Pretending to Value Experience

I thought it was interesting a few minutes ago when I noticed my local paper’s editorial section has four cartoons — all four of them are dedicated to a common theme. That these “Wall Street executives” are receiving huge bonuses and compensation for their experience, and it’s just a big crock.

One sympathizes. Who among us hasn’t worked for a large company, and seen his own division placed under the tutelage of a “seagull manager.” Who among us cannot recall one or several seagull managers brought in from the wreckage of some previous failure, often compensated to ludicrous extremes both in the past & present. Who among us cannot recall the resulting plummet in morale. Yes, experience can be overblown; in fact, the purported effort to compensate “appropriately” for experience, can be a half-hearted effort to camouflage something that could be called, with more than a hint of accuracy, bribery.

What is of interest to me, is Mr. Geithner’s fiasco. It’s just in our rear-view mirror, not too much distance between where that is, and where we are. We just went through it. For those who have been living in a cave, Mr. Geithner had thousands of dollars of unsettled tax issues, bearing the imprint of the weakest excuse there ever was — “I forgot.” The position to which he was nominated, is our nation’s top tax dude. And he was confirmed. Why? Because in times like these, we need his experience.

This is merely the latest example of the oldest rule in Washington: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

So is there anything at all that we could call the Geithner rule, something that takes the news and hardens it into precedent, allowing at least some of us a measure of forgiveness for our own innocent mistakes?

I think so, but you’ll have to bear with me. It goes like this:

Mr. Geithner got a pass on his tax problems because we really, really like him. So he gets a highly individualized form of amnesty. Sort of a personalized “olly olly oxen free.”

Also, we really, really need him. It’s almost like what Princess Leia said in Star Wars: “You’re my only hope.”

So if there’s a Geithner rule, it is extremely narrow. I believe that we should call it the olly olly oxen free, Obi-Wan Kenobi amnesty. If you are the nation’s only hope, you might qualify.

Here’s a simple test: Is your name Timothy F. Geithner? No?

See you at the audit.

Yeah, I think the rule is just a tad different. It has to do with experience. It’s a precious commodity if you work in government, especially if your job is to take money away from people who earned it. Not so much if you work in business and are tasked with making things happen that actually produce the wealth that the government will be taking away.

With its experienced people running the collection proceedings, and what-not.
Do you realize the utter devastation this mindset encounters if it is opened to just a tiny bit of challenge? Let’s try it: Once in awhile, here and there, a businessman will be experienced and his experience will really count for something — compensated or not. Money will then roll in, which means Geithner’s IRS will come knocking. To take that money. The continuing operations of the government will be counting on it, since experienced people like Geithner will be moving the money around, not actually producing it, which is an entirely different thing.

The experienced people running our government will therefore be tasked with “appreciating” the experience of others…for the purpose of confliscating the money that resulted from that experience. Not for the purpose of compensating it appropriately. Only they, with their experience moving money around, may be compensated for their experience — which, in turn, is useless if there’s no money to be confiscated or moved around.

In fact, they’re about to use their experience to limit the compensation that may be made for experience in the private sector. Yeah, right now that limit is to apply only to firms that accept bailout money. If it passes. But that’s for now.

Bottom line: We’re still in the process of figuring out if there’s really a bunch of “hope in the air” after this changing-of-the-guard last month. Perhaps the status quo is much better now than it was previously. Perhaps it does make sense in the final analysis. Maybe the folks running the show really know what they’re doing. But if that’s the case, experience counts for — something extreme. All, or nothing. One or zero. No fractions allowed.

And it counts if you work in government, which produces nothing, and doesn’t count at all in business — where we absolutely, positively, must expect things to improve if the economy is ever gonna get turned around.

One wonders what these maybe-experienced, maybe-not business people are doing to create that money if whatever experience they have, doesn’t matter for squat. The mind boggles. If your scheme is to fly into Vegas and play the tables, you have to have experience to do that, right? If it involves just doing some kind of rain-dance and hoping it’ll rain dollars and quarters, I would think experience would count there, too. So what is it we think these people do? Just grow hundred dollar bills, like an old man growing hair in his nose & ears?

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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