Gongol.com Archives: December 2008
Brian Gongol

December 2, 2008

Business and Finance The principal/agent problem rears its ugly, ugly head once again
Where, pray tell, were the independent directors of all the major public companies that have recently had so much trouble back when something could have been done to avoid big problems? The Detroit automakers, for instance, certainly have had some sort of institutional awareness that oil prices and legacy costs would come to haunt them someday. Yet the boards of directors appear to have done little or nothing to get their companies to change direction. Boards of directors are supposed to be the shareholders' representatives at the table. But if they're failing to do any sort of duty, then what are they good for? The problem, of course, is that there's a difference between those who own businesses and those who manage them. The former want long-term profits; the latter tend to want a paycheck. And, unfortunately, there's often too little reward in telling the truth -- like when Senator John McCain, as a candidate for President, told Michigan voters that some manufacturing jobs were gone for good. Note that he remains a Senator, not President-elect. But his plight serves as a reminder that the same principal/agent problem vexes us in the public sector, too: Taxpayers want good government and low taxes, preferably for a lifetime. Politicians want to get re-elected. So instead of getting straight talk about just how badly politicians have outspent what the American public is willing to pay in taxes, we get the sound of chirping crickets when the matter of the outrageous $10.68 trillion Federal debt comes to light. Making things better will require finding better ways to ensure that the principals -- shareholders and taxpayers -- are the ones whose interests come first.

Iowa The rise and fall of the ethanol boom
We went through a boom, to be certain. Whether the bust will endure is yet to be seen.

Humor and Good News How to write and draw a syndicated comic strip
Specifically, the excellent "Bo Nanas", which, sadly, is no longer in publication. But the creator, John Kovaleski, still draws. The world can only hope he'll resurrect the strip someday.

Business and Finance Ford wants $9 billion in loans to stay in business
Chrysler is asking for $7 billion and GM is asking for $12 billion in loans.

Water News Tougher water regulations may be ahead