Maybe it was Exxon’s CEO raking in $144,573 a day in compensation that moved mainstream media outlets to look more closely at the way corporations are shredding their social contract with workers?

Just the other day, Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein argued that it’s high time corporate America confronts the question: “What is the new social contract it has to offer around which a stable political business model can be built?”

“Either the members of the business community,” Pearlstein writes, “will have to come up with an improved social contract that allows them to run competitive companies while ensuring that the gains of globalization are spread more equitably, or they will have to face the almost certain prospect that angry and anxious voters will roll back globalization…. ” He ends by warning the CEOs of the world– ones like Jim Owens of Caterpillar– that they better show some “backbone and ingenuity in dealing with the excessive and unreasonable demands of Wall Street…”

That’s a good idea. Yet Pearlstein’s own newspaper thinks the very idea that companies might bear some responsibility for the shredded social contract is ludicrous. In its Sunday editorial about inequality and what to do about it the Washington Post argues, “To blame corporations for ripping up the social contract is to misunderstand their function.” Here’s hoping the Post editorial page starts listening to its paper’s business columnist.

Nation Event Note

The Nation is visiting Yale University on Wednesday, April 26. Click here for details on two public events featuring Katrina vanden Heuvel.