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[P]
Southern Style Conservativism Responsible for Corporate Implosions?

By andrewhy in Op-Ed
Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 05:23:05 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

In a recent article in the Sunday Guardian Observer, journalist Will Hutton makes the argument that conservative Southern politics have much to do with the current crisis in corporate ethics we're having.

Coincidentally, I just got done reading a large portion of the book "White Collar Sweatshop" by Jill Andresky Fraser. This book is a depressing treastise on the state of corporate America's policies towards it's workers: stagnant wages, declining benefits, overwork, low morale and frequent massive layoffs are the result.


I found the link to this article on Fark.com. The contributor of the article implied that because Enron and Worldcom were located in the South (and connected to prominent Southern policitians), they have a tendency for being more corrupt. While I believe this is a fallacious conclusion that is not at all implied by the author of the article, I think that the idea of linking conservative politics with current corporate ethics is an interesting one.

I think the greatest problem is the fact that, to the modern corporate executive, stock price is everything. Anything that can be done to increase the bottom line and raise the stock price can and will be done. We've seen this in well-publicised mass layoffs and the current allegations of bad accounting. As Will Hutton states, "Everything should and must be pro-market, pro-business and pro-shareholder, a policy platform lubricated by colossal infusions of corporate cash into America's money-dominated political system."

De-regulation is also a big problem. Government policies that allow companies to go unchecked have led us in part to the current scandals. The wave of corporate mergers in the last 20 years are also a result of massive deregulation. Loss of jobs and competition inevitably result from these mergers, and studies have shown that the result on the companies bottom-line is often negative as well. Look at AOL/Time-Warner for example. The two combined companies are worth less now than they were before they merged.

The author also refers to the 1996 Telecommunications Act as being a result of massive corporate contributions. Worldcom has risen to it's current position because of this act (which it had lobbied hard for). And let's not forget Clear Channel, whose mass aquisitions of radio and media would not have been possible without this legislation.

The article is admittedly written from a European socialist point of view. But despite it's leftist slant which may turn off some observers, I think this paragraph sums it all up nicely:

"Great wealth and opportunity have been the privilege of the few. As the scandals unfold, ordinary Americans are left naturally concerned about the integrity of their pensions and the viability of their insurance companies. The structures that support ordinary peoples' lives - free health care, quality education, guarantees of reasonable living standards in old age, sickness or unemployment, housing for the disadvantaged - that Europeans take for granted are conspicuous by their absence. Mainstream America has been told that its threadbare and neglected social contract is the price it must pay for opportunity, liberty and wealth creation."

Andresky-Fraser's book repeatedly recounts tales of employees who had to put in long hours, neglect their families, and suffer from stress and health problems only to later be downsized by cost-cutting CEO's. To rephrase that last sentence, sacrificing our families, our health, and our financial security in the name of corporate profits is the price we must pay for opportunity, liberty and wealth creation. Is this really the type of country we want to live in?

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Southern Style Conservativism Responsible for Corporate Implosions? | 122 comments (77 topical, 45 editorial, 0 hidden)
"The World We're In" (4.40 / 10) (#4)
by Blaest on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:32:09 AM EST

Hutton has also written a book, The World We're In, where he considers in detail American-Style capitalism compared to the European type. Very interesting reading if you're interested in this sort of thing.

His line of argument is similar to in this article only with more arguments and detail. Among other things he argues that the hunt for instant profit for Wall Street is causing the downfall of US industry.

There are some reviews over at amazon.

Stocks (3.57 / 7) (#7)
by godix on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:45:13 AM EST

I still think the biggest problem with American companies is that we allow corperations to give stock options and CEOs to own stock. When person making business decisions takes a part of the profits you end up with employees getting screwed. When the CEO gets a salary but no parts of the profits you end up with more balanced decisions.

So you're saying CEOs should have no stake in the (3.80 / 5) (#16)
by Demiurge on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 08:13:29 AM EST

company? And this is supposed to encourage personal responsibility?

What's needed is just the opposite. Salaries for high-level executives should be based directly on company performance. No more giving yourself a ten-digit bonus while the company is failing and the workers are being tossed out into the street. If the company's fortunes take a nosedive, you're the one who's going to be taking the first pay-cuts.

[ Parent ]
I doubt that's what was advocated. (4.83 / 6) (#25)
by claudius on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 08:56:10 AM EST

I suspect the poster means that the current system of incentives rewards bad decisions that happen to pump a company's bottom line (and thus, its stock prices) for the short-term.  If I were, say, an executive at WorldCom, I would be rewarded not for doing a "good job" by advocating sound business practices, but rather by getting the stock prices up "by any means necessary," even if that means distorting the information I give to my shareholders.  As has been argued by many, including Joseph Stiglitz, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics for the economics of information, this skewed system of incentives for top executives is something that needs to change if one is to have efficiency in the markets and a reprieve from accounting scandals.

Of course, given the rather sordid history with the SEC experienced by both Bush and Cheney,  I'm skeptical that any significant change is going to result from these scandals.  (Feel free to do a google search on "Bush Harkin Energy SEC" or "Cheney Haliburton SEC" for examples of what I mean).

[ Parent ]

No, I'm saying stock options are bad (4.50 / 2) (#44)
by godix on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 11:22:02 AM EST

The stock market does not reward CEOs for company performance, it rewards CEOs for manipulating the stock price. As an example, if a company lays off 10,000 employees the stock price almost always goes up. A year later the company hires 10,000 new employees because it actually needed those old ones. End result: Company has less experienced employees, 10,000 people lost a job, all the employees left feel less loyalty, and the CEO got rich because his stock options were worth more for awhile. If I recall correctly Motorola did exactly this several years ago.

As for tying salaries to company performance, please spare us. How are you going to measure company performance, profit statements that don't take the cost of stock options into account and claim losses in the wrong catagory to put millions on the books? All monitored by independent auditing firms like Arther Anderson of course. Tying CEO salary to company performance creates just as much motive to make bad (and illegal) decisions as stock options do.

In an ideal world I would like to see CEOs work for a straight salary with no bonuses or stocks. When they retire, they get a one time bonus based on how the company performed during the entire time they reigned. This would create motive to improve the company while eliminating much of the motive to make questionable decisions and perform illegal accounting methods.

[ Parent ]

You're the only one (2.00 / 1) (#50)
by Miniluv on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:12:05 PM EST

When you're ready to return from delusion land please read this and other replies to your crackpot theories regarding corporate officer compensation.

The prevailing theory, and one with which I agree, is that CEOs should only receive stock options. The reason being that a CEO who derives the entirety of their compensation from the performance of the company, as measured by their stock options, has a much greater stake in ensuring the company performs.

You wrongly state that stock prices generally rise following large layoffs, when in fact the opposite is usually true. Layoffs normally indicate unhealthy finances, which tends to scare investors. Sure, plenty of folks like to buy stock in companies immediately following layoffs, but this is usually to cash in on a briefly falling price, not an indication of investor confidence.

What really needs to happen regarding compensation, if people want CEOs acting in the best interest of the company, is stricter regulation in corporate by-laws regarding the sale of CEO and other director level options. If CEOs can sell immediately following a quarterly or yearly earnings statement, then they will be tempted to influence such a statement. If instead they're given narrow parameters governing such sales, they will have less ability to influence the sales.

My ideal solution would be a yearly stipend to the CEO, plus stock options which would be repurchased by the company (instead of on the open market) at a price derived from some ratio of the strike price and current price, which would reward performance over the longer term. This would also tend to pick better CEOs, instead of just rewarding them, since it'd take a pretty damn confident executive to be willing to accept such a compensation plan.


"Too much wasabi and you'll be crying like you did at the last ten minutes of The Terminator" - Alton Brown
[ Parent ]

Returning to Platonic roots (4.50 / 2) (#73)
by X3nocide on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 03:59:53 PM EST

So which CEO is better off? The CEO that runs a company that appears to be successful but isn't, or the CEO that is successful but is continually discredited?

