July 14, Bastille Day

Scene: Small dinner party, upscale neighborhood, Charlotte, NC.  Guests in dining room just finishing dinner, sipping French wine and awaiting dessert, chocolate cake and tea.  Front door bursts open and three armed men quickly enter. 

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Man #1  “Everybody sit tight.  Hands on the table.”

Host: “What are you doing?  Get out now!”

Man #1: “Shut up.” And starts laughing.

Host:  “What’s so funny?”

Man #1:  “I told you to shut up.  But I’ll tell you what’s funny.  You…all of you…are in for a big surprise.”

Guest #1:  “What do you intend to do?’

Man #2:  “We are going to switch roles.”

Host:  “Switch roles?”

Man #2:  “We are going to start living like you – the 1%.  And you are going to start living like us.  I think you call us leeches or something like that.”

Host:  “Out now!”

Man #2: “You, my friend, are going to find out what it’s like to drive a beat-up van, live in a trailer and get by with a wee bit of cash and no credit cards.  And a job with minimum wage.”

Host:  “That’s not fair.  We’ve worked hard and deserve this house, a house at the beach and my Mercedes.  What have you done other than collect welfare checks and food stamps?”

Man #2:  (Pointing at Guest #1) “You…let’s call you Fat Man…ya’ know we all used to work at your factory.  Work was hard but the pay was OK.  But then you moved production to China.”

Fat Man:  “I had to move production.  You workers wanted too much money.  And I was not making enough money for all the hard work I did.”

Man #2: “Let me see if I understand, Fat Man.  You weren’t making enough money?”

Fat Man: “That’s right.  I was taking all the risk.  I was CEO and I deserved to make much more.  All you did was punch a clock and get a paycheck.”

Man #2: “Fat Man, you might be CEO and think you are the only important guy around.  But my kids and my wife think I’m important too.  I worked my tail off for you.  I could tolerate your fancy cars and house in the mountains and your arrogant attitude as long as I was feeding my family and my kids had a chance for a better life.  Then you got even greedier and moved the manufacturing to China.  Why?  Tell me why?”

Man #1: “Yeah, when you closed the plant I lost my house.  Burned through all my savings looking for another job.  What happened to you?  Nothing except you made more money.”

Man #2: “Mr. CEO hot shot, your life and the lives of your friends here are about to change…big time.”

Fat Man: (Pointing to 3rd intruder) “Who’s your silent partner?”

Man #1: “You should know him.  He used to work for you.  One of your big wigs.”

Fat Man:  “Couldn’t be.  I don’t believe you.”

Man #3:  “Well, you do know me.  I did work for you and like a long list of others, got shafted by you.  I’m really surprised you don’t recognize me.  OK, I put on a wig and a beard but I’m still surprised.  (Then removes wig and beard).

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Fat Man: “You son of a…Jordan, you traitor!”

Jordan:  “One person’s traitor is another person’s patriot.”

Host:  “What are you trying to prove?  Why are you with these thugs?”

Jordan:  “I would hardly call them thugs and I am not trying to prove anything.  I got all the checkmarks I needed years ago.”

Host:  “Then why get involved with trailer trash?”

Jordan:  “Call them trailer trash if you want but I don’t.  They are hard working people who’ve been shafted by the likes of you and Fat Man.”

Host:  “What did I do to serve this?”

Jordan:  “For starters, you made your money laying off friends and colleagues.  You even fired your college roommate.”

Host:  “They were not fired.  They receive a settlement package.”

Jordan:  “Call it what you want but you put them on the street.  And you?  Well, you got stock options.  Wall Street loved what you did and raised the stock price.  They suffer, you win.”

Host:  “Our costs were too high.  We had to lay off people.  The pension fund managers and the Wall Street analysts were all over us about getting the stock price up.  Plus, the employees got a good buyout package.”

Jordan:  “Let me see if I understand correctly.  You were worried more about making money and what hedge fund managers thought than about employees’ lives?  And you wonder why these guys are holding you hostage?”

Host:  “I had no choice.  The Board of Directors…”

Jordan:  “Hey, cut the crap.  You had a choice and you stayed.  And you made a lot of money by basically screwing people.

Host:  “I didn’t make that much money.”

Jordan:  “I remember the night you took us out to dinner.  You rented a limousine and served champagne.  The reason?  You said, ’We are certifiably rich.’”

Host:  “So what’s the problem with being rich?”

Jordan:  “Nothing wrong with being rich if you earn it fairly and treat people fairly.”

Host:  “You were at a big company.  Nice job, nice car, lots of high-end travel – Europe, Hawaii, Asia.  Are you being a bit hypocritical?”

Jordan:  “Yes, I was on the fast track.  But what I also saw was a change in behavior, starting with a new CEO.  The focus changed from making great products and satisfying customers to making more money, especially for executives.  The greed became a terrible virus, eating away at what had been a great company.  The strategy worked for a while and profits increased.

Host:  “Jordan, you’re way off base.  The CEO was named Businessman of the Year.”

Jordan:  “Businessman by Wall Street standards.  Then the virus overcame the company…and it ended up in bankruptcy.  Had the CEO and his cronies maintained focus on products and the customer, the company would still be kingpin today and everyone would have made more money.”

Host:  “Our company wasn’t like that.  And I always focused on being fair to employees.”

Jordan:  “Make me laugh.

