Monday, April 30, 2012

So How Much Do "They" Make?: Two Resources To Track CEO Pay

GOP nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney continues to show that he exactly didn't get the memo ("Note to self: economy's in the tank") that's smacked every day Americans with the force of a) two-by-four, b) Mack truck, c) Sherman tank.  The Reckoner refers to the Mittmeister's recent speech, in which he urged young people to take risks...a bit cheeky, isn't it, coming from the man whose $250 billion fortune owes so much to helping big fish eat smaller fish!

One thing that Romney's verbal gaffes have done is shine a light on the issue of CEO pay.  Prying such information out of camera-shy concerns is notoriously difficult, as The Reckoner can attest, from his own media experience. That's why it's good to see resources like Executive Paywatch, which is now available through the AFL-CEO.  Putting their biases aside, you can plug in different data, and see the information yourself, such as this link for the Top 100 CEOs:

At $377.9 million, Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook emerges as the true 800-pound gorilla, making his second-place peer look like a piker (Lawrence J. Ellison, Oracle Corp: $77.5 million). Once you get past the Top Ten finishers, you'll find most of their counterparts nestled comfortably between $18 and $25 million. You can also try an industry-wide comparison, which reveals some other interesting disparities:

For example, in checking out the "Commercial Baking" section, you'll find heavy hitters like Brian T. Moynihan (Bank of America), Gerald L. Hassell (Bank of New York Mellon Corp.) and James Dimon -- to name three examples -- sitting well ahead of their peers with annual salaries of $8, $12 and $20 million, respectively.

On a different note, it's fitting that the lowest-paid commercial banking CEO happens to be a woman: Joanne Kim, of Wilshire Bancorp, Inc., who pulls down $313,823. Did this disparity happen because a) she's a woman, or b) she had a lousy negotiator on her behalf?  That's another debate for another time, but these are the kind of questions that should be asked.

Executive Paywatch has its glitches.  In trying the "Search CEO Pay Database" function, The Reckoner came up empty -- for future reference, it would be nice to plug in any Fortune 500 company, and have the desired name pop up.  However, the Reckoner recommends one source for a more thorough analysis of CEO pay. The Riley Guide boasts a wealth of good links, including reports pulled from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's files.  To see those details for yourself, go here:

One other figure stands out: according to Executive Paywatch, American CEOs now make 380 times what the average worker brings home -- versus the 1980s, when the gap was "only" 42 times as large!  Either way, the U.S. boasts the world's widest income gap...which isn't something to feel good about. Thirty-odd years of flat wages, outsourced jobs and runaway executive pay add up to a rotten equation for just about everybody else...with few real ways of clawing out of the mess.

What more proof do we need that it's time to stop test-driving the trickle-down ideology that's left the average person holding a big empty bag of hot air?  --The Reckoner

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Return of Debtor's Prisons--Jailed for $280 Dollars

Jailed for $280: The Return of Debtors' Prisons

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn't pay a medical bill -- one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn't owe. "She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn't have to pay it," The Associated Press reports. "But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs."
Under the law, debtors aren't arrested for nonpayment, but rather for failing to respond to court hearings, pay legal fines, or otherwise showing "contempt of court" in connection with a creditor lawsuit. That loophole has lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives concerned enough to pass a bill in March that would make it illegal to send residents of the state to jail if they can't pay a debt. The measure awaits action in the senate.

"Creditors have been manipulating the court system to extract money from the unemployed, veterans, even seniors who rely solely on their benefits to get by each month," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said last month in a statement voicing support for the legislation. "Too many people have been thrown in jail simply because they're too poor to pay their debts. We cannot allow these illegal abuses to continue."

Houston, I think we got a problem!

This stuff is really happening. If you are one of the members of the very poor, there are endless fines, fees, and more, that if you fail to pay, you will be punished simply for being too poor to pay up. The bankers and their attached parasites like junk debt buyers, do not care if you are penniless, they will still drag you to court anyhow. Which makes no sense but then they are allowed by the laws they probably helped to write to count those debts [many which they will never collect] as assets.  Insane? Sure it is, but we are not living in a fair and just system anymore.

