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Opening Arguments

9 to 5

A great big load of crap from The Associated Press:

If you want an income, or you're an employer looking for help, it may be time to scrap the idea of the traditional 9-to-5 arrangement.

For workers, it's become easier and less risky to go solo. Affordable health insurance plans, which kept many workers shackled to traditional jobs, are more accessible because of the Affordable Care Act. And companies are increasingly open to hiring freelancers and independent contractors. Many say independent workers bring fresh ideas without the long-term commitment.

 I don't know if they're trying to curry favor with the cool kids in the Obama administration or if they're just a bunch of pretend analysts with their heads up their butts, but come on. It's not that people are turning away from 9-to-5 jobs, it's that they can't get them. Because of a number of factors -- including a disntegrating-while-recovering economy brough on largely by bad government decisions, and technological breakthroughs that mean fewer people can get more done -- the job market seems to be in a period of perpetual downsizing. If those 9-to-5 jobs were there, people would scramble for them. They always have, and they always will.


Wed, 06/03/2015 - 9:02pm

You can thank 30 years of Reaganomics for the fact decent jobs are no longer the norm in this nation.

For most of American history, businesses—for-profit and nonprofit—had mission statements that were broader than simply serving the interests of shareholders and CEOs and referred instead to the long-term interests of the company, its workers, and its customers.

Economics author Barry C. Lynn noted that “by the 1950s managers were wont to present themselves as ‘corporate stewards’ whose job was to serve ‘stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large.” In other words, besides the stockholders, there are also the workers, the customers, and the general public, who are crucial to the long-term well-being of the corporation itself. CEOs actually rose through the ranks of the business and felt loyal to the companies they ran. They’d often started in the mailroom as a 20-year-old and fully expected to retire with a comfortable pension, the company in the good hands of one of their younger protégé vice presidents, who was working his or her way to that CEO status.

That corporate mentality and mission was generally true all the way until the 1980s. But in the early Reagan years, something changed dramatically, and it’s devastated the American corporate landscape and destroyed the middle class.

First, President Reagan effectively stopped enforcing the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, a law that effectively prevented cartels and monopolies and large corporations from dominating the markets. The Reagan administration’s backing off from enforcement of the act led to an explosion of mergers and acquisitions, buy-outs, greenmail, forced mergers, and other aggregations of previously competitive or totally unrelated companies. The big got bigger, the midsized got acquired or crushed, and the space in which small entrepreneurs could start and flourish nearly vanished.

But what followed this was even worse. Starting back in the 1930s, a particularly toxic form of economic thinking—some would argue sociopathic economic thinking—began to take hold, some of it propelled by theories developed at the Chicago School of Economics by Milton Friedman (who would later serve as an economic adviser to Reagan). By the 1980s that economic thinking had undergone several mutations, and the one that has hit America the hardest is the notion that every business in the nation has a single mission statement: maximize shareholder value and dividends. Remember terms like "greed is good" and "He who dies with the most toy's win's"?

The theory behind this was that in a modern corporation the role of the CEO and the executive-level workers is to do whatever is best for the shareholders.

To provide the incentive to CEOs and senior executives to “think like a shareholder,” tax and accounting rules were both changed and used in the 1980s to actually turn CEOs into more shareholder than employee. This was done by moving huge chunks of their compensation from payroll (salary) into stocks and stock options (the right to buy stock in the future at current prices and then quickly sell it for a profit). Although a CEO like Stephen J. Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group made an annual salary of $13.2 million in 2007, and $3.2 million in 2009 (a year when CEO pay in the health-care industry was under a lot of scrutiny), he was awarded more than $744 million worth of stock options during the few years he was CEO. His predecessor, William “Dollar Bill” McGuire, was paid more than $1.7 billion in stock options for his previous decade of work as CEO.

Such compensation packages are now relatively common across corporate America, having created a new CEO aristocracy as well as a totally different business climate from the way America was before Reagan.

Besides the fact that such stock option deals are extremely lucrative for these executives without making their salaries seem sky high, they have another somewhat insidious effect. Because CEOs are now first and foremost stockholders, every decision is grounded in and colored by the question Will it immediately increase the price of my stock and the amount of the dividend income it pays?

Left in the dust are questions like What is best for this company’s long-term survival? and What is best for the communities in which we do business? Stock values are best increased by ruthlessly slashing costs (cutting employees, outsourcing to cheap-labor countries, and cutting corners in production) and increasing revenues (buying up competitors to create monopoly markets so price competition is minimized).

What’s more, the money these CEOs and executives make from the sale of the stocks they own or from the dividends those stocks pay is subject to an income tax of only 15 percent (as opposed to the 35 percent top marginal tax rate), the result of the Bush tax cuts. No wonder the rich are getting richer, the jobs are going abroad, and average workers are just plain old out of luck.

The American people have been scammed and are generally to dumb to see it.