Friday, May 29, 2009

In the news today

Government Layoffs

The Government of Puerto Rico has announced layoffs, almost eight thousand people affected in this first round. I wonder what my father, who was an economist and a career government employee, would say about this. Would he agree that it's necessary to fix the deficit?

The fact that the local government is the largest employer on the island is seen as a civic duty by some, a necessary evil by others. Still others deplore the bloated bureaucracy and look up to Corporate America and their methods for inspiration. It seems the Governor belongs to that camp.

It used to be that once you became a government employee you were pretty much set for life (unless you were a political appointtee). There must be a lot of people in shock right now.

I do not know what to make of it. I remember when I lived on the island and made fun of how big and inefficient government was. There seemed to be no incentive for excellence. It's probably true that the government can continue to function with less people. But to see the government is taking its cues from profit-driven entities and cutting people off faster than you can update a spreadsheet, is unpalatable. On an island where a large part of the population lives below the poverty line and where unemployment runs high, at least government employees had a job to go to, rather than collecting welfare.

Are we sure the solution to the deficit is to layoff people? Has Fortuño's government already cut all the superfluous spend they can? (Somehow I doubt it.) Where are these people going to find jobs? Will they be strongly encouraged to pick up and leave the island, just like in the days of Manos a la Obra?

Roadside Caymans

I guess there are worse things than finding yourself on the street with no job. You could find yourself out on the street next to two hungry 200-lb. Caymans.

Public Suicide

A man committed suicide in the city of Caguas by hanging himself from a water tank, visible from a busy exit at Toll Road PR-52. It's the 127th suicide this year on the island.

Suicide is no laughing matter. I can only imagine the desperation, the extreme emotions that drive a person to take his own life. I wonder why he chose to do it in such a public manner.


  1. Any business is "profit-driven". I don't think anybody goes into business with the intention of losing money or simply breaking even. Even charities are profit-driven... they just don't aim to keep their profits. In my opinion, there's too much demonizing businesses for wanting to make money and not enough criticizing them for *how* they go about doing it. I don't see anything wrong with a business that turns a large profit by providing quality work or products and paying attention to the needs and wants of the customer. If your success is built on keeping customers happy and that keeps them loyal, good job! But when businesses cut corners, overcharge, ignore the customer's complaints, and jump through legal loopholes to insure they won't be held accountable and customers will have nowhere else to go... now THAT is a problem! But the problem is not that they were profit-driven. The problem is how they went about making that profit.

  2. I apologize for adding something so soon, but I read over my comment when I wasn't doing two things at once anymore. I'd meant to include that a business like my first example (which keeps customers happy) is also more likely to treat employees like an important part of a business family. Businesses like my second example are more likely to treat employees like extra baggage in hard times, and an expendable resource even in good times. So, as far as governments go, maybe it depends on which kind of profit-driven example they were following.

  3. Kelly, I can only speak based on my personal experience, and my personal experience is that we are completely expendable (below VP level mostly). Our salaries are cut, and benefits are reduced while our out-of-pocket costs go up. We live constantly in fear of our jobs being offshored. Profit should not only be measured in what you can return to stockholders. Employees are what makes a company live or die, and we are being squeezed. The disparity in salary between the higher echelons and us peons is growing wider every year.

    The big guys paid lip service to the "we are all making sacrifices" idea when they cut our salaries this year, but their compensation is mostly bonuses and stock options that are not subjected to the reduction. That is what pisses me off and that is what I hate about business. I'd like to see a more even playing field.

  4. this was devastating to read. I cant ever imagine taking my own life, or how desperate someone must be to take that route. Its soooo sad.

  5. A los legisladores no les han tocado ni un cantito de sus salarios, dietas, choferes y otros beneficios. Es vergonzoso. ¿No son ellos empleados públicos también?