Category Archives: Finance

The Dishonest And Irresponsible Minimum Wage Issue.

Good bye. I know when I'm licked...

Good bye. I know when I’m licked…

I heard Bernie Sanders make another one of his economically-deranged statements as the crowd cheered, this one about how no American should work 40 hours a week and not have enough to live on. Then I went to the local Baskin-Robbins.

I ordered a single scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale in a waffle cone. The cost was…$4.68.

For a single-scoop ice cream cone.

I will not go back to Baskin-Robbins again, which means I may have had my last ice cream cone. I also cannot believe that the company can continue selling ice cream cones at such absurd prices. When I worked for Baskin-Robbins as a summer job, a single-scoop cone cost $.29, and no, dinosaurs were not roaming the earth. I was paid the minimum wage, because a moron can do that job and you get to eat all the ice cream you want (within limits, which I thoroughly explored.)

Like most minimum wage jobs, scooping ice cream is overwhelmingly one filled by the young, who do not need a living wage, or those who have no skills or experience whatsoever and need to develop some. When the minimum wage goes up, companies eliminate jobs, and when it goes  up too much too fast, whole occupations and companies disappear. This isn’t capitalist propaganda: it’s true. Most of the jobs that disappear are those that make life a little more pleasant for those not doing them, like pumping gas, ushering in movie theaters, operating elevators, waiting on tables, and scooping ice cream, jobs that can be learned in about an hour or less by anyone with an IQ hovering around 90. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Finance, Government & Politics, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethics Over Compliance: The Dutch Banker’s Oath

bankers oath

“Professional ethics” is a never-ending battle between compliance and ethics, between rules and penalties on one side, and principles and values on the other. Compliance is easier: all you do is tell people with rules and regulations what they must or can’t do, and promise that there will be consequences if those rules are violated. For ethics to work, people actually have to understand ethical values and be committed to living by them in a professional context.

Compliance has little to do with ethics. Jack the Ripper will follow rules if they are clear, if he knows he’ll get caught if he violates them, and if the punishment when he does will be  harsh enough. That won’t make him ethical. In fact, compliance–rules-based professional conduct control—is often antithetical to ethics. Rules and laws are merely a challenge to the type that Oliver Wendell Holmes called “The Bad Man”-–which includes bad women—to find ways to do things that are wrong but that avoid violating rules sufficiently to justify punishment.  This is why most compliance codes have language in their introductions noting that it’s impossible to make a code that will cover every wrong someone can think of, so ethics are important too.

Pure compliance-based systems don’t improve ethical conduct. The financial collapse in 2008 was largely caused by financial manipulators operating in the grey areas of the rules and laws—that’s why so few of them could be prosecuted. In politics, The compliance mindset is extremely convenient for clever liars and cheats like the Clintons, which is why Hillary could try to explain her e-mail shenanigans by saying that “I fully complied with every rule I was governed by (heh-heh-heh!).” Unethical people will always find ways to get around rules. Ethical people, in contrast, barely need rules at all.

Another benefit of ethics over compliance is that ethics rules–compliance codes—have to be long and detailed, otherwise it’s too easy for Clinton-types to find loopholes, though they usually will find some anyway. Ethical values, on the other hand, can be stated very simply. An ethical employer thinks, “Hmm, that intern is cute, but I am married and have duties of loyalty and honesty to my wife and family, and it would be an abuse of power and influence as well as irresponsible for me as a leader to have an affair with someone under my supervision in the organization.” The Bad Man thinks, “Wow, she’s hot; my wife won’t care as long as I’m not caught; getting a hummer isn’t considered sex where I come from, and there’s nothing that says a President can’t fool around!” For the former, “A leader should not have sex with subordinates” is clear as a bell; his values tell him why. The latter, though, is thinking, “Hmmm. How can I get around this? That rule says “should” but not “shall”— that’s good. No punishment is specified. Sounds like more of a guideline than a rule. “Sex”—that must mean sexual intercourse: great! Lots of wiggle room there. And “subordinate”—is an intern really a subordinate? And I bet I could argue that this is personal, not official conduct. All good…now where’s that cigar?

Invoking ethics rather than compliance is a new oath required by the Dutch Bankers Association. It could be printed on a postcard, and if a banker is ethical, it is all he or she needs:

I swear within the boundaries of the position that I hold in the banking sector…

…that I will perform my duties with integrity and care;

…that I will carefully balance all the interests involved in the enterprise, namely those of customers, shareholders, employees and the society in which the bank operates;

…that in this balancing, I will put the interests of the customer first;

…that I will behave in accordance with the laws, regulations and codes of conduct that apply to me;

…that I will keep the secrets entrusted to me;

…that I will make no misuse of my banking knowledge;

…that I will be open and transparent, and am aware of my responsibility to society;

…that I will endeavor to maintain and promote confidence in the banking system.

So truly help me God.

And if a banker isn’t ethical,

it won’t matter anyway.

__________________________

Pointer: Legal Ethics Forum

Sources: Bloomberg, The Conglomerate

Graphic: Bloomberg

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Character, Finance, Professions, Workplace

The Sweet Briar Betrayal

white-flag-2

After 114 years, Sweet Briar College, the venerable women-only college in rural Virginia, announced Tuesday that this will be its final year despite strong alumnae support and more than $90 million left in its endowment, even after several years of running a deficit.

