Embarrassed of Success?

Dollars Roll

Dollars Roll (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

“My brother is killing me,” the conversation began.

Cheryl has worked hard over the years to build a successful business career. “Don’t get me wrong, I love him, but he feels a constant need to run me down, especially at family gatherings, and attack my success in life.” Hey, I bet many of us have heard this story before right? Just to get you started in the right frame of mind, let me get a little background on the table.
• Cheryl went to college and worked part time jobs to help pay her bills and cobble together money for a graduate degree.
• “Bob” went to college as well. While he didn’t go for that whole “uptight business” thing, he did secure a job.
• Based on her grades and recommendation, Cheryl got into a great MBA program and earned a dual degree while still working part time to pay bills.
• Since that time, Bob has moved between a couple places on both coasts living what he would describe as “Bohemian” lifestyle. Bob explained he didn’t want to be tied down and that there is too much to see out there. He has some great stories and photos of parties and travel. Eventually, he landed a public sector job. Not the highest paying in the world, but with good benefits, and in general, enjoyed life.
Cheryl worked long hours, and moved to several different cities across the country. She has turned around departments and divisions more than once. She has sacrificed family time to build her career, and while she took a bit of a beating in one of the housing downturns when she had to move for her job, by all accounts, she has done very well financially.
The issues come in, as Cheryl explains, when her brother starts with the discussions regarding taxes, tax loopholes and income disparity. Not sure what card he could possibly play with his sister on income disparity, I had to ask for further explanation. “With Bob it isn’t about gender or race when it comes to income disparity, at least not when I am around,” Cheryl explained, “it is all about how those that are already wealthy aren’t doing their share.” So what exactly is the issue, I wondered aloud?
Cheryl explains it like this – while Bob was out at late night parties and living this mobile lifestyle, sometimes even just leaving a job or an area without notice and never coming back, Cheryl was buckling down and doing what she thought she needed to do to make her dreams come to fruition. A family, maybe a nice house and car, money to put kids through school, money to go on nice vacations or even better, what if one day she could be one of those folks with a ‘vacation home’ somewhere. That was what success looked like to her. And she asked everyone who would stop and give her a minute of their time what she would have to do to make something like that come true. “You know, honestly there were times I was a little bit jealous of Bob. Times when it was stressful or tough; when I thought that it would be nice to just go a blow off some steam and party in the Keys, Cancun, or go to Tahiti and the consequences be damned,” she exclaimed.
So here’s the thing, Cheryl explains to me. Bob made choices in life, and he chose the life he wanted to lead. He finally bought a house, but it is in a depressed neighborhood and his car is barely operable. Not one of Bob’s life choices would be one that would point you to a higher income or financially independent lifestyle. But he begrudges everyone else that did. Those are decisions we made – I don’t begrudge him the late night parties and living in what I would consider vacation locales. That was what he wanted. But I don’t think it is fair that after I took the risks and I did things differently to ask that I gave some to him because he made another decision. Frankly, it sounds a little like the parable of the grasshopper and the ants.
“Bob’s actions make me feel like I should in some way be embarrassed that I have been able to achieve many of my dreams, and yes, I have a nice house and a nice car – and I can assure you no one handed them to me. I worked for them. And I shouldn’t have to feel that way – no one should have to feel that they should apologize for their success, and as an American I can’t imagine for the life of me why we would want a President or a Presidential Candidate to apologize for a successful private sector career, or building a successful business. In fact, I would think they would have to explain or apologize a little if they did not!”
Have you ever had this conversation around the Thanksgiving table or the picnic table? What do you think and how did it “resolve” itself?

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Sell Not Liberty – Finding the debt

Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues (Photo credit: Austin Moody)

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.  Sell not liberty to purchase power.

–          Benjamin Franklin

Today, there is a $1 trillion gulf between spending on major entitlement programs and the money we devote to public investments.

To be clear, this means we spend more on entitlements than public investments.  Does that concern you?
Democrats Must Cut Entitlements

Indeed, federal welfare spending actually totals more than $14,848 for every poor man, woman and child in this country. For a typical poor family of three, that amounts to more than $44,500. Combined with state and local spending, government spends $20,610 for every poor person in America — or $61,830 per poor family of three.

By that measure we should have already eliminated poverty, yet…

Obama encouraging Americans to get on Welfare

More than 10.5 million people — about 5.3 percent of the population aged 25 and 64 — received disability checks in January from the federal government, the Post wrote, an 18 percent jump from before the recession.

