Apparently, life is rough as a corporate executive. You just can’t get by on less than $15 million a year. I wonder what that is like?
I’m guessing in my whole life, I’m probably never going to have $15 million pass through my hands. Yet, I am healthy, fed, housed, comfy, with central heating, hot and cold running water, educated, travelled, entertained and financially solvent. I’ve ridden the back of a limo, eaten at exclusive restaurants on three continents, attended formal wear receptions, traveled in first class. I have health insurance and can obtain medical treatment for almost anything, mostly covered by my insurer—provided I can get an appointment. And through all of this, I’ve basically been self-supporting since finishing high school. Family helped with college and grad school tuition and a bit extra here and there, but I’ve mostly taken care of myself.
This week, protest of Wall Street corporate greed spilled off Wall Street and around the country, including Washington. Street protests aren’t my style, but I’m with them in spirit. These companies are laying off employees, cutting benefits (including retirement, healthcare and leave) for remaining employees, increasing hours and claiming that they are too tapped out to survive otherwise. Because they have to pay the Leadership Team $15 million salaries. And the executive corps have to earn millions as well. And travel first class (it’s not that great). Every time??? And afford multiple houses. (How many places can you live at once?) But that college intern? They can volunteer for the experience. Or earn $5 an hour.
I’m not saying any part of the U.S. is immune from this mentality at this point. I think the middle ground here got left behind at some point in the middle of the last century. There was a time when (before the MBA era?) there was a concept that a business needed a certain about of cash to operate—pay salaries, keep the lights on, pay for materials, and if the owner wanted to make money, there had to be an excess. There was a concept of taking too much money out of the business. Being at the head of a company wasn’t (necessarily) a get rich quick scheme. This is an old critique, going back to the vilification of the “corporate raiders” of the 1980s, who bought up capital intensive long standing businesses throughout the country, stripped them of their value, closed the doors and lit off to the Caribbean to reward themselves for a job well done.
Well, stick a fork in me, I’m done. And so is our economy, well-done. If the unemployment rate stays high enough, and salaries and benefits low enough, long enough, then no one’s going to have money or anything for anything. I guess that even affects the executives and CEO’s and such at some point. Interestingly, apparently the economy added 100,000 jobs last month, but the unemployment rate stayed the same? I guess it’s all those long term unemployeds, underemployeds, ghosts in the current economy. Visible only in the shadows—and the checkout line. One of the interesting things about unemployment or underemployment is that it teaches you how to prioritize your spending, how to spend less, what you need and what you don’t. Prolly not so good for an economy that seems increasingly dependent on convenience and luxury goods . . . .
What’s the say, we all stand together, or we fall apart. Which means job or no, comfortable life or no, we’re all in the Middle of This, like it or not.