Essentially executives in the proposed system have a vested interest in maintaining the appearance of success. This leads to games such as manipulating numbers presented to analysts so they can post gains better than expected, a "wheeling and dealing" system of buying other companies to maintain a steady growth curve despite not really generating much new revenue, and creative accounting thats being currently exposed. Machiavellian isn't it?

However, not rewarding an executive like this (which is fairly similar to how things work now) simply means a lower quality candidate. If all a exec has invested in company perfomance is reputation, the best will go elsewhere. Recall the Ben and Jerry's policy of a 5 to 1 ratio between exec and lowest salary had to be shitcanned when the best acceptable applicant offered 16:1.  So we end up with the least of all evils, sort of like democracy. Both are manipulated but the other options look far more dire.

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]

Addendum to executive stock benefits (none / 0) (#109)
by libertine on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 06:10:46 AM EST

I am all for exec stock compensation, and I agree that stock comp is better than handing them straight cash.  One thing that would really make stock comp work is to limit sale of the stock by execs- say, a 5 to 10 year wait period after all business relationships have ceased with the company they represent, with only a percentage available the first year.

The problem with most execs is that they perform until they can sell the shares.  If the commitment to share price is made to be a long term endeavor, less may be done by execs to bloat or inflate values in the short term.


"Live for lust. Lust for life."
[ Parent ]

If you look hard (none / 0) (#111)
by Miniluv on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 12:07:48 PM EST

Most of the best CEOs don't sell their stock off until they're just about done with their run as CEO. The reason has to do with ego, which is something the board banks on when they hire a CEO.

Believe it or not, but profit isn't really the strongest motivator when dealing with executives at this level. Many of them are already sufficiently well off that they don't particularly need the money, which means it won't be a huge driving force in their performance. What they do crave, that can't be permanently supplied, is ego. They want the world, especially the world of their peers, to know they are the best at what they do. This means that by giving them stock options you're betting their salary on their ego. If they live up to their hype, they get paid huge amounts of money. If they fail, they stand to make nothing, or even lose money if the options require a cash buy in at the outset.

When I look at companies I look at their CEO compensation in the same way I look at a fund manager and how much of their personal money is in the fund they manage. The more directly a CEO is tied to the performance of the company, the more comfortable I am with the company as a whole.

"Too much wasabi and you'll be crying like you did at the last ten minutes of The Terminator" - Alton Brown
[ Parent ]

company performance (none / 0) (#114)
by ethereal on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 01:57:20 PM EST

Except that the stock price is not proving to be an accurate measurement of the performance of the company, since executives are taking actions that will improve the stock price temporarily, but which will wreck the business in the long run. This works since the stock market does not calculate the potential future effects of these actions for the long haul. The stock market is not rational; it is prone to excesses of optimism and pessimism, based on a few standout news stories every day. These are not the appropriate tools to use to encourage responsible corporate operation or to build a healthy business environment for the long run.

I don't know what the solution is to this, unfortunately, but I think that the emphasis on stock price alone has been the wrong direction to take. We need a better measure of the "health" of a company; the stock market is doing pretty poorly at predicting corporate health more than a few months to a year in advance. This might just be because so many more entities are getting into the market this decade for a quick buck, or maybe the market was always this stupid.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Nice touch at the end (4.97 / 36) (#10)
by Rogerborg on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:57:45 AM EST

Yes, I've noticed that attitude in my company. There's two ways of looking at it:

  1. I'd better work 60 hour weeks when I'm asked to, because otherwise the shit will hit the fan, and I'll be the first to be laid off.
  2. There's no point in working 60 hour weeks, because simply being asked to do so signifies that I'll be the first to be laid off anyway when the shit inevitably hits the fan due to outside influences.

My employer has even given up trying to convince us to buy in to the corporate culture. There's no more talk of worthless share options, no more "we're all stakeholders in the company's future", no more "you have to consider the intangible benefits". It's now just a bald statement: take a 10% pay cut. Work harder, or the company will fold.

Hey, but we've already made the product (working 60 hour weeks for three years, with the goalposts being moved every three months), and it's good enough. At the moment, breakthrough products aren't the answer. Companies (including ours) are floating or folding depending on whether other companies decide to take our product, or to pay for product that they've already taken for that matter. The crisis right now is in the boardroom and the stock exchange pit, not on the shop floor or cube farm.

So chill out, do your contracted hours, then go home, have a life, and don't sweat it. It'll happen if it happens. And if it happens, I guarantee that when you're clearing your desk, you won't be thinking "Gee, I really regret not giving up an extra 50% of my life to personally bring stability to an irrational speculative stock market driven economy".


"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

Wow (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by MicroBerto on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 09:57:01 AM EST

I +1 FP'd this story simply because this is the best comment I have seen in a long while...

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]
Would you have that attitude if your company... (none / 0) (#83)
by Skywise on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 06:45:55 PM EST

Was working on a cure for cancer?

I mean, yah, if your company makes paper clips who cares about the extra hours...

But if your company does something meaningful?

Or what if it's meaningful to you?

[ Parent ]

The usual fallacy (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by thebrix on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:43:47 AM EST

I presume those mandating the hours would think 50 per cent more work is produced when working hours are increased to 60 from 40 per week?

Having worked for a considerable time with someone who voluntarily did about two hours extra a day without overtime and would not stop despite being told to (among other things, I could never get them to explain why they worked so much) I would be happy to disabuse them; they were actually less productive, and dragged other people down for good measure, as much of the work they did had to be done twice because, frankly, they were almost permanently worn out. That they were good at their job made all this yet more absurd.

What worries me about the IT industry is the proportion of people working in it who seem to have little self-awareness or self-respect and, in effect, voluntarily torture themselves. Are other industries similar? (The industries I've worked with, as clients, have invariably been heavily unionised, so the issues raised here are moot).

[ Parent ]

ten hours a day (none / 0) (#118)
by vectro on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 12:47:51 AM EST

... is a symptom of being a workaholic. Most likely the guy had family trouble, social inadequacies, or otherwise wanted to avoid spending time at home.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Is Texas even part of the south ? (4.20 / 5) (#29)
by sasquatchan on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 09:29:04 AM EST

While I'm born/raised/living south of the Mason-Dixon line, I lack the confederate ties, pickup truck and shotgun rack. But I think most Southerners (Other than Floridians, since they don't count as Southerners either, though I'm told the non-costal/interior area is full of redneck types) wouldn't consider Texas part of "The South".
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.
I think Texas is southern (5.00 / 3) (#39)
by revscat on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:29:57 AM EST

I'm a native Texan, lived here my entire life. It has been my experience that Texas shares much more in common with the South than with the midwest, west, or northeast. This is especially true when you look at what are the predominant political and religious viewpoints throughout the state. Texans are predominantly pro-death penalty, pro-gun rights, anti-abortion, and are more likely to attend a church than in other regions of the country. And dude, have you seen the number of people Texas has executed? If that doesn't make them a part of the "kill em all and let God sort em out" mentality that is so prevalent among the "Deliverance" rejects, then I don't know what does.

Texas was, after all, a part of the Conferderacy, although it came in late to that party.

I would just like to take this opportunity to say that Tom DeLay (R-TX) is a butt-reaming fascist asshole who, were he to dress similarly to his underlying nature, would wear high black boots and a tiny mustache.

Not really relevant, but it needs to be said.



- Rev.
Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
[ Parent ]
Death penalty (none / 0) (#47)
by goatse on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 11:54:20 AM EST

Do all sothern states have the death penalty.  I grew up in Georgia, but it was never really discussed.. execpt to say that Texas kills a *lot* of people.  Besides, Texas rednecks what independance for *Texas* right?  Not some vague "the south will rise again" BS.

