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Archive for the ‘Accountability’ Category

“No, no, no, no, no, no, NO, he’s gone. That’s it, period.”

“Aw, c’mon, maybe he thought the cameras were on. He’s used to that.”

“I’m tellin’ ya, he’s gone. He pushed the envelope too far this time.”

“Look, calm down…you telling me you did everything right the first time you got a new job?”

“New job? New job? You get this job, you better be prepared for whatever happens. This isn’t like becoming the head of GM or Ford…or even Goldman Sachs for god’s sake. I’m telling ya, he’s G-O-N-E!”

“Geez, Paul, Mitch thinks it’ll be okay. He just wants a little less drama. I don’t see why you gotta be so pissed.”

“Pissed? Pissed? You haven’t begun to see me pissed. He says we’re gonna ban Muslims…and that didn’t work…not once…but twice he said it, and it’s still not working. Then he says we’ve got a great repeal and replace health care program when he knows it’s a piece of crap. Then he blames us because his shitty health care program doesn’t get passed. Blames us, the crazy a.. idiot. What the hell is he thinking.”

“You gotta calm down man. You’re gonna work yourself into a heart attack. Okay, so he’s not sticking to script. Whadda you want me to do?”

“Do? Do? Talk to Ivanka. Talk to Jared. Talk to Kelly. Talk to the general. Somebody has to put a rein on this guy before he starts to give out classified information to the world.”

“Ah…ah…Paul. He, uh, he met with the Russian Ambassador the other d…

“Awe, cripes, don’t…you’re not…no, you’re not tellin me…”

“Ah, yep, sorry, Paul, but yeah, he did.”

“How bad?”

“Top Secret Code Word, Paul. I mean, he threw the Israeli’s right smack under the bus.”

“Aw, no, and right after Comey…aw, no, what is he thinki…no, there’s the problem right there. He’s not only not thinking, he doesn’t even have the capacity to think…Russian collusion, Mike Flynn, Comey, giving away top secrets, and now he tells them it’s the Israeli’s…aw man…

“…Well, he didn’t really say that it was the Israeli’s.”

“Whadda ya mean, he didn’t really say?”

“You know, it’s just that, well, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know where it came from.”

“Oh, great, just great. Mossad’s really gonna want to share intelligence with us now. What’s next, Sarah Palin going to head up the FBI?”

“Paul, Paul, Paul, don’t say that too loud. We don’t know where the bugs are!”

“Oh, I know where the bugs are. The bugs are in his head. That doofuss couldn’t run an airline, his vodka business went up in flames, he’s got the Russians running their own ops out of one of his buildings, and all he can think of is grabbing more land from national monuments, probably to give to his oil drilling buddies, or for some new freakin’ golf courses!”

“Look, Paul, you’re the Speaker. You’ve gotta help us. We don’t know what to do. What do we do, Paul?”

“My advice? Now that everything has hit the fan, you come to me for advice? I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you call his son-in-law, Jared? He’s doing everything else right now, maybe he can take the guy’s computer away…or double his medication dosage…or just send him overseas and let Pence take over for a while. Nah, that won’t work either. He’ll take Pence’s batteries with him if he goes overseas. Think of it this way, now every other country in the world knows that Americans can vote even while they have their heads stuck up their collective…no, no, say, ‘heads in the sand.’ As for me, I’m going home to the first district and watch some Packer re-runs!”

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“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of It.” Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyham

Yes, it’s true. Once it leaves our mouths, it’s gone forever. Khayyham was a Persian poet who lived from 1048 to 1131. I cannot, for the life me, tell you how or who introduced his poetry to me. Since I was never a great fan of poetry, it must have been someone I admired. That and another verse have stuck in my mind for some time now, in large part, because of the truth, the severe truth of the words. They remind me of a story that you and I have heard countless times, nonetheless, you are about to hear it again.

There was a young boy whose temper was so fierce that when he was seven, his parent sent him to spend the summer with his grandparents on a farm, just to keep him – and them, I’m quite certain – out of trouble. The grandfather took it upon himself to cure the young child of his tantrums and maddening behavior. Since spankings and washing his mouth out with soap hadn’t worked the grandfather decided on a different strategy.

