Recent economic times have caused governments and private entities alike to call upon their employees to participate in “shared sacrifice.” They wave a fist full of jobs over the heads of the general public and say “If employees of (fill in governmental or private agency) don’t agree to a 10% pay cut, reduction of their pension, and agree to pay more of their personal health care costs, this fist will be opened and all the jobs held in this fist will be gone.”
“Shared sacrifice” is merely political and corporate code for “everyone except for me.” The common joke among liberals goes like this:
Q: When is a tax increase not a tax increase?
A: When a Republican calls it “belt tightening” or “shared sacrifice.”
Now that I’ve sufficiently irked conservatives across the board and caused them to shift their attention from this article’s real message, I’ll continue writing for those who have a more objective mind.
Politicians (liberals and conservatives alike) are big fans of trumpeting the many millions of dollars they would be able to save if only their workers would take a pay cut. Similarly, corporations trumpet the number of jobs they would be able to retain due to similar cost savings for everyone taking a pay cut.
My question to them is: Why aren’t you willing to take a 10% pay cut?
The typical answer is: “I might not be able to make my car payment (referring to their Mercedes S-Class), or “I might have to cut my HBO and Cinemax packages.”
Sure that sounds a bit luxurious to a middle class worker who in taking a 10% pay cut might not be able to make their car payment (which is a used 2006 Saturn) or may have to cut the cable completely. However, the very same middle class person may be talking to someone who is facing a 10% pay cut who can’t even afford a television or a telephone, much less think about what they might have to cut to make all the ends meet.
The moral of this story is that if the bigwigs want us regular people to take a 10% pay cut, they should consider cutting their inflated salaries by 10% as well.
For example, if Alan Mulally proposed a 10% pay cut for himself alongside his workers, he would be contributing $2.6 million out of his $26 million salary toward whatever financial woes Ford might have incurred to cause him to propose his workers take a pay cut.
Similarly, if Dave Bing wants Detroit workers to cut their pay, he should cut his six-figure salary by 10% to realize additional savings. He should also call upon all members of city government to engage in the “shared sacrifice” and cut their pay by 10%.
No one in this world can ever have enough money. The grass is always greener somewhere else, and it always seems like someone is doing a little better than you. These are facts and beliefs that society hasn’t been able to face. Everyone wants a little bit more than what they have.
However, to require others to participate in “shared sacrifice” without sharing in the sacrifice yourself is completely indefensible. Just because someone negotiated a contract in good faith and signed it without completely understanding the full future ramifications of the act doesn’t give you legal grounds to tear it up and claim a mulligan. That will do nothing but tick off a whole lot of people who will perhaps occupy your downtown area.
The problem society is running into is one that very few people saw coming from its beginning until perhaps 10 or 20 years ago: The Baby Boom.
Many of the boomers have either retired or are getting ready to retire. They are all demanding their benefits a system that never could have predicted the effect of a whole mess of babies being born within about a decade or so of each other. According to the agreements they entered, they are still entitled to their pensions, retirement funds, and Social Security.
That of course leaves the rest of society to wonder what to do next. The boomers aren’t going away any time soon, and politicians need to find a way out of the mess they have created for themselves.
They could start requiring all American corporations to pay their taxes in full. The problem with that is the fist full of jobs they always wave over the heads of our leaders claiming that they will have no choice but to lay (insert number in the thousands here) people off in order to balance the books. What the books show that politicians ignore is that they are investing almost every penny of their profits back into the company to show little to no profit for a given period.
They could start taxing those who make over a million dollars a year, but that’s less than 1% of the population. The 1% actually starts somewhere around the $350,000 per year mark. (The President of the United States would fall into that category.)
A more likely solution would be to ask all the major banks to took part in the $800 billion bailout to start paying their loans back, with interest of course. That could lead us back to the fist full of jobs again, though.
There are no easy solutions for the financial mess our country, our states, and our cities are in. They have negotiated contracts in good faith that they now cannot sustain because of declining property values, stagnating wages, and a decline in our nation’s industrial capacity, all thanks to the irresponsible behavior of a few people who wanted to get really rich really fast. Perhaps those are the people we should be asking to share in the sacrifice.