Blogs by J. O. Quantaman
Occupy Wall Street
10/20/2011 9:18:20 AM
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Why the hoopla?
Suppose someone asked you to set realistic values for each type of work done. In other words, does our society compensate workers according to the value of services they perform?
In professional sports, you might argue that players are paid in line with their value to team success and their popularity with fans. A player who has had an exceptionally good year is in a position to ask for large pay hike. Superstars take home way more than their coaches and general managers.
However, sports franchises operate in a fantasy realm that doesn't relate to the real world. A normal real-world business awards its management team a great deal more compensation than the rank & file workers who actual produce the company's goods or perform its services.
Who is more valuable to the corporation?
Is it the president who spends most afternoons on the golf course while gabbing on his (her) cell phone?
Or is it the worker opens the doors in the morning, cleans the halls, empties the wastebaskets and makes sure all the doors are locked in the evenings?
If the lowly janitor refuses to perform his (her) tasks, it will effect dozens, perhaps hundreds of other workers who will find themselves locked out of the main office. If the president decides to take a vacation to the Bahamas, day-to-day decisions will simply fall on the VP with the most seniority, and company's business will resume as normal. Factory workers won't even notice the difference.
A corporation is anonymous and monolithic. It may publish its corporate mission, and its PR department will herald its community sponsorships and claim it’s a good citizen, a creator of jobs, a charitable donator, etc. For each charitable payout, the corporation receives a tax write-off. In effect, its generous largess is paid for by other citizens who pay taxes.
From what I've observed, corporations won't take responsibility for anything vis-à-vis the community at large. Their only concern is to sell more of their products and reward their shareholders with greater profits. Only when a corporation is caught red-handed at something that most folks find revolting, will the corporation come clean. At best, corporations pay lip service to their employees. They don't confide with workers when they buy a competitor, form a joint venture, open a new market or sell out to a larger corporation. If economic conditions warrant, a corporation will lay off half their workers with sincere platitudes but without golden parachutes. You can't blame a corporation for acting this way, because its competitors are doing likewise. This the way our socio-economic system is structured. Business is just another variation of human warfare—winner take all like two football teams battling to control the line of scrimmage.
Europeans want to tax financial transactions between corporations. This may prove a step in the right direction, but it's naïve to think that squeezing billions out of banks and insurance companies will solve all our economic woes. These corporations will simply find ways to pass the lost funds onto customers, which will crimp older folks who rely on pensions that keep up with rising prices. Governments need to spend this windfall wisely and judiciously. But history shows that governments tend to squander money as soon as they collect it.
The trouble is we are all driven by a desire to accumulate wealth, which often means we accumulate junk they don't really need and seldom use. A consumer society is driven by fads. How many folks still play vinyl records? How many folks still use their hula-hoops?
First, our socio-economic system must be changed to preserve the environment on which we all depend. Second, we need a rational system to award wages that truly reflect the value of services performed. A good rule of thumb would be to rate jobs by how many people depend on the service performed. For instance, folks who travel in jetliners will want air-traffic controllers to receive a good wage. Folks who consume food will want agricultural workers to get a fair wage. The CEOs of mutual fund corporations would receive nothing but bananas, since it's well known that monkeys can pick fast-rising stocks as easily as human beings. In fact, mutual-fund CEOs receive huge salaries because it lowers the temptation to siphon off more money they already do.
Another approach would be to pay everyone equivalent wages, but to award overachievers extra votes in democratic elections. Some folks just want to live their lives and raise their families. They're like flotsom drifting merrily down the stream. They're happy to gather inside stadiums, to watch their favorite team compete against rivals. They don't really care about influencing others. However, the overachievers who are at the cutting-edge of new technologies have a greater stake in future developments. They might earn ten or twenty, or even a hundred more votes. They will make policy decisions, but they won't be able to grow wealthy from the exercise. They will merely get satisfaction for making life a tad better for themselves and everyone else.
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Occupy Wall Street - Thursday, October 20, 2011
Root of All Evil - Monday, January 18, 2010
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