The basics: This businessman, 57, owns his own service company with about 20 full- and part-time employees in Akron. His wife did the books and other tasks, but at one point things got so bad, he stopped paying her for nine months, even though she continued to do the work. She brought home about $15,000 that year instead of around $55,000. He cut his own pay from more than $100,000 to less than $60,000. He is white.
On cutting employees’ wages 10 percent: “I called them all in and was very honest with them and said: Here’s where we are and here’s what we are going to do and that includes me and my wife taking a pay cut. And I also told them if that bothers them and upsets them and [they] don’t want to continue working, that’s OK. You know I understood if they wanted to go look for another job or whatever. So I was very open with them. We have a good, positive culture. None of my employees took it in a negative way. They weren’t happy about 10 percent, but on the flip side, they were happy it wasn’t 20-25 percent and they were happy they weren’t losing their jobs and they were happy that we took it across the board with everybody, including me and my wife.”
What are business people saying? “It’s funny, business owners and management that’s in charge of running businesses, we talk quite a bit at different events or on the phone or in person over a cup of coffee, and it’s amazing to me across the board that pretty much all say the same thing: You really gotta work a lot harder, a lot longer and you only make about half of what you used to get.”
How do we solve the economy’s problems? “I’m frustrated because I don’t think the solution is that complicated … and we don’t directly train [workers]. To me, I’m a business person, you know, I see a problem, I see solutions to it, so that’s how entrepreneurs think.”
What’s happened to the middle class? “The middle class has shrunk. I think it has been significantly reduced.”
And the poor: “In many cases, the poor have become more poor or poorer. So I think the biggest thing is there’s been, I think, less opportunity for them to expand their income.”
What are the wealthy doing? “I think a lot of the wealthy took their money and sat on the sidelines until things got better and I think they have been sitting for several years with their money on the sidelines and I think they are getting anxious for something to do with their money.”
America Today project seeks citizen involvement
This project opens journalism to a two-way street. In the hope of learning what you’re thinking and getting citizens more involved in our stories, we’ve added an interactive experiment: We are offering you an opportunity to answer some of the same tough questions we are posing to citizens in the America Today series.
In addition to the traditional Ohio.com comment page, the newspaper is partnering with the Civic Commons, an online organization that encourages respectful and informed debate of tough issues from a variety of perspectives and experiences. Below are the two opportunities to express yourself on these questions:
How did we as a nation get in trouble economically?
Whom do you blame?
How do we as a nation solve our economic problems?
What are you doing differently to get through the downturn?