The Company Men
The Company Men
The Company Men is a film starring Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, all putting in amazing performances but the best, in my opinion, belongs to Chris Cooper. His portrayal of a man put on the executive scrap heap aged 60, being made redundant at the height of the recession of 2008, was utterly believable and totally tragic. The film revolves around these characters, all high flyers, from Senior Sales Executive, Divisional Director and Tommy Lee as the Executive Vice President and Board Member fighting to stop the mass redundancies. Unfortunately his standing up for tens of thousands of skilled and unskilled workers being made redundant on mass just to ensure the company share price was trading high got him made redundant too. His final act was one of total disgust that his lifelong friend, the Chief Executive and President, has a pay hike giving him a $22 million annual salary and shares worth $600 million, which he intends to cash in when the company is bought out. This follows swiftly after Chris Cooper commits suicide unable to come to terms with, as he sees it, the shame, humiliation, the loss of self-worth, compounded by his wife not allowing him home during the day so the neighbours in this affluent community didn’t find out that he had been made redundant. The characters were so well played and I thought their stories still rang true today, six to seven years following the 2008 banking collapse and the messages were the same, greed suppresses any morality when it comes to corporations.
The film clearly demonstrated a truth we are still struggling with, that those at the top of the food chain are getting ever richer, and I mean mega rich, and this is often paid for by the average guy working within the corporations, minimum wage, exploited with zero hours contracts, no security, no investment in them, no respect for them. Yes as always the guy working the shop floor is first to feel the cuts way before the executive or management level needs to think about tightening their belts, restricting their golf club membership payments, or stopping at home for Christmas rather than going to the Bahama’s. The shop floor and administration are the first to be shafted to ensure profits are maximised, maintaining the fat cat lifestyles that the Executives will sacrifice anyone to keep. The old arguments were in the film, as you would expect, the rich create jobs and the wealth trickles down through the economy, and in some cases this may be true. However, we live in an age where this rule has been absolutely distorted, as if looking at your reflection in one of those weird amusement park halls of mirrors. What was once true does not now fit the corporate landscape post 2008. The truth is that the division between rich and poor, even between rich and middle or working classes looks more like the Grand Canyon than a mere chasm of separation.
The ‘trickle-down’ effect is a myth perpetuated by only the rich as some form of impenetrable shield of protection, safeguarding their own wealth and the power that comes with it. Wealth generates power which in turn generates more wealth until this becomes a self-serving, self-sustaining circle that can only continue existing if the vast majority is not part of it. Unfortunately this narrow band of wealth at the top of the food chain have become too greedy, want too much wealth and this will be their very undoing as those below them have become less wealthy, poorer, have less disposable income. This is important because the 0.1% is sustained by the very people they look down upon, often with distain as if the smell of the non-millionaires is a wretched stench polluting their fine cosmetic noses and making them gag until the wrinkles break through their smooth Botox, chemically pealed, lifted and re-fitted skin. Yes the very people they love to look down on, offering charity to but not for philanthropic reasons but as a tax write-off, are the very people holding them aloft because it is these 99.9% that buy the goods and run the services, shops, companies and factories that make them so mega-rich. This symbiotic relationship is definitely shifting though and the towers of working class keeping the wealthy ruling us from aloft, dictating the lives below them, as their greed makes them want more and more. The only way you increase wealth in the worst global recession ever is to cut your margins, reduce your overheads, rationalise your resources, re-structure your organisation, etc. All of these are codes and tidy phrases for the same outcome, for when there is no more money to save from stationary, training and no people overheads, then it is not long before the workers and middle managers are culled – redundancies on mass.
