Thursday, February 5, 2009

On the value of values

I was hoping the silver lining in this recession would be the resetting of the value of property and education and maybe even of an hour’s work. But some people seem to think it’s reasonable to use it to perpetuate the status quo—which benefits some people tremendously and costs others their dreams, their time with family and their very sanity.

President Obama wants to cap executive pay at companies which are TARP recipients at $500,000. Seems more than reasonable, right? I heard some financial services expert on NPR the other night arguing that this is unfair because it will drive the great minds out of the financial services industry, and by the way, these people have become accustomed to a certain standard of living and they’ll lose their homes. What? The “great minds” who caused this whole mess? Well boo hoo! And don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Having heard this, I was already pondering a post. But tonight’s story clinched it. The Boston Teachers Union (of which I was once a member) is contemplating agreeing to a hiring freeze, or even a pay cut, to try to salvage the threatened jobs of hundreds of its members.

So let me get this straight. The government can spend billions of dollars to bail out companies that failed because they overreached, the greedy can still make at least $500,000 a year (and probably more). While teachers, who do arguably the most important work there is for a pittance, may actually have to take less, despite the fact that many of them have mortgages too?!

I think we need to get outraged.

I think the monetary value of certain work and certain things is out of whack and, as a result, our values have gotten out of whack.

I don’t mean to sound cold, but honestly, I don’t care if those people lose the multi-million dollar homes they never deserved to have in the first place. (What about the work they do makes them worth so much more than me or you anyway?!) I doubt they will starve or go homeless on $500,000. In fact, I think we should let them learn to live on $100,000 or less like most regular people do. Maybe then they’d understand the value of a dollar, of honest work, of a home. Maybe then they’d think twice before putting everyone’s life savings at risk for their deadly sins of pride and greed.

I don’t think we will ever solve this problem if we assume that everyone must be kept exactly where they are. In fact, there’s a very large segment of the population, whose members probably wouldn’t mind changing their low position on the economic totem pole. The lesson of this whole debacle is that something was very wrong with our economic system. So let’s try to refrain from spending gads of money (that doesn’t even exist) putting it back just as skewed and as broken as it was.

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