Archive

Archive for October, 2011

Only in America

Suddenly people are mad at Wall Street and the fat cats, although they have been gaining ground, hugely,  for three decades.

“Wall Street has used the bailout to enrich themselves. In 2010, it handed out $149 billion in bonuses and compensation, near an all time high. But it did not pass that largesse down. While bank profits have risen 136 percent since the financial crisis bank lending has fallen by 9 percent.”

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/07-1#.To_SSitants.facebook

Yes this is true– and I am blown way it has taken so long for people to get upset. It’s not new.

CEO compensation—even at failing companies—has been outsized for decades. My brother-in-law’s brother is one of these folks. Even when they leave they get millions. Why does this not seem to bother anyone? Even now it is not mentioned as a long standing symptom of corporate disconnect with the workers –workers who BY THE way who make possible every single thing a corporation does .

For example:  “By 2007 the median S&P 500 CEO earned in three hours what a minimum-wage worker pulled down in a year. And Great Recession or no, 2009 looks like more of the same. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1931748,00.html#ixzz1aDNo599r of course now it is  2011 and… they have excess profits but are not putting anyone to work,. No work no consumption, duh. No consumption no market for goods. Duh. We all sink—AND WE ARE SINKING FAST. (But the fat cats don’t feel it… yet.)

Life was no always thus: when I graduated form college in 1970 at age 21 with a useless English degree I was able to find work, buy a mobile home (with my minimum wage job at Maas Brothers Department Store) and stay afloat until I decided to join the Air Force… where I then became able to go to law school and get a MUCH better job. I had worked summer jobs since I was a teen. Work was always available. I always worked—just part of the time, in the last decade or so, I have worked for myself because I have the education to do so. I didn’t plan to get rich, but I did get to do what felt right to me. (It was fairly easy when I was married.)

Then in about 1990 a number of fateful things happened. I got divorced,  and took a job with a law firm to be able to survive financially: my mother died, and I made a decision to change some things about the person I had become. (Who was heavily armored and numb, which had become clear to me in my marriage: I knew I did not want to stay that way.)

I spent about a year working at that firm.I was miserable, working until 8:00 at night and returning home utterly exhausted, wanting ONLY to go to the hot tub (avoiding other humans) and go to bed so I could get up and do it all over again. I discovered that the practice of law in a billable hour setting was not a place I (or my values) fit.

I had no time to process the huge things that took place when I attended my mother’s death: even so work while sitting outside on the patio of my office in sunny California was unthinkable. (Take my word for this: the culture of law is strong –and strait.)

Also disgusting was my  r4aliztion hat the firm placed its interests (dollars) ahead of those of the client. Yes, this is what business does—but it is 100% unethical in law. Yes… I believed in the ethics of the profession. (I still do.) God it was awful. But I still loved knowing stuff, and law is all about that– so, that part was still good.

But I received an inheritance and I went off to do consulting (in the same arena as the law firm work, Workers’ Comp)   full time. I used the stuff I knew about Workers Comp to help companies –who were the only players in employment who didn’t not have anyone in their corner against the idiotic Workers Compensation system. (This is where I learned the ins and outs of HR.–about whichi have little good to say.)

This job was GREAT—except I had no “plan B”. When that consulting gig crashed  (thanks to a change in the laws governing Workers Comp) I found myself struggling with PTSD—I still don’t know exactly why. It was partly the shock of being unemployed, but there was a lot more going on.  All I do know is I had to heal myself –BY myself–because I could not make myself understood by anyone around me. This took a LONG time. I found out I am a writer and a lot of other things. I realized I had to follow my HEART.

Slowly I built a practice consistent with my values. (My “heart” values.) Alas, I did not charge enough. I truly  did not grasp the degree of inflation that was taking place when I was outside the marketplace. I charged what FELT right. (That heart again.) As I say—I did not get rich, but I was pretty happy with what I did accomplish. I had a happy heart.

OK—my point—and I do have one—when that practice feel apart due in 2008 to the economic upheaval, and my savings ran out,  I had to adapt. I ended up teaching at a “bricks and mortar” private  school–“higher education”–after a brief but amazingly awful stint as a caregiver. (It was underpaid and, for me, horribly stressful, but it sounded respectable—and  I did what I had to do as the ground shifted under me.) Then a bad job got REALLY ugly… one of these students from a group  the FOR PROFIT school catered (those with no education and less hope) saw fit to throw me into the hall. Yes, literally. I was accused of having started it (!) and fired. And paid a pittance. Can you say PTSD relapse?  (Also I now have a permanent neck injury.)

Now what do you suppose I am able to do? Get a job at a law firm and toil away 80 hours a week at a place full of left brained creepy people? No, even without the PTSD (and the values I gained during my healing which are all right brained.) I am to old and have been out of that loop for WAY too long.  I am overqualified for what most people do for a living, and under-qualified for everything but law, teaching and writing..and coaching.  And the competition for “jobs”  is brutal.

In June the part time job I still have—have had for 3 years—reduced my student load (they are in trouble for reasons related to the for profit model, and clearly their fault, not economic issues—they cater to the military, which is NOT laying off folks!) I have received no raise in three years, although the costs of everything has risen. Needless to say I have no UI benefits and–in my first attempt to avail myself of UI benefits  IN MY LIFE– the Unemployment Insurance people have done little but jerk me around. It is quite amazing how badly that system is r5un.

The school, with its 30% profit margin (I was told)  has alwaystreated us part timers—without whom they could not operate at said  profit—badly. I never had a  job description. I keep finding out I am expected to do more and more—none of which I was never told was part of this job. It seems I am supposed to make sure each students stays enrolled. (That is business development, NOT teaching.) I overheard this–no one told me. I admit it–this gets me REALLY cranky.

In  mitigation… well, I get to set my own hours. The job was/is portable. (I now have mote then two  students again.) There is no appreciation (what –am I crazy??) and communication has ALWAYS been non existent. (The few facts I have gleaned have come from telephonic faculty meetings, never from my bosses.) Welcome to corporate America… where profit is king and management does NOT UNDERSTAND that without workers THERE CAN BE NO PROFITS.

Last year, a good half employees surveyed said they were unhappy:” Forty-seven percent of employees surveyed say they feel very strong loyalty to their employers, down from 59 percent three years ago.” http://www.mediabistro.com/prnewser/metlife-study-finds-employees-are-stressed-and-uhappy_b18141

See also:

“Workers have grown steadily more unhappy for a variety of reasons:

– Fewer workers consider their jobs to be interesting.

– Incomes have not kept up with inflation.

– The soaring cost of health insurance has eaten into workers’ take-home pay.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/05/national/main6056611.shtml

Oddly, Americans seem oblivious to the fact that nowhere else is access to health care tied to employment: that this was an unintended consequence of measures taken to combat the REAL Great Depression, as it happens. In every other civilized country, it also bears noting, workers are guaranteed paid vacation.

We are used to the illusory security of a paycheck–and we have been oblivious that the goal of a corporation is to make the owners rich. We are fairly happy until that illusion is taken away, when we are laid off–to make those same owners slightly richer. Then it is a rude awakening. Instant vacation… and no money to enjoy it. Businesses lose customers, the economy gets worse, and there is a downward spiral. Everyone  blames someone else. The robber barons blame th4e unemployed. But this time…it is GLOBAL.

And now there are protests. Thirty years down the road from the beginning. I hope “OWS”stays collaborative. The fat cats ain’t gonna fix this! Welcome to the 21st century.