Meritocracy Part II

Since this has turned into more of a frustrated appeal to reason, let’s take it one step further…

Congress (You had to know this was coming)

(http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/114_20150106_Salary.pdf)

CONGRESSIONAL OFFICE Representative Annual Salary Total Annual Salaries of Staff Per Rep # of Reps TOTAL
House of Representatives $ 174,000.00 $ 944,671.00 435 $ 486,621,885.00
Speaker of the House $ 223,500.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 223,500.00
Majority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Minority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Senate $ 174,000.00 $ 944,671.00 100 $ 17,400,000.00
President pro Tempore (VP) $ 230,700.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 230,700.00
Majority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Minority Leader $ 193,400.00 $ 944,671.00 1 $ 193,400.00
Total Cost of Salaries

(*doesn’t include budgets for offices/extras*)

$ 661,849,685.00

 

“Government shutdown” is such a common state of “emergency” today that kids probably think it is part of the Congressional schedule. The irony is that when the government “shuts down,” most of the people in the table above continue working and getting paid. Why? Because they think they’re the “core” of the government. Like your body protects the essential organs (heart, lungs, brain) when there’s a crisis, the government protects itself (literally).1

How? The 27th Amendment protects the members of Congress from not getting paid during a shutdown…

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” (https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxxvii)

How nice it must be to write the laws in such a way as to make yourselves the only protected class in case you (collective) can’t get it together enough to pass a budget for every other government entity. 2

What are those other entities that feel the wrath of Congress’ discord? Here is a sample of some agencies that lost all or part of their funding during the 2013 shutdown:

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Department of Defense

Department of Education

Department of Health & Human Services

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Food & Drug Administration

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Justice

Department of Veterans Affairs

Internal Revenue Service

Environmental Protection Agency

Federal Communications Commission

Social Security Administration

 

Though some of you may be excited about the IRS losing funding, what it caused were delays in the payment of tax refunds, not tax collection. The money they did receive was funneled into criminal investigations. (Erb, Kelly Phillips (October 1, 2013). “With Shutdown, Taxes Still Due But You Can’t Ask IRS For Help”. Forbes. Retrieved October 1, 2013.)

The CDC had to lay off 68% of it’s employees which prevented flu surveillance to help prevent a pandemic.  (“CDC Shutdown: No In-Depth Investigations of Outbreaks”. The Wall Street Journal. September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 1, 2013.)

Let’s pretend for a minute that the members of Congress and their staff work full time (2,080 hours a year), that means that every hour they work costs the US Taxpayers $ 318,196.96.  Ted Cruz filibustered for 21 straight hours during the 2013 shutdown. That alone cost tax payers, $ 6,682,136.16. Over Six and a Half MILLION dollars of wasted time as one Senator attempts to prevent or delay a vote (Obamacare this time).

Best part… there’s no way to fix this because how would you ever get a majority in Congress that would agree to pass an amendment to counter the 27th’s guarantee of a set salary?

So what do we do? Raise money to buy an island and form a utopian society? Maybe… I prefer to “jump.”

 

Sources

1 – They had the option to furlough their staff, but most representatives kept their staff working “for the constituents.” (Todd Spangler (October 1, 2013). “Furlough of congressional staff depends on who you work for, what you do”. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 4, 2013.)

2 – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/30/how-congress-will-still-get-paid-in-a-government-shutdown.html

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Meritocracy… My “Merit-ass”

The disparity in wealth has been in the news since the stock market crash in 2008. I’m sure we all remember “Occupy Wall Street” and the “One Percenters.” Obviously, in a meritocracy like America, this is not a new problem… let’s jump back a couple hundred years.

In the early nineteenth century, we had Robber Barons (industrialists) like John J Astor and John D Rockefeller (America’s first billionaire) who were accused of using exploitative practices t amass wealth at the expense of their workers while creating monopolies and “buying” government support with money acquired through selling inflated stock. Hence the name – Robber (Criminal) Baron (illegitimate aristocrat).

When the “tech bubble” was created, we got “silicon sultans”2 like Bill Gates & Mark Zuckerberg (both college drop outs).  Though they are both incredibly philanthropic with their vast wealth, neither of them graduated from college and using their niche genius, they were able to amass vast fortunes in a rather short period of time.  Bill Gates was 23 when he became a millionaire, 31 when he reached billionaire status. Mark Z was 23 when he became a billionaire. That’s great… for them and whomever their charities support. Gates and Zuckerberg’s financial realities aren’t even conceivable for most Americans who struggle paycheck to paycheck with thousands of dollars in student loan debt because we believed the old myth that you “must have a college degree” to do anything of worth.4

Now let’s take the income and wealth disparity to the local level, leaving the One Percenters behind…

I we don’t have a specialized genius, instead of amassing a fortune with our creativity or ingenuity, we get to amass crippling debt to go to college so they can fill our heads with information that doesn’t exactly have practical use in the real world, outside of some sciences. (Chemical reactions are important to chemists.)  I’ve seen arguments about what you really learn in college – networking, writing/communication, critical thinking, etc.3 but none of these require a post-secondary education to learn. Most of the things you learn in college can be “self-taught.” However, you still have to have that little piece of super expensive paper saying that you spent four+ years “enrolled” in bettering yourself (aka partying) for most people to take you seriously.

So then you finish university, have (hundreds of) thousands of dollars in debt, and get a job at a great company.  Your salary isn’t great, but it’s a “livable wage,” and the company is a Fortune 500 so there are endless growth opportunities! You couldn’t be happier! This is the life!!

