The Old Friends Of Summer

I love the summer, especially when it gets hot. Today is a warm one, a good day for sitting on the back porch in the shade waiting for a nice cool breeze. I will not complain about the heat, because it is sunny. Having lived in the Northwest for many years now I have come to appreciate the sun.

The summer is when you usually get reacquainted with old friends. What I mean by this is I will usually buy the latest Jason Bourne or Tom Clancey book and read it. In other words I get involved with either Jason or Jack. It is like catching up with an old friend. The latest book written by Eric Van Lustbader is titled “The Bourne Retribution,” and is following the formula of all of the Bourne books ending with Jason saving the day.

Summer is also a good time for going to the moving theater, if there are any good movies out. There are not any movies we are interested in, but we did watch “Age of Valor” today. We had taped it earlier, and it was very good. A Jihadist was trying to smuggle suicide vests into the United States using underground drug smuggling tunnels. Our Navy Seals saved the day though. Good movie and very heart wrenching.

The film did a good job of highlighting the violence in Mexico and South America. And we have all been reading lately about the difficulty other Central American countries are having. It makes me wonder if I will be taking students to Honduras over Christmas break? There is a crisis South of the Border, one that must be dealt with. I have visited Honduras several times, and love the people there, but many children from the central part of the country are making the horrible trek to the United States. It is not only dangerous, but when they are arrested they get sent back to Honduras.

Peggy Noonan wrote about this travesty on Saturday. She used words like chaos, collapse, and crisis to describe the problems. She also described how our politicians see this as a political problem and not a real one. This adds to the chaos, because no one is seeking positive solutions, they are pointing at each other saying how the other doesn’t care. I’d like the words of Noonan to describe this horrible situation. “There seem only two groups that view the situation with appropriate alarm. One is the children themselves, dragged through the deserts to be deposited here. To them everything is a swirl of lights, color and clamor, and shouting and clanking.” Reporters have written about the lost look in these children’s eyes.

The other group, according to Noonan, is “normal Americans.” The normal, non-political, folks see this as lawlessness that has terrible implications for the country.” Noonan uses the metaphor of a house to describe the fiasco we are in. “Children looking lost, no one is taking care of them. Older ones settling in the garage, or working a window to the cellar. You call the cops. At first they don’t come. Then they come and shout through a bullhorn and take some of the kids and put them in a shelter a few blocks away. But more kids keep coming!”

Politicians are letting this event grow to demonstrate the other party’s inability to deal with the problem. So far we have had 50,000 children come to this country illegally, while some are predicting that number will rise to 90,000. “The little children in great danger, holding hands, staring blankly ahead, are pawns in a larger game. That game is run by adults. How cold do you have to be to use children this way?”

I agree, how cold do we have to be to use children in a political game to ensure one party over the other maintains the control. What a horrible way of doing political business. Whatever happened to our ability to be compassionate leaders of the free world? Whatever happened to our ability to make good and sound decisions? There was a political cartoon the other day in the paper that displayed President Obama in the middle of falling down, burning buildings, and the caption said, “At least I am not playing a fiddle.” I think all of congress should be in this picture with him.

The time is now for strong leadership, not political gerrymandering.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

Noblesse Oblige And The Entrepreneurial Age

Class conflict is as old as human history. Very early in history we see the emergence of kings, emperors, pharaohs, and sultans. These leaders would rule over various types of kingdoms creating what Nancy Milford would eventually call “U” and “Non-U.” In 1955 she wrote a series of articles for Encounter Magazine discussing “The English Aristocracy.” U was the symbol for Upper Class, and Non-U was for, you guessed it, non-upper class. Today we distinguish these folks with 1% and the other 99%.

Between the 9th and 15th centuries “a class structure of nobility, clerics, and peasantry developed due to decentralization of an empire.” This was not just an economic system, but a security system too. Adam Smith “used the term feudal system to describe a social and economic system defined by inherited social ranks, each of which possessed inherent social and economic privileges and obligations.” This was an agricultural economic system where the landowning nobles gained wealth through the labor of serfs.

Karl Marx described feudalism as a precursor to capitalism. “For Marx, what defined feudalism was that the power of the ruling class (the aristocracy) rested on their control of arable land, leading to a class society based upon the exploitation of the peasants who farm these lands, typically under serfdom.” This led to the new class structure of capitalist and proletariat.

Today we have a different type of economic structure. There are landowners, and these people struggle to make a living by purchasing hundreds and thousands of acres to farm and provide food for the world. However, people choose to work for these landowners, not out of servitude but to earn a wage. We have a multifaceted economy that has led to an incredible amount of wealth being generated via manufacturing, and other industries throughout the world. This has created a managerial class that some have called the new aristocracy.

The Phrase Noblesse Oblige is a French expression meaning nobility obliges. The concept was found in Homer’s Illiad, but Le Lys dans la Valle, when writing about behavior standards for a young noble, used to the term to make a specific point. “Everything I have just told you can be summarized by an old word: noblesse oblige!” Hi point was that a noble has a responsibility to behave a certain way. What is interesting the National Honor Society uses this phrase as its motto, with a purpose of fulfilling obligations through service to others. I have also learned that in the movie Mary Poppins Mr. Banks sings a song “The Life I Lead.” He sings, “I treat my subjects, servants, children, wife/ with a firm but gentle hand/Noblesse oblige.”

