Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Words & Labels

     I get very tired of the move to political correctness and banning the use of specific words.  I tend to agree with the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Words are the way we communicate.  Words present an image or a description.  That image or description is not always nice, but that doesn’t mean a word should be banned.   
     Words have different meanings to different people depending on when and where they were raised.  We should always keep this in mind, or we are being narrow-minded.  I heard of a visiting college professor from England that asked his secretary (sorry if that is a sexist word) for some rubbers.  She thought he was asking for condoms when he was asking for erasers.
     The list of words that some people want to remove from our vocabulary is growing to the point of being ludicrous.  I recently heard of a movement to not call young girls pushy as it was sexist and could emotionally harm the impressionable young girl. 
     My sister died after a long fight with cancer.  She was one of thirty people in a cancer study at Mayo Clinic.  She lived years longer than anyone else in the study.  She was a survivor and a fighter.  She continued to work after she had been sent home to die.  She lived so long that the doctors at Mayo were stumped with how to treat her.  I loved and admired my sister, and for many years, I referred to her as a “tough broad.”  It was one of greatest compliments I could give her.  Now I am told I should not use the word broad as it is derogative to woman.   Says who?
     The N word is the most negative word in our society.  An individual’s career can be ended for using it.  When I was in the army, I had several blacks that worked for me.  I am not sure if blacks is an acceptable word anymore.  I can’t keep up.  They often referred to other blacks they held in low esteem using the N word, and it certainly was not meant as a compliment.  They could and did use the word, but if I used it, I was a racist.  I am not sure how that works, but I get confused easy. 
     Swear words also have a place in most vocabulary, but the use of most swear words are not considered in good taste.  If you have every watched the TV show Dexter, you have noticed Dexter’s sister uses the F word in every sentence.  Bad language is promoted in entertainment, but frowned on in social circles. 
     Politics has all kinds of labels.  We have gotten to the point where anyone can be called a racist or a sexist for disagreeing with a political agenda.  Politicians resort to name-calling when a political position cannot be supported by facts. 
     Being called a Republican or a Democrat can be both a compliment and a slam.  Partisan politics is not complimentary for either party.  Both clearly put the party, power, and getting elected ahead of doing what is good for the country.  
     I recently attended a commencement ceremony at the University of Wisconsin in Camp Randall stadium.  The keynote speaker was Governor Jon Huntsman Jr.  He and Senator Joe Manchin are co-chairs of an organization called No Labels.  The goal of No Labels is to end the gridlock in Washington, stop the fighting, and start fixing.  Nearly 100 members of Congress (both Democrat and Republican) and over a half million citizens have joined in this effort. 
     In my opinion, this is something that is long overdue.  I don’t even like seating Republicans and Democrats on opposite sides of the isle in Congress.  I support and have joined in this movement.  I hope you will too.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Merger & Acquisition

     Merger and acquisition is big business today.  We constantly hear of businesses and corporations that are bought by or merged with other businesses and corporations.  This seems to be happening with businesses of all sizes.  A teenager may start a lawn mowing business while in school.  With hard work the business grows and has value.  The business is sold to a competitor.  The competitor receives value in several ways.  The customers are the greatest asset.  The used equipment has value, and a competitor is eliminated.  New employees who are trained in the business may come with the acquisition.  New customers are acquired at a cost that is less than other marketing means.
     I occasionally work with business brokers in my consulting business.  Some business brokers work exclusively in merger and acquisition.  They find this to be the most lucrative segment of the business. 
     When a business broker takes a listing, the first place most brokers look for a buyer is among the competitors.  Buying a competitor can be an economical and efficient way to expand.  It is easier for the business broker because they do not have to explain the business to a new buyer that is not familiar with the industry.  The negative for people wanting to buy an existing business for the first time is that many businesses are never offered to the general public. 
     We hear a lot about mergers of major corporations in many industries.  I have mixed emotions about the merger of many major corporations.  Many airline companies have merged, like Northwest being merged into Delta.  Has the change been good or bad?  AT&T now has a goal of acquiring Direct TV.  This could change our communications options.  As leaders in any industry merge, new opportunities appear for new small competitors. 
     I have a big problem with the large mergers in the banking industry, their failures, and then the government bailouts.  I do not agree with the present government philosophy of bailing out companies that are Too Big To Fail.  If a company becomes too big to fail with a merger, that merger should never have been allowed.  We do have anti-trust laws in place to cover this situation. 
     Why do mergers make sense in business?  Mergers make sense financially because duplications can be eliminated.  That means people in many cases.  Competent and hard working employees may lose their jobs due to no fault of their own.  This is not good for the economy.
     Finding another job is not easy.  Self-employment can be a displaced worker’s best option.  I had a client that felt he would be let go after a merger.  We started to look for franchise opportunities while he was still employed.  He found the right opportunity to achieve his goals and waited to be let go.  The week after he received his notice and severance package, he was awarded the franchise, and he was in the next training offered by the franchisor.  I discuss this situation and more in my book, Business Fits; How to find the right business for you!
     Our government could learn a little from merger and acquisition in the private sector.  We have so many agencies and departments duplicating services that it is ridiculous.  Should we have a 50% Merger and Elimination at the federal level?  This may sound a little extreme, but I would be willing to bet most people would never notice the difference except for less government control, less taxes, and less government debt.
     Am I just wishing and dreaming again?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Will Rogers

