At this time of year, anyone who owns stocks receives proxies. Some people get all excited about being able to vote their shares. In most cases, however, individual stockholders don't have enough shares to influence the voting.

What is more interesting is information in the accompanying prospectus, such as the five highest-paid officers. one thing that really amazes me is the difference in salaries paid the chairman and president. There should be no significant difference here, because the expertise of the chairman should be different than that of the president, yet complementary so they function as a team.

I also really get "hung up" when I see that no vice president of engineering or vice president of manufacturing shows up among the top five highest-paid officers, yet the vice president of finance is right there among the five I checked around a little bit. and this is not unusual among manufacturing companies.

The main purpose of a manufacturing company is not to make loans or investments and not to trade in currency. That's called a bank. Its main purpose is to engineer and manufacture goods. You may think I'm overreacting somewhat, but let's take it a step further.

As we all know, there are various levels within a particular pay grade. Typically, an entry-level fob is the lowest and the president the highest. The salary for each level is generally established by the highest level, so if the vice president of finance is paid more than the vice president of engineering, then the entry-level job for finance will pay more than the entry-level job for engineering.

This has many ramifications, especially for a college student making career choices and selecting the appropriate curriculum. When the student learns that positions in finance pay more than those in engineering, both at the highest and lowest levels, he or she may think twice before selecting engineering. Why break your neck in engineering school when it's a lot easier to get a business degree--and the pay is better. Consequently, American students are more likely to go to business schools than to engineering schools.

There are a lot of Asians in engineering schools and there's a good reason for this: These countries realize that if they want to grow and improve their economies, they must be able to compete in world markets.

This means developing factories that can produce quality goods at competitive prices. They recognize that to accomplish this they must develop a technical base made up of engineers, people knowledgeable in modern manufacturing processes. Without this technical base, bankers are useless; they only are as good as their investments.

Japan reached its current stature because of its superiority in engineering and in manufacturing quality products at highly competitive prices. Germany, after almost total destruction, became a major world producer by focusing on resurrecting its capability to engineer and produce goods.

Look at China today. It is reaching markets it never had before by focusing on development of its manufacturing capability. In any store that sells textiles, appliances or athletic equipment, it's very hard to find any that aren't made in China.

In any of those countries it's the engineers--the people that manufacture the goods, craftsmen and technicians--that are held in high esteem. It's because they are the people who are developing the economy of the country and making it grow.

In the U.S., it's different. We seem to be taken up with the financial manipulators. People who engineer and produce our goods are hardly recognized, and they seem to be everybody's scapegoat. They are the brunt of any union attacks.

People are quick to jump on manufacturers for any product problems no matter how rare the occurrence or how remotely it may be connected to engineering or production. The media will more often criticize product styling and engineering than praise it. The government has declared American manufacturers heartless and abusers of the working class, especially during layoffs or restructuring.

This doesn't make any sense. The growth of our economy is dependent on the manufacture of our goods. It's almost like biting the hand that feeds you.