Jim Hightower

Downsize This Man


Time for another “Gooberhead Award,” presented periodically by Hightower Radio to someone whose mouth is running 100 miles an hour… but whose brain is not quite in gear. Today’s Goober goes to Mr. Bruce Tulgan, a management consultant who wrote a happy piece in The New York Times explaining that downsizing is good for you! Goodness knows there are plenty of downsizings taking place for Mr. Tulgan to cheer about. From high-tech to low-tech, hundreds of corporations are merrily tossing thousands of people out their doors. For example, in January alone, Whirlpool spun 6,000 workers out of its system, Sara Lee cooked 7,000 of its workers, J.C. Penney closed more than 50 stores and shipped out untold thousands of workers, Lucent Technologies zapped 16,000 workers, and DaimlerChrysler rolled out 26,000 workers. Also joining in the January Job-cutting Jamboree were AOL/Time Warner, Intel, Loew’s theaters, Sony, Motorola, and Amazon.com.

From his perch as a management consultant, however, Mr. Tulgan assures us we should not lose a single wink of sleep over any of this, for he believes that job cuts are an excellent way to keep the Wall Street boom booming. The new global economy, he’s thrilled to tell us, has “demolished job security forever,” and the labor market has “transformed itself” from being static to being fluid. What a Goober. The labor market did not transform itself, rather it was transformed by greedheaded CEOs and their political puppets in Washington. As for labor market “fluidity,” what that really means is your middle-class job is gone and you’re up the creek without a paddle–adios chump. Nevertheless downsizings are good for our economy, Tulgan exults, because they allow corporations “to adapt quickly to changing global markets.” That means corporations can jump from one low-wage hellhole to another and you, too, can join the growing global ranks of sweatshop workers.


As an old saying puts it, you can buy a dog, but you can’t buy the wag of its tail. Indeed, sincere emotion is about the only thing left in our crass commercial world that has not been reduced to a commodity and put up for sale. Until now, that is. The New York Times reports that the Chinese have taken a Great Leap Forward in consumerism by starting to market the powerful human emotion of remorse. They don’t sell it as a product, of course, but as a service, for it seems that the Chinese culture allows little room for people simply to apologize to each other. The result is that a lot of folks go to their graves feeling unrelieved remorse for disputes they had long ago with lovers, family members, business colleagues, and others.

Enter The Tianjin Apology and Gift Center, whose marketing slogan is “We Say Sorry For You.” It was established by a lawyer and amateur psychologist who saw an entrepreneurial opportunity to relieve people of their prolonged remorse. It’s one of several apology companies popping up in China to serve as middlemen to resolve these old hurts. For $2.50 per apology, the Tianjin Apology Center will assign one of its 20 professional apologists to your case–they write letters, deliver gifts, and make explanations to anyone from whom you want to receive forgiveness. Not everyone is charmed by this enterprise: “In our increasingly commercialized society,” a sociology professor at People’s University said to the Times, “people have the idea that you can pay money to others to do your work for you. But if you are sincere, you should go and apologize by yourself.” What reactionary thinking. Sorry fella, you can’t let sincerity get in the way of a commercial transaction.


It is an Aesop fable that gives us the phrase, “the lion’s share,” which has come to mean the biggest part of something. However, the lion in the fable didn’t merely take the biggest share of the stag that it and three other animals had hunted down–it took the whole thing. Today, the giant telecommunications corporations are absolutely leonine in their grab for total control of all phone service. Take the cell phone business, dominated by a handful of giants simply because they have the raw money power to outbid smaller competitors for the airwave licenses needed to operate. So, to prevent AT&T, Cingular, Sprint, and a couple of other giants from grabbing all of the market, the Federal Communications Commission set aside 422 of these licenses in 195 markets across the country, allowing only small cell phone companies to bid on them.

It was a good way to preserve some bit of competition and innovation–but the anti-competitive giants got sneaky. They formed “partnerships” with small companies and provided them with the money to win the licenses. For example, Alaska Native Wireless is a small outfit that, amazingly, won 44 of these licenses, including paying $1.5 billion for a license to operate in New York City. Where does a little company like Alaska Native get billions of dollars? From its “partner” AT&T. Indeed, of the 422 licenses that were supposed to go to small competitors, 95 percent went to front companies for AT&T, Sprint, Cingular, and the other giants. As one genuine small firm put it, “We’ve been topped [in the bidding process] by sham entrepreneurs.” Not only did the giants cheat to devour a market set aside for small competitors, but they also used their front companies to qualify for a small-business credit to pay for these licenses, costing taxpayers $626 million. It’s subsidization of monopolization.

Jim Hightower’s latest book is If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates.