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RE: The failings ... I second the motion!

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Bill,
This is a long post - I am sorry and I am not because I don't have the time
to tweak it out to make it shorter and more to the point. Read it lightly,
skim the sections as you please and I apologize for being so lengthy.

You followed the path that most of us who understand that we have a path to
lead on our own follow. At one time, it was the original owners of small
companies that followed their dreams to be independent and grew to be large
and prestigious firms that employ thousands. While in one sense you are
correct - Corporations are entities run by a board of directors led by
shareholders. However, greed is what leads to the destruction of most
societies. It was not hard to see how the United States benefited from a
rebuilding of Europe after two world wars. However, when our prosperity was
threatened by oil embargoes and rising gas prices in 1974 our businesses
that answered to shareholders started seeking cutbacks that would not harm
the employees and their benefits. 
Reducing unused space was the first start, then setting the thermostat back
to conserve energy. Businesses started to evaluate their clients and
obtaining credit for goods weeded out the clients who were greater risks. At
the time I was working in a family owned container business and everything
wet up in cost - plastics, shipping and storage.
While it took years, business started cutting back "perks" to clients and to
their own. Salaries did not grow each year as inflation grew faster. When
everything mechanic (non-human) could be cut back, businesses started
reducing staff and expecting more work from the staff they had. By the late
70's the two income household was much more common and consideration was
given for multi-family living to compensate for the growing interest rates
(the same as prior to the Second World War where it was not uncommon for
parents and married children to live in the same home). 
I should say that at this time, if you had savings, you did well as interest
rates rose and investing in something simply like Certificate of Deposits
could yield nearly double digit interest. 
Salaries became stagnant and vacation time was changed, then benefits were
manipulated so that the employee paid for his family to be covered while
past plans covered the family. 
You can see my point, I hope. As cut-backs were occurring the most obvious
place to cut back and still maintain profit was the employee. We reached a
point where we started to lay people off to insure continued profits.
I recall each annual meeting with this company. A percentage was set for the
following year - a goal of percentage profit the company was expected to
make and if you hit your goal you were given a bonus and if not, you may be
looking for another job. In 1978 I did not hit my goal and was fired from
the family owned business - the best thing that ever happened to me.
I change my location (moved from Chicago to California) and went back to
school to study engineering. I'll skip my Reagan Democrat days as I did not
fair well and by the time I was qualified to take my PE exam, I was told by
our new bosses that they no longer would support my education or time to
attend classes nor were they interested in my becoming licensed. I left that
Friday (after receiving this information), took my PE on Saturday and quit
my job on Monday. I was one step ahead of the layoffs in the Aerospace
industry in California and just in time for Seismic Retrofit. I worked for
an architectural firm until I received confirmation that I passed the PE and
immediately went into private practice as a consulting engineer for a firm
that worked in seismic retrofit and design. I was interested in residential
design, but had little of it while in Los Angeles at the end of the 80's. 
I was a firm believer that the majority of workers in corporate America
would lose their jobs after an average of five to seven years. 
I've been in private practice since 1987 - nearly 17 years and for the first
five years, my parents kept asking me if I was every going to get a real job
working for someone who would check my work. This was my fathers world, not
mine.
The point is that many of us are destined not to work for others but to
blaze our own paths. If we fail we only have ourselves to blame and since
the start, I never worried where the next job was going to come from.
With this said, my eyes, ears and intelligence is open and I see threats
coming in the form of competition that I can not compete against. It is not
so much for me as I'll retire in 8 or ten years but for my children and
grandchildren. Their opportunities were worse than mine, and mine were much
worse than my fathers. With the growth of the European Union and large
Corporations centered off-shore, there is no benefit to hire American
workers. 
This is simply a matter of logic - and yes, there is greed to be blamed in
this equation. No matter if the shareholder of the stock is working
American's, without their understanding and knowledge of how the company
they invest in is harming the Job Market in the United States, they may
clear their conscience but they also create a potential hardship for future
generations who will bear the cost of our losses.

You can argue (you being anyone who wants to) that in our Democracy, we have
a free-enterprise system that we refer to as Capitalism. However, with any
economic system there is a line of perfection (we learned this in linear
analysis) that we hope to achieve. However, once we cross that line we lose
profit and overstock goods or unbalance the cost of employees. In other
words, a free-enterprise system does not give the board of directors or
shareholders the right to glut a society and then destroy the foundation it
was built upon to suck the profits out of another country that has
opportunities today. Once this is gone, this faceless group of shareholders
will move on to another market and leave the previous one as poor and
diminished as the first.  This isn't a prediction, it is a logical
occurrence of steps that has been followed since the 70's and is continuing
today.

