When Frank Zappa sang that plastic people were a drag, he meant something other than what I mean. He meant that superficial people, unlike more independent thinkers, are dull, time-wasting companions.
Plastics come from petrochemicals, made from oil. On September 30, a New York Times headline said, “In Your Facebook Feed: Oil Industry Pushback Against Biden Climate Plans”. No surprise. For decades, this industry denied climate change while lobbying for subsidies and tax breaks. As Jane Mayer writes, people in this industry began the long drive to move American politics to the right. Those first antisocialists were soon joined by corporate executives and other wealthy folk. Now they are all plastic people.
Before the 1980s, corporate messaging showed concern with the welfare of all corporate stakeholders — customers, workers, stockholders — and for the general public for whom corporations tirelessly worked. But then business philosophy changed and corporations became concerned only with maximising stockholder value. Traces of the messaging remain. For example: corporate tax hikes will harm American workers. Untrue. It’s only stockholders who lose from taxes on profits. Workers who are also stockholders could suffer from higher corporate taxes, but most of these already receive high wages. Average workers would feel no different. The majority of Americans favor raising taxes on corporations. However many of these work for the same corporations that lobby against tax increases. Corporations are “persons” according to the Supreme Court. It is assumed that these “persons” speak for their employees. And so they are allowed to spend grandly to promote their ideas, even when those ideas don’t sync with what employees want and need.
Corporations speak louder than individual voters. They buy voters’ political views with suave talk and false promises. Climate change is real but plastic people won’t pay extra taxes to address its effects. Plastic people choose wealth over wellbeing. That hurts everyone, even plastic people. Plastic people, though few, speak loudly. The majority must make itself heard. Speak up.