“Every time you get angry,” he told the young man, “I’m going to take you out to the barn and make you drive two long nails into the barn door.” The seven-year-old thought that sounded like fun, at least until he tried to do it. The hammer was too big, the nails too long, and the barn door was made of a very hard wood. Driving the nails became a terrible chore, but, the boy learned that this was a punishment about which he was not fond. As a consequence, and after a couple of summers, he learned to control his fierce temper and to manage his anger. One day, he went to his grandfather and said, “I don’t get as mad as I once did. Thank you for teaching me.” The farmer replied, “You have done so well that now you may remove two nails each day that you keep your temper under control.” The now 10-year-old thought that this, too, might be punishment, but he did as he was told. It wasn’t long before all of the nails had been pulled from the barn door. “Grandfather,” the boy queried, “I’ve pulled the nails, but the barn door now has many ugly holes. Isn’t that bad?” The old man smiled and said, “Think of those holes as the holes in the hearts of those at whom you were angry. Those holes are the pain that you caused others. You hurt them, and now, by taking the nails away you have left a hole in their heart. Feel free, if you wish, to fill the holes with wood putty.” The boy did as he was asked, and soon, all of the holes were filled. “I’ve filled the holes,” he said, “but it still looks ugly.” “Yes,” said the old man, “Those are the scars over the pain you inflicted. It can never go away.” The boy thought and thought, and the next summer, he told his grandfather, “I’m going to paint the barn door so that I won’t have to see the scars!” The grandfather just smiled, and the boy went to get a bucket of paint and a brush. The old man came out to see what his grandson was doing. “There,” the young man said, “that looks much better. The old man just smiled. The next morning, he noticed that the boy was again applying paint to the barn door. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I still know where the scars are,” the boy replied, “so I’m painting them over again.” “I cannot see where the holes were or where you patched them,” said the grandfather. “You will always see them, not matter how much you try to cover them up, because those are the holes and the scars that you made. For you, they will always be there.”

Perhaps that’s now how you heard the story, but if you, as a child, had a fierce temper – as did I – you heard some form of that tale. There’s a saying that I have on one of my T-shirts that reads, “Just because it pops into your head, doesn’t mean that it should pop out of your mouth.” I don’t know about you, but it took me some time to learn that lesson.

Just as I began this with words not my own, so let me end this piece on the same note:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words. “Watch your words, they become actions. “Watch your actions, they become habits. “Watch your habits, they become character. “Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Attributed to Frank Outlaw, Founder, Bi-Lo stores

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My life has been saved by doctors. “Okay,” you say, “so what?” Stop and think about what I just said…my life has been save by doctors. On at least three occasions, I was in my primary care’s office, and he noticed something that had I allowed it to continue, would have taken my life. In only one of those cases had I gone to the doctor because I thought something was wrong. In the other two cases, he noticed something unusual and got me to the emergency room in one big fat hurry. Why am I telling you this? Well, on each occasion, I paid that doctor ten bucks. Sure, he was further reimbursed by my health insurance, but for how much? How much is a human life worth these days? In all three cases, I had a wife and three children to care for plus the usual debts that we all incur during our working years.

There was a time when doctors were thought to be the crème de la crème in terms of income, and at one time I suppose that might have had a ring of truth…not in the 21st Century. And many doctors will tell you it hasn’t been true for the better part of the last Century either. No, today, the big income boys – and girls, if you’re interested – are the health insurance executives, pharmaceutical CEOs, and the hospital administrators. Doctors are just the working stiffs who don’t do anything but save lives. Are they living below the poverty level? Come-on, of course not. Neither are they making the kind of money that you would think for the kind of work they perform. If you consider medical care as an industry, which it is, as wage earner doctors are about in the middle of the pack in the industry.

According to a 2014 article in The New York Times, “The base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries, according to an analysis performed for The New York Times by Compdata Surveys: $584,000 on average for an insurance chief executive officer, $386,000 for a hospital C.E.O. and $237,000 for a hospital administrator, compared with $306,000 for a surgeon and $185,000 for a general doctor. “ Now that income is nothing to sneeze at, but think of the comparison. The CEO of a hospital is making damn near twice as much as a general practitioner.

