Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Economic Plan (a cause of a different sort)

So, my plan is this, and it is two-fold. First, I have always been a fan of the Ben & Jerry's model, and they seemed to make plenty of money. They had a pay ratio where the highest paid employee could only make a factor of what the lowest paid employee made. At one point I think it was a factor of 10. So, obviously, if the lowest paid employee made $30,000 then the top earner would make $300,000. Seems like an empathetic way to run a company.

Second, I'm taking the model of NPR fund raising. Regularly you hear someone call in to offer a matching incentive for donor donations. When you look at Forbes' list of the top 400 US billionaires, nearly all of them are related to the banking/fund management industry. This is but one example of those on the top making extraordinary gains off the hard work of those on the bottom. I propose (and include a retroactive application to the bank bailouts) that those seeking financial assistance from US (tax payers, our government) be required to first put up a matching donation, be it on a one to one basis or as a factor of the overall contribution - before we are willing to take the risk with our own finances. This makes the risk one that is mutually shared, mutually gained and mutually lost. So, again maybe an obvious example (and I will reduce the numbers here for the sake of all of our sanity) if GM asks us to take $1 million away from our other investments that need it (schools, roads, crime prevention, social services) at the very least the individuals responsible for the gains and losses of the company - those who have made so much for so long - will be required to contribute from their personal finances, say, a 50% match, or $500,000. Not only does this make them more invested in the process and makes their risk somewhat equivalent, it also reinvests the process with real VALUES, that the cost of success is sometimes sacrifice, and that you have to work hard and contribute, not ask for hand outs when the storm arrives.

And, finally. Bonuses? I'm a teacher. And a taxpayer. And a student. And an artist. I work very hard, and I work very hard advocating for others and preparing our next generation to be American visionaries. I've never gotten a bonus doing this work. The fact that AIG had to say explicitly that they will not be giving bonuses this year is scandalous. The fact that any of these bloated - and FAILING - companies are giving bonues this year is scandalous. I challenge every executive who has reaped the benefits of high living over the last decades to make this a time of real altruism, to set up a financial services non-profit to help those on the verge of losing their homes, to develop creative loan solutions or find ways to give grants or match funds for those who need it most. If our universities can do it, can't the guys who know even more about money? or supposedly know so much about business?

It's time to end the old ways, and seek change in the way business is done. No more rich getting richer, lets get back to a rising tide and lift all boats. Let's use the expertise at the top not to fly to DC in a private plane panhandling our government, but on the streets, where some people have to live in their cars because it's all they have.

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