Re: AIG Good for GM

On Mon, 16 Mar 2009 08:57:52 -0400, 80 Knight cast forth these pearls of wisdom...:


I'm not suggesting the unions are not stepping up, I was only objecting to the romantic portrayal of the poor auto worker.

Likewise, I think what's going on with AIG is an atrocity.

I don't dispute any of this - was not the point of my comment. The typical UAW/CAW worker did extremely well given their level of education and skill. They enjoyed a gravy train within their own strata of skills. Plenty of people in their same skill level worked a lot harder for a lot less, than they did. The union made their lives disproportionately lucerative. That gravy train has reached its end. No different than the Wall Street guys. No better, no worse. Different scale, but same problem. With the unions starting to step up now, they are ahead of the Wall Street guys in terms of embracing their own responsibility to their problems. I'm fine with that. But - they were indeed responsible for their own problems to a large degree. They were not the poor hard working Disney dreaming underpriveledged workers that Vic portrayed.

I agree that the Brass needs to step up. Fire a lot of them. Reset the comp plans of the rest of them. No disagreement there. BTW - I don't fault the union worker for the quality of cars. In my mind, that's a design issue that I believe is most likely dictated by senior management.

I do not disagree. Different point though.
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-Mike-
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On Mon, 16 Mar 2009 11:05:23 -0400, Mike Marlow

Mike, I worked with plenty of hands-on guys who worked hard to get to bonus level. They are not running the show now. As Wall Street got its grips on business ethics some of these guys went with the flow, which is "whatever it takes to increase my bonus" and the others got pushed out because they stood up against cutting quality and off-shoring jobs. Without getting into how the concept of "stakeholder" has changed over the last 30 years, I'll just say the bonus system is corrupting one. Not just of business and quality, but morality. Just engenders a love of money. It's a good system for salesmen maybe, but that's commission on product sales, not money for coming up with bogus investment vehicles. The Wall Street crowd getting into workers pockets via 401k's has distorted just about every reality. I don't buy your contention about "the greatest percentage" benefitting from this. The nation is broke. You always hear the mantra about "everybody gets hurt" when 401k value goes south. That's bullshit, and always has been. I've NEVER seen 401k participation figures and investment totals that support this. Most of the 401k value belongs to people making 90% percentile wages. That's my wild ass guess, but I'm usually a good guesser. Everybody else got screwed by the "401k economy" unless they were savers. And the county is weaker, with little productive capacity to provide jobs. When you see the wild P/E's and no stock dividends of the recent past, and realize the extent U.S. household debt, you have to take notice. U.S. debt to foreigners is tremendous, and the idiots running the show still don't address balance of trade. It didn't make sense and didn't meet the sobriety test I always give myself: Am I consuming more than I am producing? I'm really surprised the economy has held up as long as it has, so I always question myself about what I'm missing, and if I'm wrong about everything. Still don't know really, but doesn't stop me from mouthing off like everybody else.

Not quite. Those AIG and other Wall Street bonuses are going to THOUSANDS of non-performers. GM could never get away with that crap. And GM and the autoworkers are making real sacrifices. Wall Street is corrupt to the bone.

True enough, and I don't have any sympathy for those who fell into the greed trap. Simple personal responsibility. But I despise the leaders who led the suckers there, especially since most of those leaders were absolutely negligent and are paying no price at all for that. I'm real big on holding leaders responsible. Maybe because I learned that in the Navy, and whenever I had the responsibility to lead there or later, I took it very seriously. So I don't go after the seaman when it was the Captain who led us onto the rocks. And I don't intend to get shy about it either.
--Vic
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On Mon, 16 Mar 2009 11:11:51 -0600, Vic Smith cast forth these pearls of wisdom...:

I work with too many honest types to accept this. It's just not true Vic.

Not at all. It's the ethics of the company that is the corrupting factor. I don't deny corruption, but I think you are blaming an entire class of people for things they were not responsible for.

