Guest Commentary: Don’t believe everything you read on the ‘signs of the times’

"Corporations are not people." "We the people. Not we the corporations." "Money talks too much." "End corporate welfare." "End corporate control." "End corporate influence in our politics and our lives." "End corporate America." "End the tyranny of the 1%." I won't believe corporations are people until Texas executes one." "Our misery is their profits." "End corporations Restore America." "Make Wall St. pay for destroying America." Bing or google "occupy signs images" and see for yourself much, much more of the "occupy" agenda. Their words, not mine.

Roughly 120 million of the 140 million people employed in the USA are employed by businesses that are incorporated, also called corporations. Wall St. is a market where many of the largest and most successful of these corporations are bought and sold by individual investors, like you and me. For $40 plus trading fees you can be an owner of General Motors and General Electric! For about $400 you can be an owner of Apple Inc. Skip a couple of lunches out and for $25 you can be a proud owner of one of the most successful companies in world history, Microsoft! As a general rule pension funds, including union pension funds, invest 65% of their assets in stocks. Individual retirement accounts are also heavily vested in stocks. Investors in corporate stocks, whether individuals or institutions, essentially seek to gain personal financial profit, by dividends and/or capital gains, through the ownership of (hopefully) profitable corporations. These dividends and capital gains can become important income sources for individuals, especially retired folks. Closing Wall St. thus ending "corporate America" would be a financial disaster for every American.

To build their case for supplanting Capitalism with Elite-Government-Socialism, it is essential that those "occupiers" promoting this "revolution" are successful in convincing Americans that "corporations are not people," or even businesses for that matter, especially entrepreneurs or small, "mom and pop" businesses. They need for us to believe that corporations are not you or me or our neighbors, and not job creators, income and tax generators, or inventors of new and improved products and services. Rather we are told by these "occupiers" that corporations must be seen as evil, greedy, billionaire pigs. Equally important, they also need us to believe that profit is not evidence of customer satisfaction but rather proof of worker exploitation.

Having been involved in the start and growth of several businesses, I know from experience that business owners win ….. make a profit …. only when their customers buy and come back for more.  It must be a win/win relationship. This beautiful opportunity-driven system is called Capitalism. Is there a "corporate elite" that exploits their role in society for personal financial gain and power? Of course. Is there a "government elite" that exploits their role in society for personal financial gain and power? Of course.

There is and always has been, advocates of Socialism in our society. They prefer a form of economic system where the government holds all the wealth by public or common ownership of the means of economic activity. "Income" from this activity is somehow fairly/equally distributed among the people. This would require an extremely smart, wise, non-partisan, benevolent, efficient, communicative, transparent, egalitarian, all-knowing, and extremely large and expensive government. Good luck with that.

(Editor's note: Bob Tosterud, a former member of the Vermillion and University of South Dakota communities, now resides in Galena, IL.)

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