This noble phrase was to demonstrate how the nobility of the past had an obligation to give back to the Non-U’s in a paternalistic manner demonstrating to the Non-U their benevolence, and because God had blessed them they had a responsibility to give back to the little people. They must take care of the Non-U because they are in need of someone to help them due to the fact that they cannot take care of themselves. In the modern day and age I don’t think the paternalistic emphasis is still relevant, but I do think the concept is still important.

Who is the managerial class? It is the Larry Ellisons, Ursula Burns, Jim McNerneys, Mary Barras, Allan Mullalys, and Jelf Immelts. They are the new lords of the class. They intern then provide the noble designation on many of their sub managers, the vice presidents, directors, general managers, managers and supervisors who report on up the chain. These are the individuals who run organizations in a manner that they are effective and efficient. The owners of the capital are often the same people. They have invested in their companies in such a manner that they have made millions of dollars. This is the new managerial class.

The managerial class has had opportunities to create an incredible amount of wealth, for the owners of capital and for themselves. Therefore how they use that wealth becomes the question. Obviously they are entitled to the wealth they worked for, but there needs to be a humble recognition that good fortune has smiled upon them. As I wrote the other day, each of these individuals both male and female have a noblesse oblige when it comes to the use of their wealth and opportunity. It is not a paternalistic recognition of the proletariat not being able to take care of themselves, it is a response to the changes they have made to how business is done in the United States today.

The work these folks had once done has moved to other countries and now these folks need to learn how to work the new way. That is the noblesse oblige of today. The managerial class, instead of rewriting rules for their own good, needs to create rules that benefit all and then create the training systems needed to move the workers of today into the 21st century.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

Tolstoy And Modern Economics

I really like the town of Sisters, OR. My wife and I are camping just outside of town, and drove in today to shop and relax. We are in the town park, she is on the blanket sleeping and I am thinking about a book I purchased today in a used bookstore. I love going into stores that sell used books because you never know whether you will find a treasure. Today I did find an incredible golden nugget hidden in the philosophy section of the store.

The book’s title is “The Kingdom of God is Within You,” written by Leo Tolstoy. I think it is a treasure because of what it did to human history. A Mr. Coates, who was a Quaker, gave a copy of this book to Mohandas Gandhi, who in turn was profoundly impacted by the words. “In Gandhi the book certainly ignited an explosion; and its impact on others around him spread like the bombardment of particles in an atomic pile, so that before the chain reaction was over, the British Empire was blown open and India was a free country, under the aegis of nonviolence.” The person who wrote the forward to this edition mentioned that it is good to read the conclusion before your read the rest of the book, which is what I have done. It has definitely got me thinking.

The theme of the final chapter, at least as how I see it, involves the relationship between the haves and the have nots. Tolstoy describes an event where a privileged landowner wants to divert a stream from an area where the common folks benefit to where his land will reap a bountiful harvest. He will make more money, but the common folks will suffer and lose the water they use to irrigate their fields. The result of this travesty is the common folk protesting and the governor sending in troops to punish the protestors. Sound familiar?

Tolstoy raises a couple of questions. First, “how are men capable of doing deeds directly opposed to their principles and their conscience?” In other words, how does someone who states they believe in good, act in a way that is contrary to that good? A modern example is Kenneth Lay who taught Sunday School, but was involved in one of the largest corporate swindles in the history of business.

Second, he raises the question of the fallacy of self-importance. “Under the influence of this intoxication, men imagine themselves no longer men as they are, but some special beings – noblemen, merchants, governors, judges, officers, tzars, ministers, or soldiers – no longer bound by ordinary human duties, but by other duties far more weighty – the peculiar duties of a nobleman, merchant, governor, judge, officer, tzar, minister, or soldier.” How can they do this? I can think of many managers I have worked with that believed the fallacy of self-importance, subsequently not doing a very good job.

So far I have only told you what Tolstoy is saying, but now I’d like to tell you what I am thinking. While my wife was shopping I was laying on the blanket in the park reading this book. As I read Tolstoy’s words I thought about economic systems, inequality, poor, rich, and commerce. As I read his words I kept thinking that they probably had an impact on Paulo Freire ending up in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Eventually my thoughts went to economic systems, and I wondered if there was an economic system that would be better than what we have today? The landowner of Tolstoy’s day is the large capital investor of today. (I am thinking about buying another book while I am in Sisters. Its title “The Flash Boys.” It is about how our investment systems are designed to benefit the insiders not the average investor.) Nothing has changed, so the question is how do we do this differently?

I don’t have the connections, or the energy, to create a new economic philosophy, but I can give an opinion on what must be done differently. I can say I worked hard, and I can say I have done ok, but I am not having lunch with President Obama or Mitt Romney, not that I would want to have lunch with either of those gentlemen. I did have some wonderful opportunities that others did not have, like working for a large corporation that paid for all of my education. I do believe in the Horatio Alger philosophy of being able to start poor and yet make it, And I do believe in hard work. I also do not believe all of the rich meet at a yearly convention where plans are made to make sure they get most of the resources and the poor get just enough to keep the revolution at bay.

