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Give Me a Break!

by Rose Madeline Mula

Uncle! I give up!

I swear I'm going to stop reading newspapers and magazines. And no more TV news for me either. I simply can't take one more tale about the sufferings of my fellow man and woman.

Until now, I had been barely managing to cope with reports of suicide bombings, mass murder and mayhem; but this morning I read something that pushed me over the edge. It was an article about a corporate executive whose compensation has been slashed by two-thirds, and he is now going to have to support himself and his family on a mere five million dollars annually. It's inhumane. He may actually be forced to eat prime rib occasionally instead of filet mignon. Uggh! Furthermore, he may have to sell his 25-room villa on Lake Como, the beachfront estate on Palm Beach, and maybe even his private island off the coast of Fiji. (I don't know that he actually owns all this real estate, but I wouldn't be surprised.)

Where will he go now to escape from the rigors of the corporate jungle — the private jet business flights, the chauffeured limousines, the thousand dollars expense account dinners, the bowing and scraping of his acolytes...and the countless other onerous burdens of his demanding position. It makes me want to cry. Or vomit.

His is just one tale. Fortunately, many corporate head honchos manage their businesses competently and compassionately, but the pages of Fortune and The Wall Street Journal abound with accounts of other big-biz bigwigs who are paid obscene bucks, even during periods when they cause their companies and stockholders to lose mega-millions and thousands of their employees to lose their jobs. Yet Mr. CEO apparently doesn't see anything wrong with this picture. If the "little people" have to be sacrificed, so be it — as long as all his perks and ill-gotten gains are protected. (I say "Mr." and "his" not because women are necessarily more principled, but because very few achieve CEO-dom.)

What's really surprising is that several of these misguided captains of industry had humble beginnings — sort of the modern day equivalent of Abe Lincoln and the log cabin. The only difference is that Abe remained humble and compassionate, even after becoming president of the United States. Not so some of today's rags-to-riches tycoons. With every step up the corporate ladder, their grasp on reality loosens a bit more until they actually believe they are as important as their sycophants tell them they are. They develop God complexes and feel no one should have the audacity to question their authority or their motives. The Board of Directors demands accountability and wants to bring in outside auditors? How dare they! The stockholders are getting restless? Off with their heads!

What's with these guys? How do they get off feeling so entitled? Would I react the same in their position? I certainly hope not, but who knows? I have to admit that when I repair a tear in my two-dollar shower curtain liner with Scotch tape, I can't possibly be objective about a corporate mogul who buys a $6,000 shower curtain (for the maid's quarters yet).

I'm willing to be fair. I'll be happy to accept a position as monarch of a multi-national conglomerate at an annual salary that could feed Africa for a decade, adopt a suitably lavish lifestyle, and then see how I react if people criticize me when my mismanagement and extravagant spending drown the company in a flood of red ink. Just one year. That's all I ask. Then I promise to resign and forfeit any future compensation. But I do hope they'll let me keep the villa on Lake Como....and, of course, a generous pension. After all, by then I will have become accustomed to an opulent standard of living, and it would be heartless to expect me to give it up. How could I survive without caviar and champagne?

For now, though, I'll just settle for some sugar to sprinkle on my sour grapes.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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