Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yes we Cain!

Herman Cain is running for the Republican nomination to be their candidate for President in the 2012 election. To say that he’s not your usual Presidential candidate is an understatement. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a breath of fresh air in what can be the stultifying world of political candidates.

Let’s take a quick look at his life. He has truly lived the American dream.

Herman Cain grew up in Atlanta in the 1950’s and 60’s with, as his bio says, “loving parents and little else”. His father worked three jobs and his mother was a domestic worker. Their dream was for their two children to go to college. Herman graduated from Morehouse College in 1967 with a degree in mathematics, and his brother graduated from Morris Brown College. Mission accomplished.

Herman went on to get a Master’s degree in computer science from Purdue University while working full-time for the Department of the Navy (as a civilian employee). After moving back to Atlanta, he took a job as a computer systems analyst for Coca-Cola. His mathematics and computer science degrees made Herman somewhat of a techno-geek of that time. He liked the work, but gravitated toward business management. He moved to Pillsbury and became regional vice-president of the Burger King division. Herman was assigned to a low performing region of 450 restaurants, and within three years it became the best performing segment of the company.

With that success under his belt (no pun intended), Herman accepted the challenge to become President of Godfather’s Pizza, a company that was close to bankruptcy. Herman and his management team returned Godfather’s to profitability; then they bought the company!

All of this led to Herman being named President of the National Restaurant Association, a trade and lobbying group for the restaurant industry. In this role, he once had the opportunity to speak to President Clinton regarding the impact to businesses of Clinton’s proposed health care overhaul. Herman challenged the President on this issue, which gained Herman some national attention. Newsweek magazine credited him with being one of the primary reasons that Hillarycare got nowhere.

Herman’s work at the National Restaurant Association gave him the opportunity to work with business leaders across the country. This resulted in him being named to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He subsequently became Chairman of the Board.

Think about this life. Here is a person who started with literally nothing except his God-given talents, a desire to get ahead, and a willingness to work hard to make it happen. And look at what he’s accomplished! Only in America; that’s what I love about this country.

Now Herman is running for President, because he thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction. He sees a big, bloated federal government that is exerting too much control over almost everything; he sees an economy that is on life-support with no improvement in sight; he sees federal government policies that are making the economic problem worse; he sees out-of-control federal spending; he sees a President who only wants more of the same. Herman wants to get us back on track as a nation so that the American dream he experienced can continue to be available to future generations and so we will remain the land of the free.

I had the opportunity to hear Herman speak live at an event last June. At that time, he was getting little attention, and many of the political elite were saying that this pizza guy had no chance to get the nomination. Herman came out on stage and blew the others away. No one else was close. His catch line was: I didn’t get that memo (saying I have no chance), so I’m going on. Nicely done, I thought.

Speaking of the “pizza guy”, I really do wish Herman would let it be known that he was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City. Given that the economy is one of our major problems and there is all of this talk about monetary policy, quantitative easing, inflation/deflation, interest rates, etc., I don’t understand why Herman doesn’t play up his experience in this area more. No other candidate has this kind of monetary policy experience

Now Herman is pushing his “9-9-9” plan to improve the economy and overhaul the federal tax code. His plan is getting a lot of attention. It’s all over the news, the internet, and even The Wall Street Journal did a piece on it. In one of the recent debates, the other candidates were attacking 9-9-9 from all angles, which was curious, I thought, since at the time the only other candidate with an economic plan was Romney. So all of the others who had no plan were attacking Cain’s plan!

Herman’s 9-9-9 plan does, however, need to be discussed and debated. That’s as it should be. But whatever you may think of 9-9-9, Herman deserves credit for taking a bold position and for initiating a national discussion on this major issue, rather than tiptoeing through the tulips, as politicians are wont to do.

And that brings me to another reason why I like what I see in Cain: He’s not a career politician. Herman isn’t running for President because he’s next in line, or because this is his next promotion, or because he’s good at telling people what they want to hear, or because he has been pandering to various special interest groups his whole life and they will now support him, or for his own self-aggrandizement.

Not being a career politician has another benefit: Herman has no fear of the party bosses. They didn’t make him, and they can’t hurt him. His career isn’t at stake. He’s already made it in life. He is untouchable.

Herman has lived his life in the real world; a world where he solved problems instead of just talking about them. It’s a world where posturing isn’t enough; you actually have to deliver. He wants to be elected President so he can lead the way in solving our nation’s problems and ensuring that America remains that shining city on a hill, the world’s last best hope, the greatest nation on Earth.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Government Greed

Greed – Intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. (Oxford American Dictionary).

