Labor Department on FMLA: We Hear You

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

Back in December, I posted that the Department of Labor had pushed out a Request for Information on the Family and Medical Leave Act. At the time, I was concerned. Gutting of FMLA has been a growing priority for the business community, and this administration does not have a reputation for being particularly amenable to regulating the workplace.

Apparently, more than a few of you took the opportunity to tell the government how FMLA had worked for you. To those who took the time: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The Department of Labor ended up sifting through more than 15,000 comments (or what DOL dryly noted was "a very heavy public response") using those comments as a basis for a just-released 181-page report that solely summarizes the general sentiment of the thousands of comments.

At first glance, the news is good:

... indeed, the overwhelming majority of comments submitted in response to the RFI addressed three primary topics: (1) gratitude from employees who have used family and medical leave and descriptions of how it allowed them to balance their work and family care responsibilities, particularly when they had their own serious health condition or were needed to care for a family member; (2) a desire for expanded benefits--e.g., to provide more time off, to provide paid benefits and to cover additional family members; and (3) frustration by employers about difficulties in maintaining necessary staffing levels and controlling attendance problems in their workplaces as a result of one particular issue--unscheduled intermittent leave used by employees who have chronic health conditions.

Of course, what comes next is the big question. The folks at Labor said they would do nothing with their findings, an unusual move: "There are no proposals for regulatory changes being put forward by the Department with this Report."

Still, no one is letting their guard down. The Associated Press story on the report quotes Debra Ness, the president of The National Partnership for Women and Families worrying aloud that DOL will use the report to foist "regulations designed to roll back FMLA protections."

On the flip side, employer voices aren't optimistic, either. The wave of interest in better leave -- particularly among state and federal legislators -- is getting big enough to ruffle even the Wall Street Journal editorial page editors, who were whipping up fears even before the report dropped:

... Senator Ted Kennedy is pushing a federal law requiring that employers pay for up to seven days of sick leave a year. New York legislators want to require employers to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child, an adoption, or for care of an ill spouse, parent, in-law or sibling. Maine wants its law to cover "domestic partners." A Georgia proposal would offer paid leave for school conferences, medical checkups and immunizations. You can see where this new job entitlement is headed.

Yup, it's pretty clear where it's headed, and I can't wait to get there.

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  July 5, 2007; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Flexibility
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first

Posted by: bryn mawr | July 5, 2007 7:45 AM

Second, dammit

Posted by: Jack Bauer | July 5, 2007 7:50 AM

A Georgia proposal would offer paid leave for school conferences, medical checkups and immunizations.

You have got to be kidding me! What next? Paid leave for the school play?

Posted by: DC lurker | July 5, 2007 7:58 AM

*sigh* Everyone wave goodbye to the good, old-fashioned work ethic....

Posted by: Me | July 5, 2007 8:03 AM

What next? How about paid leave for pet owners to bring their loved ones to the vet?

Woof!

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 5, 2007 8:03 AM

Lil Husky, I would like that option. How about paid health insurance for pets for people without children?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 8:08 AM

How about just calling it 'personal leave' instead of vacation or sick time, allowing it to be taken in half-day chunks, and not placing any other restrictions on it? Then it can be used for school conferences, immunization visits, vet visits, gerontoligist visits, attorney visits, or mental-health afternoons on the golf course. If employers just gave X number of days leave (instead of parsing out sick, personal, holiday and vacation days), life would be a lot easier on full-time employees.

Posted by: educmom | July 5, 2007 8:10 AM

Just what we need -- another regressive benefit designed for the upper class.

An executive making $200k per year gets $46k in 'maternity benefits' with her paid 12-week leave, while the executive's assistant making $20k per year gets paid $4.6k for her maternity leave.

If we as a society believe that individuals should receive some kind of income while on maternity leave, then let's address it as part of a progressive tax system so that (1) the distribution of benefits is more equal across income lines and (2) those at the high end of the income spectrum receive less [thus reducing the overall cost of the program].


Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 8:11 AM

Lil Husky, I would like that option. How about paid health insurance for pets for people without children?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 08:08 AM

__________________________________

Please tell me this is a joke. I don't pick up sarcasm well online.

Posted by: BLE | July 5, 2007 8:15 AM

Soooo...an executive who has worked hard to get to her position should have her benefits reduced because other women did not do the same?

Posted by: ?? | July 5, 2007 8:15 AM

Yip, yip, KLB SS MD. mandated pet care coverage that includes 7 days at the kennel so owners can help out family members when they encounter medical misfortunes. Sounds good to me!

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 5, 2007 8:20 AM

Yes, because caring for a newborn or a sick parent is similar to caring for a sick dog.

Get real people.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 8:28 AM

"Soooo...an executive who has worked hard to get to her position should have her benefits reduced because other women did not do the same?"

We're talking about a new federal entitlement -- we're not 'reducing' anything.

The question is if you are going to create a new federal entitlement [available only to women] that would pay them some salary if they have a child, should the amount that you pay them be based on their current income or should it be a specific amount that is potentially reduced as one's income level reaches a certain point.

What is the objective here, and what is a fair way to achieve that objective while minimizing overall program cost?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 8:28 AM

"Yes, because caring for a newborn or a sick parent is similar to caring for a sick dog.

Get real people."

Get a sense of humor.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 8:29 AM

Actually my company *will* let you take time off to take your pet in. It's called personal leave and it's used for anything that you must do that can't be completed outside of work hours (so signing papers at the bank, etc.). By the way this is at a very conservative old school company so I'm sure other people have that option too. I'm sure you'd have problems if you were using personal time every week, but the option does exist at a lot of companies.

Posted by: Millie | July 5, 2007 8:42 AM

What's with the assumption that the "new federal entitlement" would be limited to women? FMLA covers men AND women-- in the case of taking off time for birth of baby, both mother and father are eligible for same coverage. Kennedy's proposal of seven paid sick days a year covers men and women, right?

Posted by: Jen S. | July 5, 2007 8:50 AM

Sounds like good news for the folks in China and India who will do the same work with no leave and half pay!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 8:52 AM

I think the point of the column was that, although employees may have temporarily won a battle we haven't won a decisive victory yet, because this administration and the chamber of commerce are pretty relentless. So we can't afford to be complacent.

Posted by: rebeldadfan | July 5, 2007 8:54 AM

If you're actually good at your job, your company will be happy to give you time off if you need it; and if they're too inflexible, well, you get a new job, and the first company loses out on your work, and the second company gains. It's called the free market.

The only people who need the government to bail them out are those who aren't very good at what they do.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 8:55 AM

How about just calling it 'personal leave' instead of vacation or sick time, allowing it to be taken in half-day chunks, and not placing any other restrictions on it? Then it can be used for school conferences, immunization visits, vet visits, gerontoligist visits, attorney visits, or mental-health afternoons on the golf course. If employers just gave X number of days leave (instead of parsing out sick, personal, holiday and vacation days), life would be a lot easier on full-time employees.

Posted by: educmom | July 5, 2007 08:10 AM

Nice idea but in most of the cases I'm aware of (yes, I know this is limited hearsay) when they put leave all in one bucket of PTO, there is actually less total leave available than when it's designated as sick or vacation. But I definitely agree that it helps if one doesn't have to take time off in increments of a day. I personally like increments of 15 minutes.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2007 8:56 AM

"An executive making $200k per year gets $46k in 'maternity benefits' with her paid 12-week leave, while the executive's assistant making $20k per year gets paid $4.6k for her maternity leave."

That's not really the best way to look at the numbers. Yeah, it's true, but so what? The executive is always going to get paid more than the assistant. The maternity benefit is simply permitting them both to keep making their income while they're out on leave. It means neither has to suffer from a sudden three-month span of no income on top of the stress of having a kid.

Posted by: Annie_21 | July 5, 2007 8:56 AM

Wow, this is elitist:

If you're actually good at your job, your company will be happy to give you time off if you need it; and if they're too inflexible, well, you get a new job, and the first company loses out on your work, and the second company gains. It's called the free market.

The only people who need the government to bail them out are those who aren't very good at what they do.

___
Not everyone works jobs where taking time off is an option. They don't get paid leave because they are hourly employees. It's not as simple as "if you're valuable, they'll give it to you".

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 8:58 AM

Yes, people should get paid leave (which I am not for) based on their salary. What a bunch of hooey that someone who worked harder and got further should get less. That person has made decisions in his/her life based on salary-the mortgage still needs to be paid, all the other bills still need to be paid, if that person takes leave.

All you'd be doing with this is creating more people who think they are entitled to stuff that they shouldn't feel entitled to.
We are not socialists nor do I believe we should become socialists. Capitalism works. It's been proven to work (an avg person in europe would be considered poor here).

Educmom: the only issue with your proposal re: days off isn't really an issue and I wish that employers would use that policy more (if you call it all 'leave' then when an employee leaves you must pay them for all of it-if some of it is sick leave then you don't have to cash them out for that-i had an employer who split it up but never cared when you took either or what you called it when you did-that worked out well).

I think what we have works well-it is interesting because since many other countried have longer leave, apparently it's *easier* for them to find employees to fill roles since the temp knows it's for a significant period of time so then the temp might get a 'real' position in the company at some point. With 12 wks, though that's more difficult. That having been said, employers who offer more are likely to get and retain better employees. That's the marketplace and capitalism.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 8:58 AM

Lil Husky, I would like that option. How about paid health insurance for pets for people without children?
--------------------------------------------------

Only if pet insurance covers a certain species!

Posted by: Mako | July 5, 2007 9:01 AM

Wow, it's great that the DOL requested that info so they can do absolutely nothing with it.

I guess it's good that our representatives in Congress can see these results so they can start introducing legislation that we actually care about. I'm glad we're still talking about FMLA because it's far from perfect (although I'm happy to have it at all).

Personally, I hate that you have to use all your vacation and sick time before you can use FMLA. I do not consider the monthly doctor's visits "vacation."

Off topic to KLB SS MD, one of my dogs was shaking with terror when the fire works were going off last night. (Here in NC, fireworks are legal, so all our neighbors were setting them off.) It was so bad that this morning, she refused to go outside because she was still scared. I had to drag her out. The funniest part is that the other dog is terrified by thunderstorms but was not the least bit phased by the fireworks. Go figure.

Were anyone's kids terrified?

Posted by: Meesh | July 5, 2007 9:04 AM

The term "FMLA" has appeared in 308 posts since the beginning of this blog.
where as;
"pets", "cats", and "dogs" has appeared 1366 times.

Wil today's blog go to the cats, dogs, or the shark?

Posted by: Blog Stats | July 5, 2007 9:05 AM

"What a bunch of hooey that someone who worked harder and got further should get less"

What a bunch of hooey to assume that someone who got further worked harder. Many people work extremely hard, but there's only so much room at the top.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:09 AM

"That's not really the best way to look at the numbers. Yeah, it's true, but so what? The executive is always going to get paid more than the assistant. The maternity benefit is simply permitting them both to keep making their income while they're out on leave. It means neither has to suffer from a sudden three-month span of no income on top of the stress of having a kid."

The question is 'who pays'?

This isn't some free lunch scenario -- the point is that it is the admins who are paying for the executive to receive this benefit.

If we as a society think that having a child should entitle one or both parents to a chunk of money, then let's determine what that chunk of money should be and chip in and pay it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:09 AM

So I suppose dogs will grow up to be the future of our society? All of those dog attorneys, doctors, teachers, and McDonald's workers will make that pet health insurance worth it....

Get a life dog people!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:10 AM

Meesh,
My other dog was terrified of thunderstorms and fireworks. This dog is mostly ok but gets a bit antsy with any loud noises. He is a pound puppy so you just never know what the history is.
I am staying at the house of my Uncle here in CT. They have a cat who was not at all pleased with me arriving with the dog two weeks ago. Now they can be in the same room, nose to nose as long as the dog doesn't do his "let's play" lunge.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 9:11 AM

Blog Stats, I bet that I make up 1,300 of those pet posts.

That said, I don't want to hijack the blog. I like the FMLA discussion!

Posted by: Meesh | July 5, 2007 9:12 AM

My 5YO hated the fireworks so I left early with him. The problem is, they're loud (that's why he hates them) so we couldn't get far enough fast enough to make them not as loud.

The 2 YO was pretty frightened but not as much I think-he was looking away and looking back. He liked them but wasn't so excited about the loud noise. He was tired and as we found out, has some sort of stomach bug-so that could be part of it-the older boy doesn't even like a ballon popping and it makes the 2YO laugh.

Posted by: atlanta | July 5, 2007 9:13 AM

to atlmom,Your thinking is out of date. The average European would not be considered poor here. Consider the amount of debt here, caused in part by us having to having to pay ungodly amounts for health care and education, compared with western Europe.

Posted by: rebelsfan | July 5, 2007 9:14 AM

"So I suppose dogs will grow up to be the future of our society? All of those dog attorneys, doctors, teachers, and McDonald's workers will make that pet health insurance worth it....

Get a life dog people!!!"

I repeat - get a sense of humor!

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 9:15 AM

"Capitalism works. It's been proven to work (an avg person in europe would be considered poor here)."

On what value system are you making that determination? Certainly not on ready availability of health care.

But- before I add too many words to the current dragging this conversation into the muck of red v. blue, I'll just highlight a point already made above. We are talking about *new* legislation here.

The question is not "Should rich people earn less coverage during leave?"

The question is "How should this legislation determine the compensation for people taking leave?"

Higher income lifestyles do require more money for maintenance, but that extra expense strikes me as an unnecessary drag on the system. If someone chooses to sign on to an expensive mortgage, they should be prepared when the time comes to look after that responsibility. I think coverage should be based on a given family's necessities, not on their luxuries.

Posted by: Josh | July 5, 2007 9:16 AM

OT

KLB SS MD, I bet that when the dog does his lunge he gets a swipe across the nose from the cat. In the cat/dog relationship, the cat makes all the rules.

Speaking of pet history, both of our dogs are adopted. They are hunting dogs and were found running wild. We can only assume that during hunting training, they were gun shy, and therefore abandoned by their owners.

Posted by: Meesh | July 5, 2007 9:19 AM

Oops- the atlanta post is me.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 9:20 AM

"Personally, I hate that you have to use all your vacation and sick time before you can use FMLA. I do not consider the monthly doctor's visits "vacation."

I think you may be confused. FMLA has nothing to do with being paid. It has to do with protecting your job if you have to take extended time off due to family/medical reasons, either as a chunk or frequently over a period of time. So one might envoke FMLA because they're taking 12 weeks of maternity leave, but since they have 4 weeks of vacation and sick time saved up, they might use that to get paid for those weeks. I believe, in theory, one can take off 12 weeks completely unpaid under FMLA although many people would rather get paid for some time if they have paid leave available. Now, in my agency, one can request to be a recipient of donated leave for medical or childbirth reasons. In that case, you have to have completely depleted your own paid leave before you could receive donations.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2007 9:21 AM

"Of course, what comes next is the big question. The folks at Labor said they would do nothing with their findings, an unusual move: "There are no proposals for regulatory changes being put forward by the Department with this Report."

If memory serves me correctly, DOL was considering cutting back on FMLA. The fact that they are 'doing nothing' based on these findings may actually be a good thing.

Posted by: anon | July 5, 2007 9:22 AM

"The question is 'who pays'?

This isn't some free lunch scenario -- the point is that it is the admins who are paying for the executive to receive this benefit."

If it is a coporate benefit like leave - the executive's is part of the overall higher salary that the executive recieves and is based on the precieved value to the company. No different than the fact that executive's vacation pay is more.

If it is a governmental benefit based on an income tax, the executive will be paying more than the admin. (or at least should be paying more). Sort of like Social Security & Unemployment where the tax is $ based and the benefit is based on a sliding scale (with a maximum - whether this max is set correctly is another discussion)

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | July 5, 2007 9:22 AM

"Entitlement." Yup. I, too, see exactly where we are headed. That's the problem, everyone thinks they are entitled to something, and that they are entitled to the same thing everyone else gets, regardless of skill level, education, income, etc. Another time the word "entitlement" comes up is in the context of welfare.

Posted by: beehive | July 5, 2007 9:22 AM

Meesh,
No blood has yet been drawn. The hissing is much reduced.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 9:23 AM

"The question is "How should this legislation determine the compensation for people taking leave?"


Very well stated.

Consider that Congress has already attempted to make some effort at compensation [the child tax credit] -- this credit is phased out at higher income levels [as is consistent with our current progressive tax system].

What is the *goal* of this program? Is it to enable more mothers to take time off after having a child? Is it to enable more couples to take time off after having a child? Is it to encourage more mothers to take time off after having a child? Is it to encourage more couples to take time off ater having a child? Should it apply to non-parents [e.g., can a grandmother get paid time off if it is enabling her son/daughter to return to work]?

Once the goal is established, then develop the most cost-effective, fair mechanism to provide the benefit.

Attempting to hide the cost of the program by indicating that 'employers should pay it' assumes that a free lunch exists when it clearly does not.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:24 AM

"What a bunch of hooey to assume that someone who got further worked harder. Many people work extremely hard, but there's only so much room at the top."

I've lived on both sides of the income fence. I worked construction and food service for 5 years, and now I work in marketing. I've lost all my callouses, many of my kitchen scars, and I now work 20 hours less per week and earn 150% of what I used to.

Only an idiot would say this was harder work.

Posted by: JS | July 5, 2007 9:28 AM

"Meesh,
No blood has yet been drawn. The hissing is much reduced. "

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 09:23 AM

Are you talking about your pets or the folks on this blog? :-)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:28 AM

The question is "How should this legislation determine the compensation for people taking leave?"

I'll add to this: "Should there be any additional legislation, or should business just offer these benefits on their own to attract employees?"

In response to the first question, I would say that employees should get a flat percentage of their pay. It is not equal and fair to pay the admin 100% of her salary and the CEO 5% of her salary because the CEO makes more. As someone else pointed out, we are not a socialist country.

As for the second question, the idea of letting businesses do it on their own works great for white-collar jobs. When I think of this, however, I think of the people in blue-collar jobs. These companies have shown that they need to be regulated to pay their employees properly, so they might need regulation to provide basic benefits.

Posted by: Meesh | July 5, 2007 9:29 AM

Rockville Mom wrote "So one might envoke FMLA because they're taking 12 weeks of maternity leave, but since they have 4 weeks of vacation and sick time saved up, they might use that to get paid for those weeks. I believe, in theory, one can take off 12 weeks completely unpaid under FMLA although many people would rather get paid for some time if they have paid leave available."

Employers can require you to use your vacation and sick time as part of the 12 weeks whether or not you want to. Some people would prefer to save some of their vacation/sick time for after they go back to work and they don't have that option.

Posted by: Dennis | July 5, 2007 9:34 AM

"In response to the first question, I would say that employees should get a flat percentage of their pay. It is not equal and fair to pay the admin 100% of her salary and the CEO 5% of her salary because the CEO makes more. As someone else pointed out, we are not a socialist country."

If an employer wants to do that, great. But if the federal government mandates that an employer do that, then we are mandating an upper class benefit and we should be very clear about it. It would be a benefit designed for and primarily benefiting those most financially well-off.

With respect to 'not being a Socialist country' -- we are in many ways when it comes to tax codes. The lower incomes pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than the higher incomes do. We have had a progressive tax code for 75 years or so [which Marx identified as critical to a Socialist society] and in general we are pretty happy with it. The idea that those who have more should receive fewer government benefits and should pay a higher percentage of their income pretty well accepted here.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:35 AM

Meesh: in any animal or human relationship with a cat, doesn't the cal *always* make the rules?

To josh: you are talking, again, of socialism. I believe in capitalism. I also do believe that a society is judged based on how it treats those who can't take care of themselves (usually very young, very old, disabled). But, that doesn't mean that everyone deserves the same. Yes, we need to help those who can't help themselves, but that doesn't necessarily include everyone. It just doesn't. If you have a job and can provide for yourself then you don't need so much from the rest of society. If you just choose not to work so hard cause you don't feel like it then it is *not* my (ie, goct) responsibility to provide for you.

