Monday, September 7, 2009

Presidential Economics 101

Dear President Obama,
It is time for you to pause and realize that you have exceptionally bad instincts. Witness Van Jones – who told you that nut-job would be a good pick for anything? But the purpose of my letter today is to explain some very basic facts to you about the economy.
You can’t “fix” the economy by decree or edict. As should be fairly obvious to you by now – Congress isn’t very good at that either. Making a law without understanding the downstream results of that law can be disastrous – witness Sarbanes-Oxley – no matter how well intentioned, it was an utter failure and burdened companies with useless requirements for documentation. The long term effects are still unknown. A boon to accountants and lawyers, it has certainly retarded business growth and employment.
Your Saturday, 5 September proposal to allow workers to convert unused vacation and sick days into 401K deposits is another great example of an idea that seems kind or benevolent, but it is far too easy to see the flaws and ultimately the disaster that would result. I think this is because until recently you have never been a boss or supervisor.
First – as a manager, I don’t want employees looking at sick leave as bankable assets that belong to them. Rather, I want employees to take sick leave and stay home when they are sick. If they look at that sick day as cash in the bank and come into work, they generally do a substandard job and there is the risk of making everyone else sick (think H1N1 Flu). Use sick days for what they were intended for – government butt out.
Second – again as a manger I want my employees to take vacation. When they are at work, I want their best effort all the time. However I want them to play hard too – that’s why we give them vacation time. It is good for them. It provides relief and distances them from the daily grind. I don’t want them burning themselves out at work while harboring vacation days so they can get paid for them later. Use vacation for what it is intended for (like going to Martha’s Vineyard or Camp David) – government butt out.
Finally – if you were to talk to a Human Resources professional in any large company, you would probably find out that they could approximate how many sick days or personal days end up not being used. Conscientious and healthy employees don’t use sick days or employees leave their jobs for any variety of reasons without using them. If you allow those employees to roll those unused days into a 401K you have levied yet another unfunded mandate on businesses large and small. It isn’t your money, it isn’t the employee’s money, leave it alone – government butt out.
I know that this is foreign to your DNA, but most companies have a responsible and benevolent attitude towards their employees. That isn’t completely altruistic on the employer’s part, rather employees who are happy, properly compensated, and generally valued do a better job. This is still a free country, so employees who feel that they aren’t valued leave. Having employees constantly leaving is very expensive and disruptive for a business and businesses get that message. Any employee who remains at a company that doesn’t value his service is exceedingly foolish. Bottom line – the very last thing that employers and employees need is for a rookie manager like you to get involved – government butt out.
I recommend that you read the constitution again and stick to those things that you are authorized to do rather than branching out into places where you and the government do not belong.
Kindest Regards,

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