The letter was signed, the address checked out, and there was no request for anonymity. However, I am not going to identify the woman who wrote the letter because there is a good chance that if I were to publish her name she'd be fired. She wrote:
"I work for a corporation that is always screaming about high taxes, too much government, budget deficits, federal red tape, stifling government regulations and similar complaints. Every time any of our corporate officials make a public speech, they point their fingers at these familiar villains.
"But you should hear what is said in the privacy of their own offices. What they don't tell the public is that they are very much in favor of government spending and regulation that benefits our corporation. Right now, our firm is working hard to get a bigger appropriation for two different federal agencies that affect our profits. We are lobbying congressmen and senators and working on the right committees to approve the additional funding.
"Our people are doing everything they can to get this legislation through. If it is enacted, it will result in more red tape, more bureaucracy, more government regulation and of course higher taxes for everybody.
"But it will benefit our firm, and so we are all for it.
"If you ask how we can justify this great difference between what we say in public and what we do in private, all you get is a shrug and the answer, 'We have got to watch out for our interests. If getting the additional appropriation and the new regulations will help our company then we've got to get these things any way we can.'
"If every company acts as ours does, is it any wonder we have such huge federal deficits? Everybody seems to be doing it these days. Their public position is that they are against big spending and government controls, but in private they're all in there trying to get a bigger share of the pie."
I'm afraid you're right. You describe corporate conduct that is similar to the individual conduct I criticized recently. People advocate cuts in those categories of government spending that do not benefit them personally, but they want increases in programs that do benefit them. If humans act that way, don't expect corporations to be better. They're run by humans.
HOSE FAULT WAS IT?
Harry S. Wender phoned me the other day and said, "I see that fire investigators have concluded that the Kann's fire was of suspicious origin.
"When I passed by the store a week before the fire, there were sharp shards of glass all over the sidewalk. Somebody had broken out one of the large windows facing Pennsylvania Avenue. The hole was big enough to drive a truck through.
"You didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that vagrants had broken into the building and were living there. Thousands of people passed the site every day - among them policemen, fire fighters, city officials, FBI agents, and employees of several housing, health and safety agencies. But nobody took the trouble to report the break-in. The hole was never boarded up.And the broken glass was still on the sidewalk when the fire broke out. The fire was extinguished only at the risk of many lives and the cost of much money. Yet there might never have been a fire if one person among the thousands who saw the problem had considered it his personal responsibility to do something about it."
Well, what could I say? We're all to blame, I guess.
In cases of this kind, hindsight always poses unanswerable questions.
Suppose a passing policeman had reported the break-in, as policemen used to do in the old days when they walked beats and had time to be on the lookout for minor problems. Would things have been different?
Would that policeman's report have found its way to the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp.? Would the PADC have boarded up the broken window? Would the vagrants have broken other windows? Could the fire have been prevented?
I don't know. But I do think policemen should be encouraged to "get involved" in things of this kind. It's obvious that if they don't, nobody will.
IT AIN'T FUNNY, McGEE
"I'm never sure whether 'crude' refers to the oil or the pricing," says Bob Orben.
"Incidentally, I understand IRS is thinking about installing an express lane for oil companies with profits of $8 billion or less."