Monday, February 16, 2009

Do We have it all wrong?

As a small-business owner, it seems almost futile these days to be working so hard and getting what would be seemingly very little in return. It's a sentiment that is becoming common among those of us that have taken the risk to pursue our dreams and become our own boss. We are getting it from the banks on one end, a lack of consumer confidence on the other. All the while, our politicians and the media seem content on scaring the living daylights out of everyone.

At times, you start to wonder Why? Why do I put myself through this? I started to suspect that might be the case last year when I first read our president's blueprint for change. When I started to dig into his positions on various issues, I saw a clearcut pattern. The more I heard him speak to address the issues, the more it convinced me. His administration had a total disregard for small-business. A move in the government to take care of the 'have nots' by taking from the 'haves'.

All the while, forgetting that there is a large chunk of us who fall into the middle category. 'In transition', 'middle-America', call it what you want an area often overlooked by politicians. Now before you brand me 'elitist' I think you need to know where I came from. I came from nothing. I was born to working class parents who raised me with a strong work ethic and a focus on making my own path in the world. Not having all the entrapments of the 'priveleged' I respect those who are less fortunate. I see the benefit in helping those who need it. Often though, what happens when we get a left leaning adminstration in office is we go 'overboard as a country'. Our government has a history of giving all with no accountability. No timeline. No plan on how the less fortunate can regain some pride and climb out of the abyss known as welfare, to become productive contributing citizens.

As a small business owner, I don't quite fall into the category of 'a large corporation' or that of being destitute. I get to eat what I hunt and kill. Therefore, I am always hunting. I have worked hard for everything I have and have not been 'given' anything. Having been raised in a union-backed, democratic household, I see the benefits that unions have had for the working class. They played a strong role in the equalization of the labor force at the turn of the 20th century in our country. They served to level the playing field. If it weren't for the steel worker's retiree benefits, my dad would not have the great pension and healthcare benefits he has today.

On the flipside, I am not so 'over the top' and pro-union that I fail to see how unions have also exploited the workers. They have negotiated with their best interest (the union organizers) in mind at times and not necessarily those of the workers. Failing to yield to salary or benefit concessions be it for principle or cause has sometimes led to a companies management making the decision to shutter a plant and take their operations off-shore, accross the border or to a state that is more 'business friendly'. Unions have caused the price of the American laborer to skyrocket. So much that all profitability is removed from business. To regain this profitability, American companies have had to look elsewhere for less expensive labor to manufacture their products.

I'm not so pro-capitalism that I think ethics should be thrown out the window for the sake of profits. Greed is what is killing our country. At all ends: labor and management. Management needs to be fair and ethical with their employees. Labor needs to understand that sometimes you have to give to get and continue getting.

When my business partner and I started KYS, our goal was to be able to afford benefits similiar to what we had in Corporate America for our employees. IRA plans, healthcare benefits, PTO, fair and safe working conditions. The way we saw it, it's ethical business 101. I understand that not ALL companies operate that way. Organized labor's arguement is that they serve the purpose of being the 'conscience' on behalf of labor with management. To ensure that the right thing is done.

I digressed to further impact my point that I feel our country is taking a turn that will hurt economic growth in the long run. Mandated healthcare, 'the card check' bill among many other plans in place will hurt is in the long-run. On top of that, When you look at the stimulus plan that was just passed, It is $739B ,of which approximately 80% of it will go back to the unions that helped get Obama in office. It will go to repay the $450M that they invested in him. If you break it down, that's approximately $1573 they will receive in return for every dollar they spent in campaign contributions. So in fact the decision on the stimulus plan was made 'with all the American public in mind' but it will most benefit the 7.6% (percentage of unionized labor). Great return on investment if you ask me. The appointment of Hilda Solis as the labor secretary furthers the direction that our country will take. One that is pro-labor /anti-business. A short sided vision because you can't have one without the other.

I have paid into a system of social security and workman's compensation for the sixteen years of my employment in corporate america. Here's a scenario to help illustrate my point: "If my business where to fail to thrive this year for whichever reason, there is not a single benefit as a self-employed person in America in Mr. Obama's stimulus plan for me. I have no bailout. Perhaps organized business is a route to take. Demanding more from our elected officials who love us because they can tax and fee us to no end. We are the first to be demonized when labor has a gripe. What many people forget is that most of our large corporations started as small mom and pop companies. The Abbott Laboratories, the Johnson and Johnson and The Ford Motor Company as examples. As they grew, they were able to employ more and more people. Giving them the means to a better future. The risk was squarely on the shoulders of the company's founders and I am sure, like myself they were reminded daily of that risk especially during trying times.

The enclosed passage on primate research caught my eye because is spoke to the plight of the average Joe. The worker 'Bee' who is either motivated or not based on what he is being incented with. The perception of inequity as a primal instinct. The author takes it one step further and makes the connection to bailouts and the lack of motivation. The topic of the day.

I'll take it even one step further than that, to the perspective of the small business owner. Sometimes, it feels like we live in the land of cucumbers and the elected officials live in the land of grapes. They make decisions that disfavor small business- but want us to be around to employ.

The questions I have for Pres. Obama, Mr. Reid, Ms. Pelosi and the other members of our democratic congressional caucus is that while you are making your decisions for the Average American, you forget that you have NO risk at all. You make your decisions, pass your bills, make your laws, issue your mandates. When your term is done you are either re-elected or not. Either way, your government pension and benefits are locked in for life. Regardless of the quality of job done. No Risk! None at all. So don't tell me for one minute that you understand what it is like down here in the land of cucumbers. You haven't a clue. As a small business owner, I have it all on the line. Sink or swim it's on my shoulders. My employee's livelihood. Their families, those of my busines partner. I carry it all on my back. So my question is very simple:

Where is my bailout? Where is my stimulus?

------- to see the original article click on the link embedded in the title below----

Even chimps know when they're not getting paid enough

"10:47 a.m. Tsouderos: Frans de Waal is a primatologist and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Center at Emory University in Atlanta, and he's one of the funniest and most engaging speakers I have seen in my four days here. If you ever get a chance to see him speak, don't hesitate to go.
His talk this morning centered around whether morality is uniquely human or something shared by other animals, in particular chimps and apes and even elephants and dolphins.
De Waal believes other animals are capable of empathy and sympathy and consolation and other behaviors that add up to morality, and he has devised numerous experiments to test that.One, in particular, got a good laugh from the audience, which numbered in the hundreds on this last day of the conference.De Waals put two chimps in two different cages, situated side by side. The chimps were able to see each other. Then, a grad student had each chimp do a simple task in exchange for a reward.In the first trial, the student gave each chimp a piece of cucumber as the reward. Both chimps did the task virtually every time for the cucumber. They refused just 5 percent of the time.But what happens when one chimp gets a cucumber but the other gets a grape -- for doing the same task? The cucumber chimp gets mad. He starts refusing to do the task. He chucks the cucumber out of the cage. He sits in the corner, stewing. Well over half of the time, he refuses to do the task.And what happens when one chimp gets a grape for doing NOTHING while the other chimp gets a piece of cucumber for doing the task? Both chimps begin refusing to do the task at all.De Waals said the chimps' reactions, which happened each time the experiment was run, show chimps have a sense of fairness, of envy, of inequity.It's a feeling that is familiar to many these days, as people express resentment and anger toward enormous bank bailouts (and bonuses for those bankers) in a time in which so many are losing their homes and jobs.As De Waals put it, "we live in cucumber-land and they live in grape-land."

No comments: