Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Now You Know

I live in a very conservative part of the country which has elected a Republican to Congress all but once in the last 100 years. Some of my Republican friends have expressed a good bit of rage towards President Obama recently. He is leading our beloved country down the path toward socialism which will be the ruin of the nation. He is spending us into bankruptcy. Destroying our wonderful system of healthcare. He is the Great Satan, and probably a Muslim as well. And that is some of the nicer things they say.

There is no sense in arguing with such an irrational rant. Rational discussion is out of the question. My only response is: Now you know how I felt for the last eight years with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their merry band of thugs running the country. (I will leave it at that because when I start thinking about it, I soon descend into a serious rant.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sotomayor’s Decision

President Obama recently appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Republicans have branded her a "racist" because of a statement she made several years ago that a Latina woman could make a better decision than a white male.

Beyond that one seemingly biased statement is a ruling by the Appellate Court in which it upheld a lower court’s decision in the Frank Ricci case. This was a situation where a white firefighter in New Haven Connecticut studied hard and got a high score on a promotions test, but the city threw out all the scores because no black person passed the test. Being a good American, Ricci sued, claiming discrimination. The lower court denied his claim, and Sotomayor voted to uphold the lower court’s decision. This is enough for some commentators to brand her as biased against all white men.

What seems to be missed in all this is that Judge Sotomayor did not decide on the facts of the case if there was or was not discrimination. She only ruled that the lower court had appropriately applied the law in arriving at its own decision. In this she strictly adhered to the traditional role of the appellate courts in applying the law while leaving it to the lower courts to determine the facts of the case. From my perspective, Sotomayor cannot be fairly charged with bias merely because she followed legal precedent in her vote on this case. Republicans will have to dig deeper if they want to make such a characterization stick.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

General Motors

What a mess this country is in! General Motors, that great icon of American industry, has just filed for bankruptcy. For much of the twentieth century GM has provided the corporate standard around the world. How did such a business model come to the point of failure? Why did its highly compensated management team allow such a situation to develop?

Several factors are responsible for the collapse of the manufacturing titan, General Motors. The world-wide recession has taken its toll on all American businesses. An outdated contract with its labor force, which contains an unsustainably rich benefit package, played a part in its downfall. However, from my perspective, it is the structure of corporate management that is most at fault for hard times in corporate America.

The American management model gives an inordinate amount of authority to the top tier of managers with very little in the way of accountability. Even if they are fired for mismanagement, corporate CEO’s get large severance packages. There is little incentive for them to do well. Top management has an unhealthy influence on the corporate board and essentially sets their own compensation package. Further, incentives are based on short term successes rather than long term growth in the company. Thus deals that reap quick profits are preferred in place of performance over the long haul. All these, along with other factors, conspire to condemn American business to fail when economic hard times come.

Hopefully, the company that emerges from bankruptcy will have learned a lesson from the current experience. The future of manufacturing in America depends on it doing so.