get me wrong.  There are plenty of businesspeople doing honest business and improving the public weal.  Bill Gates, without whom I would be writing this with a pencil (and you'd never see it) is not only the richest man around but also the most generous, and companies large and small live in harmony with the world and its people and its environment.
Volkswagen stock prices took a slight dip when the news came out

But reading about those horrible people who sell poison food, raise the price of life-saving medicines by 1500% and sell cars geared to cheat on emissions tests makes me shake my head in sorrow for the way we used to think things were.

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