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Paul Krugman getting the Townhall via the AV equipment

Poor Paul. He sounds disgusted and disappointed with Obama. It turns out that Obama wasn’t just an aspirational candidate, he had aspirations of his own:

OK, here’s an unprofessional speculation: maybe it’s personal. Maybe the president just doesn’t like the kind of people who tell him counterintuitive things, who say that the government is not like a family, that it’s not right for the government to tighten its belt when Americans are tightening theirs, that unemployment is not caused by lack of the right skills. Certainly just about all the people who might have tried to make that argument have left the administration or are leaving soon.

And what’s left, I’m afraid, are the Very Serious People. It looks as if those are the people the president feels comfortable with. And that, of course, is a tragedy.

Tragic, yes, but not unpredictable. When the serious people viciously humiliated Hillary and boosted Obama over the fence gleefully, the signs were all there that something wicked this way came. And here it is!

From where is sit, structural unemployment is not the problem. I had more than enough to do at work right up to the very last day. And yet my department was left in shreds and the overseas site that was forced to accept our projects was very concerned that they couldn’t take on any new work either. So, why did my company and other pharmaceuticals shed so many highly educated people in the last couple of years? My unemployed colleagues and I think it all has to do with money. The biotechs and pharmas all want experienced people, that much is clear. But they don’t want to pay for that expertise.

And then there is the AV Townhall phenomenon. There was a time when CEOs would try to make an effort to deliver annual town hall meetings on site. Oh, sure, if the headquarters were in another state, then you’d get the satellite version. But now, CEOs just do it from the corporate headquarters even if that building is half a mile up the road. The AV personnel usually can’t get the sound just right and the hands on people and sciencey types sit in cafeterias on hard little chairs, straining to hear whether the head honcho said he was or wasn’t going to close the site.

The heads of companies frequently do not understand the nature of the companies they run. Sometimes, they have been ketchup kings and are taking on biological systems without the slightest inkling that biological systems are extraordinarily complex and “the help” in the labs are probably the hardest working employees they have. But when shareholders must be appeased, productivity quantified (we are done in by biology despite our best efforts) and costs cut, the CEO does not come down from his perch while the lab rats are still on campus. He waits until he thinks they have all gone home for the day. And those of us still chained to our gels or can’t pry our hand from our mouse hear the whomp-whomp-whomp of the helicopter touching down two buildings over. That’s never a good sign. Why not take a tour of the buildings when there are still people around to show you what’s going? Why all the subterfuge?

They don’t want to face us. Maybe if they don’t see us, we won’t be real. We’re just numbers on a spreadsheet, not the guy who knows their zillion dollar compound information system like the back of his hand or girl who just solved the structure of their next cancer target. Or maybe they’re just more comfortable with their own kind. They’ve spent years one upping each other with meaningless business degrees, outdoing each other with kissing up to the guy two rungs higher up the ladder and spending countless hours looking swave, deboner and sweatless on the golf course. These are their peeps. Their circle of friends and acquaintances is not diverse. They don’t know how the other half lives because it doesn’t get them anywhere.

But that only means that they don’t have all the information they need to operate efficiently and optimally. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Well, for now it doesn’t. But their values have a nasty habit of trickling down on the rest of us. Nowadays, it’s not what you know and how much experience you have that will get you a job, it’s who you know and what pedigree you have. When the best and brightest end up looking wistfully at the presently employed like Jude Fawley’s at the stone facades of Christminster, it’s a waste of the talent that made this country vital.

Obama takes us back to the days before September 1928. The rich are rich, the poor gamble with what little they have. It’s Change! alright. The question for Paul is what is he going to do about it. Is he going to throw up his hands now and then give Obama his support in November or will he call for a new player while there is still time to save this game?

That’s what sets the columnists apart from the really serious people.

18 Responses

  1. Well said, RD!

    I think the B-school types are just getting revenge for the way we made fun of them in college. It’s very hard for them to quantify the value of high-priced technical talent in a way that will show on a financial statement, but it’s absurdly easy for them to quantify the cost.

    • Wow, that pretty much sums it up. Excellent.

      • Been there, done that :-(.

