Fixing Capitalism: Michael Porter And Robert Reich

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  1. hvactec
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    hvactec VIP Member

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    Business guru Michael Porter and former labor secretary Robert Reich on how to fix what ails contemporary capitalism.

    Business – American business – has been under a very critical microscope lately. On the crash, the environment, the jobless recovery and more, a country of boosters has become, widely, a country of skeptics about how big chunks of capitalism are working. Business super-guru Michael Porter says American business has brought it on itself. And it has to change. To very clearly – more clearly – create value for itself and the whole society. It’s the new way to profit, he says.

    A discussion with former Labor secretary Robert Reich and Michael Porter on fixing capitalism.

    - Tom Ashbrook

    Guests:

    Michael Porter, world-renowned expert on how companies and nations compete. He is director of the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School, where he is a University Professor. His article “Creating Share Value: How to reinvent capitalism – and unleash a wave of innovation and growth” is the cover story of the January/February issue of Harvard Business Review.

    Robert Reich, he was Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton. He is now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His books include “Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life” and “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.”

    twenty-niner

    Mr. Ashbrook,

    I’m sure your guests are going to spout the same tired tripe about American workers needing to go back to school to get more training. I have been working as a professional engineer for over 15 years, and I can tell you, kids graduating from engineering school know just enough to be dangerous. The real education happens on the job, working on real projects with hard deadlines, under the guidance of senior engineers.

    Let me repeat: the job is the training. Your degree means that you know some applied math and physics; but more importantly, it means you’ve hopefully learned how to learn. But without a meaningful first job, all of that raw knowledge will not congeal into anything useful.

    We need the equivalent of Kennedy’s moon shot to put young engineers to work, en mass, building something significant. This is how to train the workforce of the future.
    mrfreeze

    29er – I couldn’t agree with you more. The problem is that, for some strange reason, no-one (not Congress, not business, not even the American people) want to invest in the very projects that would train (and employee) new workers: it’s called our infrastructure! OH, but just say high speed rail or “capital investment” to anyone these days and you’re shouted down, “we can’t afford those types of projects.” The sad thing is, America is on the quick road to banana-republicville due, in large part, because Americans have been taught to believe that success comes in the form of a telephone and a good text message, not “producing” things.
    Wm.James from Missouri

    Mr. Robert Reich,

    I always enjoy listening to your thoughts on economic issues. I am betting that this show will be addressing current “hot topic” issues, which is understandable but I do hope that you might find the time to mention current trends in stock trading, in particular, the accelerating use of high speed computers and advanced algorithms that use expert systems and neural networks.

    Wired magazine recently ran an article on this subject.( I do not have the issue in front of me, so I can’t give you the date.) The article mentioned that some traders were relocating their mainframes to gain a fractional second advantage ! Ray Kurzweil and others have made this case for ever accelerating intelligent machines. These two facts alone demonstrate, to me at least, that there will come a day when humans, will not be able to compete in any such investment arena. The thing we call Capitalism must morph into something that we would consider more bio-friendly if we are to sustain life on this planet.

    { I make this final note, with these three items, to reinforce the idea of the speed at which things seem to be happening:

    ___ IBM recently announced plans to build a computer that will run
    at 10 ^ 18 flops, that is about 100 times faster than a computationally
    equivalent human brain, delivery time: estimated 8 years

    ___ INTEL has developed an optical device that will be fast enough to allow
    a user to download a full High Def DVD in one second

    ___ Various institutions are working with 3-D printers that will allow for the elimination, someday, of anything we might now call a manufacturing plant,
    as it will concentrate many labor task into one

    I must note that the last item might work to the advantage of the “little guy”,
    It is quite unclear to me as of this writing. }
    Rondem1

    questions-
    When did “balancing the budget” become paramount over helping people meet their needs?
    Heard rep Ryan say Obama’s budget “adds 13billion dollars to the deficit” That’s not right is it?
    He also said ‘they don’t factor in the increase in taxes in two years.” So is this another way to say ‘make the tax cuts for the rich permanent?
    -How do you reduce deficits by reducing taxes, thus income?
    -Shouldn’t we be looking at working for the government from the other direction? When shared resources (taxes) help employ millions, when there is constant ‘churn’ in private industry, isn’t it a sign of something actually working? who will take up the slack when ‘budget balancing’ throws thousands out of ‘government’ jobs?
    -and the big one- who will have the stones to stand up and reiterate that government is NOT the enemy- unless you allow those with louder voices to make it so.
    Brian

    Sorry, but nothing short of a constitutional amendment to fix campaign finance will fix US capitalism.

