Cartoon for August 16

The individual quest for short-term profits ensures wide-scale long-term disaster.

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43 Responses to “”

  1. Edward Says:

    If only the government were run this way.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    How else will we get the economy moving? I got it $600. tax rebate, incentive checks!!!!!!!

  3. Incitatus Says:

    See, Edward, government need not be run this way, because its “sales” never tank. 100% guaranteed “demand”.

  4. Edward Says:

    See, Edward, government need not be run this way, because its “sales” never tank. 100% guaranteed “demand”.
    A few days ago the Social Security system “celebrated” it’s 70th birthday. There were people singing happy birthday to a government program. How sad for them.

  5. Susan Stark Says:

    Dear Edward and Incitatus,

    There is another method of increasing sales, and it’s been around for quite some time. It’s called “ingenuity”. This means that when your sales decrease, you create a better and/or cheaper product instead of laying off people who make product for you.

    Example par excellence: During the 80s, the Big Three auto companies were losing sales because of cheap and fuel efficient Japanese cars. But instead of using their brains to make a cheaper and efficient car themselves, they took the dumb way out and laid off people instead. This only created more demand for Japanese cars, and then they had to lay off even more people.

    This trend did not reverse itself until the Saturn car company came into existence (a division of one of the Big Three). This company built a better car, and reversed the trend.

    So, Edward and Incitatus, it’s that simple. When your sales decrease, you create demand. You do not take the lazy and self-destructive way out by firing employees.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Susan Stark, you are right, right, right — in theory. Seriously.

    You left out the fact that all those fired employees will not be buying product anytime soon, and if they’re like me, they won’t buy your product until hell freezes over.

    However, there are two factors that I see having had an impact besides the market. One is “professional managers,” people who have never done anything but manage. They move every 18 months; up or out; they move. That means they have 9 months to establish which way they go. I’ve never in my life seen a game-changing product go from inception to “promote the leader” in that short of a time — 7 years is more typical.

    But firing people is easy, and the next guy can clean up the mess.

    Second, low taxes discourage innovation. You always hear the opposite, but low taxes make low risk investments more attractive. Who needs high risk when you only need XX% to keep ahead of taxes?

    But when taxes are high, higher risk/longer term thinking says: if it tanks, the gov’t gives me back YY% that they’d have kept in taxes otherwise. And I need a higher risk/higher return to keep ahead of taxes.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    “I see!” said the Queen, who had meanwhile been examining the roses. “Off with their heads!” and the procession moved on…

    A great myth of our times is that corporations are more efficient than the government. They go to the same schools, attend the same boondoggles and do the same things. Corporations, though, get to dump their screw ups on the public and blame the government. The economists call it “externalizing” costs.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Anon 9:44,

    High taxes encourage speculation, not necessarily innovation.

  9. Susan Stark Says:

    When gave my example above, I was speaking from hard experience. I lived in Michigan during the 80s
    when I was a teenager, and people were getting laid off left and right, so this is not academic for me.

    It’s commonsense, people: when someone is beating you in sales by producing a better/cheaper product, then you build a better/cheaper product yourself, and then market it.

    The attitude of Edward and Incitatus above (which is “let’s lay everyone off”), is exactly what has fucked up this country for the past 30 years. When the Chinese emerge as an economic power, what will we do? We better start putting people to work making shit, and fast.

  10. Incitatus Says:

    Dear Susan,

    If you don’t mind sticking to my point, when was the last time your government (any party) used ingenuity and created a cheaper/better product?

  11. Incitatus Says:

    Susan,

    I would like to know what wondrous mind-reading powers you use to conclude that my attitude is “let’s lay everyone off”? Can you be bothered to comment on what I have actually written?

    That’s the trouble with you political true believers, you see your opponents the way you want see them, be it Limbaugh-heads seeing America-hating liberals on the other side, be it leftists seeing cruel, heartless right-wing bastards on the opposite side.

    As if there were just two sides in the political debate, to begin with…

  12. Aggie Dude Says:

    Ted, these CEOs are making the tough decisions, they are brilliant people, that’s why they’re rich. And, they deserve their 7 figure salaries.

    The reason the situation exists is because of the shareholder system: which means that corporations are precisely the problem. Shareholders don’t even care what the product is, they don’t care how it’s produced, they don’t care about the consequences, they just want their dividends and stock values to go up, that’s all.

    It’s not even the CEOs’ fault anymore, they can’t change it or their fired. So we barrel along basing the survival of individuals, families and communities on ever increasing production, all the while driving down wages under the guise of competitiveness. This is the best these brilliant people can come up with?