President Obama and others in Washington have been vilifying “the rich” for months, saying among other things that they don’t pay their “fair share” in taxes. The greedy “rich” apparently want to keep all of that money for themselves, the selfish SOB’s.

And now we are hearing about “corporate greed” and all of the selfish people on “Wall Street”. Why do they hoard all of that money; why don’t they hire some people or do some such generous and appropriate activity with that money; spread it around, you know? But no, they keep it all for themselves. How greedy; they need to be punished.

I have a different view. There is a much bigger, much more powerful, much greedier villain out there: the federal government. I am organizing a new “occupy” movement. I want “we the people” to rise up and march on Washington to send a message to that huge, bloated, selfish bureaucracy and its protectorate (i.e., politicians).

Let me tell you a story about one of the “greedy” corporations I worked for. It was, at the time, a mid-sized, growing company with great prospects. Their goal was to dominate their market by way of superior products, which would lead them to becoming a big company. But, along the way, there was a business slowdown. In order to remain at a sustainable profit level and keep going toward the future growth that would no doubt return, the company President decided that two actions would be taken: 1) There would be a six percent reduction in the workforce, and 2) All executives, of which I was one, would take a ten percent pay cut. And so it was done. It wasn’t pleasant, but that’s what well-run companies do when their income goes down and it no longer lines up with expenses. In this case, the growth did return. Today that company is the dominant player in its market, is very profitable, and provides high-paying jobs for tens of thousands of people.

This is just one of an untold number of such stories in the corporate world.

How about Apple Computer, whose founder, Steve Jobs, tragically died of cancer at a young age recently? Steve Jobs literally started Apple Computer in his garage, with his high school buddy. After some initial success with his fledgling company, Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded by the person he himself had recruited to take over as President so that Steve could focus on the technical innovation side of things. He then founded another company, sold it to Apple, returned to Apple again as part of the deal, and the rest is history, as they say. Today, Apple Computer is wildly successful, has revolutionized the way we get and use information, employs 46,000 people, has created thousand of other jobs in suppliers, has made millionaires of hundreds of its employees through stock option grants, and has more cash on hand than the U.S. government!

Is Apple Computer greedy? If so, give me more of it. All of those job holders plus the roughly seventy percent of Americans who are either directly or indirectly dependent upon corporations for some of their financial well being through the stock market, mutual finds, or retirement plans would probably agree.

Was Steve Jobs greedy? When he died, he was worth billions, and was also the largest shareholder in Disney Corporation (through another brilliant deal of his). Does he really need that much money?

I celebrate what Steve Jobs did. It’s the quintessential American story. Look at how many other people his “greed”, if you want to call it that, has enriched.

I don’t want to soak the rich such as Steve Jobs and others of his ilk; I want to join them!

Contrast these stories with the government’s intense desire for money and power.

During the last three years or so, our economy has gone through some very tough times, and it still is sickly. Obama has said that we were at the “precipice” economically. Given all of that, has the government cut back any? Has Congress taken a pay cut? Have any of Obama’s multitudinous czars taken a pay cut? Has the federal bureaucracy been cut? Has anybody in the federal government lost his job due to a reduction in force? Has federal spending been cut such that the budget is balanced, as corporations do routinely when times are tough?

None of that has happened. Quite the contrary. Obama is telling Congress it needs to spend MORE, and he is calling for higher taxes. Think about that. In the midst of all of this economic carnage, his response is to go on yet another spending spree and to demand that the federal government be given more of our money.

No, I don’t worry about corporate greed, because corporations have very limited power over me. In most instances, I can simply walk away from them if I think they are misbehaving. Corporations can’t pass a law requiring me to do something.

But the government, now they have real power over my life.

I worry about a government that is continually demanding more money from whomever seems to be the most promising target at the time. I worry about a government so power crazed that it wants to get total control of the very air that I breathe. I worry about a government that is so hell bent on exercising absolute control over my life that it is trying to seize the medical system and associated decisions that determine whether I live or die. I worry about a government that is completely incapable of showing even a modicum of financial responsibility. I worry about a government that is starting to tell me what I can and cannot eat. I worry about a government that pits one group of Americans against another in class warfare rhetoric to foment hate, under the strategy that if the people are fighting amongst themselves, the government can do pretty much what it wants. I worry about a government that uses its “bully pulpit” and the force of law in these ways.

If that’s not “greed”, then the word has no meaning. Government greed is the most dangerous kind, because it’s extremely difficult to rein it in. That’s the greed we should all be worried about it.