Also it should not be up to you to decide that some people have a larger mortgage and therefore they don't need it and *you* should determine how large their mortgage should be. A person has gotten to where they are and they make decisions based on that. Otherwise you have a society mich like venzuela and I hope you don't think that what is going on there is a positive thing.

Do people really think that health care is better in europe or elsewhere? Do you want all of us to be on medicaid? Because that's what you're advocating if you want the govt to run healthcare. Why do people come here for the best care? My friend's kid almost died because of the lovely system ineurope. He's here now and the likelihood of them going back is slim-because of this issue.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 9:35 AM

Wow, I have huge issues with so much of what has been put forth so far today. Let me see if I can get to the big ones:

-snip-

If you're actually good at your job, your company will be happy to give you time off if you need it; and if they're too inflexible, well, you get a new job, and the first company loses out on your work, and the second company gains. It's called the free market.

The only people who need the government to bail them out are those who aren't very good at what they do.
~snip~

Okay, that's just silly. I'm part of a leadership team that has discretion to set policy for roughly 60-75 professional staff. I value all these folks and there is no dead weight in my department. Still, it is absurd to think that I would happily give them any amount of time off they ask for, and if I didn't my competitor would. I will give them as much time off as they are entitled (legally) to take. I can allow them to take more unpaid leave at my discretion. But why should I? I am at a competitive disadvantage in the "free market" if I do that. On the other hand, if there were a law where my competitors and I ALL had (legally) to give people more leave, then I can do that and I am at NO disadvantage. THAT'S how government regulation is intended to help everyone.

Secondly: This notion of one bucket of Paid Time Off (PTO) is a farcical. Rockville Mom is dead on. I'm an IT exec, but I used to work for a company that outsources disability and leave systems. The companies that give you a PTO bank overall give you LESS time off. And, they typically scrutinize the use of the PTO bank much more heavily than when sick and annual leaves were segregated, pressuring employees to take less of the PTO. And, most companies that employ PTO banks have them as "use it or lose it", where they get to keep what the employees don't use. Fewer employers have Annual Leave as use or lose -- many more will let it roll over. Long story short, this is because the GAAP accounting standard is to have annual leave on the books as an accrued liability, (vs the 'benefits' treatment for PTO) which allows it to more easily sweep back into retained asset status when they close the books -- sorry, I know that dissertation was boring and the research is proprietary so I can't link you to it. Feel free to dismiss this as anecdotal since there is no link, but if some corporate accounting types pop up on the board later they can tell you that PTO is a much better setup for the employer and fosters a culture of pressuring people not to use it, so that profit is artificially boosted at the end of the year.

Lastly - On the notion of paid maternal/paternal leave as a regressive system of benefits.....the fact is that MOST workplace benefits work that way. The upside to those of you who think there are too many "chiefs" and not enough "indians", could be that this system might encourage cutting some dead weight in the executive ranks. Who knows? Again, public companies should not object to this as policy, because if all companies have to follow it our profits all drop proportional to our numbers of employees, so the market should penalize (or not penalize) everyone in our market space in the same manner. If you own a small private business, you are already protected by the "floor" below which these kind of laws do not apply to you (50 employees?) If you're bigger than that, go public :-)

(Sorry for the long post, but it's a good day to blog! The clients are all on vacation!)

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 9:38 AM

""Meesh,
No blood has yet been drawn. The hissing is much reduced. "

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 09:23 AM

Are you talking about your pets or the folks on this blog? :-)"

I would have to say "both".

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 9:40 AM

Man, I am way late to the discussion today, so let me try to tackle a couple of things:

Re: The unfairness of "an executive making $200k per year [getting] $46k in 'maternity benefits' ..." I think most of the state programs/proposed set up an upper limit on the amount of paid benefits. It's usually a pretty low number. Corporate benefits are obviously in a different class ...

Re: "paid leave for the school play"? Actually, there are proposals that would allow for leave (though not paid leave) to be used for that sort of thing. What would be the big objection there? I know there's the fear of fraud, but I've yet to see any convincing evidence that the current system is rife with abuse.

Posted by: Brian Reid | July 5, 2007 9:40 AM

Atlmom:

Just to be clear -- are you opposed to the child tax credit since it provides an equal amount to everyone [socialist] and it phases out so that those at the top of the income ladder aren't eligible [very socialist]?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:40 AM

Dennis, thanks for explaining that more succinctly than I could. That's what I meant. I didn't realize that it was an employer-by-employer thing and not a stipulation of the FMLA legislation.

Posted by: Meesh | July 5, 2007 9:41 AM

I have no problem with someone taking unpaid leave to go to the school play but I certainly would not care to subsidize it as paid leave either through my tax dollars or increased cost of goods.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | July 5, 2007 9:43 AM

atlmom is nuts. Europeans aren't considered 'poor' here. Consider how weak the dollar is against the Euro -- and just how badly this 'administration' has ignored it. "Hey lets just print more money. We can fly over to Iraq and lose track of it completely!! Any investigation of it is a 'political witchhunt' and we can have our sentences commuted!!" Dolts.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:44 AM

"With respect to 'not being a Socialist country' -- we are in many ways when it comes to tax codes... The idea that those who have more should receive fewer government benefits and should pay a higher percentage of their income pretty well accepted here."

You're absolutely right, which is why I think the tax code should change. The idea you outline above is not accepted to some people, including me.

Posted by: Meesh | July 5, 2007 9:45 AM

top pet posters:

22 catlady
23 Chris
25 cmac
29 Emily
34 Mona
39 scarry
41 KLB SS MD
61 Meesh

Posted by: Blog Stats | July 5, 2007 9:46 AM

"I am at a competitive disadvantage in the "free market" if I do that. On the other hand, if there were a law where my competitors and I ALL had (legally) to give people more leave, then I can do that and I am at NO disadvantage. THAT'S how government regulation is intended to help everyone."

Except that as a business executive I need to provide an overall ROI that warrants investment in my firm. I view total compensation as one element of cost -- and in general attempt to keep that cost to the minimum needed for competitive advantage. Thus, an increase in an entitlement cost within compensation will more than likely result in a decrease in some other element of compensation.

As an example, check out the studies that link income stagnation with rising costs of health care -- effectively businesses are picking up the double-digit health care increases by reducing overall salary increases.

If we mandate this an as employer-paid program, we should expect a continued degradation of salary increase rates.


Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:49 AM

Okay, people come to the US for treatment because we have the best DOCTORS!!!!

Not because we have the best system of HEALTHCARE. This is an obvious difference, not a subtle one, so why don't we just be honest and acknowledge it???

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:50 AM

"At length the hour of shutting up the counting- house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank. 'You'll want all day to-morrow, I suppose?' said Scrooge.

"'If quite convenient, sir.'

"'It's not convenient,' said Scrooge, 'and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?'

"The clerk smiled faintly.

"'And yet,' said Scrooge, 'you don't think me ill-used, when I pay a day's wages for no work.'

"The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

'"'A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December!' said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. 'But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.'

"The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), ran home."
-- Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol"

That's one day's paid leave that Scrooge is growling about. But how about us? Would you like to have to pay twelve weeks' rent and not be able to live in your apartment for those three months? How about paying twelve weeks' gas and electric bills in return for no service? How many of you pay your nannies twelve weeks' pay for not watching your children?

And who gets to cover for the mommy while she takes her twelve weeks' "baby boon"? It's bad enough not being able to have children because of infertility. Having to work extra while your colleague gets paid for twelve weeks to stay home, recover from pregnancy, labor and delivery, and care for her newborn -- why, that just adds insult to injury!

I am as pro-natalist as anyone else on this blog, but I agree with Scrooge here. The boss, the colleagues, and the customers are all "ill-used" when the employer pays twelve weeks' wages for no work.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | July 5, 2007 9:51 AM

how many times have shark, jump the shark or some kind of shark been posted?

Posted by: to blog stats | July 5, 2007 9:53 AM

Um, no people are pretty *un*happy with the tax code (no I'm not saying those who earn more should pay less, just that the code is one of the biggest messes anyone has seen in history).

There is a huge tax revolt coming.

In any event when the amendment to tax was passed-congress kept assuring people that *they* wouldn't pay-it would only be the 'rich' people. What a joke and a lie that was. Class warfare was alive and well then and is alive and well now.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 9:54 AM

The only people who need the government to bail them out are those who aren't very good at what they do.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 08:55 AM

Yea, you probably didn't like that pesky Emancipation Proclamation, either, I bet.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:56 AM

My husband has worked at two companies with the "personal leave" policy. People got 20 days of personal leave which they could use for anything. The result in both companies was that everyone came in to work even when deathly ill, because they didn't want to lose what they saw as "vacation" time. Talk about spreading germs! And of course the days could not be rolled over from year to year.

Posted by: ratgirlny | July 5, 2007 9:57 AM

I benefited from FMLA twice. I think if I were a highly compensated executive I would have cared less about this law, since I would have had resources and means to support my family. I probably would have taken more than 3 months. So, in my view, FMLA is very much to the benefit of middle class families...

Posted by: fedmom | July 5, 2007 9:58 AM

With respect to 'not being a Socialist country' -- we are in many ways when it comes to tax codes. The lower incomes pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than the higher incomes do. We have had a progressive tax code for 75 years or so [which Marx identified as critical to a Socialist society] and in general we are pretty happy with it. The idea that those who have more should receive fewer government benefits and should pay a higher percentage of their income pretty well accepted here.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 09:35 AM

Very interesting, but not true. In theory, yes, people who earn more pay a higher percentage. But you should read the recent comments from Warren Buffet who discovered as a billionaire he pays about 17% in taxes (bet you are all watering at the mouth at how low that is) while a secretary at his company (paid significantly less we can assume) pays closer to 33% of her income to taxes. We would be socialist if the tax code actually worked like it should, but we cut a lot of breaks to rich people and things rich people buy (investments, stocks, real estate, etc)

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 10:00 AM

I also worry that expanding the FMLA to paid leave would make employers discriminate even more against young women of a child bearing age. At least now they don't have to pay for it, but the idea is I'm sure there every time they hire a married woman between the ages of 25-35. Unfair, true. And in Europe paid maternity/paternity leave is common (I think they said 65% paid by employer 35% paid by government, this was for health leave not baby leave). So I wonder how Europeans can pull it off without having the discrimination go hand in hand.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 10:03 AM

9:49, it sounds like you are saying that if you were to see a law that compelled you to make an investment at the corporate level -- doesn't have to be benefits, it could be safety related, for example -- you would still have to generate ROI analysis for increasing investment in that expense line (meaning not robbing other elements in that expense area to satisfy this one)? Correct me if I am misreading you.

But to me, that sounds like a bad management practice. There is no competitive advantage/disadvantage in an investment or expense that all in the market are compelled to make. There might be a proportion issue (those with on-shore employees hit harder than those mostly off-shore) which could be a hardship. But the offset to that hardship is labor/trade law change, not stiffing domestic workers just because foreign workers have it worse.

Anyway, imagine these monies are not benefits, but some other expense...like taxes. When the tax rate goes up, must you do an ROI analysis? That seems odd....

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 10:03 AM

Atlmom:

To josh: ... Also it should not be up to you to decide that some people have a larger mortgage and therefore they don't need it and *you* should determine how large their mortgage should be. A person has gotten to where they are and they make decisions based on that.
----
I may have misrepresented my views. I agree with what you're saying. It should not be up to me to determine how hefty a given mortgage should be.

There is, however, a real and objective line to be drawn between necessity and luxury. I suggest, therefor, that federal legislation mandate a flat, necessity-based amount of coverage for family leave (be it drawn from the government coffers or the employer), rather than paying out on an income-based scale.

Posted by: Josh | July 5, 2007 10:04 AM

Miles - they don't pull it off. According to some friends who worked Europe, it was tough to get a job if you were of childbearing age.

Posted by: Me | July 5, 2007 10:05 AM

I am posting this for supervisors, directors, bosses, etc.

My husband and I have six pets. We have three dogs and three cats. Yes, we are crazy. Seriously, it is just the way it turned out.

My point is simply that we have had to leave work early exactly twice for our pets. I had to leave to get home to help take dogs to kennel before a vacation. We had a very early flight the next day so I had to leave and made up the time. Husband had to take our dog to the vet on a weekday morning several years ago because he'd had a seizure overnight. My husband learned that day that our dog has epilepsy.

That is it. One of our dogs is almost fourteen. We do have really healthy pets but I still think that excessive pet issues should make an employer wonder what is going on.

Posted by: T.E. | July 5, 2007 10:07 AM

"You're absolutely right, which is why I think the tax code should change. The idea you outline above is not accepted to some people, including me."

Got it -- so since the average federal household return filed was for about $60k, the most fair way would be for every single household to pay $60k in federal taxes regardless of their income?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:08 AM

The shark has showed up 137 times since the beginning of this blog, 112 times year to date and the original post that covered "jump the shark' was:

Father of 4 has officially jumped the shark Aug 15 at 11:57 am

Posted by: Blog Stats | July 5, 2007 10:09 AM

Please read my post above. Yes, we should help to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. Is the child care tax credit the best way? I don't know but it makes sense. Kids are pretty much at the mercy of their parents and they have to eat.

My actual problem with handouts is that you (ie govt taxpayer) has no control and if I )ie govt taxpayer) am paying I should have control (look what happened to the 'gift cardj they gave to katrina 'victims'). Ie the govt setting up programs that can be manipulated will always be manipulated. If you want to make sure that someone gets food, give them food-not anything else.

That's why I rarely give money to someone on the street but will give them food.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 10:10 AM

According to some friends who worked Europe, it was tough to get a job if you were of childbearing age.

Posted by: Me | July 5, 2007 10:05 AM

Word-of-mouth from some friends who once worked there. Yep, that's really scientific. I can offer anecdotal evidence showing the exact opposite. So maybe someone can provide actual data instead.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:11 AM

Proud papa,
I was unaware of the accounting implications of PTO, and that it actually leads to less available leave. If the standards were altered, I still think it would be a good idea.

I teach at a private school, where we get three sick days and two personal days a year -- no vacation time (we get summers off, and those of us who choose the 26-check pay schedule get paid the remainder of the year's salary over the summer, so it's not like we need it) -- and only one type of leave accrues from one salary year to the next (which run from August to August). Apparently, one type of leave is preferable as far as the Archdiocese goes, and that is supposed to be taken first; I don't know which. Fortunately for us, our principal doesn't follow the Archdiocese's guidelines too closely. She allows us to call it whatever we want when we take a day off, as long as we have a substitute, and she schedules it as whatever leave doesn't carry over.

Posted by: educmom | July 5, 2007 10:13 AM

Miles - they don't pull it off. According to some friends who worked Europe, it was tough to get a job if you were of childbearing age.

Posted by: Me | July 5, 2007 10:05 AM

Ahh, well that is disappointing though I'd still like to know on a larger scale (and by country) how true that is. But maybe with whatever group is in power some discrimination will always exist to those who do not look/act/talk like those in power. Still, I had hoped Europeans figured it out, they do seem to have a few things going for them.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 10:13 AM

Word-of-mouth from some friends who once worked there. Yep, that's really scientific. I can offer anecdotal evidence showing the exact opposite. So maybe someone can provide actual data instead.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 10:11 AM

Someone piss in your wheaties today? I am sure the "official" stance is that there is no discrimination. It is often the "anecdotal evidence" that tells the true story.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:13 AM

"9:49, it sounds like you are saying that if you were to see a law that compelled you to make an investment at the corporate level -- doesn't have to be benefits, it could be safety related, for example -- you would still have to generate ROI analysis for increasing investment in that expense line (meaning not robbing other elements in that expense area to satisfy this one)? Correct me if I am misreading you."

Somewhat mis-reading -- there are clearly specific areas that tend to increase or decrease as a line item.

The point is that compensation in general is an area which has high impact on overall ROI and for which obvious mechanisms exist to reduce expense [smaller annual salary increases].

As I noted, there have been some good studies examining annual salary increases and annual health care cost increases -- demonstrating an inverse correlation [significant increases in health care costs are met with significant stagnation in salary increases].

"Anyway, imagine these monies are not benefits, but some other expense...like taxes. When the tax rate goes up, must you do an ROI analysis? That seems odd...."

We examine ROI on a very regular basis -- and yes, a tax increase would absolutely involve an ROI analysis to determine what course of action we would need to take.


Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:14 AM

Actually, just middle income to upper middle income people do much better than poor people and have many more advantages. It is just the way it is. Example: average person with a FICO of 760 is getting a much better deal on their reliable, decent car than someone who is really struggling and got a rotten car with 144,000 miles financed at 16%.

Banks base the interest rate paid out on your balance. The more money you have in the bank--the higher your rate. I love it but you could argue that someone who only has 10K in the bank needs a better rate than someone with 90k. Again, money begets more money.

Posted by: Response to Miles comments about super wealthy | July 5, 2007 10:15 AM

Someone piss in your wheaties today? I am sure the "official" stance is that there is no discrimination. It is often the "anecdotal evidence" that tells the true story.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 10:13 AM

Just hurl personal insults when challenged? That's so mature, not. Your anecdotes are no more valid than mine, so who made you God?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:21 AM

Miles, I wouldn't be worried about expanding the FMLA to paid leave causing employers to discriminate against young women of a child bearing age. FMLA is offered to both men and women-- if the leave becomes paid, it would cover both genders. Therefore, no discrimination, especially since young men of today are so much more eager to be involved parents, no employer could be confident that hiring a man rather than a woman would make it less risky that they would have to provide the paid leave. I think in Canada it is this way and that is how they have avoided the sex discrimination problems in Europian countries where there iss paid maternity leave but not paid paternity leave.

Posted by: Jen S. | July 5, 2007 10:23 AM

"We would be socialist if the tax code actually worked like it should, but we cut a lot of breaks to rich people and things rich people buy (investments, stocks, real estate, etc)"

Agree -- which is why the last thing that we need is a federal entitlement like paid time off designed specifically to benefit the most wealthy individuals...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:25 AM

"Banks base the interest rate paid out on your balance. The more money you have in the bank--the higher your rate."

And the inverse is true of mortgages and other loans as well, of course. The more you need the money (i.e. the less you already have), the higher your interest rates will be. That's your free market economy.

Posted by: Josh | July 5, 2007 10:25 AM

It is often the "anecdotal evidence" that tells the true story.

You sound like one of those folks who forward every email and blog posting that supports your viewpoint without checking the facts first.

Posted by: To 10:13 | July 5, 2007 10:26 AM

Something that is being missed in the comparisons to other countries is that in a lot of countries, Canada for example, the paid maternity leave is paid for by the government, not employers. Of course it's ultimately paid for by the people through taxes.

Posted by: Dennis | July 5, 2007 10:32 AM

In europe there aren't as many (or any?). discrimination laws and so it is not only legal to discriminate, people aren't likely to sue. So yes, from what I've heard as well, cos are less likely to hire women of childbearing age.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 10:32 AM

It is often the "anecdotal evidence" that tells the true story.

You sound like one of those folks who forward every email and blog posting that supports your viewpoint without checking the facts first.

Posted by: To 10:13 | July 5, 2007 10:26 AM

As a sidenote, in "Sicko" when examining the French health care system Michael Moore asks the question, "is there a reason they want us to hate the French?"

Is there a reason the rich/elite of this country spready anti-European and anti-French sentiment freely around? Do they want us to avoid asking for universal healthcare? How about mandatory sick leave or paid maternity leave? All other western nations have some form of these programs. But not in America. And we are taught to hate the Europeans, I wonder why...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:34 AM

by the way, I figure there is gender discrimination against women in those conutries with paid maternity leave but no paid paternity leave not just on anecodotal evidence but also based on common sense. Iput myself in the shoes of an employer-- if I'm hiring and one candidate is a woman and one is a man and the female candidate is likely to cost my company more money in the long run because of additional benefits cost, then I am more likely to hire the male. I doubt I'm the only person who would have that reaction. That is why I'm totally against a federal mandate of paid maternity leave, but I wouldn't oppose a federal mandate for some paid parental leave.

