Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beyond What Point Is The Money Not Worth Earning?

For most, the question is a non-sequitur. More money equals more happiness. So more is always better. And more never becomes enough if only because there is always more. So goes the argument . . . Unfortunately for those who operate on this paradigm, the news is not good. Studies of Americans at different income levels reveal the following: " might bring you some happiness, but beyond that magic point, any additional income isn't going to make you happier." That magic point has, apparently, been deduced as approximately 75,000 USD a year, according to a recent study by two Princeton University researchers who looked at the data of approximately 450,000 Americans. What they found was that as income increased, emotional well-being also went up, but the line flattened out from the $75,000 mark.  "Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being," the study reported. This means that people in the US who make $75,000 US a year are just as happy as those who make $150,000. Any higher income is not going to increase emotional well-being, but a lower income is associated with less emotional well-being." Once basic needs of food, shelter, clothing (and some say a basic education) have been met, the rest is window dressing. Many believe this precept at an intellectual level, but it is hard to find more than a handful who have made the choice to have less as a way to happiness, compared to the far more common paradigm of having more, or at least wanting more. It is more than an interesting fact. Courtesy of Knowledge@SMU via Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Employees Fear More Layoffs - Correctly

as one supervisor I recently interviewed said as he looked out a plant window over a community decimated by closures and layoffs, "Welcome to hell.".

Statistically, he is on the money.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 31% of American employees believe the next layoff will be soon and they will be victims.



US employers announced plans to lay-0ff 51,144 people in August up 47% from a year ago, according to a just completed survey by Challenger Gray.

There were only 90,000 jobs created last month in an economy that needs over 200,000 just to take care of those entering the workforce.

So, it can't be surprising that consumer confidence fell 15 points (6th largest single month drop ever) to levels not seen since the bottom fell put in 2009.

August will close out the markets with a sickening loss of at least 6%, enhancing the altogether correct belief among many employees that "I will never be able to retire."

Home prices are still well below where they were a year ago, and food and clothing are up no matter what government's skewed inflation numbers may indicate to the contrary.


Monday, August 29, 2011

What We Learned From The Great Recession

After the most severe recession in a generation, some would say several generations, one would think hard lessons would be learned -- the primary ones of which would be to stop spending and start saving. And, for a few brief quarters, it appeared the cure had taken.

But, not so fast . . .

This morning it was reported Americans increased their spending in July much more than expected. Indeed, spending jumped 0.8%, the biggest gain in five months, says the Commerce Department.

Ironically, income rose only 0.3%.

So, you may be asking, "Where did the American consumer come up with the other .5%?"

Out of his savings, of course. The saving rate slowed to 5.0, down exactly a half percent from the month before.

Of course, Wall Street heralded the disturbing development as good news, the Wall Street Journal trumpeting it as "a surprising sign of strength for the economy going into the second half of the year," ignoring the fact it is completely unsustainable.

Consumerism is the methamphetamine of the average American, and the addiction will prove equally as dangerous.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Litigation Nation: Another Headwind America Can No Longer Sustain

15 million lawsuits will be filed in 2011 across the U.S. 
A new lawsuit every 2 seconds  
One lawsuit for every 12 adults
21 U.S. states are facing a medical liability crisis
$248.1 billion = the cost to the U.S. tort system (personal injury) in 2009, or $808 per person
The cost per capita of tort related lawsuits has increased 800% between 1950 to 2009 

As the United States competes for its historic position at the top of the economic heap, some would say to remain the leper with the most fingers, there are dynamics that are simply inexplicable, indeed disturbing. One of these is America as the nation of litigation and its cost to business, taxpayers and government.

This is not a new phenomenon, but one that remains unsolved indicating either a satisfaction with the way it is or an active negligence toward the issue by an otherwise apathetic General Public.

Regardless, it is unsustainable. The headwind caused by a nation of victims with a legal system willing to litigate any foul, or perceived foul, is simply too much to bear when added to our uncompetitive compensation, lagging educational system, and the collective assumption that the only thing left is to haggle over the ruins. But, perhaps that is what victims do.

An excellent graph of this sad dynamic can be found at:


Saturday, August 27, 2011

NLRB Exceeding Its Mandate And Taking Away Your Rights Simultaneously

We, the Sheeple, have become so used to Big Government treading on and over our rights that something as seemingly insignificant has having to post still another notice in the workplace is getting little reaction.

