Nobody has asked me what suggestions I might have for two of the most vexing problems of the time, but in a moment of clarity at 3:00 AM this morning I received these messages and am now compelled to report them to you, dear reader.
Obama may regard them as "fat cat bankers", but you won’t hear those words pass my lips. Having said that, there is something slightly obscene about the enormity of the bonuses being doled out by our country’s investment banks. $20 Billion for the top guys at Goldman Sachs? A federal pay czar establishing salary levels? One look at the salary discrepancy between the average federal employee and Joe the plumber in Alabama should be enough to tell us that this model can’t be good in the long term. Fox guarding the hen house, etc.
Military leadership in combat, and Infantry officers in particular, should provide the guiding principle on the bonus conundrum. Their operating principle is that they don’t eat until all the troops have been fed. Ergo, the "fat cat bankers" don’t get their bonuses until all of their employees get a bonus. And the bonus should be the same percentage for all pay levels. At most places I visited during my working life, the typical bonus on the warehouse floor was 1 week’s pay, and in really good years might have been a bump in their profit sharing plan percentage. If it’s good enough for the shop floor, shouldn’t it suffice for the executive suite? If they want to spread the $20 Billion around, spread it evenly. It’s called leadership.
Ahh, health insurance. What a goat rope. No legislative solution will ever be better than common sense, and that unfortunately is why our political leaders in Washington cannot craft any legislation that will improve our predicament. But the same principles suggested in the bonus solution inform.
For example: Assume that Goldman Sachs, or any Fortune 500 company, or a state agency, or the insurance agency on the corner all have a health plan for all of their employees. Rates for employees are based on marital status; single, married, family. Doesn’t matter how old you are, how many children you have, or how much your employer pays you…the rates are standardized based on family size. Typically, your employer pays a percentage of the actual premium, and you pay the balance.
The problem lies in the amount that different employees pay out of pocket. Most plans that I’m familiar with have an individual deductible, a family deductible, an 80/20 split of medical expenses up to some value, and co-pays for ancillary coverages like prescription drugs, office visits, etc. The receiving manager in the warehouse and the CEO have the same plan. But the receiving manager makes $24,000 annually, while the CEO makes $240,000, has a car allowance, a company credit card for entertainment, and other related perqs.
It occurs that the CEO, and maybe the CFO, the CIO, and other top executives could afford to bear a slightly heavier burden than the receiving manager. Why can’t health plans have a means test wherein employee expenses are scaled according to annual compensation? Why should an employee making 10 times more than another employee have the same out of pocket medical expenses? Sounds like a another leadership issue.
There….that didn’t take 2,000 pages plus amendments plus millions of dollars spent by lobbyists. And it sure does make sense, at least to me.