Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I dont blog. I just cant do it. Not with babies, and work, and spouse and daughter and mother and friends and struggling to feed and cloth and house us and keep us healthy and happy, and, well, you know. But I do read blogs. I do participate in other blog worlds, and will continue to be an online presence. Find me on facebook, and when I do write or post stories or poems, please understand this is not my finest space. I choose not to do too much self editing here. I want this to be more real, more real time, with less fear of judgment. So I will try and come back here more often and post things for myself. If you stumble upon them, enjoy. I make no apologies for what ends up here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mom's take on the economic bailout

Women knew the economy was going to hell in a hand basket years ago (but male economic leaders didn’t care until it affected them and their companies and their stockholdings directly.)

I hate to put it that bluntly and that ...well, gender-specifically, but hey- it's the simple truth.

Women, either as wage workers or the recipients of our husbands and fathers or even mothers working for wages, have realized things were getting tougher for awhile now. We realized our grocery dollars were paying for less. We could see gas prices going up. We could tell when we couldn’t buy new clothes for our kids for school in the fall, or at least not as much clothes and accesories, and certainly not as "nice" as the kids wanted us to buy. We talked about money within our families, at work, and with friends. We worried about bills piling up, and we paid the bills we could while putting off major purchases and scrimping on extras around the house. Eventually many Americans had to postpone some payments. and most of us are still trying to catch up and get back to where everything is paid on time.

Women talked about our fears among our families and in our schools and neighborhoods and companies. But women were not the ones in positions of power on Wall Street or at the Federal level, and our warning voices were seen as complaining, or nagging, or worse, as "special interests", "extremists", or “screaming liberals.”

Now what is happening? The Bush White House and the men in power at the Fed are going to hand the leaders of the failing companies big fat stinking wads of cash; probably enough so they can sell their failing corporations and move to the Bahamas with their pensions and their buyout plans and their remaining contract payments, and...well, you get my take on this, right?

The government needs to stabilize the economy, and specifically that means helping out the lenders and the mortgage holders so that our homes and businesses will not get foreclosed upon immediately. We need to make sure our citizens in trouble can get forbearance on their loans for a month or two, and then maybe even a repayment plan where we can skip a payment every-other-month for 6 months or so. Uncle Sam, and specifically the Republican Bush White House who just a few months ago was saying the economy was strong, now wants to hand big business executives our country’s hard-earned bucks. But instead of giving these companies huge sums of money that ultimately come out of the pocket of the taxpayers, I have a plan: how about we make the execs give up their bonuses, perks like company cars and company houses, their pay raises, and their retirement incomes? We could hold their own salaries responsible for review. How did they do on the job? How well did they make market decisions?

Moms know the answer to the bailout, and it's simple: good decisions make for a good economy, and these guys made greedy, selfish decisions that ultimately is costing all of us, and it is not over yet. Its time for an executive "time out!" Lets stop handing these guys big bonuses and huge retirement plans! Make these leaders own retirement plans reflect their work decisions. Let's have the bailout plan be tied to some simple and logical rules of playtime. We should take back these executives “extras” down to something more realistic; I think no bonuses for poor jugement and bad decisions is a good place to start, and we can continue with a logical 2 grand in retirement benefits paid for every year they worked in the company. That seems reasonably similar to what most of the middle class who get retirement benefits make or would hope to make if they had a job that paid above minimum wage and were collecting any benefits at all.

Think about it, these are people who have worked as heads of companies for some time, and made considerable amounts of money and benefits, EVEN THOUGH they have taken bad risks with company funds, used those funds lavishly and unwisely, often on themselves and their families at the expense of the employees who may have got them to the top in the first place. They have outsourced jobs and cut healthcare to try and stay solvent, while still driving the company cadillac and taking business trips on the company jet, and while paying for lavish dinners on the company dime. These business leaders often make millions a year (or somewhere very close to millions a year in contracted salary alone) and have lead their companies to bankruptcy while keeping their salaries, benefits and investments. These leaders have basically completely failed investors and customers financially, and now these poor decisions are affecting the market, investors, lenders, and the average citizens who just want to work for our meals.

