Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another foray into the world outside of sports

If you've checked my site recently, you've noticed that my posting has gone down significantly since the turn of the new year. For one thing, football season ended and I didn't much feel like being reflective on the woulda's, coulda's, and shoulda's that were the Georgia football season and the Atlanta Falcons playoff "run". The first full workout for the Atlanta Braves was today so baseball isn't really in motion yet. The men's basketball team is a mess in itself and I personally couldn't care less about the NBA, NHL, or recruiting.

I realize that's blasphemy to a lot of college fans these days, but I don't follow recruiting that strongly. I just don't see the point in getting all worked up over a bunch of 17-18 year old kids that showed some athletic ability in high school. Some have already peaked athletically and some unheralded recruits end up becoming Damn Good Dawgs by the time they leave (see: Pollack, David). I can't put much stock in some kid just because Scouts or Rivals tells me to. I especially wonder about kids that come from rural areas and small towns. These kids have typically been stars on the field their whole lives. They've always been better than everyone they've played against on sheer athletic ability alone and never really had to work at it. Then, they get to a big-time football program like Georgia and are in a room full of guys that are just as good athletically, or even better than these guys. I wonder if an 18 year old kid that's always been told he's the best is mature enough to handle that reality.

Back to the original subject of my post, my posting lately has been light. That is primarily attributable to what we in the public accounting industry call "busy season". If you haven't been able to deduce by my online tag, I work as an external auditor for a fairly well-known public accounting firm in its Atlanta office. Busy season for us occurs during the first few months of each calendar year as most companies end their fiscal years at 12/31 and we must complete their financial audits by the end of February so they may file the appropriate reports with the appropriate agencies by March 15th. Anyways, you can tell when someone is a public accountant because they tend to always be at work and gain anywhere from 15-70 pounds during January and February (I kid, I kid).

Anyways, I've decided to take more of a personal focus on this blog during the downtime in the sports world to discuss the current crapstorm of a financial crisis we face in this country as my career path is intimately related to it. I decided to post this after a nice discussion I entered with Ally over at her site over the past weekend. First off, I don't want to turn this into a Democrat vs. Republican vs. Libertarian debate because I think we're polarized enough as it is. I want to bring this to the forefront as a concerned citizen and why I personally think I could grab a friend and go run this country better than the idiots (that term includes Democrats and Republicans. See, I'm not biased. I'm an equal opportunity hater when it comes to politicians) we have in Washington right now. I'll break this down into five separate points that I feel warrant further discussion.

(1) People that say it's the (insert party's name) fault when referring to the current financial crisis.

You people are straight up morons. This is a crisis for which the blame shall be equally shared. Many like to think that the current crop of Democrats are going to increase the size of government through spending programs that will eventually lead us into Socialism or some form of it. I say the wheels were already in motion towards huge government when the Republicans were in power from 2001-2006. They controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House for 6 years and all they did was spend profusely and increase the national debt three-fold from what it was when former President Clinton left office. Say what you will about having to increase spending to fund two wars, but these Republicans that are now outraged over the spending provisions within the recently signed stimulus bill crack me up. My question to them is "Where the hell were you fiscal conservatives when your party was going gangbusters with my tax dollars from 2001-2006"?

(2) The whole Citigroup situation

The whole ordeal that Citigroup experienced from a public relations standpoint over the last month has caused my blood to boil more than anything else about this whole crisis. This time I will blame the Democrats for being idiots. They essentially have strong-armed Citigroup into consider reneging on a 20 year $400M marketing agreement with the New York Mets and to cancel the purchase of a new corporate jet. On the face, those things do look bad from a PR perspective. What company in its right mind would accept bail-out money from the federal government and use it to buy a new jet and pay $400M to a sports team? It's a fair question. The problem is those were agreements the company entered into well before the current financial crisis. The company originally ordered the jet in 2005 to replace its aging jet and it made the marketing agreement with the Mets in 2006. I may not be a lawyer, but I thought a legally binding contract between two consenting companies was a staple of common law in this country.

My problem with the idiots on Capitol Hill is that they just pander to the complaining masses. John Q. Taxpayer sees these expenditures towards the Mets and a new jet and freaks out wondering why this company should be receiving his tax money if it's going to spend it indiscriminately. It's a fair concern, but the general populace shouldn't be angry with Citigroup. They should be angry with their representatives in Congress for being a bunch of idiots. Those idiots realize the anger of their constituents and play to the masses by condemning Citigroup and making Citi look like the bad guy.

Citi accepted the bailout money under the premise that it was to allow business to go on as usual. If Congress had a problem with giving money to a company in the process of buying a new jet and getting ready to put its name on a new stadium in Queens, Congress should have made that explicitly clear before Citi accepted any money. If anything, Congress didn't do its due diligence and didn't actually review the books of any of these companies for which it has so generously awarded this taxpayer money. Had the Congress actually reviewed Citi's books it would have been well aware of these upcoming expenditures. I don't blame Citi for honoring its previous commitments. I blame Congress for not doing due diligence and then pandering to the masses. I just hate this two-faced nature of Congress. Once it feels public support shifting, it does an about-face so quick it would make your head spin. For a lack of better phrase, the way Citigroup was treated through this whole ordeal by Congress and in the court of public opinion really pisses me off.

