The Age of Entitlements

Author Richard Solomon is a conflicts and crisis management lawyer with 50 years of experience in business development, antitrust and franchise law, management counseling and dispute resolution including trials and crisis management.

If the poor are entitled to assistance under numerous government programs, then what are the successful entitled to?

Do $ 6,000 toilets, $ 14,000 rugs, $ 50,000,000 airplanes all fall within the range of entitlements in publicly held companies? The answer is, for the most part, yes. The CEOs of the big three – a euphemism – automakers in the US flew to Washington recently, each in his own jet plane. So what? They fly everywhere they like and to anywhere they like in their company owned and operated jet planes all the time and no one says a word about it. Billions in bonuses are distributed within single companies each year without a peep from shareholders or from Congress. So what’s the big deal?

Blips cause noise. Are we experiencing a blip? How long does downturn have to last; how many people must lose their livelihoods; and how many companies and banks must fail before a blip becomes a recession/depression?

Supposedly, if President Obama can get his “stimulus” package through Congress, we will be turned around in about three years. That means that we will have bottomed out somewhat before that and be experiencing highly touted positive numbers in about two years. If we just stop handing Iraq $ 10,000,000,000 a month, that will free up more then enough money to cover the continuation of executive entitlements during this blip – right? Why are not Congress and the press as annoyed at the Iraq waste as they are about much less expensive executive entitlements? What am I missing? The money going to Iraq certainly isn’t producing anything of value for us. It is just a charade, in which we pay and they pretend to be interested in living together harmoniously. Stop the payments and their true personae will emerge overnight. At least our pampered executives can be expected not to car bomb anyone. Doesn’t that count for something?

Am I just being sarcastic? Only partly. There is a lesson here. The lesson is that abrupt changes of substantial magnitude cause misperceptions about many things that are just ordinary course issues in “normal” times. In normal times, profitable times, companies in America generate so much wealth that executive “entitlements” aren’t noticed. After the current carnage, companies will again generate great wealth in America.

How we manage the interim and whether in that interim the “little people’s” suffering is modulated is seen by many as meaningless. We willy nilly provide many billions for large enterprises that don’t use the money to retain employees. After all, one retains employees to produce goods and services that people will buy. If people aren’t buying – so the theory goes – why retain employees? And – if you are of a true executive mindset –why relieve little people who aren’t now producing wealth? But…then…why in the same interim allow continued executive entitlements for executives that are now not producing wealth? Why not claw back some of the excess?

Silly question, right? Hmmmm…..