Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Corporate Foraging

This time of year is when I forage, in the office. Beginning about Dec 15th, the ladies begin bringing in little treats. Or various vendors begin dropping off gifts such as tins of popcorn or meat trays or boxes of peanut brittle, not for me but for the company as a whole. Or we give out meat and cheese trays to our clients, and one department head always mysteriously orders one too many, which of course we then have to consume. If I wanted to, I wouldn't have to take a lunch. Although, since I can't have the sweet treats, I do have to limit my foraging to what I'm supposed to eat.

Of course, foraging in the office has a different effect than it had in the days of hunter-gatherers. Back then, foraging took considerable energy and effort. One stayed slim and trim and built muscle while foraging. Today, it merely means taking about six steps from the corridor to the conference table in Dept 1, or ten steps in Dept 2, or...you get the picture. Foraging has a negative impact on the body, an impact which I am indeed feeling.

This is not a political blog, and I have made very few political posts. Normally, when I want to make political comments I head over to The Senescent Man blog and post there. But today I will comment on the "corporate foraging" going on in America. First the big lending companies, then the banks, and now the big three automakers all want someone to bail them out, to infuse money in them to allow them to keep operating without declaring bankruptcy. We have a presidential candidate from the party of "fiscal responsibility" who proposed spending 300 Billion dollars to buy "worthless paper" to artificially prop up house prices. Talk about an ultimate oxymoron. We have a president from the same company who defies the will of congress and of his own party and loans money to those automakers, saying it necessary to discard free-market principles to save the free market.

What will the outcome be of this? The US government becomes an owner in these companies, or in some cases becomes their creditor. The taxpayer pays for this, either with more taxation today or more taxation in the future. None of these is a good outcome.

What was the cause of this crisis? Greed, pure and simple, it seems to me. People were greedy, wanting to own houses they couldn't afford, and wanting those houses to always go up in value. Workers were greedy (through their unions), wanting to have the highest pay and benefits package they could squeeze out of the company. Corporate officers were greedy, wanting the highest possible salary and bonus with the best golden parachute waiting should they fail. And stockholders were greedy, wanting the best possible profit this quarter with rising stock price, with no thoughts to long-term viability of the company. Our members of congress were greedy, wanting to be seen as the promoters and sustainers of prosperity. Rather than all the sorry characters in this sorry story fessing up to their greed and seeking to make amends, they go to the taxpayers with their hands out and say, "Please fund our greed!"

Greed is what causes my foraging in the office, with the result that my body is in worse shape, and post-foraging depression when I realize just how many pounds I have to lose, pounds I've lost a few times already. And greed was the cause of the bubble that had to burst, resulting in Panic of 2008 and the corporate foraging taking place before our eyes. The depression that will follow will be the result of simple demographics, as the baby-boomers age and spend less; but it will come.

This has truly been a sad year in America.

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