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Anheuser-Busch and the Loss of Middle America

This Bud isn’t for you.

I understand that the board of directors of a corporation is only responsible to it’s shareholders, but it seems to me that there must be more. Anheuser-Busch was recently sold to InBev, a Germany company for a gazillon dollars (well, $52 billion). The stockholders, including Cindy McCain, are doing a victory dance. Everyone is happy. InBev gets to decrease competition. Upper management and stockholders of Anheuser-Busch get to cash in. Yahoo! Everybody dance.

What? Who is that? It seems there are some folks that aren’t dancing, again: American workers. The employees of Anheuser-Busch aren’t dancing. InBev is going to cut costs because that’s their specialty.

Cost cutting is ‘business speak’ for firing workers and making the workers who stay work harder for less money. This is a very common scenario. We, Americans, should be used to this by now. We have seen companies buy out other companies and then institute “cost” savings. Wall Street loves this. The stock usually will skyrocket and folks with money will make more money.

Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t benefit from these buyouts. Usually, a handful of people will make truckloads of money and several hundred to several thousand are out in the cold.

The gateway to the West, the home to Anheuser-Busch as well as my former home, is going through some significantly tough times. If you drive into downtown from the west on one of the interstate highways (if you drive in from the east do not stop, you are going through East St. Louis. It makes St. Louis look like Beverly Hills), you will notice exactly what I’m talking about. There is an area just outside of downtown which is completely abandoned. There are huge factories and warehouses which are showing their age. Although they hint of a time when St. Louis was a vibrant city, that time has long since passed. The companies that owned these buildings have moved on or gone out of business. These buildings cry out for help from a wrecking ball and a bulldozer.

One of the last major employers in St. Louis is/was Anheuser-Busch. If you haven’t toured the plant, you should. It is amazing how much beer those guys turn out. The operation is very impressive. It is also clear that the workers are/were proud to be employed there.

I bought my first house in St. Louis. The guy who lived across the street from me in this new sub-division in the middle of suburbia was a truck driver. He had been working for Budweiser for over 30 years. He was in the house of his dreams with his wife of over 30 years. They were living in a golf course community. This was/is the American dream. This is what is suppose to happen when you work hard and save your money in America. But more and more, the American dream has been sold to the highest bidder. Wages are cut. Benefits are slashed. Workers are fired and asked to “re-train” and a few at the top make out like bandits.

Do major corporations have an obligation to the community in which they reside? Without the labor of that community could the corporation have prospered?

In order for America, to make it in this new century, we have to make things. We have understand that we are all in this together. If the workers are making money, then management is making money. It has to be a partnership in order for everyone to benefit.

By |2008-07-23T22:04:52-04:00July 23rd, 2008|Economy|Comments Off on Anheuser-Busch and the Loss of Middle America

The Economy, Capitalism and the Candidates

There’s been a lot of speculation on who Senator John McCain then Senator Barack Obama would choose as their running mates. Almost everyone with a computer has speculated on who could be a possible running mate. Thomas Friedman, from the New York Times, has thrown his hat into the ring. Friedman presents some good evidence to show that our economy is in significant trouble. I think anyone with a couple brain cells that are firing should be able to see the decline of the American economy. We manufacture almost nothing in this country anymore. Our banking industry is in shambles. The auto industry is hanging on by a thread. Heck, a German company has offered to buy Anheuser-Busch.

Somehow over the last 20 years, money and not value has become the goal. For example, we see these nebulous corporations buy up nursing homes. At first, you scratch your head. Then you see them operate. Like a spider who wraps his victim in silk before sucking out all of the nutrients, these human vampires remove all the value out of the nursing home. They sell off CT scanners and x-ray machines. They outsource x-rays. Residents who used to be able to get an x-ray within minutes now have to wait hours or days. All experienced nurses are either fired or pushed out. They’re replaced by a new registered nurses or even nurses aides. Telephones which used to be answered by a real person are now answered by a machine. (Press one if you want resident directory.) I’m sure there are some that look at this is change. I would argue that this is not change for the better. With this type of change only the moneymakers are happy. Everyone else loses out. This is what has been happening in our country with almost every industry.

This gives me an opportunity to insert a clip from the Bill Moyers Journal. This clip is from about six or eight months ago. Bill Moyers chats with Benjamin Barber. He is the author of a new book called Consumed. They discussed the problems with capitalism.

Back to my original subject, vice presidential candidates. Thomas Friedman has been wrong more times on the Iraq war that I’m sure either he or I want to count. I think he is correct about the economy but incorrect about the choice of running mates. He suspects that each candidate will choose an economic guru as his running mate. Although, the economy will continue to be an important subject in the selection I do not believe that the candidates will choose someone because of their economic expertise. (If they were to choose someone with economic expertise, Barack Obama would likely choose someone like Senator Chris Dodd. John McCain would probably to someone like former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.) I still think that John McCain will try to someone who will excite the Republican base and who will appear more youthful. I believe that Barack Obama will choose someone who has foreign-policy and military expertise.

By |2008-06-29T23:33:39-04:00June 29th, 2008|Economy, Election 2008|Comments Off on The Economy, Capitalism and the Candidates
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