|Robin’s Book Report #69|
A reading list by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein
– Letter from Me / Economic pandemic report
– Letters from You
– Reading list
***As always, I am curious what you are reading and curious what you are concerned about in terms of the economic situation, so please send me a letter if anything comes to mind. I won’t share your letter without asking first.***
|Letter From Me:|
Hello readers, I received a lot of mail in response to my last newsletter, some of which I am reproducing below. I also wanted to include a number of additional subjects that have drifted on to my radar in the last two weeks (in regards to the developing economic situation). I’ll do that first.
-Fracking and energy companies might be taken over by banks, which would be illegal but would prevent them from presumably having to take major losses.
-As mentioned in the last letter, brick and mortar retailers are beginning to fail. Neiman Marcus will file for bankruptcy. Retail like Neiman was hurting before the crisis, and many stores were funding operations on junk bonds (watch out for J Crew and JC Penney). The problem here is that there isn’t anything, that I can imagine, that wants to take up the leases for these huge stores. So the underlying entities who own the properties might also default, which could, in addition to other defaults, contribute to a financial crisis.
-Some businesses that haven’t been bailed out yet pose a systemic threat.
One problem with the stimulus package is that our economy is littered with all these non-bank banks that have emerged in the last decade or so (Quicken Loans is a nonbank, as is AIG). So far they don’t qualify for stimulus money. Many of them exist to skirt the lines of financial regulation, and lax enforcement has enabled their proliferation. For an illustration, an episode of Planet Money explores what would happen if everyone stopped paying their rent. The hosts speak with a landlord who pays two different businesses for his mortgage: Wells Fargo and a company called NewRez. NewRez is a nonbank mortgage servicer, meaning they collect money from mortgages and package those mortgages in securities that they in turn sell to investors. They deal in money and lending but are not considered banks by regulators.
As I mentioned above, the problem is that these private, unregulated companies like NewRez––while a major cog in the functioning of the economy––do not yet qualify for the loans the Federal Reserve is doling out. I’m sure the government will eventually come to the rescue of these companies, but it really shows how broken our financial system is. First, businesses, especially banks and nonbanks, are so interconnected now, failures cannot be contained. Everything is systemically important, and thus Too Big To Fail. Second, new financial products and sectors often go unregulated until they cause a problem. Remember financial derivatives? Alan Greenspan told us we didn’t need to worry about them, until they blew up in 2008. Funding-starved regulators couldn’t even recognize threats if they wanted to. The financial system is massive and complicated. It’s like an overgrown garden, the size of two football fields, that’s tended by one asthmatic farmer whose tools are all dull, rusted, or missing. Novel weeds and pests fester in darkness until one day they take over. Only then are they addressed.
–Zombie firms also pose a problem. They’re loser companies that survive only by continuously rolling over lots of low-interest loans, now they might all collapse at once. Most can’t survive more than a few weeks without paying their loans.
-Cash payments were necessary but aren’t an egalitarian victory.
I am less surprised and excited by the direct cash payments from the government, and unlike some people I don’t see it as the end of whatever the previous economic regime was. Many influential people from across the political spectrum––from hedge fund king Ray Dalio to former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke––have openly suggested, for years, that cash payments will be necessary to stimulate the economy especially in the event that the only two tools it has to stimulate the economy (interest rates and quantitative easing) don’t work. That is, if interest rates are already so low that you cannot lower them further or quantitative easing has been stretched to the max, which is precisely the situation that we are in now. (It doesn’t matter if you’re not familiar with interest rates or quantitative easing or how they work, I barely can wrap my brain around them. What is important is that they are tools to manipulate the economy, and prior to the crisis they were already at full power.) Bernanke talked (way back in 2002) about how cash payments might be necessary to stimulate the economy in the event of an economic catastrophe. So I don’t see it as a triumph of a newly energized left or of Modern Monetary Theory. On one hand, it demonstrates the hypocrisy in grilling politicians who support Medicare for All about how they’ll pay for it, but on the other hand that line of questioning was always so obviously cynical and untrue: untold sums are always found for military spending and to offset the losses caused by tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction. Massive government spending is not the lefty issue people make it out to be. Reagan ran enormous deficits. Actually changing US society requires a renewed, permanent emphasis on redistribution of resources, of which the cash payments aren’t evidence of. They are an attempt at maintaining the status quo, which will fail because many people will come out of this crisis with more debt and less savings. The payments are simply one of a very few options the Treasury and Federal Reserve had to avoid triggering a massive financial crash. Which is something they should do! But I don’t see it as a big change in economic policy. However, if it awakens people to the hypocrisy of asking how social programs will be paid for, that is good.
