How Low Can You Go

Downsizing Etiquette


his own variation of Teddy Roosevelt's maxim, President Clinton is talking

softly and carrying a little stick by asking corporations to be nice to their

workers. But if the June 10 issue of Fortune is any guide, such gentle

proddings have yet to make an impact.

In an article headlined, "How to Fire People and Still Sleep at Night,"

the magazine offers handy do's and don'ts for sensitive managers: "Everyone

is likely to be affected in some way," the empathetic journal says of

layoffs, "but the managers who do the actual firing are often hurt the

most." (Apparently, canned workers and their families don't suffer so

exquisitely.) To avoid any problems, the magazine—with apparent seriousness—recommends

helpful pointers to would-be hatchet men: "Never fire your father"

(The reason: you could get fired if you try to soften the blow by giving

dear old Dad extra severance pay) . . . don't fire a worker on Take Our

Daughters to Work Day (it's bad PR when the father and his little tyke have to

leave) . . . and don't chew out an emotionally unstable worker when you're axing

him, because he might come back and blow his (or your) brains out with a

high-powered rifle.

It's comforting to know business leaders are so considerate.

Reinventing Regulation


the wake of the ValuJet crash, critics decried the twin roles of the Federal

Aviation Administration: regulating airline safety and promoting the

airline industry. Yet this approach embodies the slimmed-down philosophy of

government so many Republicans and Democrats now champion. Instead of having two

cumbersome bureaucracies, the FAA has captured the can-do, entrepreneurial

spirit of "reinventing government."

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Can it be long before other agencies follow suit? We look forward to a time

when David Kessler, director of the Food and Drug Administration, stars in

public service ads, puffing away on a Marlboro and proclaiming "These taste

good like a cigarette should." The Agriculture Department could spend even

less money than it does inspecting beef and more on uplifting ads showing hearty

Americans chowing down on all-American red meat. The hoary concept of an

agency's "conflict of interest" will, we expect, become as antiquated

a notion as "the value of public service."

- Art Levine

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