Reasonable profits and return on investment can help save a society by
expanding their life and availability of cash to hire and save employee
jobs. Glutting the market will close down the opportunities and this is what
we are seeing today - more and more glut.

Unfortunately, a portion of what you stated is correct - we are punishing
ourselves when we invest in companies that take our labor off-shore. As
citizens of this country, we have some social responsibility to protect the
lives of our workers.

Finally, I went to see a client on Friday. He just retired from a computer
company in the Silicon Valley. His company sold out and he was the man who
laid off 1,500 employees. He took his pension and benefits and retired to La
Quinta. His son just joined him and his wife. The son is about 30-ish and
worked as a programmer in the Silicon Valley. He was laid off three weeks
ago and is now living with his parents again since he can not afford to stay
in the Silicon Valley as the property values are some of the highest in the
United States.

There is most definitely a threat to the professional fields including ours.
If we ignore this and simply wave it off as paranoia, we won't be prepared
to stand against the massive loss of work and jobs even for independents
like me.

Bill is an example of what happens when they want you out. I found out the
same way in Aerospace. In our family business, I was just bad - I hated it
and they figured out I was not salesman material. However, it was the best
five or six years I had to get to know my father who also worked for the
firm and was their top salesman. He was disappointed when I was asked to
leave. However before he died, he learned to appreciate what I do for a
living by overseeing the construction of our home that I designed.

I can't see how anyone can argue that a potential or existing class war is
inevitable in the United States. Even Bill found out what it is like to be
arrogant enough to become destined to go it on your own and be successful if
not simply happy to call your own shots. I just don't know how long I will
be able to enjoy my freedom of sole-proprietorship.

Regards,
Dennis S. Wish, PE
California Professional Engineer
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-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bill(--nospam--at)polhemus.cc] 
Sent: Friday, December 17, 2004 7:50 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Re: The failings ... I second the motion!

Gary Hodgson & Associates wrote:

>On the other hand, I've also heard from someone who is only a cog in 
>a big corporate wheel who fears for his job and fears to speak out.  
>
I have no bone to pick with "corporate America" nor do I think they are 
the "root of all evil"--corporations have no souls, and are not living, 
so they can't be "evil." Corporations are simply groups of stockholders 
who hire people to run the business for them so they can receive the 
income from their investment, nothing more. The idea that they're out to 
"rule the world" is pretty silly, given that the "majority owners" of 
such enterprises are e.g. teachers' retirement funds and 401k aggregators.

That said, I cannot work in a corporate environment, period. It would be 
easier to say that "I hate the container lifestyle," or whatever, but 
the fact is that I'm too outspoken, to stubborn and bullheaded, and too 
undiplomatic. On at least two occasions I "rose" to a managerial rank 
only to "screw up" because I naively believed that "speaking up" was a 
"good thing," when it clearly was not. And I accept responsibility for 
what happened to me in that instance, because when you're in the other 
guy's crib you gotta play by their rules (a little Jim Rome lingo 
there). I couldn't play by the rules. I was bored and fidgety, and 
totally ineffective. I finally acceded to the fact that I am "ADHD" or 
whatever, and I have to be in an environment where I'm engaged.

The clear road for me was self-employment, and it has mostly worked out 
okay. You have to remember that "no matter where you go, there you are" 
(more pop-culture references, this time "Buckaroo Banzai." Please pardon 
my fugue). I have dragged along many of my foibles with me, of course, 
and I have to make sure I take measures to "stay on task." I've been 
late on projects before simply from taking on too much work or getting 
side-tracked by things I WANTED to do at that moment. At least this time 
I'm only letting myself down--because the client isn't paying for my 
time, he's paying for my effort. I sleep better at night knowing that.

Sorry for showing my underwear but I think about this stuff a lot and 
it's good to hear other perspectives.

Those of you who are "stuck" in a corporate environment, all you really 
need to do is ask these questions of yourself: "Am I happy where I am? 
Do I feel that I'm contributing to a worthy effort as well as gaining 
skills that I value for the future?" If the answers are "yes" then stay 
where you are and don't let anyone dog you about "workin' for the Man."

But if you know within yourself that you aren't happy, maybe it's time 
to reassess what you can and should be doing. I made the decision to 
strike out and I've NEVER regretted it. My situation was made easier for 
having been "pushed," but the motivation is only a side-issue. Simply 
know that if someone as "uneven" as I am--pretty good engineering 
skills, fair people skills, "needs improvement" in organizational 
skills--if I can do it, you probably can, too.

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