What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?

Dear President-elect Barack Obama;

I am a small business owner. I do quite well for myself as I am in a knowledge-based business servicing the youth sporting market and the retail services industries. I also dabble a bit in coffee and Web 2.0 consulting.

I was running some numbers this afternoon on the bail-out plans that have been proposed to date. As I look back on my college days some 20 plus years ago and my classes in English Literature — specifically with regard to American literature of the mid to late 1800s (Hawthorne, Dreiser, Meliville, etc) — I was struck with what is to me a strangely obvious fact. Modern capitalism has run its course and the current financial crisis is the front wave of a new economy.

At its basics, capitalism is providing money to build infrastructure for making goods and to a certain degree, providing services with the promise of a return on its sale or sale of the goods produced. Having been in a service industry all my life, I am not unaccustomed to “cramming” a product economic model (“making widgets”) into a service model. It really doesn’t work but we lied to ourselves just the same.

This country no longer makes things. We provide services; we assemble components. The old capitalist model where we invest in machinery, buildings, factories, etc for making goods is dead. It has been dying for a very long time. As such, funding the economy from the top down is not a viable option. There will be no trickle-down benefit as the economy will only swell and move if the bottom tiers start spending and buying goods and services. Yet, they can’t because they have no ready cash.

Capitalists talk in billions of dollars. Ordinary citizens talk about hundreds each week. Investment banks talk millions in transaction per day. Small business talks about hundred of thousands in revenue. When you pour $700 billion into Wall Street, it is like dumping a gallon of water into the Pacific Ocean. When you pour $1 million into a small business, it is like filling a bathtub with a fire hose.

Here is my proposal:
– Establish a fund of $400 Billion dollars.
– Give $1 Million dollar grants to 400,000 business that are ready, able and willing to provide services to a service-based economy.
– Each business can then afford to hire 6 people at a salary of $40,000. With health care, taxes, equipment, etc. that should equal about $60,000 investment for each employee.
– That leaves about $640,000 left for materials, computers, advertising, marketing, etc.
– Encourage a strong multi-generation team, such as Gen Y, Xers, Boomers and beyond. Working together, we make a difference we all want to experience.

That puts about 2.4 Million people to work, building knowledge centers for teachers, creating software to better manage health care systems, providing new event marketing systems for brands, creating better time balance management systems for new parents, perhaps even finding a cure for some diseases. The infrastructure of services you will jump-start will sustain itself well past the year the US Government will fund.

Your campaign proved the model. Small amounts of money spread across millions of people who are motivated to creating a better world than was left them works. We are ready, willing and able to make the change.

Lead us and help us say, “Yes, we can” one small voice at a time until it becomes a thunderous, mighty roar.

Warm regards,

G.

PS I look forward to seeing the new puppy Malia and Sasha pick out!

The $3,000 lawn mower

I brought my Snapper lawnmower in for service and Quentin, my lawn guy, writes me up a ticket, says that will be $99.00 for the pre-season special, including engine tune up, blade sharpening and balance, oil, gas, timing, etc, etc, etc. Probably all the things I should be doing myself, but just don’t have the time or the expertise.

“When you sold me the mower,” I said, “you said that it would last me thirty years.”

He says with smile, “If you take care of it, give it a tune once a year, it will probably last you that long.”

I thought a bit and did some addition in my head. At $99.00 a year for 30 years… “that is almost $3,000” I blurted out.

He smiles a little and says, “Sometimes, it just isn’t the right thing to look at the big picture.”

That got me thinking a little bit about stuff we produce and how our American economy is put together. We make stuff as cheap as we can and sell it for as little as possible. And it almost always breaks shortly after we just get used to the way it works, with the best repair option being to get a new one. It really doesn’t matter what it is; lawn mower, weed-whacker, car, computer, dishwasher, kitchen mixer.

What if instead, we built durable stuff that was repairable and maintainable. Then, instead of always selling more stuff, we sold services to maintain and fix the durable goods. Would we then be able to sell a lawn mower for $3,000? Quentin did and I didn’t even know I was going to pay that much. And since we would not be throwing away as much, we would have less need for land fills. Since quality goods would cost a little more, we might not be so careless with the way we stored and treated things.

Skilled service jobs can’t be outsourced. When they are in demand, skilled jobs are respected. Anyone who has screwed up a plumbing jobs knows that no matter what the plumber charges you, it is probably worth it.

If we want to move into a service economy, perhaps making less stuff — but higher quality stuff — and focusing on the “service plan” might be the way top go. Probably a flaw in the thinking here somewhere, but deserves some thought.

National City Bank staffed with crooks

I have not been able to get decent Internet all week, so on-line banking has been tough. Most of the National City Bank branches were closed because they did not have power. The online banking has been sporadically “malfunctioning” with the bill pay in addition to my Internet woes.

As a result, I now have $69.04 in late fees and interest on a credit card balance I never keep. I will call; I will get my money back and I will shut down the card and never use their credit card services again. They have never been willing to publish a date due on the account and they keep sliding the due date all over the calendar. Enough is really enough.

I will also switch banks. They started out great about 9 years ago, but slowly slipped into “really just sucks.”

The City of Englewood at it again!

I recently received a mailer from Rumpke regarding the change in our trash removal service. It had a few more details than the official City newsletter had. I called the City of Englewood to clarify the “one bulk item” definition. As I do most of my own home-improvement projects as a hobby and relaxation, I was concerned I would no longer have access to construction debris removal as would be expected from a bathroom remodel.

Matt in the government office confirmed my fear, but he was quick to point out the City was saving a million dollars by switching to Rumpke. I then took out my calculator.

Using a basis of approximately 23,000 residents (could be a few more or less.. not sure how many apartment renters are in that count) I calculated out $36.00/year that Rumpke would be pushing off on us for container rental. That came to $828,000, just shy of a million dollars. But, since our $36.00 is AFTER taxes, the REAL cost of renting a container, given the lowest tax brackets, is $45.99 a year. (Your cost may vary, depending on your tax bracket.) This pushes the real cost to $1,057,00.00. A hair over a million dollars the City is “saving.”

As far as me and my third-grade math are concerned, we are now getting fewer services for just a bit more money than we are now paying. And the City is saving a million dollars on our behalf.

If my calculations are not accurate or I am missing something, I invite the City to call and correct me. I suspect a call will not be forthcoming

Corporate sponsorship at my funeral

As we were walking through the cemetery, Bell Funeral Services was setting up their blue canopy for a funeral. I know it is Bell because that is the biggest thing you can read on the canopy.

I got to thinking it would probably be more appropriate to have a place for the deceased’s name instead of slapping on yet another piece of advertising. “Good bye, Mr. Dogg! By the way, be sure to keep Bell Funeral Services in mind in case you need to spend your last dime before you get to the other side!”

One more thing.. as I was walking by, I happened to look up and one of the guys setting up turns his head and spits. Nothing like the image I have of Bell Funeral Services, taking my last dime and then spitting on my grave!