Ana and System in Crisis

Something very strange is going on. I have this horrible flu and somehow, my flu seems to be magically connected to the economy crisis. Yep, it is creepy and believe me, not a good place to be. I realised the connection day before yesterday, as I got up in the morning (after days of being ill) feeling worse then ever. I turned on CNN and the lady reporting about the crash on Asian markets said something like “It is like feeling sick for days but then one day waking up suddenly feeling even sicker.” Yes, I know how it feels. I am grateful for today’s status quo of the crisis - I am finally able to write a sentence or two.

At the beginning, I didn’t mind my little health crisis because I was very interested in the (what begun as) financial crisis. The fever gave me a great excuse to stay on my couch and read all the analysis I collected in past few days. And to keep on zapping between CNN, Euronews, n-tv and wherever the crash was being discussed.

Here are some interesting things I learned:

  • Top managers in Germany earn 400x more than their workers. Up to the crash of communism in1990, there was a law that limited this ratio to 20x
  • 12 suicides in Renault – all middle management - because people just can’t cope with the stress anymore (the topic of my next book). Top management compensates stress or responsibility with high salaries and often lets the middle management prepare and implement decisions, so it is the middle management that suffers most
  • Hey, almost forgotten about paradox of the “Corporate Responsibility” fashion – every company swears to this magic formula while acing completely irresponsible towards anything but raising profits. Which brought us to where we are today.
  • And here something  that boosted my spirits: Lehman CEO Punched at Gym (Yep, that’s the guy who earned $460 millions to help bringing the world into the economic crisis)

http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/2008/20081006150152.aspx

  •  Another spirit boosting fact is that even Times’ business correspondents admit that the derivates, the actual triggers of the crisis, are so complicated that “börsianer” (how they call them in German), also don’t get them. And I thought I was stupid.
  • Finally, everybody is officially admitting that the lack of regulation does not work and that people motivated by greed cannot be trusted. My questions: 1. Did we have to get this far to understand this? 2. What are we going to do about it?
  • I was very amused while watching the press conference by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling (God, with this name the guy should look like George Clooney). Because: They also don’t have the answers! Journalists posted two great questions: 1. Where does this money come from? And 2. Are people who are guilty for this going to be punished?  

Ad. 1. Both Brown and Darling didn’t know how to answer this question. In the later CNN analysis, the business correspondent also didn’t. It took Richard Quest (and from this moment, I am officially his fan – you can check it on Facebook) who said: “They PRINT it!” Bravo Richard! Truth can be so simple. And yeah, we’ll leave the inflation discussion for later

Ad. 2. I am very afraid that in this panic to save the world, we are again forgetting about basic things such as justice, fairness and morals. Maybe you already heard it - one week after the 84$ million AIG bailout, AIG managers spent $ 444,000 in a luxury resort. Should all be in jail by now! To read more: http://www.financialpost.com/most_popular/story.html?id=866284

  • On Tuesday evening, I watched a programme on Arte “dedicated” to managers. And I learned about what in Germany is called “Heuschrecken” - representatives of private equity funds (yes, mostly coming from the USA) who use mafia-like methods to increase short term return rates without considering the long term effects – such as firing thousands of people. Arte/ZDF made an excellent portrait of one of those guys - whose wife seriously stated in front of the camera that she is happy that her husband is here to “Bring Germany into 21st century.” Hey, I still don’t understand why those people don’t end up in jails?  The documentaries helped understanding the current situation and reminded of a point that should not be forgotten in current debates – social responsibility! If you can, watch Arte (www.arte.tv)
  • And this is one point I definitely was missing in yesterday’s Obama-McCain debate – how could/should the system be changed to make it fair and to avoid further crashes like these. Instead, we heard a question for which someone should have been sent to an IQ test: “Is Russia an evil empire?” Hey, if USA public continues thinking on this kindergarten level, nothing is going change.

O.K., this was way too much thinking and I am afraid the fever is up again. No wonder. Going back to my couch…