Does the Federal Reserve Understand Small Business?

 

To answer the question, I have a simple one-word answer: No. It appears at least one of the Federal Reserve’s 12 districts does not have a practitioner’s understanding of small business. 

Small business is really the straw that stirs the drink in the nation’s ability to increase the number of jobs in this country. 

According to Small Business Administration (SBA) figures, small businesses make up more than 99 percent of all employers and employ more than half of all workers. Another SBA stat stands out: Small businesses have created 64 percent of all jobs in the last couple of decades. 

But small businesses have really suffered during and after the Great Recession. 

So why is it that a 2011 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York draws the wrong conclusions as to why small business employee rolls dropped a lot more than big-business employment in the recent recession? 

The Fed’s study concludes that a drop in consumer demand triggered the cutbacks. Huh?

Fortunately, a blog by Dr. Scott Shane nailed the reason.

“I think two factors – reduced access to credit and the concentration of small businesses in the worst hit sectors of the economy – play a bigger role than the Fed researchers acknowledge,” he wrote.

I like his work, and have quoted him previously (Is the U.S. in Danger of Becoming Second-Rate in High Tech?). Dr. Shane is an entrepreneurial scholar – the A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Case Western Reserve University.

The Fed was right about the loss of small-business employment rolls — 10.4 percent among companies with fewer than 50 employees. And Dr. Shane agreed. As Biz Coach, a business-performance consultant, I see it every day. Small businesses did lose more jobs than their bigger counterparts during the Great Recession. So, we’re in agreement on the job losses.

“Businesses with fewer than 50 employees accounted for 28 percent of the 121 million Americans employed in the private sector in 2008, the latest Small Business Administration figures show,” wrote Dr. Shane. “That’s too much employment in small businesses for policymakers to find a way to fix the job problem without getting the smallest companies to boost hiring.”

He’s right again.

“Small businesses are underrepresented in two sectors that have weathered the downturn relatively well: exporters and those in research-and-development-intensive industries,” he wrote. “And small businesses account for much more of the employment in the sectors hardest hit by the downturn.”

As an example, he cites construction.

“While total employment fell only 4.4 percent from 2007 to 2009, employment in construction dropped a 19.4 percent. With so many small businesses in construction, this has meant heavy job loss,” he explained.

“The Fed researchers also play down the importance of tightened credit markets in accounting for the losses, arguing that most of the decline in borrowing by small businesses during the recession came from a decrease in demand for loans – not a reduction in supply,” he asserted.

He cites figures from the National Federation of Independent Business: “In March 2009, at the depth of the recession, only 29 percent of small business owners reported that their borrowing needs were being met, down from 40 percent back in February 2007.”

Dr. Shane points out home-price declines adversely impacted small business credit.

“A 2007 survey by Barlow Research Associates shows that one-quarter of small business owners use the equity in their homes to fund their businesses,” he wrote. “And research by Kean University professor Samuel Bornstein shows that many of the loans used to tap that equity were the Alt-A, adjustable-rate and interest-only mortgages at the toxic heart of the crisis…”The decline in housing prices sucked a large amount of small business credit out of the system.”

Dr. Shane indicated home equity loans for small businesses decreased $25 billion.

“If policymakers want to counteract the job losses in small business, they need to do more than say that the cause is decreased demand,” he concluded. “Rather, they need to stimulate the small business heavy industries that were badly damaged by the recession and keep credit flowing.”

Amen. Naturally, it follows that new strategies for small business credit are needed. However, now there’s a bigger problem.

My sense is that the small business credit situation – in the aggregate – won’t qualify such firms for loans. The chicanery by big banks led to reduced credit limits and they got away with charging 38 percent interest on business credit cards for dubious reasons.

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s a resource link: 11 Strategies to Keep your Small Business Floating above Water

“Dreams come true if you survive the hard times!”
-George William Curtis

 

__________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

 

Bookmark and Share

How Economic, Political Freedom Got Boost from Two Reproaches

 

Updated – Feb. 1, 2012

The healthcare debacle is going to the U.S. Supreme Court, in part, thanks to ruling by an Atlanta federal appeals court and the Standard and Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating last August. In reality, they were positive developments. The two evens represent reproaches to the federal government’s behavior and performance.

While sustaining the bulk of the so-called reforms, thankfully, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress unconstitutionally required Americans to buy health insurance or pay a stiff fine. Most businesspeople feel differently about the law (How Healthcare Law Would Affect Small Business, and Healthcare Reform Increases Costs to Workers, Study).

Despite disingenuous claims by the Obama Administration, S&P’s downgrade was justified. In pandering to political cronies nearly all in Congress from both parties, has spent an obscene amount of money on unwarranted hometown pork and earmarks. Politicians must now stare at a huge red flag.

Another reason why the court’s health-law ruling is encouraging:

One of the opinions was written by Judge Frank M. Hull. He was appointed by a Democrat – President Bill Clinton in 1994. He was joined by Chief Judge Joel F. Dubina, who was appointed by Republican President H.W. Bush.