    Until then, big business will always be able to successfully fight any sort of meaningful reform (be it financial, anti-trust, net neutrality, environmental or otherwise).
    Tina, RI

    Someone mentioned on an earlier OnPoint Comments page that there is a law which requires companies and corporations to owe their allegiance to their shareholders rather than to their employees, or the environment, or to various social considerations. Can this law be changed; not eliminated, but changed to reflect a more balanced set of responsibilities to ALL of those involved?

    THAT comment made me ask, on an earlier OnPoint webpage, if we could all put our heads together with some ideas about “tweaking” our current form of Capitalism. When I read of today’s topic, I decided to go back & read as many recent comments as I could so that I could put people’s ideas into one List. I don’t know this language that well, so PLEASE FORGIVE ME, I just wrote the List using regular colloquial language. The overall intent is at the END. Otherwise, here goes (forgive me, please, for the length and for the audacity!)

    It seems like whatever Economic Recovery we are experiencing is from the “Financial Capitalism End Point” of the “Capitalism Trajectory”. I don’t know if this is a real phrase, but I use it to describe:

    The situation where investors do NOT invest (or, do not invest MUCH) in research, design, capital equipment, etc. Instead, they seem to “play” with money and/or numbers and/or with “ownership”. The investors I’m talking about are the ones who operate with such large amounts of funds that it is THEY who “shape” our entire Economy. IF there is an Economic Recovery that is starting to happen, it is because of THEM and is also pretty much CONFINED to them. They are small in number, yet are wielding gigantic amounts of money. Their money is making money (not products), in almost a “fractal” pattern. (Yes, some other corporations DO “invest” in the older understanding of the term, but they are NOT the dog, not the tail, they are NOT wagging our Economy. Whereas, the “Financial Capitalists” ARE wagging our Entire Economy.)

    They make more money helping customers “finance” their purchase (that is, helping customers get loans for their purchases thru the company) than they do from the profit they make on making, then selling the product. Also, they want the financing to go thru THEM, not thru a bank or other loan organization.

    They make more money selling the corporation to another corporation (Buy Outs) than they do by making a profit selling whatever it is they make or service.

    They also make money thru mergers; acquisitions (eventually; maybe immediately?); using the business as collateral; or thru changing the terms and/or the types of legal ownership designation of the corporation; thru Vertical Integration. Big corporations keep “cornering the market” thru “deals” they offer would-be customers (the coupon from your pharmacy, say, is for a restaurant, only it’s a chain restaurant, not the local Mom & Pop restaurant. The pharmacy might even OWN the restaurant.).

    They make money thru credit default swaps and other “financial deals” (including other deals I don’t know the names of) and will continue to do so “Off Shore” (in the Caribbean) even AFTER Elizabeth Warren does her best to stop these practices.

    They SAVE money already thru Off Shore tax shelters.

    They SAVE money thru federal deals that lower their corporate tax rates.

    They MAKE money thru FEDERAL subsidies (aka “corporate welfare”). They also get LOCAL subsidies and tax breaks, as when a Big Box store arrives in town & gets deals & breaks that the little, local merchants don’t get; in fact the little guys don’t even get any compensation when Big Box puts them ALL out of business!

    They MAKE money by betting that the stocks &/or bonds of other corporations will go DOWN (maybe I said that already when I mentioned those complicated terms earlier).

