Monday, July 26, 2010

Short term thinking breeds long term problems

I saw this link on several FB friends' pages the other day. The article, I think get's it about half right. I think we are seeing the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but to aim the ax mostly at US corporations is disingenuous. To blame this administration or the past two is likewise not the answer either. The American consumer, as much as the American worker also shoulders some of the responsibility.

For every bit of Chinese manufactured bit of fluff purchased at Wal*Mart or Target or where-ever that is one less manufacturing job in the US. The quality is sometimes shoddy, but hey it is cheap. It will likely break in a few months, but then it did not cost that much so what's the big deal. The big deal is the rich get richer and the poor, well poorer.

The REAL problem is as someone in the comments section of the article stated - it is all about short term solutions. In both business and government, and dare I say our culture in general we favor the short term quick fix to long term problems. ...Couple that with corporations being encouraged by Wall Street, to MAX out profits - notice I did not say be profitable - but max out profits quarter over quarter that you have CEOs and CFOs making short term profit maximization decisions and not decisions with an eye towards long term longevity and sustainable profitability.

The tipping point will be, I think, when the American consumer, cannot afford even goods and services using what I call the Walmart pricing model. That or we will all collectively stop supporting companies who fail to match their corporate strategy with our personal value systems.

We need less government intervention. I am very much a free marketer. We will live to regret not letting capitalism work its ruthless magic and allow Wall Street to implode itself. Someone would have stepped in with a business solution, not a tax payer funded solution. Money is like matter, it is never created or destroyed. Someone has money and will move to spend it, when the price is right. Governments creating artificial funding sources, just make matters worse and rarely better.
Sometimes we only learn from terrible and painful lessons.

When I worked for Merrill Lynch a deathly hush fell over the office when Greenspan testified, I said then and I say now, it is dangerous fun to put so much focus and reliance on the ideas and theories of one man, no matter how much or little you think he knows. It was too much power, centralized in one part by the government and one part by the media. Was he brilliant, maybe. Was he savvy, you betcha. Could he read a crystal ball? Only at parties and only for fun. He got it wrong as much as he got it right.

The real issue is this, we lack a real sense of who we are and what we want to represent and the most worrisome statistic in the bunch to me is this one:

In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.

This is the crux of a major issue in American business, the fleecing of the stakeholder and the employees. There is no reason for this type of wage inequity. I have YET - to see a CEO who warrants this type of pay. In fact most CEOs of most US companies are not worth a plugged nickle and some hog spit. A leader leads by example. He or she does not fleece the business, cut the wages of the rank file, to enrich themselves. In my opinion, CEOs who cannot produce sustainable, ethical profits for a business, year over year, should earn nothing. It should be a commission based job. No golden parachute for a crappy job, no bonus if you have cut shareholder returns and slash rank and file pay. Earn your keep, like the rest of us.

Not accounting hocus pocus, but real income, real profit. No fancy accounting gimmicks or games of depreciation. I am talking about selling a product and banking real cash. Providing a service, providing it well and banking the profit. Let's pick on my industry du jour - the airlines. The CEO's of all the big ones, need to be put on a CRJ and pelted with garbage, becasue that is exactly how they treat their customers. They should not pass GO and they certainly should not earn 8 figures. The CEO of BP, who is stepping down. He should not get his golden parachute, he should get some hip waders and a one way ticket to a FEMA trailer on a beach on the Gulf Coast and a roll of bounty towels, to wipe down water fowl. That would be leadership. That would be making a difference. All he has done thus far is fail to come up a solution, look stupid and tank the stock.

Business used to be honest and straight forward. When we return to that, to a time when a hand shake meant something - and no double talk and loopholes, then and only then will we start to see a level playing field. It is about an honest days work and a job well done.

I also am totally against any more regulation, let's enforce the regulations we have. Look back on my blog, I have advocated for some time some real accountability. When people who commit fraud and fleece the American taxpayers and corporate stakeholders, they should do hard time, then and only then will it be a deterrent.

There is more than enough blame for this situation to go around. So next time you are trotting off to Wal*mart, with the remains of your ever diminishing paycheck, ask yourself, what am I doing to send the message to businesses that I am serious about keeping the Middle Class and American jobs stateside.

Understand, I am not picking on Wal*Mart exactly, but it is the idea that we think cheaper is better... sometimes it is and in the longer term, sometimes it just isn't.

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