Business ethics are the key to preventing future crises

by Mike Heral

MCT Campus

Leaving my Philosophy 101 class, I overheard a classmate bemoan the philosophical nature of the class. Clearly he didn’t think it through before enrolling. He sighed, saying he had little desire to help solve life’s vexing riddles—an understandable sentiment coming from a young adult. However, one day his chrysalis stage will end and he’ll burst into society as an entrepreneurial butterfly charged with leading our troubled country into the middle of the 21st century.

If he can’t grasp philosophy he, must at least study civic ethics, even if it has to be waterboarded into him. Lucky for him, all anyone needs to know about civic ethics is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This rule hasn’t been practiced in the business world since Christ walked the earth in his Birkenstocks. Now shady business practices are holding back our economic recovery.

This generation can change the direction. You can reintroduce civility to the business world. The steps are simple: businesses must pay the taxes they owe, bank stateside and treat employees like precious resources by paying fair wages and resisting the urge to outsource their jobs. Don’t worry—if you follow these rules, you can still become rich.

Iraq’s oil fields are back in play and contributing to an oil surplus. Yet somehow, American consumers keep paying more for gasoline. The political blog reports the top five oil companies earned a record $62.2 billion in last year, “more than what 96 percent of American households [combined] earn in an entire year.”

Pricing gas well above cost allows Big Oil to bathe in record profits year after year. Price gouging is illegal in times of weather-relateddisasters, but Congress won’t lift a finger when the sun is shining bright in the sky. There’s no reason, other than naked greed, for Big Oil to continually place the economy on the cusp of back-to-back recessions. It’s too busy manipulating the stock market and lobbying politicians to notice or care.

Big Oil isn’t the only unscrupu- lous player in the business world. Bailed out financial institutions happily continue their irrespon- sible ways. The Johnson Report reports top executive’s are expected to receive a 10 percent increase in bonuses, even as millions of Ameri- cans languish in unemployment offices. It’s inexcusable for CEOs to take lofty bonuses while America’s lower class is growing, especially because these top executives are to blame. Shrinking employee wages, union busting, layoffs and job out- sourcing are the barbarous tools corporate America uses to kill the middle class.

Don’t take my word for it; take theirs. A recent Pew Research Cen- ter poll discovered 52 percent of responders in the upper economic classes don’t believe upper-income Americans pay enough taxes. From the upper class, 62 percent say they’re better off now than they were 10 years ago.

So called “job creators” receive a lot of credit, and they should. America survives because of their ingenuity and hard work. Entrepreneurs deserve to reap what they sow given the financial risk incurred when starting a business. The harvest is poisoned when the cost of doing business shackles employees to a life of despair. The U.S. taxes cigarettes because of its expensive health costs for smokers. Then why not penalize employers when they purposely underpay employees or ship jobs overseas? Paying low wages places a burden on government and taxpayers similar to the cancer that comes from cigarettes.

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin famously renounced his U.S. citizenship to dodge paying taxes. His zeal to avoid paying his fair share is common among his peers. Through offshore bank accounts, more than $21 trillion in worldwide business assets is kept hidden from American tax collec- tors. Factor in a 20 percent tax rate and $21 trillion means $4.2 trillion in unpaid taxes. Imagine how much good could be accomplished if this wealth wasn’t hidden by people with more money than they could spend in a lifetime.

Students must jump through hoops proving residency to pay in-state tuition, but businesses can move financial accounts and em- ployees overseas and still be considered residents, receiving massive tax breaks. Businesses wanting to enjoy the cost-saving benefits of outsourcing and banking off-shore must be treated as foreign companies. Otherwise, companies using American labor and above- the-board accounting practices are punished.

Responsible business practice should not be the exception; it ought to be the rule. Besides, it’s easier than studying Plato.