    They MAKE money due to the fact that there is no federal cap on interest rates (no usuary laws that apply to corporations). (Just like everything else on this list, please add, “I think”)

    They SAVE money by Outsourcing American jobs to the areas of the world with the lowest wages possible for the quality of work that is desired. (After slavery was outlawed, African-Americans suffered peonage which benefitted REALLY large corporations, as well as widespread wage discrimination which benefitted ALL other Americans who bought products or services; after Jim Crow, women were finally hired, at lower wages; after that, more teenagers HAD to work for family income, not date money; then jobs left the Northeast for North Carolina; then jobs went to Mexico, then, eventually to other poor countries, and finally to China. I call this the “Natural Trajectory of Capitalism Seeking the Lowest Wages possible, at least after slavery was ostensibly outlawed worldwide. By the way, has it been, really?!)

    They SAVE money by using more & more robotics. The robots are NOT taxed as workers would be, thus, the federal “till” is no longer filled thru income tax. Instead, corporations are going to receive HUGE tax DEDUCTIONS or CREDITS for investment IN these robotics! Good bye jobs and benefits! Apparently, this deduction OR credit (not sure which) is a New Initiative, put in place after our recent Economic Breakdown.

    RE: Financial Speculation — are corporations taxed on any high-risk financial speculation they might engage in? When their speculative ventures failed, they seem to have been Bailed Out.

    RE: Personal Income Taxes on Investments — investments are taxed at a lower rate than hard work is, I think. (Since most people hope to retire at some point, there is some sense in this, but could the rate be age-dependent, unless disability was also involved?)

    RE: the workers AT the corporations — CEOs get BONUSES for Out Sourcing workers’ jobs and/or for increasing the number of Robotics used.

    RE: the workers AT the corporations — there does NOT seem to be any tax penalty put on corporations when CEOs and other Top Earners earn grossly more, proportionately, than the lowest-paid wage earners.

    Also: there do not seem to be very many companies and/or corporations that are owned by the employees, or that allow the employees to benefit directly in the profit. (Some employees have been given stocks/bonds in lieu of benefits and/or in lieu of full retirement packages, or their expected retirement packages, often when management KNOWS that the stocks/bonds will soon be worthless. I do not know if there is a penalty for this, especially if prior knowledge, & thus malfeasance, can be proved.)

    RE: our federal income tax code — we just gave tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans who already own a disproportionately large section of our entire Economy (is it top 2-3% own 97%?). Millions of Americans have been jobless for a long time and will continue in this fashion, often WITHOUT health insurance, often WITH illness/disability, often WITH huge college loans, often having lost their homes to foreclosure.

    RE: cheap labor. Many of the wealthiest Americans employ domestic staff who are here illegally. When caught, the immigrants are deported; yet I am unaware of staggeringly appropriate prison time for their employers for breaking federal immigration law. A young “entrepreneurial” African-American male from one of our inner cities will see significant prison time if he is caught doing something illegal, perhaps selling drugs. He will have the crime on his record for his lifetime. Will the wealthy employers of the person here illegally see something similar happen to them, especially if it also becomes clear that they employed people illegally at their workplace, as well? Or, will they simply get a slap on the wrist which they will “flip” to open their wallet to see the extra money sitting therein due to the money they SAVED on their cheap labor?

    ### I’m CERTAIN that I’ve made MISTAKES, and I apologize. I would like to know HOW CAPITALISM CAN BE TWEAKED TO GET RID OF SOME OF THE GLARING INEQUITIES THAT THE PRESENT FORM OF CAPITALISM ALLOWS, as I hope I’ve shown with my Awkward List. AND, I apologize for the length and unwieldy nature of my List. There ARE mistakes in it; but there are ALSO important notions to discuss that I’ve gleaned from reading these Commentary Pages for several years now. That is to say, it is OTHER OnPoint LISTENERS who contributed to the BEST parts of this posting. But, ONLY I am responsible for its overall awkward form and for its mistakes.

