Friday, September 21, 2012

Signs the recovery has bottomed out

I keep seeing news stories that say the recovery has bottomed out. How can a recovery bottom out? A recovery goes upward, not downward. Perhaps, if any of these stories were true, the recession might be bottoming out and at that point a recovery could begin. But nothing has bottomed out yet from what I can tell.

A true recovery will only begin the day we get the bottom out of the White House.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marine is to no bullet...

...as Oval Office is to empty chair.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Special

I am certain that there are plenty of you folks, both employed and unemployed, who have the notion to start your own business, but you've never gotten past go. And I believe there are many of you who ought to have that notion. I have three words for you, with apologies to Nike:

Just do it.

Succeed or fail, there is hardly a greater motivator and reward in life than creating the something out of nothing that starting a business represents. And the good thing is, even though failure is not uncommon at first, unlike so many things in life the free enterprise system has no limit on second chances.

Expanding on that a bit, let's talk about what a business is. This does not have to be complicated: It is anything that you make money doing. It doesn't have to be a hardware store or an ecommerce site or something with an office.

Rock and roll bands are businesses. Farms are businesses. Babysitting is a business. The world's second oldest profession is a business. Although I don't recommend that.

In fact I venture to say that there are a lot of people out there who own their own businesses but don't even know it. I believe if you do anything for money, you own your own business. Work as an employee for a paycheck? You are your own business. You are selling your talents and/or labor to the company (or government agency or whatever) cutting the check. That paycheck-producer is your customer. If you can't get that customer to buy your product for a high enough wage, you need to sell your time to a different customer for a better price (i.e., find a better job), or improve your business by getting specialized skills so you can charge more for your time. If "employees" would see their jobs as their own businesses, perhaps there wouldn't be so many who resent their bosses, do the minimum to get by, resign themselves to a nine-to-five rut, or who can't find a job at all.

If you'll recast your thinking in this way, you'll never spend another day of your life working for someone else.

There's been a lot made about about how discharged soldiers returning from World War II used the G.I. Bill to find a job. The G.I. Bill did help a lot people further their education, but what has been overlooked by sociologists and historians is that the real story of that World War II generation is that they came back and started businesses. Among my father's friends, I can immediately bring to mind a dozen men and women who started businesses or took old businesses and made them their own. This is what made the economic miracle of the Eisenhower years.

Mitt Romney's speech at the RNC was not the greatest political speech I've ever heard but it did have some real gems in it. One was the story of his father, who had laid a rose on the bedside table to greet his wife every day of their marriage. She woke up one morning and there was no rose and that's how she knew he had died. Another gem was the idea that he and wife Ann would give anything for one more chance to break up a fight among their five boys, or to wake up reluctantly on a Saturday morning with a pile of kids in the bed with him.

Those were heartwarming stories but there was another gem that struck an alarming chord. Romney described today's too-often reality, a twenty-something-year-old still living in his childhood bedroom at home with his parents, wondering where the job is that was promised once he got a good education, and when he could get on with life.

Traditionally Labor Day has been about workers as some mass blob of employees. But this Labor Day, in the face of the ongoing recession that has sucked the life out of the job market and left some 50% of new college graduates unemployed or "under employed", I hope that the crisis will shock more and more of them into realizing that they have got to stop looking at themselves as job-receivers and get on with life on their own, not wait for the days of wine and roses to return. Only if they realize that they are their own business will that happen.