Elon’s “Musketeers” Will Gladly Commit to “Long Hours at High Intensity”

(p. A12) Your boss probably hasn’t demanded a loyalty pledge and almost certainly doesn’t own a rocket ship, but the person calling the shots at your company might be more like Elon Musk than you realize.

. . .

What is consistent—and alluring to some bosses—is the billionaire’s unapologetically high standard for employees. He spelled it out last week in an emailed ultimatum, saying that Twitter employees must commit to “long hours at high intensity” or leave with three months’ severance.

. . .

Managers who think the working world has gone soft in recent years, with all the talk of flexibility and work-life balance, say they envy Mr. Musk’s unfiltered style and share his craving for maximum effort—even if they wouldn’t act quite as forcefully as the world’s richest person.

. . .

. . . he is the rare CEO with a fan base—“Musketeers,” as this male-dominated bunch is known—and might be able to fill the company’s ranks with devotees who believe in his vision of a more freewheeling and profitable platform and are willing to grind.

. . .

“He can do whatever he wants, and everyone that has an opinion about it can piss off,” says Derek Grubbs, director of sales development at Crux Informatics, a software company. “If everybody exits from Twitter, there are plenty of other people who will be ready to enter because it pays well, and working for Elon Musk has a flair to it.”

For the full commentary, see:

Callum Borchers. “ON THE CLOCK; The Bosses Who Want to Emulate Elon Musk.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, November 23, 2022): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 22, 2022, and has the title “ON THE CLOCK; Is Elon Musk Your Boss’s Anger Translator?”)

Regulation of Truckers’ Driving Hours Caused Higher Speeds and More Fatalities

(p. A13) Falling asleep at the wheel is deadly. “It is obvious that a man cannot work efficiently or be a safe driver if he does not have an opportunity for approximately 8 hours sleep in 24,” the Interstate Commerce Commission declared in 1937. Ever since, federal rules have limited the work hours of interstate truckers. Also ever since, truckers, their employers and their customers have circumvented the rules when they stand in the way of making money.

Congress tackled the problem in 2012 by requiring long-distance truckers to track their hours with an “electronic logging device” connected to the engine. The mandatory rest breaks and the limits on drivers’ daily and weekly hours didn’t change, but the Transportation Department estimated that monitoring compliance with an ELD would avoid 1,844 crashes and save 26 lives annually.  . . .

. . .

In “Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance,” Karen Levy makes a provocative case against this approach.   . . .  Her concise and lively book will interest anyone concerned with the complicated business of regulation.

. . .

. . ., Ms. Levy raises important questions about regulation in general by examining the unintended effects of a well-meant initiative designed to address a serious safety problem. She reports on a 2021 study linking ELDs to greater compliance with regulations but no reduction in truck crashes. Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks actually increased, as drivers sped up to cover as many miles as they could during their permitted driving time.

For the full review, see:

Marc Levinson. “BOOKSHELF; Miles of Mandates.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date January 3, 2023, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Data Driven’ Review: Miles of Mandates.”)

The book under review is:

Levy, Karen. Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2022.

As Sole Owner Musk Was Able to Act Quickly to Cure Twitter’s “Systemic Paralysis”

(p. A17) Since Elon Musk purchased Twitter, he has undertaken a rapid restructuring that few large technology companies would attempt unless faced with an immediate liquidity crisis. Minutes after closing his purchase of the company, he started a process that reduced the workforce from 7,500 to 2,500 in 10 days.

Media pundits immediately slammed him, arguing that his slash-and-burn strategy would destroy one of the world’s most important social-media platforms—already in danger under the burden of $14 billion in debt. Much of this criticism came in the form of tweets, as the irony of using Twitter to denounce Twitter apparently escaped Mr. Musk’s critics. But the restructuring of Twitter won’t destroy the company.

Mr. Musk is trying to cure a degenerative corporate disease: systemic paralysis. Symptoms include cobwebs of corporate hierarchies with unclear reporting lines and unwieldy teams, along with work groups and positions that have opaque or nonsensical mandates. Paralyzed companies are often led by a career CEO who builds or maintains a level of bureaucracy that leads to declines in innovation, competitive stature and shareholder value.

Mr. Musk set his new tone immediately. He eliminated a 12-member team responsible for artificial-intelligence ethics in machine learning, the entire corporate communications department, and a headquarters commissary that cost $13 million a year (despite prior management’s pandemic decree that Twitter employees would be “remote forever”).

Three attributes give Mr. Musk a better chance of rebuilding Twitter into an innovative force in social media: He is an operator, an engineer and a sole owner.

For the full commentary, see:

Rob Wiesenthal. “Elon Musk Slashes Bureaucracy, Giving Twitter a Chance to Soar.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Dec. 9, 2022): A17.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 8, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

FTX Fraudster Bankman-Fried Made $40 Million in Midterm Political Donations Which Mostly “Went to Democrats and Liberal-Leaning Groups”

(p. A1) FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried oversaw one of the biggest financial frauds in American history, a top federal prosecutor said in charging that the former chief executive stole billions of dollars from the crypto exchange’s customers while misleading investors and lenders.

. . .

(p. A6) Mr. Bankman-Fried is also accused of defrauding the Federal Election Commission starting in 2020 by conspiring with others to make illegal contributions to candidates and political committees in the names of other people.

He and his associates contributed more than $70 million to election campaigns in recent years, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. He personally made $40 million in donations ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, most of which went to Democrats and liberal-leaning groups.

For the full story, see:

Corinne Ramey, James Fanelli, Dave Michaels, Alexander Saeedy and Vicky Ge Huang. “FTX Founder Is Charged With Fraud.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 14, 2022): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 13, 2022, and has the title “FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried Charged With Criminal Fraud, Conspiracy.”)

Workers Who Feel They Matter Are More Satisfied with Their Lives and Are “Less Likely to Quit”

(p. C5) So how do you know if your employees and co-workers feel that they matter? In a 2021 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers developed a scale to measure mattering in the workplace. In online surveys involving nearly 1,800 full-time employees at a variety of companies, participants were asked to rate on a 5-point scale how much they agreed with statements such as “My work contributes to my organization’s success” and “The quality of my work makes a real impact on my organization.” Other statements had to do with feeling valued and recognized: “My organization praises my work publicly” and “My work has made me popular at my workplace.”

Participants were also asked about job satisfaction, recent raises or promotions, and whether they intended to leave their job. What the researchers found was that mattering isn’t only good for employee well-being, it’s also good for a company’s bottom line. Employee turnover is costly and disruptive, and “when employees feel like they matter to their organization, they are more satisfied with their jobs and life, more likely to occupy leadership positions, more likely to be rewarded and promoted and less likely to quit.”

. . .

Research by Dr. Prilleltensky and colleagues shows that being treated fairly increases workers’ sense of mattering, . . .

For the full commentary, see:

Jennifer Breheny Wallace. “The Power of Mattering at Work.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022): C5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 1, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

Jack Welch’s Protégés “Were Just Cost Cutters”

(p. 8) . . . in more than 100 conversations for “The Man Who Broke Capitalism,” my new book, from which this article is adapted, a broad range of people said some version of the same thing: While it has been more than two decades since Mr. Welch was C.E.O. of G.E., his legacy still affects millions of American households.

. . .

For a time in the early 2000s, five of the top 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average were run by men who had worked for Mr. Welch. “That’s why they got hired,” said William Conaty, G.E.’s longtime chief of human resources. “Because they had the playbook. They had the G.E. tool kit. And boards back then thought that was the answer.”

. . .

The Welch protégés who struck out on their own rarely fared well. At Home Depot, Albertson’s, Conseco, Stanley Works and many other companies, the same story seemed to repeat itself ad infinitum.

A G.E. executive was named C.E.O. of another company. News of the appointment sent the stock of that company soaring. The incoming leaders were lavished with riches when they took their new jobs, signing multimillion-dollar contracts that ensured them a gilded retirement, no matter how well they performed. A period of job cuts usually ensued, and profits sometimes rose for a few quarters, or even a few years. But inevitably, morale cratered, the business wobbled, the stock price sank and the Welch disciple was sent packing.

“A lot of G.E. leaders were thought to be business geniuses,” said Bill George, the former C.E.O. of Medtronic. “But they were just cost cutters. And you can’t cost cut your way to prosperity.”

For the full essay, see:

David Gelles. “Jack Welch and the Rise of C.E.O.s Behaving Badly.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, May 22, 2022): 1 & 7-8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated June 27, 2022, and has the title “How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from Gelles’s book:

Gelles, David. The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America―and How to Undo His Legacy. New York: Simon & Schuster 2022.

Racial Disparity in Wages Is Mostly Due to Racial Disparity in Skills

(p. A11) I was raised, in part, by my paternal grandmother—a phenomenal black woman born in 1925 who came of age during Jim Crow, attended Bethune-Cookman University in the early 1940s, and experienced both the promise and limitations of the civil-rights era when integrating schools in Florida in 1969. She did her best to teach sixth-graders subject-verb agreement minutes after being spat on by their parents. Her life’s journey provided unlimited content as we sat together for nearly three decades, stuck to the plastic slipcovers on her sofa, playing cards, drinking sweet tea, and talking uninhibitedly about race in America.

. . .

. . ., in graduate school, I read a 1995 paper titled “The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences.” Using a nationally representative sample of more than 12,000 14- to 17-year-olds from 1979, Derek A. Neal and William R. Johnson estimated that blacks earned between 35% to 45% less than whites on average.

. . .

“We find,” they wrote in the abstract of their paper, “that this one test score explains all of the black-white wage gap for young women and much of the gap for young men.” With their approach, antiblack bias played no role in the divergent wages among women; a black woman with the same qualifications as a white woman made slightly more money. And it accounted for at most 29% of the racial difference among men, with 71% traceable to disparate performance on the AFQT. The AFQT itself was evaluated by the Pentagon, which found that black and white military recruits with similar AFQT scores performed similarly on the job—indicating no racial bias.

The paper felt like an attack on what I knew. An assault on all those conversations with my grandmother, which taught me that racism—present-tense racism—dictated black-white inequality.

. . .

I vented about my battle with Messrs. Neal and Johnson to a fellow graduate student at Penn State, a white guy from the cornfields of Southern Illinois.

. . .

I told him I was sure discrimination was a bigger factor than Messrs. Neal and Johnson were letting on, but “I just can’t get this data to cooperate.”

. . .

He pointed out how far I was straying from our Euler equations. How on any subject other than race, I would have never given in to such sloppy thinking.

. . .

Messrs. Neal and Johnson, as it turns out, aren’t bigots, and their conclusions have stood the test of time and my attempts to disprove them. I extended their analysis to unemployment, teen pregnancy, incarceration and other outcomes—all of which follow the same pattern.

. . .

Taken together, an honest review of the evidence suggests that current racial inequities are more a result of differences in skill than differences in treatment of those with the same skill.

. . .

A black kid who believes he will face daunting societal obstacles is likely to underinvest in trying to climb society’s rungs. Every black student in the country needs to know that his return on investment in education is, if anything, higher than for white students.

. . .

The solution isn’t to look away from discrimination. It does exist. But we also can’t point at every gap in outcomes and instantly conclude it’s racism. Prejudice must be measured rigorously. Statistically. Disparity doesn’t necessarily imply racism. It may feel omnipresent, but it isn’t all-powerful. Skills matter most.

For the full commentary, see:

Roland Fryer. “Disparity Doesn’t Necessarily Imply Racism.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 26, 2022): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 25, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)

The Neal and Johnson paper discussed by Fryer in passages quoted above is:

Neal, Derek A., and William R. Johnson. “The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences.” Journal of Political Economy 104, no. 5 (Oct. 1996): 869-95.

(Note: the reference is linked to the NBER draft of the paper, and not to the final published version, which can obtained from academic databases such as JSTOR.)

As of January 2022, Koch Industries Had Invested $1.7 Billion into Renewable-Energy Infrastructure

(p. B10) Norwegian startup Freyr Battery and energy conglomerate Koch Industries Inc. are accelerating their plan to build a multibillion-dollar battery plant that will be among the largest to tap incentives in President Biden’s climate, tax and spending plan, Freyr said.

. . .

Koch has emerged as one of the biggest investors in batteries, a turnabout from its emphasis on fossil fuels. It has said it wants to benefit from the falling cost of renewable-energy technologies and help drive it down further. As of January [2022], it had invested a total of $1.7 billion into electric batteries, energy storage and solar-power infrastructure, according to its website.

The plan is unusual among battery projects in being dedicated primarily to the energy-storage market rather than electric vehicles.

For the full story, see:

Stephen Wilmot. “Koch Teams Up on Battery Plant.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 12, 2022): B10.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 11, 2022, and has the title “Koch Teams With Startup to Build Giant Battery Factory.”)

