Archive for March, 2010

The future of small business in America…

Monday, March 29th, 2010

The future of small business in America…

For far too many Americans the short walk from the front door of a small business to the back counter is an experience only possible via memory. In nearly every way imaginable, the small business is the truly endangered species.

I weary of padding through a warehouse-style retailer only to face a clerk with little knowledge of the stock or a rudimentary acquaintance with how or when to use a particular item. Oh, the prices are low, but so is the comfort level for customers.

With the added pressure of increasing taxes and mandates to fund workers’ health insurance, look for an even further drop in the number of homegrown, home-owned businesses. The incremental growth that exploded into the vibrant American economy of days gone by is in peril. What’s really sad is the root cause — it’s us, a bevy of fickle consumers.

You see, in a myriad of ways, we are to blame. The demand for businesses seven day a week, 24-hours business hours puts tremendous pressure on our small businesses — perhaps to the point of extinction.

If you are over the age of 60, you remember the days when you needed to fill up the family car or truck on Saturday afternoon, because most businesses were closed on Sunday. Pharmacies were small and local, so you could always call the pharmacist on an emergency basis if you were really in a pinch. Chicken soup and Vicks Vapo-Rub kept a lot of us alive. And who could forget Castor Oil? Scanning the over-the-counter remedy racks at a drug store these days is enough to confuse anyone! … enough for nostalgia, let’s move back to the small versus large discussion.

The fewer businesses in a given area the easier it is for government to step in and regulate them. It’s getting to the place where the entire spectrum of retail is narrowing. We find ourselves in a funnel, and the wide variety of small stores morphs into a blur of overhead lighting, sprawling parking lots and bi-lingual signs. My great-grandparents made it item number one to speak English. When did we forget that language is the clue that binds a country’s people?

I digress. The disappearance of storefront should worry us all. A small shoe store anchored a downtown of a Mid-western town for over 100 years. It is gone. Why? The distributor would no longer accept small lot orders. Instead of buying 20-25 pair of a new line, the storeowner was faced with a minimum of order in the 200 range — far more than his customer base could
support. The store closed within two years.

Oh, for the days of the hand-written paper receipt… the handshake equaling a contract… honor in business. I judge businesses one by one, and I urge you to do the same.

Those of us who live in areas not over-run by “big box” stores are luckier than we realize. We know our merchants, the counterman at the local café, the local doctor, dentist and the pharmacist. Price isn’t everything. Travel works into the picture. We may have a smaller choice of items, but the trade-off is far more important. In fact, it is priceless.

Small business helped build this country. I hate to think that our grandchildren will never know the pleasure of dealing with a local retailer on a one-to-one basis. It may happen. If it does, I fear that it bodes ill for the American dream of starting a small business.

Home grown? Home owned? Will we recognize these terms in a few years? I fear we will not. You can forestall that time. How? Patronize your local stores. Do so with zest. Shop for quality. Shop for service as well as sales. To put it more bluntly, shop with a conscience. Pay a smidge more to keep that local guy or gal in business. The salvation of the small business could be in your pocket or purse. Think about it.

Forewarned is forearmed…

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

You’ve heard it before. “Be careful what you ask for…” While poor grammar, it holds true for a lot of us as we review what happened on March 21st. I, for one, view the whole process as insulting when scheduled for a Sunday. Haven’t government officials done enough to remove God from American life? They’ve banished Him from our schools. The schools are well disciplined and orderly, aren’t they? We don’t have school violence, do we? They mandate that His Commandments be taken down from public view. Maybe they think that we obey so well that we need not be reminded of them in text. Think? Watch them, folks. Their next push may be to take “In God We Trust” off our money.

Pity the nation that turns its face away from God.

Back to this past weekend…. Con men should be flocking to Washington in droves — as if they haven’t taken up residence long ago. If there are 219 men and women who sign off on something they haven’t read, then they are prime marks for scams. Anybody interested in buying arable land in Death Valley, California?

Speaking of California….. In an area devastated when water was held back from farms, the only quarter turn on the spigot came to a Congressman who changed his vote from nay to yea. As the Church Lady used to say, “Isn’t that special?”

It amazes me that the press jumped on Anthem Health Care with a vengeance for raising premiums and didn’t bother to tell Americans that the move came when 30 million Californians were switched to Medi-Cal (California’s answer to Medicare). When providers couldn’t keep up with the costs, they were forced to raise premiums to bridge the difference.

A few years ago, I wrote a column titled “Ghost Riders in the Pie”. I went into detail on the anathema of putting legislative riders on bills of substance
— the practice of adding measures that has nothing to do with the pending legislation in an effort to slip them by the people.