Until Judge Hull’s decision, lower court rulings were rendered along party lines. Republican appointees invalidated the health-law, and judicial appointees by Democrats upheld it.

“This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives,” wrote Judges Hull and Dubina.

“We have not found any generally applicable, judicially enforceable limiting principle that would permit us to uphold the mandate without obliterating the boundaries inherent in the system of enumerated congressional powers,” they also wrote.

Yes, there more legal challenges in the courts, including Virginia and the District of Columbia.

But this ruling was the most salient. The opponents’ case was pursued by attorneys general and governors from more than half of the states – 26. Other plaintiffs included the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals.

Again, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the case.

Possible Ramifications

The Atlanta court’s dramatic ruling might influence the pricing of insurance policies. The Obamacare requirement guaranteed funding via the consistency in the mega pool of policyholders. Now, insurance companies started to hike premiums — just as predicted here at The Biz Coach.

Politically, there’s also a different landscape. Perhaps the Supreme Court might agree with the Atlanta court. But any legislative attempts by Congress to sidestep such a ruling would be unwise. That’s because the Democrats no longer enjoy being the majority in both houses of Congress. Republicans are unified against the law.

States governments are carrying out the law’s reforms. There has been a lot of angst about the costs in implementing the law. Many of the states’ politicians complain their rights have been trampled.

Even though the remaining portions of Obamacare were untouched by the Atlanta court, the ruling also appears to torch them. Why? The mandate to buy insurance is a source of the law’s funding, which has now been disrupted.

Only one source remains as a funding source – a decrease in Medicare benefits. Democrats have been disingenuous. They conveniently omit the devastation to recipients of Medicare.

Let’s hope the entire baggage in Obamacare is at-risk. It was clearly unconscionable for Congress to require Americans to buy private products.

The Great Recession may have technically ended but not for most businesspeople and consumers. That’s why the S&P downgrade and court ruling are beneficial. The reproaches help to end the expansion of the over-extended Federal government.

The reproaches also hold the promise of enhancing the economy by alleviating economic uncertainty for 14 million unemployed Americans and employers. Companies have been reluctant to hire, in part, because of the expense of Obamacare.

Here’s a better strategic plan: Balance the budget without increasing taxes on everyone. Make it feasible for startups and other businesses to hire and expand.

Economic and political freedom are two of America’s sacred liberties.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related public policy columns:

Only Fiscal Sobriety Will Prevent Further Fiscal Chaos

Do We Really Honor the Declaration of Independence?

Manufacturing Jobs Might Return to U.S. as China’s Labor Costs Rise

Economic Climate for Small Business – Has Obama Misread the 3 Ms?

Government Spending Causes Companies to Cut Back, Harvard Study

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

-P.J. O’Rourke

 

 __________

Columnist Terry Corbell is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services (many are available online). For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule Terry Corbell as a speaker, why don’t you contact him today?

Bookmark and Share

Do We Really Honor the Declaration of Independence?

 

Progressively more every year, many Americans, especially public officials, demonstrate they need to review the reasons for Independence Day and why we celebrate the fourth of July.

It is, of course, a national U.S. holiday that commemorates the adoption of our unique Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Thomas Jefferson was inspired to write the historic document between June 11 and 28, 1776. He eloquently stated the convictions of Americans. They weren’t new ideals expressing the desire for liberty. John Locke and others beat him to it.

However, too few Americans appreciate the risks of those 57 men who signed the Declaration of Independence – making freedom possible for all us. In the 21st century, the Fourth of July is a holiday of festivities and fireworks for Americans.

The Declaration of Independence was written as a list of grievances against the King of England, and has been cited as a list of timeless principles.

It was written and signed amid the American Revolution – the most significant event in our history. The first shots were fired in April, 1775. The war would last eight years.

It inspired the meaning of this phrase, “the shot heard round the world.”

Coincidentally, the fourth of July has other significance. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence who were elected president, Mr. Jefferson and John Adams, passed away on July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of Independence Day. Fifth President James Monroe died July 4, 1831. Thirtieth President Calvin Coolidge was born July 4, 1872.

Fun holiday

For most Americans, it’s a fun holiday. Across the nation are barbecues, baseball games, carnivals, ceremonies, concerts, fairs, family reunions, fireworks and political speeches. The holiday is a heavy travel day for many Americans.

Allegedly, as a document, the Declaration of Independence is still cherished as an avowal of freedom from tyranny. Do we honor it? Are we truly independent? No.

Those type of events challenging royalty more than two hundred years ago – catalysts for the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence – are prevalent today.

On a personal note, July marks the anniversary of this portal with business-coaching columns in eight categories. Seeming countless assaults on the economic and political liberties of businesspeople prompted dozens of public policy columns.

Worse conditions

In the last three years, conditions have worsened. Numerous crises are looming again this Independence Day. They include the ObamaCare debacle, trade deficit, credit and home foreclosures, high unemployment and an enormous national debt.

