Thursday, 16 February 2012

Bonus bashing is NOT attacking wealth creation

Banker bashing (and CEO rewards in major businesses) continues to be much in the news. Much of the comment is about how to cut complex remuneration packages down to 'reasonable'. At a detail level some useful proposals are debated - including how do you define 'reasonable'. There are also some spirited defences of the current incentive system & resultant remuneration outcomes which include some valid comments. But the ALL miss the point. Few people would object to wealth creation. Few people would object to wealth creators getting rich. The problem is that, more often than not that is not what is happening. If it was we would see a fall in unemployment - not a rise & a growth in the economy. It has been said that we need a banking industry to oil the wheels of commerce. Of course we do but the banks are not lending to precisely those wheels. Instead we see that too many banking activities are for the benefit of the banking industry. Huge rewards are not 'earned' in the minds of ordinary citizens who struggle to get by, by shedding thousands of staff and seeing a share price tumble. Most of us do not get well paid for turning up at work and then getting triple pay whenever we do anything, be it good or bad. Then there is the ' we have to pay for scarce talent' myth. In a splendid letter to the FT of 11th Feb, Stella Pantelides points out if Boards had a Nominations Committee that was doing its job they would be identifying talent lower down the hierarchy who could increase the supply of potential CEOs. But that would dispel the 'scarcity' argument. Until these issues are effectively addressed bonus bashing is justified. I'm not holding my breath that George Osborne will deal with them

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

To live or die should be MY choice.

A 93yr old friend is dying a horrible and painful death. It was the end of November when it became clear that he was approaching the end but he still was mentally sharp and neither he nor his family wished for anything more than events taking their course. Those wishes were respected. He did not have to risk friends, family, carers, being prosecuted and having to jump through an array of 'safeguard' hoops in order to receive the care he needs. He has so far voluntarily succumbed to just over two months of constant pain despite the wonderful efforts of his hospice. For myself in a similar situation I have no doubt at all that I would have wished euthanasia as soon as it became clear there was no hope. My question is very simple. Who gives the Law & the opponents of euthanasia the right to deny me the respect for my wishes that is automatically given to my friend? We are constantly told that the issues surrounding changing the law to allow my wishes to be respected are 'complex'. They are not complex at all. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that the opportunity that I seek would lead to slippery slopes and rapacious relatives getting rid of the tiresome elderly and all the rest of the completely spurious arguments presented by the 'all life is sacred' brigade [not so sacred of course when you send young people off to wars].

Friday, 3 February 2012

Whatever happened to 'Innocent ubtil proved guilty'

I can hear the smug cries of satisfaction & if Chris Huhne was indeed stupid enough to try & dodge, nearly 10yrs ago, a simple driving ban then OK. The law is the law even when it is silly & largely unenforced. But he's not been found guilty yet. And I wonder how many of those whose fingers will be pointed have themselves done the thing he is accused of. Of course the charge is not now a motoring one. It is perverting the course of justice which is indeed more serious but again not uncommon & when related to an initial relatively trivial offence surely does not warrant the display of self righteous condemnation that will surely ensue. Chris is going to defend the charge so there will be great public expenses as well. Doubtless I will now get taken to task for suggesting that speeding [we haven't been told exactly what speed] on the M11 late at night is 'trivial'. What happened to a sense of proportion? Especially for the LibDems speeding is up there with the worst of crimes, only equalled by daring to have a cigarette.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Scapegoat Fred

I have absolutely no sympathy for Fred Goodwin but I am also totally unimpressed with the pure window dressing associated with stripping him of his knighthood just weeks after an individual with a criminal record was awarded one. Hypocrisy rules OK. What about the luminaries on Fred's Board who either backed him, in which case they are just as guilty, or didn't realise what was going on, in which case they are the kind of incompetents that we can well do without. And what about the likes of Geoffrey Archer still hanging onto his peerage and so on and so on. What would REALLY hurt Fred, & the rest, would be to be stripped of their plush 'hello's'; 'goodbye's'; fat pensions & bonuses. Of course there are all sorts of legal issues if one attempted to do this. Since when has the law had any connection with justice? One thing is certain - the Tories will do nothing beyond ritual war dancing. Nick Clegg is arguing for higher taxes on the rich - cue cries of anguish & threats to take their talents abroad. Some might ask what talents? And add good riddance. Being pragmatic the arguments against fair taxation do not hold water. Both Obama, & [12yrs ago] George W Bush argue that no one should pay more than 30% of their income to Government. But in reality neither in the US or the UK is that happening. Only those on middle incomes pay that much. UK pensioners pay a marginal rate of about 60% as their Tax Free allowance gets progressively reduced. There are bagfuls of legal ways for the truly rich to pay very little. It has to stop.