…and the government is considering changing the definitions of disability so that even more people can file…

Millions file for disability when unemployment benefits run out

Additionally, the USDA reported this past summer Food Stamps usage hit a record high, and is up ~51% since 2008 – an expense of over $71 Billion dollars.

Total number of U.S. States where welfare pays more than an $8/hour job – 40.  Want to see some more startling statistics on the Welfare state?  Click here

Where does the money come from?  If you are wondering about the much ballyhooed 47%, take a look at the percentage of each income group that does NOT pay taxes.

US Households that Don’t Pay Income Tax

If Benjamin Franklin’s quote wasn’t enough for you, I will close with a quote from a famous Democrat.

 “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”

–          President John F. Kennedy

Here’s Really the Biggest Problem in the American Economy – What nobody wants to say Part #1

Redistribution of Wealth

Redistribution of Wealth (Photo credit: nodigio)

Here’s The Biggest Problem In The American Economy

•Globalization
• Technology
• Stagnant wages
• Business Profits
• Tax laws

“These and other factors have contributed to the most radical redistribution of wealth that the United States has ever seen. Since the late 1970s, the country’s assets and income have moved steadily from “average” Americans to the richest Americans”

-Henry Blodget, Business Insider

Wow. That is a heck of a claim. Redistribution. Let’s take a look at what redistribution actually is. The term literally means distributing again – so in effect, taking something that has already been distributed, and distributing it differently a second time. Or more clearly stated, taking something from one group or individual and giving it to another group of individuals. I can’t fathom that anyone really wants to claim the wealthy have raided the accrued earnings and personal assets of the “average” Americans and given it to owners and senior management. It is one thing to say that the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and the average, median, or mean income of working Americans has increased since the 1970’s. That would be a claim that could possibly be substantiated or refuted through data. But that is not at all what he alleges. His claim is much more sinister – one group of individuals is intentional taking from another, without justification, and arbitrarily giving to another. A claim that is purely argumentative.

He then comes right out with it. In the next paragraph, carefully avoiding using terms like “redistribution”, he proposes spending our way to a more vibrant economy. If only the businesses of America would give up some of the wealth, everything would be fine. Unfortunately, these businesses are shortsighted by not just distributing this money to other people, like Henry Blodget no doubt, who would better know how to spend it. Spend, don’t cut costs, he opines. Ironically, much later in his post, he makes a recommendation (which I agree with, by the way) that American consumers need to save more and spend less! He never reconciles these two conflicting view points.

“The benefits of our free-market capitalist system … are accruing disproportionately to owners, managers and customers, at the expense of everyone else.”

Disproportionate according to what? Are we back to the “I just think you should share more” argument? And who will decide how much to share and who should get it? I suppose the government, unless Mr. Blodgett will be so bold as to offer up his services to fairly split that pie up. Notice also customers are also lumped into that mix of individuals that are taking advantage.

“It’s everyone else who is getting hosed”

So, the “average” American is not also a customer? Who then, are these “customers”, and how will we make sure they aren’t getting unfair benefits from the free market capitalist system? Will we perhaps charge them more, maybe in the form of a tax, because remember, we don’t want the owners to make too much profit. Then we could take the tax and give it to the consumers so they can buy more stuff, which is critical to the robust economy as Mr. Blodgett envisions. But then, if prices were higher, wouldn’t the “average” American need even more money to be able to afford to make purchases? And again, who will make this decision?
Do you agree with the notion that somehow companies and owners are unfairly taking income and assets away from the “average” American? Or is it an unfortunate, pandering, political claim that demonizes those that are successful and reinforces a victim mentality on the “average” American?
In the coming days I hope to cover:
• Globalization
• Technology
• Stagnant wages
• Business Profits
Let me know your thoughts.

The Day After – The media really just doesn’t get it

That’s right, it isn’t only the Democratic Party that is completely out of touch with the moderate voters. If you spent any time what so ever looking at commentary after the first Presidential Debate, you will have noticed the desperate tone of much of the mainstream media trying to salvage something out of the debate for the Democrats. But it just wasn’t there. That behavior isn’t so unusual, so why am I saying the media doesn’t get it?

https://i1.wp.com/www.geeveeapps.com/clueless512x512.jpg

The general lamentation is that the President would have done so much better had he only mentioned:

• Caiman Islands and Tax Breaks
• Bain Capital
• The 47 percent

• Tea Party

Really? Look, I really don’t think folks in the middle have any beef with folks who comply with the tax law. As I have written in my previous blog post Would you pay more?, we have all had the opportunity to see Governor Romney’s taxes. He complied with the law. Would you pay more? Right, so lets just move on.