At the very least, they threaten to financially imprison our children and grandchildren for decades. Worse, they threaten this nation’s future.

Much is prompted by dysfunctional public policies by the “ruling class” – that’s how one of this portal’s frequent readers describes many public servants at the local, state and federal levels. I ageee.

“Now, even the deviancy of the old nobility is becoming more commonplace, as once they were given land by the sovereign, upon which to live well,” the reader wrote in an e-mail. “Now they are given government pensions and benefits.”

He laments we keep electing the same people with the same damaging political, and in many cases, self-serving philosophies.

Obscene salaries

That goes for the White House, too, with a $39 million payroll (White House discloses wide-ranging staff salaries).

Meantime, there’s little statesman-like behavior in budget talks.

Ironically, the Republicans were responsible for countless earmark and pork legislation during the Bush Administration. President Bush failed to veto even one pork bill during his first six years in office.

Another indicator of why our liberty is threatened by another recession.

On another front, the Federal Register has a compilation of all federal business rules and regulations. A 2010 check revealed it contained 81,405 pages of regulations.

Actually, the abuses of our liberties comprise a much longer list than discussed here.

Certainly, businesspeople from Bernard Madoff to Enron executives have let us down. But there are a lot hardworking, diligent business folks. However, politicians wonder why such businesspeople feel shackled.

Hence, the question: When are we going to affirm the Declaration of Independence with economic patriotism to validate the principles of Independence Day?

From the Coach’s Corner, actually, all of this fiscal chaos from disingenuous behavior suggests the U.S. Constitution is under fire, too. It’s worth re-reading.

Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what’s going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?

-Will Rogers

 

__________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

 

Bookmark and Share

Will Manufacturing Jobs Return to U.S. from China?

 

Will federal, state and local governments change public policy to take advantage of economic developments in China?

With China’s gross domestic product dropping sharply, reportedly to 7.5 percent, vehicle sales down 1.3 percent, labor shortages, and the second-largest economy experiencing a real estate bubble with lower sales prices – it would appear China’s economic problems are worse than expected.

Plus, a study by a world-class consulting firm offers hope to regions in the United States beleaguered by high unemployment – the firm predicts labor issues in China mean U.S. firms will be less inclined to offshore jobs.

 

                                       (Public Domain Picture – U.S. Manufacturing Early 1900s)

 

As some U.S. states develop reputations as low-cost manufacturing centers and China’s wages increase, offshoring of jobs is expected to decline in five years, according to an international consulting firm. That’s the essence of a 2011 study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The firm’s report: “Made in the USA, Again: Manufacturing Is Expected to Return to America as China’s Rising Labor Costs Erase Most Savings from Offshoring.”

As usual, BCG offers enlightening insights.

“With Chinese wages rising at about 17 percent per year and the value of the yuan continuing to increase, the gap between U.S. and Chinese wages is narrowing rapidly,” said the firm’s press release. “Meanwhile, flexible work rules and a host of government incentives are making many states—including Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama—increasingly competitive as low-cost bases for supplying the U.S. market.”

That’s thanks to a labor-shortage issue.

“All over China, wages are climbing at 15 to 20 percent a year because of the supply-and-demand imbalance for skilled labor,” said Harold L. Sirkin, a BCG senior partner. “We expect net labor costs for manufacturing in China and the U.S. to converge by around 2015. As a result of the changing economics, you’re going to see a lot more products ‘Made in the USA’ in the next five years.”

It’s a complex issue, but BCG further explained the rationale.

“After adjustments are made to account for American workers’ relatively higher productivity, wage rates in Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Tianjin are expected to be about only 30 percent cheaper than rates in low-cost U.S. states,” stated the press release. “And since wage rates account for 20 to 30 percent of a product’s total cost, manufacturing in China will be only 10 to 15 percent cheaper than in the U.S.—even before inventory and shipping costs are considered.”

Cost advantages in China will lessen

“Products that require less labor and are churned out in modest volumes, such as household appliances and construction equipment, are most likely to shift to U.S. production,” according to BCG’s Web site. “Goods that are labor-intensive and produced in high volumes, such as textiles, apparel, and TVs, will likely continue to be made overseas.”

Sirkin, who authored “GLOBALITY: Competing with Everyone from Everywhere for Everything,” advised U.S companies to examine all the labor costs.

“They’re increasingly likely to get a good wage deal and substantial incentives in the U.S., so the cost advantage of China might not be large enough to bother—and that’s before taking into account the added expense, time, and complexity of logistics,” said Sirkin.

BCG said the reversal has started.

“Caterpillar Inc., for example, announced last year the expansion of its U.S. operations with the construction of a new 600,000-square-foot hydraulic excavator manufacturing facility in Victoria, Texas,” the press statement indicated. “Once fully operational, the plant is expected to employ more than 500 people and will triple the company’s U.S.-based excavator capacity.”

