Category Archives: Finance

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Tip-Sharing Plan”

We have a rare Ethics Alarms Quote of the Day hand-off. Responding to the ethics quiz about the ethics of tip-sharing,  veteran commenter JutGory wrote,

“My understanding is that, in some places, servers collect the tips and “tip-out” to the others (kitchen staff, etc.) at certain rates. If that is the culture (I have never been a server; not my skill set), why is a server trusted more than the employer to be fairer than the employer in tipping out?”

I have written about tipping ethics issues for years, and never encountered the concept of “tipping out,” perhaps because the minimum wage jobs I had in my youth never involved tips of any kind. Still Spartan picked up JutGory’s baton and dashed for the finish line. Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The Tip-Sharing Plan: 

I used to work at a fancy restaurant and that was the system. The percentage of tip out was based on total food sales, so you couldn’t cheat. And, if I received really generous tips, I was incentivized to tip more because I wanted the hostess to seat good customers at my table, my drinks up first, my tables bussed quickly, etc. I would never work at a place that pooled tips because I was quite frankly better than most servers. I was quick, friendly, and rarely made a mistake. I could up-sell my customers on liquor and food which meant more money for me at the end of the night. And you people think I am anti-capitalist! Chefs aren’t tipped and they make a lot more than $3/hr., and although it is a hard job, at least their revenue is consistent. Many managers are well-paid too and often double as hosts or bartenders. I would be pissed if they had the ability to collect my tips.

The real solution to this problem is to pay servers a living wage and just have it incorporated into the price of food.

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Ethics Quiz: The Tip-Sharing Plan

Last year the Trump administration announced a proposal to amend a 2011 regulation prohibiting employers from collecting server tips and distributing them to anyone other than servers. If the new proposal is adopted, employers could theoretically use workers’ tips for  any purpose, as long as the workers who received the tips were directly paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The restaurant industry opposed the Obama regulation, and argues that more freedom would allow employers to share the tips of waiters and waitresses with other workers like busboys, greeters, cooks and dishwashers.

Labor advocacy groups and former Obama administration officials counter that the regulation would legalize employers stealing income from workers, since they could theoretically pocket the tips.

Your Ethics Alarms Economics/Labor/Human Nature Quiz of the Day…..

Is the proposed regulation fair, responsible and ethical, or not?

Continue reading

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Discrimination Or Negotiation? The Phony “All The Money In The World” Pay Controversy

As usual, the headlines are misleading, and the reporting is soaked with emotion.. Michelle Williams Is Reportedly Worth 1500% Less Than Mark Walberg To Sony…

is a typical example. Fake news. Mark Wahlberg reportedly made 1500 times what Michelle Williams did for All the Money reshoots. True, but misleading. Here is what happened:

“All the Money in the World” is the film that had to be substantially re-shot after tyhe decision was made to make Kevin Spacey, in a major role, disappear, with his part taken by Christopher Plummer. This required far more re-shooting than a typical finished film requires. Most movie contracts require a certain number of reshoot days as a routine stipulation for the actors, who must make themselves available as needed. If more than the usual additional filming is needed, however, actors are not obligated to work beyond what they reasonably expected.  Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg had agreed to appear in “All the Money in the World” for less than their standard fee, but when they had to go an extra mile to let the film be completed, they each took a different tack.

Williams was nice, and quickly agreed to return, believing, without being told so,that other participants had made the same decision. She even worked over Thanksgiving,  arranging for her 12-year-old daughter, Matilda, to spend the holiday without her. “They could have my salary, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted,” she Told the New York Times. “Because I appreciated so much that they were making this massive effort.” (…to get rid of Kevin Spacey!)

Her co-star Mark Wahlberg, however, realized that he had leverage over the production team. He was the only major cast member with no commitment to reshoot his scenes. The finished film was set to be released in theaters in about a month, on December 25, so he had terrific leverage. In Hollywood, leverage equals big bucks. He told his primary agent, Doug Lucterhand, to play hardball, and negotiate for as much money as he could get.