It’s just more evidence that the question of paying for social programs like healthcare splits along ideological lines not logical, or procedural lines. People don’t oppose universal healthcare because they think it would bankrupt the country, because how would they even know? The analysis required to make that claim is tremendous; it just confirms a larger sociopolitical impulse against redistribution, which is the heart of the problem, not the funds. Minding the budget sounds apolitical, but it’s really not. Cash payments and a $2 trillion stimulus show that the funds are there, the government just didn’t want to spend it.
Letters from You
Michael with a correction: Hey Rob, quick correction here: “our government’s reported plan to save small businesses during the pandemic is to provide loans at 3.75% interest” is out of date. The CARES act includes a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), “a low-interest (1%) loan that will be forgiven if employee wages and count are maintained through June 30, 2020…. This program is available for any small business with less than 500 employees…. The PPP loan has a maturity of 2 years and an interest rate of 1%. the maximum loan amount is 2.5 X the average monthly payroll costs…. The form is relatively simple (2 fillable pages)…. The CARES Act Stimulus is $349 Billion. The banks will get overwhelmed.” [here’s the referenced Forbes article]. It’s probably underfunded, there’s been some confusion as it gets off the ground with last-minute changes, but it’s a lot better than what you have in here. That said, I personally think the whole thing is a bit of a sham, and we should just be sending out money to individuals.
Me: Thanks Michael. And I want to apologize to Matt, who isn’t at fault here. He wrote his letter to me before the PPP came out and I failed to follow up. However, if a business had already taken a 7(a) from the SBA you don’t qualify, and the cost is still high, from 2.75 percent to 4.75 percent. Also, as Michael predicted, the program is way underfunded. The $350 billion pot set aside for it is already out. And there are many other problems emerging from PPP now, banks are refusing to service new customers, and banks are closing their application portals. This failure to service the wider public falls hardest on communities that have historically lacked access to credit, like black business owners. Hedge funds are applying for these small business loans too, which is surely, uselessly sucking money out of the pool.
especially great letter. thanks for keeping it up, hope you’re feeling well.
I’m nearly done with this Bertrand Russell History of Western Philosophy, it’s really good though I’m sure more than a bit biased. Apparently his wife did a lot of the historical research which is interesting. He almost like spins the battle over western thought into some kind of epic fantasy.
Also reading Carceral Capitalismwhich I have a feeling you’ve read. Excellent, practically a tutorial on how to write concise and engaging materialist analysis. stay up!
Me: Haven’t read CC, I will check it out.
> Millions will immediately go back to work, which is different from the
> 1930s or the 1980s when workers were unemployed because businesses failed and sacked their workers.
Millions will go back to work, but immediately? I expect at least a certain amount of hysteresis: they won’t all go back to where they left or were laid off or fired, and there’ll be some messing around and delays as businesses come back to life in recovery and stage their hiring. Moreover, there will be fewer of those businesses, because some won’t have survived, or they will have had to change focus. In some places the businesses will have survived, but not all the earlier jobs.
Of course certain businesses will need even more people… for a while. Not many, I expect. Perhaps we’ll see a new spike in temporary jobs, even a temporary spike followed by another drop. And because so many people will want to return to paying work, we might also be looking at a Western-capitalism-driven overall lowering of wages.
I do hope my worst fears won’t be realized, but as you already know, I don’t worship at that church.
