How the Benefit Corporation Could Help President Trump Make America Greater

I edited President Trump’s inaugural address below because he senses that something is not quite right with corporate America but does not name it. He persuaded Carrier to keep a factory and its jobs in the US and not move them to Mexico. He is wrangling cost concessions from Lockheed-Martin on the most expensive fighter jet program ever. He threatens to impose tariffs on the products of US corporations that move their manufacturing overseas.

All of these moves may temporarily prevent US corporations from moving additional manufacturing overseas and keep jobs in America, but as long as the real or perceived duty of the corporation is to maximize stockholder welfare at the expense of society and the environment, such fixes will only be temporary. Corporations will simply wait out the Trump administration and wait for a more favorable political climate so that they can return to maximizing profits as usual.

Trump is using the bully pulpit of the presidency to inspire corporations to do the right and patriotic thing in his opinion by keeping their factories and jobs in America. As the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court has pointed out, however, conventional corporations are not designed for their directors to do the right and patriotic thing but are designed with one purpose alone: to maximize stockholder welfare. If President Trump wishes our conventional corporations to do the right and patriotic thing, he needs to inspire them to become benefit corporations so that directors are not required by their fiduciary duty to maximize stockholder welfare to move manufacturing abroad, to re-domicile in foreign tax havens and to outsource labor overseas.

The bully pulpit ultimately won’t be enough to inspire corporations to do the right and patriotic thing because it runs contrary to the guiding principle at the core of conventional corporations: maximize stockholder welfare and externalize as many as possible of the negative consequences of corporate behavior.

President Trump would do well to discover the benefit corporation, which could make his bully pulpit more effective. Offering conventional corporations an alternative corporate form that extends the fiduciary duties of directors to all of the corporation’s stakeholders, including society and the environment, would empower their directors to do the right and patriotic thing without breaching their fiduciary duties.

What would President Trump’s inaugural address have been like if he had used the benefit corporation to articulate a new corporate paradigm? Below is a revised version of the inaugural address with President Trump’s words in regular font and my revisions in italics. Because of the limitations of Linked In, the revised address does not show my deletions from the original text.

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

“We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people. Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done. Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.

“Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because, today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from our corporations and their allies in Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people.

“For too long, America’s corporations have reaped the rewards of globalization while the American people have borne the cost. Corporate America and Wall Street flourished, but the people did not share in their prosperity. Corporations prospered in part by closing factories and exporting jobs in order to maximize profits. Corporations enriched themselves and their stockholders, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and, while they celebrated in our nation’s board rooms and on Wall Street, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

“That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country.

“What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

“Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists first and foremost to serve and protect its individual citizens, not its conventional corporations. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.

“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American inequality stops right here and stops right now.

“Today, we face a grave spiritual crisis because we have elevated greed to a virtue and given conventional corporations a waiver from morality. It is time for our corporations and citizens to share the same moral compass and follow the Golden Rule together. We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny.

“The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we’ve enriched American corporations and their stockholders at the expense of ordinary Americans and have allowed our corporations to exert undue influence on our government.

“We’ve made our corporations and their stockholders rich by allowing corporations to maximize profits, in part, by dissipating jobs and manufacturing and exporting them over the horizon. One by one, corporations shuttered their factories and moved jobs overseas with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed upwards in order for our corporations to maximize their profits.

“But, that is the past and now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today, are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, We the People come first.

“We must protect our citizens from the notion that corporations exist solely to maximize profit for stockholders and that it is morally acceptable to foist the negative consequences of corporate behavior on society and the environment. Maximizing corporate profits is the moral compass that drives our corporations to make their products overseas, to re-domicile in foreign tax havens and to move jobs abroad. We have normalized sociopathic corporate behavior that harms our people and despoils our planet.

“It is time to stop blaming foreign powers and take responsibility for the inequality that plagues America. It’s time to tell the truth. Foreign nations have not stolen our factories and jobs: our corporations willingly and intentionally moved them abroad in order to maximize profit. 

“It is time for a new corporate paradigm led by enlightened leaders in benefit corporations, a new corporate form which frees management from the real or imagined duty in conventional corporations to maximize profit at the expense of people and planet, and requires them to operate the corporation with a social and environmental conscience in addition to the usual pecuniary one. In a benefit corporation, the fiduciary duties of directors extend to all of a corporation’s stakeholders in order to provide a material positive impact on society and the environment as well as to maximize stockholder welfare.

“This new corporate paradigm will lead to great prosperity and strength because we will unleash the awesome power of business as a potential force for good. I will fight for you with every breath in my body to inspire every conventional corporation in America to become a benefit corporation and encourage corporate leaders to lead from the heart and do the right thing by society and the environment, as well as by their stockholders. I love corporations but globalization and the global market requires us to hold them accountable as responsible global citizens. I will make every policy decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs to benefit the nation, American workers and American families, and will use the power of my office to inspire our corporations and their leaders to do the same.

In the new paradigm, America will start winning again. Winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs and factories. We will redistribute our wealth more equitably. And we will bring back our dreams.

“We do not seek to impose the new corporate paradigm on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for the world to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world behind the common belief that we are one human family that shares one common planetary home. We will continue to seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests and those of their citizenry ahead of those of our multinational corporations.

“The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. When our hearts are open to each other, there is no room for prejudice. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is re-united behind the new economic paradigm, she will be totally unstoppable. For this moment forward, we must take better care of each other and our beautiful planet. It is time.

“Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer allow corporations to maximize their profits at the expense of society and the environment. If corporations are to have the rights of personhood, they must have the responsibilities of personhood. The time for greed as the operating system for our economy is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

“We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the histories of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries, and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.

“And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky. They fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. So, to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

“Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and god bless America. Thank you. God bless America.”

 

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