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Zer Netmouse
October 8th, 2008
01:27 pm

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Write to the candidates: What would you ask Americans to sacrifice?
I appreciate the positive feedback I've gotten on my post about my letter to Senator Obama about donating blood, etc, and I'll appreciate it even more if you'd chime in and send the same message to him through the campaign's debate feedback form. That will make it more likely someone will take notice. (Feel free to spread the word, and/or link to my post).

While you're thinking about it, what would *you* ask America to do, to sacrifice, if you had the the kind of national attention these candidates can get, both as candidates and potentially as President? Write to them about that too.

In addition to the question of giving blood, one big thing I saw missing from both of their discussions of an energy plan was manpower. George Bush has made some somewhat lame mentions of the fact that some Americans are dealing with the gas price problems by driving less and riding bikes and such. Sure we are! And we should do more! Don't we have a national struggle with obesity and diabetes? We can address that and gas shortages and prices at the same time, by using old-fashioned manpower to get around. By hooking up generators to the stationary bikes and other exercise equipment we use at the home and the gym, so they generate electricity instead of using it up. By building bike-powered drive-in theaters and other such alternative energy solutions. Part of dealing with the energy crisis should include encouraging bike-friendly urban design and rules of the road. Hybrid and electric public transit as well as personal cars.

There are a lot of things they aren't talking about. So go call them on it!

(you can contact the McCain campaign here).

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Comments
 
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 8th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
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I like McCain's answer of ensuring that the government, not the people, sacrifice by doing with less. Government employees should receive 10% lower pay and have their wages frozen as part of the new sacrifice on government, but not the people of this nation.
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From:netmouse
Date:October 8th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC)
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So is it important to you, as it seemingly is to McCain, that the very very rich not be asked to sacrifice any more either?
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
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They already pay far too much in taxes. Personally, I think everyone should pay the same, low rate -- perhaps 9%.
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From:netmouse
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
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Sometimes I am amazed at how rich the vary rich are, and at such cost to others... especially how much more some executives earn than their workers, and while I don't think it's the government's job to regulate that (other than for non-profit companies), I do think we should encourage more egalitarian policies, perhaps for instance by only giving government contracts to companies where there is not more than a 10:1 ratio between the highest wage earner's salary and the lowest salary in a company.

I also don't believe in these huge buyouts so many CEOs get as their reward for running companies poorly, but have no idea what any of us can do about that common practice.
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
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Have you ever wondered why companies pay their CEOs so much? Could it be because the competition for talent is fierce? Let's say a company adopted your suggestion, and had a rigid 10:1 ratio. They will certainly get some applicants, but would they get the best ones? Companies have to raise the wage for CEOs in order to attract talent. And the number of individuals who have the skill, experience, competence, and background for some of these positions is very low. Anytime you have low supply, and high demand, the price goes up. Hence, the high price of CEOs.

As far as the high costs of severage packages: sometimes it is better to pay a CEO a couple of million to leave rather than to have that person mismanage a multi-billion dollar company. You can't just fire them (they have a contract and thus they would tie the company up in litigation expenses, which could also add up to a lot of money). Better to just pay the incompetent to leave.
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From:netmouse
Date:October 8th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC)
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It has not been my experience nor my observation that most high-paying executives have more talent than other people, nor that they are so successful that they deserve that much from the companies they work for. I have in fact seen companies drive their overall worth and effectiveness down through hiring executives they thought they needed in order to grow, who then contributed little but a dramatically larger overhead cost to those same companies, especially when they had to be paid off to make them move on.

*some* executives are no doubt worth a lot, but I don't see why companies should give them tighter contracts than anyone else. 6 weeks' severance plus more depending on period of service ought to be more then enough for someone who is being fired for cause. I think a lot of these golden-parachute deals are simply being put in place by greedy executives in companies that lack oversight because most of their shareholders invested through mutual funds and other such vehicles and take no personal interest in the particular policies of the company that the legal system assumes shareholders will rein in.