The production company ultimately agreed to a $1.5 million payment.

Is this gender discrimination? No. Is it an example of bias? No. Is it unfair? Well, only in that life is unfair, some people are more shrewd than others, Hollywood isn’t kindergarten, and nice guys finish last, as Leo Durocher said. Continue reading

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Museum Ethics: The Rape Of The La Salle University Art Museum

“This old thing alone will fetch enough to fund that Klingon language course!”

Among its other tenets, the Code of Ethics For Museums followed by The American Alliance of Museums requires that member organizations ensure that:

  • collections in its custody are lawfully held, protected, secure, unencumbered, cared for and preserved
  • acquisition, disposal, and loan activities conform to its mission and public trust responsibilities, and
  • disposal of collections through sale, trade or research activities is solely for the advancement of the museum’s mission. Proceeds from the sale of nonliving collections are to be used consistent with the established standards of the museum’s discipline, but in no event shall they be used for anything other than acquisition or direct care of collections.

In other words,  museums cannot ethically sell off  their collections to finance or benefit non-museum goals and objectives.

Never mind. La Salle University’s trustees announced that the university planned to sell 46 paintings, sculptures, and drawings selected by Christie’s auction house and use the expected profits of $4.8 -$7.3 million into teaching and courses. That means that the University will be using the art as investments and assets rather than art.

Unethical.

“I feel as though the place has been raped,” said Caroline P. Wistar, a longtime curator of the museum who retired about a decade ago. “They’re selling all of the very best things — a Degas drawing, a Vuillard. This is major. I feel like they’ve killed the museum.” Timothy Rub, head of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors,  said, Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/21/2017: Shut Up And Act, Tom…

GOOD MORNING!

Finally! I get to hang the collected history of three families that are our tree ornaments. You know, the fun part…

1 And this is why actors speak from scripts. Tom Hanks, pimping for the mainstream news media-extolling Washington Post movie, the one with Harvey Weinstein enabler Meryl Streep playing Katherine Graham, actually uttered this Authentic Frontier Gibberish:

“It is relatively obvious, I think, what is trying to go forward, when you tear down these institutions to a level of, so you can’t believe anything that is in any of them. That raises the stock of those agenda-filled other institutions and whatnot, so that if you can’t believe them, well, that means you get to believe some of the other stuff that is in these.”

I have generally thought Hanks unusually thoughtful for an actor, but this is disgraceful. First, whatever diminishment journalism has suffered in credibility is 100% the fault of journalists, their arrogance, their incompetence, their bias, and their deliberate abandonment of their own stated ethics principles. 100%. Second, Hanks needs a primer on trust, and to read B.F. Skinner’s work on the effects of intermittent negative reinforcement on rats. (Quick summary: it drives them nuts.) If news sources are sometimes telling the truth and sometimes spinning, sometimes lying and sometimes hiding the ball, and major, revered “institutions” like the New York Times announce mid-Presidential campaign that their mission is no longer to report facts but to stop a particular candidate, then those news sources cannot be trusted, as in “believed.”

Third,  anyone, in light of, oh, the past 20 years, who does not believe that the mainstream media organizations have “agendas” is certifiably stupid. I don’t believe Hanks is stupid, despite the fact that his statement easily makes the Garbled Syntax and Logic Hall of Blather. What he is arguing, however, is that other sources of information have agendas, while those he follows are just Undeniably Correct. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/17: “Close Encounters,” A Bad Bank, A Jaw-Dropping Tweet, Sentimentalizing DACA, And More

GOOD MORNING!!

1. A remastered “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is in theaters now, and I have mixed feelings about the fact that it is not attracting many ticket-buyers. Spielberg is incapable of making a bad movie, and even his most annoying films (like this one) are thought-provoking and entertaining compared to most of the junk we are getting from Hollywood now. But “Close Encounters” is an unethical movie that bothers me more every time I see it.

