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  Print view: Public Anger and Distrust of Business and Government
REPORTS:

Public Anger and Distrust of Business and Government

by Stephen Lendman
Tuesday, 20 July 2010

An April 2010 Pew Research Center (PRC) for the People & Press study and others report growing public anger, distrust, and hostility toward business and government because of a "perfect storm of conditions" - wrecked economies, fueling "epic discontent" toward responsible officials.

PRC found nearly 80% of Americans don't trust government to do the right thing, the highest distrust level in half a century, this writer's April 28 article, titled "Growing Public Anger in America," discusses its findings.

People want help when they most need it, but aren't getting it, privilege always trumping the public interest, getting more extreme in America, Canada, and throughout Europe, a prescription for greater outrage, perhaps fury for beneficial change.

It bears watching as the deepening global depression plays out, throwing millions more to the wolves, abandoned by fiscal harshness, governments protecting business, not their people.

On December 9, 2005, in better times, New York Times writer Claudia Deutsch headlined, "New Surveys Show That Big Business Has a PR Problem," saying:

"More than ever, Americans do not trust business or the people who run it," according to pollsters, researchers, and corporate bosses feeling the heat, yet "bent on destroying the environment, cooking the books and lining their own pockets" ad infinitum in good and bad times.

Prior to public knowledge about Wall Street banksters, corporate scandals outing Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and other company executives fueled growing anger and distrust, management consultant Michael Hammer saying:

"There is a sense that business is a zero-sum game, that if companies are making a lot of money, it must be coming out of someone else's pocket."

In Le Pere Goriot, Honone de Balzac (1799 - 1850) wrote:

"The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed."

He meant behind every great fortune lies a crime, far greater today on a global scale, but just as harmful to those hurt.

In a Roper July/August 2005 poll, 72% of respondents said wrongdoing was widespread in industry, only 2% feeling corporate bosses are "very trustworthy," 9% having full trust in financial institutions, one executive saying the term "crooked CEO is redundant."

In a November 2005 Harris poll, 90% of respondents said corporations have too much influence in Washington, 68% believed the media are too powerful, few expecting government to intervene and help.

In his April 26, 2010 Forbes.com article, Brian Moriarty headlined, "Why Everyone Distrusts Both Business and Government," saying:

"Since Gallup began measuring public trust in 1976, 19% of people polled have held a 'very high' or 'high' opinion of the honesty and ethics of business executives. Public trust of congressmen has been even feebler, averaging just 15%," an all-time low reached in 2008 at 12% for both, unsurprising in the post-bubble economy, the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer saying 84% of the public blames business, 81% government and regulators they appoint.

In their "Handbook of Organizational Performance," editors C. Merle Johnson, William K Redmon, and Thomas C. Mawhinney, included an "Ethics and Business" section, explaining distrust toward business from antiquity. More recently in the 1950s and 60s:

"old horror stories about sweatshops and child labor were replaced by fear and anger toward the 'military-industrial complex.' In the 1980s, people (like anthropologist) Marvin Harris argued that (oligopolies increasing bureaucracy), and a shift to a service-and-information economy were the root causes of most of our social and personal problems." He omitted the financialization of America. Even then, Wall Street bankers dominated, running the country by controlling its money.

In the 1980s and 90s, numerous scandals erupted, including savings and loan fraud, insider trading, illicit deals with foreign governments, and public figures on the take. Although business and government officials claim ethics standards, scant evidence shows they practice them, the public finding out when corruption and other improprieties surface, reinforcing John Acton's maxim that:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men," especially in business, government, and the military, environments fostering wrongdoing.

New People for the American Way (PFAW) Survey

PDF graphics Conducted in June, it showed:

  • deep dissatisfaction with the political system;
  • voters believing corporate influence on government policies is a "serious problem;"
  • support for a constitutional amendment limiting corporate influence (specifically, funding parties and candidates to influence elections) "is broad and bipartisan;" and
  • Americans saying they'd vote for candidates endorsing this idea. Specifically:
    • 63% of voters feel "things in the country are (on) the wrong track;" only 20% expressed positive views;
    • 85% said corporations have too much political influence;
    • 93% believe ordinary people have too little or none;
    • 92% feel corporate influence is a problem, 56% calling it serious;
    • Democrats and Republicans are part of the problem, not the solution, caring more about business than people;
    • 95% said corporations spend money to buy influence;
    • 93% want corporate spending limits imposed;
    • 93% believe unlimited corporate spending influences elections and infringes on the public's rights, drowned out by big money;
    • most Americans feel corporate spending isn't free speech;
    • only one in four Americans knows about the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision, permitting unlimited corporate political spending;
    • when explained, 78% object, including the court equating spending with speech; it's not; it's bribery, influence buying, rigging the system to benefit them;
    • nearly two-thirds reject the notion that corporations are people; they're not; they're businesses; the largest are giant ones in oligopoly and monopoly industries with interlocking directorates;
    • about three-fourths feel unlimited corporate political spending harms the public interest;
    • 89% support legislation mandating greater corporate political spending disclosure, and want ads saying which corporations paid for them;
    • 62% believe greater disclosure isn't enough; and
    • 82% feel Congress isn't doing enough to curb corporate influence; Congress, in fact, curries it.
Transparency International (TI) 2009 Global Corruption Survey

TI calls itself a "global civil society organisation (sic) leading the fight against corruption....," its 2009 survey showing a "growing distrust of business," saying most respondents in 69 countries believe corporations bribe public officials to buy influence, specific findings showing the following:

  • private sector corruption is growing and worrisome;
  • half of respondents would pay more to buy from a corruption-free company;
  • political parties and the civil service are perceived as the most corrupt globally, the term corrupt public official, in fact, redundant;
  • in some countries, the judiciary was called most corrupt; also the police;
  • developing nations fared worst, but none are corruption-free;
  • ordinary people aren't empowered to correct abuses; and
  • governments do little to correct them when public officials are beneficiaries.

Overall, the results show "a public sobered by a financial crisis precipitated by weak regulations and a lack of corporate accountability." But people are also willing to actively support clean business. "What is needed now is bold action by companies (to correct) their policies and practices, and to report more transparently on finances and interactions with government."

Most important is public sentiment demanding responsible governance, not settling for ineffective, corrupted, collaborating ones, the common practice globally only grassroots activism can change.


Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His blog is sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on July 20, 2010.
 

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