The established paradigms of business in this country need to change. They aren't working.
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From:sylo_tode
Date:October 9th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)
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Where's the law that says they have to have such contracts? Knowing what's at stake, they could easily put in conditions to be met in order to receive those massive benefits.
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 9th, 2008 01:11 am (UTC)
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There is no law that says that they have to have those contracts. However, it is an industry practice to pay a CEO a salary, including some benefits. Would you prefer that, if the CEO were fired, that he would then litigate in court and try to establish a record with regard to how much he was "promised?" Isn't a contract how we do business in America?

The board could, of course, include a provision that says: "You will receive nothing if we determine that you are not competent." If you wish for companies to adopt such a policy, contact the ones that you have stock in. But asking Congress to impose national policies in this area is absurd because companies should be flexible to be set up in a way that works, not based upon what is popular or sounds good on the campaign trail.
From:nicegeek
Date:October 8th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
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My suggestions for reforming public companies:

First, require a shareholder vote on CEO pay packages. Right now, CEO pay is decided in closed-door negotiations with the Board of Directors, and there are some very incestuous cross-memberships between large company boards. This allows mutual back-scratching between members of that club when negotiating pay packages and evaluating performance. Big severance payments for CEOs who are fired for poor performance are not in the shareholders' interest, and they should be able to veto them. I believe that they will, given the opportunity.

Second, company executives should not be allowed to be members of the Board. The Board is supposed to supervise the CEO, and if the CEO is on the Board, they can make it socially very difficult to perform that supervision properly.

Third, I think that the process for shareholder votes (particularly for board elections) needs to be revised. Right now, most shareholder ballots prominently feature the default option to give one's proxy to the Board, essentially going along with whatever they want. A large percentage of ballots are simply returned with that default, thereby giving carte blanche to the Board to do as they please. IMHO, the Board should not be able to take such proxies; shareholders should either research their vote properly, give their proxy to a non-Board member, or withhold their vote.

All that said, I disagree with putting limits on CEO pay, because I don't think that they would work out the way you hope. Every CEO's base salary would become equal to the limit, and then they'd negotiate lots of other perks carefully designed to get around those limits, and write them into book-length contracts written to be ambiguous and opaque. You could have a whole government department devoted to enforcing such a law, and all it would do is spawn more law firms specializing in getting around it. It's the shareholder who have money at stake, and they can and will hold the company accountable, if they're given the tools to do so.
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
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Also, I do not support punishing the most productive, intelligent, educated, and successful members of our population (which includes those who earn the highest incomes in this nation). Perhaps you do. I think that the successful should be rewarded for their efforts, and should live for their own sake, and not that of another (the federal government).
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From:netmouse
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
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Some of those who earn high incomes in this country are, in fact, "productive, intelligent, educated, and successful." (can you back up your assertion that that group includes the highest earners with references and facts?)

And then there are people like George Bush. I do not believe being born with a golden spoon in your mouth should be rewarded more than being productive, intelligent, and educated, but all too often in this country the best path to financial success is based on how much money (and highly-placed connections) you started off with in the first place.
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 9th, 2008 01:19 am (UTC)
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I do not need to provide a citation for common sense. Common sense says that no one wants to pay anyone far more than they have to. Thus, if one is receiving a high salary, that person has something to provide, whether it is high productivity, an advanced degree plus a great deal of experience, good social contacts that are not found within the general population, or -- in some cases, have a great deal of charisma and good looks that are not randomly found within the general population.

Thus, with these abstract principles in mind, we can see that it actually works out in practice. Who receives very high salaries? CEOs (usually an MBA + a lifetime's worth of experience), athletes (rare ability: height, speed, agility, etc--anyone who has seen this year's Olympics can state that), actors (charisma, acting ability, likability, name recognition), lawyers (J.D. degree + passage of the state bar --- thus, limits the number of potential competitors in the legal field)
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From:netmouse
Date:October 9th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
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You mean with abstract principles in mind we can make-believe that it actually works well in practice. While ignoring the fact that 50-80 percent of companies fail.

