Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Modest Proposal

I can’t watch the news at the moment. Each broadcast starts with the reading of grim statistics on just how bad things are. The message in it all seems pretty clear to me; the way we do business has to drastically change.

I work for a small company. If we are any indication of what passes for normal business then I truly do understand why the economy fell apart. Here is a thought; the economy can no longer be viewed on a natural human scale. Yet, all these companies spend billions on commercials just to tell us they care. They don’t. At my company any big decision has to be decided by at least four other people I have never met face to face. People who are sitting in cubicles looking at spread sheets and making choices based on all those zeros and ones. It takes about three weeks to get an answer to even the most basic questions and in the end they often change their minds in a week anyway. So, we take about a month to stand still. Sound familiar to anyone yet?
People will say to me, you should feel lucky to have a job. I feel lucky to have a paycheck. That’s it. Whatever loyalty I originally had toward the company has vanished in recent months as I attempt to put faces to all those numbers. That’s not something companies want. The number one thing almost every major business in this country seems to have forgotten is the customer.
Were people.
They say in war the only way for a soldier to be effective on the battlefield is to first dehumanize the enemy. When you can do that then you have no problem killing your enemy. Somewhere along the way companies went to war on us. They sold us stuff that was against our own best interest. But so what, someone was making money somewhere and that’s all that mattered. It use to be the mantra of the service industry that the customer was never wrong. Now days the customer is sold something because he doesn’t know whats best for him. That’s the mentality of modern business. The customers’ hesitation is just a minor barrier on the road to getting money out of them.
Where did that get us?
It got us debt. It got us foreclosures on a scale not seen since the great depression. It got us fields of shinny brand new SUV’s no one wants anymore. It got us a war run for profit. It got us lead in our children’s toys and rocket fuel in babies’ milk. It got every last one of us down on our knees and worshipping the Almighty dollar at the expense of any real value.
We all helped to make this current financial climate. They made the commercials and we bought it. Literally. Now, after more than a trillion dollars has been handed to the same people who fucked us over with no strings attached or questions asked, the regular guy is still being ignored. All this talk about jump-starting the economy misses the point over and over and over again and I think I know why. These captains of industry and Wall Street morons cannot conceive of commerce at the human day-to-day level. They are use to transactions in the millions and billions. Surely, the thinking went, if we give the banks the money they stole, lost or invested in questionable practices, then everything could return to normal.
A trillion dollars of your money, of every taxpayer’s money now sits in the vaults of banks that for some reason refuse to loan it to anyone. Meanwhile the consumer, the biggest contributor to the health of the economy is being ignored. What if the government used that money to pay down mortgages? What if that money was put into the hands of regular people for rent, gas, food, health care bills, credit card payments and all the little stuff that adds up to the business of living? All these well educated genius keep trying to make changes in the rarefied air of boardrooms. Fuck that. We learned from Regan and the Bushes that trickle down is bullshit. You want the spenders, the consumers, the Joe six-packs to spend hard earned dollars again? If you do, corporate America, you have to get back into the people business. You have to produce a car of value. You have to train representatives to pick up the phone and listen to the complaints. You have to put what really is our money not into the hands of billionaires, but into the hands of the single mother, the senior living on a fixed income, the student overwhelmed by debt, the parents struggling to make ends meet and the typical everyday guy who can no longer afford what were all starting to see were impulse buys and luxury items anyway. Until the MBA’s in New York figure that out, keep watching your hedge funds shrink and those profit reports diminish. If your too dumb to figure out that the health of the economy is run on the backs of the ordinary citizen, then keep doing what you have guys have been doing. It really isn’t working.

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