You contradict yourself here. The investment vehicle is their product. There are and there have been plenty of good investment vehicles. The problem is they got weighed down by the instant riches schemes that the investors - the public, went crazy over. Wouldn't matter how the pay was structured, those inclined to dishonesty would have worked in that manner under any pay structure. It's the bogus investment that was the problem. That's a lot different than the thousands of people who work at desks on Wall Street.

How many 401K's are you aware of that consistently underperformed and lost money for the individual prior to this debacle?

I've never suggested that. The point is that the 401K made workers retirement money. Even today, after all of this crap, I would guess (can't prove this...) that most 401K's still represent more money to the holder than if they had not invested. Perhaps even more, owing to growth over the years, than they actually contributed.

It may be, but wouldn't that simply make sense? If you make more and contribute more, shouldn't you earn more? If you look at percentages of growth though, I'd bet you'd find it consistent over the ranks.

Not the 401K econmy - the greed of the American public.

The very root of the problem in my opinion. Why is that household debt so high? Not because of the cost of living over the past 20 years. Because of want-it-now, want-it-all greed at the household level.

True, but a whole different matter.

That would represent the fundamental flaw in household thinking. People gave up on this sort of wisdom.

Isn't the internet great? Who cares if anyone agrees - we get the chance to mouth off what we feel.

I don't know where they are really going. Some of those people may actually be deserving of a bonus. I personally don't believe any executive at AIG is deserving of one, but some folks may very well be deserving of their bonus. I have a friend who works for AIG as a collision adjuster. He works his butt off to save on claims, do the right thing, etc. Very conscientious guy. Part of his pay is based on a quarterly bonus. So - he does a great job of controlling cost, and he's out his bonus? That would not be in the best spirit of getting AIG under control. Who are those "thousands" of non-performers. My biggest grip with this type of venting is that people think there are these huge swarms of non-performing people, when they really don't have a clue. So - who are these people?

GM may be getting away with more business as usual crap than we are aware of.

Finally - and only because they were forced into it.

At some levels I agree. I also know that there are a lot of genuinely honest people working at what you call Wall Street.

I do believe the leaders should pay a price. I do not believe in absolving the individual of responsibility under the mantra that some leader led them into it. No one forced America to jump into these things. My 401K took a lot less of a hit than most folks I know. I didn't invest in the high risk stuff. Settled for less earning in favor of less risk. Too bad for those that wanted it all.

Different kind of leader. In your example, a leader can force the actions of his followers. In this case, the followers were clamoring for more and only encouraged more of the bad behavior by the leaders.
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-Mike-
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From my perspective, greed runs from top to bottom...What is "greed"? That is more difficult to define....
I have heard it said that some people dont just want their share of the pie...they want the whole pie, and I have seen this a lot on every level.
Many many people seem to think that they deserve more thanb 'poor old slow dumb Elmer".
I have seen senior vice-presidents do things that are not in the interest of the company in order to get larger bonuses. And they should have been fired, but almost never are.
Investors, brokers, managers and the like often massage the bonus programs so that they are sure to get their pockets fuller. It is not ordinarily dishonest (with exceptions like Enron) with respect to the law, but is more often selfserving and can be vicious.
There is a great lack of structure and oversight in America today. It isnt noticed when things are really going great guns, but in times of crisis, there is a lot of blaming and anger. And this is often justified, but effective management should be eternally vigilant of this sort of behavior.
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On Mon, 16 Mar 2009 12:54:49 -0400, Mike Marlow

Publicly traded company with no government contracts/restrictions? My experience is with a Forturne 50, and I saw what happened when it transitioned from privately held to public. The culture of work, mentoring and pride in products were destroyed. The ONLY thing that truly mattered was getting the books right for the Wall Street analysts to keep the share price up - which boosted exec bonuses of course. Not surprising, given what Wall Street stock trading now represents - money, money, money, and inflation of share prices over anything else. That's just what it has become. I don't doubt that there are publically traded companies that have retained culture and ethic. Just not my experience. And I don't condemn anybody without a fair hearing. I just know where we are and point the general finger of blame at Wall Street and government leadership.

