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STAFFING CUTS WILL EXACT A PRICE

The stock market is booming, even as a goodly number of experts say stocks are overpriced in relation to intrinsic value.

Last week the market naturally enough applauded when MCI Communications Corp. announced a 21 percent increase in earnings.Along with the report of the gain, MCI announced it would restructure, which means reducing its work force, getting rid of between 2,500 and 3,000 employees.

For the stock market, that was marvelous news. Not only was MCI making heaps of money, it also was signaling its intention to continue to do so by cutting overhead.

Reducing staff in profitable times has been the recent pattern in American business. It used to be companies laid off when they were not doing well. Nowadays, companies setting records feel the need to demonstrate to shareholders and would-be buyers of their stock that concern for stringent productivity cuts overrides present-day accomplishments.

This has made for rising stock prices and stupendous bonuses for the executives. Throwing more and more workers out is called being mean and lean and competitive.

Meanwhile, scant attention is given to the larger price being paid: the marginalization of growing numbers of people, who are either laid-off or living in constant terror of being next on the hit list.