These people actually have the power to shape our economy. Really.

4 Jan

Are you scared of losing your job? If you’re unemployed, are you scared you’ll never find a job?

REALLY stupid decisions in both the public and private sectors probably won’t put your mind at ease.

CNN Money/Fortune has just released its “Dumbest moments in business, 2009”. You don’t have to be a financial analyst, stockbroker or, hell, a person who can balance a checkbook to see how stupid some of these moves were. Sure, some had far greater repercussions than the others, but that also shows people on all rungs of the social ladder can make some truly moronic business decisions.

Idiocy like this in the public and private sectors makes your fears very justified. Knowing these people, their minions and other like-minded people have shaped and will probably continue to shape our economy is scary. It’s a type of scary only Stephen King could imagine.

The economy has been bad for everyone, and some painful decisions had to be made. I get that. But note many of these moments are pure public relations disasters that were definitely avoidable.

Here are some highlights:

* AIG was already Public Enemy Number One at the economic crisis’ onset. Their new CEO didn’t make things better at all. Robert Benmosche called members of Congress a bunch of “crazies” during his first meeting with employees. He also said he would tell the people running the governmental body that threw his company a $173 billion taxpayer-funded life raft to “stick it where the sun don’t shine” if he were called to testify. After board members tried to rein him in, he asked for a private jet for personal use and later threatened to quit over government-prescribed pay restrictions.

Yes, the federal government gave this bunch billions. Your tax dollars at work, folks.

Pay attention to what gets the audience cheering the most.

* The “Big Three” automakers have taken significant hits. Painful decisions had to be in the works. But Chrysler created a public relations nightmare when they had to make one of those painful decisions. The idiocy here is not what was done, but HOW it was done. It sent 25 percent of its dealerships to the chopping block — sending good-bye letters via UPS — THE SAME DAY IT WENT PUBLIC WITH ITS LIST OF 789 DEALERSHIPS SLATED FOR TERMINATION. Many dealers found out they were being cut from the press, not the company. To add insult to injury, it only allowed those dealerships 30 days to wind down their operations. This forced the businesses to liquidate their inventories for songs and dances.

* “Hey! Let’s use a beloved comedian in our ads — after he is dead — and we’ll make tons of money! What a brilliant idea!”  Yeah right. DirecTV ran a spot featuring the late Chris Farley. The ad showed the popular “Fat guy in a little coat” scene from “Tommy Boy”. David Spade, Farley’s co-star in that movie, “broke from character” to make a DirecTV pitch. The company, Spade and Farley’s family issued statements defending the commercial, saying it was a tribute to Farley’s humor. Fans didn’t get the joke.

Judge for yourself.

* “The days of credit card companies screwing consumers are over — in nine months!” President Obama signed sweeping credit card reform in May, and this was called a major victory for consumers. Finally, some of the most abusive industry practices like arbitrary interest-rate hikes would be outlawed. That’s awesome. But there was a slight glitch: Lawmakers gave issuers until February 2010 to fully comply with the new law. Meanwhile, credit card companies have rushed to raise interest rates, impose new fees and cut credit limits. That’s like telling cocaine cartels, “*Shouting* You’re not going to plague our streets with drugs and violence anymore! *Whispering*  OK. So, you have nine months to hurry up and sell your stash and spray the city with AK-47 ammo.”

Chrysler dealerships had 30 days. The credit card companies had nine months. What’s wrong with this picture?

* I like to come up with my own leads, but the one from CNN Money is awesome enough that I have to share it here: “Finally — here’s what might happen if your financial adviser was the star of ‘Jackass.'” A 23-year-old man in Washington state installed himself at a shopping center and held up a sign inviting people to kick him in the groin for $5 a pop. He only made a $3 profit before the cops showed up — giving a female passerby a discount. I guess everyone has to make their pricing competitive in this economy. I don’t know if this guy was THAT financially desperate or, well, a jackass. Maybe he was a mix of both.

Anyway, read the entire story at CNN Money. Financial news was never more entertaining — or scary.


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