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Elizabeth Sherman

Elizabeth Sherman

Assistant professor of American Politics at American University; founder and former director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

He who cast the first stone

Q: Although they now have record amounts of cash on their balance sheets, corporate executives have been reluctant to hire and invest, complaining loudly of a new "anti-business" attitude in Washington. Is this public criticism courageous business leadership or an abdication of personal and corporate responsibility?

Corporate executives excuse their inexcusable refusal to hire more workers and invest in new products and technologies with the tired old saw that it's all the government's fault. Those elected officials, they have a "bad attitude." As it turns out the representatives of the people are finally getting serious about regulating the financial sector whose profligacy brought us to this sorry state; the worst economy and unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosures since the Great Depression, and some say, in percentage terms even worse. Business as usual was mighty fine, and after the trillions in public support, loan guarantees and low interest rates, the financial sector is hoping to avoid constraints and return to a wildly deregulated environment.

In housing, banks are reluctant to restructure loans and are even reluctant to lend to help businesses and consumers spending again. Worse, they don't like governmental pressure on BP to pay for their sins, even though most of the oil industry giants know that BP played a dangerous game with worker and environmental safeguards. Why not admit why their corporate coffers are full and investments and new hires not on their agendas? The real reasons are because they are squeezing current employees to the breaking point to increase productivity and profits, and because American consumers, small businesses and governments at every level have scaled back their spending and purchasing. The prospects for profitability are simply not there. The Wall Street financial crisis has brought the economy to its knees and now the corporate sector has the audacity to blame government for the catastrophe? People who live in glass houses....

By Elizabeth Sherman

 |  July 5, 2010; 5:31 PM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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What's troubling is the unwillingness of business leaders to offer meaningful explanations of what they do. This ranges from the first-line manager's "This was a tough business decision" to an employee who has been treated badly to the "anti-business policies of the government" offered by top executives. The point is always "You wouldn't understand if I told you, so I won't tell you." Many people, however, are too knowledgeable to buy it. They know that business leaders have ample opportunities to influence the direction of legislation, and if government is adopting anti-business positions, it's probably because businesses failed to make convincing cases for themselves.

Posted by: jlhare1 | July 6, 2010 5:15 PM
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Thank goodness somebody has the intelligence to actually see what is going on! Now can you tell the idiots at the Post to write about it!!!! I don't care if the government placed no regulations on your company or not--if you fail as a business it YOUR fault. Not the governments--matter of fact the government SAVED Wall Street now Wall street is trying to convince "uninformed" Americans that it is all the Governments fault. HUH?!?!?! I believe the Government was correct to bail out the companies because once you reach 20-25% unemployment in this world--its over! However don't take the money and then resist laws that would prevent this from happening again. After college I had to move in with my parents for a little while--I hated it but didn't bite the hand that fed me---if I took their assistance then I must play by their rules. Thats what the corporations are doing right now--how can the American people think the Government failed not the corporations.

Posted by: jcar2 | July 6, 2010 12:37 PM
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