Good people are suffering. Jobs are lost, those squeaking by are squeezed by higher prices. The most immediate squeeze comes from the cost of just moving around: going to work, getting to the market to buy essentials. How can we be paying so much just to get where we need to go?
Last week, Congress pulled the culprits in and forced them to explain. In separate hearings, they interrogated executives and their regulators.
"Does it trouble any one of you - the costs you're imposing on families, on small businesses, on truckers?" demanded Senator Durbin of Illinois.
“The American people are about to take out pitchforks,” said Missouri’s own Senator McCaskill.
“I’m a mom of three young children who filled up her minivan the other day for $68,” said a Congressional Representative from Florida. A Representative from Tennessee added, “You all are gouging the American public and it needs to stop.”
Democrats decried obscene profits. Republicans, as always, were more sympathetic, but even they complained. Oil executives mumbled that their companies are not making that much and that they themselves are helpless in the face of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, the all powerful marketplace.
Nobody, not Senators, not Representatives, not regulators, not even big Oil executives said the obvious truth. Business executives are in business to make only one moral choice about profits. They are hired, and often ought to be fired, solely to make the highest profits possible for as long as possible in a manner that is as safe as possible for their investors. Period.
If they act to benefit the public at large at the expense of their investors, they are guilty of corporate theft. If they have a social conscience, they should contribute to Obama or, if their busy schedules prevent them from paying attention, Clinton.
Energy relief, if possible, needs to come from government. Longer term energy policy should be directed at environmentally safe alternatives.
Many of us feel that the market place should be subject to a higher level of intelligent regulation. If executives lie, or cheat, or steal, or encourage others to break the law, they should go to jail. If they engage in unfair trade practices, they should face penalties.
Hollering at people for doing a good job maximizing profits makes for terrific political press and rotten social policy.
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