Wages

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I've met Hamilton County Circuit Court Clerk Paula Thompson and she seems to be a nice lady. If we believe the maxim of Eastern philosophy that to know a person look at their actions but to really know a person look at their friends, she most definitely must a nice lady... considering that 10 years ago she had a Republican opponent for that elected office and many of the Big High MuckyMucks of the Hamilton County Republican Party supported her, even attending a fundraising event thrown for her by a collections lawyer, a collections lawyer who's been elected a couple of times but just can't seem to draw more than 30 some percent of the vote in his primary elections, she must be a terrific person.

Elected Republicans are obligated by their own rules to support their homies over a member of the opposing party, don't you know. But rules are only for those of us who pay the bills, the great unwashed, not the ruling elite, so they must really think highly of her if they're willing to violate their own rules to support her... a member of that other political party.

And then they wondered why CandidateDude got a little pithy and ripped into them at the election night shindig all those years ago...

It was interesting to read the discussion between Ms. Thompson and the County Commission about her office recently. Five people in her office who are paid 475 grand per year in salary, plus benefits? That's, like, an average of 95 grand, plus bennies, per person. And the rationale is they have college degrees? Some with advanced degrees? What do their college degrees, advanced though they may be, have to do with their value to the county working in that office? How does that value relate to their compensation? Could their jobs be performed by someone with nothing more than a high school diploma, who can read, and some follow-on training?

Cops most often have degrees these days, generally in law enforcement. Teachers have degrees, often advanced degrees. 95 grand would pay for at least two of each of these, or firemen, with advanced time in service, and more if they're newbies. The last time I looked, the median household income for Hamilton County was just under 45 grand a year. Individual income, median, for a worker with 10 to 15 years experience was about 33 to 35 grand a year. Both of these are a far cry from 95 grand. And they work for government, government where historically wages have been low but job security was high and job security was the compensation for lower wages?

One must appreciate Ms. Thompson's wish to reward employees when she can. I think everyone with employees does that, if for no other reason than happy employees are more productive employees. But we also have to understand that when revenue decreases those little "rewards" must be commensurate. That's why many of us provide "rewards" in the form of bonuses or other non-salary means instead of something that ties us to a continuing expense.

Please note; this is not an attempt to climb Ms. Thompson's sneakers. The Commish tried to do that, Fred too, both of whom take great pride in the number of Taxbucks, our money, they spread around their districts to buy votes. But isn't this situation symptomatic of our entire problem of government spending?

Government has no income that isn't first taken from a tax paying citizen, a citizen who's worked very hard to earn the money that's subsequently confiscated from them.

Now, in the real world, the world of profits and losses and returns on investment, each and every job has a value to the mission of the organization. We can talk all we want about government mandated minimum wages, but the bottom line is that every job function has a value... a value that's based upon it's contribution to the end product, the market based selling price for that product, and the production capabilities of the individual. Who's willing to pay 15 bucks for a McDoubleCheeseBurger so the employees can be paid 25 bucks an hour? Not me, even if they are for The Gang.

I certainly am glad to see McDs finally calling those puppies by their proper name, too.

A fact of life is that every sales contract is the result of a negotiated agreement between a willing seller and a willing buyer. I think we sometimes forget that our wages are the same, a price negotiated between a willing seller (us) and a willing buyer (our employer or customer). Sort of puts a new spin on what a prostitute is, doesn't it. I am, unashamedly and unapologetically.

Another fact is that every business is in business to earn a profit. Its function isn't to provide jobs, it's to provide a product or service for which customers will pay and to earn a profit for its owners. That's where that every job function has a value deal comes from. A worker putting screws in a side panel to hold a nameplate on doesn't contribute as much to the product value as the person who first conceptualizes, or the engineer who designs, or the draftsman who creates manufacturing drawings, or the machinist who cuts out the panels, or the test engineer who ensures the final product meets the design specifications, so how can he expect to be paid the same as the others if his job doesn't require the same skill level or training, therefore the same value toward the end product?

By the same token, someone with degrees on top of degrees cannot expect to necessarily be compensated for all of that work either. Someone with an MBA who works as a clerk in a retail store cannot expect to be paid anything more than someone who's a high school dropout if they're both doing the same job and performing adequately. An engineer working on an assembly line must expect to be paid the same as anyone else on the line if their jobs are the same. Neither can someone with advanced degrees in basket weaving, dance, or other artsy tartsy endeavors demand higher wages, based solely on their piece of paper, if their skills are not needed to perform a specific type of work.

But in government those advanced degrees often bring with them higher wages even if they aren't applicable to specific work, don't they. How is that justified, or justifiable, other than the person who determines wage scales decides they have an unlimited source of funding from those money trees out behind the courthouse and pays employees higher wages... because they can. How is someone with an advanced college degree more valuable to an organization than someone with minimal formal education if their jobs are the same and they bother perform their duties well? It doesn't work out here in the real world. How can it work in government?

And how do we rationalize wage and benefit packages for government employees that are so much better than those who are toting the note, tax paying citizens, who do the same jobs out in the real world? Government employees and elected officials like to claim job and responsibility equivalence with private enterprise. It's interesting they never bring up wage and benefit equivalence, and when someone else does they immediately change the subject.

Several years ago a friend had a coffee mug printed for me that stated "When The Pain Outweighs The Pleasure You Will Make A Change." I later passed it on to someone else who needed it. Perhaps I need to go see Ronnie at QuickTees and see if he'll work a volume deal with me on more of those. They'll fit well with the rails, tar, feathers, pitchforks, torches, and other items in our DIY Constitution Indefeasibility Kit line.

But that will have to wait for later in the week. The Gang is telling me it's Sunday and they're ready for their oatmeal silver dollar pancakes. And poor Sparkimus... he keeps giving Sophie, our new family addition, one of those sideways looks and then me one of those "A girl? You brought a girl into our house? Are you sure she doesn't have cooties? I think she's got cooties." looks.

Royce Burrage, Jr.



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