by John Walters

Starting Five

Lev And Let Die

In the past 48 hours everyone’s first or second favorite Ukrainian henchman, Lev Parnas, is cooperating with impeachment investigators. So you have to wonder how many hours or days it will be before Lev “hangs himself” in jail. Meanwhile, ABC correspondent Amy Robach, who is married to Andrew Shue (the cute but dumb one from Melrose Place) was caught on a hot mic basically saying that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered.

I agree with you, Amy.

Finally, Gordon Sondland, the Trump donor from Oregon with no foreign affairs experience who was then thrust into the role of ambassador to the European Union and put in charge of affairs with Ukraine, which is NOT in the European Union, but follow along, kids, this is The Worst Wing, after all…even he, EVEN HE, is turning against Trump.

In testimony to the impeachment inquiry, Sondland admitted that he recognized Trump’s maneuver with Ukraine to be “illegal” and always assumed it was a quid pro quo offer.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham has decided to put his head in the sand and told reporters that he will refuse to read the testimony. One can see that Graham, his fellow Republicans in Congress and a helluva whole lot of Americans brandishing red baseball caps simply refuse to shave with Occam’s Razor (i.e., the simplest solution is usually the correct one, i.e, either everyone is making up tales about Trump, or you know, Trump is).

Clemson’s On The ROY Bus

The initial College Football Playoff rankings were released last night, and they’re essentially meaningless, since the top four teams—Ohio State, LSU, Alabama and Penn State—are already set up as semifinal games this month. That is, LSU visits Bama on Saturday and Ohio State hosts the Nittany Lions on Nov. 23rd.

The minor surprise is that defending national champ Clemson, which has scored at least 52 points in four of its eight wins, is fifth. The Tigers have the 65th-toughest schedule in the land, however, and it’s not about to get more difficult. If Dabo’s Demons continue on to 13-0, they’ll be in. But playing Wofford AND Charlotte won’t earn you any respect.

La La Lanes

Oh, and my quasi-hometown of Phoenix is making the same error. And why is this happening? Because developers gonna develop (and there’s big money in it for both them and the pols who okay the zoning) and then they need a way to accommodate the influx.

This is why I hope everyone visits the Hamptons at least once in their lives. Those city fathers flat-out refuse to expand the main road beyond one lane in either direction. The result is massive traffic snarls on weekends but also it’s an impetus for many to stay away, and that keeps everything there manageable. It’s not just a coincidence that these are some of the wealthiest people in the U.S.A. They know what’s up. And how to handle it.

And Now A Word About Executive Pay…

Yesterday morning I saw a quote from hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, who was speaking at the Greenwich Economic Forum: “How many employees do we have not making a living wage relative to what I’m paying the CEO? Hopefully we begin asking that in every damn boardroom.”

Before proceeding, let’s just put it out there that Jones himself is a billionaire.

Anyway, I sent this quote out into a group chat with some old friends who know my feelings about executive pay. And basically, they are this: Yes, the CEO should make the greatest wage at a company, but unless he’s the guy who actually founded the company or invented the product, there’s no reason for him to be earning between 50 to 100x that of the average employee salary.

Anyway, I sent that quote out and one response, from an entrepreneur who is a self-made success, was, “Maybe I’m just becoming cynical, but it sounds like Paul Tudor Jones may be considering a future in politics.”

Maybe, but it also sounds as if Jones is onto something ethical, too. I imagine when Abraham Lincoln proposed freeing the slaves that a few detractors pointed out that he would be able to count on the black vote going forward.

LeBron is the product, not the CEO

Another respondent, well aware of my being a sportswriter, used the old “How do you justify paying athletes so much?” argument, which is incredibly lame, a straw man, and also shows a fundamental lack of understanding. Getting past what pro athletes actually earn for a moment, the analogy between LeBron James and a CEO is inherently flawed because LeBron is not the CEO, he is THE PRODUCT. LeBron, or any pro athlete, is analagous to the Tesla, not to Elon Musk; to the Popeye’s chicken sandwich, not the CEO of Popeye’s.

No one buys a ticket to a Laker game because of Jeannie Buss. They buy one because of LeBron (and Anthony Davis). So that analogy is flawed.

Yet another friend, who operates a small business that would not exist without his expertise (which he acquired through four years of strenuous graduate school studies), said of executive pay, “It’s just the system.” Sounds like the title of a Bruce Hornsby song I remember, and you may remember what that song dealt with.

Now, let’s say that the CEO of a publicly traded company earns $5 million annually (most earn much more) and that the average salary among employees is $50,0000. That means he earns 100x the average. I proposed to my friend that if he earns $500,000 annually he certainly could not propose to his small staff that they each earn $5,000 (also a 100x difference) per annum or he’d have no more staff.

So what is the difference here? Scale. The large company makes a lot more revenue so they can still do the 100:1 ratio, but here’s the important thing: what the company is paying its average staffers isn’t exactly a fair wage, it’s the very lowest they can pay them without these workers saying “Take this job and shove it.”

And there are some very sinister ramifications to such a wage. First, the staffers have little ability to save money and thus create a better life for themselves in the future. Second, if they are married it means that both parents will likely have to work, which means that the development of the children will also suffer.

But mostly, there’s simply no justification to that salary. McDonald’s fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, this week due to a “consensual” relationship with an underling at the company. Is Easterbrook’s dismissal going to affect your decision to visit the drive-thru for a quarter pounder this week? Nope. But if LeBron left the Lakers, that would probably impact attendance or ticket prices.

CEOs should be rich. Sure. But just how rich? It’s flat-out unethical to be paying one man a king’s ransom while thousands of others are being paid a wage that allows them to barely scrape by. And let’s not pretend that the only people who might know how to run a business are grads of Wharton or Harvard MBA. If you think that, you may want to watch The Wire.

