The year was 2003. Time Magazine had just named the Corporate Anus as person of the year; Lawrence Summers was President of Harvard; Hank Green, Jack Welch, Lee Raymond, Sandy Weill and Ken Lewis controlled most of America’s GDP; and Dick Cheney was leader of the free world. These were glory days for the American asshole. How different things are 9 years later. The International Trace Commission (ITC), in its latest trade report, notes that “the difference between pernicious CEOs per thousand in the USA and China” − the so called asshole gap – “has never been wider”.
What happened?Alistair Loudly, Professor of Nativist Studies at the University of Medicine Hat, in Medicine Hat Nebraska has a theory. “It began with introduction of the so-called Four Awfuls1The Four Awfuls − practices or “paths” to achieving wealth at other people’s expense − were first formulated by the Taoist master Tsai Shen Yeh. They are 1) insider trading 2) lax environmental standards 3) selling products to foreign devils at below cost (dumping) and 4) state support of uncompetitive enterprises. into the core curriculum of the Beijing School of Government and Business in 2003. Until that point Chinese MBA students had been encouraged to ‘manage like a night soil collector’. From that year forward it became fashionable to espouse more business-friendly slogans, like Grow your margins with hexane2 Hexane is the poisonous substance used to clean iPhone screens. It became notorious in 2012 when reports of mass poisoning of workers at factories manufacturing iPhones were made public and Compete in the spirit of the Shang3The Shang dynasty, 16th-11th century BC, is arguably the most blood-thirsty theocracy of the ancient world (Assyria is the competition). The historian Jonathan Dollop describes it as “the Aztec Empire run by Rush Limbaugh on PCP.“. It was a sea change. The promotion of corporate skull-duggery spread like wild fire from Beijing University into all facets of Chinese business, society and even culture. Only one year after the curriculum change, the winner of the much coveted Golden Rooster Award was the model counter-revolutionary opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Leveraged Buyout.”
House Majority Leader Paul Ryan sees the causes of the record asshole gap lying closer to home. “I blame (former President Barack) Obama and (Elizabeth) Warren for the recent decline in US corporate assholery. What kind of message does legislation like the Consumer Protection Act send to young business students dreaming of a getting rich by ripping off their customers?”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees, “If you look at the political landscape right now, its Republicans who are doing the heavy lifting. Do you see Democrats making cuts to medicare and food stamps? Or promoting deregulation so that the coal industry can continue to blast the Appalachians into dust? Assholes are like a kid glove on the iron fist of capitalism. We’ve got to help them every way we can.”
Is there any hope that the current situation may be turned around? Professor Loudly isn’t sure. He notes that “Although the current President is clearly a pernicious ass I wonder whether he really has it in him to fix this problem. But there is hope for the private sector. Elon Musk is far more of a douche bag than his boyish good looks indicate, as are most tech CEOs. Jamie Dimon is my hope for finance. ”
But does the world really need more assholes? Aleck Griegson, Democratic candidate for Florida’s 99th District isn’t so sure. He argues that “the point of representative democracy is to curtail the power of assholes, not enhance it.” His words were drowned out by the shouts of a chorus corporate lobbyists.
Disclaimer: In 2003 Time Magazine did not name the Corporate Anus as Person of the Year. This article is a parody.