By January 23, 2013 7 Comments Read More →

The Trickle up Effect

My father is an engineer.  He’s also a Buddhist.  He’s a kind, generous person, always ready to enjoy life with friends and family.

So when a friend and former colleague from TI days asked him to join his startup, my dad was eager to accept.  He’d recently been laid off, but the promise of being able to retire with a potentially generous stock option package while working from home – relocating to the Pacific Northwest, an area he’s long been in love with – made his last working years seem promising.  His friend, Pius Ng, planned to develop a product with high potential to pitch to investors.  If they liked the product, they’d buy the company, and if my dad stayed employed with them for two years, he’d be able to cash in on stock options and either continue with the new owners or retire.

What happened instead?  Almost immediately, my dad developed shoulder problems from 14-hour days, seven days a week in front of the computer.  Within a year, he’d developed diabetes from stress.  My mother spent almost two years jetting back and forth between Portland and Dallas (on my parents’ dime), since they were never confident enough in the long-term outcome of the job to sell the house in Texas and relocate permanently to Portland.  My father’s income – significantly reduced from what he’d been earning previously, not to mention from the offer Pius initially made to him – paid property taxes in Texas, rent in Portland, and supported my brothers through their respective last years of medical school and last years of college/first years of unemployment and their rent.  My mother had long since been rendered unable to work by her health issues but had already been denied disability benefits.  My father’s income was it for the family.  And every time my mother left for Portland, I was left to house- and cat-sit.  When she was in Texas, I felt obliged to care for her in my father’s absence, which brought up a number of stressors in my life that would require their own case file.  My parents’ savings were depleted, and their retirement and investment funds were eroded.  Mere months before my dad’s two-year anniversary, the point at which he’d be eligible to cash in his stock options, he was laid off.

In May, my dad flew back to Texas to attend my brother’s medical school graduation.  During the week he was in Texas, he was required to spend time working on the project because they were behind deadline, through no fault of my father’s.  The team responsible for the stage of development immediately before my dad’s were three weeks behind because Pius had bought software that required debugging – which even Pius wasn’t able to solve.  My dad, then, instead of having three weeks to work on the project, had only one.  Nevertheless, Pius blamed my dad for the delay and gave him the silent treatment for the duration of my dad’s employment, except when he was verbally abusive and cussed him out.

My gentle father had been made a scapegoat for Pius’s poor management decisions.  My parents are now 61, filing for unemployment and disability to try to make sure health insurance is available for my parents, both of whom are diabetic and have multiple health issues.

And Pius?  He sold his company about a month after he laid off my dad and made millions.  He immediately sold his home in Oregon and relocated to Washington – a state that, unlike Oregon, does not have state income tax and in which, because he established residency within two weeks, he will not be required to pay taxes on the millions he made from the sale of his company.

The trickle down effect that economic conservatives tout as the mechanism of social welfare?  I haven’t seen it work.  Instead, I see one more example of another parasite bleeding the middle class dry, eliminating almost everything my parents have worked so hard to build up since coming to this country as war refugees 38 years ago, while making out like a bandit himself.  I see a person so morally bereft that he’s strained a whole family in emotional, financial and physical ways and who doesn’t even think he should pay taxes to help support families like the one he’s crippled.

My father, who eagerly looked forward to working, because he enjoys working and enjoys keeping his mind active, over the Christmas holidays sighed about retiring.  Not only did Pius take my parents financial security, my mom’s security that her health care would be provided for, and my dad’s health – he’s taken my dad’s passion for working.  No person deserves to have that kind of power over another.  Everyone deserves to determine his or her own purpose.

I’m not the sort of person who thinks that people should try to motivate others through shame, guilt or embarrassment.  I think people are at their very best when they’re inspired.  But I still can’t help the part of me that hopes – wishes – that Pius would be shamed by his behavior.  Maybe only because I don’t believe he’s capable of it.

Don’t tell me about the trickle down effect.  Tell me about the changes that will be put in place to inspire people to treat each other with more dignity and respect, with more grace and generosity.  Tell me how to change the Piuses of the world into decent human beings.  Maybe we could get some real shit done then.

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A work in progress...
  • Sadly Anya I do not know that we can change those sort of people, but perhaps what we can do is find ways to make sure they don’t get away with their ruthlessness. Or we could just eliminate them altogether…I would be alright with that too. LOL Sorry attempting humor. Epic fail.. I know. My heart goes out to you and your family. That Pius needs to be brought to justice for his misdeeds!

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  • Anya:

    I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear that this happened to your father/family. This seems to happen all the freaking time these days. I just don’t get it. Never will. Why do people use others, bleed them dry, and them leave them out in the cold? It hurts my heart that people are so cruel.
    Wishing your family better days and soon 🙂

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  • Shocking stuff, don’t know how these people can sleep at night, they really do not give a toss about other people. I would be so angry if that happened to someone I knew or a family member. I hope karma pays a visit to the Pius house soon.

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  • Ah man!! I’m so, so sorry to hear that. I can’t believe how evil humans can be sometimes. I mean, why do you want to earn money like that? Why do you want to deceive and trick people like that? That money has negative energy attached to it. I honestly don’t know what I would do. I’d definitely be beyond mad. It also reminded me of a story my mom used to tell me about her grandad. He got betrayed as well and lost everything all because of a dirty game. People get blinded by greed and unfortunately this entire world revolves around money. I wish I had an answer for you 🙁

    Like Garry said, karma has a house to visit.

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  • Anya Pham

    @Dani -- humor is the best way to get through bad experiences!
    @TJ -- I agree -- bad juju to make your life on the backs of others. I do think long-term, people reap what they sow.
    @everyone -- thanks for your words of support. I’ve only just begun to warm up my pen. By the time I’m done, the Penises Piuses of the world will never again underestimate the power of a writer willing to speak out. 🙂

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  • Dani, I’m sorry your dad had all of this happen to him. The high tech. industry is a tough place. I’ve been kicking around in it in Oregon for a long time, and I’ve have had my fair share of mergers, buy outs, re-orgs, downsizings, and outsourcing. You name it and I’ve been through it. But adding a snake like the one that used your dad is just the ultimate kick in the nards. We can only hope that karma will do its thing.

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    • Anya Pham

      The thing I think is the worst about it is that this guy started out as my dad’s friend. I didn’t even get to the part about the project -- the big product that was the carrot for the investors -- being late because my dad got it late after the previous stage of development couldn’t debug the software that Pius bought. My dad got blamed for that in the end and got the silent treatment from Pius for the rest of his employment with him. It was one thing to manipulate the flow of money from a middle class family into a profiteer’s pockets, but it was another thing to create all the stress and health problems and unhappiness he did.

      Thanks for your words of support, though, Dan, and everyone who’s had them to offer. 🙂 I come from sturdy people and my dad’s a dreamer like me. I’m sure they’ll get back on their feet. I’m pushing them to pursue personal interests and try to start a small business for themselves. 🙂

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