To me, this is simple, and the solution is relatively simple. We look at how we got here and we try to solve some problems. If anyone working at the local grocery store lost $5.00 in their cash drawer more than once they would almost assuredly get fired. If the local manager of a daycare made a risky decision about what kind of kid’s toys to buy, and a kid got their shirt torn or their finger cut, the manager would likely be fired immediately. If a secretary repeatedly typed with spelling errors then that person would probably not be allowed to be a secretary after the second or third mistake. But the people who led our economy to destruction are bringing in the cash hand over fist, in salaries that would make your grandfather cry and benefits that your doctor couldn’t dream of, and in vacation homes and air miles that would make even a travel agent blush. And what's more, even if they get pushed out of the companies by forward thinking board members, these same leaders get “discontinuance” or severance packages filled with cash and benefits! And often these folks go on to become authors writing their own biographical stories and “how to get rich” books and making thousands for appearances and seminars. Many of them go on to become political advisors and government employees or contractors!

I say we hold these corporate leaders responsible for their own decisions and their own hard work. If they can show progress at work, give ‘em reasonable bonuses. If their companies go under, they get nothing, and they give back what they took.

Instead of bailing out these companies by putting our money into paying company salaries and retirement plans for the top level execs, we take back the execs monies. We take back the perks and the luxury items, the cost of the fancy hotel stays, the dinners, the golf club memberships and the cost of trips taken on the company jet. Maybe we could even take back the money the company spent on the NASCAR sponsorships, energy drink marketing, or the TV commercials where they tried to tell us we are really still financially "strong and stable." Our country could use the money that was poorly spent by the companies in the first place-- to put right back into the actual running of those companies. If the cash money wasn’t there in the first place at all, and any perks or extras garnered by the execs was simply "invisible money" such as options lost to stock falls, etc., then we make sure the execs do not receive perks in other ways. We tell the failed execs that they pay back any money they made working at said failed company ----any money over a reasonable executive salary that would not top maybe $500thou a year at the most. The President of the USA doesn’t even make more than $400,000. in his actual salary- why should corporate execs make so much more?

Many of these same execs are banging the same old tired Republican drum about how we should let the market solve our problems, the market will show us who will win and who will lose, and we should have specific evaluations tied to performance for all sectors public and private. Many think that even teachers should have their salaries tied to student test scores. Let’s see how the execs like it when their own salaries are tied to their own company success in a tangible way. When their retirement income and bonuses and perks are gone they must subsist on rational and logical executive salaries alone. In doing this, the corporate execs could still keep their Hummers, Beemers, and their Park Avenue apartments, but they would not be able to use limo services, body guard services, and their daily landscaping and floral services. Theses execs might have to cut back on things like catering, personal chefs and housecleaning services to only two or three times a week. Nannies, after school tutoring and other household management and child care might actually have to be done by a parent or relative instead of by paid help. They wouldn’t be able to vacation more than twice per year, and exec’s families could only buy a new boat or new home once every five years or so.

To live life somewhat close to the style they have become accustomed to, these "failed" corporate execs might even have to take on a second job, like so many of us have already been doing for some time, even while we are still struggling to put food on the table, make sure the kids are safe, and get the home, car, and utility bills paid.

Now I know this plan might put a strain on some of those wage workers who are housecleaners, landscapers, nannies, caterers and travel agents, but we are no strangers to hard honest work.
I am sure the money that the middle class saves by the government not bailing out wall street may be enough for some wage workers and middle class folks to hire those same housecleaners and landscapers at least once or twice a month. If we listen to our mothers and play it smart maybe we can even take the kids on a trip next summer.

That is, if we have enough money for gas.