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Beware the perils of Title Inflation!

By Walt Brasch - posted Friday, 15 June 2001

It took two directors, two executive producers, three producers, four writers, and very bad acting to ruin Down to Earth, starring Chris Rock as a Harlem comic who dies before his time, then is sent back to earth in a different body.

In Hollywood's share-the-blame standards, this film is a Paramount release of a Village Roadshow Pictures presentation in association with NPV Entertainment of an Alphaville 3 Arts Entertainment production. The 2001 mid-winter bomb is the current remake of three previous critical and box office successes – Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), with Robert Montgomery as a boxer who returns to earth; Down to Earth (1947), featuring Rita Hayworth as a muse who tries to rescue a failing musical; and Heaven Can Wait (1978), nominated for seven Academy Awards and starring Warren Beatty as a quarterback. All versions were based upon a Broadway hit in the late 1930s written by Harry Seagall.

On newspapers, the reporter who rewrites press releases might be the one-person automotive editor/real estate editor/air transportation editor. Her boss – who also supervises the books editor/films editor/fashion editor – might be the associate managing editor for features who reports to a managing editor for features, supposedly a separate but equal title to the managing editor for news, the managing editor for sports, and the administrative managing editor.


In the corporate structure of the larger book publishing companies are a plethora of editorial assistants, assistant editors, associate editors, editors, senior editors, executive editors, and a mix of various levels of vice-presidents, some of whom may even be literate.

Banks, like most of the print mass media, pay their staffs poorly. But, in an age when titles are handed out to minimize penury salaries, anemic benefits, and pathetic working conditions, banks hand out vice-presidencies with as much regularity as they create new fees. At the Wells Fargo Bank, in addition to one chairman and a president, are seven vice-chairs, 55 executive vice-presidents, and 253 senior vice-presidents. The Bank of America has six vice-chairs, 22 group executive vice-presidents, and 10 executive vice-presidents. Lower-level vice-presidents at most banks, even the friendly neighborhood community bank that prides itself on smiley $8-an-hour tellers, are a wad of senior vice-presidents, deputy vice-presidents, associate vice-presidents, and assistant vice-presidents.

The American auto industry, adept at downsizing hourly production workers, apparently needs its upper-level management to act as a buffer to the work force. General Motors has three executive vice-presidents, two senior vice-presidents, and 46 ordinary vice-presidents. Ford has four executive vice-presidents, four group vice-presidents, and 31 vice-presidents. Daimler Chrysler, a leaner trimmer company owned by Germans, boasts only three executive vice-presidents and 18 vice-presidents.

Academics, the cradle of grade inflation, have also succumbed to Title Inflation. At the mid-size university where I teach are four vice-presidents, each with an assistant vice-president.

If corporate America, which already owns the government, could figure out a way to amend the Constitution, we might now return to a structure of electing an elite board of directors, which we'll call the Senate, which will then elect a chairman of the board and CEO who will oversee thousands of vice-presidents, instead of just thousands of politically-appointed special assistants, deputy special assistants, cabinet secretaries, undersecretaries, deputy undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries.

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About the Author

Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. He is an award-winning syndicated columnist, and author of 16 books. Dr. Brasch's current books are Unacceptable: The Federal Government’s Response to Hurricane Katrina; Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture; and Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (Nov. 2007) You may contact him at

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