Caterpillar acknowledged why.

“Victoria’s proximity to our supply base, access to ports and other transportation, as well as the positive business climate in Texas made this the ideal site for this project,” said Gary Stampanato, a Caterpillar vice president.

Two other companies change course

“NCR Corp. announced in late 2009 that it was bringing back production of its ATMs to Columbus, Georgia, in order to decrease the time to market, increase internal collaboration, and lower operating costs,” said the consulting firm. “And toy manufacturer Wham-O Inc. last year returned 50 percent of its Frisbee production and its Hula Hoop production from China and Mexico to the U.S.”

U.S. unions, of course, have been an obstacle.

“Workers and unions are more willing to accept concessions to bring jobs back to the U.S.,” noted Michael Zinser, a BCG partner who leads the firm’s manufacturing work in the Americas. “Support from state and local governments can tip the balance.”

Mr. Zinser said U.S. executives need to look a bigger wage-cost picture.

“If you’re just comparing average wages in China against those in the United States, you’re looking at the problem in the wrong way,” Zinser cautioned. “Average wages don’t reflect the real decisions that companies have to make. Averages are historical and based on the country as a whole, not on where you would go today.”

Another factor is labor shortage.

“In the U.S., we have highly skilled workers in many of our lower-cost states. By contrast, in the lower-cost regions in China it’s actually very hard to find the skilled workers you need to run an effective plant,” added Doug Hohner, another BCG partner who focuses on manufacturing.

China will continue as a major player in manufacturing U.S. products, but Mr. Hohner offers these forecasts:

  • First, investments to supply the huge domestic market in that nation will continue.
  • Second, in the absence of trade barriers that prevent offshoring, Western Europe will continue to rely on China’s relatively lower labor rates since the region lacks the flexibility in wages and benefits that the U.S. enjoys.
  • Third, even though other low-cost countries—such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia—will benefit from companies seeking wage rates that are lower than China’s, only a portion of the demand for manufacturing will shift from China. Smaller low-cost countries simply lack the supply chain, infrastructure, and labor skills to absorb all of it.

Public policy

My sense is the big question is whether government will start doing the right thing in public policy? Oops, that goes for unions, too, and the ostensible political motivations of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

A brouhaha comes to mind – those issues over Boeing launching a manufacturing plant in South Carolina. For years, state government and union political activity gave the aerospace giant no option, but to look for a better locale-alternatives to build the 787 Dreamliner.

You’ll recall the disingenuous complaint by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing. It took months to settle.

So we don’t forget, here was the issue:

An editorial, “The right way to win Boeing jobs for Washington state” in a Tacoma, WA newspaper, The News Tribune, made a salient comment: “The NLRB complaint – which alleges that Boeing retaliated against its workers for striking when it choose to expand in South Carolina rather than Washington – appears to be little more than an attempt to assuage battered union interests.”

In a similar editorial, “NLRB complaint against Boeing needs critical look,” The Seattle Times cited President Obama’s rhetoric about generating jobs.

“Really a president does not create manufacturing jobs. He creates policies that may encourage companies to create jobs — companies like Boeing, which has now had the creation of 1,000 jobs in South Carolina second-guessed by Obama’s National Labor Relations Board,” wrote the editorial writers.

“In its complaint, the NLRB is attempting to reverse a U.S. investment by the nation’s No. 1 exporter 17 months after the company decided to make it — after the money has been spent, after the equipment is set up and after 1,000 workers have been hired. In South Carolina, assembly of the first 787 is scheduled to begin this summer. For the government to demand now that the company move everything to another state shows no sense of practical reality,” the newspaper asserted.

Let’s hope BCG is right and the manufacturing jobs return. But more than political rhetoric, we need competence in government. If the right public policies are implemented, political and economic liberties will improve for everyone – not just the unions’ leadership.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more thoughts on job creation: Will public officials listen to Intel’s CEO?

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
-Will Rogers

__________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Bookmark and Share

Solutions for 3 Dangers to Small Business, Travelers’ White Paper

 

More than 50 percent of small businesses report they face three dangers – tax regulations, healthcare costs and poor disaster planning – according to an insurance company study. Nearly 33 percent cite government regulations as a salient obstacle to their success.

However, most respondents said back in 2011 they’re optimistic about revenue growth and hiring workers.

That’s according to a nationwide study by the Travelers Institute, which is the Washington, D.C. public-policy arm of the Hartford-based Travelers Companies.

Travelers LogoThe organization embarked on a campaign.

That was to spotlight the public-policy issues that are perils to small businesspeople — as well as the solutions.

“Travelers is committed to being a constructive participant in the public policy dialogue with regard to important issues facing our industry,” wrote Jay Fishman, the Travelers chairman and CEO on the institute’s Web site.

“We hope to contribute to solutions on a wide range of issues that face our customers, our agents and brokers, and the communities we serve,” he added.