And, that's too bad.

Regulation is incremental -- sort of like going from:

1. the parking lot to your airplane, then

2. from the parking lot to a metal detector to your airplane, then

3. from the parking lot to a x-ray device that strips your clothes and photographs your body.

I suggest that had we gone from the parking lot to a naked photo scanner there would have been some serious push back.

The same is true here.

I took the following from today's post by the National Right To Work Foundation that summarizes it as well as I have seen it done. I commend it to your review . . .

" . . . the NLRB has two chief functions.

"First, it administers union certification and decertification elections. Second, it adjudicates cases when workers, employers, or union officials file unfair labor practice charges against either unions or companies.

"But now the NLRB has invented out of whole cloth a new unfair labor practice without Congressional approval. No other federal agency has ever made it unlawful to fail to post a notice that wasn't required by Congress.

"Any job provider that fails to post the biased notice could find itself forced into a lengthy and costly legal battle.

"Mom and Pop can't afford that.

"What makes the new rule even more troubling is that anyone can file the unfair labor practice charge -- not just the company's employees.

"The new rule hands aggressive union organizers another weapon in so-called "corporate campaigns" in which they drag a business through the mud in the media with frivolous accusations of employer misconduct.

"Union bosses only back off after the business agrees to throw its employees under the bus and let the union launch an abusive "card check" organizing campaign.

"This "top-down" union organizing strategy frequently involves a team of union agents showing up at workers' homes and browbeating them with misleading statements, outright lies, and even intimidation until the worker agrees to sign a so-called "union authorization card" instead of a secret-ballot election.

"Meanwhile, experts believe the NLRB is scheming to impose card check "neutrality agreements" on businesses found to have committed labor law violations.

"Media reports in the Boeing case revealed that the NLRB's Acting General Counsel tried to force Boeing into a settlement to let union officials gain monopoly bargaining power over employees through card check.

"This latest power grab is yet more evidence of its desperate desire to pay off Big Labor before the next election, and it's an invitation to Big Labor to run card check campaigns everywhere in America.

"Moreover, the posting's pro-forced unionism bias couldn't be clearer.

"No mention of workers' right to decertify an unwanted union.

"No mention of workers' right to demand a secret-ballot election if aggressive union organizers try to strong-arm their way into a workplace.

"No mention of workers' right to divert forced union dues to a charity if they have a conscientious, religious objection to union membership.

"No mention of workers' right to refrain from financially supporting union-boss politics or, if they work in a Right to Work state, to opt out of paying any forced "fees."

"Federal labor law is supposedly intended to help workers protect their rights.

"The biased and ideologically-charged Obama Labor Board, however, has turned into an organizing tool for Big Labor.

"And it's all designed to give union bosses and unelected bureaucrats even more power over workers and job providers alike -- at a time when our economy continues to languish."

Advice: Call your Senators, Congressmen and join the National Right To Work Foundation. And, explain this Notice and the law in a balanced, accurate way to your employees before posting. Your right to free speech is also under attack but for now you can still state the facts, and your opinion.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

National Labor Relations To Require Employers To Post Pro-Union Notices In The Workplace

See notice below and link from the National Labor Relations Board.

Still another union bailout by the Obama Administration.

At the behest of unions who are mostly too lazy to get out and organize, employers will now have to assist. Starting November 11, 2011 every employer is now going to have to post a notice in the workplace that is, in effect, pro-union.

It may sound like much ado about nothing but it is a lot more . . . posting these notices is essentially an invitation to union organizing, an invitation to your employees to call a union anytime they are unhappy about anything. What's worse is that the notice makes it sound as if the employer is neutral.  

Recommendation: A ommunications plan should be developed to put this notice into proper context.

Notice from National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a Final Rule that will require employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act as of November 14, 2011. 

Private-sector employers (including labor organizations) whose workplaces fall under the National Labor Relations Act will be required to post the employee rights notice where other workplace notices are typically posted. Also, employers who customarily post notices to employees regarding personnel rules or policies on an internet or intranet site will be required to post the Board’s notice on those sites. Copies of the notice will be available from the Agency’s regional offices, and it may also be downloaded from the NLRB website. 

The notice, which is similar to one required by the U.S. Department of Labor for federal contractors, states that employees have the right to act together to improve wages and working conditions, to form, join and assist a union, to bargain collectively with their employer, and to refrain from any of these activities. It provides examples of unlawful employer and union conduct and instructs employees how to contact the NLRB with questions or complaints. 