You’re right about all this, and there is bound to be some interruption in the process of reopening the economy, which is looking worse than I initially expected. Mass gatherings, like music and sports events, might not happen at all for a year. And it’s likely that wariness will change workers’ behaviors. However, in this case it is important to separate unemployment as a cause of economic pain and as a result. The problem in analyzing unemployment right now is that the two groups are swirled together in the same pot, both workers who are laid off temporarily and workers who are permanently laid-off. Both types of unemployment can be painful for the people and the society, but in different ways. What is notable about the unemployment of the 1930s or 1980s was that it was foremost the result of bad economic conditions, which caused owners to sack their employees. For all these workers, there was no job to go back to. This will surely be the case for many firms once the shutdown is over, but it is hard to say now. However, it is important to note that being unemployed––over even not making 100 percent of your salary––can cause people to save more than they usually would, which will also delay the recovery and negatively affect employment. (Though this would be welcome development for the sake of the environment.) High debt levels also constrain people’s spending. With an economy that is 3/4 dependent on consumer spending, this could be a very large problem.
Another aspect here, as you allude to, is that high unemployment is great for owners of businesses. The larger the pool of people seeking work, the more wages can be suppressed. Of course it doesn’t always work like this (we recently had the opposite, very low unemployment, and it didn’t raise wages meaningfully) but it will to some degree without government wage controls and/or a militant labor movement.
What I want to stress is that the news reports of unemployment are significant but not necessarily as compared to other moments of economic strife. Media loves to compare but sometimes the comparison is wrong.
The life and times of America’s comic prophet of race.
By Hilton Als (The New Yorker) 1999
Haunting portrait of Richard Pryor.
“Dinner with Schmucks”
The faux populism of contemporary food writing
by Kyle Paoletta (The Baffler)
There is something very wrong with Pete Wells’ food criticism, and this essay unearths most of it. Wells, for me, is primarily confused about the class concerns of dining and ultimately ends up all over the map, senselessly defending wildly expensive food and attacking middle-brow restaurants, while taking swipes at sacred cows (like Peter Luger and Per Se) so as to cause a scene. Ultimately, Wells loves high-brow cuisine and the standards that have been created to judge it, and struggles to imagine a different, less irrelevant paradigm.
“Into the Maw”
How Obama-era economics failed us.
By Ryan Cooper (The Nation)
I, like a lot of people, see the economic policy since the end of the Bush administration as largely an unbroken chain of bad, regressive policies. Obama reversed little of the priorities of conservative economists in government, and even went so far as to reappoint them once he came to office. This review does an amazing job presenting that argument, and if you are wondering why Obama failed to reverse or even halt economic and social inequities, this is an important piece. Biggest point is that after 2008 the status quo was maintained at all costs:
“The Bush-Obama bailouts reflected a highly political and ideological choice on their part to preserve the financial status quo at any cost—including the enormous share of the country’s economic output gobbled up by Wall Street—and to do so while directing incomprehensible amounts of money to the banks instead of to the American people.
Somebody was going to have to eat those losses—and Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner, and the Obama economic team were committed to making sure it wasn’t the banks.”
“The Price of the Coronavirus Pandemic”
When COVID-19 recedes, it will leave behind a severe economic crisis. But, as always, some people will profit.
By Nick Paumgarten
Fun article with some good analysis of what’s going wrong in the middle portion.
Adam Curtis and Vice director Adam McKay on how Dick Cheney masterminded a rightwing revolution As told to Paul MacInnes (The Guardian)
The point they raise that is important is that fear is the overriding political ideology in both major parties today (this was the subject of Adam Curtis’ documentary series The Power of Nightmares, which is mainly about the War on Terror). Today both sides practice fear based politics, whether it’s a fear of Trump or a fear of immigrants. Very little room for an optimistic vision of the future, except in calls for universal investments in society (like universal healthcare or the Green New Deal). I also find the labor movement optimistic.
“Songs from Sinjar” How ISIS is hastening the end of the Yezidis’ ancient oral tradition.
By Alex Cuadros
Essay about the music and cultural history of Yezidis in Syria.
I published an article recently with The Baffler, about the smoking wreckage of Panera Cares, Panera Bread Company’s libertarian soup kitchen. The response online was varied and interesting. Many people still want to believe that super-wealthy entrepreneurs are our best hope for solving big problems. Unfortunately entrepreneurs, like Ron Shaich, are short-sighted idiots, just like me and you! Collective action, solidarity, and governmental intervention works much better. My underlying argument is that Shaich should be shamed for thinking he could get customers to solve a problem that public institutions like our government already try to solve. Read it and let me know what you think!