Conclusions from the small-business survey:

  • More than 60 percent are over-burdened by tax-related issues, government compliance and mounting healthcare requirements
  • Half of them cited health insurance
  • 47 percent said licensing, permitting and inspection issues are an unnecessary weight
  • 52 percent indicated government regulations depress small business
  • More than half aren’t prepared for a disaster

More insights from the institute:

  • Regulatory costs for small businesses are 36 percent greater per employee than big business
  • Regulatory burdens — 33 percent of respondents cite the federal government;  34 percent for state and 16 percent for local or county
  • Costs for coping with federal regulations – companies employing fewer than 20 workers spend $10,585 per employee per year but companies with 500 or more employees spend $7,755 per employee per year
  • Tax compliance costs to small business – $18 billion annually
  • The nation has 27.3 million small businesses
  • 600,000 new businesses are started each year
  • The tax code has four times more words than the Bible

The study included the opinions of 600 small-business owners, employing 50 or fewer people in 2011.

My sense: Travelers is on the right track, and is to be commended. Over-zealous government regulation is a threat to our collective political liberties, which is also a menace to our economic liberties. Let’s wish the institute luck, and remember we must all participate in the public-policy process.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are four resource links:

If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

-Winston Churchill

__________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

 

Bookmark and Share

Senate Leadership — Sensible on Do-Not-Track

 

A lost art in leadership has almost come to the rescue of marketers and consumers, alike.

Long ago, it was a pleasure to watch politically opposite leaders – President Ronald
Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill – work congenially. Another example from Congress and the Presidency was Gerald Ford.

The focus was on principles, not personalities.

Yes, I met all of them. As a young broadcast journalist, I separately interviewed Mr. Reagan before he became president, Mr. O’Neill when he was Speaker of the House, and I broke the story nationwide about Mr. Ford’s plans after leaving the White House.

               

        Mssrs. Reagan, O’Neill and Ford

 

They were indeed leaders. Political compromise was taken for granted in those days. Since then, however, it’s become a lost art.

However, we experienced a partial, joyful return to yester-year in April 2011 after the bipartisan bill entitled, Commercial Bill of Rights, was introduced by political adversaries — then-Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

With Mr. Kerry now the Secretary of State, someone needs to step up to fill his void.

Where are the Reagans, O’Neills and Fords now?

Differences

By way of explanation, changes in commerce and the Internet have led to debate.

Admittedly, as a consumer, online privacy is a concern. Trust is important. Consumers have a basic right to protect themselves against predators.

Conversely, my marketing side has been concerned by over-reaching of consumer advocacy groups in discussions over do-not-track legislation. Marketers have understandably been worried about the loss of visitors’ data. That is, until now.

(Disclosure: Visitors data is used for data to make this business portal as relevant as possible. It indicates which articles are popular and those that aren’t, and from where visitors come and how long they spend here. Tracking makes it possible for advertising to be inserted adjacent to certain content that interests users. By using key words, readers are able to find helpful information and insights.)

Two goals

But the bill is a cavalry of sorts coming to our rescue. It requires a code of conduct, but do-not-track legislation is excluded.

In this digital age, much of the economy depends on it.

“Americans have a right to decide how their information is collected, used, and distributed, and businesses deserve the certainty that comes with clear guidelines,” said then-Sen. Kerry.

“Our bill makes fair information practices the rules of the road, gives Americans the assurance that their personal information is secure, and allows our information-driven economy to continue to thrive in today’s global market,” he added.

The bill’s basic components:

  • Accountability and security – marketers must use security
    measures for data.
  • Access, consent, correction and notice of information – clear notice must be given to consumers as well as their right to opt-out.
  • Constraints on data – Marketers are restricted on the data they collect to enable transactions or to provide services.
  • Enforcement will be provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Attorneys General in each state.
  • The FTC will be allowed to approve programs by nongovernment organizations to monitor initiatives providing safe harbors or protections.
  • The Department of Commerce will help coordinate safe harbor applications for privacy and sharing of information.

Sounds good. Today’s politicians need to learn from history. Let’s get it done, and encourage more bipartisan leadership!

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s an article about an American statesman who showed leadership in a bipartisan way: Five Attributes of Leadership Are Needed Now

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

-Robert C. Gallagher

  __________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Bookmark and Share

AWB Has Right Solution to Mounting UI Costs Pounding WA Businesses

 

Updated – Jan. 14, 2010

 

The battle over high unemployment-insurance costs is raging in this year’s legislative session in Olympia – a debate over public-policy fairness.

Businesses led by the Association of Washington Business (AWB) are asking for a bill that will lower unemployment insurance costs (UI) for employers scheduled to increase an average of 38 percent this year. But a consortium of unions is actually trying to increase unemployment checks as a condition for lowering the UI costs. Unions want employers to underwrite more than $60 per child each month in UI costs for unemployed workers.

“While their goal is well intended, remember Washington employers pay the entire unemployment premium and over the last two years in the worst recession since the Great Depression, UI costs have skyrocketed – some by more than a thousand percent and many in triple digits,” wrote Don Brunell in a post as president of AWB.

“Washington employers pay the nation’s 5th highest unemployment insurance rates.  Our state’s unemployment benefits are 2nd highest in the country,” he added.   “And, workers compensation benefits in Washington are 5th highest, according to the 2011 Competitiveness Redbook produced by the Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy.”

So, it boils down to a question of fairness. Unions should instead consider paying part of the onerous premiums.

AWB practices what it preaches and Mr. Brunell provided this recommendation:

“A system along the lines of what AWB put in place several years ago for long-term care,” he wrote.  “AWB provides a basic policy for long-term care for the people who work here.  If they chose to add a family member to the plan, they pay a small premium for that coverage.  It is fair and it works.  That would be an innovative approach to consider for UI.”

He pointed out Washington businesspeople and other residents already have a heavy tax burden:

“…I posted a Olympia Watch post based on Tax Foundation findings showing that Washington’s ‘Tax Freedom Day’ is April 15, not April 9,” wrote Mr. Brunell. “In other words, when unemployment insurance and workers compensation taxes are added in, Washington families and employers pay a higher than average tax load and work an extra 6 days for the government.” 

The AWB president agrees – the welfare of Washington’s children should be taken into account.

“Refocusing the issue is important.  It is about kids and families.   AWB believes it is better for Washington workers and their families to have jobs.  Relying on unemployment payments is no way for families to manage their finances.  Besides, those benefits are time limited.  Taxes and costs of doing business drive location and hiring decisions for Main Street businesses and large factories.  Global competition is fierce and real.  This isn’t about tradeoffs.  It is about stimulating jobs.”

Mr. Brunell’s conclusion is valid. On a personal note, I recently became aware of the plight of two unemployed workers, who are a world apart in their self esteem and philosophy about receiving unemployment benefits.

One worker who was unemployed for two years told me he was appreciative of a job offer from Boeing. He accepted the job even though it requires a commute well in excess of 50 miles one way each day. As a family man, he’s thrilled to have a future with a world-class company – even though it nets $300 a month less than he received in unemployment benefits.

The other person is staying on unemployment because he receives about $100 a month more in benefits than a recent job offer would net him.

These two examples underscore what is wrong with the exorbitant UI system in Washington and the ominous, ever-increasing entitlement attitudes of some workers. The Legislature must alleviate the financial pain of businesses for the creation of jobs.

From the Coach’s Corner, you can stay current with the moderate recommendations of Mr. Brunell and his illustrious staff at AWB’s site, www.awb.org.

Bookmark and Share

Thankfully, WA State Officials Listen to WPC – Ask Lawmakers for Transparency

Jan. 12, 2011

 

Washington state legislators have been formally asked to become transparent — to practice accountability for good, open government. The request was in the form of a letter from State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat, and Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican.

In fact, Messrs. Sonntag and McKenna have asked lawmakers for a constitutional amendment to improve legislative transparency – actually, it’s an idea from the Washington Policy Center (WPC – www.washingtonpolicy.org).

The Sonntag-McKenna letter states:

“In the spirit of open and accountable government, we support a proposed constitutional amendment to create greater legislative transparency. The attached proposal, recommended by the Washington Policy Center, would prohibit blank bills from being introduced or voted on by the legislature. While the use of ‘title only bills’ is a rare procedure, the public concern substantially justifies eliminating their use entirely. The proposal would also require a minimum time for public notice of bills before a legislative hearing or action on the bill. 

These basic reforms will build the public trust and ensure that government is open and accountable to the public.  Please give your support to this proposed constitutional amendment.”

Accountability and transparency have long been issues in Washington.

“During the 2010 Session lawmakers routinely waived legislative rules requiring five-day notice before holding a bill hearing; provided inadequate notice of the time, location and topic of public hearings; held hearings on bills with no text; and voted on bills the same day details were made publicly available,” wrote Jason Mercier, director for the Center for Government Reform at WPC.

“The rush to vote on the budget and tax bills without allowing meaningful public comment or adequate review time by lawmakers led to mistakes in the bills,” he added.

Actually, the 2010 legislative session was one of only many in which lawmakers ignored the principle of good, open government. That’s why the state has a severe budget crisis. I’ve been warning about these issues for many years.

Appropriately, Mr. Mercier said the WPC makes these specific recommendations:

  1. Require 72-hour public notification before any bill could receive a public hearing
  2. Prohibit title only bills (no public hearing or vote should occur on a “ghost bill”)
  3. Prohibit votes on final passage until the final version of the bill to be approved has been publicly available for at least 24 hours.

Yes, reform is critical. The lack of transparency and good, open government have adversely impacted state businesses, their workers and customers for years. The WPC, and Messrs. Sonntag and McKenna have admirably worked to protect Washingtonians.

Memo to state officials: Please do the right thing.

From the Coach’s Corner, the state’s government needs a fundamental cultural and structural change in the way it conducts its business in order to perform the will of the voters. This Biz Coach business-news portal was designed primarily to provide business-coaching – proven solutions for maximum profits. But a disproportionate number of columns have been necessarily devoted to stop the chicanery of the state’s Legislature and agencies.

As a review, a sample from 2010 includes:

Washington Needs Soul-Searching in Public Policy, Budgeting – and Action

WA Election Reminder: Business Issues to Ponder

How to Alleviate Business Uncertainty in Washington State

Tax Increases Will Cost Washington Businesses, Consumers $6.7 Billion Next 10 Years

Why Not Transparency for Good, Open Government in Washington State?

Bookmark and Share

Online Spending Back to Economic Reality?

Dec. 5, 2010

 

Consumers have slowed their holiday online spending after setting a record of $16.8 billion for the first month of the all-important selling season for retailers. That’s according to research firm comScore. 

comScore says the  2010 12 percent growth-rate over 2009 slowed to 9 percent after Cyber Monday’s record $1.028 billion in purchases. The spending for the next three days – $911 million, $868 million and $850, respectively – showed a clear subsiding in spending by consumers.

“We believe this softening is attributable to retailers’ heavy discounting and promotional activity during the earlier part of the holiday season [through Cyber Monday], which pulled some consumer demand forward, resulting in a mild hangover effect in the days immediately following Cyber Monday,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni.”

2010 Holiday Season To Date vs. Corresponding Days* in 2009
Non-Travel (Retail) Spending
Excludes Auctions and Large Corporate Purchases
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore, Inc.
 

 

Millions ($)
2009 2010 Percent Change
November 1 – December 3 $15,041 $16,803 12%
Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25) $318 $407 28%
Black Friday (Nov. 26) $595 $648 9%
Cyber Monday (Nov. 29) $887 $1,028 16%
Week Ending Dec. 3 (Nov. 27 – Dec. 3) $4,724 $5,163 9%

*Corresponding days based on corresponding shopping days (November 2 thru December 4, 2009)

“We may see another week of this effect before late season discounts and buying by procrastinators gives the season a final spending surge,” he added.

Unfortunately, for small retailers, comScore reports most of the spending benefits the 25 largest retailers. Their revenue jumped 20 percent compared to much slower growth for small retailers. The big 25 gained 4.2 percent market share to 67.8 percent. That’s probably because they have more financial resources for promotion.

Analysis of Spending Growth Among Top 25 Online Retail Sites
Nov. 1-29, 2010 vs. Corresponding Days in 2009
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore, Inc.
  Spending Growth Dollar Share
2009 2010
Total Retail 13% 100.0% 100.0%
Top 25 Retailers 20% 63.6% 67.8%
Small and Mid-Tail Retailers 0% 36.4% 32.2%

 

Social media continues to influence many shoppers, but not all, according to comScore’s survey of 500 respondents. Thirty-three percent said recommendations from friends are important to them, but 24 percent disagreed while 43 percent didn’t comment.

Q: “How much do you agree with the following statement? Recommendations from friends on social media sites are a great way to get gift ideas during the holiday season.”
November 24-29, 2010, n=503
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore 2010 Holiday Survey
Response Percent of Respondents
Strongly Agree 7%
Agree 26%
Neither Agree nor Disagree 43%
Disagree 9%
Strongly Disagree 15%

 

Consumer-product reviews followed by expert-product reviews, respectively, were influential.

But with dire unemployment news and decreased government revenue, my sense is that a tepid economy is still a factor. A combination of spending by affluent shoppers and heavy discounting are responsible for the initial online-spending growth rate. The economy is still difficult for the majority of consumers.

This also means governments at all levels need to borrow strategic planning strategies from successful businesses. It’s past time for them to adopt public policies with balanced budgets for the benefit of their constituents. 

From the Coach’s Corner, for some quick tips to boost your Web-site sales, see 10 Tips to Optimize Your Web Site for Higher Sales.

Bookmark and Share

I-1098’s Impact on Economic Development in Washington?

 

Sep. 22, 2010

You’ve heard the rhetoric. Initiative 1098 , the controversial income-tax proposal, has become one of the most divisive issues in Washington state.

It would impose a 5 percent tax rate of $200,000 on individuals and $400,000 on couples with a 9 percent tax rate on $500,000 for one person and $1 million on families. The state’s share of the property tax would be lowered by 20 percent and the business and occupational tax would exempt 118,000 more companies.

Bill Gates, the c0-founder of Microsoft, joined his father Bill Gates Sr. in advocating passage of I-1098. Notable opponents include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.  

Ironically, as an economic development tool, the state’s Department of Commerce has a Web site (www.chooseWashington.com) that states Washington has a “Favorable Business Environment.” One of the advantages: “No income tax in Washington.”

So what’s the impact of I-1098?

