Monday, June 3, 2013

My Choice, Your Treat

I often see news articles that reflect the kind of thinking in the title.  Some people want to get their own way – make a decision, but want others to pay for it.  They argue vehemently that they only want it because it is fair or the right thing to do, but they aren't willing to take on the financial burden.  In many cases they seem oblivious to the fact that finances are involved.

Take the case of the Girl Scout camps mentioned in this recent article.  When the Iowa Girl Scout councils reviewed their budget and proposed selling their four remaining summer camps, one mother started a petition to fight the idea.  “Other scouting alums and volunteers have taken up the cause, too, packing public meetings, sending letters to newspapers and recording a protest song for YouTube. When those efforts failed, they filed a lawsuit.”  The fight is not limited to Iowa.  It’s a nationwide battle between the leaders who say that girls are less interested in camping and the protesters who “insist the camping experience shaped who they are and must be preserved for future generations.” 

“Pro-camp activists have boycotted cookie drives, held overnight camp-ins outside council offices, filed legal actions and tried to elect sympathetic volunteers to governing boards.”  This is a budget issue, but I don’t see any mention of those with strong feelings offering to dig deep into their own pockets or to start a campaign to raise funds for a cause they feel is so important.  Instead they petition, write letters, protest and boycott.  It’s a common case of wanting one's wishes fulfilled, but expecting the money to come from somewhere else.

On somewhat a related subject an article last week bemoaned the fact that the US is the only rich country that does not mandate paid vacation and/or holidays for all workers.  They show charts and tell how awful it is and how behind the rest of the world we are.  Again the argument centers on doing the right thing with someone else's money.

No one should expect to get paid for not working.  That pay is part of a compensation package earned during working hours.  Wages for holidays and vacations are ultimately paid by customers when they receive a product or service.  What if you went to the bakery to pick up your Saturday morning bagels and were told that the baker was on vacation but you were expected to pay anyway?  What if instead you were told that the baker had retired and that you were expected to pay every Saturday for the next 30 years but not get any bagels?  It sounds crazy, but some people think about vacation, holiday, sick leave, disability, FMLA and pension so narrowly that it’s as if they believe the world really works that way.  Of course, it doesn't.  Despite the name, "paid time off" is another form of pay for work done.  It’s nice to feel strongly about paid time off, but the solution is not that easy.  If the government forces companies to pay for time off, either the current compensation must be divided differently or the customers must pay more.   There is no magic money tree or mystery philanthropist to cover the cost.  Passing the costs to the customer, in a sense paying for each other’s vacation time, leaves us right back where we started.

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