Bain Capital? So the man was successful in business. Now is that supposed to be a liability? Governor Romney has been just as successful in business as he has been in politics. Lets not pretend that success and experience is a turn off for the moderate voters. They want to see someone in the Oval Office with a track record of success and inspires confidence in the ability to actually make things happen.

The 47 percent. Yes, this resonates with the liberal voters. What the media is overlooking is that the liberal voters are going to vote for Obama anyway. There are people in the so-called 47% that are planning to vote for Governor Romney. Why? They might be in 47% due to business bankruptcy or for other reasons, but they understand what he was saying. And they still believe in a meritocracy, true freedom of speech, and want their children to have a shot at the American dream because they worked hard and earned their way to success – they don’t believe in an entitlement society. The 47% wins points only with people that have already made up their mind. And that was Governor Romney’s point.

Tea Party? Huh? I feel like I am watching Monty Python and “Knights Who Say ‘Nie’” scene! If you say Tea Party three times fast, are all conservatives supposed to quail in fear or something? What does the tea party have to do with anything that Governor Romney has been saying?

Joshua Green of BloombergBusinessWeek posted the following:

“The effect was mainly impressionistic—he did it without offering any new details. And he did it by emphasizing his “beliefs” (“great schools, great teachers”), which don’t necessarily align with his policies.”

What? Joshua did you do any research? Governor Romney has strong views on education and has taken steps as a governor to boost the education levels within the state of Massachusetts. I would expect better from a business periodical.

The fear that we will make a move away from the path of trickle down government control, and toward a more open society that includes a thriving business sector and a free, democratic process and has the possibility of strengthening the ties that bind us together, instead of the differences the democrats have emphasized in their attempt to divide us, has the left and much of the media in a panic.

A difference of opinion – collaborate on bipartisan solutions or “fight”

a house divided...

a house divided… (Photo credit: tray)

During the debate last night we saw so very clearly the two dramatically differing philosophies on how to make things happen in our government.  The difference between the experience of Governor Romney who successfully navigated a democratic legislature contrasted with the lack of results posted by the current President of the United States.

Perhaps the most powerful indicator of the President’s philosophy was demonstrated after Governor Romney described how he worked cooperatively with a Massachusetts legislature dominated by the Democratic Party to produce many successful results.  President Obama’s follow-up discussion was laced prominently with the term “fight”, describing how he had his fights with the legislature; fights President Obama said needed to happen.  The President views these exchanges as fights to be won rather than solutions to be developed together.  For President Obama, “open to reason and debate” means “I will explain my position so you can agree with me.”  Even within the President’s own party he has very few allies.  Eleanor Clift’s recent post in the Daily Beast contained the following statements :

“… Obama doesn’t have many friends on Capitol Hill in either party. He has allies for sure but hasn’t worked to develop personal relationships. Some think this is a fatal flaw…”

“One adviser who did not want to be quoted recalls gently suggesting Obama might want to invest more personal time in courting members of Congress. “He looked at me like I was telling him to do 10 root canals.”

Nancy Pelosi has even muted the President during meetings while he was speaking to the room!  Russell Berman of “The Hill” posted:

“In one scene during negotiations over the 2009 economic stimulus package, Woodward reports that when Obama called then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to discuss the bill, she put the president on speakerphone so that the group of Democratic lawmakers in her office could hear him, according to a report in The Washington Post.

But when Obama began making an “uplifting speech” over the phone, Pelosi pressed the mute button.

Why has the President failed to develop relationships and why has he alienated so many democrats and republicans alike?  Simply, because he doesn’t think it is important and he hasn’t been willing to sacrifice his work-life balance to forge these relationships and help move our country forward.  Work-life balance is commendable, but every President should know going into the job how demanding it will be.  That is part of the sacrifice expected from our President as part of his service to us, the voters.

“Fight” and ram through legislation only when you have a majority?  Or work together to craft lasting, bilateral solutions.  It seems like an easy choice to me.  I will take the person who is willing to work with an individual regardless of his or her political inclination and respects the opinions of all.  America deserves it.

No Middle Ground?

The partisan nature of our recent political history raises a question as to whether there is any middle ground remaining? Left and a right, Republican and Democrat – only one can win, right?

