Friday, July 29, 2011

Of Kowtowing and Backtracking

For your weekend reading pleasure, here are a couple of updates on two essays I've recently written. The first concerns Wall Street's inordinant disrespect for profit reports, and the second concerns a presidential candidate's waffling on gay marriage.

At least these may provide a brief respite from Washington's petulant wrangling over the debt ceiling.

Kowtowing Corporate America Can't Even Win with Profits

Maybe I shouldn't have been so upset that Goldman Sachs' $1 billion quarterly profit wasn't enough to satisfy its Wall Street partners in crime.

Yesterday, oil giant Exxon Mobil posted a second quarter profit of $10.7 billion, a 41 percent increase over its previous quarter, and Wall Street punished the company by sending its stock lower by two percent.  Apparently, traders weren't pleased that Exxon had the temerity to post profits that were less than what ivory tower analysts were expecting.  For shame!

At least Exxon isn't rushing to fire thousands of employees to appease investors. Merck, the pharmaceutical company, announced yesterday it was chopping an additional 13,000 workers even though earnings trebled in the last quarter.  Their shares also fell two percent.  The official line from Merck involved their need to prepare for expiration dates on patents covering some of its most lucrative drugs.  But the 13,000 in announced layoffs, coming on the heels of a previous 17,000 in workforce reductions, amounts to a combined 30% cut in the company's number of employees. Actually, it's startling to consider how Merck managed to be profitable at all with supposedly so much dead weight on its payroll.

Both of these events yesterday provide further proof, in my opinion, that corporate America has gone bonkers trying to woo Wall Street's affections.  Obviously, the objective isn't profitability any more, but beating gamblers at guessing how they can best anticipate future changes in their industry.  Changes which, obviously, can best be met by getting rid of people who helped you grow your business in the first place.  Foresight and flexibility are well and good, but they're rapidly becoming bywords and code names for layoffs and unemployment.

Perry Wants it Both Ways, Kinda Like Gays

And then there's the slippery Rick Perry, governor of Texas, who has grown fond of crowing that his wife wants him to be president more than he does.  Last week, he embraced New York State's ratification of gay marriage as a triumph of Tenth Amendment states rights, picking the Constitution over the Bible as his reference document of choice. 

Except he's gotten a lot of backlash from his core constituency, hard-right social conservatives, who were baffled by his cavalier comments.  So Perry, forever burnishing his credentials as a career politician, tried a little backtracking on the issue.

In a radio interview yesterday with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, the governor tried to parse his earlier eagerness over New York's gay marriage law by saying that, in fact, “gay marriage is not fine with me.” Which I didn't really think it was.

Yet unable to keep from sticking his foot in his mouth, Perry went on to advocate for a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Which would mean that Perry wants the federal government to tell New York State that it doesn't have the right to legislate otherwise.

Try and figure out for yourself what Perry was trying to say to Perkins:

“I am an unapologetic social conservative. I’m pro-life, I’m pro-traditional marriage, and the fact is we passed a constitutional amendment, and it passed by 77 percent of the vote in the state of Texas. Our friends in New York, six weeks ago, passed a statute that said know what, that’s New York and that’s their business and that’s fine with me. That is their call. If you believe in the 10th ame3ndment, stay out of their business if you live in some other state or particularly if you’re the federal government. The idea, the idea that the FDA is spending your tax money going after Lance Armstrong for something someone said he did in France is an absolute atrocity.”

Um... OK, Governor Perry, but is what New York State did still fine with you or not?

After all, if you want states to both be able to legislate gay marriage and not legislate it, you wouldn't be the only person who wants both ways co-exist peacefully in the political universe.  You also wouldn't be the only waffle-prone politician, either.

Something tells me you've just told us all we need to know about your eligibility to be president.

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