        Once institutions own a sizable portion of your company’s stock, you can pretty much kiss any long-term planning or investment goodbye. Fund managers are evaluated on quarterly results, and once they control most of the shares that simple fact will be reflected in everything that happens in your company from that point forward. Executive compensation packages will be geared towards maximizing quarterly return – and the easiest ways to do that are to reduce long-term investment expenses like R&D and to replace expensive employees with lower paid workers (after all, they’re interchangeable 😉 ). I’ve seen this happen more times than I can count. I once heard the CEO of a major Silicon Valley firm state that he wouldn’t invest in any project that wasn’t “guaranteed” to turn a profit in two quarters. It’s really hard to innovate when that’s the mindset in the executive suite.

        The first time you hear the phrase “enhance shareholder value”, you should start sending out resume’s.

    • My first “real job” was with an insurance company that ONLY promoted from within. Everyone had to understand the business. It was a part of most training plans to complete “Basic Insurance Principles”. It was also a policy that EVERYONE went home at 4:30 every day. Overtime was frowned on – it happened sometimes but they had a stated policy that they would staff projects to allow people to have lives outside of work.

      The board of directors was afraid they were missing the merger and aquisition bus in the mid/late 90’s, I can’t remember if the small fish company tried to swallow the giant before or after they fired the CEO and brought in an MBA CEO that proceded to break the company into small sellable pieces.

      The first thing to go was the passion for insurance. The original acquisition company had played fast and loose with underwriting to fatten the book of business (the number of policy holders).

      • My first “real job” was with an insurance company that ONLY promoted from within. Everyone had to understand the business

        That’s because it was an actual business . Today most such business are a type of fraud…Certainly NOT confined to insurance, but in this case one can say , today you do not have to understand the insurance business to be in the insurance business….you just have to have a ” denied” rubber stamp that’s not worn out from overuse to smack on everything that comes across your desk…
        Understanding the business is not needed, in fact it might harm one’s career…. generally for the most part, there’s no business ….there ‘s fraud.

  2. Any kind of management training, business, education, military, always presumes a certain level of arrogance– you are a manager because you are superior to the drones beneath you. My teaching colleagues cooked up a twist to the old saw: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers. Those who can’t teach teachers, consult. Those who can’t consult, manage— and then they hire secretaries.”

    I’ve found at least 50% of the bosses I’ve had in my 50+ years in the work force to be less able than I and fully 25% less able than a cooked cabbage. In the old days, you came up through ranks learning each person’s job as you advanced to the top (the best bosses!), so when you arrived at the top you actually knew the company. Now, the route to the top passes through people’s asses, so the only thing you know at the top are butts and shoulders, which, you assume, is what everyone else knows and cares about. That limits your world-view considerably.

  3. Second, since Obama keeps talking nonsense about economics, at what point do we stop giving him credit for actually knowing better? Maybe at some point we have to accept that he believes what he’s saying.

    Ya think?

    • I don’t actually think he believes much of anything. He really is the blank screen he told us he was. He’s just dancin’ with them what brung him – he’s got to raise that billion dollar campaign fund somehow.

  4. It’s too late. Nothing can be fixed now. The politicians are just empty signs in suits and offices. They are dumbfounded and don’t know what to do. But they can’t say so. And we feed into this by thinking and saying they can do something if only…..

    they wanted to
    had the will
    would get so and so in there

    They haven’t the foggiest. Look at what Hollywood is doing now. They don’t have a clue either. When a foreign subtitle film like Girl With a Dragon Tattoo can net more money than the big blow out Water For Elephants you know there is trouble. GWTDT opened to 335,000 on 202 screens, did poorly domestically because Americans can’t read subtitles fast enough and don’t like them anyway even if they aren’t illiterate. The foreign sales ran it up.

    We are in a sinking ship and govt is just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. What are you doing?

    Me I’m blogging.

    • That’s how I see it…I have a friend with a blog about how crumby the public schools are. I tell her not to worry, they will be gone pretty soon. If she wants a blog about education, she needs to start a conversation about the post public school era of education Rather than talking about reducing the amount of homework from places that won’t be there …which at this point as you say, is rearranging the chairs on the Titanic

      When Hillary was blocked, it became too late

    • And Medicare cuts. The Washington Post calls them “major changes.”

      “Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”

      He should run as a Republican.


      • But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,”

        that tummy rumble is coming from the direction of Wall St.

        help us , Great Mother!!

  5. Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

  6. Terrific post…indeed it’s who you know…. MBA trust babies running shit is NOT good. They never created anything and they think just saying they want something makes it happen..the disconnect from physical reality in terms of how something is created in it, is complete .

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