Saturday, August 31, 2013

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs | Strike! Magazine

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs | Strike! Magazine
"Ever had the feeling that your job might be made up? That the world would keep on turning if you weren’t doing that thing you do 9-5? David Graeber explored the phenomenon of bullshit jobs ... – everyone who’s employed should read carefully…"
"In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it."
So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).
But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.
These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

"How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.  Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.
Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”
If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

Fraud, failure and bankruptcy pay well for CEOs - Al Lewis - MarketWatch

Fraud, failure and bankruptcy pay well for CEOs - Al Lewis - MarketWatch
"Fuld is among the cast of characters enumerated in a retrospective report released by the Institute for Policy Studies: “Executive Excess 2013. Bailed Out, Booted, Busted: A 20-Year Review of America’s Top-Paid CEOs.” Before 2008, he made the list of America’s top 25 highest-paid executives for eight years in a row.
“To be in the top 25 for eight consecutive years before you crash and burn the economy, it’s just unbelievable,” said Sarah Anderson, one of the report’s authors.
Her study analyzed 500 corporate executive positions that have been listed in The Wall Street Journal’s annual executive pay surveys over the past 20 years.
When she began this research, she expected bailed-out, booted and busted CEOs would make up maybe 15% of the sample. But no, it tallied 38%. 
“These poorly performing chief executives either wound up getting fired, had to pay massive settlements or fines related to fraud charges, or led firms that crashed or had to be bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis,” the report says.
• CEOs whose firms received taxpayer bailouts or ceased to exist held 22% of these 500 slots over the past two decades.
• CEOs who were forced out of their jobs made up 8%. (This is not bad work, if you can get it: The average golden parachute was valued at $48 million.)
• CEOs who led companies paying significant fraud-related fines or settlements comprised another 8% of the sample. (Most of these settlements totaled more than $100 million.)

This isn’t even counting what the study calls “The Taxpayer Trough Club,” or CEOs who make their living with companies landing enormous government contracts. These firms — mostly defense related — garnered $255 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts. Their CEOs made up 12% of the sample.
The tally also didn’t count notoriously overpaid ne’er-do-wells such as Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Financial; Bernie Ebbers, the imprisoned founder of WorldCom; and “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap, who fired thousands of people at Scott Paper and other companies, and whose reign at Sunbeam ended in the company settling accounting fraud charges. They didn’t make The Wall Street Journal’s annual reports, so they weren’t in this study, Anderson said."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Best paid CEOs are often fired or fined, study says - NBC

Best paid CEOs are often fired or fined, study says - NBC
"About 40 percent of the highest-paid CEOs in the United States over the past 20 years eventually ended up being fired, paying fraud-related fines or settlements, or accepting government bailout money, according to a study released on Wednesday.
The report by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning think tank, said that chief executives for large companies received about 354 times as much pay as the average American worker in 2012. That gap has soared since 1993, when CEOs for big companies received about 195 times as much.
But the best-paying companies do not necessarily receive the best performance from their CEOs, the report said."

Monday, August 26, 2013

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: The Recession That Never Ended: 2008 -2013 (and Counting)

The Recession That Never Ended: 2008 -2013 (and Counting) - oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith:
The reality is that the recession never ended for 95% of U.S. households, and by many metrics the recession has deepened. The trick is to not measure those metrics; what isn't measured doesn't exist, especially recession.