In a Boston Globe article last year, Elizabeth G. Nabel, President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, received total compensation of $5.4 million in 2014, the latest figures that are available. Another board chair of a major health care organization noted, “We must provide competitive wages and benefits in order to attract and retain the best individuals at a time when health care is undergoing sweeping change. The competition for excellent managers and leaders is especially strong at this time.” I’m sorry but the compensation for excellent managers and leaders has been strong since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. I come back to that 300:1 ratio, where the top dog is making 300 times as much as the worker drone, in this case, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who are putting in on the line every time a patient comes in. Let me give you just one example: I go into the hospital with chest pain. The on-call emergency room doctor orders blood tests to check my enzyme levels – if they are elevated, the doctor understands that I should be watched and another blood test administered in four hours. Now let us assume that the lab tech who is doing the testing is getting close to the end of his or her shift. S/he is exhausted because in order to make ends meet, s/he has a second job. S/he doesn’t read the lab results correctly and doesn’t pass them on correctly, thus showing that my enzymes are normal…oops, I am, quite possibly, having a heart attack. The doctor comes to me; tells me the test is fine, and discharges me. Driving home, the chest pains come back so severely that I actually die at the wheel, crash into several other cars, killing several other people, and all because some underpaid lab tech was so exhausted that the lab tests were misread. When there is an investigation who do you think is going to get nailed to the cross? It sure as the devil is not going to be that well-paid hospital CEO. More likely, it will be the lab technician and the emergency room doctor who relied on the test results and sent me home.

I have had the pleasure of working for some pretty fine people in my life. To the best of my knowledge, only one of them was a millionaire, and he didn’t make his fortune in higher education…although today, there are some multi-millionaire salaries being paid at some colleges and universities.

If you believe that hospital CEO’s make big bucks, take a hard look at what some of the big pharmaceutical heads wrap their greedy little fists around. In 2015, Johnson & Johnson paid Alex Gorsky $21.3 million. Ken Frazier of Merck & Company received $19.89 million. John C. Lechleiter of Eli Lilly was paid a paltry $15.6 million, and the list goes on and on. Health insurance chief executive officer of Cigna David Cordani drew down $17.3 million in 2015, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, $17.3 million, and Humana CEO, Bruce Broussard, $10.3 million. Meanwhile, your insurance rates and mine continue to jump beyond the inflation rate. It’s not going to doctors, nurses, or others right on the firing line. It’s going to so-called “excellent managers and leaders,” and that my friends is a bunch of baloney.

American health care is in a lot of trouble. Doctors are being told by their insurance plan companies just how many patients they need to see in a day to maintain their coverage by the plan. They are being dictated to by hospitals regarding how much they can charge for procedures. And if you want to blame one single group for the opioid crisis in this country, look to the big pharmaceuticals who, in 1986, went on an all-out marketing campaign to convince doctors that “their” opioids were not, repeat not, addictive. Man, are we in trouble or what?

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I don’t want to say anything but when a felon is convicted of ten counts of sexual assault and one count of object rape, and the judge calls him “an extraordinarily good man,” there is something wrong with our judicial system. That’s exactly what happened in a case in Provo, Utah. Judge Thomas Low heaped praise on the former Mormon bishop before sentencing him up to life in prison for his actions. According to the Associated Press, “Prosecutor Ryan McBride speculated that Low had been swayed by the more than 50 letters referencing Vallejo’s character as well as Vallejo’s brother’s testimony, which compared the rapist to Jesus, maintaining they were both wrongfully convicted.” Compared him to Jesus? What is wrong with these people?

Victims of sexual assault are “VICTIMS!” They do not go into court wanting to tell their stories of how they were groped, raped, battered, or too drunk to know what was going on. They are not sluts or whores or any other derogatory term that some use. They are “VICTIMS,” and should be treated as such. When Canadian federal judge, Robin Camp, asked a victim, “Why didn’t you just keep your knees together,” referred at one point to the victim as “the accused,” and asked later why she didn’t just let her bottom drop into the sink so she couldn’t be penetrated, he was forced to resign.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I know what it feels like to be raped. How could I? I’ve never been in a situation where something like that could or would occur. Can a male be raped? Of course he can. As I understand it, this is not uncommon in some criminal detention facilities. Never having spent a great deal of time in one, I just wouldn’t know. I’ve never been robbed at gunpoint either, so I don’t know the terror that that might hold. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s impossible for me or any member of my sex to know what horrible terrors must go through a woman’s mind when she is being physically assaulted and penetrated by a complete stranger who is, in effect, exercising control over her body. The only thing that I can say is…nothing…I can say nothing because I don’t know.

