Monday, December 8, 2008

Sound Off: CEO Bonuses and Simplicity

I saw an article today that talks about how Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain was requesting a $10 million bonus for Christmas this year. Talk about cojones! He apparently felt that he deserved this bonus for orchestrating teh sale fo ML to Bank of America and for keeping ML's losses down to a measly $11.67 BILLION. Yes, you read that right, billion. And for those of you who are curious, that's 1.67% of the bailout Congress approved in September.

I heartily agree with the NY Attorney General that this request is shocking considering the state of the economy and that Merrill Lynch, in addition to other investment firms and banks, have all been suffering heavy hits. I have to ask though, why does someone need a $10 million bonus? I personally would love to see Mr. Thain explain to the countless children who won't be getting a Christmas this year why he deserves to get $10 million for his Christmas bonus.

And where does this $10 million come from? Because aren't the American people having to pay $700 billion to fix the excessive ways of Wall Street? Does Mr. Thain think that the American people are going to stand by and watch him roll around in our hard earned cash? Not all of us are born with a silver spoon in our mouth or the right circumstances to spend our adult lives twiddling our thumbs while earning $10 million bonuses (which is a piddling amount compared to bonuses in years past I'm sure). It's true that there are a few people in history who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and gone from trash to treasure, but considering there are 300 million and counting in this country, that's the exception, not the norm.

Here's my suggestion to Mr. Thain and the Merrill Lynch BoD: Give the $10 million to charity in Mr. Thain's name… he can still feel like he got a cool $10 mil, quite a few families will actually get to celebrate a joyous holiday this year, and the American people will feel a little less slighted than they already do.


I told myself I would try and keep economy doom and gloom off the blog, but I just HAD to comment on this. So excuse me a moment whilst I climb up on my soapbox here (it's a long climb)....

I think the whole thing boils down to this: why can't everyone learn to live within their means and more simply? I really think that the majority of our issues--global warming, pollution, Wall Street failing, poverty, etc--are due to all of us not learning to live a little bit more simply. We're too excited about the next big technological advance and we don't stop and think long enough about what the true impact of that might be (myself included). Apparently we are a very insecure group of people as we have to use 'stuff' to generate our self-worth. And yes, this would be a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black, as I too am a victim of this 'stuff' syndrome.

One of my resolutions for the new year, which will actually start now, is to start culling my stuff and live a bit more simply. If I don't have room for it, it's gone. Every quarter I'll clean out the closet and cull more stuff. I'll give gifts that are consumable and practical, not kitchsy and cluttery. I'll recycle more and try to reuse more items around my house so I reduce my waste but also reduce the need to buy more things. I'll reinvent the stuff I have or trade it with others. We'll save more money and try to reduce our extraneous spending. I think I'll track all of this and see what happens! I welcome any and all suggestions on living more frugally and simply and I encourage all fo you to find ways in which to live more frugally this next year. Maybe together we can stop the syndrome and find fulfillment in our current condition.

Until the next time!
K & Co.

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