Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wisdom from the Woods II

Wisdom from the Woods is an occasional column that outlines complex issues.

I'm in the woods again today as you can see. The rock in the picture is an artifact from Native American ceremonies. I have a dozen of these specimens on my property. The ledge on which this rock sits is perfectly aligned with the rising sun. I've read that the purpose behind lifting the rocks and chalking them as you see here was to allow easy access for rocking the boulders back and forth on the ledge. The sound created was an integral component of the ceremony and could be heard from miles away.

Today I'm thinking about corporate culture and how it contrasts with public sector employment. Having served in the public sector, I'm very sensitive towards criticism, especially when that criticism is unfounded. Today, we are finally seeing for the first time in recent memory, the corporate culture in this country being attacked. There are hundreds of protesters outside of AIG headquarters as I write.

It's funny that our society only seems to care about these things when it perceives that tax dollars are being squandered. Exxon-Mobil can tax us to death and nobody seems to care. Whether the money is coming through the government to the corporation or whether the money leaves our hands directly and goes to the corporation seems like an insignificant difference. AIG is changing the way citizens think of big business.

I worked hard in the public sector for years. Some years I managed to bring an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars to my state for projects that helped everyone. When I was successful, I got no bonus. I never wanted a bonus. My vocation to perform at my job was driven by the vision of a secure future and a wish to do the right thing. That secure future was spelled out in advance to me through the public employee pension system. This is the future that I wanted. Public employment works for the benefit of everyone, but it will only function efficiently as long as employees are provided for.

The corporate culture of annual bonuses, layoffs and huge severance packages is fine if that is what you bought into. I'll never understand bonuses for poor performance, and that is exactly what we are seeing at AIG.

I know many young people today who are making more money than their school teachers that may have been in the profession for 30 years. That's OK; I have no problem with that. It's always been that way. Those school teachers in 90% of the cases that I am familiar with did a great job. There were no bonuses; just good people doing their job. Hopefully, it was a job that they loved. The concern that I have today is the drive to take the future away from our school teachers and long term public employees. You can argue all you want that the public sector needs to be more like the private sector. I think not; just look at AIG. I can imagine what newspapers will be saying on the day that government starts handing out bonuses. Do you want your government to be run like that? I don't!



  1. Yo Tom, M.H. here, first things that come to mind are.........people out in front of AIG, as opposed to exxon-mobile, aren't "addicted" to insurance. When your an "addict" you never cross your "supplier"!! Rather "Wall Street" (i.e. AIG) are more like casinos. If I win, great. If I lose,I'll bend over again (if I'm stupid). If the flow of petrol, as you know, stopped today, how many "addicts" would be "jonesing". Not to mention the repercussions on our current "civil society"!!!
    Say hi to Sandy!!!!!
    Talked to your Mom for over an hour last night!! It was inspiring!!!!!!!!
    Love ya, TTYL

  2. Thank's for the comment MH. Keep them coming.

  3. You're right that the tax effects are always there...whether explicit or implicit...but people behave with stark differences depending on perception