Posted by: Jen S. | July 5, 2007 10:36 AM

"Something that is being missed in the comparisons to other countries is that in a lot of countries, Canada for example, the paid maternity leave is paid for by the government, not employers. Of course it's ultimately paid for by the people through taxes."

As businesses point out, if we instituted this as a employer-paid benefit it would put US businesses at a global disadvantage -- much the way that our employer-paid health care system has put them at a global disadvantage.

If we as a society think this is important, there are some pretty easy ways to institute it that would be relatively fair and cost-effective [for example, raising the first year of the child tax credit to something like $5k].

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:38 AM

I'm surprised at the vitriol aimed at people who want to be able to take care of their life, pretty normal stuff. That doesn't mean someone doesn't have a strong work ethic, it means they also have a strong life ethic. And why exactly, would they want to leave a sick family member to drive themselves to the hospital for an employer that would cut them in order to raise their stock options .25%?

Posted by: Lisa | July 5, 2007 10:40 AM

"Something that is being missed in the comparisons to other countries is that in a lot of countries, Canada for example, the paid maternity leave is paid for by the government, not employers. Of course it's ultimately paid for by the people through taxes."

As businesses point out, if we instituted this as a employer-paid benefit it would put US businesses at a global disadvantage -- much the way that our employer-paid health care system has put them at a global disadvantage.

If we as a society think this is important, there are some pretty easy ways to institute it that would be relatively fair and cost-effective [for example, raising the first year of the child tax credit to something like $5k].

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 10:38 AM

The bureaucratic overhead of most private health insurance companies is 10-30%. The bureaucratic overhead of medicare is 1%. If employers had a really problem with it they'd lobby for universal healthcare, but since only *some* pay a portion of your medical care and many pay nothing (there is no requirement for an employer to match or assist their employees with monthly healthcare fees) they are better off sliding by now as is, choosing to pay a percentage rather than (through taxes) having to pay a percentage.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 10:43 AM

I worked for a Fortune 100 that hired women that were pregnant and promoted pregnant women.

They also had really generous maternity leave. I never used it since I have never been pregnant.

The key is work for a huge company. They take good care of you on the bens. My dad told me I would regret leaving and he was right. You become spoiled when you have those great benefits.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:44 AM

Re: using vac/sick time before using "FMLA" time

Some of my coworkers and I have been talking about this issue a lot lately (recent pregnancy, trying to conceive, thinking about adoption, etc.), and I find that a lot of people are using the terms "FMLA" and "short-term disability" interchangeably (incorrectly, of course). At my job, you have to burn all leave available to you or wait 30 days (whichever is longer), then you are eligible for short-term disablity if you are the one whose medical condition requires leave (i.e. sickness, injury, birth). You are still protected by FMLA but are not eligible for short-term disability if you have to take time off to care for your spouse or if you adopt. I find myself explaining this over and over...words matter.

Posted by: librarylady | July 5, 2007 10:45 AM

We are not 'taught' to hate the europeans. They do things and we determine how we react (like-asking us to help them when they need it but not acting like allies when they don't). There used to be no bigger francophile than me (lived in france even) but I'm so fed up with them now...

I actually think the french have a pretty good system (unless they've changed in since I've studied it) in that the drs are independent -ie not govt employees. I probably agree with most of it, but to me that's the biggest thing and other particulars could be worked out.

From whay I understand tho, one should not get one's information from 'documentaries' from mr. Moore. Or mr. Gore for that matter.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 10:54 AM

to 10:44 in a contrarian manner- I work for one of the largest companies in the USA and we have one of the stingiest benefits packages I have ever seen (and I've worked for a LOT of companies!).

As a manager, I am supposed to influence my reports to not use their non-vacation PTO which does not roll over. I admit here to flouting this directive.

Posted by: MaryB | July 5, 2007 10:55 AM

"Example: average person with a FICO of 760 is getting a much better deal on their reliable, decent car than someone who is really struggling and got a rotten car with 144,000 miles financed at 16%."

Income doesn't factor into your FICO score. FICO scores your history of paying your creditors as you agreed. It also factors in how much of your available credit you are using and whether or not you are currently applying for more credit. Income is not and cannot be a factor, since your income is not available on your credit report.

There are plenty of high income individuals who have low credit scores because they are either absent-minded or are overspenders. There are plenty of lower-income people who have high credit scores because they live within their means and pay their creditors as agreed.

Many years ago I had a low income and high credit score. I had no trouble obtaining credit at favorable rates despite my low income.

"Banks base the interest rate paid out on your balance. The more money you have in the bank--the higher your rate. I love it but you could argue that someone who only has 10K in the bank needs a better rate than someone with 90k. Again, money begets more money. "

Your bank is not the welfare office. They don't give one tenth of one hoot who needs money more than whom. Frankly, it is none of their business.

The fact is that the bank can make more money on larger deposits than they can on small deposits, so they pay a higher rate on larger deposits. Also, the bank wants to establish a relationship with those who maintain high deposits, since they have more money to spend on the bank's other products.

Who needs the money more never does, and never should, factor into the equation.

Posted by: Bob | July 5, 2007 10:56 AM

It is often the "anecdotal evidence" that tells the true story.

You sound like one of those folks who forward every email and blog posting that supports your viewpoint without checking the facts first.

Posted by: To 10:13 | July 5, 2007 10:26 AM

You sound like someone to angry to engage in a civil debate.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 10:58 AM

More food for thought -- we are throwing around the term "Capitalism" around on the blog today with great pride, and juxtaposing it with "Socialism" as if socialism is pure evil.

It is completely true that our system is not pure capitalism. A purely capitalist system provides limitless incentive for big companies to collude on everything, from blocking little companies from competition to abusing workers to plundering public resources. This is why capitalism must be regulated just like [gasp!] Socialism....to compensate for the systemic flaws.

The advantage that I believe IS (or at least used to be) pretty unique to this country is our work ethic. Those companies who have provided strong business competition for America in the past and present (Japan, China, India, etc.) also have (1) a culture of hard work and (2) enough population to make a global impact.

The inherent concept of this blog is bad for business. The notion of "balance" chips away at the old American notion of work from sun-up-to-sundown...idle hands being the devil's work...families in the dust-bowl building thriving farms from nothing with their bare hands...all that stuff.

The thing is, that American work ethic notion applied when you were working all day to feed your family and produce enough to barter with your neighbors. Today, you're working 16 hours so Ken Lay can have a second Lear Jet. As business evolved during the industrial revolution, so must the American work ethic evolve. And probably towards Europe's work ethic, for better or worse...

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 11:02 AM

in re: the nasty Europeans...

(like-asking us to help them when they need it but not acting like allies when they don't)


Please explain?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:02 AM

"In europe there aren't as many (or any?). discrimination laws and so it is not only legal to discriminate, people aren't likely to sue."

This statement of EU law is incorrect. It is not legal to discriminate on the basis of gender in the EU and people, as people everywhere are wont to do, are highly likely to sue when wronged.

Article 2 of the EC Treaty provides that promotion of equality between men and women is a task of the European Community. Article 3(2) provides that it should aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women in all its activities (also known as "gender mainstreaming"). There are three legal bases in the EC Treaty for EU legislation on equal treatment of men and women: Article 141(3) in matters of employment and occupation; Article 13(1) outside of the employment field; and Article 137 in the promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions.

This is too big a topic to address on a blog, but if you are interested in learning more, go to the following EU governance site.

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/gender_equality/index_en.html

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 11:07 AM

"Example: average person with a FICO of 760 is getting a much better deal on their reliable, decent car than someone who is really struggling and got a rotten car with 144,000 miles financed at 16%."

Income doesn't factor into your FICO score.
----
Maybe income doesn't factor into your FICO score, but it absolutely affects interest rates for financing. Debt-to-income ratio is a big factor. A lower income earner with a student loan and a car loan who lives within their means will still have a higher debt-to-income ratio when looking for a mortgage on a modest home compared to someone making more money looking at the same house.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:13 AM

"The thing is, that American work ethic notion applied when you were working all day to feed your family and produce enough to barter with your neighbors. Today, you're working 16 hours so Ken Lay can have a second Lear Jet. As business evolved during the industrial revolution, so must the American work ethic evolve."

It's more complex than that. You are working 16 hours a day so that CALPERS and other big pension funds are happy with the p/e ratio of the stock of your employer and don't sell it. In other words, you're working to show short-term gains and keep the share price up. Ken Lay is well-compensated only if he makes management decisions that . . . keep the share price up. If your job can be shipped overseas to increase profits per widget which will look awfully good in the quarterly report, it will be shipped overseas so that we can all . . . say it together with me, class, keep the share price up.

If Americans were more patient investors, instead of seeking a 13% or greater increase in share value in a given year, perhaps our publicly-traded companies, some of our largest employers, could afford to make more family- and job-friendly choices.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:13 AM

Where you stand on this depends on where you sit. Not a huge revelation but when I was single, I hated the benefits given to parents who worked with me. Now that I've had my first child, I am deeply grateful for the 12 paid weeks off my wife just got. Only thing I can think now is to not criticize someone till you've walked a mile in their shoes.

Posted by: Bob | July 5, 2007 11:15 AM

Megan's Neighbor, Don't confuse me with the facts.

Posted by: From 10:58 AM | July 5, 2007 11:18 AM

TO Bob:
Your wife got 12 paid weeks off? Where does she work?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:19 AM

I'm dead.

Posted by: Kenny-boy Lay | July 5, 2007 11:20 AM

Megan's neighbor - you may get banned from this blog if you keep giving rational, fact based information. ;-)

Posted by: Me | July 5, 2007 11:21 AM

Where you stand on this doesn't depend on where you sit unless you have no interest or concerns about public policy and the laws of unintended consequences, generally. One has only to look at the volume of concern directed by straight Americans at the issue of gay marriage to know that many of us care deeply about social and political issues that do not impact us directly.

Most of us consider and try to come up with the right answer, the ethical answer, the realistic answer, and/or the pro-business/pro-jobs answer: for healthcare, for the poor, for the environment, for public housing, for farm policy, for education. These are important topics with hot issues that require resolution consistent with our political and social values, whether we have any skin in the game or will personally benefit from taking one path vs. taking the alternative.

Unless you are immature and selfish, of course. For those people, I suppose, Bob is right.

Posted by: OR mom | July 5, 2007 11:23 AM

Thanks, M N. However, since I believe that people outside the US are less likely to sue, chances are there's more discrimination. I have nothing to prove this, tho. Just my thoughts.

The marketplace will always adjust. Higher tax rates for companies- they will pass that along to their customers. Or whatever. The market always adjusts and rarely in ways that those passing the laws think. Like when you walk about 'price gouging and you pass vague laws that no one understands and can't be understood, to make yourself feel good-then companies get scared and then there are shortages. I'd rather have no profits for a few days thhan be investigated by congress (risk reward thing).

So maybe we'd see incomes stagnate or go lower, or more jobs go overseas, or more companies moving out of the US. But rarely do companies do what congress thinks they will (if they think about the consequences of their actions at all-as in their min wage legislation which will inevitably lead to higher inflation).

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 11:24 AM

Um--I never claimed that a bank owes people with less money a higher rate. I look very forward to our monthly interest payout. Sure, it is eaten up by inflation and taxes but it is still a large sum of money that grows until April. I was simply commenting on the REALITY of having more money to plop down in a bank.

My whole point was that, yes, the super wealthy get the hookup, the upper and middle class need to be creative or we will not and the poor get the shaft.

I personally feel that mismanagement and extravagant living will get you what you deserve. I was commenting on a commnet about a secretary vs. an investing genuis.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:25 AM

OR Mom, I appreciate your thoughtful answer. I wish more people thought like you. I do but not enough. Can't say where my wife worked but we had a lot of problems with our son's birth and it helped having the time. We used it to go to a lot of doc appts.

Posted by: Bob | July 5, 2007 11:28 AM

More on capitalism - In most religions the right-wing fundamentalist we-read-the-text-literally group should acknowledge that it is a sin (or at least against church teachings) to lend money and charge interest:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usury

Posted by: Captain Religion | July 5, 2007 11:30 AM

Megan's neighbor - you may get banned from this blog if you keep giving rational, fact based information. ;-)

Posted by: Me | July 5, 2007 11:21 AM

Thanks, Me.

I wouldn't want to leave anyone with the wrong impression about my beliefs, though. To say that there are anti-discimination laws is not the same as saying that there's no discrimination. The differential in unemployment between young women (14.7%) and young men (11%) in the EU makes it pretty clear that employers are unwilling to bear the additional cost of hiring young women of prime child-bearing age. Who would?

I agree with those posters who have said that anecdotal evidence is to be questioned, but when the anecdotes are consistent and at a high volume, as they are with respect to the hiring experiences of women between 18 and 30 in Europe, you have to consider that they might be experiencing something real. Just as, in this country, when you keep hearing about racial discrimination in the real estate market, you have to consider that those reporting such experiences might be experiencing something real. Just my opinion, of course.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 11:32 AM

The problem with this type of issue was summed up by OR Mom I think -- "Most of us consider and try to come up with the right answer, the ethical answer, the realistic answer, and/or the pro-business/pro-jobs answer: for healthcare, for the poor, for the environment, for public housing, for farm policy, for education. These are important topics with hot issues that require resolution consistent with our political and social values, whether we have any skin in the game or will personally benefit from taking one path vs. taking the alternative." The key in her statement is "he right answer, the ethical answer, the realistic answer, and/or the pro-business/pro-jobs answer." Because we all have different moral compasses, we will not all agree what the right answers are.

And if we could all just take a step back and recognize that we may not agree with another person's answer but understand their logic -- how they got to the answer -- we could address that person's concerns and come up with a comprehensive answer -- instead of resorting to nasty worrds and insults.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:33 AM

when the anecdotes are consistent and at a high volume, as they are with respect to the hiring experiences of women between 18 and 30 in Europe, you have to consider that they might be experiencing something real.

Have you never heard of propaganda? Just keep getting the same thing repeated over and over, and pretty soon the masses will start to believe it.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:38 AM

Have you never heard of propaganda? Just keep getting the same thing repeated over and over, and pretty soon the masses will start to believe it.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 11:38 AM

So what do you believe?? Only things that happen to you repeatedly? Studies? If studies run by whom?

Posted by: Penelope | July 5, 2007 11:41 AM

I don't get why Americans bring up FMLA in other countries. It really doesn't matter unless you have a real desire, plan and possibility of living in France, UK, Sweden or another country treating moms and families better.

I am not a mom but if I was I would not even be concerned with what moms in Paris are getting in regard to leave.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:42 AM

"...when they put leave all in one bucket of PTO, there is actually less total leave available than when it's designated as sick or vacation."

This actually happened at my company this year. We went to a PTO system in 2007; in prior years we had separate vacation and sick leave. And the sick leave used to be accumulative and could be carried forward and saved up, for bigger medical emergencies. And you are correct, it means a LOT less time available. They gave us 2 extra PTO days to make up for losing the sick leave, but it doesn't even come close to what we had before. We were allowed to keep our saved up sick leave though, we are just not accumulating any more. It was still a loss of overall benefits.

Posted by: CJB | July 5, 2007 11:42 AM

{snip}
"The thing is, that American work ethic notion applied when you were working all day to feed your family and produce enough to barter with your neighbors. Today, you're working 16 hours so Ken Lay can have a second Lear Jet. As business evolved during the industrial revolution, so must the American work ethic evolve."

It's more complex than that. You are working 16 hours a day so that CALPERS and other big pension funds are happy with the p/e ratio of the stock of your employer and don't sell it. In other words, you're working to show short-term gains and keep the share price up. Ken Lay is well-compensated only if he makes management decisions that . . . keep the share price up. If your job can be shipped overseas to increase profits per widget which will look awfully good in the quarterly report, it will be shipped overseas so that we can all . . . say it together with me, class, keep the share price up.

If Americans were more patient investors, instead of seeking a 13% or greater increase in share value in a given year, perhaps our publicly-traded companies, some of our largest employers, could afford to make more family- and job-friendly choices.

Anon - 11:13a
{Snip}

Hiya 11:13am. With regard to a connection between the american work ethic and their employer's share price, I think that connection is, in most cases, RIGHTFULLY tenuous.

I am lucky enough to work for a company that makes it easy for employees to become shareholders (via matching and immediate vesting). This incentive works, as I follow the share price and I consciously contemplate how certain company news will be received by the market.

But if you are not a senior person at a company, your perspective is different. There is small incentive to work hard "to show short-term gains and keep the share price up." Employment is at-will and for young employees they are easily replaced. As a big company my responsibility is to shareholders more than employees, so I can lop thousands of employees off at a time (AOL) and have the marketplace applaud me.

Why would an average, line-level employee use share price as motivation in that climate?

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 11:48 AM

It was still a loss of overall benefits.

Posted by: CJB | July 5, 2007 11:42 AM

Hold the presses, we have a winner!!! Anything to screw the employee and raise profits.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:50 AM

The bureaucratic overhead of medicare is 1%.
__________________

And the reimbursement rates are so low that there is a shortage of providers willing to accept Medicare patients and Medicaid for that matter. You DO NOT want the gov't running your health coverage.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:50 AM

Anything to screw the employee and raise profits.

Yea, and tell them they're getting a better deal too.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:53 AM

You DO NOT want the gov't running your health coverage.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 11:50 AM

It's so much better for those folks who don't have any health insurance at all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:55 AM

Megan's neighbor, thanks for posting the EU Equal Pay law. It seems that that is a law imposed on companies in EU, but not on the countries themseves? Am I right? the countries in the EU evidently can pass laws that do discriminate by gender. perhaps the unequal treatment that the countries themselves give between the genders (i.e. more benefits to moms than to dads) makes the people see the governmental laws as hypocritical and they then flout them?

Maybe someone else knows why men in Eurpoe have been unable to get equal benefits under the Equal Pay provisions that Megan's Neighbor referred to?

Posted by: Jen S. | July 5, 2007 11:56 AM

Anything to screw the employee and raise profits.

Yea, and tell them they're getting a better deal too.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 11:53 AM

So leave -- wait -- not many companies have great benefits anymore. Why is no one complaining about not having a pension. People used to get pensions. We dont have that anymore? Why --too expensive, cannot compete. Same with all this time off -- its too expensive

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 11:57 AM

So leave -- wait -- not many companies have great benefits anymore. Why is no one complaining about not having a pension. People used to get pensions. We dont have that anymore? Why --too expensive, cannot compete. Same with all this time off -- its too expensive

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 11:57 AM

Especially when CEO salaries are soaring.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:01 PM

Especially when CEO salaries are soaring.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:01 PM

What should a company do?? Say, we are only going to pay out CEO $500,000 so that we can pay our other employees a better salary and more benefits? Guess what -- you would not likely get a qualified CEO. Its supply and demand.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:05 PM

And who gets to decide how much CEO's are worth? While we are at it -- tell professional athletes they are not worth their millions either. Because its not fair. . Like I tell my 5 year old -- fair is for babies. That is life./

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:07 PM

The bureaucratic overhead of medicare is 1%.
__________________

And the reimbursement rates are so low that there is a shortage of providers willing to accept Medicare patients and Medicaid for that matter. You DO NOT want the gov't running your health coverage.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 11:50 AM

Actually, I do. Short of my learning French, would love to have universal health care in America where everyone pays taxes and is a part of it. Those of upper middle income and above can choose to pay into private health care should they continue to want that aspect. Yay capitalism and socialism.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 12:07 PM

Especially when CEO salaries are soaring.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:01 PM

What should a company do?? Say, we are only going to pay out CEO $500,000 so that we can pay our other employees a better salary and more benefits? Guess what -- you would not likely get a qualified CEO. Its supply and demand.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:05 PM

I doubt CEO skills are *that* awesome or unique. It's just a perception of it, and rock-star status to go along. So how come in this country we are willing to do almost anything we can to cut benefits, pay employees less and less, claim that we need to do this to "stay competitive in a global market" and yet pay CEOs millions. How about we outsource CEOs like we are with all our other high-tech, high demand jobs. That would help us to be more competitive.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 12:11 PM

"What a bunch of hooey to assume that someone who got further worked harder. Many people work extremely hard, but there's only so much room at the top."