That's okay for many top executives. Failure doesn't hurt them. After all, it's a learning process, right? Besides, their earnings aren't tied to the success rates and profits of their companies. If they were, they would be motivated to invest time and effort back into their companies. Unlike a bunch of AIG executives, who allegedly took an earlier bundle of money from the feds and immediately spent half a million of it on a vacation for themselves.

No, I think the picture is more complex than that. Some of it *is* based on rewarding skill, and a lot of it rewards connections, and even plain dumb luck. A lot of people who have succeeded will tell you that - they stood out among their equally talented and diligent peers because they had the right stroke of luck at the right time.

However, I do hope that you attribute all of the failures you experience in life to your own skills and intelligence. As well as your successes, I mean. Because if that's what it's all about, that's what it's always all about, right?
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From:netmouse
Date:October 8th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
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(personally I think of government employees as being people, and citizens. They are not an other, they are us (government of the people, by the people, and for the people), and I suspect there are plenty of government employees, including janitors and suchlike, who do *not* deserve a 10% paycut. That said, I think our government *representatives* may deserve a pay cut, and also that their getting paid should be made dependent on their showing up to work, participating in voting, etc.)
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
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I do not know why there is any need to have a janitor as a federal worker. If the government does need to have janitors to clean up its buildings, it should hire an independent contractor that is willing to charge the absolute minimum amount to do the work (which might be as low as $6-8 an hour, depending upon the location).

The interesting thing is that I actually believe that members of Congress should be paid more -- around $1 million each. However, it would not go to this bunch. Rather, I would impose a strict term limit -- such as one or two terms, in order to flush this Congress out. Then, with the higher income that members of Congress would receive, it would entice a more qualified pool of applicants. At the moment, with the low pay that members of Congress receive (and $160,000 is rather low for high stakes in this position), it encourages people who are power hungry but are less centered on money. I would rather entice people who are more interested in money, and thus, would have higher qualifications, than the power hungry individuals we presently have. You either pay low wages to members of Congress and receive this unqualified pool, or you raise the pay and you can get higher qualified individuals.
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From:netmouse
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
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hmm. So whose pay *would* you cut?

(I don't personally believe you get the highest quality work and overall results by always accepting the minimum bid. If that was true, we would have much better roads in Michigan. I think raising representatives' pay is an interesting idea, but I think it would need to go hand in hand with something (your term limits are one possible solution) that would help them stay focused on the job at hand instead of on getting re-elected).
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From:sardonical1
Date:October 8th, 2008 08:59 pm (UTC)
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Whose pay would I cut? Those who work at the FCC, SEC, Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Commerce, Dept. of Health and Human Services, Dept. of Education, Dept. of Energy, etc. Of course, I would also prefer to completely abolish these departments, so a pay cut would actually be rather mild in my view.
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From:ontology101
Date:October 9th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
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I'm too busy writing anyone and everyone asking them if I can pull out Steven J. Bensinger's toe nails.

Anne

(Yes, I'm pretty pissed off)
From:nicegeek
Date:October 13th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
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Hmm...regarding what I'd ask people to sacrifice: I'd suggest the tax deduction from their mortgage.

Yes, a lot of people (myself included) save thousands of dollars each year from that deduction. But it has the second-order side effect of encouraging people to buy homes they otherwise couldn't afford (also making it harder for them to move if they need to find a job), and encouraging lenders to entice people to use their homes as collateral for loans to buy things that in many cases they don't really need. These side effects of the deduction are a large part of why the U.S. economy became so vulnerable to a housing market collapse, and in the long run, we will be stronger if we eliminate it.
From:childe
Date:October 18th, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)
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Short-sightedness?

Convenience as a primary concern?

Entitlement?

Egads, my bitter is showing.
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