    Ted! Stand still!!!!! It’s hard to throw raw meat at you when you’re moving!

  13. Anonymous Says:

    I suppose these don’t count…

    The interstate highway system.
    The National Weather Service.
    The Apollo Program.
    NASA provides quite a few useful images.
    The Census Bureau provides a lot of handy stuff.
    Same for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    The Government Printing Office.
    The Commerce Department.
    The US Geological Survey.
    Many state university systems are excellent.
    Many community colleges are excellent.
    Public Libraries are pretty cool.
    The Smithsonian is cool.
    The National Parks are cool.
    How about those geopositioning satellites?
    The Center for Disease Control.
    The National Institute of Health.
    Don’t forget all the nukes DOE makes.
    (And the national laboratories.)
    What about the Bureau of Standards?
    Air traffic control is pretty good.
    The FAA follows up pretty well on air safety.
    Same for the Department of Transportation.
    The local fire department put out a fire down the street the other day.
    The local water department does its job.
    The US Mint prints nice stuff.
    Although some disagree, the US Postal Service works for me.

    The government is not a business and I surely do not want to be governed by a business.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Aggie,

    Why is it not the CEO’s fault? They can screw over their shareholders as badly as their customers and employees.

    Jowls Raymond left ExxonMobil with a serverance package large enough to build a small refinery. There’s no way a single employee is worth that kind of dough. Its an example of unaccountable and self serving management. I doubt most shareholders knew until the deal was sealed.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Dude, you pinko commie! I still like you. Not everyone agrees that commune-ism is bad. Susan, you hottie you! That explains it all! We never met because I left Michigan in the 80’s to find work in other states. I was only more than a teenager and headed for divorce. I’m back now, we were meant for each other. Your attitude, and spunk are so rightous! You,Ted,Angel, and the Aggie transplant. What a time wee’d have!

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Anon 12:31 AM

    Yeah, ok, I’ll grant that high taxes encourage speculation, not necessarily innovation.

    However, I would also say that speculation is an important precondition to innovation. Lack of financial support can choke even very promising developments.

  17. Angelo Says:

    A little on the ground support for speech bubble #1:

    Desperate people are flooding craigslist with marked down items which no one is buying.

    Just last year I could barely even buy an air conditioner off of craigslist because they were going too fast. Now I need the cash so I’m selling mine. I marked it down $100, and the two bites I have gotten have been people trying to get me down $50.

    Aggie, I am also selling my somewhat rare 100W Marshall JCM900 4100 with el34 power tubes.

    In two weeks I have gotten one bite!

  18. Edward Says:

    Susan,
    Did you bother to read my post? I was addressing the pork and bloat in government at all levels.

  19. Edward Says:

    Aggie,
    Try to get through your Monday without using a product created by a corporation and let me know how it goes.

  20. Angelo Says:

    incitatus lobbed
    when was the last time your government (any party) used ingenuity and created a cheaper/better product?

    You know I can make a HUGE fucking list here Incitatus. But I want a promise that you will not scurry off like edward always does.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    One scenario not discussed is when someone up top makes a very bad decision, and to make it up to the stockholders, lower rung people are let go.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Edward,

    Determining whether an organization has too many or too few employees is not so easy. One interesting empirical and theoretical fact is that, on average, any organization runs at 70% efficiency. This is due to the unpredictability of actual demand. This means that sometimes it will look as though a place is incredibly understaffed or overstaffed. Some institutions, e.g., the fire deparment, almost always look overstaffed.

    While there are ways to utilize idle resources in slack times, the general practice for industrial and many service companies is to lay people off. This looks good on the firm’s books but is a false efficiency for the economy. Unemployment insurance only partially addresses the impact on families and other businesses.

    If businesses were really as wonderful as some seem to think, every opportunity would be addressed immediately, which would mean recognizing it in advance, assembling the necessary resources, etc. This kind of omniscience is not to be found. Firms, even large, sophisticated firms, basically muddle through. If they are a stock company, the executives spend a lot of energy making up some wonderful narrative that “explains” their successes and failures… well, to take credit for anything good and blame anything bad on something out of their control.

    Where stocks are concerned, one executive put it best by saying, “Stocks are for selling.” It’s a great deal for the seller. You give someone a piece of paper that promises them nothing and they give you money. C-level executives tend to have their own interests at heart. They know they can get the axe anytime so they pre-negotiate their severance package. Also, check out how much stock board members tend to have in the company. Often it is not much at all.

