In 1729, satirist Jonathan Swift (at left) put forth what he called A Modest Proposal, in which he suggested that, rather than housing the exploding numbers of poor Irish children, they be eaten instead. After all, they were tasty and nourishing, and it would solve multiple social issues, including education, overcrowding, and overpopulation.
It is now just shy of 300 years later, and American corporations have apparently come up with their own modest proposal for thinning the ranks of the employed: kill them.
Let’s look at the situation here. According to media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal
and CNBC, corporations are sitting on gazillions (well, approximately $800 billion) of cash, but won’t spend it to hire new employees or do whatever it is companies do with cash.
Think about yourself, your friends, and your loved ones. How many jobs do you feel you’re performing? How many jobs do they feel like they’re performing? One person’s? Two? Three? From a capitalistic standpoint, this is sheer genius. Companies keep pouring on the work, expecting the employees to keep saying in a Dickensian tone (sorry, I’m mixing my British writers here), “Please, sir, may I have some more?” Because the last thing the
employees want is to be out on the street with everyone else. They can’t quit
because no one is hiring. They can’t protest because they’ll be laid off.
The only alternative, presumably, is dying. I come to this conclusion after receiving the news recently of a close friend who’d suffered a heart attack. Now, certainly, people in their 50s have been known to have heart attacks. Except this person exercises regularly, is maddeningly thin, doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and doesn’t eat beef. Yet the subsequent tests show that she had indeed suffered a heart attack. Her only risk factor: job stress. She
will not be returning to that particular position.
A couple of weeks earlier, a co-worker of hers suffered a stroke. In fact, the employees in her office had been collectively wondering before that if it would take someone keeling over before the powers-that-be stopped piling on work.
How does this border on brilliance? By killing their employees, companies avoid the hassle of laying them off. And because no one expects a heart attack (or is that the Spanish Inquisition that no one expects?), companies can say, wow, we’re completely caught off guard … sure, we’ll find someone to replace this person … but it’ll be a while because
there’s a hiring freeze you know and well, we just weren’t expecting this.
That leaves the remaining employees to pick up the slack and work even harder, counting the days until they, too, succumb to stroke, heart attack, hypertension, and what have you. Pretty soon, companies won’t have to pay anybody at all, because their staffs will be decimated. One by one, American business will come to resemble either a horrific Agatha Christie novel (hey, there’s another British writer) or a Hollywood disaster movie.
And it won’t matter if work isn’t getting done, and no money’s coming in, because they’ve still got the $800 billion. Who says capitalism doesn’t work?