Equal Opportunity – Access or Outcomes

Say No More

Say No More (Photo credit: Feggy Art)

“This crap has got to stop.”

“Ok, Avi, fill me in. What has to stop?”

Avi slid in the opposite side of the picnic table, obstructing Bevin’s view of the band busy performing a decent rendition of Ventura Highway.

“I am tired of all the crap at work. I am underpaid, I work harder than everyone else and not only does it not get noticed; now they filled Billy’s position with a new woman. So I got passed over when everyone knows I should have gotten the job. Billy said I was next in line. And everyone knows the only reason this new lady got the job is she is Spanish.”

“Uh, I think you probably mean Hispanic,” Bevin replied.

“Whatever,” sighed Avi, waving a half empty mug.

“Look,” Bevin stated, “not to be a killjoy, because I love a good complaint as much as the next person, but why would you even say that? And what makes you say you are underpaid? I thought you said Billy gave you a little extra last review to bring you in line?”

“First of all, why else would they bring in someone from the outside unless they needed to fill a quota. You know that is how all the hiring at the clinic is now. And yes, Billy did give me more last year, but I still don’t make nearly enough to live on. And you know what? Now I am going to have to do double the work because my new boss is clueless. She not only doesn’t know how to do anything, including paperwork for cases, she doesn’t think it’s her job either.”

This would have been a good time to take a stroll around the festival and just let it drop. But Bevin didn’t. “Ok Avi. I am not going to touch the whole thing with whether your new boss is qualified or not. But please tell me we aren’t going back down the avenue of ‘social workers are all underpaid’ again? I thought we killed that horse already.”

“Easy for you to say,” retorted Avi, hackles rising. “You have a good paying job that you like. I work just as hard and for what? Do you know that coal miners can make $80,000 to $90,000 a year and they don’t even need a degree?! For crying out loud, I put in time to get the education that everyone talks about and tell me how that paid off?”

“Then go get a job as a coal miner,” Bevin shouted back! “Let me tell you they couldn’t pay me $180,000 to go down in a mine everyday. You like it so much, go get a job as a miner then!”
“That is not the point. The point,” Avi clarified, “ is that this is just the kind of wage inequality that we need to fix. We have to get the pay in this country evened out. And now people…”
“Wait a minute,” Bevin cut in, tone incredulous. “Wait. Are you telling me you want miners to make less money? Are you kidding me?”

“Noooo,” Avi replied condescendingly. “I don’t want miners to make less; I think everyone should be able to make more. Some pay is too high for sure, but they could take some of that and spread it around so that everyone gets to make a little more and people aren’t pigeonholed by their occupation and underpaid for doing just as much work as someone else. That is what equal opportunity is all about.”
“That is definitely not what equal opportunity is all about. Ari, what you are talking about is equal results!  That is completely different.  Equal opportunity is all about ensuring that everyone has the same chance, the same access to the opportunities. Not that we all get the same compensation in the end.”

“Well we all know that the access isn’t equal.  If you have the money you get into the right schools, and coming from certain schools gives you a better chance for the kind of job like what you have,” Avi concluded. “And now I am stuck with the degree I have, so I am stuck with the job I have.”

“What?  First of all, I paid my way through school.  I took out loans and worked the whole time I went to school, and yes my parents sent me a couple bucks when they could help, but you know my parents didn’t have two pennies to rub together.  And you could have chosen this same path, but you have never been even a little bit interested in business and you hate numbers.  You have said before that you would hate my job,” Bevin exclaimed in frustration. “And you could go back to school, or switch careers.  Just because you have a Psych degree, doesn’t mean you have to be a social worker.  That was your choice.  Heck, I had a CFO that had an education degree at one point!”

“This isn’t about you Bevin.  It doesn’t always have to be about you.  Yes, you did it ‘right’ and all.  But you keep avoiding the point.  Yes, you might have been able to make the system work for you, but it doesn’t work for everyone and that is what is important.  That is what we have to change to give everyone an equal starting point; an equal shot.”

“That is hogwash, Avi, and you know it!  This is the only country in the world where it doesn’t matter what race you are, what your last name is, where you are from – we all have a chance to make it.  Yes, there are advantages in coming from a wealthy family or attending different schools, but look at the people every year who come from different places around the world for their shot, their opportunity and that make it …”

“Oh come on and cut the crap”, retorted Avi! “You are starting to sound like one of ‘them’.  You know the system is broken and we are finally in a position to do something about it.  We have a President who wants to make it better and all he is asking that everyone have a fair shot and those of you that have more and can afford it, share a little more.  And you bet your sweet bottom, I am going to do something about it, too.”

“That’s really enough. You had the same chances I did.  If you want a job making $90,000 a year, then find out what it takes to get one and go do it, but don’t complain to me.  And if you think you are being treated unfairly at work then you have some choices to make – you can suck it up and deal with it, you can work to try to change it, or you can go somewhere else – this is a free country.  No one is stopping you. You have equal access to the opportunity. But don’t demand equal results – you have to do your part.”