Not much different than you blaming public greed. Everybody separates the Johns from the hookers in a different fashion.

No. It's pretty well accepted that the mortgage derivatives were corrupt products.

You said "greatest percentage of population." Not true. I don't think participation is close to 50%, besides many not being able - or wanting - to kick significant money in. Besides that, tell the sucker who kicked 15% of his wages into 401k equities since 1999, having got the kids out of the house and able to prepare for his retirement now, that his 401k was good for him. Hell, he just lost 15% of his salary times 10 years.

Depends on timing. My problem with 401k's isn't that they exist and can be useful, but that they lock workers into products that are run by Wall Street, with no alternatives. With the same tax sheltering and contribution limitations, a local bank CD IRA account would have provided the guy I mentioned above a decent yield with a compounding 4% APR rate average over 10 years. Maybe more than 4% APR. I didn't look. That's a world of difference over his equity losses. The money would be flowing into the local economy too, not off-shoring everything in sight as Wall Street does in order to pump up share prices.

My point was it's not the widespread retirement cushion for most of the population. They will depend on SS.

Well, since I've been saying that 401k's don't do squat for most of the population, and that Wall Street directed the off-shoring of millions of American jobs, and the destruction of the economy as we used to know it, all after they got their fingers in 401k money, I'll stick with the 401k/Wall Street villain scenario.

While not excusing anybody for debt, I go back to my leadership argument. Debt was encouraged by leadership. "Go out and shop."

Not really. Balance of trade deficits are a big part of what got us here. When the government is willing to pile up that kind of debt, all the fundamentals of the economy change. That's my cracker-barrel view. You can believe me, or listen to some mumbo-jumbo by Alan Greenspan. The genius. I really don't think the pols have grasped the paradigm shift in the economy. When unemployment hits 15% they'll catch on.

First off, if your collision adjuster friend is controlling costs by going with cheap parts that self-destruct and screw the customers, is that the result of the bonus? I said I'm against bonuses for performing the job you are salaried to do. Cost-cutting and finding efficiencies is part and parcel of that kind of job. An occasional performance bonus for excellent work and customer satisfaction and retention is fine. My view on bonusing lines up with my view on military valor medaling. "Above and beyond." Even then there are disagreements about merit among honorable men. When I said "thousand" I was talking about news reports of Wall Street bonuses. But the AIG bonuses in the news are said to be for traders/workers in the derivatives unit. This is the unit whose conduct required AIG being bailed out, and is responsible for the record last quarter losses. Maybe the GM workers should get a bonus for GM's record losses?

Yeah, like anybody just gives up money without being forced. Now it's time to put the screws on Wall Street.

The leaders aren't paying a price. Everybody else is.

No. Leaders set the direction and tone. Followers follow. Nice talking to you. Forgive me if I tail off on this. Frankly I'm tired of it. Besides that, we have some views that won't be reconciled. I do respect yours though.
--Vic
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On Mon, 16 Mar 2009 14:03:20 -0600, Vic Smith cast forth these pearls of wisdom...:

Pure bull Vic. Wall Street dictated no such thing. Have you ever worked in the environments where jobs were outsourced overseas? Wall Street had no hand in it. The host company did it all by themselves. You can continue to cry about Wall Street being the big bad wolf, but you've not hit a single point yet.

Oh man Vic - you really do not understand a bit of what you say. For one - you are dead wrong on this point. I know a lot about cars, car parts, car repairs (both body and mechanical) and you are so far off base that it's almost not worth a reply. I won't even bother to demonstrate how far off base this claim is. Rather, I'll give you the opportunity to support your ludicrous claim.

You don't understand much about comp plans do you Vic? Many positions are salaried at lesser salaries with bonus plans to encourage productivity. Were you an hourly worker during your career? Or maybe a straight salary employee? There is a difference in the way comp plans exist in the world and not all are as level as a straight pay comp plan.

