The Salmon Ladder of Success

Our new job is a contract gig that will last at least three months and may be full time eventually. That's what happens when you are 50, laid off by an arrogant corporate prick, and cast adrift in our wonderful trickle down economy where gravity is apparently broken and causes the wealth to trickle up. The Chimp keeps saying the economy is cruising along, but close as we can tell, that only seems true in the streets of New Delhi and Bangalore. Still, after being out of work for a little over a year, it will be nice to get some income flowing again. We must do our part to keep the Bangaloris working, the CEOs in yachts, and a few scraps of food in our belly.

We were told to report at 10 am this morning, so we left home at 8:30, swimming like a salmon upstream along a 39 mile crumbling concrete river. We arrived on the dot, flipped our tail, laid some eggs, and swam off to die or be eaten by a hungry grizzly - whichever came first.

After being shown our standard issue cubicle, we settled down to work and ran into the first problem du jour.

There was a computer.

There was no logon ID ready.

We were told by the second banana (because the chief was out at a meeting and hence, too busy to deal with the likes of us) to return home and come back tomorrow at 11 am, when things would be more in order. Such a difference 25 hours makes, just ask Keiffer Sutherland.

So, we swam north again, this time completing the spawning run in about an hour. All the other salmon were already on their way to the processing plant by then apparently so the river was considerably less crowded.

Obviously not an auspicious beginning, but not completely unexpected either. In our experience - and we've worked at companies large and small, from household names like GE and Visa to outfits you've never heard of - American business is roughly as efficient as any enterprise run by a gaggle of junior Mike Browns with large egos and tiny penises.

Many people talk about the government, and by extension its employees, as though they are a swarm of locusts hungry for tax revenue and celebrating sunny days by burning piles of large-denomination, sequentially numbered bills. The assumption goes that if Mike Brown or George Bush is a moronic wastrel, then the same applies to our fellow citizens who man the trenches of the world's largest bureaucracy.

We've been a Federal worker. We served in the military. We've fought as a small pawn in the private sector's class war. We've seen the inflation adjusted coin from both sides and we can clue you into something - government is inherently no more inefficient than a large corporation. In fact, waste, fraud, and abuse are about as widespread in your average company as it is in say, the Army Corps of Engineers. Exhibit A - our first day at work.

Here's a fundamental law of organizational physics. The inefficiency of an enterprise is roughly exponential to the number of people involved in said enterprise. The only thing that is different it the scale. In the case of a large corporation, pretty big. In the case of the US government, unbelievably huge. Chevron wastes a buck. FEMA wastes a million. Same inefficiency, different scale.

Here's another immutable law of organizational physics. Workers are only as good and efficient as they are allowed to be. Just ask the career folks who suffered at the hands of Brownie and Chertoff.

And where do the future Chertoffs and Brownie's come from? The private sector. Where do they return when they've done enough damage and it's time for crony call at the Halliburton cafeteria? The private sector.

You do the math.

So the next time you want to reduce the government employees' already lower than private sector wages and bitch about how much they're costing you, give 'em a break. We're all in the same boat and lemme tell's leaky as hell.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Tuesday, February 21, 2006

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