Forum for Feb. 9, 2024: Monkey business

Published: 02-09-2024 4:24 PM

Economic monkey business

Have you heard that hospitals are full? Not just because it is winter but because patients cannot be sent to rehab or nursing homes, they do not have the staff. Have you noticed long waits at restaurants? Limited staff there too. No one answers the phone at businesses?

Where have all the workers gone?

I just saw a statistic that in 1965 the average CEO was paid 21 times the pay of the typical worker. In 2022, the average CEO was paid 344 times the typical worker. Minimum wage in New Hampshire in 2024 is $7.25 an hour or for 40 hours a week, a total of $15,080 per year. If you multiply that by 344 the average CEO would be making $5,187,520. per year.

It is gray and cold outside so I have been reading and I came across something I think is related to our current condition. Frans de Waal, professor of primatology at Emory University, has studied primates and fairness. He, along with Prof. Sarah Brosnan, studied the behavior of Capuchin monkeys. They trained the monkeys to do little tasks for a reward, a slice of a vegetable. Then for the same task, they gave some monkeys a piece of fruit. When seeing other monkeys get the fruit, the monkeys who got a vegetable got mad and sometimes threw their reward back at the researcher or just refused to do the task.

We are not monkeys, but we are primates and the belief in fairness is in us. Now, obviously the typical worker and the average CEO do different tasks but, is the typical worker now refusing to work because the pay is so unfair? Are these workers turning to drugs or crime, or even suicide? Is this one of the origins of the seething anger so many are feeling? My mother used to say “The world isn’t fair.” But can we make it more fair? It makes me wonder.

Jane Masters


Polka Dot memories

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The passing of Mary Shatney (Obituaries, Jan. 24) reminds me of many lunches — usually soup and sandwich — at the Polka Dot Diner in White River Junction. One visit in the ’90s was memorable, as the former mayor of Burlington, Bernie Sanders, then a new Congressman, was hanging out with an aide in a back booth. They weren’t eating, probably killing time before Bernie would speak at Rotary at the Hotel Coolidge across the street, so as avoid small talk, I supposed.

The Polka Dot was equipped with a wall-mounted pay phone between the counter stools and the booths, with a cord that dangled all the way to the floor. That way Mary could pick up hot food and deliver it anywhere in the diner while continuing a conversation. Bernie needed to make a call, which in those days usually involved an AT&T credit card, unless you were calling “collect.” He strode up, lifted the receiver and stared at the phone. Then he hung up with a flourish, as it was dial. Welcome to White River Junction, Bernie. Change was coming to downtown, but not just yet.

Dick Mackay