Birds Of A Feather

A recent story on CNBC and picked up by Yahoo News about David Siegel, C.E.O. of Westgate Resorts, deserves a comment. The man wrote to his employees and told them that if Obama is reelected he may have to downsize and they might lose their jobs. He insists that this is not extortion, but let me quote him directly as this is a key issue:

Siegel stressed that he wasn’t out to intimidate his workers into voting for Romney. “I can’t tell anyone to vote,” he said. But he wants to make sure his workers made an informed choice. “I want my employees to be educated on what could happen to their future if the wrong person is elected.”

In a word: this is not a threat, but if you vote for the “wrong person” you may need to find another job. The man has obviously never heard about the law of contradiction. He simply wants to “educate” his employees. And apparently his weakened reasoning ability is only exceeded by his hypocrisy. He warns against wasteful government spending and yet this is the man who built “Versailles,” reportedly the largest house in America, at a cost that sent him into a financial tailspin resulting in personal sacrifices he now brags about. As the article puts it, “[Siegel and his wife] became symbols of outsized spending, debt and real estate in America. But when the company started buckling under $1 billion in debt during the crisis, the Siegels’ home went into foreclosure and was put up for sale. They cut back on the jet, took the kids out of private school and gave up some of their staff.”

He claims he has turned things around by getting “lean and mean”  (by cutting back on the jet and taking his kids out of private school?) and wants the country to do the same thing. Like so many very wealthy people in this country, this man prides himself on the fact that he made it “on his own.”  As he told his employees in his letter, “. . .people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t. The people who overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for.”  So many of the very rich simply don’t get it: they really don’t know what it means to struggle and go without. This is becoming a familiar story; the stereotypes just keep tumbling out.

Siegel blames “Obamacare and increased taxes,” which he predicts will follow the president’s reelection, for the projected reduction of some of his 7000 employees. But he ignores the salient fact that among developed countries Americans pay the fewest taxes in the world. The proposed increase in taxes to be paid by the wealthy in this country under Obama would be about 39% — almost exactly what they were under Clinton when the country knew unprecedented economic growth. Additionally, this country is near the bottom of the developed nations in health care, one of the few “civilized” countries without some sort of national health care system — discounting the Affordable Care Act which is in its infancy. And the number of poor grows daily while “Obamacare” in its brief existence has welcomed thousands of the sick under its umbrella — people who had previously been uninsured. The system is not perfect, heaven knows, but it is assuredly a step in the right direction.

What is particularly disturbing about Siegel’s actions are the echoes of Mitt Romney’s dismissal of the 47% of the people in this country who, in his words, have become dependent on the government. Romney famously said it; Siegel simply stands in his shadow and nods his head. The man stoops to extortion and he has a dismissive attitude toward the poor in this country whom he lumps together as leeches and bums — ignoring the fact that many of his 5000 employees who lost their jobs during his “lean and mean” period are probably among their numbers. Shit happens, and it often happens to gifted and highly motivated people who just may happen to work for people like David Siegel.

At a time when the world needs compassion and understanding it is troubling to read about a man who brags about his own success while he threatens others as he denigrates those who struggle simply to keep their heads above water.

17 thoughts on “Birds Of A Feather

  1. Dear Hugh,
    …………..”Shit happens, and it often happens to to gifted and highly motivated people who just may happen to work for people like David Siegel.”
    That cracks me up.
    Love, Lis

  2. Hi Hugh! I didn’t know about this person, but he is really just a symptom of the bigger issue which you aptly point out. I suppose it is hard for people who have never lacked anything to walk in the shoes of those living paycheck to paycheck and just trying to make ends meet. But it amazes me that people like this man you highlight here feel no shame about the situation.Great post, as always!

  3. Good blog, Hugh! There are two stories in the Oct. 7 issue of the New Yorker about billionaires that reflect the same attitude as Siegel’s. One of them, about a guy named Leon Cooperman, discusses a cabal of billionaires who are really angry at Obama (despite the huge jump in their stock-market investments and hedge-fund growth since 2008). Almost in passing, Cooperman makes a comment that shows he knows there is major discontent many Americans but, bafflingly, does not seem to care or does not seem to get it. It comes when he is talking about Obama’s win in 2008: “You know, the largest and greatest country in the free world put a forty-seven-year-old-guy who never worked a day in his life in charge of the free world,” Cooperman said. He acknowledged dissatisfaction, then said, “But it is a question that the dissatisfaction of the populace was so great that they were willing to take a chance on an untested individual.”

    But that’s the extent of it He just blithely says that, then returns to his anger at Obama for “targeting” the ultra-rich.The super-rich can’t get away with such shameless arrogance forever. The question Cooperman and others like him need to ask is: “WHY was the populace willing to take a chance on Obama” (who really was not as untested as Cooperman suggests, and who actually held several jobs). If the big-money folks cannot even ask the “why” question let alone start to answer it, they will be in trouble.

  4. Reminds me of Hugo Chavez who told governmental workers at the previous election (not the one last Sunday) that if we find out you voted for the opposition, you would be fired and they were. Scroll forward to this past Sunday and voters were told that their vote was now in secret and could not be determined by the government leaders. Do you think people who worked for the government believed them? Chavez won again. If Mr. Siegel is the piece of work you describe, it would be my guess his strong urging will backfire. The previous three CEOs at my old company were not well thought of and eventually fired. If they recommended someone, everyone would vote the opposite. It gets back to earlier posts of Barney, Hugh and mine about 80/20 rule applying to leaders as well. Only 20% of CEOs are worth a hoot. So, his workers have a 80% chance of ignoring him. Giveng his lifestyle choices, I am betting they would. BTG

    • I agree with the 80/20 rule in this case. 80% of his employees might also start looking for another job as a result of the letter.

      Mr. Siegel’s entire premise that he is just “educating his employees” is a veiled attempt to hide the voter intimidation/bully tactic.

    • Not so. There have always been cheaters and greed is not new. We just need to keep an eye on these people! There are some good people out there doing great things. See the “Old Fart’s” blog today!


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