 The Citizens’ Guide to Initiative 1098 is a policy brief by written by Paul Guppy. He’s the vice president for research at the highly respected think tank, Washington Policy Center. It’s voluminous and thought-provoking with heavy documentation.

To summarize, here are Mr. Guppy’s 10 salient conclusions:

1. Initiative 1098 Creates a New Way to Tax. Essentially he believes it does nothing to fix the inequities of the state sales tax, which is regressive for businesses and low-income families.

2. The Income Tax would Likely be Extended to More People. Is this a surprise? No.

“Unlike past efforts, Initiative 1098 is drafted as an ordinary law, not as an amendment to the state constitution, Mr. Guppy writes. “This makes it easier for the income tax to be extended to more people in the future. The legislature could change Initiative 1098 in the short-term with a two-thirds vote, and after two years could change it by a simple majority vote, just like any other part of the legal code.”

3. Income Tax Revenue May Not Go to Promised Purposes. He cites Washington Secretary of State’s data that indicates the Legislature has over-ridden 30 voter-approved initiatives.

“Lawmakers often divert tax revenues from their intended purposes,” he explains. “This year the legislature transferred tax revenue totaling more than $1 billion from 33 dedicated trust accounts, some created by voter initiative, and spent those funds on general programs.” 

4. More Money Will Not Help Public Schools. He points out school children will not learn more.

“Taxpayers contribute over $10 billion per year toward the education of slightly less than one million public school students in Washington,” he writes. “Public school districts currently spend an average of $10,100 per student per year, the highest level in state history. 

“The largest budget item, comprising 83 percent of spending, is devoted to salaries and benefits. The statewide average for teacher pay with benefits is $79,200,” he asserts. “Average pay with benefits for school administrators is $117,000.”

He adds Seattle’s school spending of $12,746 per student annually has increased more than a third since 2005.

“In Seattle average teacher pay with benefits is $92,100. Average administrator pay with benefits is $106,900,” he adds.

5. Initiative 1098 and the State Economy. He lists numerous examples how the initiative would hinder the state’s economic climate.

“By enacting an income tax, Washington would be giving up a significant competitive advantage in relation to other states,” he advises. “Washington has a high sales tax. Adding an income tax means Washington would join the states that impose all the major forms of tax on their citizens.”

6. Some Residents would Leave Washington to Avoid the Income Tax. He points out a new income tax would be the fourth-highest in the U.S.

“High-earners targeted by the tax would suddenly have a strong financial incentive to move out of state,” he writes. “A change in residence would include pulling investments out of the state as well, since Initiative 1098 would tax non-residents who derive income from Washington businesses. In a survey of business owners and their views of Initiative 1098, 1.8 percent of respondents said they planned to leave Washington if the income tax measure passes, even though this was not one of the survey questions.”

He cites New Jersey and Minnesota as examples where high-income residents felt compelled to leave for greener pastures.

7. Initiative 1098 would Reduce Charitable Giving. Because the controversial proposal would be higher than the federal tax and would be applied to adjusted gross income, he writes the affluent would fewer funds for charity.

“Adjusted gross income includes wages, salaries, tips, interest income, rental income, capital gains, income from pensions and retirement accounts, and alimony payments received by divorced spouses,” he suggests. “Adjusted gross income is calculated before the taxpayer is allowed to lower his reported income by claiming deductions such as the federal standard deduction, the child tax credit, the dependent care credit, local property taxes, motor vehicle taxes, mortgage interest payments, contributions to retirement accounts and donations to charity.”

That means that $2.2 billion next year and $11.1 billion over the next five years would not be available for nonprofit giving.

8. Initiative 1098 and Tax Fairness. He writes, contrary to proponents’ claims, the proposal is unfair – 98 percent of the state’s population would escape an income tax.

“Initiative 1098 is not unbiased or impartial in its treatment of Washington citizens,” he explains. “It specifically targets a minority, as defined in economic terms, to shoulder the full cost of a new tax, while using state power to redistribute the benefits to others.”

9. State Income Taxes Do Not Lead to Fiscal Stability. He points out Oregon, New Jersey and California all have major budget woes despite an income tax.

“Oregon’s personal income taxes – based on 2009 returns due on April 15, 2010, were down by $472.3 million, or 16.4 percent less than the previous year,” he writes.

“During the strong economy lawmakers increased state spending by over 33 percent in a single four-year period,” he reminds us. “Access to a new revenue stream would likely encourage Washington lawmakers to return to enacting large, permanent spending increases in each budget cycle. When economic activity slows or declines in recessionary years, personal incomes fall accordingly, and leave income tax states like Oregon and California with far less revenue than officials expected to receive.”

10. Initiative 1098 is Unconstitutional under Current Case Law. Opponents argue passage of I-1098 would be thrown out by the courts.

From the Coach’s Corner, you can visit the Defeat 1098 campaign here.

Bookmark and Share

« Previous PageNext Page »

Biz Coach Terry Corbell – the business-performance consultant – provides Proven Solutions for Maximum Profits.