There is no doubting the fact that one party, one candidate must win and one must lose. The middle ground isn’t necessarily the parties or party lines, but rather the voters. I do not believe the voting public is so clearly polarized as the political party extremes. People are complex. Their needs, thoughts, questions, desires and life experiences vary, often dramatically. It is entirely possible to have someone who believes strongly in abortion, is against drilling in national parks and is open to raising taxes; but is a hawk on military matters, is a fiscal conservative, believes that entitlement programs must be trimmed and the government needs to get out of people’s private lives, and wants to see greater controls on immigration. Truly. So do you exclude these people from your party?

I don’t believe this to be a rhetorical question. I think there is a group of people in that middle ground who believe in a meritocracy, true freedom of speech, and want their children to have a shot at the American dream because they worked hard and earned their way to success – they don’t believe in an entitlement society. How many families have a registered Democrat and a registered Republican? I am sure there in some middle ground happening there.

So here is the opportunity. Some of the folks I mentioned above probably voted for the current President last time around. Without a doubt the positions the Democratic Platform conveyed at their recent convention alienated some of those voters. They missed out on the key issues, and instead drove home conversations about special interests, class warfare and dependency. The current administration’s policies have left some of the voters I mentioned above feeling mislead, disillusioned. Alienated. The Democrats have built a party line that is totally dependent on fear, division and anger. They are close minded and exclusive.

This is an opportunity for the conservatives to capture that middle. I have written previously that every election comes down to choices. We have a choice between a party led by President Obama that wants to keep moving forward on the same path, is delusional about whether we as a country are better off and wants to consolidate and centralize their power and build dependency. The other choice is a party led by Mitt Romney who believes that our country needs a drastic change in direction including fiscal reform, a robust private economy and a democratic process.

democracy's chorus

democracy’s chorus (Photo credit: howard.hall)

So in reality, “the middle ground” is the battleground. That middle ground is full of the people who can and will make a difference in this election. Believing there is no middle ground is a slippery slope. Once you believe that, there is no reason to “reach across the aisle”. There is then no reason to have constructive conversations and plant the seeds of hope and change. Instead, people tend to get lost in the focus on “winning the argument” or getting in the best insult; something we see all too often in the partisan environment today. Every “smackdown” of an undecided voter is a small battle lost. There is plenty of middle ground out there and it is ours to take.

“Two Different Paths For America”

Even the President agrees that the choice in the election is more than just political parties and candidates. He stated in his acceptance speech at the democratic convention that it will be a choice between two different paths for America. It is interesting that he followed that pronouncement by claiming that, “Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known”. Wow. Great rhetoric. I can only assume he is talking about the values of the WWI and WWII generations – one of which has famously been labeled “the Greatest Generation”. So here is the part that is challenging. I am pretty certain that generation doesn’t share any of the same “values” that the current administration and the Democratic party are touting.

Now, the President, as well as some of the earlier speakers went on to talk about sharing in pride and success, hard work and responsibility that gets rewarded – actually for a brief moment I thought the President was going to confess he had become a Republican, or at least a conservative. Heck, I thought, next he will start invoking God or the creator. Of course, we all know to our astonishment, he actually did. However, just saying something and believing, or acting on it are two different things. Ultimately, it was about the same old rhetoric, the same empty words, and the same tired arguments as always. In fact, if you take the time to look at this speech, it really is the same – the same as his other speeches in past elections, with the few added phrases noted above sprinkled in at a weak attempt to manage the poll results without totally abandoning the message of “from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs.”

Every election comes down to choices. And in this one, perhaps more than any other election I have experienced, the direction between candidates could hardly be more different. The Convention made it very clear that this election is a choice between a party led by President Obama that wants to keep on the same path, is delusional about whether we as a country are better off and wants to consolidate and centralize power and build dependency, and a party led by Mitt Romney who believes that our country needs a drastic change in direction including fiscal reform, a robust private economy and a democratic process.

Mitt Romney has a track record of success in the private sector, as a governor and his work with the Salt Lake City Olympics. Ironically, this seems to be one of the biggest issues that the democratic party has with him – success. I am not sure about you, but since one of the largest issues confronting us is the economy and jobs, I would very much prefer to see someone in a leadership position with both some experience and success in how business works. Say what you want, but Mr. Romney helped start a very successful business, and Bain Capital has a pretty darn good track record of success with the businesses that they have been involved with. This is a guy that fixes things. And I don’t believe that Mitt Romney is the kind of person who is running for office because he needs a career in Politics – he has a successful career. I believe Mitt Romney is running for President because he wants to make a difference and be a public servant. I think it also says a lot about the man to note that he didn’t take a salary from the state of Massachusetts while he was governor.

