Back in the Reagan days Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman asked, “Why do the rich need incentives but the poor need desperation?”
Once upon a time, employee compensation was linked to the earnings of the company for which they toiled. Public employees were linked, yes, to a community standard. That was considered a way to lift everyone’s standard of living.
Then came offshoring. Corporations, trying to squeeze another nickel out of someone for greater profits, found that lowering wages was a great and good source of phony “profits” – and shipping jobs to countries that paid pennies was even better. How did they rationalize paying so little (while keeping prices on US good pretty much the same)? They said – well, a dollar a day is a good wage for those people since the standard of living is so low.
Now we bring it back home. We justify paying less and less, no matter what the company earns, because it’s the “community standard”. And we justify paying public employees less and less because, after all, they have no industries so community wage standards are much, much lower.
This apparently does not apply to top management. Nooooo – they need to be paid top incomes “to get the best talent”. They get high – exorbitant – salaries and their public equivalents do as well. “Best talent”. Have to pay kazillions.
We don’t apply this standard of course to prices. If house prices in your community have plummeted, that certainly does not mean that megamansions have to ask less, does it? They are still selling at top dollar because – gasp – that’s what the industry can ask. No community standard for that. And we sell things at whatever we can command even if someone, somewhere, is selling it for less because we don’t believe in community standards for capitalism – we can justify “service” or whatever to keep prices higher. Otherwise car prices would be much lower. Dealers and manufacturers agree – yes they collude – to keep prices high even in the face of lower demand.
What I want from those demanding that working people make sacrifices is to have a benchmark – what is the status and dollar value at which any one of us become so essential that we can demand huge wages and bonuses in the middle of a massive economic downturn? Where is the dividing line – I want the dollar amount – between desperation and incentive?
Who is it whom we value? And why is it the rest of us don’t matter? It’s a small question – but I just want to know. Why is a good teacher “inessential” but a raft of superintendents “essential”? Why is a line worker in a factor “inessential” but a CEO whose company falters and fails “essential”.
I just would like a dollar value of worth – mine and everyone else’s. I think it would clarify SO much for us if we just knew who was worthy and who was not.