Thursday, January 29, 2009

Remaining Competitve



My pursuit for employment becomes harder with each passing day. I am searching for a job in a climate where employers big and small are only laying off. While job cuts continue to pile up, many companies explain their layoffs in terms of “remaining competitive.” This week Target CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, announced the closing of a distribution center saying, “We are clearly operating in an unprecedented economic environment that requires us to make some extremely difficult decisions to ensure Target remains competitive over the long-term.

This term has always bothered me for being so subjective. What exactly do companies seeking to remain competitive hope to achieve in the contest against other companies? Is it a contest between companies to provide their employees with better healthcare, better wages, or better benefits? Or is it a contest between companies to see who can reach the summit of maximum profit?

Perhaps this current economic crisis leaves companies like Target with no choice except to layoff some employees in order to keep other employees in their jobs. However, I feel that US corporations have possessed an intense fixation on achieving greater and greater heights of profits long before this economic crisis developed. Obviously a company wanting to endure must generate a considerable profit to avoid the danger of barely meeting its budget. I guess the question I am asking is, “how much profit is enough?

Back in February 2008, the New York Times reported that Exxon Mobil cleared a net income (after expenses) of $40,600,000,000 billion dollars. When you deduce their net income by sequences of time, Exxon Mobil earned more than $1,287 of profit for every second of 2007. What if this corporation only cleared 20,000,000,000? My concern is that executives would perceive it as a sign of failure, which would persuade them to cut jobs and benefits so they could return or exceed the 40 billion dollar plateau. Maybe the problem is not amount of profit a corporation seeks to achieve, but with corporations vigorously determined to exceed rather than maintain a certain profit level.

While speaking at the United Nations in September 1963, President Kennedy encouraged the world ambassadors to participate in a more ethical contest saying, “The contest will continue--the contest between those who see a monolithic world and those who believe in diversity--but it should be a contest in leadership and responsibility instead of destruction, a contest in achievement instead of intimidation. Speaking for the United States of America, I welcome such a contest. For we believe that truth is stronger than error--and that freedom is more enduring than coercion. And in the contest for a better life, all the world can be a winner.

CJE

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