I could continue as the conversation falls apart, but I think we all have a good idea how the conversation ends. Is Avi right or is Bevin right?  Should it be equal access to opportunity?  Or should it be equal outcomes for all?

So we have a good idea how the conversation ends, but not the story.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent here and the profanity removed from the conversation to enhance the civility. Click on “comment” and let me know your thoughts and let us know at the beginning of your comment – Equal Access or Equal Outcomes.

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The Gospel of Envy – will we make a different choice?

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery”
– Winston Churchill

I have written previously about friends and colleagues who have immigrated from elsewhere to live and work here in the United States, and who also have expressed concerns regarding the frightening direction the current administration is taking our country.

You don’t have to take my word for it anymore. Thomas Peterffy makes the statement in his own words. He came from Hungary, behind the iron curtain, in 1956 and started from scratch to make his own successful career.

Here is a person who has experienced life in a socialist society, had the opportunity to live his adult life in a free market democracy – the United States of America – and is now very concerned that we are heading back to the philosophy of failure and misery that marks socialism. Take the time to watch this and consider his words.

“Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
– Ronald Reagan

Embarrassed of Success?

Dollars Roll

Dollars Roll (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

“My brother is killing me,” the conversation began.

Cheryl has worked hard over the years to build a successful business career. “Don’t get me wrong, I love him, but he feels a constant need to run me down, especially at family gatherings, and attack my success in life.” Hey, I bet many of us have heard this story before right? Just to get you started in the right frame of mind, let me get a little background on the table.
• Cheryl went to college and worked part time jobs to help pay her bills and cobble together money for a graduate degree.
• “Bob” went to college as well. While he didn’t go for that whole “uptight business” thing, he did secure a job.
• Based on her grades and recommendation, Cheryl got into a great MBA program and earned a dual degree while still working part time to pay bills.
• Since that time, Bob has moved between a couple places on both coasts living what he would describe as “Bohemian” lifestyle. Bob explained he didn’t want to be tied down and that there is too much to see out there. He has some great stories and photos of parties and travel. Eventually, he landed a public sector job. Not the highest paying in the world, but with good benefits, and in general, enjoyed life.
Cheryl worked long hours, and moved to several different cities across the country. She has turned around departments and divisions more than once. She has sacrificed family time to build her career, and while she took a bit of a beating in one of the housing downturns when she had to move for her job, by all accounts, she has done very well financially.
The issues come in, as Cheryl explains, when her brother starts with the discussions regarding taxes, tax loopholes and income disparity. Not sure what card he could possibly play with his sister on income disparity, I had to ask for further explanation. “With Bob it isn’t about gender or race when it comes to income disparity, at least not when I am around,” Cheryl explained, “it is all about how those that are already wealthy aren’t doing their share.” So what exactly is the issue, I wondered aloud?
Cheryl explains it like this – while Bob was out at late night parties and living this mobile lifestyle, sometimes even just leaving a job or an area without notice and never coming back, Cheryl was buckling down and doing what she thought she needed to do to make her dreams come to fruition. A family, maybe a nice house and car, money to put kids through school, money to go on nice vacations or even better, what if one day she could be one of those folks with a ‘vacation home’ somewhere. That was what success looked like to her. And she asked everyone who would stop and give her a minute of their time what she would have to do to make something like that come true. “You know, honestly there were times I was a little bit jealous of Bob. Times when it was stressful or tough; when I thought that it would be nice to just go a blow off some steam and party in the Keys, Cancun, or go to Tahiti and the consequences be damned,” she exclaimed.
So here’s the thing, Cheryl explains to me. Bob made choices in life, and he chose the life he wanted to lead. He finally bought a house, but it is in a depressed neighborhood and his car is barely operable. Not one of Bob’s life choices would be one that would point you to a higher income or financially independent lifestyle. But he begrudges everyone else that did. Those are decisions we made – I don’t begrudge him the late night parties and living in what I would consider vacation locales. That was what he wanted. But I don’t think it is fair that after I took the risks and I did things differently to ask that I gave some to him because he made another decision. Frankly, it sounds a little like the parable of the grasshopper and the ants.
“Bob’s actions make me feel like I should in some way be embarrassed that I have been able to achieve many of my dreams, and yes, I have a nice house and a nice car – and I can assure you no one handed them to me. I worked for them. And I shouldn’t have to feel that way – no one should have to feel that they should apologize for their success, and as an American I can’t imagine for the life of me why we would want a President or a Presidential Candidate to apologize for a successful private sector career, or building a successful business. In fact, I would think they would have to explain or apologize a little if they did not!”
Have you ever had this conversation around the Thanksgiving table or the picnic table? What do you think and how did it “resolve” itself?