    I bring up all these NEGATIVES, because I’m SURE THAT WE CAN PUT OUR HEADS TOGETHER TO TWEAK CAPITALISM ENOUGH THAT IT STARTS TO WORK FOR EVERYONE IN OUR NATION, IN A TRULY BALANCED WAY (& I’m CERTAIN that a Trickle Down Theory is NOT gonna be the answer!) Americans have so much Creativity, Intellectual Curiosity, Physical & Manual Skill, Spirituality, Generosity, Inventiveness, and THIS CURRENT FORM OF CAPITALISM is NOT allowing people access to their Own Giftedness, or to their Own Ability to Contribute to the Health and Wealth of the Nation and/or of themselves. These current “Financial Capitalism” Schemes and Deals are NOT a good, broad, or strong enough Foundation for the kind of Economy we need to THRIVE!

    Dr. Reich and Dr. Porter, PLEASE HELP US UNDERSTAND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE! Thank you SO much, and AGAIN, my apologies to Everyone!
    Tina, RI

    Yes! AND, we need Campaign Finance REform so that people from more varied professions can serve in our Congress — ESPECIALLY including engineers, architects, scientists, artists, musicians!!!

    Thanks for your great comment!

    Tina, RI

    Wm. James,
    Thank you! You “flesh out” the stuff I tried to mention on my List (my lengthy, awkward List), but with information that I’m completely Unfamiliar with. Your comments, and the others posted during this late-night, early-morning period, are PERFECT, because they are NOT about “spin” — you are using the new terminology that we will all need to listen to & understand! You are so On Target when you refer to the need to be “bio-friendly”!
    Tina, RI

    Brian, IF the Democrats win in 2012, maybe this should be the BIG, BIG EFFORT that we all make — to convince our own sadly “bought and paid for” Congressional delegations that THIS is what they MUST DO! We’d HAVE to NOT be negative (like I just was with my bought & sold comment)! We’d have to believe we could really do it! After Egypt, my Optimism is UP. BECAUSE the current state of Capitalism today gets me down, I was AWARE of how TRULY the peaceful efforts of the Egyptians reminded me that humans CAN change things successfully & peacefully!


    Wm. James from Missouri

    Hey, here is doable restructuring idea.

    Require all publicly traded companies, having assets over a given threshold to pay a dividend on all shares, including ( in house ) treasury shares. This will eliminate all “funny money” accounting, and prevent the hoarding of cash. This would increase the velocity of money, and increase productivity. Taxes should be paid on all shares, floating or not ! This will force shares out or clean up the books or both.

    When you have to come up with the cash, you have to be doing something to generate that cash. Companies today are holding over 1 trillion dollars in non performing cash or equivalents. Stockholder rights have been high-jacked by unscrupulous paper juggling, corporate hucksters, whose modus operandi undermines the interest of the American populace, by redistributing over 300 years of the accumulated wealth, of all that have worked so diligently since the founding of this country, to internationalist raiders.

    Wouldn’t you like to know where your money is ?

    Once again, I recommend that you listen to the prior Sept. 17, 2008, On Point show, entitled, “Getting outside the box .” The problems we face as a nation are many and difficult. By breaking away from past century practices we may be able to overcome our failings.

    Become your own Iconoclast. Be bold ! Be new ! Make good happen !

    Think outside the N-Dimensional Construct !

    Wm. James from Missouri

    Thank you for your kind words. I found your post very worthwhile also. I hope to find time to respond in the next couple of days. The sandman beckons.
    Worried for the country (MA)

    “Heard rep Ryan say Obama’s budget “adds 13billion dollars to the deficit” That’s not right is it?”

    Nope, that was $13T over 10 years.

    Since the debt is now over $14T how large do you think it can get before the system collapses?