     During a visit with my brother in Tulsa, we made a day trip to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma.  I had been there once before fifty-eight years ago when I was eleven. 
     Will Rogers was born November 4, 1879 in the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation by Claremore, Oklahoma. He was named Colonel William Penn Adair Rogers.  I see why he went by Will.  Will was proud of the fact he was 9/32 Cherokee.  Will grew up as a cowboy on the Okalahoma prairie.  Will died in a single engine plane crash by Point Barrow, Alaska on August 15, 1935.
     Will Rogers was one of America’s most popular entertainers of his time.  He was sometimes called the “Cowboy Philosopher.”  He was an entertainer and a humorist.  He was a motion picture star (71 films), radio personality, a syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of six books and 4,000 articles. 
     Will experienced the roaring twenties and great depression in this country.  He was widely traveled and read several newspapers every day.  He was very interested in politics, but never ran for elected office. 
     Will first gained notoriety in the Ziegreld Follies doing rope tricks and making jokes about what he had read in the newspapers.   “I never met a man I didn’t like,” is one of Will most popular quotes and probably one of the reasons for his popularity. 
     Will loved to make fun of politicians and it was often not complimentary.  “A politician is just like a pickpocket.  It’s almost impossible to get one to reform.”  Today we still have politicians putting getting reelected before the good of the country in many cases.
     “If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.”  How many times do we hear lies, cover-ups, and untrue campaign ads that are considered okay because “It’s just politics.” 
     I love and agree with this one.  “Most people and actors appearing on stage have some writer to write their material.  Congress is good enough for me.  They have been writing my material for years.”  And another similar one is; “I don’t make jokes.  I just watch the government and report the facts.”  I have said that Saturday Night Live can’t compete with the news.
     “Be a politician – No training necessary.”  We seem to have been taking this to an extreme level. 
     “Once a man holds public office, he is absolutely no good for honest work”.  Not a real compliment. 
     “We cuss lawmakers, but I notice we’re always perfectly willing to share in any of the sums of money that they might distribute.”  And it is such a good way to buy votes with taxpayer money.
     We have to remember that Progressives were just getting started in the 1920s, when Will said; “What this country needs is more working men and fewer politicians.”  He obviously feared big government then.  What would he think today?
      “This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it.”  Sounds like Ronald Reagan’s, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.”  When will we learn? 
     Politics has not changed a lot, but one thing that has changed is Will’s statement; “I am not a member of any organized party – I am a Democrat.”  This is certainly not true today.  The Democrats are highly organized and have government-funded organizations to recruit Democrat voters. Democrats support other Democrats regardless of incompetence, corruption, and cover-ups.  The Republicans, on the other hand, are fragmented with conservatives, moderates, libertarians, constitutionalists, and the tea party.  They can’t seem to agree on anything.  I am surprised they can ever win an election.
     Will Rogers made fun of both Democrats and Republicans.  “If by some divine act of providence we could get rid of both parties and hire some good men, like any other good business does, that would be sitting pretty.”  This is still true today.
     “A flock of Democrats will replace a mess of Republicans … it won’t mean a thing.  They will go in like all the rest of ‘em.  Go in on promises and come out on alibis.”  Sound familiar?
      Will described the Democratic Party as representing the worker and the Republican Party as representing the rich.  This was the perception of the time and may have been true at that time.  It is certainly not true today. 
     The Democrats do attempt to buy the welfare vote and do it quite well.  The Democrats also seem to control the lame stream media for some reason, which was not the case in Will’s life.  Today the super rich and major corporations buy and control as many or more Democratic politicians as Republican politicians.  Consequently, the Republican Party is not the party of the rich anymore, and, with the exception of unions, the Democratic Party is certainly not the party of the workingman any more.
     My concern is that neither political party seems to really represent the middle income working American, the small businessperson, or the entrepreneur.  These are the people that made this country great.  Are we trying to eliminate them?  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Constitutional Convention

     Will we have a constitutional convention?  The last constitutional convention was held in 1787.  This convention was called to amend the Articles of Confederation, but instead wrote the Constitution we have today. 

     Amending the Constitution is covered in Article V of the Constitution as follows:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, also as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by the conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which man be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

     The 27th Amendment is the last amendment to the Constitution. It concerns congressional pay increases, and was actually one of the original amendments proposed in 1789.  It took over 200 years for the states to ratify the amendment.  The 26th amendment, changing the voting age to 18, was proposed 43 years ago. 
   All amendments to our Constitution have been proposed and passed by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the States, but Article V of the Constitution clearly states that the states can also initiate an amendment by calling for a constitutional convention. 
     In March of 2014 Michigan lawmakers voted to call for a constitutional convention to demand a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. constitution.  Michigan was the 34th state to call for a federal balanced budget amendment.  That is the two-thirds majority needed to call a constitutional convention. 
     This has never happened in the history of this country and I would think it is big news, but have you heard anything about it by the media?  It is clear that the political elite does not want a balanced budget or a constitutional convention.  The lame steam media is certainly not giving it any coverage.  I have not even heard anything on Fox news, but I may have missed it.
     Progressives are questioning if Michigan is actually the 34th state to call for a constitutional convention as the call for an amendment from some states may be decades old, or may have been recalled.  Some scholars say the valid number may be as low as 18 states. 
     The time factor should not be a consideration as it took over 200 years for three-fourths of the states to ratify the 27th Amendment.  Another question is if a state can legally rescind the call for a convention once it is made.   I am not sure of this one, but I hope the states in question confirm their demand for a federal balanced budget and more states follow.
     I understand why the career politician and political elite don’t want to be forced to a balanced budget.  Our present government doesn’t appear capable of passing a budget, let alone balancing a budget.  I am convinced a balanced budget amendment is long overdue in order to control the growth of government, government spending, and government debt.  Government debt will increase more during President Obama’s term than during the previous 43 presidents’ terms.
     Maybe the threat to call a constitutional convention will motivate Congress and the President to act in a fiscally responsible manner. 
     Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?