Philosopher Argues That Human Flourishing Has Grown With “Access to Fossil Fuels”

(p. C13) The brilliance of Alex Epstein’s recent “Fossil Future” is that he writes not as a scientific expert but as a philosopher.

. . .

What is the best course of action to improve human flourishing? His answer is clear and unapologetic: more plentiful, reliable, abundant access to fossil fuels. The climate-disaster-related death rate, he points out, is 98% lower today than it was just a century ago—largely owing to innovations powered by fossil fuels. The right way to handle climate change isn’t to reverse it but to master its effects—a thesis that is as provocative as it is intuitive.

For the full review, see:

Vivek Ramaswamy. “12 Months of Reading; Vivek Ramaswamy.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2021): C13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2022, and has the title “Who Read What in 2022: Thinkers and Tastemakers.”)

The book praised by Vivek Ramaswamy is:

Epstein, Alex. Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas–Not Less. New York: Portfolio, 2022..

Nonprofit Hospitals Get $60 Billion in Annual Tax Breaks in Order to Aid the Poor, but Often Use High-Pressure Opaque Tactics to Collect Full Payment

(p. A1) Nonprofit hospitals must have financial-assistance policies for needy patients, under federal requirements tied to an estimated $60 billion in annual tax breaks.

They often make that aid hard to get. Hospitals put up obstacles, delay checking eligibility and sometimes press for payments that aren’t refunded even if a patient eventually gets qualified for assistance.

That is according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of thousands of nonprofit hospital policies in filings to the Internal Revenue Service and posted by hospitals, as well as thousands of pages of internal documents from government hospitals obtained through public-record requests and the experiences of dozens of advocates and patients who have (p. A9) applied for aid.

. . .

An earlier Journal analysis of Medicare filings highlighted how little of nonprofit hospitals’ billions in revenue goes toward financial help for low-income patients. The new analysis uncovered the barriers many hospitals place in the way of patients who should qualify for assistance—even under the hospitals’ own criteria.

Under tax laws, nonprofit hospitals are set up to function as charities benefiting their communities. Government facilities, whose policies the Journal also looked at, are also intended to serve the public, though they aren’t subject to all the same IRS requirements as private nonprofits. The Journal found that many of these hospitals act like for-profit businesses in their efforts to get paid, even by those who can’t afford it.

. . .

Separate from the analysis of nonprofit hospitals’ IRS documents, the Journal also obtained internal documents on patient-billing procedures from large state and local government hospitals, including academic medical centers, through public-records requests. These hospitals share a similar mission with private nonprofits to serve communities.

The thousands of pages of procedures, scripts and other training material for hospital staff give an inside look at how some hospitals routinely push patients toward payment, including through installment plans that may come with interest. The guidelines often play down or don’t raise the option of financial assistance. Adding to the pressure, these tactics are often deployed before the patient gets care.

In a document titled “Collections Scripting for Non-Emergent Visits,” used by Georgia-based Augusta University Health System, staffers are supposed to start by requesting the entire amount due from the patient, saying, “How would you like to take care of that today?”

For the full story, see:

Anna Wilde Mathews, Andrea Fuller and Melanie Evans. “Some Hospitals Skimp on Aid.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 18, 2022): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 17, 2022, and has the title “Hospitals Often Don’t Help Needy Patients, Even Those Who Qualify.”)

“Woke” Bankman-Fried’s FTX Played “Dumb Game” of Virtue Signaling

(p. A17) There was a time when people engaged in doing good addressed problems that, so to speak, you could get your arms around, such as improving school performance, providing potable water or preventing malaria. But at some point, the impulse to do good transformed into a combination of moral tendentiousness and grandiosity.

. . .

. . ., inside the Bankman-Fried fairy tale rests a smaller tipping point, which suggests his generation senses that their preachy elders may have led them down a moral garden path.

In an exchange with Mr. Bankman-Fried, a writer for Vox asserts, “You were really good at talking about ethics.” He replied that “I had to be” because of “this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.”

He is describing what has come to be known in our time as virtue signaling, . . .

For the full commentary, see:

Daniel Henninger. “WONDER LAND; The Moral Vanity of FTX.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, December 1, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 30, 2022, and has the title “WONDER LAND; The Moral Vanity of Sam Bankman-Fried.”)