Anyway, there are a lot of rednecks living in sothern california these days.  I think the standard sothern redneck is not exactly the same thing as the standard Texas redneck.

btw> None of this applies to cities of over a million people or so.  City dweller or non-city dweller is the biggest distinction between people, state comes much further down the list.


[ Parent ]

Florida (none / 0) (#42)
by TheSleeper on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:41:12 AM EST

Floridians most certainly qualify as southerners. Even those living in most of the costal areas. The only exceptions to this are Miami, Key West, and maybe Orlando and Tampa. These places avoid southern status through the influence of tourists and Cubans.

[ Parent ]
Florida Geography (none / 0) (#113)
by ethereal on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 01:45:25 PM EST

There are three regions of Florida. From North to South, they are:

  • South. Gainesville/Jacksonville and much of the interior. Definite Southern accent, lifestyle, etc (Tom Petty is from there). Only on the coasts does this become a little more diluted by tourists.
  • South of South. In the coastal regions of the peninsula, but north of the tip of the state. Mostly populated by retirees or upper-class folks from up North; the accent is more New Jersey or Pennsylvania than Southern. Especially around the Space Coast, or Tampa Bay. Still lots of tourists, but from talking to people you couldn't tell you were in the same state as the farther north reaches.
  • Cuba Norte. Down around the tip of the peninsula, where Spanish is on par or more prevalent than English. Still tourists, though. Again, you can't tell you're in the same state as in the other two regions.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

I know the hot, dark secrets of the South (none / 0) (#96)
by texchanchan on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:40:52 AM EST

Sinuous lianas climbing in the gloom
Green water purling from the bayou's mouth
Delicate jasmine's heavy perfume.

The sullen losers now eighty years gone,
The South reaches in for the passionate power.
Black earth quickens in the glittering dawn,
The old primitive tree bears the sweet flower.

...Yeah, we're part of the south. Also part of the west. Who says you can't be both? --Tex

[ Parent ]

Will Hutton (2.42 / 14) (#30)
by Sopwith Pup on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 09:30:33 AM EST

Is a typical know-nothing dickhead journalist.

His opinions change with depressing frequency and are usually factually incorrect. His knowledge of business (practical knowledge that is) is precisely zero and thus IMHO his opinions are utterly worthless.

His hatred for the actual dirty business of making a living is well documented, as is his slavish adherence to anti-business 'left-wing' ideas. The Guardian/Observer is a trust owned newspaper with a readership consisting largely of teachers and social workers has a tedious anti-business, anti-American party line which it maintains in the face of any inconvenient facts to the contrary

Disclaimer: I read newspapers for a living for many years and therefore tend to hate all journalists.


Be realistic, demand the impossible

Interesting response (none / 0) (#99)
by thebrix on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 03:57:32 AM EST

I started off writing 'like all caricatures there is some truth in this' then deleted it because I realised you are basically right!

I've read all of Will Hutton's books, then given away all of Will Hutton's books, because he is writing about business as a spectator rather than a player and that shows. As for the Guardian's negativity, I suppose journalism is meant to challenge otherwise there's no story; one can challenge positively, though.

There is a similar problem with the BBC; its business coverage is poor (again that air of semi-detachment) and some of the specialised business programmes, such as In Business on Radio Four, are often embarrassing. It's very rarely that I learn anything from it, which suggests that general knowledge of business is greater than the BBC believes exists (I would hardly call myself an expert).

[ Parent ]

business news is amoral (5.00 / 2) (#106)
by moron on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:40:52 PM EST

One interesting aspect of corporate funded business news is the downright sociopathic nature of it. The only ramification of note when say for example 20,000 people are layed off is how it will affect the stock price.

There exists no concept of social impact, foresight beyond the immediate future and especially no concept of justice or pro-society morality.  I actually find business news to be more elucidatory of the current rampant corruption (political and in coporate circles) as there seems to be fewer blinders on what is covered.  My guess is that they expect no one other than like minded sociopaths to watch / read the stuff or simply have no concept of the real world effects of what they are covering.    

--
culture: http://industrial.org
music: http://deterrent.net
code: http://codegrunt.com

[ Parent ]

Business news is business news (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by Sopwith Pup on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 05:37:58 AM EST

Whilst I would agree that certainly the Wall St. often reads like its written in a total social vacuum and is often hilariously right-wing - (though today strangely enough there's a news item against globalisation because, guess what, US firms are being disadvantaged by pesky European ones ;-)) - the 'job' of business news is to write about business, you want social analysis, go elsewhere.

Business itself is basically amoral in the wider social sense you seem to be employing the word: you don't start a business in order to pay taxes for healthcare or whatever, you don't employ people to ensure they can buy homes or whatever, its to do work.

However you do operate in a social context, if nothing else according to the legal framework where you live. Similiarly if you treat your staff like shit, they'll work the same way.

The recent US corporate corruption scandals aren't the first, but they will have an effect on corporate morality, however many Congresspersons are bought off, because they do go against the prevailing social context which allows the whole shebang to keep going. Business may go against some of your ideals but one thing it cannot be is genuinely sociopathic because it basically has to operate within society and on a basis on anonymous trust. The process may be very slow at times, but businesses which break the social rules do, sooner or later, fail.

Look at what's happening to Anderson - either through incompetence or design they've allowed all kinds of crap to happen under their care and now, after years of being one of the 'big five' they are dying. In some ways the scandals of Enron, Xerox, Worldcon, even MS are examples of corporate honesty and morality. If the system was as corrupt as you imply, they never would have been caught.

Slightly tangentally, I heard George Soros in a brief item on (UK) Radio 3 couple of days ago talking about greed and philanthropy - he accepted his currency trading was in one sense amoral greed, but not, as it were, for the money , more for the doing of it. Giving away money as he does now, is only possible if you've made it in the first place.


Be realistic, demand the impossible
[ Parent ]

bogus premise (3.20 / 10) (#32)
by gibichung on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 09:42:19 AM EST

The article's premise is "the U.S. is in a bad lot (we are?) because it isn't socialist."

The only real connection to the South is "and who hates socialists more than Southerners?". While I have no doubt that leaders of the New South (not Wales) have made financial (and no doubt ethical) sacrifices to bring industry Southward (for the last hundred and twenty years), the idea that this is somehow a recent phenomenon is really laughable.

This article is full of cheap shots and unsupported generalizations, but ultimately the author's only real argument appears to be "despite the fact that our per capita GDP is roughly 60% of yours, um, well... Enron!"

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt

Ooh ooh I've got one! (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by wji on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:45:15 PM EST

"Despite the fact that our per capita GDP is roughly 60% of yours, um, well... we have a way fucking better standard of living! And we're considered backwards, unequal, and heavily class structured by the rest of Europe!"

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
Facts (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by gibichung on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 01:36:01 PM EST

Maybe you should consider the percentages of population living at the poverty level? Last I checked, it was something like:

UKoGBaNI: 17%
America: 12.7%

I guess that the European perception of their "classless" society is just one of many unfounded conceits.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]

Oh, nevermind (none / 0) (#63)
by gibichung on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 01:41:00 PM EST

You meant "we" as in the UKoGBaNI. Just because the limeys are more honest than the rest of the Europeans doesn't make them "backwards." Or do you not consider anyone but the Scandinavians and Swiss to be Europeans?

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]
those are not "facts" (3.00 / 2) (#87)
by mikpos on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:46:18 PM EST

Despite the CIA pleasantly waving its magic wand and making a "factbook", which would imply that those numbers are "facts", they aren't. What is a poverty line? What is the definition of poverty?

Here's a good one: how do you describe "poverty" if you live in the UK? How do you describe "poverty" if you live in America? Any answer other than "completely differently" is incorrect.

A press release worth reading.