Witness the addition of removing college loans from the public arena and putting them under government purview. Oh, goody! My peers grieve for their children and grandchildren’s and prospect of working hard and not earning what they should. No Congressman or Senator can name a people who have prospered under national health care. The not-so-slow slide into Socialism in which we find ourselves mired is not pretty. Mud never is.

I wish I could find some redeeming element of this legislation, but when a republic fails to heed the will of its people and acts as a dictatorship, the result isn’t pretty.

That this was passed on a Sunday is an insult. There was no reverence for the Sabbath among those who scheduled this vote. It is a slap in the face of every God-fearing American. Fear is afoot now, but it is not fear of God. It is fear of an overreaching government. Think about it.

Shake, rattle and roll — it isn’t there!

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

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Shake, Rattle and Bankroll?

Earthquakes continue to plague many parts of the world, but another danger may lurk beneath America’s soil.  As our legislators plod along to avoid following the U.S. Constitution, the risk of our Founding Fathers stirring in their graves rises precipitously.

One of my favorite classes was Constitutional Law.  It was taught by an astute professor whose parents had fled Mainland China days before the Cultural Revolution.  He grew up in Taiwan and rose to be one of its top legal officials.  He knew the value of the Constitution and pounded that thought into our heads every day we were privileged to sit in his classroom.

The delicate balance of power may be the greatest asset of the instrument.  No one branch can overpower either one of both of the others.  Legislative, Executive and Judicial work in an odd dance to perfect the system we know as a Republic.  Now, to the chagrin of those who revere the Constitution, there are those within the Beltway who seek to do an end run around its protections and push ahead with legislation in a manner that mocks the beauty of those words written by Madison, Jefferson, teal.

Heed Section 7: (Three of its four paragraphs are pertinent here.)

“All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

“Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal and proceed to reconsider it.  If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.  But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have representatives stand and face the camera to vote on this?  The audience might even top the numbers for the Super Bowl.

Note that the words “shall have passed” are paramount in the first sentence.  The tactic to end run around the Constitution to move to reconcile a bill that will not have passed in its final form is not only troubling, it is illegal.  Telling us that they will take a bill that has gone through both houses and “tweak” it before using it is not encouraging.  If it’s not in proper form, defeat it.

I weary of the childish tantrums and petty tactics of those who deem cheating the preferable way to achieve success.  And what of the vote count?  It is the most important tally imaginable, yet the mindset of the leadership that continues to twist arms and bribe for votes flies in the face of its social reflection that urges youth sports teams not to keep score.

Oh, so they only keep score when it suits them?  Give me oxygen.  When will we finally, as voters, come to the sad realization that the majority of those serving in Congress serve themselves?  There are exceptions, and Mike Pence comes to mind immediately.  I chuckle when he responds to a reporter’s question that attempts to force him to say something unkind about the opposing party.  In characteristic fashion, he smiles and takes the high road and disagrees with policy not personality.

When the majority of Americans do not want the pending health care bill and over three-fourths of them are satisfied with their own health care, we see a system hell bent on spiraling our children and grandchildren into debt to cover the portion of society without insurance, I say, “Stop!”

Nowhere in the Constitution does it allow Congress to mandate that we purchase anything!  The government has no such authority.

Consider the Tenth Amendment:  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Bluntly, they have no right to do this at all.  They are putting us on the road to a nanny state with control over us from cradle to grave — that is, if we make it to the cradle.  If you kill your neighbor, you face the death penalty, but if a mother kills her child in utero, she exercises “choice”.  Some logic, eh?  Put the onus where it belongs.  Keep the government out of your health care.  Everything it touches loses money or crawls toward bankruptcy.

I heard a commentator say that the term “The American Dream” will disappear if the legislation goes forward.  Are we ready to accept that our children and grandchildren live as equals with those who have no ambition or work ethic?  I hope not.

Another favorite Reaganism says that every taxpayer works for the government but never has to take a civil service exam.  Amen.

Call your legislators now!  Call any legislator who totters on the cusp of caving in to bully tactics.  In the end, it is your call.  Your legislators should be voting as you wish, not as their leadership urges.

Ronald Reagan is well-known for the phrase, “Trust, but verify.”  Speaker Pelosi urges us to trust them to do the right thing.  Yeah, sure.  She’s the same person that says, paraphrasing, “Pass the bill and then find out what’s in it.”  She must be the ultimate dream for a scam artist.  She would sign a contract and then read it.  Think about it.