Posts Tagged ‘Prostate cancer Stanford Ethics Health CEO Corporations Medical Medicare Veterans’

Entitlement Ethics

February 5, 2012

Entitlement Ethics

By Jon Foyt

Entitlements today in America encompass ethnic groups, economic levels, endless medical environments, and even us elderly, as well.
Yet the ethics of these entitlements can be elusive. For example, recently I attended a Silicon Valley panel discussion dealing with what to most of us might seem to be an unusual (and perhaps dull) subject, yet one that is politically charged in today’s ethics environment: American Corporate CEO Compensation, with the title: “Every CEO Is Above Average.”
Sponsored by the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at the Stanford University Law School and the National Association of Corporate Directors, the panelists, each a consultant to American and international corporations discussed the complex subject of executive compensation. None of the panelists, however, questioned the entitlements of the executives who were the subjects of their consulting assignments. Apparently, the consultants would leave such judgments, ethics aside, to the purview of the law, the IRS, and the ISS (Institutional Shareholder Services), a worldwide organization (with thousands of employees) which, should you Google it, you will discover is a subsidiary of another corporation with the name of MSCI, Inc.
ISS personnel are the judges of executive entitlements from both a legal and tax standpoint. By the rules of corporate governance, these deep baskets of executive compensation (stock options, salaries, bonuses, exclusive club memberships, golden parachutes and pensions) are subject to shareholder approval. Yes, shareholders do play in this corporate arena where CEO compensation soars. However, shareholders are a force, or so fear the consultants, should these shareholders revolt against soaring CEO compensation, demonstrating their displeasure by, perhaps, occupying corporate boardrooms, marching around the lengthy mahogany tables, sleeping in tents, and hoisting corporate revolutionary placards. Fat chance! Indeed as corporate executive entitlements are so well established in the American corporate lexicon—that’s so much a given that only the nitty-gritty details need to be worked out to the satisfaction of, yes, the mighty “ISS.”
That morning on Page Mill Road in Palo Alto, not one of the compensation consultants on the panel questioned the ethics or morality of excessive executive entitlements from the perspective of American social values. So, if you are a working stiff on a factory line or a clerk in a corporate cubicle, what are your entitlements? Nada—other than perhaps group health coverage and, maybe, a pension. Now, compare that to your CEO’s benefits package and ask: “Whence have gone the ethics, the morality, the justice, the rule of fairness?”
What of America’s bedrock social values? Where have these basic social values gone? And what of all those other entitlements (defined as “the amount to which a person has a right”) existing today in our lives?
Take one of those other entitlements—the medical. And make it personal to this writer. For four months I’ve been undergoing prostate cancer treatment at the Stanford Hospital, the grand total cost of medicines and radiation from those hugely expensive Varian machines approaches, so far, a quarter of a million dollars. Yes, $250,000 is as accurate a figure as I can total up right now.
Apart from weird side effects, this procedure is painless both to my body and my pocketbook because, as a Korean War veteran, I have been able to arrange for the Veterans Administration to foot the giant part of the bill. That’s you, the taxpayer. And I thank you, each and every one of you here in Rossmoor and elsewhere. But what if I were not a veteran? And what if I had no Medicare backup, which, by my computations, would still leave me with a considerable amount of co-pay—twenty percent or $50,000—with which I would have to somehow deal?
Yes, the ethics of entitlements. They apply, but only if you fit into the system. And what if you don’t? If you’re not a CEO, if you are without medical coverage (and I mean complete medical coverage monetarily), then you’re out in the cold. And where are the ethics of entitlements for those who are wandering aimlessly in the cold and winter rain? What is to become of those who can’t get into the lifeboat in which they are, by the virtue of the fact that they are a human being and, as such, automatically entitled to a seat?
Jon Foyt, a Rossmoor published novelist, posts his Blog at https://writerlygifts.wordpress.com/ and can be contacted at jonfoyt@mac.com