Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Whoops! Did I Really Read that in America?

From the Desk of Joe Rollins

I make it a point to read a lot of opinion pieces in various newspapers around the country. Every day, I read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution along with The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily and the New York Times, and on the weekends, I also read Barron’s. Because of my mostly conservative viewpoints, a client this weekend was surprised to hear that I bother reading the New York Times. It’s impossible to get a good feel for everything that goes on politics, economics and finance if you don’t look at opinions from all sides of the aisle.

Historically, the New York Times has supported the progressive viewpoint (formerly called “liberal”) while The Wall Street Journal, with its acquisition by Rupert Murdoch, has taken the more conservative view. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution basically doesn’t have an editorial page worth reading, and the Investor’s Business Daily is even more conservative that The Wall Street Journal. In any event, I try to read them all so I can get a feel for the public sentiment on various subjects.

Over the weekend, I read in disbelief an Op-Ed in the New York Times by staff columnist Bob Herbert (“A Sin and a Shame” published July 30, 2010). I have re-read Herbert’s piece several times now to make sure I understand his viewpoint correctly. Bob Herbert is a respected reporter who has worked for various respected outlets over the years, including being a national correspondent for NBC. While he’s always represented the progressive line on politics and economics, his July 30th was way over the top.

While you may read Herbert’s column differently, I understand Herbert to opine that corporations in America have an obligation to employ people and increase their wages. That sentiment is wrong on so many levels that it hardly warrants a discussion, much less an Op-Ed in a respected newspaper.

First and foremost, corporations are not owned by the government, and hopefully, they never will be. They have no obligations to anyone other than their shareholders. No corporation is obligated legally, financially or otherwise to employ people other than to fulfill their corporate goals. Their obligation and responsibility is to make profits, not to employ people and give pay increases just because enough time has passed.

Governments in other countries require their corporations to employ its citizens – communist countries like China, Cuba and Venezuela spring to mind. It is almost unbelievable to me that a columnist for a respected newspaper like the New York Times would promote a line that mirrors communist ideology.

The way to increase employment in America is to inspire corporations to expand and to exercise entrepreneurial spirit of higher profits and utilization of innovative processes. This country was built on the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit, and not on government-controlled mandates. Hopefully Bob Herbert will review a history book at some point to help himself understand how America was truly built – it certainly was not with governmental mandates for employment, profits or anything else for that matter.

As always, the foregoing are my opinions, assumptions and forecasts. It is perfectly possible that I am wrong.