Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Who will buy the cars?

I just receive an email from my cousin. He is an attorney with an insurance company in the Midwest. His company is being purchased by a competitor and his job may be eliminated. This is clearly indicated by this years of service, wealth of experience and oh yes his highly inflated salary. He's being paid what he's worth which makes the soon to be heavily indebted buyer very uncomfortable. He accepted a promotion into senior management 7 or 8 years ago and relocated to headquarters. I was really proud of his mid 40's adventurous spirit (I would have gotten a divorce and changed jobs, wait that is what I did) and now he may be shown the door. He's an attorney but even with that being said, it's still impossible to find anything good in this. He's a great human, a loyal employee, loving family man and this should not happen to my cousin or anyone at this station in life when it is not their choice. Oh yes, and did I mention he is a wonderful friend.

This is not a unique story in America today. Men and women like my cousin represent what all of us high achievers aspire to be in the closing years of our careers. We are experienced, knowledgeable, wise and thus highly effective. We know the right way to skin the cat. This has earned us the puffed up pay check that seems to makes a lot of younger aspiring people pretty uncomfortable. And some of these people are becoming our bosses. When guys like my cousin are invited to leave it is a loss for the company, community, and our competitive position in the world. This is happening far too often and the collateral damage is extensive. It impacts everything when productive and capable people are underemployed or put on the sidelines. It's like driving a new Corvette only in school zones. Just stop to think about the downstream events that take place when earnings fall from $100,000 annually to $30,000 due to the loss of a "good" or "secure" job. It gets real scary. Multiply that by millions and you begin to understand why we have economic problems in this country and why it will be difficult no matter who is elected president or dog catcher for that matter to fix this mess.

Probably 20 years ago a friend of mine in the auto industry asked me, when they layoff all the engineers, skilled trades, middle managers and well paid assembly workers, who is going to buy the cars? Indeed, who IS buying the cars these many years later? We can add houses, boats, TV's, Gas and Beef to that list now too.

We are losing something very dear and valuable in this country and that is the independent business man who can afford to care about his employees and look out for their well being. Today the struggle is great for the businessman with a calling to serve his fellow man and make a buck in the process. Maybe even make more bucks because he does this. I tried to explain that people make the difference again to my boss tonight and he worked equally as hard to convince me the numbers are all that matter. He's not a bad guy its just how he sees it. Stalemate again.

When I was young I never thought it would work out this way. Somehow it seems at this stage in life we shouldn’t be working so hard in such uncertain environments. It really sucks. I hate the thought that we don’t have more choices in the closing years of our careers. It pains me that we are under so much pressure to prove ourselves after so many years of productivity. The world is pretty screwed up if you ask me.

All this is done under the veil of global competitiveness and shareholder value. Give me a break. All this is done largely to make a quarterly earning forecast. The future is being sacrificed for today. A nameless, faceless executive dweeb and shareholder who does have choices where to put his money, stand behind the curtain making the calls and ultimately pocketing millions at the expense of others. In so doing he or she guarantees a rich life for generations of their offspring yet to grace this earth. There seems to be no conscience, no guilt and certainly no remorse. This is greed at it’s best. They are big winners in the game of business. They made the deal. That MBA paid off.

Somewhere along the line the measure of wealth and prosperity for our country switched from using the power of capitalism and a free society to create jobs and increasing the standard of living for many to creating enormous wealth for a very few. I am no socialist but is it fair to begrudge a manager with 25 years experience more pay and seek to replace him with a lost in space rookie college grad who can't find his ass in a house of mirrors with both hands? I think time will tell us this is not such a good idea. Who will buy the cars? Indeed who will.

Thanks for reading.

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