Truly, this is one of the most defeatist statements I've ever seen.

I don't have time to respond to this topic adequately as someone here had the brilliant idea to do a two-day conference on various pressing issues immediately after a federal holiday when so many staff are out. So hello to all, see you tomorrow.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 5, 2007 12:11 PM

to 11:57 and 12:01 - I agree. My enormous company's entire retirement plan is (drumroll please) 2% contribution for your 401K or into your pay. Wow. We were an employee-owned company and we got bought. A pretty nasty change of policy.

Posted by: MaryB | July 5, 2007 12:12 PM

Why would an average, line-level employee use share price as motivation in that climate?

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 11:48 AM

I didn't say it was motivating. I said that's what they are paying for. It's naive to say they are paying for CEO salaries - they are not. They are working to pay to support share price. The CEO salary is no more than a consequence tied to that share price.

Most average, line-level employees are working for nothing more than TO KEEP THEI JOBS. Every week without a pink slip, a factory closing, a division shut-down and jobs shipped across the border, is a successful week.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:12 PM

I doubt CEO skills are *that* awesome or unique. It's just a perception of it, and rock-star status to go along. So how come in this country we are willing to do almost anything we can to cut benefits, pay employees less and less, claim that we need to do this to "stay competitive in a global market" and yet pay CEOs millions. How about we outsource CEOs like we are with all our other high-tech, high demand jobs. That would help us to be more competitive.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 12:11 PM

And who do you think that outsourced CEO would hire? My guess is more outsourced employees from his/her country and soon that company with the outsourced CEO would go to that CEO's country.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:13 PM

One of my co-workers - a 65+ year old male - scheduled routine surgery earlier this year. Our HR folks told him he *had* to go out under FLMA - using the sick leave and vacation leave he had already accrued, of course! Because it was routine surgery, he was back at work within a reasonable amount of time and still had plenty of unused vacation time in the bank.

I have to admit, though - this was the first that any of us knew that it is now company policy that any time we take off for more than five days in connection with a medical condition of any sort *must* be taken off under FMLA. Has anyone else run into this?

Posted by: Murphy | July 5, 2007 12:16 PM

It's so much better for those folks who don't have any health insurance at all.

_______________________
That's why that boy who had Medicaid died from a cavity recently. Well done gov't - ensuring services to the most vulnerable.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:16 PM

Megan's neighbor, thanks for posting the EU Equal Pay law. It seems that that is a law imposed on companies in EU, but not on the countries themseves? Am I right? the countries in the EU evidently can pass laws that do discriminate by gender. perhaps the unequal treatment that the countries themselves give between the genders (i.e. more benefits to moms than to dads) makes the people see the governmental laws as hypocritical and they then flout them?

Maybe someone else knows why men in Eurpoe have been unable to get equal benefits under the Equal Pay provisions that Megan's Neighbor referred to?

Posted by: Jen S. | July 5, 2007 11:56 AM

Jen,

wrt your first question, the EU Treaty is a treaty binding on the countries, not on any individual company. It's the shared laws that provide a basis for claims under applicable EU law. Countries in the EU cannot enact laws that discriminate on the basis of gender without violating their obligations under the Treaty.

The big issue in the EU has been disparate treatment of pregnant women and many laws and policies have been implemented in order to combat such discrimination. Maternity leave wasn't historically seen as a benefit, i.e. something which must be available to male employees, as well, but as a minimum protection against requiring pregnant women to return too work quickly.

The 1992 Directive sets out certain employment rights for pregnant women: they could not be dismissed for pregnancy-related reasons or forced to work nights if this will damage their health. They have the right to up to 14 weeks maternity leave, during which time they must either be paid or receive an adequate allowance.

Nonetheless, some EU countries offer as much as 28 weeks, require employees to take a greater percentage of leave than they might want to take, there are variations in the percentage of earnings that are paid.

In a nutshell, you are viewing maternity leave as a benefit that discriminates against men. The EU sees it as a protection for pregnant women who were treated differently from men prior to the formation of the EU. The best comparison to a similar American program is probably affirmative action in government contracting -- some see it as a solution to past discrimination; others see it as a program that discriminates.

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/equ_opp/news/pregnant_en.htm

Posted by: MN | July 5, 2007 12:25 PM

Murphy: ALL your time is ALWAYS 'FMLA.' I don't understand your objection...?

You are allowed to take UP TO 12 weeks (unpaid) a year to take care of something. Your company can have a policy as to whether they will pay you or not. If this person is taking time off, and needs to take care of something (medical condition) then that time would count 'toward' FMLA. If the company decides to pay you during that time, you get paid. But any and ALL of the time you take off can be considered FMLA. The company can only 'fire' you after you have taken more than 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 12:26 PM

What should a company do?? Say, we are only going to pay out CEO $500,000 so that we can pay our other employees a better salary and more benefits? Guess what -- you would not likely get a qualified CEO. Its supply and demand.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:05 PM

Only half a million? Oh the poverty, the deprivation. It's not supply and demand, it's a racket pure and simple. Similarly-minded executives on boards see to it that their fellow CEOs do well, so they can point to their cronies as examples for their own huge pay and benefits packages. Self-perpetuating.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:31 PM

Murphy: ALL your time is ALWAYS 'FMLA.' I don't understand your objection...?

You are allowed to take UP TO 12 weeks (unpaid) a year to take care of something. Your company can have a policy as to whether they will pay you or not. If this person is taking time off, and needs to take care of something (medical condition) then that time would count 'toward' FMLA. If the company decides to pay you during that time, you get paid. But any and ALL of the time you take off can be considered FMLA. The company can only 'fire' you after you have taken more than 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 12:26 PM

The issue here is being asked to use your sick and vacation leave INSTEAD of taking leave without pay (FMLA). I had a coworker whose kidney failed a couple months ago. We have a combined vacation/sick pool of leave which he HAD to use (could not use FMLA). Hope he wasn't planning any vacation anytime soon because his leave (120+ hours) was wiped out to zero. But I guess you'll tell me that's his fault, he really should have planned his kidney failing better...

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 12:31 PM

So leave -- wait -- not many companies have great benefits anymore. Why is no one complaining about not having a pension. People used to get pensions. We dont have that anymore? Why --too expensive, cannot compete. Same with all this time off -- its too expensive

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 11:57 AM

Actually, one of the biggest reasons employers ditched pensions was that they kept losing out in the hiring process to competitors who didn't offer pensions, but offered higher starting salaries. Voila! No more pensions. Companies respond to the free market that is employee hiring and retention and when employees accept offers for higher salary with no pensions, the employers hear them voting with their feet. *clomp* *clomp* *clomp*

None of us expect to work with our present employer for 20+ years any more, so the concept of vesting and relying on employer pensions, particularly after we watched so many pension plans go belly-up in the 70s (not that I know, of course, I heard :>) doesn't fit our economy, our expectations, or the way we live our lives today.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 12:32 PM

The sick leave we lost was not a benefit that could be used (or abused) easily. In fact, it really only was valuable if you had a serious medical problem, like an operation. We were only allowed to take up to 3 sick days year, no matter how much we had accumulated. Over 3 we had to use vacation time (I am talking about individual sick days for minor illnesses). And any time we wanted to use our sick leave for more than 3 days in a row, our claim had to be evaluated by an independent mediation company that told our company what was the appropriate amount of leave to grant for the request. So, for example, if you needed a bypass operation and your doctor said you needed 8 weeks off, the review company could (and often did) come back and say you only get 6 weeks off. I have heard of many employees losing out with this arrangement. Still, it was valuable to have the bucket of saved sick time in case you needed it for something big.

Posted by: CJB | July 5, 2007 12:34 PM

That's why that boy who had Medicaid died from a cavity recently. Well done gov't - ensuring services to the most vulnerable.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:16 PM

Where was the private sector? They would never have helped him.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:34 PM

"We were only allowed to take up to 3 sick days year, no matter how much we had accumulated."

Things like this are utterly ridiculous to me. Presumably you technically accrue more than 3 days a year. So essentially the company is lying if they say people earn more than that. And an outside review company to assess whether someone can really legitimately take leave? I'd think that the overhead on that aspect would cost more than letting people just manage their own sick days. Good grief.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | July 5, 2007 12:38 PM

Have you never heard of propaganda? Just keep getting the same thing repeated over and over, and pretty soon the masses will start to believe it.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 11:38 AM

pATRICK, is that you posting anonymously, LOL.

11:38, I find that the solution to information you deem to be propaganda is to get more information from multiple sources with multiple agendas. In the age of the Internet, there's no excuse for reading only sources with which you agree. Read the Post and the Christian Science Monitor. Visit the websites of the WSJ and the Times and The Rutherford Institute. Keep up with the Cato Institute and the Brookings Institution.

When they agree with each other, you say, "BINGO". When they disagree, you can pretty much assume the truth is somewhere in that grey area between each side's preferred position. Confident, informed people can, and should, expose themselves to lots and lots of voices and opinions without being led to follow the loudest screamer.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 12:39 PM

The issue here is being asked to use your sick and vacation leave INSTEAD of taking leave without pay (FMLA). I had a coworker whose kidney failed a couple months ago. We have a combined vacation/sick pool of leave which he HAD to use (could not use FMLA). Hope he wasn't planning any vacation anytime soon because his leave (120+ hours) was wiped out to zero. But I guess you'll tell me that's his fault, he really should have planned his kidney failing better...

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 12:31 PM

I agree that he could not have "planned" better, but look at this from the flip side -- he was out of the office 120 hours (approximately 3 weeks) and then he wants to be out for another 40 hours (1 week) to go the beach and relax? So would I but the employer is out of an employee for a month. I think it is only fair to all of the other employees that a person use sick/vacation time before they use FMLA

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:40 PM

Miles: so he got paid for the leave first, then was he unable to take more leave later (unpaid)?

And I say, all the time, that I will take only $5 million to be CEO of a company and run it into the ground - and a possibility of actually not doing that (a huge discount, plenty of 'em make $100 million, or even $10 million - and don't get penalized when they do poorly).

No one's taken me up on the offer as of yet.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 12:40 PM

Miles, You think his employer should take it on the chin for his kidney-failure AND his trip to the beach?

That's nuts, but it's consistent with your devaluing of CEO expertise, too. You are quite naive.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:42 PM

"So how come in this country we are willing to do almost anything we can to cut benefits, pay employees less and less, claim that we need to do this to "stay competitive in a global market" and yet pay CEOs millions."

Duh. That's like saying why do the guys in the minor leagues get paid squat while the Yankees pay A-Rod millions. Performance baby. If you keep your company competitive in the global market, those employees at least have jobs. If you don't, you become Chrysler. Who? Yeah, that's right. They're gone.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:47 PM

A-Rod is worth every penny, right?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:49 PM

I support FMLA guaranteeing maternity leave, but I disagree that employers should be forced to pay for someone's decision to start a family. Plan ahead, save some money. I took six months unpaid maternity leave; my employer held my job because he wanted me back, nit because he personally liked me (this guy ran a white collar sweat shop). I banked vacation and sick leave that covered much of this time. And I absolutely believe that a prospective employer is likely to discriminate against a woman of child-bearing age if the employer is forced to pay for maternity leave.

And pensions...a pension was a big selling point for me when I accepted my current position. But take a look at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. web site to see what has happened with pensions in the private sector...it's rather alarming, and there is the possibility of another tax-payer bailout of a private sector fiscal fiasco on the horizon...

Why don't all the "greed is good" folks who worship at the throne of laissez-faire capitalism ever lament corporate welfare? Where's DCer on this one?

Posted by: single western mom | July 5, 2007 12:50 PM

To atlmom: Your explanation makes sense on one level. On another level it doesn't. My co-worker's experience offers a good illustration. It's one thing to take an extended period of time off for maternity leave or to care for a seriously ill family member. In such cases, it makes sense to have a formal arrangement. My co-worker, on the other hand, was out for what? Three weeks? And he had to fill out all sorts of paperwork and was lectured soundly by HR about the implications of taking the time off. I have to admit that I don't get it. Being out for three weeks is not the same thing as being out for three months - especially when the person taking the time already has the time available to him/her as accrued sick and vacation time. It would have been easier for him just to say that he was taking a three week vacation!

Posted by: Murphy | July 5, 2007 12:50 PM

I am an employer and have had to have conversations with employees about vacations and vacation time. One young woman had a horrible string of bad luck. She got sick and was out for a few days. Her mother in law was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a few weeks later. She took all kids of time off to deal with her mother in law's illness and then clean out the home etc. Then she came into my office and said, "when I go on vacation next month . . . " I said Sally, you used all of your leave. You have no more leave for your beach trip. She said "But I already put money down on a place at the beach. You did not tell me I could not do both." I explained that 3 weeks of leave meant 3 weeks of leave. She was flabergasted that she could not take off whenever she wanted.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:51 PM

"The 1992 Directive sets out certain employment rights for pregnant women: they could not be dismissed for pregnancy-related reasons or forced to work nights if this will damage their health. They have the right to up to 14 weeks maternity leave, during which time they must either be paid or receive an adequate allowance.

Nonetheless, some EU countries offer as much as 28 weeks, require employees to take a greater percentage of leave than they might want to take, there are variations in the percentage of earnings that are paid."

----------------------------------

MN, i think your numbers are out of date on how much maternity leave is available in EU counties. After 1st April 2007, the rules changed. All female employees will be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave. 39 weeks of this leave is paid, with the first six weeks paid at 90% of full pay and the remainder at a fixed rate. but in some countries it is even more generous. In Sweden, where all working parents are entitled to 16 months' paid leave per child, the cost being shared between employer and State.
The system in Bulgaria is even more generous, providing mothers with 45 days 100% paid sick leave prior the due date, 2 years paid leave, and 1 additional year of unpaid leave. The employer is obliged to restore the mother to the same position upon return to work. In addition, pregnant women and single mothers cannot be fired.


By comparision, Canada provides
PARENTAL leave-- 35 weeks divided between the two parents, which can be expanded to a year. In Canada parental leave is paid for by the Employment Insurance system. I much prefer this system to the EU system.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 12:54 PM

Why don't all the "greed is good" folks who worship at the throne of laissez-faire capitalism ever lament corporate welfare? Where's DCer on this one?

I'm guessing DCer is out telling everyone that they can afford $200/month for a cleaning service, if only they would try a little harder. No one is living THAT close to the financial precipice, we're just lying about our finances.

*opens wallet, peers sadly at the moth that flew out*

Posted by: to Single Western Mom | July 5, 2007 12:59 PM

12:54 - I'm taking my info from EU government websites. My published books in my office are too old to pass on, and this topic is outside my practice area. Thanks for the correction.

Posted by: MN | July 5, 2007 12:59 PM

Miles, You think his employer should take it on the chin for his kidney-failure AND his trip to the beach?

That's nuts, but it's consistent with your devaluing of CEO expertise, too. You are quite naive.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:42 PM

You must be a CEO. Yeah I'll devalue CEOs when they make hundreds of millions in salary, more millions in stock packages, AND get millions in severance. There are many instances of these individuals who've in recent times made their company worse off (both company AND share holders) in 1-2 years, then fired. Maybe if they promoted from within for less money, and put some of that million back into company profit they'd be doing a bit better.

And yes, after he was out 3 weeks in the hospital, I thought it was a bit unfair he has to come back to work, 40+ hours a week and work like a dog in order to accrue the sick/vacation he'll need just for doctor appointments while he's on dialysis and waiting list for a new kidney. But I guess by your perspective his 3 weeks of coming very close to death and laying in a hospital bed was actually his "vacation", I had no idea!

And why do you think CEOs get paid the big bucks? It's not cause they have awesome skills, or great track records, it's because it keeps line men/women like you and me in our places. We think "hm, maybe if I work hard, one day I will make a lot of money too." So who's naive now.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 1:00 PM

Mr. Reid:
- From where are the funds coming?
-Have you assessed the career plateau effect on males as it has been measured for women?

Posted by: J Joyce | July 5, 2007 1:01 PM

Sorry that was me at 12:54.

and I should say that althoguh I prefer Canada's system over EU's, I still wouldn't expend too much of my time advocating for a similar set-up in US. canada is doing it because they have a problem with low population-- it's been that way in Canada for awhile. US doesn't have this problem, but it's got a whole lot of other problems that I find more serious than lack of paid parental leave.

Posted by: jen S. | July 5, 2007 1:02 PM

That's why that boy who had Medicaid died from a cavity recently. Well done gov't - ensuring services to the most vulnerable.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:16 PM

Where was the private sector? They would never have helped him.

__________________________________
If you have gov't based health insurance with super low reimbursement then you will ensure that the best doctors and treatments, not to mention timely treatment will only be available to the super rich.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:02 PM

A-Rod is worth every penny, right?

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:49 PM

He is worth what he's paid to the Yankees if he helps them win. Winning sells lots of branded gear, fills seats, and makes the value of those tv contracts soar. In essence, he keeps everyone in the Yankees organization, and in related organizations from street vendors around the stadium, to children in Indonesia producing jerseys with the Yankees emblem sewn on, employed. If he stops producing, he is on the street.

If the Yankees could pay him less, or find another player to give the same performance for less, they would. What other system of pay makes sense to you?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:03 PM

I have no idea what kind of pension you are talking about. I worked for a company for more than five years. I am under age 40. I left and they sent a letter outlining the exact monthly pension amount I will receive when I turn 62. If I live to be at least 62, I know exactly how much I will get from age 62 until I die. I did not and wont work there for like 25 or 30 years. All pensions are not like "police" pensions.

Posted by: Megans Neighbor | July 5, 2007 1:05 PM

"And yes, after he was out 3 weeks in the hospital, I thought it was a bit unfair he has to come back to work, 40+ hours a week and work like a dog in order to accrue the sick/vacation . . ."
Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 01:00 PM

I agree that it is unfair. But there are a lot of unfair things that happend to people. It is called life.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:07 PM

And why do you think CEOs get paid the big bucks? It's not cause they have awesome skills, or great track records, it's because it keeps line men/women like you and me in our places. We think "hm, maybe if I work hard, one day I will make a lot of money too." So who's naive now.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 01:00 PM

Yup, it's all about you, Miles, and the Man keeping you down. You keep on thinking that because then there will be one less person for some ambitious woman or man to compete with for her next promotion.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:08 PM

"If you have gov't based health insurance with super low reimbursement then you will ensure that the best doctors and treatments, not to mention timely treatment will only be available to the super rich."

Maybe the reimbursement is only super low when compared to overinflated charges. $5 aspirin anyone?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:09 PM

I have no idea what kind of pension you are talking about. I worked for a company for more than five years. I am under age 40. I left and they sent a letter outlining the exact monthly pension amount I will receive when I turn 62. If I live to be at least 62, I know exactly how much I will get from age 62 until I die. I did not and wont work there for like 25 or 30 years. All pensions are not like "police" pensions.

Posted by: Megans Neighbor | July 5, 2007 01:05 PM

huh?? I didn't post this. Does someone else want the name?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 1:10 PM

And why do you think CEOs get paid the big bucks? It's not cause they have awesome skills, or great track records, it's because it keeps line men/women like you and me in our places. We think "hm, maybe if I work hard, one day I will make a lot of money too." So who's naive now.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 01:00 PM

Yup, it's all about you, Miles, and the Man keeping you down. You keep on thinking that because then there will be one less person for some ambitious woman or man to compete with for her next promotion.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 01:08 PM

So sayeth brave anonymous who is too cowardly even to use an internet moniker. You worship the CEOs all you want. You keep your big dream that maybe some day they'll pay you just a little more and give you a little promotion. You read your Fortune and Money magazines, invest what little money you have, and keep thinking about your brilliant American dream. Just hope nothing ever happens to your family, or your health insurance, or you aren't fired, or that you don't get sick and are able to keep working like a dog for these people you worship and trust to look out for your best interests. Good luck hope it works out for you.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 1:13 PM

Miles, really, if you don't like it, get out. Do something else. Start your own company. In the US - you can be/do whatever (legal) thing you'd like.