But you view is only your opinion and is not reflective of reality. You make assumptions that are not proven in the real world and accuse people of things you fear they may do, with no evidence they have done them. You're a pretty straight shooter Vic and I don't understand why you take this approach to/with people and situations you don't seem to understand.

I'll give you a buy on this one for the moment because I've not followed the news reports you are referencing. I don't give much credibility to the news given their propensity for exageration and sensationalism, but I have to stand back on this point because I'm not current on the news claims.

There has never been any contention that Wall Street needs some pressure but my point is that your anger should better be focused on company executives and not so much on Wall Street which has become your favored target. Wall Street is not responsible for the greed of corporate executives. Paint Wall Street all you want, but all you will succeed in doing is letting the corporate executives that got their companies into these messes, off scott free while you fire all your ammo at Wall Street.

As well Vic - I respect yours. I appreciate the exchange of views.
--

-Mike-
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On Tue, 17 Mar 2009 07:26:09 -0600, Vic Smith cast forth these pearls of wisdom...:

Sorry - did not mean to evade that question. Yes - I have only ever worked for public companies, both privately held and publicly traded. Have worked for companies as large as Oracle, EMC, and Avaya as well as some much smaller, lesser known companies. Have always done business with the Fortune 50 (at least), at executive and business unit levels.

I think you've generalized what I was trying to say. That happens in usenet type dialogs.

They do and they don't. Industry analysts that are as far removed from Wall Street as the moon, often have as much or more impact. As well, Wall Street gets its expectations from the corporation itself. It acts more as a validator than as an organization that dictates performance expectations.
That corporate executives (typically limited to C level) can be influenced by their commitments to the street, is inarguable, but that supports my position that it's the corporation that is more responsible than the street.

My only point was that Wall Street in no way dictated these moves. Over zealous projections by corporate executives, the religeous pursuit of cost cutting, etc. are more responsible for this than Wall Street. I'm only encouraging placing blame where it is appropriate, and not painting Wall Street with a broad brush.

Precisely. My point exactly.

Yes. Agreed. Corporate greed. What I've been trying to say.

There is more than one problem at hand here Vic. In the end I belive greed across the board is the common denominator, but one cannot blame AIG, any of the mortgage companies, etc. for the unbounded greed of the American consumer. Lots of us did not fall into the trap of overextending ourselves in the hope of continually increasing property values that would quickly make us rich and fund our toys and pleasures today. That is American greed at work. The greed spreads across a wide spectrum of businesses and consumers.

Don't go there Vic. I suspect you and I are in complete accord on that point and I have been beating that drum for several years now, since the inception of the "global economy" philosophy. We're doing quite nicely disagreeing and we wouldn't want to ruin that with a point of total agreement, would we?

I agree on the discovery of corruption. We're only at the tip of the iceberg.

I know the parts that are typically authorized for use. Yes - I am aware there are instances of abuse, but far and away, they are in the minority. I also know the level of parts that insurances companies will pay to use. They are OEM equivelent, or of like kind/condition (salvage yard parts). I know these parts very well. They are perfectly acceptable parts. Talk to body shops that do these repairs. It is not uncommon to hear that they prefer (for example...) Keystone Platnum Plus parts over genuine OEM. Fit and quality is better than OEM. In the case of Keystone parts, Platnum Plus is the standard for insurance claims use. How many people do you really know first hand who suffered degradation of their vehicle from the use of aftermarket parts? Like I said, I do body work (not commercially) and I use these parts. I know first hand the quality, the fit and finish, the ease of installation, etc. Inferior? Not by a long shot.

I appreciate your candor.

Was not trying to be cute. Your thoughts seem to indicate that you don't understand these comp plans.

A whole lot? Because I admitted I was not current on that one particular point? Who's being cute now? Yes, I am working now.

On that point we disagree. Wall Street has many faces. One of them is that the street holds corporations accountable.