Another thing that happens to people too, is they get tickets and fines, they simply cannot pay, or insurance they lapse on and the bench warrants, courts and more fines and fees await. So yes there are deadbeats out there, but plenty are being scooped up who simply CANNOT AFFORD TO PAY. Have you ever wondered why they add on penalties to people already burdened and unable to pay certain bills? Seems to make no sense does it? It's like their lust for punishment and to kick people when they are down supersedes even common sense.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Work World Growing Harsher Every Minute

There are some nice bosses out there, ones that look out for their employees. I had a couple who helped me prior to when I was disabled help me in career advancement. That is the way it is supposed to work, while one works for a boss, they can serve as a mentor too for a younger employee. With one, she respected my work, entertained my ideas and advanced my creativity. That would be my favorite job, sadly it would be lost to funding issues from on high. She was such a great lady, I tried looking her up to reconnect but was unable to find her.  Some may even make long lasting friendships with coworkers.  There are bosses who will reach out to employees, and will work with them and who care about people but what happens in a world where faceless mega-lith corporations with minions of bean-counters who never see the people that are harmed by their policies?

When you get a chance, this may sound odd, but check out the obituaries sometime, look for people who range in age from 70-100+, and then for those who had careers, notice something about their life story, and notice how long the jobs lasted. I did this some months ago, and noticed several had the same jobs or better said worked for the same business for 25-30-40 years. And their lives were well-rewarded for it. How often does that happen anymore? Between all the lay-offs, business changes and more, younger people cannot depend on having jobs of any longevity. How does buy a house or build a community of any sort when one has to scramble to find a new job [often in a new location] every few years? Some start jobs thinking it will be great and then 5 years later face a lay-off or a boss who loves to fire people. Does global competition, explain the new lack of stability out there? Or something else? The relationships seem different, there seems to be no loyalty anymore. Why isn't anyone finally saying look this globalism experiment is destroying us, or that bigger isn't necessarily better anymore?

It seems years ago relationships mattered more, and now workers are just seen as cogs in the wheel, disposable at any minute. Do any of these bosses who fire slews of people on a bad hair day even sit down and think about their actions? Do they care that the man they are sending out to chronic unemployment or underemployment has a disabled wife to take care of? How about those who have families or aged parents to support?  Do they care, that they are basically taking away people's stabilities, community, and taking a wrecking sledge hammer to the financial foundations of people's lives? With small business owners who see their businesses almost sliding into oblivion some of those decisions are not made with ease, but then with companies that take down a factory in America to send it to Mexico or choose to outsource jobs, it seems conscience about these things has ended.

Worse yes, some of the bosses have now started tossing people away, who have simply grown older, and thinking they can get a cheaper deal out of a healthy 20 year old, get rid of the older workers, and their more expensive health insurance and retirements to come. We know some of them may be feeling immense pressure from the top with THEIR BOSSES yelling at them to make profit margins higher, but what has happened out there? One thing some business will have employees work with old out-dated technology but then blame them for the constant break downs. How much greed is running some of these terrible decisions?

I've seen too many loved ones, with the financial moorings of their life absolutely destroyed. This includes friends who had a boss fire them for ONE mistake, one mistake among months or years of perfect articles, papers, phone calls and hours of work. It seems some of these people no longer desire that human beings work for them but perfect robots. Don't any of them face their own mistakes and realize all human beings make errors? Didn't they ever get a break? What has made people become like this?

One sees this kind of mentality in corporate culture, where conformity now seems to be the rule. What is going to happen to American innovation or creativity when they are so busy making everyone THE SAME? Does anyone out there, ever wonder why corporations more and more seem to demand more of the same personalities, and more of the same look? Some make a nod to "diversity" but do we really see this? Could your grandmother go get a corporate job tomorrow if she needed one and even had the skills?How many overweight people get high level corporate jobs even though the obesity rate in America runs at 70 percent? How come the smallest physical and/or emotional difference now seems to shut people out of the running? Why am I reading on some websites, that if someone is unfortunate to get laid off or fired from a job in their mid 40s and over, that they may never work a full time job again? Who is making these decisions and why?

Here too, it seems instead of just getting a job done, you have "the right personality" or they will think of a reason to just throw you to the wolves. When did the work place get so saturated with personality games. Everyone today knows the horrors of office politics where backstabbing seems to be the name of the game. Why is that happening? Yes I know not every office is a updated twisted high school of never grown up "Heathers" waiting to stab you in the back but it's wide spread enough, that people often face the work day with trepidation, stress and fear. Wouldn't productivity be higher if one got to go to work, not feeling like they were going to be fed to the wolves? Have companies even faced this problem?

The Squawker remembers her last job from years ago, before she was disabled, she was getting sick, and getting a write-ups for going bald. Because she could not afford a wig [having an extra large head, none fit] due to the low wages and endless bus fares and bosses would tell her to remove scarfs and hats, due to an illness, she was losing patches of hair on her head. One day while in the bosses office, she would see a write-up for "poor hygiene", she showered everyday and did her best to hide her problems, for daring to have thinning hair and bald spots!

This is part of what I am referring to, among this story, I can list those who have lost jobs, simply because the new boss didn't *like* their personality, because of who they were friends with, because of their beliefs that differed from the bosses. Do people want workers or do they want to own people's souls too? While one can understand people losing jobs for being drugged out, not showing up to work, lying and total full blown insubordination, most people I know lost jobs for far more draconian and dare I say PETTY reasons.  It seems the reasons are endless for some power-hungry employers to just toss someone in the proverbial trash can and future homelessness.

The school system can't even match the punishments they are ready to dole out, a school principal never could lord over the worse teenage bully and druggie, the punishment the work world is ready to give an adult employee which basically is the shame, stigma and horrors of poverty. How many Americans could have seen the entire tapestry of their lives change from JUST ONE GOOD JOB. How many now saw the whole thing unravel by seeing the jobs taken away? Now that the country seems focused on blaming the poor for it's problems instead of the trillions for wars and bail-outs, the corporately owned [see how that works?] media influences people to demand that worker's rights be chipped away. This is why some of these companies felt no conscience and really got only little outcry when they started saying, HA, if you've been out of work TOO LONG, by our rules, you've lost the job Lotto and no more job for you! That more then anything has shown the low levels that corporate culture has sunk to. How is that fair, or even reasonable or even moral?

Years ago, someone could be a little shy, or have a few minor health problems but still be able to make a living, as long as one stayed sober and put in some honest labor, you weren't relegated to Mom's basement or a life time on skid row. If one was at a certain level of health and willing to work hard, there was some work for you, and you didn't have to every minute facet of your personality analyzed to pull it off. When businesses were smaller and everything wasn't owned by mega-corporations, a person could easier make their way in the world. There wasn't endless HOOPS to jump through. One had more freedom to make their own way too.

And speaking of hoops, why does searching for a job have to be the horrible process they have made it to be? The resumes, the cover letters, the endless printing of letters, and copying or applying online never to get a response. Even the old rules of at least pretending to be polite have ended. How are people supposed to feel when they send resume after resume in, never to even get a neutral polite response? Why is so much hiring now by committees, looking to see who will conform more rather then seeing who may do the best job? They've turned getting a job into a science project from hell. So wonder many unemployed Americans have given up. One thing I want to know, is how come there isn't one boss or one company that has given an alternative to the usual resume wheel of drudge? Maybe they are out there and I just do not know. Whatever happened to having a little independence and giving someone a chance for maybe even some new experiences? It seems things are growing far too regimented.

If you are a boss and reading this, I hope you are one of the nice ones. Sure hold a line so you are not taken advantage of, and you do have to attend to the survival side of your business, but keep the human side of things in mind as well.

If you are a worker, try and do the job you are being paid for the best you can, but seek to understand the human side of things as well. Do not verbally or otherwise abuse your co-workers or engage in combat office politics, give people a break!

I hope one day more people will speak out about certain things being broken in the employment world. People deserve better.--The Squawker

Monday, April 23, 2012

Horatio Alger--- You Have Met Your Match!

Caveat: this is not everyone, there are many people of better means who have been down and out themselves or having more independent mindsets or who are more spiritually minded, that this DOES NOT fit. But sometimes out there in the world it is interesting what is said and the attitudes.

How many times have you heard this said about poor people?

"They have no work ethic"

"They do not believe they control their own destinies so it's their fault they are poor"

"If you give them too much, they learn to expect it"

"Rich people are smarter then poor people"

"Rich people are more moral then poor people"

"Poor people have negative attitudes instead of positive ones and that is why they are poor."

Many of these have been said to my face. The Squawker does not go around advertising her socio-economic status to the general public, while sometimes a cracked car windshield or some old shoes may reveal some of her status, most of these things she has overheard has been said with straight faces by those unknowing of her or the Reckoner's true circumstances. In some circles, dissing the poor is common. Sometimes one can sit there and think, "did they really say that"?

Three days ago at a book club, the Squawker heard "The poor have no work ethic" and decided to speak up and say, "How can a person have a work ethic with no job?" and then asked this person to think about the fact that the jobs are no longer stable and those who struggle with no end in sight do lose motivation, it is a psychological reality, yes better off avoided if possible but there. What is even sadder is that as the economy implodes, is these "whistle past the graveyard" attitudes remain so numerous.