Unfortunately, even though it is the 21st Century…repeat that to yourself…”this is the 21st Century.” We have come so far, in so many fields…science, medicine, technological changes, invention after invention, all just within the past century, and yet, sociologically, we live in the dark ages. We’re still back where it’s okay for the caveman to bonk the cavewoman on the head with a club, drag her wherever the hell he pleases, and fucks her. Don’t be disturbed by the language, because that’s the way it was and, quite frankly, there are still those who believe it is okay today. Granted, they are warped, sick, psychopathic assholes, but that doesn’t matter either because they live in the 21st Century. The larger problem is that some of those males are in law enforcement, positions of power in the workplace or school place, and some of them are actually sitting on the bench in our legal system.

“She brought it on herself…by flirting…by wearing that outfit…by getting drunk…because I heard she was a slut, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” Bullshit! I don’t care if she walks naked through the hallways and sits down to take notes in Economics 101, she is not meat on a hook. If she wants to get laid, she’ll say so. If she wants her boobs or her butt squeezed, she’ll say so. Yes, this is an exaggerated example; of course it is, but goddammit, if it takes absurdity to get a message into someone’s thick skull, then absurdity I will use.

Have I ever pushed to get a little sex? Sure, when I was 17 or 18, sex was always on my mind…well, along with working at the A&P, doing chores around the house, getting ready and then going to college, and a whole pile of other things…but yeah, sex was reasonably important. Then I grew a little older, took more responsibility for my life and the lives of others, like workers in the workplace, my wife, my growing family, making a living, et cetera, and while sex certainly didn’t take a back seat, I, as with all of the people I know, didn’t go around ‘hunting’ for something or someone to be forced into placating our sexual desires. Unfortunately, there are people – men – out there who do exactly that. “If she’s female and I want her, I’m strong, and she’s weak, and I can have her.” And the answer is, “No, you cannot. You cannot because she doesn’t want you, probably doesn’t even know you exist, and what you are contemplating is not acceptable in an advanced society.”

Not only is sexual assault not acceptable, but blaming the victim for its happening is also unacceptable, whether that blame comes from innuendo, direct remarks, or anything…VICTIM blaming should just not be done…at any level. Thomas Low and Robin Camp are only two examples of the thought processes that go on in the heads of many men, everywhere. It’s difficult to comprehend, I know, but these are the same people who don’t see anything wrong with paying a man more for doing the identical job that a woman is doing…and they’re wrong! The Declaration of Independence states, “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It was wrong when they wrote it, and it is wrong today. It is wrong because while some say it was the “generic” men of which they were speaking, more realistically, it was white males. Blacks and women were considered chattel, and, as unfortunate as it may be, that still holds true today. And it is WRONG!

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I find it difficult to understand why Senate Democrats would block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination when they all know that it will just lead to the ‘nuclear option’ that will allow the man to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. This is just the child-like behavior that Republicans showed over the past eight years of the Obama administration. It seems to me that the two-party system in America has degenerated into a bunch of name-calling, infantile, assholedness that we often attribute to police state countries in other parts of the world. Perhaps the part that bothers me most is that the American public appears to be content to tolerate this behavior on the part of our national law makers…and that my friends is no less than absolutely frightening.

Are the Democrats so fearful the Justice Gorsuch will sway the balance of power that they have to use anything they have to prevent his nomination from passage? Yes, of course it’s true that he will be a voice of conservatism on the Court, just as Merrick Garland’s appointment would have made the Court one that would lean more to the liberal side of the aisle. However, I have to assume that the successful block of Garland’s nomination was nothing more than a cry-baby attempt by conservatives to further their agenda of diluting any kind of legacy that would be left by Obama. Certainly, Trump’s executive orders and the House’s idiotic attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seem to be designed to ensure that there is no Obama legacy to be undone.

Call me naïve or dumb or whatever you wish, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that 435 men and women, sent to Washington to do the very best for this country by composing, comparing, and enacting legislation that will benefit this nation as a whole, cannot do so. Sure, I understand that what the people in Maine want, the people in Mississippi want, and the people in Montana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts may want, but goddammit, somewhere along the line, there should be things that people in our 50 states can say, “Well, yeah, I’m not crazy about it, but I can live with it.” This is not the case today in the Houses of Congress. It’s “my way or the highway, and fuck you very much!” and that does not serve the best interests of anyone in any part of the country. Congress has become too self-absorbed with what it considers to be its own importance. To top it off, we now have a person in the White House who encourages this type of discord, although for what reasons, it’s hard to imagine. Congress can censure its own members, but the only way that America can benefit is if we throw some of these people out of office and let some new folks attempt to understand the word, “compromise.”

I can hear the politicians now…”Oh, you don’t understand how government works. You don’t realize the pressure we’re under from our constituents to stand our ground.” Perhaps not, but what I do realize is this: Too many of you have been in office too long, and you have turned government into your own political play thing, that does nothing for the nation, but that lines your pockets in ways that are unimaginable to the vast majority of your constituents. Do you think I’m joking? Time Magazine, in a January, 2014 story, wrote, “The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the personal financial disclosure data from 2012 of the 534 current members of Congress and found that, for the first time, more than half had an average net worth of $1 million or more: 268 to be exact, up from 257 the year earlier. The median for congressional Democrats was $1.04 million and, for Republicans, $1 million even.” In that same year, the median income of Americans was $51,939. Doesn’t that make you stop and think that perhaps members of Congress cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be an average American citizen? They listen and nod their heads and commiserate with their folks back in East Bumfuck or wherever, and then they return to Washington, dining at Fiola Ware, Bourbon’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, or The Source, usually at the expense of some lobbyist or other who will get them to vote for a bill that is actually at odds with what the interests of their constituents happen to be…but they tried…they were just overwhelmed by their fellow Congressional leaders or members of their party…and it’s all a bunch of bullshit…just so they can pocket a few more bucks or increase their portfolios.

Am I a cynic? No, that’s not cynicism, it’s realism. I’ve been on this earth for over eight decades, and in that time, I’ve learned one or two things about political leaders. The first of these things is that they are overly impressed with their own self-importance. A second thing is that they may have begun their political careers hoping to change things for the better, but that they soon become corrupted by those who were in office before them and took them under their wing, and if they refused to be taken “under a wing,” they were soon out of office and never even saw the bus that they had been thrown under by their ‘friends.’ Remember what Mark Twain said, “We have the best government that money can buy,” and by God, he was absolutely right.

My political ambition never carried me farther than being vice president of a Little League, and seeing the back-biting and chicanery that happened in something as low-level as that was enough to convince me that getting into the real political arena was somewhat akin to shoveling shit against the oncoming tide…you just won’t win.

I love America with all my heart and soul. It is the greatest country on earth. It’s a land where people are free to pursue their dreams, and whether they succeed or fall flat on their collective faces, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they are free to get up and start their pursuit all over again. Yes, I love my country, but sometimes I wonder just how we ever came to this sorry impasse that we call the United States Congress.

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In the “as if we needed to hear any more bullshit from you,” category, Donny Trump tweeted that “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”

This is just another indication of why Trump is not a leader, just a thin-skinned child who, when he doesn’t get his way, takes his ball and goes crying home…in this case, to his daughter, not his wife…hmm. It was the perfect opportunity to admit that ‘his’ congressional leaders were unable to develop a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act {ACA}. He could have followed it up with, “Now is the ideal time for Republican and Democratic leaders to reach across the aisle and, together, develop a plan that will replace the flaws in ObamaCare and that will ensure that all Americans receive appropriate health coverage.” That is something that a leader would have done.

Consider the number of times that Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA over the eight-year term of Barack Obama. The number, by the way, is sixty. It seems to me that rather than spending all of that time attempting to repeal a law, they could have more productively spent their time developing a plan to replace the Act. If you, as a member of Congress, felt that ObamaCare was such a terrible piece of legislation, wouldn’t you first come up with a better, stronger, more viable plan rather than behaving like a bunch of spoiled children? I’m sorry, am I being too logical here? Was it, perhaps, a case of, “We don’t want anything that the ‘foreign-born,’ n-word, SOB got past us to ever show up as part of his legacy! Oh, naw, that could never be the case…or could it? Was it that this first national health plan, for all its flaws, managed to get enacted by Congress?