Even if that attachment exists as you claim, your complete blame of Wall Street as you've expressed previously is incorrect. Corporations and their shareholders are also tied at the hip. Does that mean that corporate misdeeds are also a responsiblity of the shareholders? Tied at the hip, after all.

Good - that is after all, what makes the world go 'round. Well, that and sex...
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"80 Knight" <nospam> wrote in message

Get the fact first. While they are called "bonus" they were negotiated and contracted long before the bailout and it has to do with bringing in business, not performance bonuses. Think of them as a commission, just like any sales rep gets.
Taking them away now is like telling you that you should give back a buck an hour that your earned last year. Not legal, not ethical.
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You mean the same type of things people are demanding the CAW and UAW do to there members?
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"80 Knight" <nospam> wrote in message

The best and most fair way is to declare banruptcy and start all over. New jobs for the brass and new jobs for the members. And no burden for the taxpayers.
You can't get more fair than that. That's how any other business solves it's problems.

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labatyd wrote:

Amen, amen!
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Civis Romanus Sum

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I think you're intentions are good but in the real world there is a thing called: infastructure.
The records, people, buildings, real estate, equipment, trucking, etc. is all existing infastructure that has taken a century to set up. To dump it all and then try to build from nothing, which is what happens in a bankruptcy, is a monumental undertaking for an auto company. A business that leases a store and sells furniture or clothing can get away with a bankruptcy, and be open again next month.
It would be better to treat the company like you would politics, the infastructure stays in place, but the people get changed every once in a while. But that can only come from within the company. Unfortunately, the old game of picking one person to blame, then replacing that person, doesn't wash anymore, (except in politics).
I think a reflection on what happened to Studebaker would be good at this time.
labatyd wrote:

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"80 Knight" <nospam> wrote in message

AIG has an agreement with their brokers, just like the CAW and UAW. They are paying what was agreed to for past work. Future work is another story. AIG should re-negotiate, just as the auto industry did with the unions.
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I can see what you are saying, but with me living near one of GM's plants, I see those autoworkers every day. The lucky ones are still working, while the others are out bright and early each and every day looking for any job they can find, just to keep food on there families plates. It's different when you actually know these people.

Agreed. I really don't see how causing your company (AIG) to have the biggest loss in USA history is worthy of a million (some received 4 million) dollar bonus.

A lot of times, the skill level is quite high though. I know some may think that all you need is a grade 7 education, but that just isn't the case. GM won't even look at you unless you have a high school diploma, and preferably a college degree as well.

IMHO, the difference is while the CAW/UAW are taking concessions, pay cuts, etc., the Wall Street guys are still sucking back luxury vacations, and multi-million dollar bonus's. There is also a huge difference between the 30 (or whatever the figure) billion lent to GM, and the trillion given to Wall Street.

I'll be the first one to agree that most CAW/UAW workers make a good amount of money. I also think most people believe the work to be very trivial and easy. Though, some may love the thought of fastening a few bolts 100's of times a day for 8 hours, it (along with working on a line that doesn't stop for restroom breaks, etc.) can be very challenging. Do others get paid less for doing more work? Of course, that is the world (unfortunately), and though I don't think every CAW/UAW worker suffers, I have met many, many who have. And before someone says "they can always find work elsewhere", that is usually what they do, if they can. I have several permanently injured family members who worked at the Oshawa plant. One has had serious spinal surgery, due to an accident on the floor, another has had serious shoulder/neck surgery from a hood falling on him. Are there people in the CAW/UAW who don't deserve the job, even high up's? Yep. But, there are some who actually try to do what is best for there members, and there community in general. Sorry to rant on there.

Definitely. Especially the actual "Top" of the company. If they can't bring GM back to profitability, they need to be fired, and someone hired who can.

My apologies. I was thinking of when "Canuck" first came into the group, saying he would never purchase another Oshawa built car, due to the engine troubles he had in one of his Buicks (or some GM brand), when the engine was actually built in Michigan.

Agreed.
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