    Yar

    Fixing Capitalism, isn’t that a little like fixing gravity? Capitalism isn’t broken, other than we are calling oligarchic trade, free trade in the name of capitalism. We are using laws bought and paid for through lobbying and campaign contributions, (what we are calling free speech) and calling that capitalism.
    Free trade capitalism requires equal information on both sides of every transaction, yet most trade in today’s economy is the purchasing or selling of information. Information is not a product, yet it is essential for life.
    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are tenets of a free society. Yet today we live in a society where life is purchased from agribusiness, water utilities, and electric companies. Liberty is a balance of exploitation and being exploited through economic slavery. Happiness is lost because we are mired in debt,

    A free society is a society with the knowledge to make good decisions and markets that are regulated to prevent exploitation. We disgustedly call that socialism, failing to realize without education and regulation we lose our freedom of choice. Democratic government is socialistic, its function is to keep society stable.
    We are always in tension between trade, and stability. When self governed people (democracy) works properly then we have a functioning hybrid economy that balances both trade and regulation.

    This is an academic statement from a philosopher/farmer who loves his country, and is freely giving time to this blog, in order that we may form a more perfect union. Farmers are blessed with time to think, and exposure to natural limitations, where an understanding of balance exists. In my opinion these ideals are what built our democracy. We have lost our connection to the land and no longer know the measure of ourselves. It is not too late, some simple changes can salvage our badly damaged democracy and return our economy to free market capitalism our founding fathers envisioned.

    The first step is to stop our elected representatives from raising money while in office. The second step is to closely regulate selling of information. Return the stock market to a capital market and remove the casino. Third we must educate our youth in social responsibility, I would attempt do that with two years of public service, where we prepare our nation’s children to own the country we are building for their generation. We work for them, hoping they will take care of us.

    WMaher

    Only NPR could bring on Robert Reich, a socialist career government hack to the left of Lenin, to enlighten the masses about the genuine definition of capitalism. For the regular lefty NPR types, this note would not remotely faze them as to where NPR is coming from. Remember, socialism is holding up the head of NPR–NPR(a.k.a., government radio) obviously couldn’t survive on its own merit and here they are, of all people, speaking as authorities on capitalist discourse. Has Robert Reich ever had a legitimate job where let’s say, there is a possibility he could be fired according to his production level, etc? Where? If you haven’t noticed, Robert Reich’s and Paul Krugman’s “capitalist” blueprint isn’t working out too well in Greece, is it? What’s next– Bill Clintonist and Tiger Woods to enlighten us on family values? And Harvard University, the breeding ground for American Leninists(FDR comes most immediate to mind), is just where to look for a discussion on capitalism. Has anyone noticed that Robert Reich, nor Paul Krugman, has had anything to OFFER on the wonders of the socialist train wreck in Greece? I’m shocked!
    Zeno

    I agree. How many times have I seen the Job training at the local office or even at trade schools sitting down some unemployed plumber, carpenter, manager, etc, (who lost their jobs to wage suppression and/or in-sourcing) to learn Excel or some other computer related dump zone skill, even if they have the natural aptitude for it.

    The truth is that these people are NOT going to find employment working on a computer as corporations are outsourcing these jobs as fast as they practically can. Even people who have 20 years of experience with software applications cannot find work in this field.

    Cory

    One word… REGULATION!!! If you are going to use greed as the engine of your civilization, you must harness it or abuse will be common. We cannot rely on common decency and self policing. Most people fall somewhere in the range between frail and wicked, and will harm one another for their own benefit.

    Unless of course you are one who wishes to benefit at the expense of your fellow man. Then I would suggest being careful to keep your abuse at a sensible level. If you don’t, the result can be anything from crime and violence to civil disobedience and revolution.

    read more here Fixing Capitalism: Michael Porter And Robert Reich | On Point with Tom Ashbrook
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2011
  2. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    There's just so much there to comment on that the task is daunting.

    But let me say that I agree that a big big really big problem is in part from the fact that now masters of finance make more money buying and selling debt than they do financing actual productive undertakings.
     
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    blastoff Undocumented Reg. User

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    Shorty never changes his tune.
     
  4. CrusaderFrank
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    CrusaderFrank Diamond Member

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    Wow. Stupid and stupider.

    Actually painful to read.

    "When did “balancing the budget” become paramount over helping people meet their needs?"

    How this, "When did bankrupting a nation ever actually help its citizens?"
     

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