Newark There was a day when corporate megastars, puffed up by their own press releases and a fawning media were the heroes of their time, sometimes even mentioned for higher public office, like Lee Iacocca, then heralded as the savior of Chrysler, remember Chrysler? Or, Jack Welch, who made General Electric into a conglomerate, though it’s crashing down around his reputation now. Or, Facebook’s Sherly Sandberg who was rumored to be eyeing a post-Facebook political career before everyone came to grips with how creepy and dangerous Facebook had become under her watch, and she leaned out, another take the money and run billionaire.
All of them had their moment at center stage and a good deal more than their fifteen minutes of fame. It’s interesting to think about how far corporate titans have fallen and how diminished the modern corporation itself has become. On one level, Donald Trump, the pretend billionaire and faux business wizard has made really understanding government respectable again, rather. No one is buying the “let businessmen run government” now without looking that horse in the mouth. Business, as a force for good, may also have to spend quite a bit of time in the penalty box, given the sad spectacle of corporate altruism that has now become a crypto corporate case study in Madoff-level fraud. Not sure how anyone comes back from that, but two outstanding examples of the fall of big corporations today are Fox and Walgreens.
The behind-the-scenes cynicism at Fox from ownership to in front of the camera is amazing. Tucker Carlson “hating” Trump, while kissing his rump. Rupert Murdock obliterating the lines between the news and politics, so that they could put rocks on their side of the weight scale. Worse, this is a huge, multi-billion dollar enterprise that is afraid of its shadow, frightened and demeaning of its own audience, and at every level run by characterless cowards.
Add Walgreens to this list. They want to be seen as the nation’s drugstore, but while announcing that they would sell the personally administered abortion bill with a doctor’s prescription, at the same time they said they would NOT sell in twenty-one states, because they were afraid they would be sued. Are you following me, a giant corporation like Walgreen that has a team of lawyers and outside counsel and is sued somewhere on a daily basis, is afraid that just maybe, possibly, some Republican attorneys general just might sue them. What chicken-stuff is that? The governor of California has already announced that he will cancel a multi-million-dollar contract renewal with Walgreens, so not only will they not get paid for distributing a vital medicine approved by the FDA and subject to the Justice Department’s opinions that states cannot stop its distribution, but they will lose money on this count as well. Walgreens is running away and screaming without even waiting for some state to say, “Boo!”
Among the many things we’re all learning about late-state capitalism is that corporations are all afraid of their own shadows, have no commitment except to the dollar, are willing to throw their customers and everyone else under the bus with or without provocation, and are run by big mouths like Elon Musk or armies of invisible million-dollar paycheck collectors. Once corporations might have seemed to roar, now all we can hear is clucking and squeaking. No guts, no glory.