Contrast that with President Obama. The President has a record of success in …. well…. I guess he has been successful at getting elected and spending other people’s money. This is a man who has lived out the rock star life as President, making sure he has plenty of time for golf and work-life balance, while the first lady pays an entourage of planners almost $1.6 million of tax payers money. That is million in case you missed it the first time. Honestly, ask yourself, how concerned can this man be? $1.6 Million for people to arrange the first lady’s schedule? And he is screaming about income disparity and perks of the wealthy? I wonder how much we are paying for gardeners to maintain the first garden and brewers for the “home brew” the President is so proud to note is being brewed in the White House basement? This is a person that prior to his roles as President has never in his career been in a position where he was in charge of anything important, and certainly not where he has the all critical, “final word” – and unfortunately, he acts like he still isn’t. This President has spent the better part of his career spending and living off of other people’s money. A life that is worlds away from the lives of the job creators and business people of the country. No wonder the Republican Party has taken him to task over his position on small business and his ability to create job growth. No wonder almost any small business person you talk to believes the President places no real value in what they do, nor places any value in the business sector except as a source of income to be redistributed. Especially after his public position regarding who actually built the successful small businesses in this country.

President Obama is trying desperately to recover from his gaffe – “you didn’t build that” – and position himself as a friend of small businesses I have watched the “you didn’t build that” speech a number of times. The democrats claim it was a line taken out of context. Look, every small business owner out there worth his or her salt understands that you need raw materials and roads, and a population to sell to. To try and state that the road is what built the business is ridiculous at best. Every business owner out there also knows that you really need a product or service that is valued by customers, you need a plan on how to get that product or service into the hands of customers, you need the expertise to create an organization and the processes to support that product, and an almost unlimited drive for success and then most importantly; funds. You need financing to work the dream. I can not think of a single business owner I know who started off rich. The story is usually the same – an idea, long hours, borrowed money and low wages. And while the business is growing and paying suppliers and employees, the owner is working tirelessly and for next to nothing. When you watch the President work himself up before his infamous line is delivered, you see a man driving home a point he wanted to make – “you didn’t build that.” I have seen enough public speakers in my day to know this was not a line taken out of context, this was the President making a point. A point, that I do truly believe he would like to retract – not because he doesn’t believe it; on the contrary, because he does deeply believe it and has given us a glimpse at “the man behind the curtain” and what he holds in esteem.

Some other key points from the President’s address I want to touch on:
• The President indicates his budget proposal will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. According to who? The Congressional Budget Office claims the President’s budget will add trillions to the deficit. Which is probably why it was voted down unanimously by both parties
• Europe’s Crisis must be contained – by spending beyond our means? Walter E. Williams noted on Townhall.com that the debt to GDP ratio of Greece is 160, Italy’s is 120 and Ireland is 104. The United State’s? 106. Higher than Ireland. That’s a little uncomfortable, isn’t it?
• Saving the auto industry – First it is a global industry in a global economy. He certainly didn’t save the entire auto industry. He let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt and then gave them a boat load of money. So they are still afloat and undoubtedly in a better position financially than before bankruptcy. And now the US citizens own $27 billion of GM stock that is worth roughly $10 million. So he allowed GM to restructure their debt, gave them tax payer dollars to work with and in return we own stock at a loss. Sorry, I am not very impressed.
• Romney isn’t ready for diplomacy because he insulted “our closest ally” by expressing some concerns over reports of readiness for the London Olympics. I am not sure that is all that insulting, first of all, especially from someone who happens to have some experience at pulling off the Olympics. An insult is to speak with contemptuous rudeness or insolence, or to affront. Once again, I am sorry, I am not seeing that.

But perhaps the most telling information that came out of the democratic convention was the now infamous vote to put God back in the democratic party platform. Not for the reasons most of you are thinking. This particular vote at the convention was an unvarnished look what democracy looks like to the President and the democratic party . They asked for a vote three times, and when the vote was clearly short of the 2/3 majority required, the party just went ahead and did whatever they wanted anyway…despite the expressed will of their own party.

The President was right about one thing last week – it will be a choice between two different paths for America. I know which one I will choose. It won’t be for the party that chose the old communist and Marxist slogan “Forward” for their own.