The Board received approximately 6,500 comments during the 60-day comment period following publication of the Proposed Rule in the Federal Register, and accepted an additional 500 that arrived after the deadline. In response to the comments, some parts of the rule were modified. For example, employers will not be required to distribute the notice via email, voice mail, text messaging or related electronic communications even if they customarily communicate with
their employees in that manner, and they may post notices in black and white as well as in color. The final rule also clarifies requirements for posting in foreign languages. Similar postings of workplace rights are required under other federal workplace laws. 

Board Chairman Wilma B. Liebman and Members Mark Gaston Pearce and Craig Becker approved the final rule, with Member Brian Hayes dissenting. 

The rule will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, and will take effect 75 days later. A fact sheet with further information about the rule is available


Monday, August 22, 2011



That number reflects the minimum percentage of Americans who are unemployed.

9.1%, the party line number, is pure fiction.

Why? Because it doesn’t include Americans who have left the workforce temporarily, mostly due to being "discouraged," a cruel euphemism used by government to remove the chronically unemployed off the books.

While Federal Reserve economists pretend that the unemployment picture has improved since their last intervention, the facade is disingenuous at best.

If we look back to 2007, we can see where the missing got lost. Then, the labor participation rate was 66.4%. In July 2011, it hit a new recessionary low of 63.9%. That 2.5% might not seem like a lot, but it would have meant nearly 6 million more people in the labor force. If you add those people into the workforce, then the unemployment rate last month would have hit a new high of 12.5%, much higher than the official 9.1% reported.


Monday, August 15, 2011

What Percentage Of Your Employees Need To Buy "The Vision" To Make A Difference?

Every company of any size has a "vision."

Most companies of all sizes have failed to inculcate that vision into its workforce.

Most blame it on the size of the job, meaning the belief that a large majority must adopt the vision and be engaged in it.

Not true.

The good news is not many employees must believe. Indeed, 10% who are true believers can will change a culture.

"Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point was a great examination of how little trends become massive phenomenons . . . the key number is 10%:

"Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.

"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority," said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. "Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame."

"An important aspect of the finding is that the percent of committed opinion holders required to shift majority opinion does not change significantly regardless of the type of network in which the opinion holders are working. In other words, the percentage of committed opinion holders required to influence a society remains at approximately 10 percent, regardless of how or where that opinion starts and spreads in the society."

That's the good news.

The bad news is getting 10% of any group to buy into a paradigm-shifting belief has proven difficult, sometimes impossible, in most organizations.

Wny? Either an ineffective message or an ineffective messaging system.

Either is not fatal. The effort to inculcate a vision can be successful with the right message, one that is not only true, but believable, achievable, and specific, one with a communications system in place, one that utilizes multiple modes of communication and all levels of management and supervision, one that is integrated and for which results are tracked via survey and anecdotal follow-up.

If you would like more information, e-mail

Source: Science Daily
Source: Barking Up The Wrong Tree


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Was Karl Marx Right After All?

For sure Marx didn't get it right regarding socialist theory, but according to economist Nouriel Roubini, a/k/a "Dr. Doom," who predicted the 2008 financial crisis down to the last detail, Marx got it right when he criticized capitalism.

Marx argued that capitalism had a fundamental contradiction that would cyclically lead to crises, and that, at minimum, would place pressure on the economic system.

Companies, Roubini said in a Wall Street Journal interview, are motivated to minimize costs, to save and stockpile cash. Good on its face, but it leads to less money in the hands of employees, which means they have less money to spend and flow back to companies.

In the current financial crisis, consumers, in addition to having less money to spend due to the above, are also motivated to minimize costs, to save and stockpile cash, magnifying the effect of less money flowing back to companies.

“Karl Marx had it right,” Roubini said, "At some point capitalism can self-destroy itself. That’s because you can not keep on shifting income from labor to capital without not having an excess capacity and a lack of aggregate demand. We thought that markets work. They are not working. What’s individually rational . . . is a self-destructive process.”

We are not economists here, but there is plenty of evidence that Roubini has it right (which may mean Marx had it right, too.) Savings rates soared after the crisis, both corporate and individual, with corporate balance sheets ballooning with cash (not being paid as wages and not being spent to hire new employees). Employees, and former employees, were just surveyed and provided the worst consumer confidence number since 1980, leading one to wonder where the demand for products and services will come from, and if it doesn't come will lead companies to continue to hoard cash, not hire, and continue the cycle.

