Posts Tagged ‘corporations’


Urban Outfitters has asked salaried workers at the company’s home office to “volunteer” for extra weekend shifts at a new fulfillment center.

In an email, the company asked for weekend workers to “pick, pack and prepare packages for shipment.”. . .

Volunteers would work six-hour shifts in exchange for lunch and transportation, if required. The email advises participants to wear “sneakers and comfortable clothing” to prepare for this “team building activity.”. . .

Hourly-wage workers were excluded from the email, though the company said some of them responded. ”Many hourly employees also offered to pitch in—an offer which we appreciated, but declined in order to ensure full compliance with all applicable labor laws and regulations,” the company said in a statement.


We see it on a daily basis. Contemporary capitalism is out of control.

The latest example is Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, which buys up existing drugs and raises prices aggressively, and does nothing to develop new drugs.

Valeant defended itself, saying in a statement that it “prices its treatments based on a range of factors, including clinical benefits and the value they bring to patients, physicians, payers and society.” It says patients are largely shielded from price increases by insurance and financial assistance programs the company offers, so that virtually no one is denied a drug they need. . .

If “products are sort of mispriced and there’s an opportunity, we will act appropriately in terms of doing what I assume our shareholders would like us to do,” he told analysts in a conference call in April.

What’s happening? Clearly Valeant’s strategy is undermining the usual rationale of the American pharmaceutical industry, that it “needs” its exorbitant profits to fund research and development.

It spends an amount equivalent to only 3 percent of its sales on research and development, which it views as risky and inefficient compared to buying existing drugs.

It also pays very low taxes, “because it is officially based in Canada, although Mr. Pearson operates from New Jersey.”

And it makes its profits not just by raising prices, but by laying off workers in the companies it purchases and by accumulating a mountain of debt to finance those purchases.

Everyone, of course, knows the counterargument: that Valeant is just one bad apple in the barrel. But it’s operating according to the rules of a system that every other major corporation follows in the United States: individual decisions that maximize the private gain of a few at the expense of everyone else, both consumers and workers.

The problem is, J. Michael Pearson is giving a bad name to the pharmaceutical industry and to capitalism as a whole. Surely, other heads of corporations should want to rein him in, because he’s generating bad publicity for their system (and, in addition, he’s forcing them to give up some of their profits to pay for inflated drug prices for their employees).

On the other hand, they don’t want to touch him, out of fear that their own profitable operations—on both Main Street and Wall Street—will be subject to public scrutiny and regulation.

So, the tiny group at the top, who make decisions that affect the rest of us, are caught in a bind.

Meanwhile, capitalism continues out of control.


As if to confirm what I wrote last night, here’s James Surowiecki on what the tiny group at the top could do, out of self-interest, to rein in rent-seeking profiteers like Valeant:

In place of closed distribution, the F.D.A. can require companies to make samples of their drugs available to competitors. The F.T.C., as Anderson argues, should be more aggressive in limiting mergers among generic-drug makers. And the U.S. and other developed countries should also adopt an arrangement known as regulatory reciprocity: if a drug maker has approval to sell a drug abroad, it should be able to sell that drug here, and vice versa. Safety concerns may rule out importing drugs from just anywhere, but there is no good reason for a company selling a drug in, say, Germany to have to spend time and money to get the right to sell it here. Foreign competition has played a central role in holding down retail prices in industries ranging from automobiles to consumer electronics. It’s time drug prices were subject to the same rules. Shkreli has said, since the backlash, that Turing will roll back the Daraprim price increase. But the fate of toxoplasmosis sufferers shouldn’t depend on the egomaniacal whims of a “pharma bro.”

Of course, these kinds of measures would make drug companies anxious, but they should be doing all they can to encourage competition, if only out of self-interest. If market forces and smarter regulations can’t limit price gouging, then drug makers could be subject to more drastic measures, like price controls or compulsory licensing—a system that compels companies to license drugs to other manufacturers. The Turing scandal has shown just how vulnerable drug pricing is to exploitative, rent-seeking behavior. It’s fair enough to excoriate Martin Shkreli for greed and indifference. The real problem, however, is not the man but the system that has let him thrive.


In the United States, there are now somewhere between 270 million and 310 million guns, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s almost one gun for every person in the nation.

While we spend a lot of time discussing Second Amendment rights and gun-control measures, the fact is guns are big business in the United States.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, U.S. gun manufacturing has more than tripled since 2001 (from 2.9 million to 10.8 million total firearms produced).


Meantime, as Jim Tankersley explains, gun manufacturer profits have risen as well.

The stock market shows that story. If you’d bought shares of Sturm, Ruger & Co. in 2009, they’d be worth about 10 times as much today. That’s a slightly better return than if you’d bought Apple.


And while some U.S.-manufactured guns are exported (a bit less than 400 thousand in 2013), that was more than made up for by firearms imports into the United States (more than 5.5 million in 2013).

You want to understand the escalation of gun violence in the United States? Just follow the money. . .


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In 2012, the Republicans ran their campaign on a single policy: tax cuts for wealthy individuals and large corporations.

With Donald Trump’s announcement on Monday (joining all the other leading candidates for the Republican nomination in announcing their economic plans), it’s clear they’re going to run in 2016 on a single policy: tax cuts for wealthy individuals and large corporations.

That’s what we call a one-trick pony.

And, just so people understand, working families with children who earn under $50,000 or so already benefit from the Earned-Income Tax Credit. So, Trump’s promised “I win” tax cuts are pure demagoguery.


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