The other day, I read this book, called "Coming Apart: The State of White America"

Why did I hate this book? While the author points to some of the realities such an out of touch elite being out of touch with the rest of the populace like the residents of Wilmette and Greenwich living in their own protected bubbles with BMWs galore and a gourmet shop on every corner. The general gist of book says the rich are becoming richer because they are more moral and smarter. This guy talks about out of touch wealthy people while being one himself. If one knows about the book he previously co-authored, maybe one should not be surprised to see some of the lies from the right, being so adamantly repeated.

Supposedly education will save that day! [well if you can afford the Ivy League] and supposedly in some fantasy world free of crooked bankers and corporate corruption, those who ascend the corporate ladder are more moral and "religious". The book focuses on poor whites, not the inner city, but the overall typical messages and blame game remains cognizant here too. In other words it's your fault if you happen to be white and poor. "Fishtown" is poor in other words to this guy because they are supposedly a bunch of non-book reading degenerates. One thing I want to tell Murray, is many men who cannot get decent jobs to support families on all sides of the equation, often are less apt to marry. It's a chicken or egg scenario. Where do all the unemployed and underemployed college graduates and neo-poor fit in? Even the odd conjectures that journalists are part of the upper classes, ignores collapsing newspapers nation-wide.

I also found his seeing moral degradation as being a upward enterprise from the lower classes moving up, to be quite strange. How many of the elite have impacted morals especially given the 60s influenced Bohos? Weren't the elite the first ones to shout "God is dead" back then? What about the endless Ivory Tower academics, who wanted to change things in a "radical" fashion? Where is the altruism and caring about the community that the very rich used to at least pretend to care about? Today they care more about advancing globalism, while the American people are last on the list. Seen anything like a Carnegie Library recently? Then there are the bankers who enriched themselves for trillions of dollars at tax payer expense. And add to that Hollywood, whose making the movies? Whose writing and publishing the books? Will Cather today wouldn't have a chance writing about poor people.

Horatio Alger you have met your match!

Check out this review of this horrid book.....

One review struck me as very interesting.

Charles Murray ignores the fact that the policies of the upper classes has inflicted so much economic pain on the lower economic classes. Specifically, free trade and massive immigration.

The industrial working class has been destroyed by the movement of jobs to China and Japan. Once thriving cities are now faced with abandoned houses that they must tear down because nobody has working class jobs to afford them.

Michael Moore very well frames the argument that Flint, Michigan was not destroyed and sent into bankruptcy from a lack of morals or any other such degeneration by the working class in GM. It was destroyed by the liberatarian policies of Free Trade (otherwise known as a race to the bottom.)

In the 1960's a man with less than a high school education could get a job in a factory, work his way up from a sweeper to a machinist and support his wife (living at home) and a family. Where are these jobs now? Who is doing this? It is the working class in Japan who has this type of living. Not Americans.

Niall Ferguson and Charles Murray treat this as some mass social issue rather than as a consequence of economics. What Murray pointedly ignores is that the difference between the mean income (average income) and median income (half above and half below) has grown much larger. This indicates that the wealthy are earning greater sums while the working class is having its income reduced.

This book is an arrogant piece of tripe. Working class people if they are in despair and poverty are not completely to blame.

Please Mr. Murray, tell us, where is a nineteen year old kid going to get a decent job. Your answer that he become a PhD is nonsense. What made American the envy of the world was that ordinary people, not just the elites, could live well and have hope. The elites destroyed that with their economic policies of free trade, globalism, outsourcing and massive immigration. Working class people had their country sold out from underneath them. There was no change in their attitudes, just a change in the greed level of the elites.

Paul Streitz

I totally agree.

That is just one example. Why are poor people getting such a bum rap? There's very few of us getting a voice out there outside of the few of us who are blessed with Internet access. I sit at tables, and hear people rap their knuckles on the table who start talking about those "lazy, no good for nothings", who are sucking the states coffers dry due to "entitlement" programs. Some are so angry, that being disabled around such folks can be a scary enterprise.  Usually I like to say to such types while keeping my own status hidden, "what about the trillions in bail-outs or trillions for wars that have brought nothing but more government debt?" You never hear about that.