This week’s issue is themed, focusing on the Protestant work ethic. As you probably know, the Protestant ethic is loosely the idea that people should work hard today, and save for tomorrow. In other words, we should deny ourselves the pleasure of today for our reward in heaven tomorrow. Sociologist Max Weber found the Protestant metaphor of denial in capitalism, as he describes in his famous text, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, published way way back in 1905. And when you look for it, you still see it everywhere, which many journalists and writer types like me love to point out. I want to suggest that maybe the idea that we must toil is outdated, nonsensical, and oppressive.
Carrier, the air-conditioner maker, advertised during the New Hampshire primary that it would be shutting down its plant Indiana. After a promise of $7 million in tax breaks and $16 million in new equipment from Trump, they remained open. But with mandatory overtime and 60 hour weeks, one in five employees aren’t showing up for work. Employees see the writing on the wall, and believe correctly that Carrier can still move to Mexico at any time. People know when their jobs suck. They know when management doesn’t care, when there is no future. So we can cheer on job-creation, fight for higher wages, or even the possibly delusional goal of full employment, but we also must listen to our guts. Our guts might be saying that paying businesses to create jobs for people is a dead-end. Of course encouraging businesses to create jobs sometimes works. But what if the jobs so obviously suck? Also, in a pathetic twist, the money Carrier received was already “earmarked for automation.” So in one way, tax incentives actually paid Carrier to destroy jobs.
In the article, Nicole Hargrove, a worker at the plant, grapples with why people aren’t showing up to work. She says: “There are days when I’m hurting and I’m tired but when I walk through that door, I’m going to give 100 percent. The Bible says an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and I try to live by that.” My eyes narrowed to slits upon reading this. What the fuck does the Bible have to do with work? Should you work a shitty, pointless, doomed job just because the Bible says to? Is the Bible really that petty? Hargrove rightly feels that something in the social contract is breaking down, because while she knows that God has instructed them to toil, it doesn’t quite make sense. Her fundamental beliefs aren’t doing anything; her co-workers aren’t showing up.
Behind Hargrove’s sentiment is the Protestant work ethic, the ideology that democratized Western civilization by making it a universal moral obligation to work. Martin Luther and John Calvin both preached that from princes to paupers, everyone should pitch in to create a surplus. They enshrined an economic principle in moral, religious language. Their idea that to work when you’d rather play, to save when you’d rather spend, to abstain when you’d rather indulge, is still the essential economic (and moral) idea of our society. People who don’t “produce” anything are bad: from the “idle rich” to the poor lazy welfare cheats. This idea fed the great tidal wave of capitalism. But what the saga at Carrier indicates is that maybe this idea has run aground. Like a change in whale migration patterns, maybe these absentee workers are a signal that we should be heeding. Maybe work needs to be decoupled from Protestant morality.
The unexpressed story here is that the government is engaged in a perverted form of welfare. It gives corporations money to give people jobs. Consumers need to spend money to keep the economy running, and the only way to get this money, currently, is to work a job. Even if the job doesn’t need to be done. This logic presumes that corporations can always create useful jobs. This can’t possibly be true. Why doesn’t the government just skip the big fat middleman and give the money to the people? What we have here is a completely dysfunctional, segregated privatized welfare system.
“Inside Nxivm, the ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment” By Vanessa Grigoriadis (NYT Mag)
in NYT mag
Leaders of the cult called Nxivm pushed followers to jog, count calories, and become vegetarians. They were also accused of sex-trafficking, coercion, and brutality. The founder, Keith Raniere, started Nxivm because he wondered if coercion could be used for good. And in some ways, it’s a totally banal idea. Many fad dieting and exercise crazes verge on cultish adherence. The government tries to do it all the time. Those “Dad hug your kids” or “use a condom” ads are attempts to coerce people to do something. In Ingmar Bergman’s day, Swedish mothers were encouraged to not show too much affection to their children, for fear that it would make them gay. He cites his mother’s denial of affection as the foundational pain in his life. But this was promoted by doctors, and coercively speaking, it worked.
