November 18, 2008

Money 2009

Not a new Microsoft personal finance program. There isn't a piece of software that will prepare you for how your money will act in 2009. I was listening to the news this morning on my way to work and was astounded to hear people were seriously considering the possibility of forgoing a banking system federal bailout in favor of taking the money it would cost to bail out the big banks and Big3 auto makers and instead line the pockets of every US citizen. The premise was that every citizen would receive a check from the government for $1M. The problem is, someone wasn't doing a whole lot of math when they thought this up.

The various bailout plans, over time, will cost the government $5T. With the country's current documented population at just over 300 million people the division would be $16,667 per person, not $1M. To be able to give out $1M checks to every documented US citizen the government would have to be able to fund $300,000,000,000,000; that's $300T. I don't know the real figures, but it would seem to me that $300T is quite possibly more than the US government has EVER spent in its 232 years of existence.

But my rhetoric doesn't solve the problems we have today; it only brings to light the lunacy that governs a lot of people's thought processes when dealing with the numbers the bean counters we rely on are used to dealing with. So what do we do? I'll tell you what we do...

My wife and I went to watch a good friend's daughter play an orphan in a local acting troupe's production of "Annie" a few nights ago. The portrayal of President Roosevelt made me think about a few of the things we deal with today. Failing civic infrastructure, poorly realized response capabilities to natural disaster events, rampant illegal immigration, and people complaining about the 6.5% unemployment rate coupled with major, traditional American mainstays of stability showing signs of absolute failure. While the mainstays of American stability failing is completely based on poor management coupled with corporate bullying as evidenced by the Big3 auto makers having to beg (although poorly) for help or face bankruptcy, the corporate bullying should have been dealt with decades ago. However the UAW won't stop being a part of the domestic automakers business model until the Federal Government makes them go away. As it stands, the Big3 spends more money in their model on labor that is no longer actively working (legacy costs for retirees and members of the jobbank who don't actually work, but are paid as a full time worker) than they spend on raw materials to produce their wares. Now imagine if you were at a $40+ per manhour deficit to begin with when it comes to your competition and your product doesn't sell as well as theirs does, and you have mandates from those who represent your workers that makes it legally binding for you to be forced to continue to employ workers who are willfully truant from work if you don't give them what their representation says they want?

I'm not saying unions are the root of all evil. In most cases union representatives honorably work toward the betterment of the working lives of those they represent. In the case of the Linemens Union, where robust representation is the difference between a safer working environment and getting hung up on 25kV over 40 feet off the ground, I'm for the union kicking the utility company in the ass for me.

What becomes the problem over time is the idea that gets into the union representation's leadership's heads; no "effective" (see UAW) union leadership position is an unpaid post. Concurrently, if you become an "effective" union leader you are put into a position where your own interests are easier to attain than those of the union members you represent. In this it is quite a bit like politics; union leaders are elected to their office so they can represent the greater good of their constituents in good faith. Where it gets a little fuzzy is their compensation for the hard work they put out in the name of the betterment of their fellow worker... Not really their fellow worker anymore if you get high enough in the organization to make a real difference.

Corruption doesn't always present itself in the manner in which we are appalled with in politics on a regular basis (Blagojevich). No single person has to benefit from poor but lucrative management to have said management smack of corruption. When you have an organization that can hold a multi-billion dollar industry hostage so completely you start to wonder what is actually going on. If the auto industry in the US has inflated employment numbers because of issues like the Job Bank and other strange business practices maybe our country's estimation of our actual workforce strength is dramatically incorrect.

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