There's no one way to do stuff. Start with investing small amounts, it adds up, trust me. Live on 75% of your salary - or less. It's the attitude keeping you down, nothing else.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 1:15 PM

Miles,

What do you do (your job)? Just curious

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 1:16 PM

"Why don't all the "greed is good" folks who worship at the throne of laissez-faire capitalism ever lament corporate welfare?"

They do. They opposed the bail-outs of those in the airline and car industries every time. Sometimes you don't hear what people say once you decide they aren't part of the righteous left.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:16 PM

I think corporate welfare is the WORST. Just stop giving them money. Make things more transparent. Make corporations NOT PAY TAXES. Cause they don't - by the way.

It's either consumers, shareholders or employees paying that money (if they didn't 'pay' taxes, those people would get more money...).

Then things would be way more transparent and there'd be no companies lobbying in DC - they'd be focusing on their business and not taxes...

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:18 PM

("What a bunch of hooey to assume that someone who got further worked harder. Many people work extremely hard, but there's only so much room at the top."

Truly, this is one of the most defeatist statements I've ever seen.)

Not a defeatist statement - a realistic statement. Multiple applicants for a position, but only one person is selected. Do you think that the person selected worked harder than every other applicant? If you haven't gotten a job you applied for, did you believe it was because you hadn't worked hard enough? Hard work is only one aspect of the path to success. Sometimes who you know matters more than what you know.

Forget the part about only so much room at the top. The hardest working person may not have the necessary skills and abilities to go further. The company bookkeeper might be the hardest working person in the company, but will not rise to manager of the bookkeeping department without managing skills.

Posted by: to WorkingMomX | July 5, 2007 1:21 PM

You worship the CEOs all you want. You keep your big dream that maybe some day they'll pay you just a little more and give you a little promotion. You read your Fortune and Money magazines, invest what little money you have, and keep thinking about your brilliant American dream. Just hope nothing ever happens to your family, or your health insurance, or you aren't fired, or that you don't get sick and are able to keep working like a dog for these people you worship and trust to look out for your best interests. Good luck hope it works out for you.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 01:13 PM

Miles,

Step away from the ledge.

I'm not a CEO and never will be.

I worship no one.

I've been fired, downsized, uninsured, and have had family members experience the same.

What I am not is naive. The CEOs are men and women like the rest of us. Some are great at turn-arounds. Some are visionary. Some are as useless as George W. running a baseball team. Demonizing them isn't a credible start to any public policy argument.

What I do is support my family in the best way I can by understanding global market forces and putting aside reactionary college class thinking. Try it some time. You might find it works better for you than a pity party.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:21 PM

"In the US - you can be/do whatever (legal) thing you'd like."

bwahahahahahahaha!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:25 PM

Miles, really, if you don't like it, get out. Do something else. Start your own company. In the US - you can be/do whatever (legal) thing you'd like.

There's no one way to do stuff. Start with investing small amounts, it adds up, trust me. Live on 75% of your salary - or less. It's the attitude keeping you down, nothing else.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 01:15 PM

Pollyanna has arrived. Where's that red carpet?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:31 PM

"In the US - you can be/do whatever (legal) thing you'd like."

atlmom, do you really believe this, or are you being provocative?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 1:33 PM

Re: A-Rod (and other athletes) being worth the money: it's NOT because they help the team win; it's because they help the team make money.

Generally, the public equates winning with making more money, but that's not always the case. Consider the Washington Redskins - since Dan Snyder took over, they've become arguably the most profitable and most valuable professional sports team, and they've won what?

A-Rod is worth the money to the Yankees IF they make enough money because he's there to pay his salary and benefits and have some left over for profit. If they sell enough A-Rod jerseys, and get enough extra people in the seats to see him, etc. then he's worth while.

And yes, some of it is directly connected to winning, because in general more fans will come out to the game and spend more money to support a winning team than a losing one, but that's not the only factor.

This analysis assumes a rational boss whose goal is to make a certain amount of money. If the owner is willing to lose many millions in order to have the ego trip of owning a championship team and get himself on TV, the equation changes.

Posted by: Army Brat | July 5, 2007 1:35 PM

"In the US - you can be/do whatever (legal) thing you'd like."

I'd like to be an ingenue actress.

Posted by: Granny | July 5, 2007 1:37 PM

Why don't all the "greed is good" folks who worship at the throne of laissez-faire capitalism ever lament corporate welfare?"

They do. They opposed the bail-outs of those in the airline and car industries every time. Sometimes you don't hear what people say once you decide they aren't part of the righteous left.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 01:16 PM

Uh, you are making an assumption that only the righteous left shakes theirs heads colectively at corporate bailouts. Taxpayers on both sides of the aisle feel the pain. But the greed is good folks lobby for de-regulation and the greedy raiders stick the taxpayers with the failed results of their policies.

Those CEOs holding their hands out for the government to bailout their messes are generally fiscal conservatives (who do you suppose were the beneficiaries of the S&L scandals that resulted in a tax-payer bailout of $500 billion...the self righteous left or the greedy conservatives?).

BTW: I am a registered independent; I vote candidate by candidate and issue by issue. I sit to the left on some issues, and I sit to the right on others. I am no one's sheep and will call out hypocrisy on either side.

Posted by: single western mom | July 5, 2007 1:44 PM

*off-topic alert*

Excuse me everyone!

Educmom, I posted re: ironing on the Tuesday blog.

*exits, stage left*

Posted by: Maryland Mother | July 5, 2007 1:45 PM

I wanted to be a ballerina, but Scott wouldn't let me.

Posted by: Zelda | July 5, 2007 1:47 PM

They do. They opposed the bail-outs of those in the airline and car industries every time. Sometimes you don't hear what people say once you decide they aren't part of the righteous left.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 01:16 PM

"Uh, you are making an assumption that only the righteous left shakes theirs heads colectively at corporate bailouts. "

uh, you are wrong. I said what I meant. Most of the right opposes corporate bailouts, too. The righteous left ignores the comments of those on the right who oppose corporate bailouts.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 1:49 PM

12:31 has it exactly right. CEO pay is yet another collusion racket. There are a PRECIOUS FEW CEOs whose name alone would bounce the stock price up. If you hire Gerstner, Gates, Welsh, Fiorina etc., yes your price will bounce on that news. But if you hire any of a million second tier candidates (in terms of fame, not talent) that name itself impacts the stock price very little.

For another perspective, check out what Google's execs have done with their compensation: http://money.cnn.com/2006/03/31/technology/google/index.htm

One. Dollar.

THey get most of their pay in stock, which DOES incent them to act in the best interests of their company, to INDIRECTLY benefit themselves. That's a smart way to execute.

Now by contrast look at Exxon Mobil: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=1841989

You tell ME which executives have the company's best interests at heart...

Posted by: Random Guy | July 5, 2007 1:49 PM

I want to be an incredibly successful and famous property developer with a comb-over, but I don't have the option of joining my daddy's business or having him pay to send me to Wharton.

Guess I can still have the comb-over.


Posted by: son of a janitor | July 5, 2007 1:51 PM

What I am not is naive. The CEOs are men and women like the rest of us. Some are great at turn-arounds. Some are visionary. Some are as useless as George W. running a baseball team. Demonizing them isn't a credible start to any public policy argument.

What I do is support my family in the best way I can by understanding global market forces and putting aside reactionary college class thinking. Try it some time. You might find it works better for you than a pity party.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 01:21 PM

I didn't know having a conversation about CEO pay was "demonizing" them. I'm sorry you're right, this is a "capitalist" country which means their earning millions to drag companies into the dirt is patriotic and I should just shut my yap. I thought I still had first amendment rights protecting my opinion that some CEOs are paid waaaaay too much.

I'd have a pity party, but I really can't sacrifice the leave to take it.

To Samantha - I'm a secretary, not that I'm sure that makes much of a difference in my opinion, but I suppose if I were an upper level manager I'd be too rich to have these kinds of opinions :)

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 1:56 PM

Thanks Miles -- I am not sure what it has to do with your opinion either -- I was just curious! Do you have a tyranical boss?

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 1:59 PM

Maybe the reimbursement is only super low when compared to overinflated charges. $5 aspirin anyone?


____________________________
Medicare and Medicaid generally reimburse physicians at about $10 for an office visit. Who wants to be an MD for that? On top of that, they do not pay for no-shows which is a significant problem with the Medicaid pop. Why would a MD fill their schedule with Medicaid patients only to have 50% show up and get paid $10 for those that do show?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:00 PM

"I thought I still had first amendment rights protecting my opinion that some CEOs are paid waaaaay too much."

The only relevance the First Amendment has to your opinion is that it prohibit Congress from making a law abridging your freedom to open your mouth and remove all doubt that you are an idiot. Your opinion is not protected by any law.

Support for your opinion might make your argument more persuasive.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:01 PM

Poll time:

How much should a lawyer make in DC?
How much should a secretary make in DC?
How much should the President of the US make? (not just Bush but all of them)
How much should the CEO of Exxon make?
How much should a plumber make?

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 2:03 PM

Actually he is very smart and very not involved in my work (for better or for worse). I don't know how much the execs at my company make (including him) as we are private so that information doesn't have to be disclosed. I suspect it is astronomically high, but not in the millions as the private owners would likely want to pocket as much of the profits as they could. We have good benefits, I'm very lucky, I'm probably paid less than I'm worth but aknowledge that is my fault and as I am trying to transition careers now am willing to wait out the pay. I don't think I could work for a company where I didn't respect the owners and executives for what they do and what they earn. My cynicism does not come from personal experience in that regard.

Posted by: Miles | July 5, 2007 2:04 PM

A-Rod is worth every penny, right?

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:49 PM

He is worth what he's paid to the Yankees if he helps them win. Winning sells lots of branded gear, fills seats, and makes the value of those tv contracts soar. In essence, he keeps everyone in the Yankees organization, and in related organizations from street vendors around the stadium, to children in Indonesia producing jerseys with the Yankees emblem sewn on, employed. If he stops producing, he is on the street.

If the Yankees could pay him less, or find another player to give the same performance for less, they would. What other system of pay makes sense to you?

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 01:03 PM
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ooh, a topic close to my heart!

First of all A-Rod has a guaranteed contract, as do all baseball players. The Yankees cannot "pay him less" unless he violates the contract (see: Giambi, Jeremy, steroids, cheater, congressional subpoena, why am I not suspended?) If he stops producing, you still have to pay him.

Second, sports is not always about winning. Often in big cities it is about word-of-mouth, which also sells tickets and other stuff (see: Clippers, Los Angeles and Wizards, Washington). Smart owners know how to make money on even a losing team (see: Snyder, Daniel).

In theory, Barry Bonds is worth tons to San Fran., because people buy tickets to boo him when his team comes to their town. Baseball teams get half the gate on road games.

You cannot compare guaranteed sports contracts to CEO compensation.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 2:05 PM

How much should a CEO make if the firm loses money under his or her chairmanship?

Posted by: To Samantha | July 5, 2007 2:05 PM

M N: I really believe it. Really.

There are a zillion ways to success. And everyone's definition is different (some equate with money, others with charity work, others in other ways).

Of course one must be realistic-realizing just because you work hard doesn't mean you can be a ballerina (since there are things out of your control for that-like height, body type, etc). A cousin of mine wants to be an actor, he's over 60, he takes classes, gets parts, but he's doing what he wants. Would he *like* to be a movie star? I guess so. But that means someone else is making the decisions. He can only control so much-ie, what he does.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 2:06 PM

How much should a CEO make if the firm loses money under his or her chairmanship?

Nothing, and he should have to run the laid-off employee gauntlet.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:08 PM

**********
That's why that boy who had Medicaid died from a cavity recently. Well done gov't - ensuring services to the most vulnerable.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 12:16 PM

Where was the private sector? They would never have helped him.

__________________________________
If you have gov't based health insurance with super low reimbursement then you will ensure that the best doctors and treatments, not to mention timely treatment will only be available to the super rich.
**********

Well, this is not exactly true, but more true than not. In our area (Twin Cities), many of the spots at HCMC (the only public hospital) are seen as prestigious, or challenging, or offer some intellectual or social benefit. Many of the doctors with whom my husband went to medical school find the idea of working at HCMC to be extremely appealing. HCMC is subsidized by the taxpayers of Hennepin County (Minneapolis) and loses a ton of money (maybe $50 million? not sure) each year. The doctors are county employees.

Most of the doctors with whom my husband works spend some time doing pro bono or charity care - not a ton of time, but a day or two a month. In his field you can see upwards of 50 patients a day/person. These doctors all have families, spouses with careers, dogs, houses with yards, hobbies, and other various time-sucks that compete with their worklife. My husband gets 6 weeks of vacation per year, two of which he uses on foreign medical missions. Those serve dual purposes by the way - sure, he helps treat patients who might never be cured without his intervention, but he also learns about diseases that are seen rarely in the US and how those diseases can be treated. I think one of his proudest days in medicine was when he was consulted on a patient, a refugee from Somalia, who had a disease that had progressed far beyond what any doctor in the US had seen (American facilities generally catch these diseases earlier for myriad reasons). He remembered a technique that he had used on a mission trip and was able to prolong this patient's life.

Lastly, my experience is colored by the fact that my parents and their friends are all immigrants to the United States. They came here with an education but very little cash. Many of them are doctors who did residencies in the US. In our home country, you start families as soon as you get married, and women are not traditionally educated, so a lot of these folks came over with broods and struggled to make ends meet. I had three aunts who had children whose births were covered by Medicaid (not fancy Medicare). One aunt is a cardiac surgeon, one is an oncologist, and the last is a colo-rectal surgeon. Each of them found the treatment they received as Medicaid patients in the early to be extremely humiliating and degrading (these were in different areas of the country, not one hospital that was an aberration). Each of them has an official office policy - if you can't afford it, they will treat you free of charge. They cover the costs of their staffs. They cover the cost of your chemo and your lab work. Each of these women makes over $400K/year. I am certain they could make more should they desire. Not all doctors are interested in making money. Then again, I have an uncle who is an anesthesiologist who makes about $1 million a year, works 20 hours a week, and complains about how much he gives to the US without getting anything back. So it definitely varies.

One other thing - much of the reason why younger doctors, in particular, may seem more money-conscious is because of the cost of medical school. My husband went to a PUBLIC medical school and graduated with over $100K in student loan debt - imagine what a private university is like. In countries like France, England, etc., the salary differential between specialists and primary care docs is relatively equalized. My husband thought seriously about being a pediatrician but the Twin Cities market (where we moved as tiny children and where our families are) doesn't pay pediatricians extremely high salaries - about $80K to $120K -- to be sure, a lot of money, but not if you have $100K in student loan debt. He chose to pursue a specialty that he wasn't as fond of initial (though he loves it now) because initial salaries are more like $150K -- enough so that he can aggressively pay down debt. Unless you reduce the cost of medical school (view it as a "social good") you'll end up with more doctors chasing money.

Posted by: Regular but anon today | July 5, 2007 2:09 PM

Correction: s/he should have to run a gauntlet consisting of the employees who were laid off.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:09 PM

"In the US - you can be/do whatever (legal) thing you'd like."
atlmom, do you really believe this, or are you being provocative?"

MN,
I know this question was not put to me, but here's my 2 cents. I believe that in the US, with the right attitude, education, work ethic, and a little bit of luck, people can achieve their goals. And I realize that there are plenty of people stuck in less than ideal circumstances, but I think that being stuck like that often has as much to do with people unintentionally holding themselves back or sabotaging themselves as with life denying them the right chances. I'm not saying that I could ever be Donald Trump (not that I would want to anyway), but I do feel like my life, to a large degree, is under my control. Of course bad things could happen, including illness or job loss or some other obstacle, but I still feel like I would be able to weather the storm and ride it out, or if not, that at least my family would be secure in my absence. The US does provide huge opportunities for people to work, to study, and to progress in life. I was not born wealthy, but thanks to an education and hard work, I have come to a place in my life where I am comfortable and secure. Yes, there was some luck involved, but there was also some hard work, and we did overcome some hardships on the way.

I don't minimize circumstances where people can't seem to break out of a slump. I was lucky that I was not raised in a drug addicted, abusive household, and that my family always taught me to be optimistic and keep on trying. I can't imagine how hard it must be for people who cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel, or who have been conditioned to always expect the worse. But I do believe in the power of positive thinking, and I do think that the way you think has a great impact on the way your life turns out. So within reason, I do believe that in this country, if you are determined to get ahead and can think up a plan to do so, that you can achieve it.


Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 2:09 PM

How much should a CEO make if the firm loses money under his or her chairmanship?

Posted by: To Samantha | July 5, 2007 02:05 PM

Well, when you hire him or her, you enter into a contract as to how much that person should get paid. If the person fails to meet their objectives, ie., loses money, that person should be fired. So to answer your question, they should not be paid anything - -they should be fired.

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 2:11 PM

Proud Papa: that would "Giambi, Jason", not Jeremy. Jeremy is the "little" brother - much littler since Jason's use of whatever it was he apologized for using. :-)

Posted by: Army Brat | July 5, 2007 2:13 PM

Miles wrote that his cynicism doesn't come from personal experience. So he must have enough imagination to empathize with those less fortunate. Too bad that seems to be a rare trait!

Posted by: rebelsfan | July 5, 2007 2:14 PM

And what will the movie [of Sex & the City] focus on? Carrie's life with Big in Connecticut -- three kids and a parenting column?

Posted by: From Liz Kelly's 2 PM chat | July 5, 2007 2:15 PM

So to answer your question, they should not be paid anything - -they should be fired.

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 02:11 PM

Would that you were right. Too often they just get a raise from their CEO-type cronies on the board.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:17 PM

Army Brat, you are absolutely right. With all that GHB, Jason Giambi's head is so swollen and distorted I keep mistaking him for other people. ;-)

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 2:19 PM

So to answer your question, they should not be paid anything - -they should be fired.

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 02:11 PM

Would that you were right. Too often they just get a raise from their CEO-type cronies on the board.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 02:17 PM

I bet the "fired" CEO sits on their boards, so of course they give one another raises and praise.

It's not crony-type, it is cronyism.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:20 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez wasn't in the starting lineup because of a strained left hamstring Thursday

Ahhh but he still gets paid the big bucks -- he has no worries about how he is going to meet his $15,000 a month mortgage etc. :)

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:21 PM

How much should a lawyer make in DC? Too simple a question. But I'll round it out to 250K

How much should a secretary make in DC?
again, just an answering the phone kind or a do- everything -under- the -sun -to -make -the -office -run kind?

Answering phones: 40K
assistants: start at 65K

How much should the President of the US make? (not just Bush but all of them)
500K (BUT - I also think that that supremely rich should opt out of their salary, a la Arnold)

How much should the CEO of Exxon make?
Ugh, that's a tough one.
I'd rather first see whether all other employees are compensated well and then we can deal with CEO pay. That's true for ALL businesses and industries. A janitor should not make $8/hour when the CEO is making 1 billion dollars.

How much should a plumber make?

50K

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 02:03 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:25 PM

Maryland Mother,
I read your Tuesday post. I'm guessing your mom was either pushed to iron like mad, because her mom grew up ironing, and she rebelled, or your granny rebelled once she left home and never really ironed.

And I don't get how anyone irons a bra either. Maybe that's because as time goes on, my bras are less like lingere and more like body armor.

Do you own real linen sheets? I bought a set several years ago. At first, I ironed them (it was toward the end of the SAHM time). Then, I only ironed the pillowcases. Then I stopped ironing them altogether. Last year, I decided I missed sleeping on sheets that had hung out to dry, so I began hanging out all my sheets when I washed them. Well, when you hang linen sheets, they're crisp, like they had been ironed, and they smell fresh too.


I would love to be a CEO myself (was it atlmom who mentioned that she had an open offer? me too). I'd work for two years, at 1/4 whatever the previous guy made. I'm really good at saying NO. I already spend my days telling people what they don't want to hear, diffusing tantrums, motivating workers to work on their own time, and making my presentations interesting.

Truth is, I think most of those guys who run companies are just salesmen with math skills. How else would they get bords to approve those obscene pay packages and perks?