Fast forward 7 years… after three layoffs, though you’ve worked really hard, been active in extracurricular activities, held leadership positions, willingly worked overtime, etc. you’ve received only three pay raises. The first, when after almost 3 years as a temp with ridiculously expensive benefits, little time off, and a meager salary, you FINALLY get the offer to become an “actual employee,” which was originally supposed to happen after one year.  Two years after that, you get a small promotion, with another meager raise to justify you coming back to a project you had left previously to avoid getting laid off because they really need someone with your experience.

Two years later, you are excited about the chance for another promotion… and then the “email” comes stating that there will be no “non-executive” pay increases, cost of living (COL) increases, equity adjustments, or promotions for the next year, except in the case of the highest performers (which are always visible at their high level) because the company needs to stay competitive.  The President of my business line has said that they don’t think it’s right for some to get raises and not all, so there will be no promotions in my line, except for the top two levels, because like every other corporation, we only promote based on merit… (more on this in the next paragraph). However, if you would like to be eligible for any promotion in the future, please spend your personal money (hundreds of dollars) to get certifications through national professional organizations so if we decide to reinstate salary increases next year, you may be eligible for one.

The key in the above “review” is that the pay increase block was only for “non-executives” because the “executives” will still be getting their multi-million dollar bonuses. Under the logic for the limited promotions and pay raises, in order to receive one, you must be a top earner. Since our CEO has been in office, the corporate stock price has dropped 40%. Last year, he was ranked as one of the top 25 Worst CEOs in the United States. Yet, I would bet my job that he will still be getting his Four Million Dollar bonus this year. To refresh, my $1200 cost of living increase would put us out of competitive range, but his $4M bonus, which is entirely Over Head (OH) and not billable to a project like I am, doesn’t affect our competitive range.

 

Yes, I’m being extreme because there are roughly 35,000 employees in my company throughout the world. However, there are at least 5,000 executives who get at least $2M in bonuses through the year. This is $10M dollars a year in, predominantly, OH. Let’s say half of the remaining 30K employees are in the US. If we gave a $1000 across board COL increase, that would be $15M, which would be predominantly chargeable to a project (and profit earning).

 

I just don’t understand the logic…. If you are going to withhold opportunities for advancement or pay increases, do it across the board – no exceptions, using that “team” mentality corporations shove down our throat but ignore when it doesn’t suit their needs. Enough swigging the Kool-Aid!

Obviously, you are intelligent enough to see this charade for what it is, and your dream is (as it always was) to work for yourself, but with the student loan debt and meager salary, you can’t afford to save enough money to allow you the “window” to get set up independently.

Rock, meet hard place…. But this kind of struggle is what great American dreams are built from! So here we are – blogging to every other person with a dream and confusion about how to achieve it, but determination that you will!

 

Sources

1 – http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/

2 – http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21637338-todays-tech-billionaires-have-lot-common-previous-generation-capitalist  This is a great article! It isn’t exactly along the lines of this post, but I would recommend a full perusal!

3 – http://blog.teamtreehouse.com/really-learn-college

4http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/business/economy/dropping-out-of-college-and-paying-the-price.html?_r=0

 

Link

http://www.nationalreview.com/exchequer/353292/bring-draconian-cuts-Kevin-williamson

This article follows the path where my last post left, because I couldn’t figure out a way to add more and edit the current text.  (#noviceproblems)

Let me begin by defining draconian: rigorous, unusually severe or cruel.

This is important because it is a word the President used to describe proposed cuts during his 2012 Associated Press Luncheon. I wonder if his opinion has changed in the past year and a half when the House passed a bill that would cut 8% in energy and water development for 2014.

The best point of this article is when the author proposes cutting the Dept of Energy entirely because the Dept of Defense can cover the nuclear arsenal (do we really need checks and balances for this?) and the National Science Foundation could handle any research functions. Though it sounds harsh to those who would be at risk for losing their job if something like this happened, in reality, the only way I can see to circumvent a horrific financial depression is to eliminate entire departments and organizations. That being said, I am not proposing the elimination of programs like welfare, food stamps, and medicaid… yet. I am proposing a reevaluation of the entire federal system to consolidate and/or eliminate redundant spending and programs.

Link

Government Shutdowns: A History

Though this is without doubt a conservatively biased report, it makes several good points. The first of these  (& the only point I’ll discuss here) is that negotiation is a requirement to end any government shutdown.

This point shouldn’t have to be stated, but with both sides being so obstinate in their position, it has led to a perilous standoff. Perilous not because of the shutdown, though my sympathy to those who are furloughed, but because of the impending debt crisis on Oct 17th. A “crisis” that is caused by the government running out of borrowed money. Let’s think about this for a minute… I understand the difference between micro (individual/business) and macro (government) economics, so let’s use a scenario that work for either. A budget that is created to spend $ 100 a week is fine if there is at least $ 100 available to spend. However, a budget that is designed to spend $ 500 a week when there is only $ 100 available to spend is destined to fail. On a microeconomics scale, this would lead to a person or business filing bankruptcy (unless you’re a big bank, but that’s another article). When you have more debt than you do income, you eventually come to a pt where you can no longer “get by” on credit or with loans because no one is willing to issue you any more.

Now, let’s take this to the macro scale. in theory, other nations will stop lending us money because we have not demonstrated the ability to manage our finances.  Then we will in fact default because there will be no other alternatives.

So how can we fix it? By eliminating superfluous costs (see government programs), by being selective with our relief and aid for other countries, by allowing agencies like the UN and Interpol to police the world… etc.