Monday, July 8, 2013

Reprise: Pedantic Profits and Tea Party Endorsements in Illinois

Pedantic Profits (Caterpillar CEO’s New Educational Plan) 

Rep. Jeanne Ives
I received a friendly email rebuttal from Illinois Representative Jeanne Ives regarding my recent negative response to her assistant's declaration (during a coffee meeting) that Illinois had the worst economic outlook for businesses in the nation.  I had sent an email follow-up that I thought was, non-partisan, but the Representative questioned its timeliness and as well as its origin.  She offered a better and more accurate source for her assistant's information: CEO Magazine of May 2013.  In the issue, published in the interest and grooming of the many plutocrats of the Civic Committee, one can find a coalescence of the attitudes and approaches to ameliorating the business climate that's found in the Tea Party approach: SB3303.   Of course one of the premier authors/backers of this "non-partisan" description of the impoverished business climate is CEO Doug Oberhelman, who, well, has helped to add to the impoverished in Illinois and other states whenever he has had the chance.

AdjectivePedanticism occurs during the presentation of an argument or lesson, e.g., as in teaching, the over concern with one’s own self-impression or importance.  Remember that instructor that was more interested in promoting his or her own brilliance than awakening yours?  Example: See –
Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman and his pretentious arguments to keep his aristo-income which is wildly beyond rational - and at the expense of his workers – and blame the educational system for his own workers’( and others’) diminished pay.  Caterpillar’s Chief Executive Doug Oberhelman says that the U.S. manufacturing workforce is lagging, and education is at fault.

Oberhelman, who receives $16.9 million in salary alone in 2011 ( ) and another $8.3 million in options, describes the potential workforce for his company as lacking.  And he says it is education’s fault, for he has nowhere else to pick from. According to Oberhelman, the U.S. schools are not providing the kind of after-graduate skilled workers that his company can employ easily.

At the National Conference of State Legislatures, a political non-partisan group lately described as taking a decidedly conservative bent as per ALEC (, Oberhelman offered his own version of what would make the interface between education and manufacturing in the United States a better fit.   Of course, someone with nearly $17 million per year (now $20 m) in benefits feels he has the right and pedagogical expertise to explain what’s lacking in education – at least as he sees it.  Like most successful privateers, many CEO’s facing their new global economic needs think they have the answers for an acceptable worker’s education.  

The keynote speaker at the conference was Edward Rust, Jr., State Farm Mutual’s CEO.  Rust began by lamenting that the U.S. needs workers with verbal and written communication skills, people who can “think critically and possess intellectual curiosity.” 

“The consequences of not addressing this are much greater than they appear; perhaps, today,” said Rust (Cancino, Alejandro.  Education concerns business leaders.  Chicago Tribune/Business.  10 August 2012).    Rust went on to describe the loss of job-skills in half decades; in other words, the set of skills needed to operate technological machinery evolves into completely different needs within five years or less.  Upgrades in skills for basic workers are necessary in order to compete globally. 

In the past, U.S. manufacturers provided training as an integral part of the acquisition and maintenance of long-term employees, but that behavior has been dropped in favor of seeking off-shore expertise at lower wages or off-site training and lesser pay.  Some countries continue to train.  For example, Germany, an economy that has weathered the economic depression of 2007 – 12, has maintained its manufacturing edge through on-the-job-training in manufacturing while the rest of Europe has not (Barlett & Steele.  The Betrayal of the American Dream.  Public Affairs.  New York. 2012).    

What health plan?
Quite the opposite, when Apple moved its manufacturing factories from Colorado and California to cities in China to make I-products, they did not train nor educate the steady streams of prospective, poorly educated employees from neighboring rural areas.  It was all about the money – how much could be produced in how short a time.  The end result was huge groups of underpaid and overworked youngsters, enduring twelve-hour shifts and living in flimsily constructed housing that moved ten per room back and forth to the factories.  These Foxconn designs were so disastrous that rates of suicide began to alarm even the hardest of entrepreneurs in China.  Answer One?  Build netting around the dormitories to prevent the would-be jumpers from being successful.   Enjoying your IPad?  But I digress….

Back to the pedantic profiteer…

According to Doug Oberhelman, what education really needs is a one or two year add-on to high school to prepare those who would be in the manufacturing world a set of skills that they (that is, Caterpillar) could use immediately (for how long?) to enter the manufacturing workforce.  Get the picture?  Learn a skill after high school, go to work for a company like Caterpillar, and submit to what the corporate masters will give you – for as long as they need not train you.  According to Mr. Rust, that will be about five years.  In case that sounds cynical, look at what the latest settlement of strikers in Joliet received: some changes in seniority, but frozen salaries and double costs of benefits.  One 40-year veteran described the Caterpillar company as “not trustworthy” while many others felt cheated by the settlement (Cain, Cindy. Tentative Pact Reached in Joliet.  Southtown Star.  15 August 2012). 

Once more, back to Doug’s bold vision:

Educated but worthless...
Oberhelman also took a shot at higher education. ‘I for one struggle a little bit with a $250,000 education for a philosophy degree.  They are wonderful people but we cannot employ philosophers in manufacturing in the United States’” (Cancino, Alejandro.  Education concerns business leaders.  Chicago Tribune/Business.  10 August 2012).  Of course Oberhelman can’t.  They would be degreed, intelligent thinkers who might be well qualified to critically evaluate his company’s and his own rapacious profiteering.  Oberhelman wants a skilled but not necessarily thoughtful employee. 

On the other hand, if you look solely for the bottom line, Doug is indeed a kind of Steve Jobs of earthmovers, a George Pullman of ditch buckets. 
In 2011, Caterpillar revenue grew 41 percent to $60.14 billion. Profit grew 83 percent to $4.93 billion, up from $2.70 billion the year earlier. The company credited those results along with the several acquisitions, record operating cash flow for the machinery and power systems units, and other measures for his increased pay.  And, of course, Doug gets that nearly $17 million in compensation, not to mention another $70,000 for the use of the corporate plane and nearly $21,000 for home security. 

Maybe Oberhelman will end up doing what the great manufacturing giant George Pullman did, in order to maintain his own select position after death.  Fearing that some of his former employees or other labor supporters might try to dig up his body, Pullman’s family arranged for his remains to be placed in a lead-lined mahogany coffin, which was then sealed inside a block of concrete. “At the cemetery, a large pit had been dug at the family plot. At its base and walls were 18 inches of reinforced concrete. The coffin was lowered, and covered with asphalt and tarpaper. More concrete was poured on top, followed by a layer of steel rails bolted together at right angles, and another layer of concrete”( ).  The entire burial process for George Pullman took two days. 
Yep, that's Doug.
With a Ditch Bucket, it might take less time.  One might think…


  1. Great article John- it is amazing how low the once great Caterpillar has fallen for its workers and the towns where they once provided high paying jobs for local workers in their factories. CEO Doug Oberhelman has had a lot to do with those sad outcomes.

  2. Why do so few people realize that we are simply the targets of the first attacks in the War Against the Middle Class?
    You article speaks to more than Caterpillar and stooges such as Ives.