The Republicans have "Blame the poor" as almost a defacto platform for their party. So the Tea Party contingent, even those who get Medicare and social security, start yelling about all the "bums" on welfare. While there is something to people not choosing dependence on the government and avoiding generational welfare, what is offered people as an option? If there are no jobs and all the factories have closed, what do they expect? Instead the big money types, close another factory overseas so they can pay pennies on the dollar to some cough "slaves" cough, third world workers, and pay off the politicians to shake their fist at the poor, and it works. Try even admitting you are poor in a few socio-economically closed circles and see how it works.

Then there is the Democrat party, remember The Squawker doesn't think much of either of them. They build themselves as "the party of the people" for generations with many working class people signing on, while the Republican party was seen as the party for big business as well. Sad how old stereotypes die hard. Obama is still sending jobs overseas and signing overseas trades deals. Here too none of the real economic realities are not confronted either. The outsourcing of jobs overseas has destroyed our economy. Remember Clinton signed NAFTA to help in the "race to the bottom" mentioned above as one of the defining moments of his presidency.

Whose speaking for the poor out there in the media? No one really outside a few independent bloggers, authors, journalists and a cartoonist like Ted Rall on occasion. None of the elite are telling the truth, they are more busy hiding it. Instead of asking "Where's the beef?", ask "Where's all the jobs?" The elephant in the room is that manufacturing in America has been closed down. There's only so much need among a newly impoverished populace for hair dressers and chefs for fancy restaurants.

They are basically tell us what they think of us every chance they get in that self-congratulatory type of talk---. "We are smarter, more moral and more deserving".....but the worse thing are those normal people who lap it up, and buy into it, when it could be them soon one day without a job, seeing the huge pile of unpaid bills piling up or trying to make ends meet instead of saying "There but for the grace of God, go I." There is nothing smart or moral about what they have done to this country---The Squawker

Sunday, April 22, 2012

1 in 2 New Graduates is Unemployed or Underemployed

1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed

WASHINGTON (AP) — The college class of 2012 is in for a rude welcome to the world of work.

A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don't fully use their skills and knowledge.

Young adults with bachelor's degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that's confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

Things are getting bad out there, when for one out of two young people, the expensive student loans and college education are not paying off. When one is making 7 bucks an hour flipping burgers or stocking shelves, the student loans are not going to be paid.

Unsaid, that when someone does not get a job in their early 20s, that matches a certain professional level, catching up can be very difficult. Job gaps, low level employment, part time jobs, make it harder later to get that "good job". So if 50% of our young people are coming out of college with their degrees unable to get a job that matches their investment, well the college bubble bursting is next. I am middle aged and warning young people to rethink college because of the cost/pay off ratio being so disjointed. Sadly it looks like they are still selling the college "dream". But how many people seeing their college educated brothers and sisters floundering will make the same choices?

One thing I want to say to young people, think outside the box, think of community and question the old formulas, I and the Reckoner are middle aged, and the formula's failed for us as things started changing by the 1990s, you can still have a happy life, but consider redefining success, and put relationships rather then the careers first. Careers do not pay off like they once did. We learned that the hard way. The world is full of those who are comfortably situated who while living in a bubble, do not understand how the world has changed for the Generation X and under set. Think independently, maybe look to history to see young people that sought a different way of life. I guess that is my best advice, there are many things I would have done differently.

Also see "53 Percent Of All Young College Graduates In America Are Either Unemployed Or Underemployed"--The Squawker

Thursday, April 19, 2012

US Standard of Living Has Fallen More Then 50%

This is a great article that really lays it out. We all know that years ago, a working class man, could finance an entire family with a stay-at-home wife, providing a home, car and groceries for himself, her and the children. This investor lays out the numbers and the chart. One shocking statistic is this one.

On several occasions, I have glibly referred to how it now takes two spouses working to equal the wages of a one-income family of 40 years ago. Unfortunately, that is now an understatement. In fact, Western wages have plummeted so low that a two-income family is now (on average) 15% poorer than a one-income family of 40 years ago.

Think about that for a minute...two incomes today are LESS then ONE income 40 years ago. That's if both adult members in a household are employed which is today less and less. Things have changed and not for the better. Generation X, already has seen itself struggle, what will life be like for Generation Y, as more and more jobs disappear?--The Squawker

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Who Knew That Americathon Would Predict the Future?

One comment from Youtube sums it up:

"Let's see... China is a global economic superpower, the USSR is gone, the UK relies on tourism for money, the world is running out of cheap oil, Americans are broke and living in their cars, the USA is heavily in debt to foreign countries, TV programming is reaching new lows... I'd say this was an accurate prediction."

The USA is broke and well I guess many knew that was the road we were on even as early as 1979!--The Squawker