Interesting times, indeed.

(See: International Business Times, "Nouriel "Dr. Doom" Roubini: "Karl Marx Was Right" for Wall Street Journal interview summary.)


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just How Important Are Friendships At Work?

We know that as an element of workplace satisfaction, friendships at work are important.

It appears they are also important in getting promoted. This courtesy of "Barking Up The Wrong Tree":

Employees who are the most unwilling to develop workplace friendships seem to be the least likely to be promoted, according to research by Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage. In a blog post on, he says he divided employees into quartiles on the basis of their willingness to initiate work relationships, such as by inviting coworkers out for drinks. Just 5% of the bottom quartile were extremely engaged in their work, and just 7% had been promoted in the past year. About 40% of employees in the other quartiles had received promotions.

Source: HBR Daily Stat

It might also keep you alive:

Dr. Sharon Toker of the Department of Organizational Behavior at TAU's Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that employees who believe that they have the personal support of their peers at work are more likely to live a longer life. "We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we don't have much time to meet our friends during the weekdays," explains Dr. Toker. "Work should be a place where people can get necessary emotional support."

Dr. Toker and her TAU colleagues Prof. Arie Shirom and Yasmin Alkaly, along with Orit Jacobson and Ran Balicer from Clalit Healthcare Services, followed the health records of 820 adults who worked an average of 8.8 hours a day through a two-decade period. Those who had reported having low social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to die sometime within those 20 years, says Dr. Toker.

Source: Science Daily


Thursday, August 04, 2011

Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride . . .

"Buy the ticket, take the ride."

That fine phrase came from none other than Dr. Gonzo himself, Hunter S. Thompson. In the context of writing, it means that once you've penned it and released it, you have no idea where it will end up but you can absolutely count on someone remembering it at the wrong moment.

Indeed, on more than one occasion, I've found my old newspaper columns that had been taped on refrigerators for years torn off and in my mailbox with notes to the effect, "Remember writing that, you fool?"

And, I always remember.

Tim Geithner has to remember, too. It was only a year ago that he wrote an article mistitled, "Welcome To The Recovery" in none other than the New York Times. In it he nearly beat himself to death patting his boss on the back for saving the world . . . 

"The economic rescue package," he said, "[the one] that President Obama put in place was essential to turning the economy around. The combined effect of government actions taken over the past two years — the stimulus package, the stress tests and recapitalization of the banks, the restructuring of the American car industry and the many steps taken by the Federal Reserve — were extremely effective in stopping the freefall and restarting the economy." 

Fast forward until, say, today. Today would be a good day to look at that prurient pontification, that altogether incredible claim of unmitigated success.

The Dow was down 512 points today, making it 9 days of 10 that the markets were shredded, and that didn't happen because things are going so well.

No, it appears the "stimulus" package(s) that Timmy revered did, well, nothing, except add zeros to already disturbing debt numbers.

The "restructuring," a foul euphemism for bailing out the rich and their banks did, well, just that -- kept the rich rich.

And the unidentified "steps taken by the Federal Reserve," only one of which I remember -- the relentless printing of money -- had the net effect of delaying today and the many days that will follow today.

The cat's out of the bag. The emperor is butt-naked and almost everyone knows it. Except for the media, of course, who know it but are dominated by those in whose best interest it is that average Americans don't march to their houses in the middle of the night and start burning them down.

Joe is told to stick with his "buy and hold strategy," which over the last 10 years has translated into a "buy and lose your ass strategy."

Those of us who can watch a ticker on and off during a day can avoid some of the carnage, not all, but a lot of it.

But what about poor Joe Lunchbucket? He has his "retirement" tied up in his 401k or IRA and when he gets home tonight after a hard day's work he is going to get on the Internet and get some very bad news and he will lie his head on his hands and weep and wonder if he will ever be able to retire. Tomorrow some 401k moron or CNBC talking head will attempt to calm Joe by telling him that markets "ebb and flow" and that if he hangs on long enough he has nothing to worry about. It is modernity's version of "bread and circuses."

After all, those who have made millions or billions lying to Joe for the last 30 years don't want Joe and a few million of his friends in the streets in a drunken rage with shotguns and serious grudges to settle, now do they?

No, they don't.