The Recession Ripple Effect: A little pay cut goes a long way

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

 

If ever there was a time to seriously ask yourself that question, cobwebby nostalgia aside, it's now.

 

This story: A layoff in one Texas family launched a series of other actions that have rippled through the economy

describes the fallout of the recession at every level - from an impersonal, quarterly earnings figure propped up buy thousands of lives, right down to the coping tactics of a single mother.

Reading through the litany of knock-on effects it made me think, this something we can actually influence just by doing something very fundamental – expecting a little less.

It would start with everyone taking a paycut all the way down and across the board. And I mean everyone, and the banks are a good starting point. (It actually goes back even further with having less sex and less babies, but let's keep it simple).

So a bank cuts a farmer slack, and that saving is then ideally passed all the way up the line to our table where we sit with knife and fork poised. A bank, of course, is composed of individuals like us sitting at tables, knife and fork poised, and so on recursively throughout society.

So where does it fall down? Same old, same old ...

Greed.

Such a system requires consensus, and take that far enough and people cry "communism".

We can't abide being told what to do, and we can help ourselves from sneaking some kind of advantage at someone else's expense when no one's looking. 

What causes greed? Fear. Also apathy, which is a kind of "reverse greed" where you hallucinate that the world owes you a living. But at the end of the day, it's all greed.

Greed says: I want more than you. To get more, I need more money than you. I'm willing to do what it takes.

Greed is good to a degree – it motivates humans to strive and make our world if not better, at least more colorful a place.

But what if every sentient being could automatically dial down their greed when times are tough - like now, much like stopping eating before the first rather than after the 5th burp?

What if right now, your rent was halved. Gives you a nice feeling, doesn't it?  Also a feeling of calm. "The world is looking after me" is the feeling that comes to my mind.

Also, what if you could sit down and get a great meal for $5?

This would be entirely possible if the cafe owner's staff, suppliers, landlord, creditors, health and other services providers were all on the same page - take less profit. Even walking across a busy street, my sub-sub conscious would tell me if I got hit by a bus, I'll be OK because everyone is cutting everyone slack in the medical world. And so on all the way down and across the board, reaching farmers, distribution channels, raw materials suppliers ...

Visitors to Australia talk about that feeling of "people being relaxed there". It's not just the sun. I believe it's partly the socialized medical system, however flawed. It's not perfect, but your health is one less thing to wake up in fright over at 3am. As Sal "Soft Capitalism" Anthony explained, a good life doesn't have to be free, it just has to feel comfortably challenged.

Am I dreaming?

Several news stories talked about the illogic of laying off people and doubling the work of others. You could call it natural selection, hello Darwin. But it's not a crowded sinking life raft where there are laws of physics in play – everything above the crust of the earth is manufactured consent. We can change that consent, those feelings of expectation, entitlement and obligation. 

Of course, someone is always going to try and take advantage, much like looters do in a fire. This is natural selection. Gouging people with high interest is simply modern looting. 

But I sincerely believe in hijacking that ripple, also an unstoppable physical phenomenon, but one we can hijack with intentional acts of goodwill. 

As Mark Knopfler once said, "you can only wear one pair of jeans at a time." 

A single bank executive earning more in 2 days than his employees earn in a year is not cutting people enough slack.  Making a giant profit is only really admirable if, at the end of the day, it makes for a better society. Besides, you gotta live in it this stinking society – it's not like you have an extra planetary digs from which you can flee the scourge. Look what happened to the Ceausescus despite their walled-in Garden of Eden.

I challenge everyone to think about, what you can really, honestly, do, to help those around you. 

My modest pay has never been adjusted for the cost of living; . I think my last bonus was $42 a few months ago. I now have it paid late if necessary so other people in the company with kids can pay their bills. It's not much, but it's something I am willing and able to do at this time.

 I'm also heading down to my local patisserie, the Three Tarts, to have my favorite treat (pictured). I can also support the grocery story by buying the ingredients and making it myself. But someone gave me a discount today so I am taking that money over there. If they stay in business, in a roundabout way, I stay in business.

Can you afford to take a pay cut for a little while? Can you make a million or two less and enjoy the satisfaction and smiles of 20 more more families who don't have to foreclose? As the late George Kaye, GM of Australia's largest chicken business once told me, "what people are paid is not the same as what people earn." 

Good times will fall upon us again, in the meantime, let's all try a little kindness - down and across the board.

 

Social multimediaclast Lynette Chiang aka Galfromdownunder believes the financial world is yet to be revolutionized by Customer Evangelism, which looks not at the bottom right hand corner of a spreadsheet, but at the 1:1 relationships behind it.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Tonika Morgan

    I' the project manager of a program that helps young, single mothers on welfare go to college and university. Our small staff compliment takes on the daunting task of helping these women navigate the oppressive education, childcare and welfare systems while restoring their buried self-esteem. With 3 full time staff, and 3 part-time staff, we've worked with 80 women (13 more will start tomorrow). The relationships that these women build with staff is ESSENTIAL to our success.

    Last week, I was notified that I must lay off one of my staff and that I need to adjust the budget to reflect this layoff for the new fiscal year.

    Instead, I cut my pay and reduced my hours, and the hours of everyone else on the team.

    Let's see what senior management has to say about this.

  • Megan DaGata

    Not many people agree with this ideology, but it is something that I have preached since my first econ class in college. The pendulum was bound to swing the other direction, but it is hard to deal with the consequence of that action. The question was posed as to whether I could live on 5% less, and well, my answer is no. My husband has not been able to find a job since Hurricane Ike (in September) and we have eaten out TWICE in the last 6 months. If rent were less we could do more, but I am only paying my landlord $50 after she pays the mortgage on the home. I am not the only one I know barely getting by this way. It would be nice if ETHICS played any role in ECONOMICS, would make life so much easier.

  • Ethan Lyon

    It's really tough right now and everyone is going to sacrifice something... whether its a one percent pay cut (professors salary cuts at Brandeis University) or finding a new job, It's all a part of a new trend (http://sparxoo.com/?p=86) that takes us away from what we're used to and pushes us into unfamiliar territory.