Posts Tagged ‘salary’

Bailing Water

29 September 2008

Dear J-

So with the failure of the bailout plan to pass the House, both Democrats and Republicans stand united to do what politicians do best:  sling mud and point fingers.  And sure, you can point to any number of party lines on this one, but the most interesting statstic is that something like 85% of the representatives up for re-election in the fall election voted against it.  This speaks volumes to how deeply unpopular the plan is amongst the citizens; despite the tweaks and careful propaganda campaign, this plan had corporate welfare written between the lines.

I’ve read all kinds of newsprint spilled on such topics as how we’re supposed to feel — outraged, but willing to sacrifice for the sake of the national economy — and explaining the details of the plan (“See, it’s not like Congress is writing a check to Wall Street, because Congress is writing the check to the Treasury to give to Wall Street”).  So what was the straw on the camel’s back this time?  What happened that made taxpayers stage what amounts to a revolt?  Has the smug equation of the American Way with profit at any cost finally shaken out?

I used to read with some amusement the letters to car magazine editors; one evergreen topic was complaining about tests of cars that most folks couldn’t afford; the main reason given was one of aspiration and practicality (a car magazine that tests only Corollas would be … well, it would be Consumer Reports now, and even they’re starting to test prestige-mobiles).  It’s the same thing with CEO pay scales; the idea was that if they didn’t get the pay, they’d go someplace that would pay them what their inflated egos were worth; those bonuses, executive perks, and stock options were not only their just reward, it motivated the rest of us to work harder, flush with the idea of climbing that ladder.

But it broke down; with no mechanism in place to tie performance to pay, CEO scales went out of balance.  Didn’t do a good job?  Sorry, here’s the door — and a fat check.  Did a good job?  Here’s a fat check.  We’ve unleashed a race of incompetent, irresponsible (the buck stops somewhere else), inbred (let’s hire their CEO, he just got on the market!) executives who inhabit a closed ecosystem — no one gets in, they just keep playing musical chairs until everyone’s tired.  And yes, unfortunately, the failure of businesses doesn’t just affect only the executives.  But after having structured our businesses to venerate and insulate the wrong end of the pyramid (hint, not the pointy part), how else can we keep teaching the lesson?  How else do we shout our message?



Play Money

23 June 2008

Dear J-

Tomorrow I get to try again with this jury service; I promise to avoid an excessively large hamburger for lunch, which is not to preclude the consumption of multiple smaller patties of ground meat.  The NHL Entry Draft has come and gone, with three Chiefs being named (Tokarski went on the second day, while Chet Pickard of the Tri-City Americans, the other stellar WHL ‘tender this year went in the first round:  such is the power of having watched Carey Price in your formative years).  The draft ran as expected, with the exception of Justin Azevedo slipping down further than I would have expected merely on the basis of his size.  Then again, what would I be doing here ranting aimlessly if I had any sort of demonstrated ability to pick players?

I find myself carelessly, casually bleeding money as though it came in the mail safely ensconced amongst the preapproved credit flyers.  We go out nowadays and expect to drop $25 a meal, including tip; it starts to add up when much of your weekend entertainment revolves around new flavor frontiers.  The pain isn’t as apparent when you flash your plastic everywhere — even the burger places are happy to accept your credit cards now — but it leads to an unrealistic sense of how much you’re actually spending.  Figure that half my check gets consumed in taxes, retirement accounts, healthcare, and other necessities, and suddenly $25 isn’t looking like a thin slice, it’s a significant, measurable amount of my time.

One of my friends loaned her son her ATM card to go pick up some cereal and milk.  He comes back, puts the groceries away, and hands the receipt and card back — $100 later.  The cashier had made a mistake, charging him for eight boxes of chocolate-covered strawberries he swore he never bought (I would need to know more about his social life to verify the veracity of his tale, but his mom swears it was believable), but rather than question the bill’s magnitude, he just covered it with the ATM card and went home.  We lose perspective on prices without the exchange of (now brightly-colored) bits of paper and metal.