Monday, November 26, 2012


The New York Times has an interesting article about how Costco pays employees (much) more and with better benefits than does competing Sams Club. What's especially interesting is how some Wall Street types are criticizing the company, saying it needs to cut salaries and benefits and raise prices. One analyst said: "He has been too benevolent. He's right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden."

But here's the deal. The whole thing is a non-issue. Costco is making money and growing, and seeing its stock price increase, too -- so, obviously, its own investors don't see a problem.

And this is what's wrong with stock market-based capitalism today. Even when a business is doing well (and treating both its employees and customers well), there is still the call to cut, cut, cut, cut (and raise, raise, raise prices) to make even more money, if only in the short term.

Here's my favorite quote from the article, talking about Costco's CEO Jim Sinegal:

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is good business."

I like that. Doing the right thing for customers and employees IS good business. Fuck Wall Street. Customers and employees are who matter.

And here's another thing. Costco's CEO Sinegal takes a relatively low salary, compared to other big-company CEOs:

Despite Costco's impressive record, Mr. Sinegal's salary is just $350,000, although he also received a $200,000 bonus last year. That puts him at less than 10 percent of many other chief executives, though Costco ranks 29th in revenue among all American companies.

"I've been very well rewarded," said Mr. Sinegal, who is worth more than $150 million thanks to his Costco stock holdings. "I just think that if you're going to try to run an organization that's very cost-conscious, then you can't have those disparities. Having an individual who is making 100 or 200 or 300 times more than the average person working on the floor is wrong."

I like that. A CEO with a conscience who cares about his employees. He knows that when a CEO makes too much more than his employees it's just wrong. Sometimes, enough is enough.

So where do you want to shop today?

Sunday, November 04, 2012


The big election is this coming Tuesday, and for anyone who cares here are my recommendations.

The Presidential Election

President of the United States: Barack Obama. It's a reluctant recommendation, because I'm sorely disappointed by his lack of accomplishments in many fields, as well as his continuation of the (probably illegal) Bush administration policies regarding drone warfare and the imprisonment-without-trial that is Guantanamo Bay. Still, Obama is a far sight better than the competition, the lying, two-faced, corporatist, social neanderthal called Mitt Romney. I'd rather have a smart, socially conscious president than a dim (re: Bush) self-interested (re: Romney) one. So Obama it is.

Minnesota Local Races

In our local races, I make the following recommendations:
  • United States Senator: Amy Klobucher. Really, there's no competition here. Senator Klobuchar is smart and effective, and her opponent is -- wait a minute, what's his name again?
  • United States Representative, 2nd District: Mike Obermueller. I'm not sure Obermueller has a chance against the incumbent John Kline, but we deserve better than a lock-step Republican who is out of step with the progressive nature of our state. 
  • State Senator, District 56: Leon Thurman. Because we need to vote out the current obstructionist Republican legislature.
  • State Representative, District 56B: Will Morgan. Because he sent us the most campaign literature, several pieces per day over the past month or so. I feel like I know him personally. Plus I really dislike the positions of his opponent, Roz Peterson.
  • Dakota County Commissioner, District 5: Dave Giles. Because he isn't Liz Workman.
  • Burnsville Mayor: Jerry Willenburg. Another reluctant recommendation. I really don't think Jerry knows what he's doing, but Mayor Elizabeth Kautz has been in office too long and I'm tired of her personal projects and her reaping the rewards of office. While I wish there were other options, it's simply time for a change.
  • Burnsville City Council (vote for two): Steve Cherney and Mary Sherry. This is more a recommendation not to vote for right wing nutcase and closet Libertarian Bruce Johnson and the totally unqualified Suzanne Nguyen (who's actually a neighbor of mine). Cherney's been on the council before, so he should know what he's getting into; Sherry's an incumbent, pal of the mayor, and a bit ditzy, but she's better than the other alternatives. (Maybe I'll run for council myself, next time...)
  • Amendment 1 (Gay marriage): No. Why would we want to stop people who love each other from getting married? We don't have enough of that these days. Plus, even if you're not a fan of gay marriage, we don't need to amend the state constitution to take away people's rights; the constitution is about giving rights, not taking them away.
  • Amendment 2 (Voter ID): No. We don't need it. The verified incidence of voter fraud is nil. This is a solution (and an expensive one) in search of a problem, really just an attempt to disenfranchise the poor and elderly in the guise of civil service. We need more people voting, not less.

Other Races

I urge my friends and family back home in Indiana to vote for Joe Donnelly for the U.S. Senate over the neanderthal Richard Mourdock. (I used to vote for Dick Lugar, myself -- who the Tea Partying Mourdock ousted in the Republican primary.) And I urge any friends north of the Twin Cities to vote for Jim Graves in the Minnesota 6th District, so we can forever purge the odoriferous Michelle Bachman from our sacred land.

But these are just my opinions. Reasonable minds probably won't disagree.