Friday, June 3, 2011

The Financial Crisis in America

Whenever we have a financial crisis in this country - which is becoming increasingly frequent - the Wall Street financial experts appear on news programs and dispense their wisdom concerning what we should do about it. If the crisis is serious, the news will switch to congress and we will see a powerhouse of politicians who chair the various finance and banking committees. They gather behind their microphones and look deeply into the eyes of their voters, while assuring us that only a minor correction is needed. In the meantime, we need to tighten our belts and take our share of responsibility.

Despite the complicated explanations from the talking heads, the problem is easy to understand and the path back to financial responsibility is rather simple. American businesses are flourishing as they never have before, and the outlook for the future would be bright if it were not for the greed of the people who control the markets. Whenever financial reports come out at the end of each quarter, it leaves a lot of people scratching their head. They wonder why things are not better when profits are rising in almost ever sector of commerce. The problem is where the money is going, and the rules governing business.

A few decades ago, business leaders had their focus on the product their company produced. Most executives were engineers and they knew how the product was made and were familiar with each step from concept to the marketplace. Then, as laws were changed to ‘help’ business grow, the financial boys stepped up to the plate with ideas that appealed to the board of director’s vision of the bottom line. The product was no longer the focus, and short-term profits became the norm. Leverage buyouts were encouraged and sell-offs of company assets in pursuit of quick profits became the norm. Hefty bonuses to CEOs and board members became the new way of doing business. So where is the money going, you might ask, and why are we having so many foreclosures and layoffs? You only have to look at the salaries of the executives in American companies to see the answer.

Most CEOs in America draw more in salary and benefits than all of their employees combined!

If you look at the 500 companies listed on the S&P index, you will discover that the chief executives of those companies draw staggering sums in compensation, while the rest of the employees are facing layoffs and wage cuts. Salaries range from 84 million in total benefits awarded to one executive, to smaller companies where the CEOs draw only a few paltry millions. The overall average CEOs pay in the S&P index companies is $11,358,445.00, and growing at a staggering 23% each year. Compare this to the median wage for all occupations which is around $33,000.

If you have a strong stomach and want to view what your boss is making, you can check the figures at The information is listed by corporation, but you can also access the figures by doing a name search. The figures are gleaned from corporate proxy statements of the various companies. Think about what you find at Paywatch the next time you have to tell your wife she is going to have to drive her wreck to work for another year. Something that is even worse is having to break the news to your kids that they will have to have to attend a state school, take out a loan, and work part time. Please don’t mention to them that when they graduate, they probably won’t be able to get a job in their chosen field because some CEO has outsourced their job.

Click on the title of this article and it will carry you to Paywatch


Capt Midknight said...

After reading your post, I couldn’t resist the temptation to check out my old boss, Fred Smith at FedEx in Memphis. He is, far and away, the richest person with whom I have ever had a personal conversation. I was gratified to find, as I expected, that his compensation is 35% below the average you gave. Smith’s compensation equals about 223 “average workers.” However, since the company he manages currently supports 141,00 jobs worldwide (they are the largest non-governmental employer in Tennessee) and generated about $34 billion dollars in revenue last year, I don’t see his compensation as outrageous. A couple of generations of college students in Memphis helped pay for school by throwing boxes at night at FedEx’s Hub.

Since Fred literally created not only his own company but an entire industry, and is one of the few entrepreneurs to still be running the company they started almost 40 years ago, I don’t begrudge him a bit of his current $2.4 billion dollars net worth. Your comments are certainly valid for any numbers of the major players out there today, but there are still a lot that made their money the old fashion way - they earned it.

Laura Elvebak said...

Joe, I agree with you 100%. Yet the Repugnants are still against taxing the very rich even 1% and would rather take from the middle class. I think this is criminal and against America. What kind of values are these? They are against big government, but don't mind putting their nose into women's reproductive systems or gay marriage. That's not small government. I could rant on, but I'll stop now.

Joe Prentis said...


Thanks for your comments. Those of us who are writers too often focus on entertaining, but do not take the opportunity to inform people of the major things that are wrong in America. The things we feel strongly about should become a part of every plot we create. It isn’t necessary to sermonize to get our points across, and many characters can become more interesting if we give them more depth as they solve crimes, battle it out with government, school administrators, or try to balance a budget. Think about the best sellers of any decade. These books were great because the main characters were tossed about by things that should have been changed.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joe,

Since my husband and I discuss this quite a bit, I'll offer my own comments. The wealthy do seem to be getting richer while the middle class and working classes are poorer. I know a number of people who were cut from their jobs through no fault of their own and whose unemployment benefits have run out. They are now not considered unemployed althoug in fact they are.

I disagree about one thing you said. I believe we are buying more from other countries and making less ourselves. But you are right about one thing: these problems have all been caused by greed of the people at the top.