You see, I’m rather a cynic when it comes to killing something just for the sake of killing it. I don’t hunt, but I used to enjoy deep sea fishing enormously. We kept the bluefish and stripers that we caught because people would eat them. If we were having a better than average day, it was catch and release. The Republican Party had seven years to put together a better health plan. They-didn’t-do-that. They-wanted-to-kill-a-program-that-had-been-legally-enacted-without-having-the-faintest-fucking-idea-of-what-to-replace-it-with. Now, I don’t know about you, but I might just have wanted to ask my Republican Congress person what he or she was doing to develop a plan to replace ObamaCare during those seven years, and if they didn’t have an answer, I might just have voted his/her ass right out of that Congressional seat. Am I being too harsh for you here?

Now, unable to come up with something to replace the Affordable Care Act, instead of uniting Congress, this idiot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the “Greatest Deal Maker of All Time,” whines and moans and blames everyone without even considering the tremendous opportunity put before him, starts his surrender talk with, “Well, no Democrats were going to vote for anything the Congress came up with.” Note that please. It wasn’t “…anything we came up with,” it was, “…anything Congress came up with.” In other words, “It wasn’t my fault; it was the fault of those assholes in Congress.” It’s this lack of leadership qualities or even understanding the qualities of leadership that terrifies me about this man. He was a little king in a small village when he had his businesses that were being run by others. He was a television celebrity who could do as he damn well pleased when he was on air. He is now in a position that requires skills and qualities that he has never and probably will never possess, but because of his celebrity status and the bombast with which he conducted his campaign, he was the chosen one.

There is a need for our nation to have a health plan. There is a need for a health plan that covers the rich, middle, poor, and elderly classes. It can be done. Mitt Romney showed that it could be done in Massachusetts. Was his plan perfect? No, it, too, was flawed, but care was taken to correct many of those flaws. No plan, whoever, drafts it, is going to ever be 100 percent guaranteed to work for everyone. We are not a one-size-fits-all nation. Hell, we weren’t even a one-size-fits-all-state. From the hills of Holland to the tip of Provincetown and from Florida to Dracut and beyond, Massachusetts residents have different needs, but by God, Romney tried and did something no other governor had done. Now is the time for Ryan and McConnell, Schumer and Pelosi to sit down, shake hands, look at one another, and simultaneously ask one another, “How do we pull ourselves out of this deep shit,” for that’s what it is. Trump and his hooligans will do everything in their power to ensure that the ACA implodes, just to get back at Obama. It’s time for the adults in the room – those from both sides of the aisle – to come together and determine what is best for the country, for all 326,474,013 members of this country. Forget ‘Hairspray’ and his band of brothers, for he will attempt to sabotage your efforts. While sub rosa may be a term we don’t care to hear, it may be the only way that the nation will be able to make health care for all a reality. Demonstrate that you are true leaders even though we don’t have one sitting in the White House.

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We all know that there are inequities and inequalities in this world. Well, at least anyone with half a brain knows these things. I’m a big believer in this funny little thing called equal pay for equal work, which makes me just a wee bit pissed that women, on average, receive only eighty-two cents for every dollar that a man makes for doing the same job. When Mary Barra took over as head of General Motors, I’m told, she received a compensation package one million dollars lower than that of her predecessor. Her compensation package last year consisted of a $1,750,000 salary and other compensation that brought her package up to $28,576,651. Admittedly, this is probably one of the few cases where a CEO has earned every penny. Even within the male population, there is inequality. Tell me, if you can, why the head football coach at the Air Force Academy is making eight times more money than the Secretary of Defense of the United States? When one considers the international considerations of each position, it would appear reasonable to assume that the roles really ought to be reversed. Additionally, if the president of the University of Michigan is making $750,000, and the head football coach is making $9 million, how does one justify that inequality…and please, don’t tell me that old saw about the alumni fund depending on a winning season. It may be true in part but is it really true to the extent of such imbalance?

What does one have to do to earn millions of dollar each year? It certainly helps to have a history of achievement and demonstrated leadership qualities. According to Chief Executive Research, executive compensation is a “strategic tool.” “…having the right senior executives on the team and aligned are key drivers of business success, yet far too many companies don’t approach executive compensation strategically.” It seems to me that far too many companies hire more based on ‘old boy networks, school ties, or religious affiliations. After that the 300 multiple appears to take effect, that is, the CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker in his/her company earns. Is this fair and equitable? The answer is complex.

