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Published on February 25th, 2009 | by adamwilliams

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An Old-New Trickle-Down Theory? Basic Corporate Social Responsibility Has Potential to Save Us, Eliminate Plastic Bag Dependency

Yesterday I posted here about plastic bag fees and bans being frozen in — or before reaching — legislatures. Supposedly that’s due to economics, though reality seems to be more connected to politics. That, coupled with a post here by Low Impact Living about the green benefits of the stimulus plan signed by President Obama recently, got me thinking about a potential solution to our financial woes.

Maybe we don’t need to argue along partisan lines about small versus big government, or about a trillion-dollar stimulus plan versus whatever it is the Republicans think President Obama should be doing. Maybe instead of tax credits and billionaire bailouts, we need to impose a fresh idea of corporate social responsbility: cost-of-living increases + merit salary increases.

Though I’m not an economist, it doesn’t take one to understand that when companies do not increase employees’ incomes equal or above the annual increase to the cost of living, we’re losing ground. So-called experts argue about whether to give stimulus checks or tax breaks, trickle-down theories and whether government should help those in need or not, but what if we just plain went back to the days — they did exist didn’t they? — of rewarding employees for a year of good work?

Instead companies are ever applying downward pressure, trying to squeeze out expenses — employee salaries, included — to increase stock prices and to pay unfathomable salaries and bonuses to executives, even if the executives are atrocious at their jobs and float out of their offices under golden parachutes.

A Fine Example

Thank you to Leonard Abess (pictured above), the Miami banker who did the right thing by handing out his $60 million bonus this year to his few hundred employees.

Now what if his understanding of responsbility were passed along to corporations as a matter of daily business?

The worker who, rather than looking at, let’s just say, a five percent cost-of-living increase but will only get a 2.5 percent “merit” raise, would actually get to know the future holds growth and possibility. Instead of looking at losing ground for every year of experience gained and loyalty shown, the employee could plan on financial improvement — cost-of-living increase plus that 2.5 percent.

What might be the results?

Maybe we wouldn’t have to disguise politics about plastic bag bans and fees under the veil of bad economics. Maybe we wouldn’t be closing down a green, progressive movement over nickels and dimes meant to transition American lifestyles from wasteful, harmful plastic bag dependency, among other things.

Maybe the government wouldn’t have to give tax breaks because middle class, living-wage status wouldn’t systematically be slipping further out from under people’s feet every year. Maybe we wouldn’t need tax breaks for green home-improvements, among the other advantages to households and small businesses, as the stimulus plan includes.

And then so-called liberals wouldn’t have to howl for help for those in need and so-called conservatives wouldn’t have to complain about needs for compassion. Or as I heard a particular phrasing about an unrelated topic this morning on National Public Radio, the Democrats wouldn’t have to downplay their interest in helping the poor and the Republicans wouldn’t have to act like they’re not anti-poor. Maybe our tax bases, which help support education in this country, wouldn’t be suffering so. Maybe lots of other things, too, and all from such a simple, logical notion.

We’re all to blame on this one, though. Every time one of us accepts a job in a company that isn’t moral enough to fairly compensate and reward its employees, we’re partly to blame. (That includes me, of course.) Every time a manager carries out the corporate greed policy and denies employees financial growth… Every time we allow big bonuses and golden parachutes… Every time…

People in the United States like to bat around the phrase “the American way,” but I think the definition of what that is has gotten lost in the mud of greed for a so-called prosperity, another word with a blurry definition.

Give me — give you — a solid foundation for financial growth and I — you — may not need bailouts and politicking about 5-cent plastic bag fees. We’d have means to make our own lifestyles, green or otherwise, rather than rely on the tides of partisan rancor and political perceptions.

It’s a sad state of affairs, and it’s up to us to change it.



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