If you ever get tired of the endless negativity, division, and cynicism dominating the airwaves, I urge you to check out American Optimist. Joe Lonsdale’s interviews never fail to shake me out of my torpor. One episode brought to my attention this week struck a particular chord because it spotlighted a market solution to one of the greatest challenges facing America: the wealth gap.
The program in question – called InvestAmerica – is championed by investor Brad Gerstner, founder of Altimeter Capital. The basic idea is that a private investment account seeded with up to $1,000 from the government is created every time a kid is born in the U.S. Parents or private companies would then set up a 401(k) match and contribute up to $2,000 tax free each year. A similar concept was advanced by Sen. Cory Booker under his proposed American Opportunity Accounts Act a few years ago.
Regardless of what you think about these specific initiatives, they represent the kind of directional thinking private sector leaders who want to leverage the power of markets to help build a more just America can embrace.
Our 2023 Views on Business Report echoes this. Some 62% of respondents believe “our current form of capitalism is not working for the average American.” According to a recent Harris Poll with U.S. News & Global Report, Americans feel that good, honest, solutions-oriented leaders are in short supply, and 86% are “largely disappointed” by leaders in society. As Gerstner notes, “we have increasing frustration, disenchantment, [and] a growing gap between capitalism and democracy.”
The chief of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Suzanne Clark, alluded to the leadership gap in a different way on Thursday. “If the business community isn’t out there telling the real story — the American story — of opportunity and progress in this country, then no one should be surprised when people believe it’s as bad as the headlines and the political ads say it is,” Clark said.
We agree with this point. In fact, we’re actively working with many companies and corporate leaders to not only implement just practices, but to spread the word too. If you’d like to share ideas on how business, markets and capitalism can work better for more Americans, please reach out and we’ll try to feature a few from time to time.
JUST In the News
JUST Advisor Carol Cone pens an article in Fast Company explaining how purpose will be a beacon for business leaders in 2024. She highlights “the four Cs” – colleagues, communications, collaboration, and courage” – and how they will shape the corporate landscape.
JUST Capital CEO Martin Whittaker speaks at a private virtual event “How Capitalism Should Tackle Income and Wealth Inequality” for The Council on Foreign Relations.
Quote of the Week
“We help our customers live their financial lives every day and so it’s so important to us that our teammates, especially as you mentioned those in the lower compensation categories, that they have more than a living wage. We want them to make sure that they feel comfortable and that they can take care of their families.”
- Bank of America Chief Human Resources Officer Sheri Bronstein a recent JUST Capital interview on the company’s decision to raise its minimum wage to $25 per hour by 2025.
The Guardian examines the pushback from some business experts and academics against the increasing use of algorithmic monitoring of workers, like the number of bathroom breaks a person takes, and are calling for stronger standards.
CEO Daily highlights a series of quotes from Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy, on how she sees AI transforming business and people’s lives over the next 10 years. Barry highlights how AI and humanity will continue to merge together, and how business leaders need to ensure this melding happens in fair, safe, and responsible ways.
OpenAI parent company ChatGPT is reportedly in discussions with media firms CNN, Fox Corp. and Time to license their work, Bloomberg News reports. This comes as OpenAI and its financial backer Microsoft face multiple lawsuits accusing them of using copyrighted works to train AI products.
Tech layoffs persist. Amazon is laying off hundreds of jobs across it’s content division, with Twitch in particular losing an additional 500 employees after the 300 of last year. Meanwhile, Xerox is cutting 15% of its workforce in an attempt to “overhaul its operational model.” And Google cuts hundreds of jobs in its engineering division.
The Wall Street Journal reports on the continued pushback against ESG. Some companies are doing away with the acronym while still progressing on its goals under a different banner – typically under the idea of “responsible business.”
Axios reports that the past two years have seen shareholder activism reach record highs, with 464 activist campaigns being launched against major publicly traded companies – and the amount of activist challenges is expected to grow.
The fallout from the Boeing aircraft that lost its escape hatch mid-flight continues. The Washington Post reports that Alaska Airlines is canceling all Boeing 737 Max 9 flights for the week so that each plane can undergo a rigorous reinspection. This is happening while lawmakers are investigating the incident.
High-paying job openings are in ample supply, but they might not come with much flexibility. Fortune reports that less high-paying jobs are allowing for a hybrid work schedule.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission plans to adopt 25 rules in 2024, Reuters reports, including measures on increased climate change disclosure, regulation of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), enhanced disclosures on environmental, social, and governance practices, among others.
Chart of the Week
With our 2024 Rankings of America’s JUST Companies dropping in a few short weeks, JUST Capital wanted to show you what the priorities of the American people are, per our most recent 2023 research, and how they influenced the ratings this year. The chart above breaks them down by stakeholder category, but you can dive deeper into the data in our full report here.