Re-imagining the value system

I was watching one of the Sunday-morning news shows and heard something that crystallized, in my mind, what is wrong with the financial sector.

A Republican (you need to pronounce it like I do by first drawing out the “Reee” just a bit, and then spit out the “pub!” and then tack on the “lican” as if it barely deserves the effort) said he wanted to see a stimulus package that benefited everyone from (get this) “CEOs to garbage men”.

Hmm, where shall I start?

First, they prefer to be called “sanitation workers” and they are not all men.

Second, is the most pertinent point: the sanitation worker who takes care of our street has never, ever missed our garbage pickup. He has never left a mess and he even backs up the truck when he sees me rushing down the driveway with my can.

In all things that matter to his job, he is perfect.

How many CEOs can say that?

How many CEOs are familiar with every ingredient in their products or have taken that extra step to ensure they will operate safely in real-world applications?

How many CEOs have decided on a fair price instead of the highest price possible … based on perceived added value from an advertising campaign that makes dubious claims?

Some of you will say that the sanitation worker has it pretty easy because we are now required to bag all of our garbage. These people should remember that many of us now bag our own groceries and pump our own gas.

Let us look at the bigger point to be made here: our value system is all out of whack.

People were spending 50 per cent more for a home than what it was worth because it might be worth more in two years.

Auto workers were paid four times as much as retail workers and it was only because they were willing to go on strike when times were good and they had the power to put the brakes to those good times.

Ahh, but you know, this is dangerous talk. If we paid people what they were worth, our child-care costs would sky rocket and nobody could afford it.

I’m not even sure now how we are able to attract good people to take a job in child care when we require them to get their early childhood education certificate, first aid training, RCMP check, immunization record and TB test so they can earn $2 more an hour than someone pumping gas.

And how about our artists?

I purchased a Philippe LeBlond raven last Christmas and I am certain it would cost three times as much if I paid him for the share of sheet metal, the saw blade that dulls quickly and an hourly rate equal to an accountant.

An accountant? Certainly. Both require a natural ability, years of training, a workplace accessible to the public and advertising. Since artists and accountants both offer a service that we normal people cannot do ourselves, of course they should be paid the same.

The problem with child-care workers is that they love what they do. They must, since they work so hard for so little money.

And artists would die after five minutes if we stick one in an office cubicle.

So, we take advantage of them. When we want some art to put on a wall of a senior citizens’ home, we think nothing of asking them to donate all of their materials and 20 hours of their time so that they will have the pleasure of having their art seen.

Personally, I have never donated 20 hours worth of salary to one cause. Nobody would even think to ask me, either.

I’m just saying, we get ourselves into a lot of trouble whenever the value of a product or service is skewed by entitlement, greed or a patronizing attitude.

Perhaps a recession is a good thing.

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