Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Halliburton Moving HQ To Dubai

Here is a sloppily worded (but well reasoned of course!) Slashdot post in response to the question of bringing back the old days of companies that cared for their employees' well being:
Q: It's a damned shame, but how can we bring it back?

I rather doubt we can, in our lifetimes anyway. Countries that are just now entering the level of prosperity that we enjoyed in the second half of the 20th century are quite willing to give tax breaks, look the other way on pollution controls, and in general "care about" companies that open up in otherwise impoverished parts of their countries. Here on the other hand, we have developed a cultural bias against all large companies, while at the same time not doing much to favor small companies either.

If you are a Boeing, you may make the best airplanes, but you have a heavily government subsidized Airbus to go up against. In this particular case of course, Airbus, having nothing to lose but European tax payers money went way out on a limb with some bad technology and now Boeing is seeing the benefit. But several years ago Boeing outlook wasn't so certain, and several years from now (if Airbus gets their act together) that might be the case again. Very rarely though does our government step in to prop up a company that might be in trouble (Chrysler being a counter example), instead letting the chips fall where they may (as with Enron, Worldcom, etc.)

On the other hand, if a company is healthy, there is a public outcry to keep them out of town (Walmart), tax them more, or confiscate their revenues for some worthy cause (as Hillary wants to to do to the other US oil companies). It seems to be often forgotten that these "big greedy companies" are where many of our retirement programs are invested. Yes, Enron was evil (at the top), yes they did bad things, and yes a lot of individuals were hurt when their stock value went to zero. But was the average Enron employee a part of this? Would forcing them all to archive their e-mail for a billion years have prevented it? Doubtful.

Do small companies get treated better? Maybe some do, but the ones I know are being run on a shoestring and nobody working there is getting rich. A dozen man construction company for example is subject to endless regulations, and because they handle millions of dollars in materials, even though the employees may be making a low hourly wage, they are not treated like a "small business". Doctors and Dentists in America used to be thought of as small businesses too, and that's the way they operated. But our legal system has changed all that. Now even the smallest country doctor needs a staff to keep track of paperwork, billing though various government agencies, and of course responding to litigation issues.

Our media has focused on the fact that many large companies are being run by executives that are millionaires, and who continue to make millions every year, often after poor performance. But this isn't true of the vast majority of businesses and we've lost sight of the fact that the REAL value of the company (almost any company) is is the hundreds (or thousands) of employees making a living wage, as well as stockholders (pensioners) just like you and me. Socialist countries (I include most of Europe) have awakened to the need to keep these companies happy, just as we (Americans) have started to find every reason imaginable to make such companies feel unwelcome.

I don't think for a minute that most big companies "care" about their employees, other than on a competitive level, where they have to offer just enough incentives to keep them from jumping ship. But the average American voter certainly doesn't care for corporate America either, and as you can see here from the other comments, we'll also blame them for not sticking around to take another beating. Do you think the average government worker in Washington "cares" about the average American citizen either? Yet we give them more and more authority over us to protect us from those institutions that are free to go somewhere else if the going gets too tough here.

To bring things back we have to once again realize that with the exception of a few executives most companies are "us". At the same time, India, China, and so on will have to stop offering them incentives to move. Our attitude certainly shows no sign of changing any time soon, and I don't think those other countries will either, hence I think it will take a new generation of people in America (who will unfortunately not be too well off) to once again see the value of saying "yes sir" to the boss.

I am no defender of Haliburton. There ARE bad companies, and maybe they are one of them. I'm none too happy with what Microsoft has done to the average computer operating system, but my remedy has to do with their monopoly status, not what Gates and Ballmer get paid. Enron was lead by unethical idiots, but all those people are now in jail or dead. It is our culture that punished the company as a whole, criticizing them for every business deal they've done in the last 20 years, and instituting new laws (Sarbanes/Oxley) that will cost ALL companies, good and bad billions of dollars in compliance costs. Can't we just "fix" Microsoft for their monopolistic behavior? Couldn't we have just "fixed" Enron by taking out (legally of course) their boardroom? Can't we go after Walmart's health coverage issues? No, instead we have passed, and will continue to pass draconian new rules that will cause large companies to run at a loss, and small companies to go under. In fact, companies like Microsoft, with billions in the bank will benefit (at least in the short term) as smaller competitors are put out of business. We are in for a clash of titans here in America (Google, MS, IBM, HP AOL/TW and a few others), and then I think we are going to see a big big crash. That's the way I see it anyway. I hope I'm wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment