Rick Wagoner's golden pension: More bucks for bungling

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Former CEO Rick Wagoner will receive roughly $23 million for his pension. While technically not a severance package, it is really from the pension fund. And folks are still outraged over the amount. Pretty good pay for someone who was fired, essentially for running his company into the ground.

But really it reflects part of what is wrong with GM and has been for years. The company overpaid its executives and workers. As it built bigger and bigger vehicles, pay-outs got bigger too. Now I understand that high payments to employees helped build the middle class in America. This was the group that bought houses, cars, washing machines and other time-saving devices in the years after World War II. But, let's face it. The days of getting a $50K job with just a high school degree are as gone as record players and rotary phones.

I remember when I left high school 40 years ago. You could still walk into one of the large factories in Milwaukee and get a high paying job. Granted, the work was monotonous and boring but you were able to carve out a lifestyle with a home, a boat, and maybe a lake cottage up north. These jobs have been disappearing for a very long time.

GM, though, kept operating like the gravy train was going to last forever. It continued to build its gas-guzzling trucks, and eventually introduced the Hummer. Now really, what a ridiculous vehicle for the 21st century. And it kept paying high wages and benefits to the rank and file, thanks to lack of flexibility on the part of the unions.

It really isn't surprising that the whole house of cards is falling down. While it was cruising in its SUV's, a whole lot of Americans were looking for something more economical. While it was designing vehicles like Hummers so consumers could play Army, more Americans were looking for a greener way of life with less dependence on oil.

Wagoner was asked to leave by the White House so GM could get some new leadership with new ideas. Let's hope they get it.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE e-mail newsletter, please visit: The People Pro.

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