Friday, February 18, 2011

Long May She Wave?

Last night, a friend told me about an article in one of her local papers (local to Boise, Idaho), that said a number of companies placing Help Wanted ads are closing them with the message: “Unemployed need not apply.” As someone who’s worked in human resources nee Personnel most of her life, she thinks it’s because companies are being deluged by thousands of responses to every ad and they can’t handle it. It’s hard, I know. Back in 1991, when I was director of a corporate editorial services department, I received more than a thousand replies to an ad for a junior copywriter and it was quite overwhelming. But it was my job to cope with it and I did the best I could.

Those who are paid to sort out candidates for jobs must do that; that’s their job. But just as importantly, where is business’s responsibility as corporate citizens? We’re in the middle of the deepest recession since the Great Depression and some businesses don’t want to be bothered with interviewing the unemployed? Are you kidding me?

And speaking of corporate citizenry, why is it okay for companies to outsource millions of jobs in the name of “business goes where labor is cheapest”? Is profit more important than keeping America working, staying vital in the international marketplace, solving its economic problems? The Republicans/Conservatives who tout the importance of business/capitalism/free-market-enterprise are the same people who wave their flags the highest and talk about patriotism the most. But what’s patriotic about outsourcing and “unemployed need not apply”? What’s patriotic about government subsidizing the oil and agriculture industries when, for them, business is very good? What’s patriotic about short-sightedness, in not seeing the national importance of having a healthy, well-educated, competition-capable population?

Indeed, what’s patriotic about recoiling at the mere mention of taxes; taxes are what support the country!

It’s the same disconnect as screaming “Support the Troops!,” then resisting adequate government funding for their health care and re-entry into civilian life. (Whatever happened to G.I. bills?)

And why is the state of corporate philanthropy so feeble?

Many of those who can afford retirement seem to believe that those who can’t were just lazy or frivolous with their money. This reminds me of one of All In The Family’s Archie Bunker’s greatest lines. While on the phone with an investment counselor seeking his business, he replies: “I can’t make no investments. All my money’s tied up in staying alive.”

For many very hard working people, investments are not an option; all their money is truly tied up in staying alive. They and their fathers (and mothers) before them used to work for a single company most all of their lives, and their loyalty was repaid with corporate appreciation and pensions. Then came the 1980s and downsizing and 401-K plans instead of pensions and massive layoffs, because it became too expensive for American companies to employ American workers. But of course, that’s what working folks get for unionizing and demanding a livable minimum wage (so greedy!). How can profit-making businesses handle that?

Here’s how: by making less profit. I’m not saying no profit, just less. Must every business-owner be a multi-millionaire? Must every CEO make hundreds times more than the average worker (instead of 40 times more, like 40, 50 years ago)? Is the all-mighty dollar always the bottom line, always more important than everything – including people and the state of the union?

Why should I – or anyone – care about the needs of American business if American business doesn’t give a damn about America or Americans? Why should I bow to empty cries of patriotism when the idea no longer includes sacrifice, compassion and responsibility? So long as “unemployed need not apply” is even remotely acceptable, we will continue to have our national efforts at reigning in our economy be as productive as re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic – no matter what is cut out of official budgets across the land.

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