The film celebrates hippy spiritual fanaticism for no good reason. Why does everyone get all misty-eyed over these angelic, long-armed  aliens who think they have leave to kidnap human beings, including babies, take them away from their families and disrupt their lives, and then dump them off in another place and time? Why is Richard Dreyfus smiling about that, the idiot? Meanwhile, his character has forgotten about his own wife and kids, never giving them a second thought once he goes E.T. hunting. (And why is Terri Garr treated so badly in her movies by alleged protagonists? Dustin Hoffman used her as a door mat in “Tootsie,” too.)

2. As an addendum to the previous post about DACA ethics, consider this example of how the news media sentimentalizes and propagandizes illegal immigration: the Washington Post’s heart-tugging and misleading story with the headline, “He was brought to Virginia as a toddler, deported at 19. He died in an overheated tractor-trailer trying to return.

“He” was an illegal immigrant, though the Post uses the deceitful “undocumented immigrant” euphemism, as if he lost his library card or something. His name was Frank  Fuentes, and he was quite rightly deported a year after he pleaded guilty to assault and battery as well as grand larceny­/pickpocketing in 2016. He died trying to break the law, and while dealing with the criminals who smuggle people into the U.S. in trucks. The fact that Fuentes didn’t deserve to die is waved by the Post like a crimson flag to distract from the fact that he had no right to be in the U.S., and no right to sneak back in.

Ah, but he was a good man at heart, who “loved skateboarding and music.”  “We all make mistakes,” the post quotes a friend as saying, not noting that this is the go-to rationalization for every law-breaker from Billy the Kid to Joe Arpaio. “He wanted to be better for his family and his mom . . . that’s all he cared about.”

What the Post is doing  isn’t reporting. It is selective, manipulated sentiment designed to obscure the real issues in illegal immigration. This kind of coverage is why polls about “dreamers” reflect shallow emotion-based reflex, not serious, informed consideration.

3. Sam Stein, formerly the Huffington Post’s senior politics editor now writing for  The Daily Beast, tweeted,

Discuss.

4.  The president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, announced that the police union’s members will refuse to hold the American flag as planned at the NFL’s Cleveland Brown’s home opener, after nine Browns players took a “Kaepernick” and knelt during the national anthem in a pre-season game with the New York Giants.

“It’s just ignorant for someone to do that,” Steve Loomis told reporters. “It just defies logic to me. The fact that management was aware of what they planned on doing, that’s as offensive as it can get.”

Good for the union. The NFL has been cowardly and irresponsible by not confronting and ending these demonstrations against the United States in general and police in particular, starting with its non-action when the St. Louis Rams performed a “Hands up! Don’t shoot! display in 2014. Kaepernick specifically had said, in his various vague posturings, that police were among the  targets of  his kneeling stunt, making the ignorant statement that officers in police-involved shootings should not collect a salary while investigations were pending (unlike, say, the many NFL players who have been suspects in criminal investigations).

Among the many functions of professional sports teams is to bring communities together, not divide them. Players are free to express their political positions, however ill-informed, off the field if they are willing to take responsibility for them, which may involve negative team action and fan anger. Cleveland, where 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot by an incompetent cop, is an especially sensitive place for an anti-police demonstration to take place.

The comments on the article at the link are depressing, as in knee-jerk and foolish. Continue reading

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“Racial Wealth Gap Persists Despite Degree, Study Says”…Now What?

The story ran as the front page lead in the New York Times more than a week ago, and was promptly ignored as the more pressing matter of criticism Donald Trump’s erudition in condemning the violence in Charlottesville obsessed the media:

“The long-term trend is shockingly clear,” said William R. Emmons, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and one of the authors of the report. “White and Asian college grads do much better than their counterparts without college, while college-grad Hispanics and blacks do much worse proportionately.”

A college degree has long been recognized as a great equalizer, a path for minorities to help bridge the economic chasm that separates them from whites. But the report, scheduled to be released on Monday, raises troubling questions about the ability of a college education to narrow the racial and ethnic wealth gap.

“Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,” the report concludes.