Even I, a dumb sports journalist, did okay with my one major entrepreneurial experience. I put in less than $20,000 of my own money to self-publish a book and through a little ingenuity and common sense made better than a ten-fold return. Running a business is simply good common sense and a lot of hard work and attention to detail. The idea that someone in that position deserves to be paid 100x that of the people who actually make the widgets is asinine. And arrogant.

Five Films: 1949

  1. White Heat It’s Jimmy Cagney, see, and he’s a tough guy, see, he’s a gangster, and he’s gonna plug you coppers full of lead. With Virginia “Hold The” Mayo. 2. Adams’ Rib: Comic classic with Tracy and Hepburn as spouses and lawyers. One of their best together.
  2. 3. On The Town Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra on shore leave again this time in New York, New York (a helluva town, the Bronx is up and he Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground) 4. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon John Wayne directed by John Ford in Monument Valley. And a love triangle. 5. In The Good Ol’ Summertime Judy Garland and Van Johnson in a musical remake of The Shop Around The Corner which would later be You’ve Got Mail. That baby in the final shot is Liza Minnelli.

3 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. I’m a market-based, capitalist, entrepreneurial-minded guy, but I like your thinking on executive pay. The pay discrepancy between the president/CEO and those who put in the work to make the product or service is definitely skewed.

    I had a business ethics seminar at the University of Dayton and we talked about this a bit. We were divided into round tables and discussed a case study, the details I don’t remember. But, I do remember there being a company in bad financial shape and there being a decision to possibly make up the difference by laying off workers. Maybe it’s my worldview, but I felt strongly at the time that if I were in the shoes of the CEO I’d take a pay cut before I’d start laying off employees.

    But, John, now that you’ve put your finger on a problem, what would you propose to fix it? Again, my worldview being what it is, I feel that the lack of empathy and lack of a sense of “doing the right thing” or duty, etc. is because people aren’t as full of the Holy Spirit. Meaning, the more the society has gotten away from relationship with God, the more it’s descended into a moral abyss that manifests itself as bad business ethics, politics without compromise, social media cancel culture, etc.

    I’m not saying that if everyone would just go to church (or temple or other place of worship), then we’d all be saved. But, society no longer strictly adheres to an understood common code of decency toward our fellow human beings.

    I feel like I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll stop here. It’s a good conversation to have, though (come to Chi-town and we can discuss it more over a beer or three).

  2. Perhaps PT Jones saw the headline (& the writing on the wall) on CNBC (or it might have been Marketwatch) that proclaimed some large % of Millennials (more than half, I think it said) favor COMMUNISM! LOL! Hell, I’ve been saying this for years! Eventually, the super rich push things so outta wack that the common folk no longer think they have a chance for a better life & presto, we’re “gonna have a rev-o-lu-tion”! And the INSANE, EXTORTIONIST COST OF HEALTH CARE IN THIS COUNTRY is lighting up & steering the mob. (No, I will NOT be Madame Defarge, I can’t knit!). Just last night, I read an article about the skyrocketing number of “seniors” declaring bankruptcy, almost solely because of heinous medical bills. With & without “Medicare”!

    Anyhoo, Jones is smart; he’d rather give up some money & KEEP HIS HEAD. The question is – how smart are the REST of the .05%?

    Beyond the outrageous pay, it’s the fact that WHEN FIRED, they get HUGE PAYOUTS! Not just CEOs, but others with “contracts”, like that CFB coach just fired. He’s going to be PAID $18 MILLION over the next 4 years to do nuthin. Notice it’s only the highly paid folks that get these kind of “contracts”? It’s one thing if you’re injured on the job or even laid off because of a ‘business turn down” (i.e. not your fault)(notice most of these folks rarely even get severance packages anymore) but FIRED because you did something wrong & you are paid a GET OUT BONUS?! The whole system is outta wack!

    Sorry, disagree with your ‘Hamptons solution’, which is basically – the super rich take over an area BEFORE it develops & then do everything (legal & illegal) to “keep out the riffraff”. Really, THAT’s your solution to urban development/overpopulation/auto traffic insanity? Heck, if the annual (& increasing) fires & mudslides don’t discourage folks from CA, then The Big One will surely do so. In the meantime, in just a few years, insurance companies will STOP INSURING properties for fire in those areas, home ownership will plummet while rents will skyrocket. On top of the ever escalating taxes needed to combat the annual fires, etc, I expect an exodus…. to nearby & sunny Arizona! Have you thought about AZ real estate investing as your next career? Better hop in NOW. 😉

  3. Great list of 1949 films! I, ahem, would just add a few more. 🙂

    Holiday Affair – Xmas flick starring Robert Mitchum & Janet Leigh.

    Take Me Out to the Ballgame – another Kelly & Sinatra musical!

    Neptune’s Daughter – Esther & Ricardo again! They BOTH looked ‘mahvalous’!

    Little Women – starring June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, Margret O’Brien. Typical MGM ‘treatment’ of a classic, but I’m still partial to this version as it was the one I saw repeatedly while growing up.

    My Friend Irma – film debut of Martin & Lewis.

    2 WWII movies – 12 O’Clock High starring Gregory Peck & The Sands of Iwo Jima, starring John Wayne. So, when I was a kid & if my dad was in the TV room, HE decided what we watched. In the 60s, there were a LOT of westerns & WWII, both as TV shows & movies bought by TV stations/networks. These genres happened to be my dad’s 2 faves so if one was on during “prime time nights” or Sunday afternoons, we were watching. To this day, I’m not sure if I’m partial to both because I really appreciate them or because I watched SO much of them with my dad. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *