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 magazinewith apparent seriousnessrecommends
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
It's comforting to know business leaders are so considerate.
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."
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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