It always amazes me, as portrayed so well in The Company Men, that whilst the Boardroom Predators enjoy their executive perks, golf membership, private jets, 6 star hotels, company credit cards and all expenses paid life, they are prepared to make people redundant to hold onto such obscene perks. ‘Rationalisation’ and ‘restructuring’ never reduces the Director and Senior Executives layers of a company, but those that make the company work are often sacrificed. This has now gone way too far as these people are the ones purchasing the goods and if they are diminished in numbers then the wealth at the top reduces, and so more are made redundant, and so the circle of greed spirals into a vortex that brings down the wealthy. Some Economists predict we are witnessing the surge of yet another recession as house prices inflate in the South East to pre-2008 levels, which is also unsustainable. They warn when the property bubble goes pop, the banks will be plunged back into the nightmare of bad debt bankruptcy. This is ever more likely when one realises we have never had so many people in poverty since the establishment of the NHS, more people placed on Zero Hours contracts, more people on minimum wage, more youth unemployment, more people whose cost of living has gone up by 37% and yet wages by 1% in the last 4 years under the Tories.
The hike in energy prices alone has meant an explosion of debt just to pay the household bills, with one of the few boom industries being the payday loan companies, mostly owned by the 0.1%, with interest rates and APR in their many thousands. Mortgage interest rates are remarkably low, which Tories are only too zealous to point out, but this isn’t the silver lining they report it to be. This is the key problem that will plunge us into another banking related financial crisis yet again, people are only just managing now, and if house prices continue to rise then the Bank of England will have to put the interest rates up. This will drive many homes into mortgage defaulting and there we have it, a recession roles out across the world yet again. This was all because the greedy 0.1% wanted more and more. In other countries, such as Iceland, the bankers were imprisoned and fined for the events leading to 2008, and then they regulated the banks to ensure in Iceland it could never happen again.
Although this happened on Labour’s watch, it has been the Tories that have failed to regulate and restrict the banks, instead they have preferred to foster and nourish an environment of greed and corporate excess. They have implemented the biggest privatisation programme ever seen, supported by their fellow millionaires and billionaires ensuring the rich get much, much wealthier, and cynically some would say feathering their own nests for the future. I would hazard a bet that once the Ministers are no longer in power, they will be made Executive Directors with multinational private corporations, especially those dealing with healthcare, arms, investment and yes even banking. Is it such a stretch of the imagination when you remember under Cameron’s Coalition, Osborne allowed many investment companies, including one owned by his Best Man at his wedding, to acquire the majority of shares at ultra-low floatation prices, which they quickly turned into billions of pounds profit, money which should have gone to the Treasury.
Even this level of greed has not been enough for the Tories and their millionaire Eton classmates; no they have performed one more trick that has instantly increased the profits of companies, the same companies that owe over £500 billion in tax avoidance since Tories came to power in 2010. What’s the biggest expense for a company, yep staff costs. What’s better than paying people a minimal wage, on a dead end zero hours contract, where the hours are never guaranteed and there are no benefits such as job security, paid annual leave, etc.? Yes you guessed it, the Tories & their Limp Dems found a way of funnelling a free labour work force to the corporations; a free staff group under a scheme called Work Fare (or as it has become known, Work Farce!). The Tories brought in a way of bypassing minimum wage and employment law/legislation. This blog is a cautionary tale to those that think they are untouchable, that this pursuit of greed is unstoppable, as there is a tsunami coming, as those you look down upon with distain and patronising charity have had enough. The 99.9% are not sheep, they do fight back and they will win. The people cannot afford to pay for your greed any longer and the tide has definitely turned. To the 0.1%, we’re coming to get you!
Yours most sincerely
Smiling Cat Ventures: (www.smilingcatventures.org)
Innovative Minds @ Work: (www.innovativemindsatwork.org)
Twitter: @AbleNotDisabled (https://twitter.com/)
Face Book: Disability in Business (www.facebook.com/DisabilityInBusiness)
Linked-In: Jonathan Wade (Innovative Minds at Work) (www.linkedin.com)
Pinterest: JWSmilingCat (http://uk.pinterest.com/JWSmilingCat/)
Word Press: Disability in Business (https://disabilityinbusiness.wordpress.com)