The Company Men
You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t get real upset when I see people in “middle management” lose their jobs. I’m not without sympathy, really I’m not, I know they suffer. But still … Ben Affleck works for a company called GTX. They started out small, just Tommy Lee Jones and Craig T. Nelson, building boats, then ships. Now one of their clients is Royal Caribbean. And they are also into the managed health care industry, and about a dozen other things that have absolutely no relation to shipbuilding. It’s 2008, and George W. Bush has managed to fuck up the economy so badly they are downsizing. Ben is shitcanned, and as he drives his Porsche home he figures he’ll get another job real quick. Boy, is he in denial. His wife sees what’s happened, but he won’t cut back until she stops writing the check to the country club. Poignant scene: Somebody else drives off in his Porsche, which he was forced to sell. And my eye was dry. Fuck you and your Porsche, I’m thinking.
Chris Cooper is 60, and he gets canned in the next round of downsizing. His wife is buying a table that costs $15,000. These people, including Affleck, live in houses where the furnishings in one room cost more than all the cars I’ve ever owned put together. Boo hoo fucking hoo. There is a Degas in Nelson’s office, and after firing 10,000 people, he is still putting up a new headquarters office tower that costs a billion dollars.
Okay, aside from Nelson, the real villains are all off-stage in the movie. You know who most of them are, but one you may not have thought of is the almighty stockholder. Oh, yes, I know not all stockholders are giant corporations or multi-millionaires (I’m sure many of my readers own stocks), but it is the goddam bottom line that drives many of these everyday atrocities. Please don’t think I’m a communist, I’m not, but it seems to me that there are lessons to be learned about unrestrained corporate capitalism that we just never seem to understand. The biggest one is the insane idea of treating corporations as people, with the same right as real people. That is making a few people filthy rich and getting the rest of us into deep shit. But another is the all-encompassing pressure to show a profit every quarter. The things GTX does here to improve that bottom line don’t stop at downsizing human beings into the garbage can. Ironically, they get out of the shipbuilding business to concentrate on services, where the real money is. As the result of a takeover, Nelson comes out of the deal with $600,000,000. He is making 700 times what his employees make, and sees nothing out of line about this. Last year he pulled down $23,000,000. That’s typical salary for a CEO in America these days.
Well, 60-year-old Cooper finds himself completely unemployable. Affleck is forced to take a job with his contractor brother-in-law, who he scorned as a “working man,” building houses one at a time. Tommy Lee is the only man at the top who feels guilty about all this, and he comes out of the deal with many, many millions, too. Only Nelson really does well, laughing at the stupid fucking proles who thought they could count on at least a wee bit of company loyalty. Not a chance. It just makes me so angry. How about you?