Archives for May 2011

Demagogue Alert

Yet another one where the writer impugns the character of those with whom he disagrees, calling them “stoney hearted” and having “open contempt” for “compassion or tolerance or fundamental fairness”.

My comment to the article, by a Mr. Neal Gabler, follows:

It’s a total myth that conservatives want to end or change programs that would harm the downtrodden. Time and again it’s been demonstrated that liberal programs hurt the poor, from the public housing fiascos, to welfare dependency that even Daniel Patrick Moynahan and Bill Clinton recognized were exacerbating poverty, to the Democrat-controlled inner cities, to Social Security and Medicare, where payroll taxes on the working poor are literally transferred to middle class and rich retirees.

Two-thirds of federal tax money is redistributed, and most of that money is redistributed to the middle class, upper middle class, and rich. Something is tragically wrong with the system today, and it’s surprising that liberals don’t recognize it and work to reform it.

Many people have a welfare horror story – where they see welfare money going to people who don’t need it, whether it be SSI, SSDI, unemployment compensation, or Section 8 housing. Regarding the latter, a real tragedy is where immigrant retirees are living with their upper-middle-class children, and find that they’re eligible for Section 8 housing and other welfare programs. They crowd the Section 8 housing waiting lists, the lists close to new applicants, and the ones left out in the cold are the real poor, who often have to live on the streets. It’s one of the many examples of the tragedy of American liberalism.

Both Against and For Unemployment

In Spain they’re demonstrating against unemployment, presumably private sector unemployment. But from what I gather from the news article on it, these aren’t Tea Party types. Instead they’re big-government types who embrace the welfare state.

Yet it’s the welfare state that’s causing the 21% unemployment rate in Spain, and 42% unemployment rate for those ages 15-24.

People who complain about unemployment are essentially lamenting the fact that there aren’t enough entrepreneurs and business people willing to take the enormous risks and go through the enormous hoops in order to try to hire a worker.

It’s really tough to hire and/or maintain a worker when you don’t know when, or from where, the revenue is going to come in to pay that worker. And you have to come up with a viable idea in the first place – something that people are going to want in exchange for their hard-earned money – in order to generate that revenue. That’s one tough endeavor, and most people don’t have the ability or willingness to do it. Most people rely on a tiny minority of people, called entrepreneurs, to go through those enormous hoops in order to generate the employment.

So if the welfare state is massive, with high taxes and stifling regulations to disincentivize entrepreneurs and business people, then unemployment is going to be high. What the protestors should be protesting is the welfare state.

Their intentions are to reduce unemployment. Their actions exacerbate it. And they don’t realize the irony.

There’s an election in Spain tomorrow. One protestor, who previously supported the Communist-led United Left, says she’s going to change her vote. Away from the far left? No, according to a CNN report. To an even more leftist party, she said.

Actually I didn’t think you could get more leftist than that. But apparently in Spain, you can.

Top 1 Percent Demonization, and Nobel Prize Devaluation

For an account of one of the most clear-cut cases of demagoguery in recent times, click here.  The demagogue scapegoats and demonizes a group of people without providing any evidence whatsoever. He doesn’t just say that what they’re doing is resulting in bad things (which isn’t happening). He indicates that they fully intend to do the bad things. Tragically, the demagogue is a Nobel Prize recipient – named Joseph Stiglitz.

That tells you something about the caliber of certain Nobel Prize recipients these days. In other words, when you hear that someone is a Nobel Prize recipient, don’t ooh and ahh. Instead, say, “yea, so?”

Failure to Think Outside the Box

Sir Isaac Newton said, “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

If Sir Isaac Newton had a few pebbles, Stephen Hawking might have a few boulders. But the great ocean of truth still lies undiscovered before him.

Hawking, the noted physicist – and now the noted atheist – thinks there’s no God or afterlife. That’s because he only bases his judgments on what’s scientifically measurable, observable, and/or explainable. But as indicated above, there’s a vast ocean of truth out there that Hawking has yet to discover.

A Creator would have left nothing to chance – He would have set up our world, or our universe, so that everything is scientifically explainable. Except perhaps gravity. Last I checked, no noted scientist had a good explanation for what causes gravity.

And there are other things that aren’t scientifically explainable. I recently read a fascinating book called “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences”, where the author, a physician and scientist, lays out nine lines of evidence showing that there is a spiritual realm in addition to our worldly realm. As a natural-born skeptic myself, it’s compelling stuff.

And if one thinks outside the box, rather than be stuck in a straightjacket of only abiding by what’s scientifically measurable in our worldly realm, then one could accept that there is a spiritual realm in addition to our worldly realm.

A Success-Breeds-Contempt Case Study

One would be proud of hometown company that makes such quality products that it grows to become a worldwide phenomenon, right? Not in Seattle. Success breeds contempt – even if that company bends over backwards to try to please everyone, as is the case with Starbucks. It offers full healthcare coverage to even part-time employees. It buys only “fair trade” coffee beans. But measures like that cannot even come close to assuaging the ill will the company must engender just by opening coffeeshops in other countries and thus achieve the “multinational corporation” status. An acquisition in 2008 “already is drawing concern from the caffeine elite who’d rather buy from just about anyone than a hometown brand turned world corporation,” according to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The naysayers must be thinking, “Hm. Multinational corporation. That must mean that somewhere in that mix there must be a certain something called a ‘corporate executive.’ Rich corporate executive. Hissssss.” You know how much the term “corporate executive” sends leftists into paroxysms of resentment. I’ll bet they get more emotional when they hear that term than when they hear, say, the term “terrorist”.

