Blind to Crony Socialism

Whenever a failed CEO is fired with a cushy payoff, the outrage is swift and voluminous.  The liberal press usually misrepresents this as a hypocritical “jobs for the boys” program within the capitalist class.  In reality, the payoffs are almost always contractual obligations, often for deferred compensation, that the companies vigorously try to avoid.  Believe me.  I’ve been on both sides of this kind of dispute (except, of course, for the “failed” bit).

 

People are usually struck by the seeming injustice of CEOs running companies into the ground and then getting paid obscene amounts in the form of “golden parachute” type good-bye presents. Often there is no other way to get rid of a bad CEO though –  if his or her employment contract guarantees a large termination benefit, the company may have little choice in the matter. As a rule, private shareholders are bearing the cost of such transactions, and they are in this position voluntarily (after all, they could sell their shares or vote against generous CEO payment packages at shareholder meetings). We realize of course that in the age of crony socialism, one usually has to judge such things carefully on a case by case basis. Still, it is a far cry from the misuse of taxpayer funds, which are appropriated by coercion and offer those bearing the costs no opportunity to “opt out”.

 

So where’s the liberal outrage with a story like the pension swindle in El Monte, California?  This is about a dying town, with a per capita income of $10,316 and a quarter of its population below the poverty line, that is paying a pension to one of its retired (at the age of 58) city managers of more than $250,000 per year.  Adjusted for inflation.  With medical for him and his wife.  And survivorship benefits.  And to which he contributed nothing.

Or another retired city manager who collects $216,000 per year, allowing him to “take some things off his bucket list” such as golfing at the Old Course at St Andrews.  And it looks like the public is paying for more than just green fees.  His retirement came shortly after he was swept up in an anti-prostitution sting operation.

More broadly, with Trump’s cabinet nominations and his presidency, there is currently an enormous amount of discussion about conflicts of interest in the public sector.  All of these discussions completely ignore the most flagrant example.

 

Squeezed by cronyism

 

Public Sector Union Thugs

Many politicians, especially Democrats, get elected with huge support from public sector unions.  When it comes to negotiating the compensation of public employees, the unionists sit, in essence, on both sides of the table.  The politicians buy the support of the unions with public money.

The favorite coinage for this corrupt bargain is pension and other retirement benefits since the real cost of the bribery is easily obscured with bogus assumptions, especially about expected investment returns.[1]  The end result is public pension plans that are underfunded by trillions and the occasional bankruptcy in a place like Detroit.

 

The costs of surreptitious vote buying via the detour of public sector unions supporting politicians, who then provide enormous taxpayer-funded benefits to union members have become increasingly obvious to the tax cows in recent years. Ever since the bubble era has begun to be frequently shaken by financial crises, many pension funds had to abandon their fictitious return assumptions. Suddenly it became clear that maintaining the generous benefits and pensions of a great many “civil servants” would require vast sacrifices. Alas, those asked to do the sacrificing can only dream of receiving even remotely similar benefits.

 

This is such a glaring conflict that I have tried to find if there are any laws against it.  So far, I have found nothing.  I have, however, found an Atlantic article by a clearly left-wing journalist who started off very sympathetic to public unions but who had a Damascene moment when he was a reporter in a small California town:

 

“Over the next couple years, I nevertheless came to see the several downsides of the union’s influence. Contract negotiations were held in private, with the City Council representing Rancho Cucamonga residents and union reps representing the firefighters. This posed a structural problem, for the interests of elected officials weren’t particularly aligned with the public, whereas the union negotiators had a personal stake in whatever compensation package was adopted.

“To be more specific, if a City Council member behaved in a fiscally irresponsible manner, it wouldn’t matter for at least a few years, by which time ambitious pols would have moved on to a county post or the state legislature. And lavish compensation packages could easily be obscured by combining what appeared to be a reasonable salary, the only number the public was likely to hear, with exorbitant pay for overtime or over the top fringe benefits.

“But if a City Council member crossed the fire union? The consequences were immediate. As soon as the next election rolled around, they’d face a well-financed challenger. On his campaign mailers, he’d be photographed flanked by handsome firefighters. On weekends, friendly guys in fire-coats would go door to door on behalf of their would be champion.  “We’re very concerned that Councilman X is endangering public safety by refusing to do Y,” they might say. Or else, “Challenger Z is a crucial ally in our effort to make this city safer.” The incentives were clear.”

 

Conclusion

The left goes nuts when a private company is contractually obliged to use its own money to pay off a failed CEO.  Or the leftists dust off their little-used copies of the Constitution and start quoting the Emoluments Clause when there is the prospect of a foreign visitor to the presidential inauguration taking a bag of peanuts from the minibar in a Trump hotel.

But when left-wing politicians collude with their public union supporters to rack up unpayable pension bills in the trillions, we get… crickets.

So I ask…where’s the outrage?

 

Well – at least someone is outraged. Sorry, “boss” – but you actually have no say in the matter.

 

Image captions by PT

Footnote:

1] Probably even accurate accounting would not be sufficient for voters to apply effective control. Voters only really pay attention when something hits their wallets through taxes. Therefore, they are unlikely to control future promises even with accurate information. What is required is 100% pre-funding of these liabilities on a completely arm’s-length basis, in cash and when they are granted. Or, as the private sector is increasingly doing, the conversion of defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans.

 

Roger Barris is an American who has lived in Europe for over 20 years, now based in the UK. Although basically retired now, he previously had senior positions at Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch and his own firm, initially in structured finance and latterly in principal and fiduciary investing, focussing on real estate. He has a BA in Economics from Bowdoin College (summa cum laude) and an MBA in Finance from the University of Michigan (highest honors).

 

 
 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 
 

 
 

Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.

   

Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke

   
 

3 Responses to “Where’s the Outrage?”

  • wmbean:

    The irony of the private corporation board of directors is that the individuals elected to the board tend to be other CEOs, bank executives, and the like. How are the bad employment contracts conceived? The same way their own employment contracts were conceived. Do you really believe that a board of directors member who is an executive of another corporation will really hold his the current or new CEO’s feet to the fire? Not bloody likely. This is the problem with one; size of the corporation, and two; very limited liability. Think for a minute that if corporations and limited liability organizations were outlawed what would happen? Whether one is the sole owner or a partner one owns the liabilities as well as the assets. No performance, no wealth or income.

    Of course that does not do much for government service and public service unions. If the public service unions had to pay into social security instead of being allowed to be excluded then pensions would be limited and the union members would need to contribute to their own 401ks. One way to avert the pending pension disaster is to convert all public service employee unions to social security and merge their pension assets into the social security funds. I think maximum social security benefit is $26, 200 this year. And let them have medicare. Do this for all levels of public service and seen what happens.

  • Bam_Man:

    This is nothing more than an obvious symptom of “Late Stage Crony Capitalism”. They don’t even pretend to hide their outrageous looting schemes anymore. As George Carlin astutely pointed out many years ago, “It’s a big club and you and I ain’t in it.”

  • woodsbp:

    “Where’s the outrage?” The ‘Kosh Korous’ is where. Lets see how the Three Houses sing along in harmony.

    “Often there is no other way to get rid of a bad CEO though – if his or her employment contract guarantees a large termination benefit, the company may have little choice in the matter.”

    This appears to be a frank admission that some corporate selection and compensation committees are staffed by irresponsible idiots. And that the larger the corporation the greater the level of idiocy that can be expected – except for financial corporations where illegality trumps incompetence.

    There is a well-known and very effective, but little used procedure, for ensuring that a board can easily rid itself of an inconvenient CEO – though it has to be asked; how in God’s Holy Name did the selection committee appoint such a person in the first place? Its written into their contract of employment: “You shall be paid a basic salary only and you shall be dismissed without notice and without additional compensation of any sort – at the whim of the board”. There are lots of folk who would be more than willing to accept this offer. 50% of something being economically superior to 100% of zero.

    The classical Neo-liberal economic theory underpinning the above is that the board of the corporation shall appoint the person who possesses the minimum levels of qualification and experiential competence necessary for the position: no more, no less. Or to put it in a more folksy mode: a standard burger between two halves of a bare bun – no ketsup or mayo or trimmings or side-orders. Think Minimum Wage. Not Maximum Waste.

    And Roger. Try not to denigrate labour unions too much. Believe it or not they are an economic complement to productive Capitalism! Without effective labour unions to act for them, labour is eventually enrolled by Farage-like demagogues. That is not part of the Capitalist song sheet.

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • What Do “Think Tanks” Think About?
      “Russiagate” WEST RIVER, MARYLAND – We’re back at our post – watching... reading... trying to connect the dots. And we begin by asking: What do “think tanks” think about? The answer in a minute. First, there is a dust-up in the Washington, D.C., area. “Russiagate,” it is called. As near as we can make out, some people think the Trump team had or has illegal or inappropriate contacts with the Russian government.   It's all very obvious, if one looks...
  • Parabolic Coin
      The Crypto-Bubble - A Speculator's Dream in Cyberspace When writing an article about the recent move in bitcoin, one should probably not begin by preparing the chart images. Chances are one will have to do it all over again. It is a bit like ordering a cup of coffee in Weimar Germany in early November 1923. One had to pay for it right away, as a cup costing one wheelbarrow of Reichsmark may well end up costing two wheelbarrows of Reichsmark half an hour later. These days the question is...
  • Quantitative Easing Explained
      [Ed. note: This article was originally posted in November of 2010 - we have decided to republish it with updated charts, as it has proved to be very useful as a reference - the mechanics of QE are less well understood than they should be, and this article explains them in detail.]   Printing Money We have noticed that lately, numerous attempts have been made to explain the mechanics of quantitative easing.  They range from the truly funny as in this by now 'viral' You Tube...
  • The Three Headed Debt Monster That’s Going to Ravage the Economy
      Mass Infusions of New Credit   “The bank is something more than men, I tell you.  It’s the monster.  Men made it, but they can’t control it.” – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath   Something strange and somewhat senseless happened this week. On Tuesday, the price of gold jumped over $13 per ounce.  This, in itself, is nothing too remarkable.  However, at precisely the same time gold was jumping, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury note was slip sliding down...
  • Jayant Bhandari on Gold, Submerging Markets and Arbitrage
      Maurice Jackson Interviews Jayant Bhandari We are happy to present another interview conducted by Maurice Jackson of Proven and Probable with our friend and frequent contributor Jayant Bhandari, a specialist on gold mining investment, the world's most outspoken emerging market contrarian, host of the highly regarded annual Capitalism and Morality conference in London and consultant to institutional investors.   As soon as Jayant touches down in London, he is accosted by...
  • Monetary Madness and Rabbit Consumption
      Down the Rabbit Hole “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” is oft attributed to the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland.  Where this axiom appears within the text of the story is a mystery.  But we suspect the White Rabbit must utter it about the time Alice follows him down the rabbit hole.   Pick a rabbit to follow...   No doubt, today’s wage earner knows what it means to work harder, faster, and better, while slip sliding behind. ...
  • Central Banks – Tiptoeing Toward the Exit
      Frisky Fed Hike-o-Matic We haven't commented on central bank policy for a while, mainly because it threatened to become repetitive; there just didn't seem anything new to say. Things have recently changed a bit though. A little over a week ago we received an email from Brian Dowd of Focus Economics, who asked if we would care to comment on the efforts by the Fed and the ECB to exit unconventional monetary policy and whether they could do so without triggering upheaval in the markets and...
  • The Anatomy of Brown’s Gold Bottom – Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      The Socialist Politician-Bureaucrat with the Worst Timing Ever As most in the gold community know, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced on 7 May, 1999 that HM Treasury planned to sell gold. The dollar began to rise, from about 110mg gold to 120mg on 6 July, the day of the first sale. This translates into dollarish as: gold went down, from $282 to $258. It makes sense, as the UK was selling a lot of gold... or does it?   Former UK chancellor of the...
  • The Valium Era
      Don’t Be Fooled by These Calm Markets What is happening in the world of money? Well - the most striking thing is: nothing. It doesn’t seem to matter what happens. Dysfunction in Washington. Meltdown of the techs. No matter how rough the seas get, the markets glide along... scarcely noticing the storm-tossed waves below.   Thankfully the world's central planners are so well-versed in egging on the creation of an ever greater mountain of debt and seemingly limitless asset...
  • Is Trump a Modern Caesar?
      Putting on the Purple   Mayor: Drebin, I don’t want any more trouble like you had last year on the South Side. Understand? That’s my policy. Drebin: Yes. Well, when I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s my policy. Mayor: That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron! You killed five actors! Good ones. – The Naked Gun   Laura Loomer,...
  • The Fed Rate Hike and Gold – Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Shrinking the Balance Sheet? The big news last week came from the Fed, which announced two things. One, it hiked the Fed Funds rate another 25 basis points. The target is now 1.00 to 1.25%, and there will be further increases this year. Two, the Fed plans to reduce its balance sheet, its portfolio of bonds.   Assets held by Federal Reserve banks and commercial bank reserves maintained with the Fed – note that while asset purchases and bank reserve creation are connected,...
  • How to Discover Unknown Market Anomalies
      Seasonax Event Studies As our readers are aware by now, investment and trading decisions can be optimized with the help of statistics. After all, market anomalies that have occurred regularly in the past often tend to occur in the future as well. One of the most interesting and effective opportunities to increase profits while minimizing risks at the same time is offered by the event studies section of the Seasonax app.   A recent event that had quite an impact on certain...

Support Acting Man

Austrian Theory and Investment

Own physical gold and silver outside a bank

Archive

j9TJzzN

350x200

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com