January 6, 2006


George W wants corporate governance
by Jim Hightower

George W is fond of philosophizing about his vision of an "ownership society," organized not on a governmental model, but on the corporate structure. I wonder: Is George even aware that the "owners" of corporate America have no real power over the autocratic elites who run corporations?

The owners of corporations are the shareholders — those people who have bought the company's stock. But ownership in the corporate model buys you no democratic control. Take the board of directors, which is the official governing body of the corporation you "own." As a shareholder, you get to vote for the board members — but the ballot gives you no choices!

Only the candidates hand-picked by the CEO are listed. Your only option is vote for or against the corporate-dictated candidate. But — get this — even if you and 99.9 percent of the other shareholders get together and vote against the CEOs choice, the corporate candidate still wins, assuming the candidate is smart enough to vote for himself (and, by the way, they're nearly always men). Under the self-rigged corporate rules, it just takes only a single vote to elect the chosen candidate.

As if this soviet-style electoral system does not give corporate executives enough control over owners, CEOs are now taking extraordinary steps to assure that they get no interference from pesky shareholders. It seems that more and more of these shareholders/owners have been showing up at the annual board meeting to raise issues and even raise a ruckus about how the place is being run. So, to fend off even this minimal democratic intrusion, corporations have begun hiring surveillance firms to snoop on their own owners, targeting shareholders who might "cause trouble." Of course, the corporate interpretation of "trouble" is to have anyone dissent from what the top executives are doing.

On second thought, this sounds exactly like the kind of government Bush has in mind for us.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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