  23. Aggie Dude Says:

    Edward said…

    Aggie,
    Try to get through your Monday without using a product created by a corporation and let me know how it goes.

    Both idiotic, missing the point of what I stated, and irrelevant.

    Corporation: Noun – An ingenious device for attaining personal wealth without personal responsibility.

    Adam Smith thought they should be outlawed. Corporations are the evolution of joint stock companies, which were a driving force of imperialism, and now corporate globalization effectively replicates imperialism, accomplishing it with two distinct differences -It changes the motive from direct authority of the parent state, and the owners involved feel no obligation to that parent state.

    The results are very similar. Ending corporations would not end capitalism, entrepreneurship or production. It would simply force owners of the means of that production to be directly responsible for the actions of the business itself. Once people can easily go to jail for the misdeeds and consequences of their business dealings, they will be forced to behave better.

    All businesses should be directly owned and the owners should have a direct role in the day-to-day function of the business itself.

    That’s not going to kill society, only the artificial legal creation of a bureaucracy designed to eliminate personal responsibility for immoral action. It’s what allows soldiers to kill. I don’t consider any society these types of bureaucracies exist to truly be civilized.

    Edward. Go read “The Eclipse of Morality” By Lawrence Busch – 2000.

  24. Susan Stark Says:

    Dear Incitatus,

    Ted was referring to corporations in this cartoon, therefore you and Edward used the standard conservative tactic of “let’s change the subject” and talk about goverment. When you and he tried to do that, I switched the subject back to corporations again and talked about their lack of ingenuity. Then you tried to change the subject back to government again, asking me to name a product that government has ingenuity to make.

    Since you insist on talking about government, then I’ll tell you that government is not a corporation, and shouldn’t be run like one.

    However, I’ll throw you a bone and say there is very little good that the federal government has done recently, because the federal government is run by people who don’t believe in government, except to oppress and spy on people and flush money down the toilet fighting wars.

  25. Anonymous Says:

    Seconding Susan Stark and Angelo: there is a huge amount of government innovation (it is low risk for them), but not much product development (it is also low reward for them.)

    Angelo is right, though — lots of innovation comes out of government supported research. That’s easy to prove. In fact, it’s difficult to find any innovation that isn’t touched at some point by government.

    Here lately, though, you can get government money without doing any development. Hey, you can even get it without doing any work, if you’re a big enough Cheney sycophant.

    And, since so much of what research actually goes on is aimed at giving government stooges some “scientific results” to cite when they’re trying to bolster the Repug agenda, not a lot of real work is getting done.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, and if commercial enterprises were so amazingly efficient, Dilbert wouldn’t be funny at all. However, everyone I know who’s worked in the private sector has had a PHB, usually several.

    Dilbert is funny, because all of us from the commercial sector have been there. If you’re wondering who’s the PHB in the room . . .

  27. Anonymous Says:

    This doesn’t just apply to corporations- lower level businesses do the same thing too.

    And, in regards to Saturn, GM has pretty much made it a lot like the normal GM cars. (No polymer bodyside panels, standard labor rules, outsourcing production to other plants…)

    On the topic of corporate efficiency, has anyone read Hawken, Lovins and Lovins’s “Natural Capitalism” or Joseph Romm’s “Cool Companies”? Both of those doa good job of showing how companies (and governments) can save significant amounts money by reducing energy expenditures, and increasing productivity to boot.

  28. Incitatus Says:

    Aggie,

    Do you have the faintest idea how many people in how many countries “own” a piece of IBM or Microsoft? Do you really think that is a bad thing as opposed to them being owned by two individuals and their families? How do you propose going about ending that?

    Susan,

    I didn’t change the subject, Edward did, and I merely made a follow-up quip on his comment. But going back to my tongue-in-cheek analogy, let me be a little more specific: suppose, for the sake of argument, that a certain country, somewhere enters a rec…, er, economic downturn.

    Now, things are pretty bad, so many businesses are faced with the decision to lay off lots of people or go belly up (which doesn’t really help those who weren’ fired). They might also opt to reduce wages across the board to preserve the jobs, but in many places labour law prevents that. Cartoons are funny and all, but I don’t think most employers take those kinds of decisions lightly.

    Now, my question to you is: faced with these same economic conditions, how often do you think governments will opt to reduce their expenses, cut down the levels of bureaucracy and trim their budgets? They don’t have to, because their “sales” never tank, you just have to squeeze the subjects a little tighter.