[ Parent ]

Lies, damned lies, and statistics (3.75 / 4) (#91)
by wji on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 08:03:33 PM EST

Actually, those statistics are accurate. I found them, as I'm guessing you did, in the CIA world factbook. Also in there is this definition of "population below poverty line":

National estimates of the percentage of the population lying below the poverty line are based on surveys of sub-groups, with the results weighted by the number of people in each group. Definitions of poverty vary considerably among nations. For example, rich nations generally employ more generous standards of poverty than poor nations.

So you can't compare across countries. Not with that statistic, anyway, but you can use some other ones. These are from the UN website:

Infant mortality rate:
UK: 0.3 male, 0.2 female
US: 0.4 male, 0.3 female

Life expectancy at birth:
UK: 75.7 male, 80.7 female
US: 74.6 male, 80.4 female

And this is from inequality.org, quoting fortune magazine:
The Gini coefficient is a complex statistical measure of inequality; a 0 coefficient is perfect equality (everyone has the same share), while a 1 coefficient is total inequality (one person has everything). In 1997, the United States had a Gini coefficient of 0.375, up from 0.323 in 1973. The 1997 figure is higher than any other "wealthy" country. Britain's is 0.346, Germany's 0.300, Canada's 0.286 and Sweden's 0.222. (Fortune, 9/4/00)

So in conclusion, you lose.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

The malign influence of the South (3.81 / 11) (#40)
by IHCOYC on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:34:55 AM EST

It has been apparent to me for a long time that the South is far too influential in U.S. politics. For the past thirty years, most of the presidential candidates of both major parties have been at least nominally from one of the former Confederate states. This may be because the electoral college system rewards the states with the most fickle voters; and the South, historically the stronghold of the Democrat party, has in recent years swung increasingly Republican.

Still, the most divisive issues in American politics usually turn out to have something to do with their eternal racial problems, their regimented and anti-intellectual version of the One True Patriotism, their disturbing gun culture, or their evil folk religions. Conservative politics is in large measure the art of hoodwinking the electorate by keeping them preoccupied with these boogeymen.

I think, though, that these "issues" are mostly frivolous and superficial. They are kept alive by politicians who know they can use them to get a cheap emotional reaction that will distract enough voters from real issues. While it historically has worked particularly well in the South, it does not follow that the Southerners are in charge of any of this.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy

fickle? (3.75 / 4) (#43)
by gibichung on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:47:40 AM EST

Still, the most divisive issues in American politics usually turn out to have something to do with their eternal racial problems, their regimented and anti-intellectual version of the One True Patriotism, their disturbing gun culture, or their evil folk religions. Conservative politics is in large measure the art of hoodwinking the electorate by keeping them preoccupied with these boogeymen.
Well, you win the prize for the most ironic comment of the day.

And, since when is the "Solid South" fickle? If you knew jack about history, you'd have noticed that the great "flip flop" had its roots in the Great Depression and FDR's "New Deal." It wasn't the people themselves who changed, but the political parties themselves - and it happened gradually. Research independent and third-parties in the South between the New Deal and Nixon, if you don't believe me.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]

The South (4.18 / 11) (#46)
by TunkeyMicket on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 11:41:54 AM EST

Having been born into a Southern family, I've been afforded an interesting childhood. I grew up on the West Coast, lived in the Midwest, lived in the Southwest, lived in the South, and lived South of the border. Nowing having seen alot of America, and some of Central America, I have learned a few things:
  • California is a great place to visit, and if you can afford to live in an area without gangs, then it is a nice place to live.
  • Texas is fun if you stay for the summer
  • Baha is awesome
  • Ohio/Illinois is pretty much "The Burbs", doesn't get anymore White Middle-Class than that.
  • The South is a great place to live but a poor place to educate children.
  • Florida is a great place to fish.
I'm a staunch believer in not cracking on something/someone until you've "walked a mile in their shoes", or so the saying goes. The South is only influential in US Politics because of a change in the 30's [maybe the 40's, I don't remember]. Now on to what you describe to be the "Southern problems".

"their eternal racial problems": Well it appears that some people haven't visited much of the south as of the last 10 years. Most has reformed and changed its ways. The racial problems are still there with some of the baby-boomers and the older folks, but the newer generations are doing a fine job of reform. I'm none to keen on being labeled racist, or having my home labeled a racist state, merely for the fact that some people won't give up their traditions. Race is only a problem for the ignorant.

"their regimented and anti-intellectual version of the One True Patriotism": Now this is only a problem if you make it a problem. It is quite easy to ignore this. If you're refering to religion+patriotism then I understand why you think its counter-productive. The South is very much tradition based. You cannot change the South by complaining and nitpicking. You change the South by living there and influencing your ideas onto the next generation of Southern gentlemen and belles. You must breed the ignorance out of the South.

"their disturbing gun culture": Whats disturbing is city folk with guns. The South takes pride in its gun culture because we respect firearms. The South takes more care in educating youth with firearm safety, than the North or the West. I'm sorry but there is nothing disturbing about teaching your kid safety with firearms. Having guns is an OK thing. Not everyone in the South owns a gun. We aren't issued them at birth. If someone South of the Mason-Dixon line has a gun, the odds are (s)he uses it to hunt. North of that Mason-Dixon line it becomes harder to find people who bought guns just to hunt. Nort of the Mason-Dixon line it becomes harder to find people who educated their children on firearm safety [if they own firearms]. I think the gun culture of the South, as you put it, is very much a healthy culture.

"their evil folk religions": Now I'm wondering what the hell a 'folk religion' is. We have Baptists, Southern Baptists, 1st Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians(sp?), Catholics, Evangelical Lutherans, Lutherans, etc etc. The South isn't just Baptists, it may look that way, but its not. Granted the extreme majority are some form of staunch Christians. Growing up I was a Methodist, until I decided it wasn't for me. I became an athiest at first, then an agnostic, and now I just plain don't give a flying fuck what I am. It is very hard to be a non-Christian in the South. I agree with you that the degree to which they hold religion sacred is scary. I am not a fan of religious fanaticism. At work I get "cute" Jesus email all day...Quite obviously they still believe in destroying a culture by immersing it in Christian fluff. So you went 1 for 4 on problems in the South.

Lastly, Southern politics are something Yankees don't understand. Possibly, this is because Yankees don't understand the word "tradition". The same bigots get elected because they were elected traditionally. This is how voting works in the South. On the local/state level this is nowhere near true. It is a much larger mix of political affiliations at this level. The changes are being made from the ground up; give us some time to breed the old people out :D

--
Chris "TunkeyMicket" Watford
[ Parent ]
re: The South (3.66 / 3) (#56)
by zephc on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:50:07 PM EST

I have lived in California all my life except for a 6-month stint in the South (Carolina, that is).  One of the things that drove me nuts out there was getting good fresh veggies, which I think one take for granted in most of California.  It's pretty down there, but I am still biased towards California and the Bay Area (and even more so for my home town, Santa Cruz)

As for the Gun Culture thing, I think I am one of a very small number of people in this area who was raised to respect guns (by my dad).  My mom hates - and doesn't understand - guns.  I really don't have a problem with guns, except when being wielded by people who weren't taught to respect their power.

Otherwise, I'm Californian thru-and-thru: religious conservatism ("We are the One True Way", etc) and blind patriotism rubs me the wrong way, and I can't stand bigots (haven't met many).

As for traditions, yeah, sure, they're fine, until they start retarding the progress of a whole culture.

You are right though about things changing... the old bigots are dying off and the newer generations are learning to think for themselves.  Maybe in a couple generations from now a really New South can be realized.

[ Parent ]

I'm sorry... (none / 0) (#120)
by TunkeyMicket on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 09:00:29 AM EST

I'm sorry that you had to live in South Carolina...being that it is the Armpit of the South. All I can say good about SC, is that it isn't the asshole of the South. Of all the places in the US I'll never take my Children too, SC ranks right up there with Newark, NJ. I'm sorry if this seems harsh, but SC is one of the trashiest states in the union. The sheer amount of skank found in Myrtle Beach destroys the state as a whole. I'd much rather vacation to middle-Mississippi.
--
Chris "TunkeyMicket" Watford
[ Parent ]
Folk religions (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by IHCOYC on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:51:27 PM EST

"Folk religion" is usually defined as a body of religious belief and practice that is sustained and supported by the practising or believing segment of the general populace, as opposed to a professional clergy representing a high or official culture. The practitioners of any folk religion are often self-appointed; in any case they typically have little or no recognition from a non-local governing body, and little or no formal academic training. Folk religion is usually transmitted orally rather than by writing.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]
Race in the south (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by TheSleeper on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 01:13:30 PM EST

The racial problems are still there with some of the baby-boomers and the older folks, but the newer generations are doing a fine job of reform.

I'm inclined to agree with this. I grew up in the south, but moved to the northeast a few years ago for job reasons.

Frankly, the most colorblind group I've known is young, middle-class, and especially urban southerners. Sure, some of their parents might use the word 'nigger' from time to time in private conversations, but they don't. Interracial friendships and relationships were pretty common at my high school, and nobody batted an eye about it.

When I lived in the south, I knew black guys who went to LAN parties and dated white girls, and white guys who were into rap and hung out at Freaknik (a big mostly-black spring break event in Atlanta). I haven't seen so much of that in the northeast. People here tend to stick more within their own racial groups and conform more readily to the mores of their own race.

It's also worth noting that the south is more racially diverse than most other parts of the country. Or at least, it has the lowest percentage of white people. I don't have a link handy, but there's a 2000 census map showing that other than New York, New Jersey, California, and New Mexico, the states with the lowest percentages of whites are all southern states: Texas, Louisiana, Missisippi, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland.

[ Parent ]

Do you have any actual knowledge .... (3.71 / 7) (#48)
by HypoLuxa on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 11:59:25 AM EST

... of Southern politics or people?

their eternal racial problems - It's an American problem, not a Southern problem. Care to name some race riots? Harlem, DC, Los Angeles, Chicago. The majority, particularly in the past 20 years, have occurred outside of the South. Racism and slavery are American problems, from their very inception.

anti-intellectual version of the One True Patriotism - is currently feverish everywhere, but no more so than in blue collar New York City. Anti-intellectualism in the US has it's roots in a the never-talked-about American class system. Patriotism and anti-intellectualism are highest amongst blue collar workers, which dominate politics in Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio and much of the South.

their disturbing gun culture - once again, this problem may be epitomized in the South, but is in no way limited there. Also, by being the center of gun culture, it is also the center of anti-gun culture in the US. One of the pioneering groups in bringing legal action against gun manufacturers and distributers is the Southern Poverty Law Center (you remember them, the ones who have waged some the most bitter and influential battles on racism in America, based in Montgomery, Alabama)

their evil folk religions - I'm pretty sure you just put this in to be inflammatory, but I think we can both agree that the dominant religion in the South (Christianity), is dominant in the rest of the nation as well. In addition, when people speak of the "Bible Belt" in American politics, they are usually referring to the South and most of the Midwest.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen
[ Parent ]

The problems of the South (none / 0) (#93)
by IHCOYC on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 09:14:57 PM EST

Racial problems, though they certainly now affect the North, are Southern exports wherever they exist. They would not be problems for us now had more backbone been shown in the attempt to civilise the South after the Civil War. Stronger measures to disenfranchise all rebels, guarantee that freedmen were the voters that counted, disarm the whites, redistribute the land in the slave plantations under a form of trusteeship for the freedmen, and most importantly, to not end military rule until these measures were fully implemented and self-perpetuating, would have fixed the problems before they began.

I will agree that anti-intellectualism does indeed have to do with the unmentionable American class system. It is, of course, worse in those areas that remained more rural and economically backward.

Christianity seems different in the South. Yes, there are a lot of conservative Christians in the Midwest, and in Indiana, where I am writing from. But few of the Christians I know of seem likely to have been baptised in open streams, or to speak the Unknown Tongue, or believe that the latest of the perennial wars of the Mideast is an omen of the imminent arrival of the Antichrist. This seems a matter of culture, of "folk religion," rather than a question of formal teaching. It strikes me that "conservative" isn't the right word for this kind of practice; conservatism implies reserve and prudence to me, and this variety of religion seems to go great lengths in the opposite direction.

This message has been placed here IN MEMORIAM by the Parent ]

Wow, And here I thought Slavery already existed... (none / 0) (#117)
by Kintanon on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 04:11:57 PM EST

before the US. I had no idea we INVENTED IT! WoW!
Admittedly the US has problems with racial relations, but so does most of the rest of the world. Just with different races. I really wish people would stop pretending that Slavery and Racism were both invented by white southern men. Yeesh. Both have been around for as long as humanity has been.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

Southern Presidents (none / 0) (#103)
by boboroshi on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 11:02:38 AM EST

Well, if the south is evil and all politicians from there are hell spawn, Just look at the list of Virginia born presidents.

Washington
Jefferson
Madison
Monroe
Harrison
Tyler
Taylor
Wilson

But hey, Southerners are evil. ;)
John Athayde http://www.boboroshi.com/ (play) http://www.meticulous.com/ (work)
[ Parent ]

Southern, Yes, Conservative No... (3.12 / 16) (#51)
by thelizman on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:30:24 PM EST

Like so much mudslinging, people are bent upon using this tragedy to damn conservatives. It's more a reflection on how hard the left is having to grasp at straws to maintain political capital than anything else.

Now, the disclosure. I am a conservative republican (oooh, bit freakin suprise there eh), and I hated KKKlinton with a passion though not necessarily for his liberalism but his spineless jelly-legged administration (I can at least respect principled liberals).

Y'all might remember that Clinton used the tax code to force salary caps on corporate executive pay? Well guess what folks, that's when companies turned to intangibles like "stock options" or company cars to pay their employees. This led to other forms of creative accounting. In fact, the corporate tax code is so overwhelmingly complex that cooking the books is almost a necessity for large corporations to survive. The result: Most major fortune 1000 companies are leveraging their debts by stating them as loans or stocks. For those familiar with accounting, there's this thing called "GAAP", or Generally Accepted Accounting Practices. These are used by legitimate accounting firms and CPA's because the rules established therein setup a solid system of accountancy. Unfortunately, they would result in companies like Enron or Coca-Cola crashing into the sea (not that some of the commie bitches here would shed a tear). So, they were forced into creative accounting in order to represent profits and losses in such a way that a corporation can keep a decent operation profit. No wonder such corruption exists, if they can get away with - and are forced to use - such systems.

It's about time we did two step: 1) Simplify the tax code, and 2) force a rigid set of standards for corporate responsibility (preferrably through the threat of a law, if not an actual codification of standards)

Odd...everyone bitches when private enterprise mismanages money they earned and go out of business, but nobody is really bitching about the Federal Government mismanaging tax dollars they confiscate from the American people.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
A suggestion (4.70 / 10) (#53)
by wji on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:42:32 PM EST

How about you just write a software robot that herustically searches out articles critical of conservatism, and automatically posts "CLINTON'S FAULT! CLINTON'S FAULT!" to it over and over again.

You guys really amaze me. Do you actually think that people pay more attention to corporate mismanagement than to government mismanagement? Come on. The government is CONSTANTLY accused (and I really don't know how much of it is true) of wasting x billion dollars and losing y billion dollars and buying z hundred dollar coffee pots*. But nobody even knows what corporations do with their money, since they operate very secretively.

Oh, and about the tax code, the reason it's super-fucking-complicated isn't because a cabal of cackling Washingtonian commies decided to frusturate business by complicating it. It's because hordes of corporate lobbyists put about ten thousand loopholes through it so their corporations can pay almost no taxes. "Forced into creative accounting". Was Enron "forced to pay no taxes in the last four out of five years" by the Evil Commie Burecrats?

