14 May 2011

Senator & CEO - the roles that rob you of your humanity

This week, Senator Schumer asked five oil executive CEOs whether they thought that any other budget item that could be cut from the federal budget might be more important than their tax breaks. They were unable to think of one that was. Schumer, quite rightly, used their hesitancy to point out the inherent (fill in the blank with either immorality, stupidity, or just plain oddity) of their positions. Tax breaks to companies making billions in profits were more important than, say, healthcare for children or the elderly? Funding that might actually save lives?

But the CEOs could have turned the tables on Schumer and asked him if an action would take the lives of 10 Serbs, say, but save the life of one American, would Schumer vote for it. As a US Senator, Schumer is in a position that requires him to save American lives above all others. He'll spend more money for TSA rather than more money for nutrition to Africa. He'll vote for policies that are more likely to kill Iraqi civilians if they save the lives of more American soldiers.

The choices of Schumer and the CEOs are not choices that reflect their humanity. They are choices that reflect their position. CEOs are hired to (mostly) maximize profits for stockholders, no matter what condition that leaves  suppliers, competitors, employees, or the governments that regulate their behavior. Senators are hired to hold up the national interest. Neither are supposed to do what is best for humanity.

Pity, really. Because both CEOs and Senators are in a position to do so much good. Too bad that they are, instead, focused on only doing good for so few.

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