The constituency of Nxivm also raises a question: why are the wealthy, actors, and business people so especially susceptible to self-improvement regimes? Scientology targets actors, and the Rajneeshees were famous for attracting the rich and frivolous to their cause. Is there something wrong with rich people? Are they more insecure than other people? Maybe they just have money to dispose of, or too much free time. But what about Tony Robbins? He is a self-help guy, but his work often crosses over to business advice. Why is that? Why does it seem like sales people need How To Win Friends and Influence People more than other people? Shouldn’t we all want to win friends? After reading the book, I found that it was indeed applicable for all people. We all could be a little more sensitive to the intricacies of getting along with others. Sales people rely on it because they have to deal with people even when they don’t want to. Their job is terrible and unnatural. Also, in the case of Tony Robbins, this self help stuff crosses over into the realm of exercise and brain health. The people who populate these forums are most often entrepreneurs, actors, creatives, and rich people. Once again. Why are the well-to-do so fixated on exercise? A Swedish company now makes its employees do crossfit. And Jeff Bezos is looking jacked. Self-help is often a melange of other religious practices, like gratitude and meditation and fasting, is this our response to a spiritual crises? Is extreme exercise the penance we do for bullshit, meaningless jobs? In the case of Nxivm, it definitely seemed to be the overriding ideology, just an amplification of what we all do all the time already.
Nxivm is just the extreme case of our time, where the regime of Protestant self-denial’s ultimate conclusion is a skin cauterizing manipulative sex-cuit.
“The American Worth Ethic” by Bryce Covert (Longreads)
What is behind the work requirement for public welfare when the wealthy receive inheritance money with little taxation, or any work requirement? As Covert says, “No one has been made to pee in a cup for tax breaks on their mortgages.”
But Covert also wonders why we have such strict work-requirements for welfare in America. Is work really the rubric by which we judge value? Covert says, “even if it were true that there was a horde of poor people refusing to work, do we want to condemn them to starvation and likely death? In one of the world’s richest countries, do we really balk at spending money on keeping our people — even lazy ones — alive?”
The question strikes close to the root of the question: why does poverty still exist? When you get deep into this discussion, it often boils down to morality: some people are lazy, or unworthy of a good life. The reality is that work is an arbitrary and now unnecessary criterion by which to judge people, an outdated ruler to measure a person’s relative contribution to the betterment of their society. We don’t need people to work more. In fact, our planet would be better off if we worked less. Reducing the working week to fifteen hours would quickly offset massive carbon expenditures needed to run massive buildings and corporate infrastructures.
The basic premise behind the Protestant work ethic is that working more now will provide a surplus that can be multiplied towards growth later. But not only does our planet not need growth, it needs a reduction in capital accumulation. The paradox is that most working people get their money from actually working, whereas the rich get their money the way that the rest of us should (welfare checks), by collecting returns on investments:
“In 2012, those earning less than $25,000 a year made nearly three quarters of that money from a job. Those making more than $10 million, on the other hand, made about half of their money from capital gains — in other words, returns on investments. The bottom half of the country has, on average, just $826 in income from capital investments each; the average for those in the top 1 percent is more than $16 million.”
Covert goes on to say. “The richest are the least likely to have their money come from hard labor — yet there’s no moral panic over whether they’re coddled or lacking in self reliance.”
Covert is wrong here: people complain about the idle rich all the time. And this is in many ways not a useful criticism, because not working shouldn’t be a reason to criticize someone. Unfortunately it often is. We all work and––I know I have experienced this––resent the people who don’t have to. But actually, we should all aspire to be like the idle rich and lazy welfare recipients.
“Why Work” by James Livingston (The Baffler)
Just stapling this on to the last sentiment: “We hate the idea that anybody is getting something for nothing, especially if the recipient is a paper-pushing bureaucrat, or a class-action lawyer, or a Wall Street banker—or a “welfare queen.”
“Could Performance-Based Pay Lead to Depression Among Workers?” By: Andrew R. McIlvaine (HR Executive)
Should your pay be tied to metrics about how hard you work? Maybe not. Actually work is, as I said, just a privatized welfare system. Automation has driven worker productivity through the roof, since 1920. We need fewer and fewer people to produce more and more stuff. This is why performance based “incentivized” pay systems are a crazy draconian system that would reveal what it very true: that many jobs are pointless or don’t require 40 hours a week to compete. But if we admitted this, under our current system, our economy would collapse because consumers wouldn’t have enough money to keep the system afloat. What to do?
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Why are our fastest growing companies the worst places to work?
“Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace” by Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld (New York Times) and
“At Netflix, Radical Transparency and Blunt Firings Unsettle the Ranks” by Shalini Ramachandran and Joe Flint (Wall Street Journal)
One of the mainstays of work life at Enron was an all-staff meeting called the Performance Review Committee. In the meeting, employees were ranked. The lowest-ranked individuals were routinely fired. The PRC caused rampant political maneuvering. Managers sacrificed good but expendable employees to save more valuable members on their team. They ganged up on other factions. This process is colloquially referred to as a “rank and yank” process. At the time, it was celebrated by management consultants like McKinsey and Company and by business schools like Harvard. The PRC was instituted by Jeff Skilling, the head of Enron, a graduate of Harvard Business School and one of the youngest people to make partner at McKinsey and Company. But during the final days of Enron, a external auditor found a toxic work environment, and stratospheric levels of unhappiness. Some suggest it was what brought the company down: employees were more than ready to rat out their colleagues to the Feds.
“Rank and yank” is one of the foundational elements of Amazon’s workplace, as revealed by and exposed in the New York Times. Amazon’s office seethes with the same Machiavellian intrigue as Enron. Most employees work 80 hours a week, take no sick days, work nights and weekends, and are granted no maternity leave. Confrontation is encouraged, especially in meetings. Compromise is weakness; it’s a pox that leads to mediocre ideas. There’s a backchannel process in the phone directory in which Amazonians can send secret messages to managers about their directs. Even advertisements for hiring emphasize that you either fit in at Amazon, or you don’t.
Why do people at Amazon work so hard? Because they love innovation? Maybe. Working at a growing company like Amazon gives people the chance to dream up big ideas and then implement them quickly. But surely new ideas can arise (and have) in less adversarial circumstances. So why all the pressure? Well, debt is extremely cheap for Amazon and if they don’t take the cheap capital, their competitors will.
So what is going on at Amazon? Amazon’s owners are filling up a pool with water. Employees do any number of things with the water. They sell it, make it into ice, and send it to the moon. If the owners stop filling the reservoir, someone else will use the water. So they are now filling the pool and it is getting really full and people are now very into all of Amazon’s various water products and are giving them tons of water. Employees must dig the pool deeper and wider, to find even more new things to do with all this water. Owners have really opened up the spigot now. So everyone better work as much as possible, as much as humanly possible to do something about all this goddamn water coming it. Better come in on the weekend to find a way to use this water! If you don’t use it, it evaporates away. Working like mad is effective, and the more water that gets used, the more water lenders are inspired to give to Amazon. Now it is a big cultural spectacle, these water works, that no one can stop talking about.
When capital is rushing in, you best find a way to spend it before it disappears.
Netflix is essentially the same workplace. In the WSJ article, workers recall not wanting to comfort a fired, weeping colleague for fear that they would look weak. And anyone can be fired at any moment; management encourages this fear with what they call the ‘keeper test.’ Would you fight to keep your employee on your team? If not, you should fire them. From the WSJ article:
“Mr. Hastings’ [the CEO] ring of top executives take the keeper test seriously. At a meeting in late spring of Netflix public-relations executives, one said every day he comes to work he fears he is going to get fired. Karen Barragan, the vice president of publicity for original series, asked how many other people felt that way. A number of hands went up.
“Good, because fear drives you,” Ms. Barragan said, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Is Netflix a crazy, anxious workplace because that is the only way to drive growth? Or is Netflix being dosed by a firehose spray of capital? In America, we had tremendous growth in the 1950s and 1960s without a tragicomic shark tank workplace. In fact, job security was expected.
Here’s an excerpt from Netflix’s crazy HR manifesto, which is an ode to vague, aspirational language that could be interpreted in any possible way:
“Are you courageous? Are you humble? Are you curious and passionate and ask thoughtful questions about the business? Are you able to and open to providing and receiving feedback to be better? Are you scrappy, have grit and willing to roll up your sleeves regardless of your title? Are you a team player? Are you inclusive and self aware?”
Why isn’t there an HR Powerpoint that just asks the real questions: Are you willing to work every weekend? Return to work after a week of maternity leave? Alert your bosses to your underperforming coworkers? Rarely see you children? Be glued to your phone?