Female#1:  “Stop it you two.  You’re acting like children.”

Female#2:  “I agree.  And breaking into our house.  You’d think this was some kind of revolution.

Man#1:  “It is a revolution.  And I agree the conversation sounds like a bunch of kids.  Let’s all grow up and start acting like adults.”

Man#2:  “First thing we need to do is establish order.  We’ll begin with names.  Fat Man, you need a better name.  Who was king during the American Revolution?”

Jordan:  “George III.”

Man#2:  “OK Fat Man, from now on you are King George III…or III for short.  Your wife sitting to your right?”

Female#2:  “Yes, I’m King George’s III’s wife.”

Man #2:  “Then you’re the queen.  I like Queeny better.”

Man#1:  “Baldy, this your house?”

Host:  “Yes.”

Man#1:  “We need another ruler.  Your balding head reminds me of Julius Caesar.  From now on, we’ll call you Caesar.  By the way, you from Rome?”

Caesar:  “Yes, in a manner of speaking.”

Man#1:  “Caesar’s wife.  That was Cleopatra.  You’re now Cleopatra, or Cleo for short.”

Cleo:  “Cleopatra was married to Marc Antony, not Caesar.”

Man#1:  “Look lady, I chose the names.  Cleopatra was bossy.  You’re bossy and now you are Cleopatra.”

Man#1:   “Jordan, how am I doing with the names?”

Jordan:  “You’re on a roll.”

Caesar:  “OK, we all have names and we are going to act like adults.  But, Jordan, I’d like to know what made you join these guys?”

Jordan:  “You might find it hard to believe but it started back in grad school.  Remember Professor Klein’s class?”

Caesar:  “Yes and what a waste of time.”

Jordan:  “That’s my point.  I thought it was one of the best classes I’d ever had and you thought…and still think…it as a waste of time.”

Caesar:  “Some of those assignments and games made no sense.”

Jordan:  “But they really weren’t games.  They were a test of ethics and personality.”

Caesar:  “C’mon.

Jordan:  “You forget Klein was an expert is psychological warfare.  He was setting us up to test our meddle in stressful situations.  Except he never came out and said so.”

Caesar:  “More psychobabble.”

Jordan:  “The biggest test of all was negotiating with another team to disarm nuclear weapons.”

King III:  “What are you guys talking about?”

Queeny:  “Sounds interesting.  Tell us more.”

Jordan:  “The rules were simple.  Each team had nuclear weapons.  The goal was to negotiate disarmament.  If the teams disarmed, the teams combined got say 1,000 points – 500 points for each team.  I don’t remember the exact number.  If the teams negotiated and then one team reneged and bombed the other team at the end, the team that bombed the other got 750 points and the team that got bombed got zero points.

Queeny:   “So if you operated together, the combined teams would win, but not the individual team.  Right?”

Jordan:  “Exactly.  You needed to work with the other team to get the most points.”

Queeny:  “So what happened?”

Jordan:  “Our team negotiated a settlement.  Caesar’s team negotiated until the end, reneged, and then nuked the other team.”

King III:  “So what’s the big deal.  It was a game, just like Caesar said.”

Jordan:  “The big deal?  Klein was right about these exercises being a reflection of true personality.  To this day I can tell you key members of Caesar’s team.  Were they successful in business?  Yes.  Fair?  Probably not.”

Caesar:  “Like I said, that class was BS.”

Jordan:  “Then why do so many people – all these years later – remember that one day in that one class?  What you did to the other team bothered me at the time.  It bothers me now.  I also think your behavior – your focus on self without concern for others – reflected a change in US society.  That change lead to this revolution.”

Caesar:  “Jordan, what really happened to the country?  I know you study this stuff.”

Jordan:  “My view is the country began a major shift when Ronald Reagan was elected.  And the shift was caused in large part by him repeating the mantra, “Government is the problem, not the solution.”

King III:  “Reagan was right.  Government is the problem.”

Jordan:  “Quit listening to Fox News and start analyzing the situation.  Do you have an iPad or laptop handy?”

King III:  “Both.”

Jordan:  “Get them and I’ll walk you through what’s happened since Reagan took office.  No political agenda.  Just facts – but unlike your favorite source of news, this analysis will be fair and balanced.”

Caesar:  “OK, Jordan, save the details for later.  Give us the overview.”

Jordan:  “Since its founding, there has been a revolution about every 50 years.  Based on my assessment this revolution will be number five.”

Cleo: “What do you mean five revolutions?  I can only think of two – the war against the British and the war of ‘Northern Aggression’ when you Yankees invaded our homeland.”

Jordan:  “Cleo, when will people from the South get over it?  You lost move on.  Anyway, here’s my count of the revolutions.

  1. Revolution against British rule, which did not end until the War of 1812
  2. Internal revolution, or Civil War, which began approximately 50 years later, 1861-1865
  3. Industrial revolution – say 1910-1917 – was a combination of an influx of foreign immigrants and migration from farms to cities
  4. Rights revolution, civil rights, women’s rights, environmental rights occurred late 1960’s, early 1970’s
  5. Fifth revolution, which I am calling the ‘Revenge Revolution,’ which is what we are experiencing now

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Queeny:  “I never thought of American history that way.  But this is interesting.  Tell us some reasons why this revolution came about.”

Cleo:  “I agree with Queeny.  Tell us more.”

Jordan:  “OK, here we go.”

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