Sunday, January 30, 2011

How they really think about you

At the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, on Saturday, Larry Summers, former head of the White House National Economic Council, endorsed Barack Obama's stimulus spending.
"The highest priority has to attach to establishing strong and significant growth," said Summers....
He got immediate pushback from Edmund Kelly, CEO of Liberty Mutual insurance company, one of whose first actions on joining the company in 1992 was to fire 1500 employees. He said
the U.S. fiscal expansion was acceptable on condition that the country lowers the long-term cost of employment by slashing benefits.

The U.S., he said, "can stimulate in the short term and at the same time give the world the confidence that we as a country are willing to make the tough decisions on the long-term cost of benefits, whether heath care or pensions," he said.
But not, it would appear, on corporate salaries - Kelly took in a cool $27 million in 2005 - and perks.

Danish labor leader (or, as the article labeled him, "union boss") Peter Waldorff objected, pointing out that 30 million people worldwide had lost their jobs over the past two years and said nations should "secure people a minimal salary, some social security, some pension benefits."
What's affordable, Waldorff said, was a matter of priority: "How many trillions could we raise overnight to save the biggest business in the United States?"

Kelly countered that the U.S. bailout fund, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was likely to recoup most or all of the money disbursed.
Which is true and so sounds like a clever retort - provided you don't actually think about it. What it actually does, though, is ignore or perhaps better said evade Waldorff's point, which was that the money to bail out the banks and the bankers was raised and it was raised more or less overnight. When it was decided the corporate world needed the cash, it was found. It was there. When that TARP money went out, the feds hoped to recover most of it - but they had no real idea if they would or not. That was not a requirement of the program going in and while it was a consideration, the consideration was "Big powerful companies need our help! We must not fail them lest the thunder of their fall doom us all!"

It's always the way: When people need help, you have to justify doing it. When big corporations need help, you have to justify not doing it. Because that is how they think of you: You are just not that important.

Footnote: It's attitudes like Kelly's that always tempt me to say these meetings are held in Davros.


JayV said...

Heh. For Kelly that's "The American Experience." (Hint: click this link and you'll get my pun.)

Happy New Year.

LarryE said...

I'm not sure I do. The first thing that came up was a trailer about a TAE episode about the Greely Expedition which certainly seems to have a spiritual resonance, but if that's not it, then I have to confess I'm not sure of the pun.

And HNY to you, too. Did that thing in Attleboro in November come off?

JayV said...

Well my (maybe lame) pun was referring to Liberty Mutual's sponsorship of the American Experience. Bit of a stretch. But I was appalled by Kelly's remarks especially juxtaposed with Liberty Mutual's slick sponsorship promo's on the PBS program.

We drove down to the horror fest in Foxboro. Our short was presented after lunch on the last day of the festival. Apart from one other person, the four of us who drove down were the only people who saw it at the festival. We had wanted to see a real theatre audience's reaction. The organisers may have had good intentions, but it was badly planned; and the fact that the theatre in Providence suddenly became unavailable meant that the they had to scramble to find a new venue.

Tuesday's the Day! "To Die For," the first short of our series based on urban legends will premiere on February 1.

LarryE said...

Ah. I didn't notice the sponsorship. Duh.

OTOH, I still think the Greely expedition still has a certain spiritual resonance with Kelly's attitude. :-)

Too bad about Attleboro and good luck with the film!

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