As for highly-paid professional athletes, actors and musical performers, I don't care what they make. I can choose whether or not to subsidize their salaries by choosing where to spend my money. BTW, I channel-surf during every single commercial break, radio or TV...because I can!

Posted by: educmom | July 5, 2007 2:27 PM

"How much should a plumber make?

50K"

I actually think that if a receptionist should make 40K, a plumber, who is actually skilled in a trade, should make a whole lot more. And I think that some plumbers actually make a lot of money. My neighbor is a self-employed plumber. I don't know how much he makes, but he appears to be living quite comfortably (nice house, nice cars, vacation home, boat).

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 2:29 PM

How much should the CEO of Exxon make?
Ugh, that's a tough one.
I'd rather first see whether all other employees are compensated well and then we can deal with CEO pay. That's true for ALL businesses and industries. A janitor should not make $8/hour when the CEO is making 1 billion dollars.
Posted by: | July 5, 2007 02:25 PM

So the CEO's salary is dependant on the janitor's salary? So if the janitor is making $30 an hour, its okay for the CEO to make $50 million?

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 2:29 PM

No, no. My grandmother ironed daily. My mother ironed more regularly when I was growing up than she does now. She'll iron something if she feels it got too wrinkly, but she's not nearly so gung-ho about it.

I like hanging the sheets/clothes out to dry in order to $ave money, but I do like to throw them in the dryer for 5 minutes or so to make them a little softer.

Of course, I'm THRILLED that we are getting some desperately-needed rain around here. I was worrying that if I tried to mow the pastures (to keep the height down), I might set them on fire. I'm not saying it would happen, but it could. All it takes is hitting a rock with that bushhog blade.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | July 5, 2007 2:33 PM

__________
So the CEO's salary is dependant on the janitor's salary? So if the janitor is making $30 an hour, its okay for the CEO to make $50 million?
__________

I'm pretty sure there are companies that work like that...like Whole Foods. CEO salaries have greatly outpaced worker salaries. Not sure of the exact numbers, but something on the order of 10:1 30 years ago and 30:1 now. My numbers could be wildly off.

_____________
"How much should a plumber make?

50K"
_____________

Spoken like someone who has never had a leak or a flood! Our plumber makes a really decent living (he and his SAHM wife and kids live down the street) and houses in our neighborhood go for around $500K. I'd assume he's pulling in at least $100K.

Posted by: Greentree | July 5, 2007 2:35 PM

So within reason, I do believe that in this country, if you are determined to get ahead and can think up a plan to do so, that you can achieve it.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 02:09 PM

Here's my problem with "you can be whatever you want to be" , Emily and atlmom, and I'm going to ignore barriers like institutional racism, redlining and other bank lending policies, etc. for a day and focus on something else for a change, LOL.

Remember that monster.com ad where the kids spoke of their dreams, e.g., "I want to be a mid-level paper pusher" and we all laughed? The flip-side is that we have raised an entire generation of Xers and Yers with this, you can be whatever you want to be mantra. As a result, we have lots of determined average kids who have goals of owning their own companies, being doctors, quarterbacks, and the like. No one wants to be a waiter. No one is okay with being the third-shift supervisor. It's going to work out for a few of those kids, but the rest will be disillusioned because failure means they weren't determined enough, consistent with the sacred mantra.

There was a time when people were somewhat realistic about their personal and financial goals. If they were happy, successful mechanics in their dads' garages and liked their respective spouses and kids, they thought they had a good life. They didn't expect to be Senior VP. They didn't expect to be the Redskins' QB. Currently, many individuals expectations are so through the roof - and bear no relationship to geography(I live in New Mexico, don't want to move near a top training facility, can't afford a trainer, but I am determined to be an Olympic snowboard champion), capability (I flunked high school biology but I am determined to be a cardiothoracic surgeon), connections (I am determined to be president, but know no one with any money, have little charisma, don't care about public policy, am not a veteran and I have a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University where I earned a 2.1 GPA), or willingness to give 100+% to anything. On top of it all, many of them want balance. They don't seem to connect success in any given field with a willingness to take on new tasks or do a little extra work, or defer vacations. They are disappointed if they aren't promoted rapidly. They are discontented when they turn 45 and realize their determination didn't result in the realization of their dreams.

While determination is enough for some people, determination isn't enough for most people. Their lack of connections excludes them from some entry level jobs that are available to others. Here's an easy example: I can want to be, and be as determined to be, a judge as possible. It's not going to happen. My determination doesn't matter a jot because of the way judges are nominated and/or elected. I'm not willing to move somewhere else or make the donations to political parties that might make a difference. And anyway, if all you talk about is determination, I shouldn't have to do those things, should I? Having said that, I'm sure there's more than one law school student out there who thinks determination is the key. Poor kid.

Sure, the American Dream still happens to some, but it's not equally available to everyone, and it's available only rarely without significant personal sacrifice in other areas. Think of all the Olympic hopefuls who give up their childhood and teenage years only to not even make the team. They can't get those years back. They weren't talented enough at that time. Can we not get back to some semblance of reality when we talk about opportunity and how much determination matters, and how much other attributes matter, like talent and ability and/or family money and support? I'm not trying to start a flame war, I'm interested in what both of you have to think and trust it won't start with an argument about who's more patriotic.

I'm not discussing whether anyone is holding anyone else back. Sometimes some of us don't have the talent, ability or connections to succeed and we need to work a little harder at being realistic with our ambitions and dreams. Normalcy, rather than excellence, need to start being okay again.

Posted by: MN | July 5, 2007 2:36 PM

Off-topic, but - I was in the seats at Safeco Park in Seattle when A-Rod played his first game back there after signing that $252 million dollar contract with the Texas Rangers. (May of 2001 or maybe early June; I'd have to check the exact date.)

When A-Rod left the Mariners, he said he did it not for the money, but for the chance to play in the World Series. He felt that Texas had a much better chance of advancing in the postseason than Seattle.

So, after making a big deal about how it wasn't about money, he came back to Seattle - and was showered with Monopoly money every time he came to bat. It was great - it took me a minute to figure out what all that paper flying around the stadium was, but once I did I realized the beauty of it.

(Baseball nuts will note that 2001 was the year Seattle won 116 games, and Texas finished last - they were almost eliminated from the postseason by July 4. So either A-Rod went for the money, or he had no clue about the relative skills of the two baseball teams. Or maybe both. :-)

Posted by: Army Brat | July 5, 2007 2:38 PM

__________
So the CEO's salary is dependant on the janitor's salary? So if the janitor is making $30 an hour, its okay for the CEO to make $50 million?
__________

I'm pretty sure there are companies that work like that...like Whole Foods. CEO salaries have greatly outpaced worker salaries. Not sure of the exact numbers, but something on the order of 10:1 30 years ago and 30:1 now. My numbers could be wildly off.

Posted by: Greentree | July 5, 2007 02:35 PM

That is interesting -- How does that work???? I would think that there would have to be a cap to everyone's salary -- otherwise taking it to the extreme, the janitor and CEO would make the same amount of money

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 2:40 PM

"I like hanging the sheets/clothes out to dry in order to $ave money, but I do like to throw them in the dryer for 5 minutes or so to make them a little softer"

I grew up in a household without a clothes dryer, so everything was hung on a line. We also didn't have a car, so going to the laundromat to use the dryers would require a taxi which we couldn't afford regularly. Hanging clothes to dry was my chore. There's nothing like the numbing sensation in your fingers from hanging wet clothes on a cold winter day, and hoping that things dry before the temperature drops enough for the clothes to freeze.

I will never again hang clothes to dry outside. If it requires a second job to afford a dryer, I will work a second job.

Success does mean many things. Never having to hang clothes is one measure.

Posted by: anon | July 5, 2007 2:40 PM

To Megan's Neighbor re her above post at 2:36: Well, I think you should be on the Supreme Court. You'd likely do a lot more, ahem, judicious job than some I could name!

Posted by: catlady | July 5, 2007 2:42 PM

"Normalcy, rather than excellence, need to start being okay again."

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut, after all!

I think it would help if more of us ignored the chattering classes who insist that there is only one measure of success. Hint: it doesn't involve how many hours of your child's homework you do, or how many honor roll bumper stickers you amass.

I'm happy everyday to realize that I have a roof over my head, food in the pantry, health insurance and a beat-to-death paid-off car. No one is chasing after me, trying to put my liver on a spit, or my head on a pike.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:43 PM

"How much should a plumber make?

50K"
___________________

My plumber joined the most exclusive country club around last year. (Seriously - he showed up one day having obviously gotten a lot of sun. I kidded him about doing a lot of work outdoors; he told me no, it's because he joined the country club and had been on the golf course every day since.)

I worked in a plumbing wholesale supply house in high school - it was obvious to me then that a good plumber makes a LOT of money.

Posted by: Army Brat | July 5, 2007 2:44 PM

If you think hanging clothes out to dry on a cold day is the worst task you'll ever have to face in life, you are seriously out of touch with reality. Seek psychiatric help. Now. Please.

Posted by: To anon at 2:40 | July 5, 2007 2:47 PM

MN - Great post.

What's that Ted Knight said in Caddyshack? "Well, [Danny] the world needs ditch diggers too" or something like that :-)

I'm not in favor of setting your expectations low, just make them reasonable.

I'm 5'11. My son should not start planning his NBA career. It's just not sensible. If he discovers a natural gift along the way that's another story. But thinking he can get there on desire isn't reasonable.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 2:48 PM

To anon at 2:40: I will never again hang clothes to dry outside. If it requires a second job to afford a dryer, I will work a second job.

_________________

What do you do about the clothes that don't go in the dryer because they'd shrink? Or does hanging clothes to dry on a line in the basement not count?

Posted by: Army Brat | July 5, 2007 2:53 PM

Honestly 2:47, did you read the entire post?

That is one person's measure of success, and not because hanging clothes out is a bad thing--but because of the symbolism and the memories of the circumstances.

For some people, it is knowing you will never eat black beans and rice, ever again. Or blood soup. Or not having at least $1 in your pocket. Everyone who has been flat broke or dirt-poor has something. I do. I bet you do too.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | July 5, 2007 2:53 PM

uh, you are wrong. I said what I meant. Most of the right opposes corporate bailouts, too. The righteous left ignores the comments of those on the right who oppose corporate bailouts.


Posted by: | July 5, 2007 01:49 PM

And would "Most of the right opposes corporate bailouts, too" be the same right wingers who voted for President Bush...whose brother was front and center in the Silverado S&L scandal? Who publicly supported Ken Lay and took his money as well?

Just how vigorously are "most" of the right opposing corporate bailouts?
I suppose they oppose corporate bailouts when it's saving jobs (particularly union jobs as in the sectors you mentioned), but not when it comes to regulating markets that are exploited for personal financial gain that becomes criminal (i.e., Enron, the S&L scandal...resulted from de-regulation).

Smells of hypocrisy to me either way. Let's see "most of the right" oppose this with political willpower rather than a few pundits tsk-tsking this on Sunday morning talk shows. We're getting ready to watch another financial collapse caused by predatory subprime mortgage lending that has gone unregulated (even on Friday, the federal agencies that regulate the banking industry issued "guidelines," not regulations).

And the taxpayers will be left holding the bag while greedy mortgage brokers laugh all the way to the bank. Do you suspect those mortgage brokers vote Democrat or Republican?

Posted by: single western mom | July 5, 2007 2:53 PM

"How much should a plumber make?

50K"
___________________

My plumber joined the most exclusive country club around last year. (Seriously - he showed up one day having obviously gotten a lot of sun. I kidded him about doing a lot of work outdoors; he told me no, it's because he joined the country club and had been on the golf course every day since.)

I worked in a plumbing wholesale supply house in high school - it was obvious to me then that a good plumber makes a LOT of money.

Posted by: Army Brat | July 5, 2007 02:44 PM

This is precisely my point. Under a theory of paying people what a person "should" make, the plumber gets short changed because others do not believe his services are valuable enough to pay him what he can make not under this system. I would venture to say that people dont think its "fair" to only pay a plumber $50K if he could make more. However, people want CEO's to make less because they "shouldn't" make that much.

Posted by: Samantha | July 5, 2007 2:55 PM

"If you think hanging clothes out to dry on a cold day is the worst task you'll ever have to face in life, you are seriously out of touch with reality. Seek psychiatric help. Now. Please."

Never said it was the worst task - only said that it was something I would never do again. Hanging clothes inside is Ok, although I tend to only buy things that can go in a dryer or are sent to the cleaners.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 2:59 PM

Where I live, it is against the covenants to hang clothes on a line outside. LOL.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:01 PM

Where I live, it is against the covenants to hang clothes on a line outside. LOL.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 03:01 PM

Restrictive covenants? Can't even hang your sheets for the Klan meeting out to dry?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:04 PM

"Sure, the American Dream still happens to some, but it's not equally available to everyone, and it's available only rarely without significant personal sacrifice in other areas."

MN, I agree with everything you said, and I think it all depends on how you define the American dream. For some people, it might mean being an astronaut or brain surgeon or Supreme Court judge. For me, it means having a job that is interesting and pays the bills, having a family, having friends, going to the beach in August, getting pizza delivered on Saturday nights. That sort of thing. That is why I said that within reason, people with a little determination and hard work can achieve their version of the dream. The dream isn't the same for everyone, and I think that rather than telling our kids that they can be anything they want to be and expecting them to become surgeons or rocket scientists, we should help them figure out what their particular talents are and find a way to make some money from them. For one kid, it might mean being a mechanic or a plumber, and for another, it might mean being a doctor. I live in a neighborhood where we have a wide mix of people who are incredibly diverse in terms of what they do. We have lawyers, government employess, a plumber, an electrician, some IT professionals, a couple of engineers, and a guy who has a landscaping business. Not all of them have the same level of education or come from the same background. But they took advantage of opportunities to achieve their dreams. And these dreams are all within the bounds of normalcy.

I always compare the opportunities available in the US to the lack of opportunities in other countries. For example, in South America, a peasant farmer can work for dawn until dusk every day of his adult life and still not have enough money to provide for his family adequately. The social stratification in those countries literally prevents people from progressing, even if they are smart and talented workers. If you were born poor, you will likely die poor, and your children can expect to be poor as well. I think the beauty of the US is that there are opportunities available to have a decent life, if people will only open their eyes and see them.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 3:04 PM

Educmom: I channel-surf during every single commercial break, radio or TV... because I can!

Posted by: nomination for quote of day | July 5, 2007 3:05 PM

Maybe plumbers and CEOs make more because of the enormous responsibility of their job. Fixing pipes may not be that hard, but if it isn't done properly the outcomes can be awful. Same for the CEO - e.g. Ken Lay.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:06 PM

For example, in South America, a peasant farmer can work for dawn until dusk every day of his adult life and still not have enough money to provide for his family adequately. The social stratification in those countries literally prevents people from progressing, even if they are smart and talented workers. If you were born poor, you will likely die poor, and your children can expect to be poor as well. I think the beauty of the US is that there are opportunities available to have a decent life

Which explains why they're willing to take the risk to enter the US illegally in order to work.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:09 PM

if (a job) isn't done properly the outcomes can be awful. Same for the CEO - e.g. Ken Lay.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 03:06 PM

His job was like plumbing too: hosing the employees and investors.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:10 PM

"Fixing pipes may not be that hard"

Maybe to you it's not hard, but I'd have to get a lot more than 50K to unclog pipes that are full of s***.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:15 PM

To MN (in response to your eloquent posting):

That's what I said a while ago (re: not everyone can be in charge) and I got SLAMMED about it. I said: hey, not everyone can zip around the world, we all need to learn that life is pretty boring - we get up, go to work, do what we have to do, go home, play with the kids, get up and do it again the next day. Not every day is zipping off to big parties/socials, going to music/soccer/whatever, traveling the world, some other activity. As adults we need to pay the bills. We need to get stuff done. A few people are lucky or smart or whatever enough to live 'exciting' lives, but most of us don't. Most of our lives are boring.

And as an example, I said: my sister looked for 'excitement.' It got her an abusive husband and a miserable life. But it's exciting. She never knows how her DH is going to react to any situation, so she's always on her toes. I guess she figured she would never be traveling the world, so this is how she's getting her excitement.

Me, I'd rather be boring with a DH who loves me and two boys who are pretty charming. We go along our lives, and we have our time together. That's enough for me.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 3:17 PM

"If you were born poor, you will likely die poor, and your children can expect to be poor as well."

This is true for many people in the U.S. as well - it's called the cycle of poverty.

Posted by: just sayin' | July 5, 2007 3:18 PM

Maybe to you it's not hard, but I'd have to get a lot more than 50K to unclog pipes that are full of s***.

-----------------------
precisely my point!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:19 PM

And as an example, I said: my sister looked for 'excitement.' It got her an abusive husband and a miserable life. But it's exciting. She never knows how her DH is going to react to any situation, so she's always on her toes. I guess she figured she would never be traveling the world, so this is how she's getting her excitement.

Me, I'd rather be boring with a DH who loves me and two boys who are pretty charming. We go along our lives, and we have our time together. That's enough for me.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 03:17 PM

Wow your sister's in an abusive relationship...and you apparently resent her for it. How dare you compare yourself to her as better off instead of helping her out. Your idea of the poor seems equal with your idea of people in abusive relationships. She's unlikely to just wake up and be able to pull herself out of it. Likely she depends on this man for her sustenance and likely he prevents all her ways of getting out. I hope you are more supportive and helpful to her then your post would lead us to believe.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:24 PM

Thanks, all --

and that plumber? In DC, at least, his services are worth significantly more than 50K if he's willing to work 5 - 6 days a week. He may, however, choose to find balance by working 3 days a week for 50K and taking his kids fishing or playing golf on the one of the several pretty good public courses in Fairfax County. Finding a good plumber in DC and its burbs is harder than finding a good secretary.

In the late 1990s when I left the area, good secretaries were making in the high 60Ks. I can only imagine what they make now, and with the attitudes of the people they support, they more than earn every stinkin' cent.

Posted by: MN | July 5, 2007 3:25 PM

Emily -- I have developed a great deal of respect for you through your posts in the months I've read this blog, so it is with some trepidation that I respectfully say that I think you have some middle-class blinders on when it comes to the notion of equal opportunity, the "American Dream," and the ability of people to rise up out of poverty in this country.

While I certainly wouldn't compare America's poor with the poor of any third-world country, the ability of an inner-city youth, or a young person growing up in the hills of Appalachia, or one living in a trailer on an Indian reservation, is worlds apart from what most people chatting on this blog have ever experienced.

For some of these families, the American dream means getting home from the grocery store without getting shot. Or that their emphysema isn't so bad that it prevents them from continuing to go down into that mine and make a meager living for the family. Or that you have enough money to buy rice for dinner, again.

The quality of public education for poverty-stricken urban and rural areas is nothing like what you and I enjoyed (and our children currently enjoy) and could not be called college-prep by any standard. For those in remote or rural areas, determination to do better in school means moving hundreds of miles to take summer school classes at a community college. Their opportunity to learn a trade is limited, especially in a rural area. They face a future of minimum wage employment at a dead-end job.

And if one happens to be a racial minority in addition to being poor, there are more roadblocks to overcome.

I agree that there is opportunity for some beyond the traditional 4-year Bachelor's degree in trades, entrepreneurship, and "hard work." However, don't underestimate the huge gap that exists between our children and the children in this country living in poverty, likely with only one parent who may or may not even have a high school diploma. The number of children who "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" out of such neighborhoods is shockingly small. And to say it's all a matter of attitude could be construed as insulting.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | July 5, 2007 3:30 PM

03:24 PM, atlmom does not deserve your criticism for her statements about her sister. She's written about her sister's choices in more detail on other occasions and shows no resentment, in this or other posts. She would help her sister out any time she asked. With adults, one can only be there until they decide to exit.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 3:33 PM

"This is true for many people in the U.S. as well - it's called the cycle of poverty."

