Working for scale

If sheep could talk, I imagine we would hear some pretty interesting stories about why they follow the ram with the bell on any wild goose chase that worthy decides to undertake. Yet notwithstanding ewe mute-ness, those of you with an imagination can likely conjure up a few sheep responses.

"He's the biggest sheep I've ever seen. Who am I to step out of line?"

"He's so handsome, and he gets special food. I just hope he eventually notices me here in the middle of the flock looking exactly like everybody else."

"My mom told me when I was but a lamb, 'Little Denny,' she said, 'follow the bellwether wherever he goes, no matter what, because that's what a good sheep does. You wanna be good, don't you?'"

I've been thinking about sheep lately whenever I stumble into the national discourse about Iraq or our domestic economy. No matter that every reason we went to Iraq has been disproved, no matter how many innocent American boys and girls die, there are still folks saying, "Follow our bellwether" - you remember, the one appointed with 50.2 percent of the sheepish vote, remembering that more than 30 percent of the herd didn't vote at all.

The only people gaining from the Iraq debacle at this time are the folks at Halliburton, the piratical corporation that "manages" the war for our government. The corporation belonging to "former" Halliburton bigwig, vice president, shoot-first-and-make-excuses-later Dick Cheney. The people of Iraq want us out. And, according to recent domestic polls, and interviews with returning troops, we want to leave, too. But Halliburton can't stop making billions, so we stay. Those colors - money green - don't run.

It's thinking about corporations that really gets the old sheep thoughts rising like spoiled cream to the top of my little boggled mind.

In Japan, which lost World War II but won the ensuing peace, a corporate CEO makes approximately 11 times what his workers make. That means every Japanese worker toils for about a year to make what the boss earns in a month.

In Taiwan, the CEO makes 14 times more than his employees.

But, you say, the boss has more responsibility and is more important to the big picture than all his little cogs. Surprisingly, if the corporation in question, say Toyota, is successful and makes a decent product for the consumer, allegedly, Radical Old Den agrees with you. Eleven times more perks for the Big Guy (it is Japan) seems fair.

In Germany, the most top-down, sheepiest society in Europe, the CEOs make 20 times what their little toy soldiers and fräuleins make. Seems a bit excessive, but Germany is the country where a psychopath not that long ago convinced the entire place they could rule the entire world if they simply exterminated their inferiors.

And a recent, now former, girlfriend did let me drive her Mercedes once, and I must say it made me ashamed of every Ford and Chevy I ever owned. So, swallowing hard, I guess I think a German CEO ought to make in two weeks what his workers make in a year.

But forget those foreign sheep, you say. What about our glorious corporate leaders?

And here, in the so-called Land of the Free, is where justice and fair play go by the board. Nobody better follows their bellwethers into whatever hell they can wander into than good old red-white-and-blue sheep. That's us.

In 1980, way back in Ronnie Reagan's day, the average American CEO of all those failing corporations made 42 times what his or her workers earned. The CEO worked six days, if you call that work, to "earn" what his slaves made in a year.

That sounds criminal enough, but now - drum roll for the sheep to march off the cliff, please - the average American CEO receives 279 times what his or her average worker makes.

That is no misprint.

The average American CEO of any corporation, from successful ones like Microsoft to the slow bleeds like Enron - or the retail clothing place that recently fired its CEO because of stock droppage and gave him a $14-million severance package - makes 279 times what his workers do.

A certain strain of American humor mocks the Brits and others who still have a royal family. But at least the English have a real queen in front of their cultural parade, and not some shark or sharkette in a suit.

The only thing this aging, recalcitrant, nearly hornless American-to-the-core ram can say is, BAH![[In-content Ad]]