By Jon Keller


BOSTON (CBS) — First, Market Basket. Now, this.

There are obvious differences between the 2014 uprising of the supermarket chain’s workers, suppliers and customers that foiled an attempted takeover by a bunch of rapacious stockholders and installed a worker-friendly owner to full control, and the Boston 2024 fiasco.

READ: Boston’s 2024 Olympics Bid Dropped By USOC

But they have one key element in common – the public spoke, and was heard.

In both cases, a controversial business model was at issue.

The “Bad Arthur” faction in the Market Basket affair wanted to pocket company profits that had been going to worker salaries and benefits. They drew support from clueless business-media pundits who couldn’t imagine anything more sacrosanct than the will of a narrow majority of corporate board members.

Boston 2024 executives thought the goodies they dangled – jobs, housing, infrastructure improvements, low-price tickets to dull sports events – would distract the public and elected officials from a range of issues, most notably the risk of billions of dollars in red ink having to be covered by taxpayers. They sold dazzling visions of industrial-area gentrification to the gullible, inexplicably not realizing that their slipshod budgeting and secretive maneuvering would backfire.

But from Bad Arthur to John Fish and Steve Pagliuca, we were reminded once again of the blindness and tone-deafness of many one-percenters.

The “Good Arthur” loyalists purged in the early days of the Market Basket crisis might have, in an earlier time, vanished without a trace, the entire story banished to little-read business pages. Instead, they made the rounds of radio and TV talk shows, were celebrated on social media, and the seeds of revolution were sown.

Fish and Pagliuca were well-meaning, but also reminiscent of the parade of business leaders who extolled the virtues of the Big Dig, denounced its critics, and swore in commercials it would wipe out downtown traffic.

None of the above seemed to see what’s in plain view to others – since the economic collapse of 2008, private-sector masters of the universe are viewed with suspicion, if not outright contempt, a strain of resentment and skepticism that extends far beyond the Occupy crowd.

Corporate welfare is under attack from left, right and center. A risky multi-billion dollar investment in what the critics loved to call “a three-week party for the international elite” with ticket prices unaffordable to most was always going to be a tough sell in a community that may be on the economic rebound, but still struggled with antiquated infrastructure, struggling schools, unaffordable housing, lack of resources to treat drug abuse, etc.

Market Basket is thriving more than ever, and Boston’s flirtation with the Olympics will quickly become a historical footnote. But the message of both stories is clear.

Or, at least, it should be.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

Jon Keller

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