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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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?

Here’s Really the Biggest Problem in the American Economy – What nobody wants to say Part #2

A continuation of our earlier discussion in response to yet another attack on a free market economy.  In the first discussion, Here’s Really The Biggest Problem in the American Economy – What Nobody Wants to Say Part #1 we tackled the notion of redistribution.  In today’s post we will continue by discussing the impacts of globalization.

“One reason corporations are so profitable is that they don’t employ as many Americans as they used to”
-Henry Blodget, Business Insider

global map test

global map test (Photo credit: aleutia)

Demographics are changing.

I would estimate close to 25% of the people on my floor at work are “immigrants” representing almost every continent in the world.  Some might be first generation; many are work visa or green card holders.  A decade ago, there was a growing concern that all the science and engineering jobs were going to recent graduates from other countries who were getting degrees in sciences and math.  Well, here is a wakeup call – it is not just the science and engineering jobs anymore.  Or medical jobs.  My colleagues are all in “business administration” – marketing, accounting, finance, procurement, supply chain, and sales. Most of these positions are entry level; new hires.

I applaud these colleagues; it is inspiring actually and makes for a more robust, interesting workplace.  However, let me point out that all these are jobs that did not go overseas.  And they aren’t getting “underpaid” either.  These are all jobs that could be had here by any of us.  The inconvenient truth behind this is that the demographics of employment are changing.  High wages or job growth for unskilled labor is a thing of the past.  The global workplace is also a knowledge based workplace.  We need to stop blaming the laborer snapping a widget together in some overseas sweatshop for unemployment here.  Let’s stop spending time railing against the terrible white collar employees and managers, or college kids that earn technical, science, math or other challenging degrees and encourage children to choose a path of knowledge.  Stop the demonization of professional positions.  Slamming on “college kids” and education comes across as sour grapes – and the impact is more than just you.  The children are listening.

“Globalization” has opened up a vast pool of billions of workers who work for much less than Americans.  This, in turn, has resulted in companies shifting formerly middle-wage-paying jobs overseas.

-Henry Blodget, Business Insider

While more products are being made overseas and certainly there are jobs that have gone overseas as well, let be fair – globalization has brought much production and jobs here to the US as well.  Companies like Toyota, BASF, Nestle, BAE, Bayer and many others all have operations here in the US employing our citizens.  Let’s not try to blame globalization for the loss of “good” paying jobs.   And if we continue to vote for the candidate who simply tells us what we want to hear, we will still be sitting on our collective sofas lamenting the “loss” of employment and opportunities while the good jobs both here and overseas are populated by…well, everyone else.  Some of our politicians are trying to create an economy of a select few political overlords who know what is best for 300+ million dependent serfs with a victim mentality.

In the coming days I will continue to discuss:

  • Globalization
  • Technology
  • Stagnant wages
  • Business Profits

Let me know your thoughts.

The original post from Henry Blodgett of the Business Insider can be found by clicking here

Who are the Job Creators?

I recently read what I must admit was a well written opinion on who creates job in our economy – who are the real job creators. The writing style itself was clear and easy to follow. The post did a surprisingly fine job at avoiding insults and outright attacks on a person. The core message, however, was that businesses don’t create jobs, the consumers do. A little bit of the chicken and egg argument, but well expressed, wrong though it might be. The writer opined the business owners unfortunately had the luxury of sulking around, hoarding their money, and waiting for better times. Our writer goes on to express that if the writer and the writer’s followers had some extra incremental income, a couple hundred or thousand dollars a month, “they” would pump that back into the economy on dinners, or movies, glasses or shoes for their kids, not speculating and investing in derivatives, which is to be assumed what all the “job creators” do with money when it falls into their hands. So instead, they would use this extra money to create extra jobs by, well, spending it.

Now it isn’t perfectly clear where this windfall would come from, but with a reference stating that the author and residents of this particular neighborhood probably haven’t moved any of their excess wealth into offshore tax shelter, we can guess the money would be transferred from the current owners to a new breed of job creating consumers. After paying the sales and local property taxes and income tax, the occupants are just short on “excess wealth”. Evidently, there would be more if they didn’t have to pay these onerous taxes.

One of the points made is allegedly by a business owner who when asked what was important to keep his small business afloat responded without hesitation, “Customer Demand.” The author inquired about the impact of tax breaks, and small business owner rightly responded that tax breaks don’t encourage hiring of more people or expansion of business. The point was followed by a disdainful comment regarding the “sanctity of small business and job creation”, leaving little question where the author’s point of view on the topic is.

I have to pause for a moment here and comment. I have a number of friends and colleagues that are current or former owners of small businesses. My spouse and I have also been owners of small businesses and are well aware of what it takes to own, operate or keep a small business afloat. The small business owners I know are interested in fewer paperwork and administrative burdens. Simpler codes. A less aggressive anti-business stance by the government. And yes, taxes are an issue. If you have run a business, you are well aware of the dizzying array of taxes and programs that you must comply with. And just because a tax credit isn’t what drives hiring and expansion, a tax increase can certainly suppress it by reducing cash flow and adding administrative burden.

I don’t understand why there appears to be so many people right now who believe that small businesses don’t create anything. Or why small business owners didn’t build their business. Job creation comes from government support? And now it comes from the consumers if we would only give them a little more of the “excess money” people have lying around. It seems job creation comes from everyone but the business owners. The perception is that everyone has handed everything to the small business owners, they just happened to be the poor souls running the businesses. If they were but a little more intelligent, they could work for the government and really create jobs. Or better, get an income redistribution and create jobs. On a blog response the other day I actually read a comment where a reader stated that they couldn’t help it if a struggling business owner is “too stupid” to just apply for an SBA loan. In this particular commenter’s opinion, everyone who applies gets a loan! The fact of the matter is large businesses almost always had to start as a smaller business. And small businesses are run by people who put everything on line to get ideas going. They make sacrifices to follow those dreams, often exceptionally long hours, risking their savings, giving up many of the things everyone takes for granted, sometimes going through long stretches of time without a paycheck. Only to face the derisive comments that prevail today – they didn’t build it. They don’t create jobs. They make too much money. They don’t pay enough in taxes. This is simple. People go into business to make money, and they start a business in hopes that the risk and effort pays off for them. There also must be a demand for the product or service. If not, the business will not exist. This is in no way supportive of a position that businesses do not create jobs, nor is it supportive of position that we should tax businesses further to redistribute wealth.

Who are the job creators? Do you believe that it lies in the hands of consumers? Do you believe that if we simply handed a subset of the population couple hundred dollars a month more, that would drive robust economic growth?

Don’t forget to click on comment below and let us know your thoughts.