If you hire the very best person for the job as CEO, everyone benefits. The new ‘boss’ plans strategically for a five, ten, or longer period – one Japanese executive created a strategic plan 150 years out. If the plan works, the chief executive should certainly be compensated appropriately. Should the compensation be 300 times what the worker in the factory, on the floor, in the sales office or the secretarial pool? My answer to that is an unqualified, “No!” What if the chief executive increases the profits of the company by 300 percent of his/her strategic plan? The answer is still, “No.” We have allowed executive compensation to get out of control, according to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, but, “Corporate apologists say CEOs and other top executives are worth these amounts because their corporations have performed so well over the last three decades that CEOs are like star baseball players or movie stars.” This is nonsense. The economy has grown. The stock market has grown. People have either amped up their spending or gone into greater debt just to “keep up with the Joneses.” CEO’s aren’t any brighter today than they were in 1965 when that multiple we talked about earlier was 27:1. In addition, legislation – until Trump came along, but it still will – favored big companies that wished to outsource, either to other states with more favorable tax rulings and lower labor costs, or overseas where labor costs were markedly lower.

In 2015, “The SEC passed a new rule for large corporations: Starting in fiscal year 2017, they must disclose their “pay ratio,” the multiple by which the CEO’s pay exceeds that of the median worker’s.” In his article in Politico, Michael Dorff states, “The point of the rule is to both bring down CEO pay and to improve the compensation of rank-and-file workers. The theory is that CEOs and boards of directors will be so embarrassed when they have to admit just how much more they pay their chief executives than a normal worker—300 times is typical, though some companies’ ratios may stretch into the thousands—that, in their shame, they will simultaneously lower the CEO’s paycheck and grant their workers a raise.” Personally, I have strong doubts that CEOs and boards of directors that are currently paying outlandish compensation packages give two hoots in hell about their workers, are too narcissistic and self-centered, and it will not become effective until labor unions and workers themselves take action against those same CEO’s and boards of directors.

The idea that a CEO and his/her top four or five executives bear a responsibility only to their boards of directors is ludicrous, although it appears that many of the S&P 500 still adhere to such a belief. You figure it out. If the CEO reports to the board of directors, it figures that he/she also has some input regarding who sits on that board. In an article in The Atlantic, they cite, “…Lucian Bebchuk and Jesse Fried, [who] in their 2004 book Pay Without Performance, argued that this procedure is a comforting fiction. They wrote that skyrocketing executive pay is the blatant result of CEOs’ power over decisions within U.S. firms, including compensation. Being on a corporate board is a great gig. It offers personal and professional connections, prestige, company perks, and, of course, money. In 2013, the average compensation for a board member at an S&P 500 company—usually a part-time position—was $251,000. It only stands to reason that board members don’t want to rock the CEO’s boat. While directors are elected by shareholders, the key is to be nominated to a directorship, because nominees to directorships are almost never voted down. Bebchuk and Fried showed that CEOs typically have considerable influence over the nominating process and can exert their power to block or put forward nominations, so directors have a sense that they were brought in by the CEO. Beyond elections, CEOs can use their control over the company’s resources to legally (and sometimes illegally) bribe board members with company perks, such as air travel, as well as monetary payment.

In other words, get your foot in the door as CEO of a major corporation via the old boy network, make the shareholders and your board of directors your primary concern, and you could well be set for life. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but I believe you get the general idea.

Truth to tell, CEOs and their organizations owe a far greater debt to a larger audience than their shareholders and boards. These stakeholders, as they are known, can also exercise some control over the pay of the CEO. Stakeholders include workers, product consumers if a product is involved, suppliers, creditors, and many others. R. Edward Freeman introduced the concept of stakeholders in business in 1984 in his book, Strategic Management. “The book proposed that effective management consists of balancing the interests of all [of] the corporation’s stakeholders – any individual or group who can affect, or is affected by, the achievement of a corporation’s purpose. The stakeholder concept provides a new way of thinking about strategic management – that is, how a corporation can and should set and implement direction.” Only by involving, completely involving, all stakeholders in the decision making processes, will CEO compensation, a major component of directing the organization be brought back into line. It seems to me that as long as CEO’s have any ability to influence who is on their board of directors or that the boards’ only interest is in lining their own pockets, this idea of multi-million dollar compensation will not be curbed, but will, in fact, flourish. The losers in this situation are too many to mention, and it only further grows the gap between the one percenters and the rest of the nation.

In the second part of this two-part series, I will take a look at the health care industry and the compensation of those in it.

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