If you serve hundreds throughout a community well, you’re a hero. If you serve millions throughout the world well, you’re anathema.

Does a Spouse’s Laundry Lead to Divorce? Only if You’re Quite Immature.

Bizzare piece today on Psychiatrist Keith Ablow claims that marriage is a dying institution. But he’s way off base on lots of things. For starters he has a distorted view of marriage because he bases many of his claims on feedback from psych patients. But most happily married people don’t need to see a psychiatrist. Also, he points to things about marriage (such as being intimately familiar with the mundane aspects of the spouse’s life, like seeing his or her laundry all the time) that he thinks lead to divorce, but those things have been equally true for hundreds or thousand of years when the divorce rate was much lower or nonexistent. Further, he bizarrely writes that the harsh consequences of divorce such as lawyering up prompts people to divorce, and that if married couple could separate easily and amicably, there would be less divorce. Huh? You got it backwards, bub.

Good Thing Lots of Star CEOs Choose to Work Rather than Play

Just finished reading the first 66 pages of “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for It’s Life without Losing It’s Soul”, by Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz, which I recently picked up during a rare visit to Starbucks (a non-coffee-drinker, I). As an entrepreneur trying to break out of the little leagues and into the minor leagues (the major leagues are a far-off dream), I figured plopping down $25 for the book couldn’t hurt. I’m always open to helpful insights on how folks built their business.

And one thing I’ve definitely picked up as a struggling entrepreneur is newfound respect, nay awe, for anyone who’s started a business and made it into the major – and even minor – leagues. Believe me, those guys and gals are smart (in their field – not always in other fields).

People, especially politicians who always talk about jobs job jobs, take entrepreneurs and business people for granted. It’s as if they consider jobs an entitlement – something that just should be there for everyone, with benefits. But they have no idea about the work, smarts, risk, sweat, emotional hardship, financial hardship, worry, and liability exposure that just goes into creating a single job.

To create a job, the business owner has to make sure the company is generating enough revenue in order to pay that employee. Finding a product to enable you to do that is extremely challenging. You have to: ensure that the employee pays for him or herself — i.e. generates enough additional revenue to pay him or her the straight salary or wage; pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes, pay the benefits, and pay yourself (the owner) a little something – because if you’re paying the employee more than you’re generating in revenue, then that defeats the whole purpose of going into business. You’re losing money, which isn’t sustainable unless you’re confident that there will be a payoff down the road.

So the politicians depend on all of these entrepreneurs to take all of these risks in starting a business and hiring employees in order to fulfill their demand for jobs jobs jobs, but at the same time they overburden the entrepreneur with taxes and fees and regulations and paperwork and fines and disincentives and, very often, vilification – especially when the entrepreneur makes it into the major leagues and becomes a millionaire.

For a better idea of how tough it is to run a business, see this recent WSJ article about running a restaurant. As the last line of the article states, “That’s also why we admire successful restaurateurs so much.”

That’s why I admire people like Starbucks founder Howard Schultz so much. Talk about the difficulty of hiring just one employee – this guy has hired tens of thousands of them! All I can say is: genius.

In reading his book, one thing about him really stands out. Here’s a guy who could have retired a zillionaire a decade or two ago, to live a life of whatever – travel, writing books, starting nonprofits, public speaking, kicking back on the beach. But no. His passion and concern for his enterprise is so overwhelming that he continues to run the day-to-day operations of it. He writes about stepping down as CEO some years ago in order to run the international operations of the business, and then getting so concerned about the direction of the company that he re-took the reins as CEO. That’s no Sunday school picnic. Do you realize how hard it must be to manage tens, hundreds, thousands of people? It’s tough enough to manage one employee! And the emotional impact it must have on you – to have to fire, lay off, promote, demote, pass over. And all the other things and constituencies in running a big business. It would be hard for anyone not to lose sleep over things like that. “…I felt paralyzed,” he writes. “I couldn’t eat breakfast. I could barely enjoy my family. I could barely move.” This is coming from a guy who could have been done with all of that years ago to enjoy a life of leisure! But instead he chooses to solder on.

Now that’s dedication. It’s people like that who make America and the world great.

Many if not most of our great companies consist of people who get rich and could retire millionaires but instead keep working to make their companies greater – to the benefit of society. (I.e., jobs and products and services that sustain the population, without which we’d all be in poverty, for you corporation-haters who may be reading this.) Who knows – maybe that’s what makes them happy and they couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Maybe for all of the emotional lows, their are as many emotional highs. Maybe they thrive on interaction with, and direction of, all of the people involved in a large organization.

Actually that definitely is true. I recall reading about an entrepreneur who retired a millionaire at about age 30 to live a life of leisure, but couldn’t handle it – his life went downhill from there. So he knew he had to get back into the action, and started a new business. So for lots of folks it’s in their blood.

And of course, there are heads of state and other political leaders who more often than not choose to stay in office and hold onto their power rather than step down. So maybe that’s another motivating factor prompting CEOs to hold onto their jobs – the love of power over thousands of employees and shareholders. After all, Kissinger did say that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

As for me, if I ever made it big, I have to admit that I’d be inclined to quit and do something else, like write books. Actually that was my whole reason for going into business in the first place – to start it up and then put it on autopilot while I focus on other things. But someone forgot to tell me that my plane doesn’t come equipped with autopilot. That’s probably what most entrepreneurs come to find out.