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February 6th, 2007

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Death of a Thousand Cuts

by Sean Jaeger

The job cuts slashing across the face of America and the American Media threaten to leave massive scars, bleeding wounds, and waves of destruction all across America the beautiful.

For what?

The whole concept seems to defy logic.

Think about it this way. You have a losing baseball team, and suddenly a new manager, or maybe the old manager, has a stroke of genius–a great way to turn a losing team into a winner: Cut third base–not just the specific player–the whole position. You don’t win anything by getting to third base, at least not in baseball. You don’t lose anything by letting someone get to third base…at least in baseball.

And how many third basemen are home run hitters…right?

So cut a job. Lose third base.

That’ll work.

Or for football fans, how ’bout cutting the right guard on offense, call it the Sean Hannity position, and the left guard on defense, the Alan Colmes position, so to be as fair and balanced as Fox News essences and Rush rants?  After all, guards don’t do many of those high impact, scoreboard-shattering things like scoring touchdowns or making interceptions, right? And ten is a nice round number to put on the field. True, it will cut down on costs. Never mind that it will also cut down on scoring and wins for the team that tries it.

How ’bout Ford and General Motors? These two automotive giants are each restructuring by cutting jobs, closing factories, and slashing production. Now that may just stem the flood of red ink and losses, but is it a recipe for growth? Or is it a recipe for leaner, meaner and mainly smaller? It certainly isn’t a recipe for success, growth and market share. Maybe the mental giants running their companies (into the ground) might spend more time more usefully thinking about how to sell more cars by building cars people would like to buy, instead of Maliboo-hoos and Ford Dunderbirds.

Ford and GM are well on their way to being the new Packard and Studebaker.

And the media?

NBC is planning to cut 700 jobs at a cost of $700 million in large part because ratings are falling for news. So, let’s see, not enough people are watching the news, so we’ll give them less news to watch. Yep, that is really going to grow ratings…right?

Then there is the Los Angeles Times, where the owners are pushing for more cuts in the newsroom, meaning fewer reporters, and a courageous editor is saying no more cuts. The problem for newspapers is that advertising revenues are falling. But who would want to buy a newspaper that is all ads? To sell ads you have to sell newspapers. The only reason to buy newspapers is to read something at least resembling news. Less news equals less room for advertising, and less reason for people to buy the paper. So obviously, the solution is not to cover news. This is the business model equivalent of curing a toothache by slitting your throat.

The geniuses who came up with these business plans all seem to have worshipped at the altar of one time business school idol chainsaw, Al Dunlop. He made a career out of cutting costs, cutting jobs, and cutting people in the name of freeing up assets. He freed up a lot of assets for himself, left shareholders holding bags of shit, and then left every company he touched stinking and rotting on the garbage heap of history.

Of course, a good part of all this is the toothpaste theory of economic recovery. This is usually described by proponents as the trickle down theory, as in, you give me a lot of money and I may let some trickle down my pant legs so you can pick it up off the floor. But in reality, what we have here is the toothpaste theory of economic growth, as in, the harder you squeeze the bottom, the fatter it gets at the top: Fat paydays for fat cats who steal from pension plans to pump up their own glimmering platinum parachutes.

It’s called division of labor. Those with money to burn, like CEO’s of companies losing money get free health care. Those with only left-over ashes are out on their asses trying to pay for health care that costs more a year than they make even before taxes. If you need health insurance, you can’t have it. If you don’t need it, no problem.

And here in the Hamptons, those local paragons of virtue and Viagra macho rednecks, the Minutemen, have gone into reporting to authorities houses they suspect of being inhabited by too many illegal aliens. How many remember when spying on your neighbors was supposed to be the hallmark of another kind of reds, otherwise known as evil, godless communists? Speaking of history, maybe now would be a good time to mention that, until after WW I, most immigrants came here legally because the only visa you needed was the price of a ticket.

But if you really want to know where the third world begins and ends, remember this: While Americans were taking bagged spinach from California off supermarket shelves and throwing it in the garbage because some of it was contaminated with deadly e-coli bacteria, Mexico moved to bar the importation of lettuce from California because it was dangerous and dirty. So the new name for Montezuma’s revenge is California crud, or the Salinas shits.

America didn’t get beautiful by trying to keep people out, and you don’t keep it beautiful by having nothing to sell but fear itself.

Filed Under: Commentary | New York

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