Hey, and for that matter, if corporations were trying to avoid taxesin this way, wouldn't they be understating profits and overstating losses? LOL, not only are your arguments inconsistent with reality, they're self-inconsistent.

Oh, and please don't lower yourself to the level of calling anyone too far left for your taste a "commie". I would never call you a facist, although you probably are one.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

Footnote * (none / 0) (#58)
by wji on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:52:28 PM EST

Oh yeah, I was so happy with that calling you a facist while not really calling you a facist line that I forgot the footnote.

The coffee pot, as I recall, was a huge mofo coffee pot designed for use on a troop-carrying cargo plane, and was bullet proof. I don't think you want to get sprayed in the eyes with scalding coffee seconds before jumping out of an airplane to attack something. Similar stories with the toilet seat, the hot coffee lawsuit, etc etc etc.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]

I recall said coffe pot (none / 0) (#72)
by Altus on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 03:50:29 PM EST

the problem was one of specifications, not purposefull wastefull spending.

the coffee pot was added to long range bombers along with many other things, so that crews could go for long times in the air effectively.

unfortualtely they were designed to the same specs as the rest of the plane becuse they were never speced out separatly.  the coffee pot will operate properly even when the cabin is depresurized.

who the fuck needs coffee when there is no cabin pressure.... nobody... nor would anyone have said that this was a good idea if it had been specificaly speced out, but since generic specs were applied the result is an overpriced piece of equipment.  many high priced govt expenditures (specificaly military) can be traced to similar problems.
"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the money, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

The cost of planning (none / 0) (#92)
by kraant on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 08:55:49 PM EST

The question is would it have cost more to spec the coffee pot seperately than it would to make an over-specced coffeepot.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
well (none / 0) (#121)
by Altus on Mon Jul 08, 2002 at 10:34:33 AM EST

given that many coffee pots had to be made to this spec, it might have been cheeper.  still its not like you can just use a Mr. Coffee. you do have to make sure it doesnt spill, and the entire device should lock into place so the pot and the filter and such cannot come out...

still it probably could have been a lot cheeper.

 
"In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the money, then you get the women..." -H. Simpson
[ Parent ]

Corporate Communists (2.63 / 11) (#61)
by thelizman on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 01:17:34 PM EST

How about you just write a software robot that herustically searches out articles critical of conservatism, and automatically posts "CLINTON'S FAULT! CLINTON'S FAULT!" to it over and over again.
Is that possible? I'll have to work in it right away!
You guys really amaze me.
Well, simple things amaze simple people
Do you actually think that people pay more attention to corporate mismanagement than to government mismanagement? Come on. The government is CONSTANTLY accused (and I really don't know how much of it is true) of wasting x billion dollars and losing y billion dollars and buying z hundred dollar coffee pots*.
Yeah? But is anything ever done about it? Noooo. So here we have the thronging masses demanding that the government strike down evil corporations, but the federal government who is responsible for a considerable percentage of our economy gets a blank check off the backs of working Americans? Do you realized the non-sequiter nature of your sewage spewage?
But nobody even knows what corporations do with their money, since they operate very secretively.
Actually, the operate quite openly as required by disclosure laws when they are publically traded. Otherwise, unless you're a shareholder, what an Enron or a Worldcom does with its money is non of your business.

The problem is that the shareholders (many of whom are employees) don't go to the shareholder meetings, don't ask the right questions, and don't understand whats going on. You have to treat stocks like black boxes, and ask ask as questions. If I were an Enron shareholder, I'd ask how the hell they were able to float the obvious significant debt from their infrastructure. Like any other system, running a corporation is GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. No Money In, No Money Out.
Oh, and about the tax code, the reason it's super-fucking-complicated isn't because a cabal of cackling Washingtonian commies decided to frusturate business by complicating it. It's because hordes of corporate lobbyists put about ten thousand loopholes through it so their corporations can pay almost no taxes.
So you're placing the chicken before the egg? Are you so mind numbed that you don't recognize the reciprocal nature of taxation and lobbying? Here's a hint for you: FLAT TAX!
"Forced into creative accounting". Was Enron "forced to pay no taxes in the last four out of five years" by the Evil Commie Burecrats?
Precisely. This massive draconian tax code is fraught with loopholes, and Enron took advantage of perfectly legal avenues to both write off losses and to shelter profits through tax-free partnerships.
Hey, and for that matter, if corporations were trying to avoid taxesin this way, wouldn't they be understating profits and overstating losses? LOL, not only are your arguments inconsistent with reality, they're self-inconsistent.
You would'nt know what consistancy was if it bit you in the ass repeatedly. Consistancy, being a matter of perception, requires the ability to consider a balanced scenario. Since you've already made up your mind that all things corporate are evil, you've ignored the blatently obvious point that you are trying to contend: The tax code forces companies into creative accounting. You yourself exemplified this by pointing out how lobbyists employed by the corporations managed to create circuimstantial loopholes in tax codes which allow corporations to shelter themselves against losses. Hint: paying taxes is a loss. Anything which results in an entry into a debit colums is a loss. Ever run a business? There's this thing called a P&L report you have to do. You'll note that P&L stands for Profit & Loss, not Profit, Loss, Taxes, and Expenditures.

The problem with all you anti-corporate types is that you're ignorant. Had any of you ever run a successful business, you'd at least see the other side of the coin and be able to balance the two. Instead, you stick with the mind-numbed ideals that have been spoonfed you by your intellectual masters.
Oh, and please don't lower yourself to the level of calling anyone too far left for your taste a "commie". I would never call you a facist, although you probably are one.
You would never call me a fascist, but they you go on to state that I am probably a fascist. Obviously, you're into making minor distinctions when it suits you. The minor distinction you fail to make is that the ignorant SOB's that want government to run businesses to prevent them from failing are precisely that: Communists. Look it up in a dictionary (a dictionary is a thick-assed book - much like your head - that contains definitions and examples of useage for words in a given language...words to have meanings you know).

Note: I will no longer feed this troll, so yes, he will have the last word.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Not "Clinton" (3.00 / 3) (#69)
by gbd on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 03:21:02 PM EST

It's "KKKlinton." Ha! Ha! Get it? Ku Klux Klan (KKK!)

This is the very pinnacle of conservative humour. I'm sure that Tom DeLay and Bob Barr sat around smoking cigars and drinking brandy for hours before they came up with that one, but I think you will admit that the effort was well worth it; the result is one knee-slapper of a zinger .. that's for dang sure!

Of course, it's not immediately obvious what the connection between the Ku Klux Klan and President Clinton is (the latter having been described as the country's "first black President"), but dang .. KKKlinton! That there is some funny stuff.

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]

Corporate Secrecy? (none / 0) (#119)
by WombatControl on Sat Jul 06, 2002 at 01:04:17 AM EST

You guys really amaze me. Do you actually think that people pay more attention to corporate mismanagement than to government mismanagement? Come on. The government is CONSTANTLY accused (and I really don't know how much of it is true) of wasting x billion dollars and losing y billion dollars and buying z hundred dollar coffee pots*. But nobody even knows what corporations do with their money, since they operate very secretively.

Yes, corporations operate secretly... other than require quarterly earnings reports, legally mandated disclosure statements, constant media attention, etc. The kind of horrid accounting that went on with Enron and WorldCom happens every day in government, and there's no SEC to dig into it. In fact, if government were a corporation, most everyone who runs it would be in jail for fraud.



[ Parent ]
Whatever... (5.00 / 4) (#77)
by Danse on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 04:49:44 PM EST

This isn't about Republicans or Democrats. It's about business and corrupt politicians that fight for laws that make it easier for businesses to screw people. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this. Both sides have a lot of members that should be thrown out on their asses and have their assets siezed. But sadly there will be no justice for them. Over the decades they've managed to completely tangle the law up to the point where it is extremely tough to figure out what is illegal and what is just irresponsible, immoral, or incompetent. And worse, things that should be illegal are actually legal thanks to our government serving its own interests instead of ours. You can say that it's our own fault for electing these people, but that doesn't change the fact that they aren't doing their job, and in many cases are actively working against the very people that elected them. If I actively worked against the company I work for, I could most likely be prosecuted and face major fines and/or imprisonment depending on the severity of my actions. I think the severity of the actions of the people representing us has been pretty extreme.

Enron knew what it was doing. There's no way you can create a system like theirs and not know what you're doing. They knew they'd be in deep shit if anyone figured it out too. As for companies like Worldcom who make 4 billion dollar boo-boos in their checkbooks, I think someone (probably quite a few people) needs to be held responsible and do the time for the crime. I can't make a colossal fuckup in my accounting without having the bank or creditor come down on me like a ton of bricks. I don't see why they should get out of it either (and many probably won't, but there always seems to be a few that make out like bandits). If they can't keep track of what's going on in their shell games, then they shouldn't play them. Now we see the White House making a big thing about getting tough on these companies and executives in a desperate attempt to keep people from realizing that they are the ones that helped to make these things possible (and have profited from it themselves) in the first place. Not just Bush, although he's as guilty as anyone else, but Clinton, Bush Sr., Congress, etc. As long as these kinds of things don't result in both financial ruin and long prison terms for the perpetrators, they will continue to happen.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
As a puplic service (5.00 / 1) (#105)
by CaptainZapp on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:59:16 PM EST

Now we see the White House making a big thing about getting tough on these companies and executives in a desperate attempt to keep people from realizing that they are the ones that helped to make these things possible

May I provide this link as a public service to the fine spirited community of this family type discussion board. Need I only say two words:

Dick Cheney

See, hearing stuff like "tough on accounting practices" from this administration has just a trifle less credibility then Microsoft corporation claiming to seek the dialogue with the free software community.

Egg, face, a helluvalota of egg...

[ Parent ]

My problem with Republicans (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by mike3k on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:53:17 PM EST

I'm more or less a libertarian (small 'l'), but I have a big problem with the Republican party's ties to the Religious Right. I really don't care about economic issues and I won't argue on that, but I'm an atheist & I also happen to be gay, and both put me at odds with the Republicans.

The government has no right to impose their religious or moral beliefs on the rest of us. Clinton didn't bother me & I don't care about his sex life. I'm not saying I agree with everything he did, but he didn't do anything to offend me like Bush does everytime he invokes "God" and "Evildoers". Despite what the current regime says, this is NOT a Christian nation. We have the right to believe - or not believe - whatever we want. We shouldn't have religion forced on us.

[ Parent ]

I hate to say this, (none / 0) (#115)
by ethereal on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 02:02:05 PM EST

But Democrats have overwhelmingly supported the Religious Right perspective on the whole Pledge of Allegiance thing, too. They really are two sides of the same coin, at least when it comes to pandering to the electorate.

On the balance, so far the Democrats have managed to be a little less religiously-motivated, but they have their own driving factors and blind spots when they are in power.

Both of them are corrupted by power into thinking that they can take the country wherever they want to go.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Don't mess with Texas (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by demi on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 12:47:46 PM EST

Op-Ed Column From Marginal UK Newspaper Enrages Internet-Addicted US Geeks, more on this story as it develops...

For the news YOU need, go LIVE with K5!!!!

Deregulation at fault? (3.87 / 8) (#59)
by seebs on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 01:03:32 PM EST

I'm not sure that we're any worse off than we would be if companies failed because they were tangled in red tape and ineffective.

We've had, overall, unprecedented growth during this allegedly harmful "deregulation"; even if we write off all of Enron and Worldcom, we *STILL* have unprecedented growth.

Deregulation appears to produce more risk, and better returns... exactly what everyone said it would.  If we want the returns, we should accept the risks.  Personally, I think it's a good bet; we are in a better position to face the risks than we would be without the corresponding growth.


Maybe... (none / 0) (#76)
by Danse on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 04:24:34 PM EST

We will probably be writing off a lot more of that growth if these creative accounting practices are as widespread as they seem to be. Then we'll have to decide if the growth that's left was really worth the price.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
The problem is that widespread (none / 0) (#81)
by theboz on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 05:32:29 PM EST

I think it would be easier to find out who has not been lying rather than who has. I know Xerox, BellSouth, and Peregrine are a few companies that have run into similar problems that I know of. I have a feeling that either Gateway or Dell will be the next company to come out for having lied about the accounting. I don't know for sure, but I am suspicious.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Deregulation and growth (4.33 / 3) (#86)
by andrewhy on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:40:44 PM EST

Sure, deregulation causes unprecedented growth!

The bottom line of corporations such as Worldcom have grown. Massive company layoffs have grown as well (even during these periods of unprecedented growth!)

The stock market has grown (although it is rapidly on it's way towards erasing all of that growth.) Compensation for CEO's has grown a hundredfold.

On the other hand, wage increases for blue and white collar workers alike have been minor or even stagnant. Benefits have shrunken dramatically since the 80's. Competition has also shrunk since there are fewer and fewer companies around.

The point is that although greater risk does indeed involve greater reward, the rewards go only to a small minority of fortunate, highly-placed or well-connected individuals. I encourage you to seek out statistics on income distribution since the 1970's, and you'll see exactly who is profiting.

If "Noise" means uncomfortable sound, then pop music is noise to me -- Masami Akita, aka "Merzbow"
[ Parent ]

Huh... (4.50 / 2) (#94)
by mbmccabe on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:09:55 PM EST

You act like this is the first time in history we've had a boom/bust and that you're the first person to have to figure out "what's happening" right now.

The themes these folks and this article cover have all been seen many times before.

The discussion concerning these things have even happened here on k5 as well as over on /.

All corp's are not good.  All deregulation is not good.  It's a nice theory that "the market" can provide an answer to every question, but the rich and powerful have seen to it well that  "the market" has as little influence on them as possible and have shunted the inherent negative effects of "the market" to the middle class.

Enjoy, and please read more history.  WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE.

[ Parent ]

Damn Southern trilateralist conspiracy (3.00 / 3) (#65)
by Licquia on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 02:13:55 PM EST

I couldn't help substituting "Jewish" for "Southern" in that screed, and thinking of what it sounded like with that substitution.

Of course, it's always easier to pick on a group you don't like and blame them for the world's problems. I couldn't say how many problems have actually been solved that way, though.

I'm sorry, that's stupid (3.00 / 2) (#70)
by 0xdeadbeef on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 03:31:35 PM EST

There is most definately a "Southern style" to corporate and political corruption.  Texas and Louisiana are famous for it, but you see it throughout the South.

Are you a reactionary Southern apologist or just some right-wing nut embarrassed by how these scandals harm your agenda?

[ Parent ]

It seems I was right (4.20 / 5) (#75)
by Licquia on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 04:23:17 PM EST

There is most definately a "Southern style" to corporate and political corruption. Texas and Louisiana are famous for it, but you see it throughout the South.

'There is most definately a "Jewish style" to corporate and political corruption. Antwerp and New York are famous for it, but you see it throughout the Western world.'

Are you a reactionary Southern apologist or just some right-wing nut embarrassed by how these scandals harm your agenda?

'Are you a reactionary Jewish apologist or just some Zionist nut embarrassed by how these scandals harm your agenda?'

Tell me, what constitutes "Southern-style" corruption? Does that mean that you pay off your politicians over fried chicken and grits, or that you say "y'all" at least three times in your botched accounting reports?

How about we focus on corruption or greed, and not get so concerned with the pedigree?