    Your view about government mmight be paraphrased, if you allow me, thus: if only we put there the good people, with the right way of thinking, everything would be just swell. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think an occupation which survives through sticking its hand in other people’s pockets and lying their way into public confidence every couple of years to stay in office. And I definitely don’t think Hillary and Elliot Spitzer are any better than Bush II and Cheney.

    I’ll grant you that, though: at least the Clintons bombed a lot less innocents than Bush and his ilk did.

    Peace.

  29. Aggie Dude Says:

    Incitatus:

    Aggie,

    Do you have the faintest idea how many people in how many countries “own” a piece of IBM or Microsoft? Do you really think that is a bad thing as opposed to them being owned by two individuals and their families? How do you propose going about ending that?.

    I do know that over half of all stock in American companies is owned by about 10% of the American population. The right wing argument about stock ownership is that it is market democracy, and you vote with your dollar. This is BS when looking at how much of the stock is concentrated and where. That Joe Sixpack might own 10 shares doesn’t do much for me.

    That people outside the US own stock in US companies does not make the situation better. The point I’m making about stockholders is that they care about one thing, the value of their stock. If they live half way around the world, it just makes it that much easier for them to not care about IBM’s corporate responsibility record.

    Lastly, I do think it’s better that IBM is owned by a family or just a few individuals. I think businesses should be limited in size and how much one individual or family can own should also be limited in size.

    I know Edward would call me a pinko commie liberal (although he hasn’t SAID that, so we can’t KNOW that he would), but I am proudly a radical progressive, and a Weberian (NOT a Marxist) who believes strongly that large bureaucracies, though often a very necessary evil, lock humanity in an iron cage from which life outside of barely seems conceivable.

    So many people claim that the government should be run like a business. I disagree, and think that businesses should be run more like the government. Government is the only institution of society (government, family, religion, economy, education) which has been successfully democratized. But government alone does not dictate our lives. Walmart, IBM, Microsoft, Halliburton, GM, etc. These companies have a huge impact on peoples day-to-day lives, and yet they are not democratic at all.

    In my mind they are no more than private nation-state entities, and they wield power against individuals without ethics, morals, restraint or consequence to those who suck money from them.

    This isn’t about government so much as it needs to be about GOVERNANCE. We should stop looking at ‘business’ or ‘government’ and realize what structures of power influence our lives, and how those structures of power are organized (I know, Edward..I’m a feminist too!!!, How dare I? I DARE!!).

    When we strip away the false dichotomies, we see that our government institutions are the only ones we have that are remotely democratic, and yet the conservative movement in America of the past 30 years has wanted to move us away from that. Why? Because corporations have an interest in being in control. Control minimizes risk, democracy is risky, governments change direction, populations get tired of ecological disasters, etc.

    We should recognize it for what it is…corporate fascism.

    Incitatus: to quote Barack Obama in answering your question of how I propose dismantling this system.

    That’s above my pay grade. But the fact that I can’t change it doesn’t make it right, or OK, and doesn’t make it wrong for me to point that out.

  30. Kurt Says:

    On the subject of government having reduced sales… As a lowly public servant in sunny CA, I can tell you that those folks that work for a government inspecting buildings or doing short range planning are losing their jobs left and right because those funding sources dry up when the economy tanks. The real problem we are having is due to a lack of imagination when the economy was ticking along. That is when taxes should go up and we should pay down debt, build infrastructure, etc. Instead we made huge tax cuts for the people who were getting the greatest benefit from the economy and pissed it away in a hole in the desert. Now we are going to have to raise the top rate just to keep up with Bush’s spending.

  31. cravensworld Says:

    If nobody has a job then nobody can buy anything. “The violence inherent in the system”

  32. Aggie Dude Says:

    re: Kurt’s 3:49 PM post.

    Completely agree. Broken government, caused by hyper politicization and an unwillingness of political leaders to actually lead and govern.

    Each public official should have to sign a public contract that explains their job description in full. If they fail to meet the obligations they should be fired (I would prefer jailed, but I’m a radical).

    But don’t worry, in 10 years we will have embroiled ourselves in World War I all over again and only historians will care about all this stuff.

  33. Incitatus Says:

    Aggie, I think you forgot the grocery store in the list of institutions we have to democratise: who does Apu think he is to be able to call the prices at the Kwik-E-Mart? Let’s have a vote on that.

    And as I pointed out before, and will do so again, “progressive” is just a weasel word Americans use in lieu of socialist, because the latter term has little appeal in the local political market. Out here in the wider world, people are not afraid to wear their true ideological colors.

  34. Edward Says:

    Walmart, IBM, Microsoft, Halliburton, GM, etc. These companies have a huge impact on peoples day-to-day lives, and yet they are not democratic at all.
    Thank God they do. They provide us with products we want when we want them. If you prefer to live without the lifestyle they afford us why don’t you move to North Korea or Cuba?

    BTW how did your day with using a product created by a corporation go? Or were you a hypocrite feeding corporate facism with your evil money?

  35. Anonymous Says:

    Anon 8/17/08 9:00 PM,

    Useful innovation requires steady financing by patient investors. Payoff can take 5 years or more. Investors drawn by the carrot and stick of tax law are not that diciplined.

    Our tax structure privileges certain income sources over others. There’s pressure to structure one’s portfolio around incentives and loopholes and avoid taxable income. This outweighs the fundamentals of investments and contributes to the heard mentality in capital markets.

    Besides, the government should tax the amount it needs to operate, no more and no less. It shouldn’t be in the business influenencing private investments.

  36. Aggie Dude Says:

    Incitatus, I am a socialist and you’re right that the ideological domination in America by conservatives, neo-cons and so-called libertarians (right wing republicans who want to sound intellectual) is so overwhelming that it suffocates any other political or philosophical persuasions.

    In fact, it is so bad that we have even abandoned those elements of socialism that have brought us so much. People will hotly insist there’s nothing good about any collective action and then vote for politicians who claim government is the problem. And then not understand why government is now broken. . . (hint: because we elected a president who claims government is the problem).

    So we can’t fix any problems because the solution might involve the S word. Even our opposition party can’t claim to be liberal, even though the entire project of democracy is liberal.

    Edward. You not only missed the point, but compounded your missing the point by trying to invent a point that wasn’t there. That we live in a world dominated by corporations, thus making engagement with them on a day to day basis unavoidable, is not an argument in defense of corporations. It in fact demonstrates the essence of my argument that I cannot.

    An argument that you completely missed, about corporate power and its impact on our lives. If you think the only effect Walmart has on American society is to bring us products, you’re a total moron and there’s no sense in explaining it to you, because I’m apparently way over your head. Have you read The Eclipse of Morality yet? That would really explain things to you.

  37. nietzchuck Says:

    For someone to mention problems with corporations or how they are run, and then be challenged to use nothing said corporations produce, is asinine and, as is often the case with conservatives on this board, misses the point. Yet again.

    Look, providing a useful, even valuable, product or service does not excuse one from the consequences of producing said product or service; especially when there are better, and often times safer, cheaper and more efficient ways of doing it.

    It seems that too many people are formulating their argument before they have internalized what anyone else said, and thus end up arguing the wrong point. Again.

    Let’s try this: Stop your internal dialogue. Read the post. Mull it over for a second. Formulate your response. Watch our discourse actually go somewhere.

  38. Anonymous Says:

    We should ask ourselves: WWND?

    What Would Nietzsche Do? I think he’d question the existence of anything outside our internal dialogue.

  39. Incitatus Says:

    Aggie,

    Of course, libertarian, is also a weird political designation made up by the folks who call football soccer, for what the rest of the world would call a Classical Liberal (like von Mises, Hayek, Böhm-Bawerk, and arguably your own Jefferson).

    My own pet conjecture is that all the “sweetness” of the socialist apellation was lost on the American blue-collar crowd by the slavish submission of the CPUSA to Krelim dictums and by the relative prosperity of said blue-collar in comparison to most of his European counterparts for most of the 20th century.

  40. Edward Says:

    Aggie,
    I’m not one of your students who shrivels at your condescending attitude. Frankly I’m glad you are miserable. The rest of us will enjoy what America has to offer. Now go back to your office hours and do whatever it is you beard strokers do during your stressful 6 hour work week at your community college. I’ll be on etrade.

  41. nietzchuck Says:

    And thus the inhabitants of Earth worshipped a pantheon of gods whose image they inscribed on small pieces of green or multicolored paper, which they occasionally exchanged for goods or services, but usually collected to make them happy. (strokes beard thoughtfully)

  42. Aggie Dude Says:

    Aggie,
    I’m not one of your students who shrivels at your condescending attitude. Frankly I’m glad you are miserable. The rest of us will enjoy what America has to offer. Now go back to your office hours and do whatever it is you beard strokers do during your stressful 6 hour work week at your community college. I’ll be on etrade.

    We all have to hand it to Edward, he’s very consistent.

    Dude, I am not the only one on here who thinks you missed the point. You consistently choose to get abusive whenever that happens.

  43. Aggie Dude Says:

    ….stroke….stroke…..stroke

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