January 30, 2009
President Obama called the bonuses paid to banking sector executives, "shameful". He then said,“There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses.”
He was right about "shameful", but he fudged it on bonuses, as if there were good old days we could go back to when a CEO received an "honest day's pay for an honest day's work". In a complex economy, this is close to impossible. It is inevitable earnings of investment bankers, hedge fund managers and CEOs of large companies will depend far more on social norms than long-term economic performance. Don't get me wrong. The elite of big business and finance are talented people; there is, however, scant economic justification for the pay they receive.
Fixing America: Obama's To Do list
January 14, 2009
The TO DO list for Barack Obama put together by our best and brightest is clear. When he gets the Oval Office on Day 1 on desk all he will be asked to fix ... everything.
We all know why there is so much to be done. The foundations of society are off kilter. Education and work, the two things that take up most our lives, need to be retooled -- from pre-school imagination building to post-doc innovating. We need to rethink what is worth doing and worth learning how to do...
1. Get out of Iraq and Afghanistan now.
2. Provide all American children with the world's best health care and education.
3. End U.S. dependence of foreign oil.
December 27, 2008
Nice, nice, very nice;
Nice, Nice, very nice;
Nice, nice, very nice --
So many different people
In the same device.
-- Kurt Vonnegut
There are lots of smart people describing the mess we are in. I read The New York Times and The New Yorker mostly, where professional journalists have incomparable access to the world’s most important decision-makers and our best minds. These journalists, the media elite, work hard to do their job monitoring the elites of the other estates.
Thomas Friedman, of the flat world, is fixated on our collapsing infrastructure, fractured educational system, and inane business culture. His articles detail failure upon failure made palatable by a dash of optimism and a catchy title like "Time to Reboot America".
He and his colleagues, in an attempt to veil despair, regularly finish up their missives with a plea to the Office of the President-Elect to save our skins. Paul Krugman is a pro at it (see "Barack be good"). Though as a Nobel-prize winner he is smart enough to have figured out that Obama ain’t off to such a great start, vacationing in a luxury beach home, taking the Clintons and most of their team on board in this winter of discontent, and signing Rick Warren for a dose insipid truth for our inaugural prayer.
We, the people, would like, and deserve, something better from our elites.
For years I believed that managerial incompetence in the U.S. automobile industry had no limits. I was right. But that was only part of the story. Now these giants of industry and their million lobbyistreplicant march on Washington is on the cusp of a monster bailout that promises to suck $15 - $25 billipn out of the American taxpayer in the first tranche. (This is peanuts, of course, compared to what was wasted on AIG, but I have already exhaled sufficient spleen on that topic.)
The three big automakers are singly and collectively underserving of a red cent, but the most undeserving of all is Cerberus, the savior of Chrysler. Cerberus is run by Stephen Feinberg, who by all accounts is smart and, by the standards of superrich hedge fund moguls, modest in his impudent arrogance.