Great. What will level the playing field, and if the only solutions are ethically flawed, can the nation ethically accept that the playing field cannot be leveled? Is it necessary that all races achieve identical levels of success? Does the fact that a race, or an ethnic group, either exceeds or falls short of statistical parity signal that draconian measures must be undertaken by the government? Are we really committed to results based policies, or opportunity-based policies?

In the Times print version, there was a chart that labelled, among other things, Asian families as “over-represented” among wealthyl households headed by a college grad. “Over-represented” is a provocative word, suggesting that something is wrong with Asian American achieving beyond what pure statistical analysis would predict. Is it so unimaginable that the group itself may have something to do with its success—that its culture and values may allow it to be “over-represented”?

No, it isn’t unimaginable, but it is inconvenient and politically explosive. If culture and values can explain over-achievement, it will be difficult to avoid the conclusion that culture and values also play a part in under-achievement as well. The Times report (I haven’t read the whole study)  doesn’t hint at such a conclusion, while citing many other potential causes:

Researchers have repeatedly found discrimination in the job market. When two nearly identical résumés are sent out, for example, it has been documented that the candidate with a white-sounding name receives more callbacks than the applicant with a black-sounding name.

Discrimination like this and other factors contribute to the persistent and substantial pay gap between whites and minorities. Blacks, for instance, hold a disproportionate share of government jobs — a sector that has shrunk in recent years and provides fewer opportunities for big wage gains. Blacks have fewer advanced degrees, and the ones who do are more often in lower-paying fields or graduates of colleges with lesser reputations.

“Blacks and Latinos at all education levels, including college and advanced degrees, earn less than their white counterparts, which means lower lifetime earnings” and less ability to save, said John Schmitt, research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, who reviewed an advance copy of the report.

Blacks and Hispanics are also less likely than whites to inherit money or receive help from their parents to cover a tuition bill or a down payment on a house.

William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, points out that a family headed by a black college graduate has less wealth on average than a family headed by a white high school dropout.

That last fact is especially discouraging.

The relative disinterest of the news media in the implications of the report is troubling, or perhaps I should say its disinterest in pursuing an open and honest discussion of what the implications are, and what new policies should be considered. The status quo, with historically oppressed and disadvantaged groups perpetually lagging behind and perpetually blaming white society for their persistent plight, is a recipe for chaos, generating shrill and divisive prescriptions like this one, from Chanelle Helm,  a Black Lives Matters leader in Louisville:

Some things I’m thinking about that should change (in that Southern, black grandmama voice):

1. White people, if you don’t have any descendants, will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably one that lives in generational poverty.

2. White people, if you’re inheriting property you intend to sell upon acceptance, give it to a black or brown family. You’re bound to make that money in some other white privileged way.

3. If you are a developer or realty owner of multi-family housing, build a sustainable complex in a black or brown blighted neighborhood and let black and brown people live in it for free.

4. White people, if you can afford to downsize, give up the home you own to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

5. White people, if any of the people you intend to leave your property to are racists assholes, change the will, and will your property to a black or brown family. Preferably a family from generational poverty.

6. White people, re-budget your monthly so you can donate to black funds for land purchasing.

7. White people, especially white women (because this is yaw specialty — Nosey Jenny and Meddling Kathy), get a racist fired. Yaw know what the fuck they be saying. You are complicit when you ignore them. Get your boss fired cause they racist too.

8. Backing up No. 7, this should be easy but all those sheetless Klan, Nazi’s and Other lil’ dick-white men will all be returning to work. Get they ass fired. Call the police even: they look suspicious.

9. OK, backing up No. 8, if any white person at your work, or as you enter in spaces and you overhear a white person praising the actions from yesterday, first, get a pic. Get their name and more info. Hell, find out where they work — Get Them Fired. But certainly address them, and, if you need to, you got hands: use them.

10. Commit to two things: Fighting white supremacy where and how you can (this doesn’t mean taking up knitting, unless you’re making scarves for black and brown kids in need), and funding black and brown people and their work.

I read this, and find myself wondering if one of the reasons for that discouraging study’s results is the increasing influence of voices like Chanelle Helm’s.

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