A great piece in the NY Times by David Carr yesterday illustrated what’s wrong with Wall Street as those who covet it’s appeal to riches continue to criticize the OccupyWall Street movement outside their windows.
Almost two weeks ago, USA Today put its finger on why the Occupy Wall Street protests continued to gain traction.
“The bonus system has gone beyond a means of rewarding talent and is now Wall Street’s primary business,” the newspaper editorial stated, adding: “Institutions take huge gambles because the short-term returns are a rationale for their rich payouts. But even when the consequences of their risky behavior come back to haunt them, they still pay huge bonuses.” SOURCE
This insight of USA Today had personal relativeness. Just a week before this editorial came out in this Gannett-owned paper, it was revealed that Craig A. Dubow resigned as Gannett’s chief executive after just six short years. His reward following his retirement? A package deal of “just under $37.1 million in retirement, health and disability benefits. That comes on top of a combined $16 million in salary and bonuses in the last two years”, Carr tells us.
And what was it you may ask that Mr. Dubow did to earn his golden parachute? He “strip-mined” the newspapers of Gannett, cutting 20,000 jobs from 82 newspapers giving readers very little in boots on the ground reporting; the kind of in-depth reporting that reveals scandals and abuses which often impact those communities.
To rub salt into the wound, a Gannett board member, Marjorie Magner, praised Mr. Dubow for championing “our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information.” What news would that be Ms. Magner? Useful pieces that tell women what it is that men really want or visa versa? How about where to shop for the best winter boots to meet your wardrobe needs? This kind of content is being written by serious but struggling free-lance writers who contribute their work to sites like Associated Content and Helium for $10-$15 an article
Mr. Dubow did essentially what benefitted stock holders and investors. He squeezed the life out working families who relied on Gannett for their income and passed those “savings” on to the portfolios of people like Marjorie Magner
David Carr’s story reveals that this is not a stand-alone incident.
The Tribune Company, a chain of newspapers and television stations run into the ground by Sam Zell after he bought it in 2007, is paying out tens of millions of dollars in bonuses as part of a deal in which it would exit bankruptcy.
Over 4,000 people in the company lost their jobs, and the journalistic missions of formerly robust newspapers it operates — including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun — have been curtailed. And even though Randy Michaels and some of his corporate fraternity brothers who operated the company into bankruptcy are gone, more than 600 managers who were there while the company cratered remain.
Not only do they have jobs while so many others were sent packing, but the remaining leadership will be eligible for a bonus pool from $26.4 million to $32.4 million under the current plan.
This is but one glaring example of why people who criticize the OWS movement are either blind to the insensitive nature of many people within those for-profit industries or they are on the inside looking out, cursing and accusing us, like Herman Cain, of “playing the victim card” or as someone who wants to “take somebody else’s” Cadillac.
There is no focus within OWS on taking anything away from anyone. It simply wants corporate board members like Marjorie Manger and CEO’s like Craig Dubow to understand that their kind of non-productive, greedy behavior is self-serving while it takes away from their neighbors and those employees, current and layed-off, who put their lives into their jobs.
We want a level playing field and that begins in part by addressing the abuses on Wall Street that created the economic collapse in late 2007. But as Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics, Georg Lakoff points out, “OWS concerns go well beyond financial issues”.
Democracy starts with citizens caring about one another and acting responsibly on that sense of care, taking responsibility both for oneself and for one’s family, community, country, people in general, and the planet. The role of government is to protect and empower all citizens equally via The Public: public infrastructure, laws and enforcement, health, education, scientific research, protection, public lands, transportation, resources, art and culture, trade policies, safety nets, and on and on. Nobody makes it on their own. If you got wealthy, you depended on The Public, and you have a responsibility to contribute significantly to The Public so that others can benefit in the future. Moreover, the wealthy depend on those who work, and who deserve a fair return for their contribution to our national life. Corporations exist to make life better for most people. Their reason for existing is as public as it is private. SOURCE
Capitalism has nothing to fear from those in Zucotti Park in lower Manhatten or the multitude of support OWS protests that have popped up over night in nearly every major urban area and many smaller towns across this country and in other parts of the world. All any of us are trying to do is shine a light on the abuses that continue to occur within corporate America that is dragging our once great way of life down to economic despair for the 99%.
Markets are not the sole domain of the wealthy investors, CEOs and corporate board members. They are not there to be manipulated for the benefit of a few. They serve us all and when the benefits of our efforts are fairly distributed, we all gain and capitalism lives another day. Otherwise, if it remains this closed system that the Marjorie Magners and Craig Dubows control, then it plants the seeds for its own destruction.