I have to say that I find it a lot harder to feel sorry for the folks in the US who are stuck in this cycle. Maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture. I once knew a guy who was a single father of three kids. He was born in New England, and was incredibly smart and well read, but could not hold a job for more than a few months at a time. He could fix his own car, but looked down on going to trade school to be a mechanic. He was physically strong, but looked down on doing anything that required some heavy lifting. So he mooched off relatives and friends, one after another, working low-paying office temp jobs. But he blew his salary on cigarettes, McDonalds, and video games. Eventually his relatives cut him off, and then he bemoaned the fact that he was poor and had 3 kids, that opportunities were scarce, and that people discriminated against him because of his single dad status. All his problems were everyone else's fault, and he expected the world to cry with him.

I also know a woman who came from South America. She has no education beyond middle school. She has two daughters and cleans houses for a living. The father of the girls is not in the picture. This lady works her butt off, cleaning up to three houses a day. A couple of years ago, she bought a small house in Silver Spring which she keeps in impeccable order. Both her girls are in college. One of them just got out of MC and is starting at College Park. And I have never heard her complain, although I know she must be dead tired every night.

The cycle of poverty can be broken, especially in this country.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 3:38 PM

How are the single dad's three kids doing? Do you think they'll break the cycle of their father's behavior?

Posted by: To Emily | July 5, 2007 3:43 PM

It sounds as if the person you knew didn't come from poverty, but chose not to take advantage of opportunities. Vegas Mom very eloquently wrote of the situations I was referring to as being part of the cycle of poverty.

Posted by: to Emily | July 5, 2007 3:43 PM

To3:24

Yes, I have been as supportive as I can be, but short of calling child protective services, who would do nothing as the kids are fed and clothed and have a roof over their heads, there's not much more I *could* do. Countless people over the yrs (not just her sisters, who she apparently doesn't trust, but friends she has known for over 20 yrs) have tried to help her-she wants no help. We were all well aware, before she got married, who he was and what was going on-even my sister. She wanted to get married and have kids. She was 35. He wanted to marry her. That was all the prerequisite she needed. Nothing else mattered a bit. She said he was abusive and she would *change* him. I was young and naïve and stupid (listened to other sister).

But she thinks life is perfect? I need to accept there are things I cannot change in this world and it took a lot to get here, but here I am. What more, really, could I do? People make their choices in their lives and there's not much others can do. She also thinks that admitting a mistake would be worse than compounding said mistake day after day. So be it.

Resent her?. No I feel bad for her and her low self esteem-but I think she was selfish to have *3* kids with someone who is abusive. She wasn't thinking about the kids at all-yjust that*she*wanted the kids (yes,this is exactly how I grew up).

But do more? Short of kidnapping the kids, I'm not sure what I could do.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 3:44 PM

The cycle of poverty can be broken, especially in this country.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 03:38 PM

Tell it to the children living on Native American reservations, or in Compton, designated in 2006 as the fourth most dangerous city in the United States.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:45 PM

"She's written about her sister's choices in more detail on other occasions and shows no resentment, in this or other posts."

She has shown resentment that her sister hasn't taken her advice. She has come across several times as feeling superior to her sister.

I have known people who believe that their siblings could have "done better" in their choice of a mate and try to get the sibling to leave. Living a lifestyle you don't agree with doesn't automatically make it an abusive situation.

Posted by: anon for this | July 5, 2007 3:47 PM

The guy I knew came from a family that we would call the working poor. He worked in my office for a short time. From what he told us, he had lived in trailer homes his whole life, and his family had been homeless on and off. He just happened to be very smart, so he appeared more educated, but it did not seem to do him any good.

I have no idea how his kids will turn out. I am afraid that they will learn to be just like their dad, who is very much a drifter and a con artist. I do feel sad for the kids though.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 3:49 PM

Vegas Mom - I know your heart is in the right place. However I grew up one of the inner city youths to whom you were referring.

I can assure you that the American Dream always meant more to my friends and I than "getting home from the grocery store without getting shot."

Yes, violence was always a danger. But people in the inner city are mostly smart enough to dream bigger than not getting shot at. Even to us, the American Dream was about ~prosperity~, not just about drawing breath each day.

I do agree that we were further away from prosperity than some kid growing up in a distant, faceless suburb -- and that pulling ourselves up "by our bootstraps" is among the most idiotic, patronizing and patently insulting things to ever pass the lips of the wildly overrated St. Ronald Reagan.

Anyway this is a longer conversation. Obviously I'm one who believes that abolishing affirmative action removes targeted help to minorities while retaining all the institutional advantages of the upper class and the majority in some misguided (or patently dishonest) search for 'equality'.

Leave the dream as a dream. I disagree with atlmom about a lot of things, but I echo the sentiment that one should take one's natural strengths and gin that into an enjoyable and lucrative career.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 3:49 PM

To Emily: It is becoming less and less possible to escape poverty or achieve upward mobility economically in the US partly because of outsourcing and immigration. Real wages for most have stagnated, not increased. Many different studies have confirmed this.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:54 PM

Wow your sister's in an abusive relationship...and you apparently resent her for it. How dare you compare yourself to her as better off instead of helping her out. Your idea of the poor seems equal with your idea of people in abusive relationships. She's unlikely to just wake up and be able to pull herself out of it. Likely she depends on this man for her sustenance and likely he prevents all her ways of getting out. I hope you are more supportive and helpful to her then your post would lead us to believe.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 03:24 PM

well, anon for this, the above comment to which I responded suggests that atlmom isn't willing to provide sustenance to her sister, e.g., that her sister can't leave an abuser because her sister is unwilling to help. That's a particularly cruel comment to lodge against someone and has nothing to do with your suggestion, that, in fact, he's not abusive but is merely living an alternative or different lifestyle.

What I would suggest is that we exert some impulse control before we submit comments that accuse each other of cruelty, resentment, jealousy and all sorts of emotions that the initial posts don't justify. Ask questions? Sure. Challenge people's choices and the bases for their opinions? Check. Jump to conclusions on scant evidence? Pause, please. Just my two cents, but 3:24's anon comment struck me as over the line. Now someone else will say, Who made you Queen, yada, yada, yada.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 3:54 PM

vegas mom, have you ever heard of the term "white guilt?" I think you suffer from it.

This country has much to offer, but many have taken the road of least resistance and govt assistance and stay in poverty despite opportunity.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 3:58 PM

Thank you, M N.

And, some have said to me: well the kids are better of than most in this world as they have food and shelter (and, usually, clothing, altho my cheap BIL doesn't particularly like buying them clothes).

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 3:59 PM

Vegas Mom,
I see your point. I have never lived in the inner city and have no idea how that experience would color my view of life and its possibilities. Same for the reservation. But I see so many immigrants who come to this country who also lived in poverty and deprivation, and who manage to get ahead despite the obstacles they encountered. So I can't help but think that if they can do it, why can't the people who live here?

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 3:59 PM

To Emily: It is becoming less and less possible to escape poverty or achieve upward mobility economically in the US partly because of outsourcing and immigration. Real wages for most have stagnated, not increased. Many different studies have confirmed this.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 03:54 PM

Come again?? How has immigration made it less possible to achieve upward mobility in the US?

The Mexican and other Latino immigrants are taking jobs left unfilled by the denizens of the lower socio-economic classes, and the Pakistani and Indian immigrants are getting in on special visas in order to obtain which employers have to show they cannot fill the job with Americans (I know - don't laugh - I'm married to a techie). Neither group is standing in the way of anyone else's upward mobility. The biggest thing standing in the way of upward mobility is: (i) the vast disparity in performance of our best schools and our worst schools, in large part created by funding mechanisms based on personal property taxes, and (ii) the lingering legacy benefit available to tip the balance of admissions for many middle- and upper-class white children to the disadvantage of equally academically qualified first generation college attendees.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 4:05 PM

Maryland mother-- for me it's peanut butter snadwiches. As i child I had to eat those every night for dinner for months. Can't stand them now-- and it is not because i don't like the taste-- as you say, it's the memories it brings back.

Posted by: Jen s. | July 5, 2007 4:05 PM

Vegas Mom,

Some people just don't get it. The opportunities in this country aren't the same for everyone. Many people who escaped poverty had someone help them, be it a teacher or counselor or govt program that showed them how to obtain training and education. But many more dream of a different life and don't have a clue about taking the first step. I know people who thought a college scholarship was handed out to deserving people automatically. They had no idea that there was an application process. If the parents don't advise them, and teachers and guidance counselors don't advise them, they don't realize what opportunities exist. And not everyone has/had internet access or public library access to learn on their own.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:07 PM

" . . immigrants are getting in on special visas in order to obtain which employers have to show they cannot fill the job with Americans."

Ha!! employers get around these "requirements" easily! they are totally blantant about it.

Posted by: Jen S. | July 5, 2007 4:09 PM

Proud Papa -- My comments were in no way meant to reflect the intelligence or aspirations of the families who live in inner cities (or elsewhere) in poverty, and I apologize if I came across that way. I have no doubt that these families dream of prosperity, but their journey to prosperity will likely be fraught with many a roadblock and landmine. Or at least more than your average middle-class white family's.

My intention was to point out the gap between those of us who worry about whether our children will get into a good college and is it reasonable to dream of being an astronaut or a mechanic, and those that worry about making it from one meal to the next. It's huge and moving out of such situations requires more than a "can do" attitude.

I think it's perhaps one unintended consequence of the American outlook that "anyone can make it big if they just work hard enough." Those that don't are somehow perceived as lacking intelligence or drive or have some essential character flaw. And those of us that have achieved that dream are somehow better than those that are still mired in poverty.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | July 5, 2007 4:10 PM

But I see so many immigrants who come to this country who also lived in poverty and deprivation, and who manage to get ahead despite the obstacles they encountered. So I can't help but think that if they can do it, why can't the people who live here?

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 03:59 PM

because they are not looking for balance. They don't quit jobs because someone asks them to work 'til 6:30. They whine less. They don't bi*ch about the fact that their employer won't pay them for a vacation after they've taken 6 weeks off for medical leave. They leave their 10 year old watching his 7 and 3 year old sisters so they can scrub floors until midnight, and the kids understand that this is the way things are. They don't expect every child to have his own 13 x 13 bedroom, and are willing to live with three families in 1400 square feet if a local ordinance doesn't prevent them from doing so in order to save for a downpayment on a home. They make their kids do their homework and don't complain about year-round school calendars because they're so da**ed glad there are schools.

Posted by: MN | July 5, 2007 4:10 PM

I think FMLA should be paid leave. But there is one part of it that I struggle with as a department head. I have a very small department in a large company. There are three clerical-level staff and three professionals. One of the clerical level staff gets 12 weeks of combined FMLA and PTO every single year because of a diagnosis of chronic depression and anxiety. When he takes the time is not predictable, he just calls in and says he can't come in because he is depressed or anxious. So, who is supposed to do his job for those 12 weeks? Is it fair to expect the other two staffers to do his job for six (unpredictable) weeks? I can't hire a temp, because I never know when he is coming to work. The work he does is important and time-sensitive, so it can't be put off until he feels good enough to work again. I am sympathetic to him, but I also am sympathetic to my other employees and I need the work done in a timely fashion. I can't afford to hire someone else to do his job while I park him in a make-work position for the rest of his career. Seriously, any suggestions are appreciated. My HR department is useless.

Posted by: Greenie | July 5, 2007 4:16 PM

"I think it's perhaps one unintended consequence of the American outlook that "anyone can make it big if they just work hard enough." Those that don't are somehow perceived as lacking intelligence or drive or have some essential character flaw. And those of us that have achieved that dream are somehow better than those that are still mired in poverty."

But I think the American outlook is much better than the alternative, which in some countries, means that if you are poor, you should not even dream about prosperity because it is innately beyond your reach, and you don't deserve it because you were born poor and are meant to die poor.

Sure, some people may never get there because they can't even see the possibility, but for those who can, the dream is a guiding star out of poverty. It's a huge gift that is denied to millions of people in other countries, and I find it appalling that Americans don't appreciate it. The immigrants who come here surely do.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 4:16 PM

Saying things are better here than anywhere else is true, but not a bold statement. Is it true that here anyone can pull herself up by her bootstraps and get a job that is, as Proud Papa put it, interesting and lucrative? Not by a longshot.

Posted by: to Emily | July 5, 2007 4:19 PM

True, emily, very true. Nothing is easy, and some have better advantages, but anything is possible here. I liken it to when 'your' team loses by a point or two and you point to the umpire as the reason-'or my team would win.'. Well, you know, if your team was better, it wouldn't matter how badly the umpire called every single call against your team, they'd win anyway. One could either lament that one was not born as a trump or a hilton, or one could choose to see something else out there. My 97 YO grandmother was dealt a pretty tough hand and always had a great attitude about it. As in, this is what I have, and I have to deal with it. I have to figure out how to make it work-because wallowing in self pity or looking to others won't make my situation any better.

And, as emily pointed out, elsewhere in the world the right attitude may not make things any better, her, in the US the right attitude is so much a part of everythin-as in I'll work hard and I'll do what I need to do, etc.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 4:22 PM

And, my DH and I have discussed A LOT the idea that we may one day have to take in my sister's three kids and *his* sister's two. Well, not too much - cause it just depresses us to see how their lives have gone. But we have discussed it, and we would do it, if we were needed to, because it would be the right thing to do (this might be in addition to others who have designated us as their guardians should something - g-d forbid - happen to them).

The reality is that we're probably not getting any more kids, but we do discuss it. Again, we will do what we have to do, what is the right thing to do - and we would treat any kids living in our house as if they were ours - no questions asked, in my opinion.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 4:24 PM

To Greenie -- document errors that he makes so he can be removed "for cause." If he makes absolutely no errors, then he may be better than other employees that are there all of the time :) Look for them -- I bet they are, and once you point out a few errors to him, he will likely get paranoid and make more.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:26 PM

"Nothing is easy, and some have better advantages, but anything is possible here. . . . My 97 YO grandmother was dealt a pretty tough hand and always had a great attitude about it. As in, this is what I have, and I have to deal with it. I have to figure out how to make it work-because wallowing in self pity or looking to others won't make my situation any better."

Figuring out how to make a pretty tough hand work is a far cry from "anything is possible here". The first is about learning to make lemonade out of lemons. The second is about getting your hands on an Hermes bag. Which is it? Anything is possible? or Make the best with the hand you're dealt? The messages are quite different.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:26 PM

"Is it true that here anyone can pull herself up by her bootstraps and get a job that is, as Proud Papa put it, interesting and lucrative? Not by a longshot."

Perhaps not everyone can have a job that is interesting and lucrative, but a whole lot of people have a chance at a decent life, even if the work is hard and the struggle is long. Like the cleaning lady I mentioned before. Her job is neither interesting nor lucrative, but she owns a home, eats decent food, and is raising two great girls who now, thanks to their mother's hard work, can aspire to jobs that are both interesting and lucrative. You have to start somewhere.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 4:27 PM

I could dream of living like Donald Trump and realize that it is unattainable. Others may say that the opportunity is there and I can reach my dream with the proper drive and hard work and long hours. I say it is unattainable.

People in poverty may dream of living my lifestyle (as I dream of living Donald's), but in their reality it is unattainable no matter how much other people say the opportunity is there. Sitting where we are and seeing the possibilities is not the same as sitting where they are and seeing the possibilities.

Proud Papa - congrats. I hope more people have the opportunities to succeed in life and people along the way who help them see the opportunities.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:28 PM

well said, MN (when I type those two letters together on my blackberry, it makes it MINUTES, so I have to put a space between them. *sigh* what I have to do in this world. It's so oppressive).

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 4:29 PM

If you think it is unattainable, then it is. That goes with everything in your life, by the way.

If you can dream it, you can live it. No one EVER said it was easy. But it is possible here, unlike most of the rest of the world.

And my grandmother didn't dream of Hermes purses, she couldn't care less about them. She dreamed of a better life for her kids than she had, for her grandchildren to do what they wanted and to live their lives. She will tell you how wonderful her family is, and she doesn't give a hoot about having a pool and an acre and 7000 square feet, thank you very much.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 4:32 PM

I seem to be on a roll here:

"Figuring out how to make a pretty tough hand work is a far cry from "anything is possible here"."

But that is exactly the attitude that gets you nowhere. Sure, you may never make it big, but that's no excuse to not try. And I think that a lot of people use it as an excuse to quit. There are millions of excuses out there, and any one of them will do perfectly for those who are not willing to take the risk and put in the effort. Smart people know that it does not have to be all or nothing. They know that a failure here and there can actually be a useful experience that pays off in the long run. Immigrants who come to this country aren't thinking that they are going to be millionaires in their lifetimes, or even have interesting or well-paying jobs. They are here to set the foundation, so that their children can have a good future. So what if they aren't the next Donald Trump? They know that they will be better off than they were before.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 4:34 PM

"If you can dream it, you can live it. No one EVER said it was easy. But it is possible here, unlike most of the rest of the world."

Not true always. I dream of playing in the NBA, but I'm a woman who's 5'2".

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:35 PM

I posted earlier about the upward mobility and the lack of it in the US now. I realize there was plenty of upward mobility in the US in the 1950s and 60s. But according to many studies, including one I read in the NY Times, the situation for ordinary working people has changed. There has been a real shift in the possibilities for American workers, and there is more upward mobility for average workers now in Europe than in the US. If outsourcing and immigration are not contributing to this problem, than what is causing it? I wouldn't dare suggest that unions helped workers in the past, and I know you will all shout that unions drive businesses out of the country. You can say American workers are lazy, but Europeans have much more free time, and now they have higher wages as well. Why?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:36 PM

Emily --

I meant to add a disclaimer to my post.

You're right, this is better than a class system where it's impossible to move up.

But that doesn't mean we can't do better, or that we should point our fingers at those still living in poverty and tell them they're simply not trying hard enough.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | July 5, 2007 4:37 PM

"If you can dream it, you can live it."

This belongs on one of those inspirational posters that most grown-ups acknowledge are bunk.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:38 PM

My grandfather's brother came here with literally nothing - his whole family had died in the holocaust and he came here cause his brother was here.

He built up a business and became a multi millionaire. My mom would go visit him when she was in high school and he would give her 100 dollar bills and tons of clothes (he was in textiles). It meant ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to him. He was, apparently, quite depressed after moving here after his family died. It didn't mean a thing to him - he just gave it all away.

So to him, his monetary success was meaningless.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 4:38 PM

Vegas Mom,
I agree that pointing fingers is not the answer. And I'm not sure what is. Perhaps the answer is providing those mired in poverty with a glimpse of the possibilities out there and guidance on how to achieve them. But that would take resources and education (which I think would be well spent).

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 4:41 PM

"Sure, you may never make it big, but that's no excuse to not try."

I'll never be a rocket scientist, so why should I try? Isn't that just wasted energy? Someone earlier talked about recognizing limitations. If I recognize my limitations, I realize that some things are not possible. I would agree that the possibility of failure is not a reason to not try something. At the same time, I recognize that everything is not possible for everyone.

As far as the immigrant example, she may have worked hard to grant more possiblilities and opportunities for her children (admirable), but it doesn't seem that she could live her dream if her dream was to work only one job that she liked better and still provide the same opportunities for her children.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:43 PM

"Sure, you may never make it big, but that's no excuse to not try."

But if you may never make it big, then anything ISN'T possible. I'm just asking that we be honest with ourselves about all of this cheerful nonsense about anything being possible for everybody. It's simply not.

We seem to be trapped in the middle of a Donnie Simpson mantra: "Remember to always shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll be among the stars." Why do we wonder that young men are disillusioned when they discover that they've been had with all this danged anything is possible cheerfulness? Maybe we should challenge ourselves to come up with inspiring sayings that, combined with real, thoughtful guidance counseling, addresses anything is NOT possible for everyone, but that doesn't mean you cannot have a nice life in a safe neighborhood.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 4:45 PM

"his whole family had died in the holocaust and he came here cause his brother was here."

So, was the brother who was here dead or not part of the family?

Posted by: huh? | July 5, 2007 4:46 PM

"Sure, you may never make it big, but that's no excuse to not try."

I'll never be a rocket scientist, so why should I try?"