And for the record, I'm from Indiana. Since the age of three months, the farthest south I've lived is Springfield, Illinois, and I lived in the Chicago area for quite a while. For some reason, "Chicago-style" corruption doesn't look much different from "Southern-style" corruption, unless you happen to have a preference for tasteless redneck jokes over tasteless "Polack" jokes, or you like gangster movies.

[ Parent ]

Just doing a search and replace on... (3.00 / 2) (#82)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 06:09:58 PM EST

...a statement to turn it into another doesn't prove anything. Just thought I'd let you know.
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]
It doesn't prove anything, but.... (none / 0) (#97)
by QuantumFoam on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 02:51:02 AM EST

the point that author of the comment was trying to make was that generalizing a large group of people, and drawing conclusions on specific cases based on those generalizations and stereotypes is not a very honest way to analyze something.

Political and corporate corruption are by no means limited to the South. In fact I would say that it has been much more refined for a longer time in the North. Corrupt unions (propped up by paid-off politicians) were the norm in the northern states for a VERY long time.

- Barack Obama: Because it will work this time. Honest!
[ Parent ]

The S&R (meta)argument (none / 0) (#112)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 01:36:41 PM EST

Political and corporate corruption are by no means limited to the South
Then you need to argue that fact. Here's when search and replace is a good argument: when you're trying to show that the form of someone's argument is faulty. S&R retains the form of the argument and is usually used to show how the same argument form can produce fallacious results. When the original poster was talking about Southern business style he wasn't trying to argue that such a thing exists (I don't know if it does myself) but simply taking for granted that it does. As a result the S&R reply was comletely pointless because there was no argument of that form to rebut.
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]
Of course (3.00 / 2) (#80)
by leviramsey on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 05:17:28 PM EST

The most egregious examples of Southern corruption were when it was the Solid South, where there were no Republicans.



[ Parent ]
What's deregulation have to do with it? (none / 0) (#84)
by khym on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:27:18 PM EST

Honestly, I don't see what deregulation has to do with any of these scandals. How would not deregulating have prevented these companies from lying about profits and debts to the public, shareholders, business partners, banks and so on?

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
Deregulation and accounting scandals (4.00 / 2) (#100)
by andrewhy on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 06:05:06 AM EST

This article by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz was posted on Salon.com yesterday. Read his answer to the first question to see how lack of government regulation contributed to the current accounting scandals.

If "Noise" means uncomfortable sound, then pop music is noise to me -- Masami Akita, aka "Merzbow"
[ Parent ]

Wow (2.30 / 10) (#85)
by trhurler on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 07:38:14 PM EST

An entire story, full of assertions. Two separate sources cited, both of which are by and large fact free zones, full of anecdotes and ungrounded "logic." One source obviously a socialist gasbag unaware that the US economy is still in better shape than the economies of Europe, preaching doom and gloom to the capitalist masses. The other source obviously a tearjerker/empathy/I'm not the only one piece for disgruntled ex-corporate types who probably weren't any good at their jobs anyway.

Gee, that's great. Thanks.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Care to elaborate? (none / 0) (#89)
by andrewhy on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 08:00:23 PM EST

Like I said, the author of the Observer article is writing from a European liberal socialist slant, which will automatically turn off liberatarian types such as yourself regardless of it's merits. You're entitled to your opinion, so if you think he's full of shit, that's understandable. (Although I'm sure we'd all appreciate if you'd point out the flaws in his logic.)

As for the book I mentioned, I can safely assume you have not read it.

If "Noise" means uncomfortable sound, then pop music is noise to me -- Masami Akita, aka "Merzbow"
[ Parent ]

in better shape for who? (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by moron on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:47:04 PM EST

I am sure that the CEOs for the top 500 coporations feel that the economy is doing better but a quick look around at the number of street people should make it clear that things are not going to well for the average individual.  

Perhaps you shuold ask the 17,000 just laid off by Worldcom what they think about this supposed era of prosperity.

A higher stock price does not reflect greater real world wealth for the majority of the population.  

--
culture: http://industrial.org
music: http://deterrent.net
code: http://codegrunt.com

[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#116)
by trhurler on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 02:22:38 PM EST

The 17,000 who just got laid off and the homeless people and so on are still a tiny minority. For the vast majority, the situation is this: interest rates are low, jobs are, if not plentiful, at least available, and goods just keep getting cheaper after inflation.

I'm sure CEOs are unhappy right now though, because this is a tough time to be them: they've got accounting scandals, stock option scandals, political corruption scandals, and that's just what we've seen so far.

Look at what Europe has to offer. If you're rich, it is not as good as the US, but still, you are rich. If you're poor, you're taken care of, but despite best efforts, socialism cannot hide the fact that handouts are not a dignified way to live; these people are not what you'd call "happy." However, for the vast majority, since you seem so worried about majorities - life is worse than it is in the US. They make the same or a bit more money, but most of it is then taken away to be used as handouts, and everything in Europe is absurdly expensive. In order to live as well as I lived when I got out of college, your typical European needs a six figure salary. Thanks, but no thanks. I'm middle class - in economic terms, I am your average guy - that huge majority you want to speak up for - and I am here to tell you that I prefer lower prices and lower taxes to higher prices and higher taxes. Why? Because I, the great average you worship, am better off.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
I don't think the South has much to do with it (4.00 / 4) (#95)
by sobcek on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:23:10 AM EST

(even though 137 years later some of them still won't admit they lost...)

I liken this to a boxer who chops off his arm and says:  "Hey, now I'm a lean-mean-fighting machine.  No extra weight to carry around here..."  And the odds-makers then proceed to slant the odds in his favor.

Cutting jobs may at first look like it's good for the bottom line, but it undoubtedly shoots morale to hell, as people wait to see if they're next on the chopping block.  Cheerful place to work, no?

Yeah, the situation is significantly more complex than that and I am not an economist.  I do know that I'm most productive when I'm happy, and that a man with an axe over his head is worried only about his own interests.

Net Asset Tax Paper (3.00 / 2) (#102)
by Baldrson on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 09:45:46 AM EST

From the 1992 white paper A Net Asset Tax Based On The Net Present Value Calculation and Market Democracy:
...capital welfare severely distorts the optimization of asset ownership in society by placing, as a matter of public policy, ever more assets under the control of those who already have the most assets. Capitalism expresses its worst potentials when capital welfare debilitates the character of the wealthy while it gives them ever more economic authority. This asset centralization impoverishes the population at large, ending with a collapse in consumer demand. Supply-side theory fails to predict this collapse because it fails to deal with the fact that the wealthy are just as prone to character erosion by welfare as are the poor. It is even more destructive than welfare for the poor because it corrupts the decision makers in the economy. In the face of collapsing consumer demand and capital welfare, acquisition of more capital assets is promoted over the productive use or investment of those assets.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


Corporate Ethics? (none / 0) (#110)
by thawes on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 08:47:45 AM EST

Don't you think there is a great lack of discernment when we bring up the problem of corporate ethics without ever addressing the general ethics of society? If government is corrupt what good is corporate regulations going to do?

Then again, it is taboo to discuss ethics... until we ourselves are wronged.

"The fool is often misunderstood. He is neither an idiot nor a jest. A fool is the dark side of genius. Where a genius is able to see and make connections, the fool is able to see and disconnect."
    --Paraphrase of Otto Scott's opening words in James I: The Fool as King

"Last week, headlines around the world were screaming out the sad tale of WorldCom--or, as a host of copy writers have come to call it, WorldCON--and its $4 billion or so misstatement of earnings.

"But should we really be surprised that another poster child of the boom--especially one whose growth has come through rapid-fire acquisitions led by a rock-star CEO--has been revealed to be a hotbed of malpractice?" For a more balanced view: [Read More]



Southern Style Conservativism Responsible for Corporate Implosions? | 122 comments (77 topical, 45 editorial, 0 hidden)
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