Workin’ For the Man
(Badmitten’s Workin’ Overtime Mix)

We can’t even pretend that the current global crisis isn’t real – we’ve been suffering a harsh reality in Michigan for a long time – but, much of the insanity that is going on could be lessened if we could manage a lot less greed and a little more common sense. Over lunch yesterday, my friend, Carmen (not her real name) relayed a story that offers a striking example.

Last fall Carmen was laid off from her job at Ford after 22 years of service. Like many others, she’s had trouble finding a new job, and for now is surviving on her severance package and work as a freelance creative.

In an effort to be responsible, Carmen called her credit union to refinance her mortgage. She’s only four years away from paying off the house she and her ex-husband bought years ago. Her hope was to negotiate a lower payment so she can keep her home for as long as possible. She recognizes that she has an obligation to pay, and wants to handle the situation while it’s manageable.

The loan officer told Carmen there is nothing they can do for her. Why? They can’t refinance and lower her payments because she doesn’t have a job.

Has the world gone crazy or what?

Carmen just wants to do the right thing, but the bank would rather she default on the loan, costing them more money in all the legal nonsense of the foreclosure process.  Carmen is nowhere near foreclosure right now, and she doesn’t want to get there.  Why can’t the human beings at the bank act responsibly AND IN THEIR OWN SELF INTEREST?

It makes no sense.

But that loan officer isn’t alone.  Certainly there are corporate policies that keep Carmen’s banker from doing something that makes too much sense.  Like typical corporate pigs, they’d rather cut off their own snout to spite their jowls.

Barack Obama’s stimulus plan doesn’t help Carmen because she doesn’t have a mortgage with Freddie or Fannie.  What about the rest of us, Barack?  Why not come up with a plan to revalue mortgages based on current home values?

This isn’t the only ridiculous story about corporate greed that I’ve heard this week.  On Monday the Detroit Free Press reported that executives at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan had their hands in the cookie jar before the bottom fell out.

Just before it announced plans to lay-off 1,000 employees and losing $144 million, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan gave pay hikes, to its nine top executives, including large retirement packages to four former senior vice presidents, according to 2008 financial data filed by the insurer last week with the state.

Blue Cross paid $1.8 million to president and chief executive officer Dan Loepp, up from $1,657,555 in 2007 and $990,351 in 2006.

CFO Mark Bartlett —the Blues’ point man on many legislative and financial issues — earned $1,239,512. His total compensation was $1,171, 194 in 2007 and $975,225 in 2006.

Four Blue Cross executives leaving the company pulled large retirement packages.

Departing executive vice president Les Viegas earned $3.46 million, the most of the top nine Blue Cross executives.

And the Blues want to raise rates on their premiums this year!  In my book, this almost amounts to embezzlement.  What is the difference besides the fact that the board members voted to give each other raises rather than help their “non-profit” company?

When I posted a link to this story of Facebook, one of my FB friends shared this info:

It’s not just Blue Cross laying off 1000 people and raising salaries of the upper management. I work for a non-profit arts org in Detroit.They have been laying off left and right but the Department Directors will not take pay cuts.

They are still approving trips to Italy, France, and Germany to “scout talent” when we have talent right here in the US and very good local talent to boot. But here we are in “serious dire straights”.

They laid off several employees and my department got pushed down to part time. Hourly employees, like me, got pushed to 10 hours a week from 40.

Of course, we are being accused of not doing our jobs effectively. We are expected to still do 40 hours of works in 10-20 hours. We get told that working for them should be an honor and we should be just happy to have a job.

Well, I don’t see too many smiling faces around lately.  We’re facing a global economic crisis largely of our (the United States’) own making.  The wars being waged all over the world are often overshadowed by the violence that explodes on small town streets, in high school hallways and in church on Sunday morning.  And as if the man made disasters weren’t enough, we’re facing the very real threat of a planetary climate shift.

Paul Gilding, former Greenpeace executive director and founder of the environmental consulting firm ECOS, calls it “The Great Disruption”.  In his March 8 New York Times column, Thomas Friedman describes Gilding’s theory as the moment “when both Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at once.”

A caller to NPR’s On Point, where Gilding was a guest on March 9, redefined it “The Great Deception” saying, “In the 70s, the pendulum was really laid to people who worked and they got a good standard of living.  And since then, the pendulum has moved far, far away from [that] to the people who just want greed.  And they have used this greed to deplete us.”

In her Facebook note, my FB friend expanded on the point:

It’s the game of corporate business at any level. When the economy is bad, lay offs happen because nobody wants to play “give and take”. They just want to play “take” and “every man for himself”. It’s BS and there is nothing that anyone will do about it because if you think about it, how many major corporations give to politicians (the dudes running the show) campaign funds. No one is going to bite the hand that feeds them especially when they are making millions in contributions, bribes, and earmarks.

It’s constant nepotism. It’s a mess. We need to clean the slate, get rid of career politicians (Americans need to vote out anyone in political office more than 8-12 years), and start voting for new faces, new faces with clean slates. Same thing with corporate business. They need to start firing Presidents and CEO’s of companies that are asking for exorbitant amount of money in raises.

But those were the big muckety-mucks at BCBS that voted to give EACH OTHER big raises.  I’d bet not a single person who was in the boardroom when that decision was made got the axe when the lay-offs came down.  What can the rest of us do about it?

“I think we all forget that there are more of US than THEM!”  my FBF exclaimed, as if anticipating the devil’s advocacy.

We just need to start standing up for ourselves. Putting our opinions out there, calling & emailing our state and federal politicians, blogging like mad, calling our TV and radio stations when the company you work for is doing the BCBS thing, and not being afraid of what other’s THINK about our opinions (that’s a big problem right there).We need to keep exploiting the bad man and stop being worried about what other’s think.

Right on!  It’s clear that we are being deceived once again, that the bankers, politicians, and big shots think we’re chumps.

That brings up two questions:  Are we going to take it?  If not, then what are we going to do about it?

Blues Talkin'

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