(3) The salary limitation on executives accepting bailout money

I actually don't have a huge problem with this provision. The funny part about this is that Congress enacted it to pander to the complaining masses, but it may have an unintended effect. By limiting executive pay for companies that accept taxpayer money, Congress may indirectly cause more companies to steer clear of the federal money. Since I don't agree with taxpayer money going to private companies in the first place, that is what I hope happens. I realize that $500K is a lot of money to most of us that work normal 8-5's. For an executive of a Fortune 1000/Fortune 500 company, that's not worth the position. $500K is not worth the risk, stress, or the potential ramifications of being an executive. If you disagree with me, I pose a question to you. Would you accept a salary of $500K knowing that if things go wrong at your company and you are proven to be negligent, you could go to jail for 24 years for something that wasn't directly your fault? Ask Jeff Skilling how he feels about that. If I'm going to bear the risk that comes along with that position I want to be equally compensated for that risk and frankly, $500K ain't cutting it.

(4) Congress ridiculing executives because of their salary

This is close in nature to #3. I remember when the heads of the Big 3 automakers first went to Congress to ask for bailout money and a member of the committee scolded one of the CEO's for having a $22M salary and having the gall to ask for taxpayer money. Once again, this is Congress pandering to the masses. That Congressman that scolded this man is lucky it wasn't me. If it were I would have been held for contempt and a possible assault charge to boot. Who the hell do these people in Congress think they are? Nothing grinds my gears like Congressman ridiculing an executive's salary when the majority of Congress is independently wealthy.

Also, it's not that guy's fault that he is making $22M a year. A Board of Directors approved that salary. If Congress has beef, it should be with the shareholders of that auto company. The shareholders elect the BOD that approved this man's salary. I find it grossly un-American to question somebody's salary. I thought the American Dream meant that if you worked hard, one day you will be rewarded. I guess this current incarnation of Congress feels otherwise.

(5) Congress ripping bonuses without thinking

Until the Citigroup story broke, this to me was the most unnerving thing that took place. Here's a snippet from the story with quotes from Senator Claire McCaskill of Montana:

"We have a bunch of idiots on Wall Street that are kicking sand in the face of the American taxpayer," an enraged McCaskill said on the floor of the Senate. "They don't get it. These people are idiots. You can't use taxpayer money to pay out $18 billion in bonuses."

This quote relates to the report that "Wall Street" firms handed out $18B in bonuses during 2008. So obviously, the idiot McCaskill assumes that it's just evil bankers sitting in dark rooms thinking new and evil ways to deceive the American taxpayer. To steal a line from Keith Olbermann, I think she is the worst person in America.

Perhaps if the idiot McCaskill did a little research she would realize that a bulk of these bonuses go to staff level employees that need these bonuses just to pay their bills. This is a Letter to the Editor from earlier this month that was sent by an angry father to the New York Times in response to one of their typically scathing articles:

To the Editor:
Re ''Few Ways to Recover Bonuses to Bankers'' (news article, Jan. 30):
How nice to read at the very end of your article that ''some bank employees may have done their jobs well, even though their employers lost billions.''
My daughter is a young equity analyst on Wall Street. She is smart, grounded, ethical and works extremely hard to deliver a high-quality, objective analysis of publicly traded stocks -- the kind of advice that underpins our capital markets. She has nothing to do with subprime mortgages or other ''toxic'' assets.
She doesn't have a private plane or a house in the Hamptons. A significant part of her compensation for working as hard as she does comes at year-end in the form of a ''bonus.''
There is nothing ''shameful'' about my daughter's bonus. She earned it.
Michael C. Foley
New York, Jan. 30, 2009

I wish Mr. Foley's daughter well. The problem with the sweeping allegations from the idiot McCaskill and the New York Times is they don't take time to realize that Mr. Foley's daughter is not the exception to the rule, she is the rule. Certainly, much of that $18B went to executives that have all those privileges mentioned by Mr. Foley. Based on work I've performed around company bonuses, I'm guessing probably about 45% of that $18B went to executives while the remaining 55% went to people like Ms. Foley who are either staff level employees getting 10-15% bonuses at the end of the year or sales-level employees that get nearly 70-80% of their salary from bonuses which they earn by meeting sales incentives. I will not fault a young woman or a sales staff that makes $6/hour for accepting a bonus so that they can pay their bills. I've got a message for the idiot McCaskill: You can kiss my ass for speaking without thinking.


I realize this post has rambled on quite long, but these are some things that I feel are wrongs and we are being wronged by our leaders. This is just an online forum where I can vent and get my thoughts out there to share with you. I can't change anything by angrily rambling. What I hope to do with posts like this is to promote free-thinking and removing ourselves from this culture of fear that's been cultivated by our leaders regarding this financial crisis. We have to be able to step back and provide constructive criticism to our leaders. We can't be afraid to write our Congressman and our Senators to express our concerns and let them know how the people really feel about the legislation they're creating. After you read this, I hope that if nothing else I provided an insight or a different point of view that made you think about the financial crisis in a different way. Feel free to post your thoughts, criticisms, praises, or whatever comes to your mind regarding the way I feel.

Personally I'm at the point now that I want to send 535 hammers to all our representatives as a Christmas gift this year with a card that says "Feel free to hit yourself in the head with this because you can't harm a brain that isn't working". That's just the way I feel about it. I have been wrong before.


Ally said...

I just spent about 5 minutes on a long comment w/ links to this post & when I went to publish it, blogger ate it. Totally pissed at the moment. I'll try to remember everything I wrote tomorrow & attempt to repost. Ugh.

AuditDawg said...

Damned internet gremlins.