Now you are just being ridiculous (and frankly stupid). If you don't have the talent to be a rocket scientist, then figure out what you are good at and go for that. Everyone has some kind of talent or skill. Giving up on life because you can't be a rocket scientist is just silly. And if you aren't good at math or science, chances are you would be miserable as a rocket scientist, so that dream is not really your dream at all, is it? Or is your dream just to be miserable and find excuses to justify it? Sounds like you are living it already.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 4:47 PM

Emily reminds me of my BIL who honestly thinks that anyone who isn't as successful as he just hasn't tried hard enough or worked hard enough.

Posted by: wow | July 5, 2007 4:50 PM

"I posted earlier about the upward mobility and the lack of it in the US now. I realize there was plenty of upward mobility in the US in the 1950s and 60s. But according to many studies, including one I read in the NY Times, the situation for ordinary working people has changed. There has been a real shift in the possibilities for American workers, and there is more upward mobility for average workers now in Europe than in the US. If outsourcing and immigration are not contributing to this problem, than what is causing it? I wouldn't dare suggest that unions helped workers in the past, and I know you will all shout that unions drive businesses out of the country. You can say American workers are lazy, but Europeans have much more free time, and now they have higher wages as well."

The primary reason Europeans have more free time than Americans is that the unemployment rate is in the teens instead of below 6%. Somehow I'm not jealous of that.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:56 PM

This belongs on one of those inspirational posters that most grown-ups acknowledge are bunk.

They are called "Successories" I believe.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:56 PM

"or a young person growing up in the hills of Appalachia"

Vegas Mom, thank you for a sensitive comment. You're right that Emily more than exudes class and eloquence, and I'm unsure if I agree with you about her wearing blinders, but I just want to thank you for acknowledging that not everyone has the emotional fortitude and wherewithal to get out of their difficult surroundings. I am not a racial minority, and I didn't grow up in a dangerous inner-city environment, fearing for my life daily, and I'm lucky I didn't have to deal with the tremendous peer pressure to become a thug in miniature. However, I do know what it's like to grow up backwards and barefoot in the Appalachians. The decision to postpone procreation until after education was mocked, academic pursuits derided; my own father refused to support my decision to get an education unless I went to the college near his house. I am now, for all practical purposes, disowned because I am seeking a post-graduate education that I don't "deserve" because I already have a BS. I was considered hugely gifted in my younger years by my peers, but when I moved to the DC area, I found that my perceived talents are more on the level of average.

It's true that pretty much anyone can do it. But it's exponentially harder than it is for those of privilege. And you come out of it with more damages than those of privilege; a child whose parents pay for college will not have to pay $300 a month in student loans. They will not have to study behind the bar of the restaurant they work at with a flashlight, hunkering down so as not to be discovered by the boss. It is a lot harder, but it can be done, and kudos to anyone who can do it. Even with the troubles I experienced, even with the lack of support from my family and community, I still feel fortunate that I didn't have the troubles some other young people have: gangs, drive-bys, a father or uncle with a taste for young relatives, etc. I truly do feel for anyone who's had it worse than me, and admire those who break the cycle. Additionally, I am able to feel empathy for those who are unable. Living that kind of life makes it easy to want to give up. And if that's "white guilt," I welcome it. I think we can all use a little more empathy in our dealings with other people. It's easy to say "Why doesn't s/he go to school or get a better job?" but you never know--there may be circumstances that make such things impossible.

Posted by: Mona | July 5, 2007 4:56 PM

"Why do we wonder that young men are disillusioned when they discover that they've been had with all this danged anything is possible cheerfulness?"

Actually, MN, I did have some second hand experience with parents placing unreasonable expectations of the "you can be anything you want if you just try hard enough" variety. My best friend in high school was raised with the idea that she would grow up to be a doctor. They had the money and resources to help her, she went to private school, got good grades, etc. But as high school progressed, it because increasingly obvious to her that she did not enjoy science and math as much as history and languages, and she developed all sorts of test related anxiety issues. Her grades declined, she was put on anxiety meds, but even so, her parents persisted in pushing the med school dream. So she went to college and tried pre-med, but after a horrendous two years, realized that she did would not have the grades to get into med school, plus she was miserable. So after much hand wringing and counseling and apologizing to her parents, she changed her major and applied to law school instead. She seems to like being a lawyer now, and she married a doctor, so her parents are appeased. At least there's one doctor in the family.

But what a waste of energy just to satisfy a dream that was never even her own. Sad.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 4:57 PM

Emily reminds me of my BIL who honestly thinks that anyone who isn't as successful as he just hasn't tried hard enough or worked hard enough.

Posted by: wow | July 5, 2007 04:50 PM

this lets all of us off the hook for making any sort of institutional or societal changes because lack of success is the fault of the poor. Alan Keyes would be so proud.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 4:58 PM

""Sure, you may never make it big, but that's no excuse to not try."

I'll never be a rocket scientist, so why should I try?"

Now you are just being ridiculous (and frankly stupid)."

Emily, name-calling isn't nice. You are being ridiculous when you say that "if you can dream it, you can live it", and you should try even if you won't make it.

Posted by: to emily | July 5, 2007 5:00 PM

to the poster at 4:56, I meant to say European working people have more vacation time. Was not talking about unemployed people, just ordinary working people.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 5:02 PM

Hey, if you're going to mock her, sign a name to it. it's surprising how strong your disagreements can be, yet how civil, when you don't hide behind a time-stamp.

and Emily, I feel for your friend and all those pushed by parents. I fear that there are 50,000 families out there determined to ducttape golf clubs to their 3-year olds' hands because it worked for Tiger Woods' dad and Tiger doesn't ever express resentment. I had more of a Mona background, e.g., no support or negative comments. Neither is healthy.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 5:05 PM

"Emily, name-calling isn't nice. You are being ridiculous when you say that "if you can dream it, you can live it", and you should try even if you won't make it."

It may have not been nice, but it was accurate. And I never said "if you can dream it, you can live it." But yes, I do believe in trying. It lays a foundation, that is necessary for any success story.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 5:05 PM

Your best friend's fall-back plan was -- hold me back now -- law school.

I can see how being raised in a family that expects you to to go med school, but settles for you going to law school is roughly equivalent to being raised in a family renting a house in Tennessee with a leaking roof and an outhouse, and wanting to graduate from high school, but having your mom tell you she needs you to quit school and work full-time because she just got laid off and can't pay the rent or feed your 5 younger siblings.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 5:14 PM

To 5:14 -
You know, that scenario is almost exactly what happened to my cleaning lady friend that I mentioned before, except that she was not from Tennessee. She was from Nicaragua. She came here as a maid for a rich family that sponsored her, and for years and years, sent money home to support her parents and siblings who depended on her for their living. So she never got an education. The man she married got drunk and beat her regularly, she she left and lived in a one room apartment with her cousin and her daughter for a while. For a long time, things looked bleak, but she always wanted to own her own house and send her kids to college, so she never stopped trying. It paid off for her. But then again, she did not have time to think up excuses. She was too busy working.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 5:19 PM

Emily --

While I sympathize with your friend suffering from unreasonable parental expectations, this girl obviously had plenty of money, support, and connections. I'm not talking about failing at being a doctor and settling for being a lawyer.

What about the poverty-stricken kids who think they don't have to study because they're going to be the next big thing in the NBA or the NFL? Or a movie star or rock star? Those kids don't have rich parents and doctor boy/girlfriends to fall back on. Should they follow their dream?

I think this is what MN and others are talking about when they say that the sentiment that "you can anything you set out to do" can be damaging.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | July 5, 2007 5:21 PM

"She came here as a maid for a rich family that sponsored her"

Not to make light of what your friend did, but you also have to recognize that she had help. It wouldn't have been possible if she didn't have a sponsor. Not everyone has a sponsor or other helping hand.

It's hard to imagine you being friends with this woman. It doesn't seem that she had much time to do anything beyond work. What did you two do when you hung out together?

Posted by: me | July 5, 2007 5:23 PM

Clarence Thomas is a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, too. Work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Everything is A-OK here in the US.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 5:25 PM

Does anyone know a rich family looking for a maid that would sponsor a teen-ager or young lady from inner city DC?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 5:27 PM

Vegas Mom,
Maybe MN can clarify what she meant, but I think that she was talking about the Gen Xers and Gen Yers who have unreasonable expectations of what is possible, not because they are poor, but because they have been raised to expect more than is really reasonable. More than is normal, perhaps. She was talking about the idea that nowadays, being a plumber or a mechanic is seen (by some) as a failure to achieve, and not everyone can be a doctor or lawyer.

I think we are having two different converstaions within this same thread, and I hope I have not confused them. I agree with MN that for anyone, unreasonable expections, in other words, those that are not in line with your particular talents or abilities, can lead some very hopeful kids into a crisis of existential disappointment.

But the other thread, which I know I have been too passionately pursuing, is that in the US, there is opportunity for most people to have a decent life, in other words, where you have employment, shelter, clothing, food, and are not battlig starvation and disease your entire life. And in that sense, to me, it is the land of opportunity. Perhaps not unlimited, but at least available in greater measure than in most other places in the world.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 5:28 PM

"It's hard to imagine you being friends with this woman. It doesn't seem that she had much time to do anything beyond work. What did you two do when you hung out together?"

I met her a few years back, when I had a volunteer stint teaching English as a second language. She now cleans my mother's house once a week (I can't afford her). I also helped her get connected to a legal aid office so that she could divorce the bum who beat her, and we became close through those interactions.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 5:33 PM

Emily, I think the unreasonable expectations cross all economic lines and are particularly cruel for the poor and disadvantaged.

On one end of the spectrum, the academically privileged end, when I worked in DC, I temped with a number of law school grads who thought determination was sufficient. They didn't want to "settle" for a job in a practice area other than the one on which they'd set their sights. Meanwhile, they were making loan payments and they were on year 2 of temping. But, they couldn't accept that anything wasn't possible -- that they might have to let the dream go, and move on.

On the other end of the extreme, as part of a summer food program and other programs in which I'm actively involved, I meet many kids in poverty who talk about going to law school and med school, or being NBA stars, or being video-game programmers, as if those things are a given, e.g., they speak of these aspirations as if sheer determination is sufficient to produce the result. They see no practical limitations, financial limitations, academic limitations -- any real challenges to achieving their dream. They also don't see that no amount of studying will guarantee your spot at X school, or your acceptance into X program.

Anthony Atkinson is a 5'10" basketball player who graduated from Division III Barton College a month ago. He scored 10 points in the last 39 seconds of the Div. II tournament last March.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 5:37 PM

I didn't grow up poor, but I did grow up in a lower-middle-class-blue-collar area. Dad put himself through college (one of eight, no money from parents -- just emotional support), and that was where they could afford their first house (they moved to a very nice area when I was in college). Money was tight when I was a kid, and my 'I'll never be hungry/broke/poor again' touchstone is clothes. Dad, dear man, could never be made to understand the need for just the right jeans, for NOT wearing floodwaters, for shoes that were not a size and a half too big the first year. So, now I'm a bit of a clotheshorse. I know I'm overcompensating -- it's one of the only times STBX was right.

So, even though hanging out clothes isn't my personal issue, I can understand why it might be someone else's.

I saw plenty of people who grew up really horrid family conditions. In many poor families, there are pathologies such as absentee parents, addiction, unsafe communities, and the stress that comes from dealing with the unfortunate circumstances into which one was born. Not all people have the inner fortitude to deal well with the conditions in which they find themselves -- they can't just pull themselves up by their bootstraps alone. In fact, most self-made people had SOMEONE -- parent, teacher, neighbor, aunt or uncle, clergy -- who helped them find their way, encouraged them, and gave them guidance on how to succeed.

And I don't think comparing hardworking immigrants to native-born Americans is entirely fair. The immigrants, by coming here in the first place, have shown that they have that inner strength that some Americans seem to lack.

We would do the families at the bottom rungs of the income scale a great service if we could find effective strategies to help their children how to break the cycle of poverty.

Posted by: educmom | July 5, 2007 5:42 PM

Emily, I think the unreasonable expectations cross all economic lines and are particularly cruel for the poor and disadvantaged.

On one end of the spectrum, the academically privileged end, when I worked in DC, I temped with a number of law school grads who thought determination was sufficient. They didn't want to "settle" for a job in a practice area other than the one on which they'd set their sights. Meanwhile, they were making loan payments and they were on year 2 of temping. But, they couldn't accept that anything wasn't possible -- that they might have to let the dream go, and move on.

On the other end of the extreme, as part of a summer food program and other programs in which I'm actively involved, I meet many kids in poverty who talk about going to law school and med school, or being NBA stars, or being video-game programmers, as if those things are a given, e.g., they speak of these aspirations as if sheer determination is sufficient to produce the result. They see no practical limitations, financial limitations, academic limitations -- any real challenges to achieving their dream. They also don't see that no amount of studying will guarantee your spot at X school, or your acceptance into X program.

Anthony Atkinson is a 5'10" 141 lbs. basketball player who graduated from Division III Barton College a month ago. He scored 10 points in the last 39 seconds of the Div. II tournament last March. His team beat Winona State. He said he thought his future in the NBA was written with that performance. No team drafted him and he and his family were devastated. I ask you, why would any kid who is 5'10", 141 lbs and attending a Division II school think he is NBA material? Because he's been hearing about working for his dream for so long, he believed it. He expects to have a 10 - 12 year professional career either overseas or at home. It still might happen, but tell me whether you think that expectation is a good thing for Mr. Atkinson. I consider it insidious and distructive. We aren't being fair to the Anthony Atkinsons of the world when we push the dreaming and don't talk about likelihoods, maximizing your options, and back-up plans.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | July 5, 2007 5:42 PM

sorry about the double-post, all. I thought I caught it in time. *sigh*

Posted by: MN | July 5, 2007 5:44 PM

To 5:37 - I see your point. Which makes me think that along with a dream and determination, you also need a clear vision of reality, a plan, and the flexibility to tweak it or change it depending on the circumstances.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 5:44 PM

"And I don't think comparing hardworking immigrants to native-born Americans is entirely fair. The immigrants, by coming here in the first place, have shown that they have that inner strength that some Americans seem to lack."

That's a fair point. It does seem to be an unfair comparison.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 5:51 PM

"Which makes me think that along with a dream and determination, you also need a clear vision of reality, a plan, and the flexibility to tweak it or change it depending on the circumstances."

Emily: Much of what you list here -- "a clear vision of reality, flexibility, a plan" -- is not in available in abundance in poverty-stricken areas where most don't even have a high school education. To that list add a good education (because these days very few achieve economic success if they can't read, write, and do basic math), an adult who will provide moral and economic support, a peer-group that encourages good choices (or the backbone to go it alone), and you might start to see that "anyone can achieve their dream if they just work hard enough" doesn't really ring true in some communities.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | July 5, 2007 5:58 PM

Let me clarify -- when I was old enough to get a part-time job (age 16), to pay for my own clothes, entertainment, even education -- I did. That's a pre-emtive strike at the 'buy-your-own-darn-clothes' trolls.

I think Emily's right -- there are two conversations today. I also agree that kids today are being given unrealistic expectations, with no sense of how difficult it might be to accomplish said expectations and no sense of the likelihood of achieving those 'goals.' I think it's a function of the Lake Wobegon syndrome that has taken over American society today. I have students whose cognitive abilities are quite low, and I must refer to these children as average; the children who are actually average must be set above, and are therefore said to be smart; and the especially bright students must be set above the 'smart' kids (who, remember, are actually average) and be called gifted. Unfortunately, I see rude awakenings in the futures of some of these youngsters.

Posted by: educmom | July 5, 2007 5:58 PM

I tried to write this before, and this won't be as eloquent, but the computer ate it *sigh*

There was the multi millionaire who told the 5th grade class that he would pay for their college. The irony was, that by the time those kids were in high school - he didn't have to pay a whole lot for them to go to school. Just having the dream, most of them won scholarships, cause they worked really hard, cause someone told them he believed in them and he would make it a reality.

I realize that, even though *I* know that if you want it, you can go to college, and even if you are poor, you have options with scholarship money, if no one tells you that, you wouldn't know it.

I had a friend who played college bball. He said he could've played overseas, but didn't want to. I don't see that as 'not acheiving a dream.' Most people don't have 1/2 as far with any sport. We all make choices in our lives and live with them - each choice, good or bad, brings us to where we are, here. If we don't like it, we can try to figure out a way to change it.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 6:00 PM

"The immigrants, by coming here in the first place, have shown that they have that inner strength that some Americans seem to lack."

Sometimes they have inner strength. Sometimes they are merely born on the boat in the harbor. Sometimes they are running away from genocide or genital mutilation. The same gifts that get you across the border don't always translate into running your own roofing company.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 6:00 PM

and to the person who asked - my grandfather's brother's wife and kids died in WWII. His brother (my grandfather) was here, as were their parents.

Posted by: atlmom | July 5, 2007 6:02 PM

Sometimes they have inner strength. Sometimes they are merely born on the boat in the harbor. Sometimes they are running away from genocide or genital mutilation. The same gifts that get you across the border don't always translate into running your own roofing company.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 06:00 PM

That's true. And, sometimes the kids lucky enough to be born in middle-class normalcy and comfort also have a terrific work ethic. I don't think we will ever really know how much is nature and how much is nurture.

Posted by: educmom | July 5, 2007 6:04 PM

Vegas Mom,
While I agree that in some communities, it is harder for people to find the guidance and resources to get ahead, I disagree that it is completely unavailable to them. In the US, you can always find people who grew up dirt poor and still were able to get ahead. We have some of those people right on this blog. So with all the caveats I stated before, I still think this is the land of opportunity.

Posted by: Emily | July 5, 2007 6:05 PM

Clarence Thomas is a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, too. Work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Everything is A-OK here in the US.

Posted by: | July 5, 2007 05:25 PM

Thomas swears he never for a single moment benefitted from affirmative action. Right.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 6:30 PM

Emily - While anyone willing to work hard enough can ~probably~ improve his/her personal situation, it is just too much to see american as the "land of opportunity". That's a great bumper sticker, but the fact of the matter is that opportunities are extraordinarily limited for some people.

Having said that, seeing the limitation is NO EXCUSE for not trying to succeed. So what if you fail, get your a$$ off the couch and try anyway.

I forgot to mention that growing up in the inner city I had the distinct benefit of two (blue collar) parents. Dad was a disciplinarian and a very practical man. No excuses, no wallowing. Mom taught elementary school, which no doubt gave me an academic advantage in the formative years. So, it can be argued that while I did not have a monetary or connection-type advantage over people in my neighborhood, I had the basics, which many of them did not have.

Posted by: Proud Papa | July 5, 2007 8:48 PM

"Let me clarify -- when I was old enough to get a part-time job (age 16), to pay for my own clothes, entertainment, even education -- I did."

When I was 16, I tried to work as well. I applied to every job at the mall (retail, restaurant, fast food) who hired 16-year-olds. No one hired me. I looked all of 12 when I was 16, so maybe that's why. The mall was 3 blocks from home so I could walk there. Other jobs required a car, which wasn't available, or public transportation, which was, but I wasn't hired for those either. I was able to do occasional neighborhood housecleaning and babysitting, but nothing on a regular basis.

Even when you are determined to work hard at a young age, there can be impediments.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2007 9:52 PM

Jen S., and Educmom,

Powdered milk.

I use it for baking, I'll add it to my coffee, I'll even add some to stretch a gallon when it looks like one of "those days", but I will NEVER EVER AGAIN have to drink powdered milk as my primary source of milk. My kids will not have to rely upon reconstituted powdered milk for their daily supply. Nope. Not going to happen. Second-hand, third-hand clothes? Sure. That never bothered me then, and it doesn't bother me now. Don't ask me why!

It took me YEARS before I could drink skim milk from a carton, it tasted too rich. I still can't drink anything other than skim. But I do eat cheese! Funny how these things happen.

Posted by: Maryland Mother | July 6, 2007 9:10 AM

It's so amazing to see that people have children and then want the world handed to them.

They want the government to defend their CHOICE with benefits.

They demand that their employers pay for their CHOICE.

This has nothing to do with balance. It's everything to do with a parent believing they are owed something for breeding.

Posted by: sad | July 7, 2007 12:27 AM

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