Paul G. Rice, board chair, said that he realized some would ask, “Why don’t you keep going until the lights go out?” but that doing so would be wrong. “We have moral and legal obligations to our students and faculties and to our staff and to our alumnae. If you take up this decision too late, you won’t be able to meet those obligations,” he said. “People will carve up what’s left — it will not be orderly, nor fair.”

Well, at least the board is taking this lying down.

Rice’s excuse is nonsense, and the board’s action  is an abdication of a difficult duty, not an acceptance of one. Non profits have missions, and their boards are obligated to keep pursuing that mission until it becomes hopeless, not until it becomes tough. Yes, small colleges face challenges, and single-sex education has been out of favor since the Sixties. On the other hand, feminists are making the case that co-ed universities are little better than hunting grounds where women are the helpless prey of serial rapists. Surely Sweet Briar’s niche might become an asset with some vision and leadership. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Gender and Sex, Leadership

Burger King Ethics: What’s Unethical About Burger King’s “Tax Inversion” (And It’s Not Burger King)

BKAs you may have heard by now, Burger King is preparing to merge with the larger Canadian equivilent of Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons and move the company’s headquarters to Canada. As with the proposed Walgreens move to Europe that was considered and ultimately rejected, the Burger King merger was made for tax reasons, and good ones. The good ones should be clearly explained to the American public, especially voters and those with unemployed workers in their families, but they are not. Let’s  call this BK Ethics Foul #1: news media incompetence. Because the public doesn’t understand what “tax inversion” means, they are vulnerable to having it distorted and demagogued for them by unethical politicians and pundits, and so it has been. Let us designate this BK Ethics Foul #2: the anti-corporate disinformation campaign.

The United States tax rate is  a whopping 35%, more than any other large industrial nation, even more than those that tend toward socialism. There’s nothing unethical about this, necessarily, though it can be argued that it is a foolish and self-destructive policy. Did you know, however—and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, because not being an international corporation myself, I didn’t know until this issue arose—that the U.S. applies that tax to all global earnings of U.S. companies. This means that the earning of U.S. companies doing business abroad are not only taxed where they earn the profits, but also in the U.S., or as this is technically called, twice. (UPDATE: I should have made it clear that the the US does give a foreign tax credit for the money paid in taxes abroad, so the effect is not completely double tax, just two taxes.) That is definitely unfair (and also bad policy), and will be called BK Ethics Foul #3: predatory taxation Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Finance, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

Great, Now Magneto Wants To Wipe Out Professional Theater…

Magneto McKellen

Maybe he should run for Vice-President on a ticket with Elizabeth Warren.

Quoth revered British actor Ian McKellen, Magneto (and Gandalf ) in the flesh:

“The one thing you can ask, I think, is that actors get paid a living wage. I would like it if all the repertory theaters that currently exist could do that. It would make a huge difference.”

It sure would. It would put most small professional theaters out of business, make theater unaffordable for any but rich theater-lovers, and eliminate a huge number of acting jobs. It is an idiotic, ignorant, irresponsible, but very, very nice, liberal, compassionate, well-intentioned and Elizabeth Warrenish suggestion that willfully ignores reality and basic economics—in other words, it is consistent with progressive mythology. We owe the Magster a debt of gratitude for illustrating exactly what is wrong with blanket endorsements of minimum wage increases and “living wages.” Continue reading

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Grand Master Of Deceit

"May the spin be with you..."

“May the spin be with you…”

I thought about adding his name to the title, but really: who else could I be referring to?

I think it’s good to know, comforting even, that Bill Clinton is still shameless, still at the top of his game, still adept at manipulating language for the deception of gullible listeners. So much changes! The Tunnel Tree lies on the forest floor among the great Sequoias, the Great Stone Face has fallen off the mountain, and Jennifer Connelly no longer looks like a Vargas Girl. Yet Bill Clinton goes on, spinning, parsing, obfuscating, lying like the master he is. It’s almost inspiring.

Almost.

Bill recently showed he was still in playing trim by offering a deceitful defense of his wife’s absurd claim that Hill and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House, telling NBC’s David Gregory that “It is factually true that we were several million dollars in debt.” Yup, and here are several other things that are factually true: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Family, Finance, Government & Politics

Unethical Quote Of The Week: SunTrust Bank

pop weasel2

“SunTrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion.”

—-SunTrust Bank, doing its best Cracker Barrel imitation by reversing its decision, announced  earlier in the day, to pull all of its listed properties with the Benham brothers’ bank-owned property business.

SunTrust was following the lead of craven, political correctness bully-enabling HGTV, which a week ago announced it was canceling a planned home renovation show hosted by the Benhams as punishment for their conservative views on same-sex marriage, because, as we all know, gays are the heart and soul of the home renovation business. Thus emboldened, the bank decided that citizens opposing same-sex marriage as taught by the faith they had been raised to embrace deserved to have their business harmed, since that’s what the SunTrust suits’ moistened fingers in the wind told them their sensitive, right-thinking customers wanted.

But the announcement turned that wind into a roaring hurricane of protest from conservatives, and, we can at least hope, some actual liberals among Democrats who comprehend that banks should not be enforcers of the growing, un-American movement to make life nasty, brutish and short for anyone who dares to see the world differently from the news media, the universities, and the rest of the thought-crime legislators among us. Thus the quick reversal, and the noble words above.

So why is SunTrust’s impeccable affirmation of their iron-clad support for our precious freedom unethical? Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Finance, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, Rights, U.S. Society