However, I do believe that though a series of powerful relationships laws are constructed in a manner that allows certain people in our society to gain more than others. I am not too sure that can be changed, but I do know that those who are recipients of those benefits have a responsibility to do good.

I don’t think we need to throw away our current economic system and replace it with even bigger government, but I do think we need to recognize how destructive self-importance is. As scripture says pride cometh before a fall, and if we start believing our own importance we are heading for trouble. What I do think we need to do is take care of our brothers and sisters. Those people we try and isolate on the other side of the tracks want to make a living, they want to have food on their table. The also want to have a TV in every room, but they may not have the job skills needed to be able to make that kind of money. They may not have the personality required to be hired for the job, because they grew up in an area that rewarded being street smart with a certain street language. Or maybe they were a crack head and broke the habit but lost their teeth in the process, and cannot be hired for a job.

I still think capitalism is a better economic system than socialism, but I also think that those who are followers of Jesus Christ, and our wealthy, have a responsibility to help those with less. This may not mean giving them money, but giving the poor the skills they need to be employable and enjoy a livable wage. I think caring for one another is still the best economic system out there.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

Mixed-Income Housing And Mixed Social Innovations

Yesterday I had a first world problem; at least that is what one of my students told me. I took my little RV to Oil Can Henry to get the oil changed and have it ready for a camping trip that starts today. I do love summer. As I pulled into the facility to get my oil changed, I saw there was a line. The attendant approached me and said there was a bit of a wait. I then posted on Facebook, I had to wait and had not brought my Ipad that had my books on it to read. I wrote Arrgh. The more I think about my student’s comment the more I realize just how ludicrous my statement was.

This is the way I feel sometimes with comments I read in the WSJ. Two stood out to me this morning because of their Pollyanna perspective. “Mixed-Income Housing Won’t Spur Upward Mobility,” and “The Civil Rights Act At 50,” both have positive and not so positive statements that I would like to address this morning.

Howard Husock explores the positive elements of tenements in urban centers, which really does amaze me. Husock argued that between 1880 and 1930 Brooklyn, New York had built over 520,000 multi-family residential units. This allowed “smaller, denser structures for poorer neighborhoods.” He then discusses the positivity associated with another 299,000 units in Philadelphia and Chicago’s “bungalow Belt.” I have not, nor would want to, live in a tenement such as those mentioned above. I think they are horrible expressions of impoverished isolation, but Husock does make a good point when he argues that the proposed mixed-income, as proposed by New York Mayor Blosio will not produce the results he thinks.

The argument is a good one based upon empirical data. In 1994 the Housing and Urban Development program called “Moving to Opportunity” was started. Many people from poorer neighborhoods were moved to the suburbs with the assumption that there will be better educational opportunities, more economic integration, leading to the alleviation of the previous problems associated with mass public housing.

However, in 2004 and again in 2006 social science researchers observed these mixed-income housing experiments and found there were “no significant overall effects on adult employment, earnings, or public assistance receipt.” Also, researchers found there was no evidence of, “improvements in reading scores, math scores, behavior or social problems, or school engagement, overall for any age group.” Although I am wondering what was the purpose of the research, I do think that Mr. Husock is not telling us the whole story here.

This event does provide some evidence of what I think is important for us to remember.: Social mobility does not occur because the government gives someone vouchers, it occurs because someone works hard for it. “A better zip code is the result, not precursor, to a better life.” A better life comes from hard work and learning, not because the government gives you something. Please don’t assume that I think people are poor because they are lazy, because that is not what I think. Some people are poor because they refuse to work for anything, but many are in that situation because of circumstances outside of their control. They are just trying to do the best they can.

The other editorial I was interested in involved civil rights. We are at the fifty-year mark, and many people are discussing the positive results and warning about losing ground. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. This was a “large and comprehensive bill with eleven sections (or titles) covering racial segregation and discrimination in places of public accommodation, schools, voting and employment.” I remember the racial problems of the 50’s and 60’s, and to do my part in ensuring we won’t forget, I take my students through a little ghost town where there is a sign on the outside of a building that says “no Indians allowed.” Many of our young people today don’t know what it was like in the United States in our early years, and sometimes reading it in history books is not enough.

My fear is that many recent judicial decisions will undo the hard work that advocates for racial equality have fought for. People seem to think that we don’t need laws to ensure fair treatment because we don’t think that way anymore. That is a horrible assumption that will make an ass out of you and me.

Why am I discussing civil rights and housing in one blog? It is because of the lack of leadership associated with this short term thinking in both cases. The worst thing we can do is isolate the poor. We do this so we don’t have to feel guilty for our prosperity, when there are others who do not have the same things we do. We force people who are poor to live on the other side of the tracks so we can keep them away and we don’t have to see and experience their problems. We think we have problems of our own and God knows we are not our brother’s keeper. Although I may disagree with Blosio’s reasons for encouraging mixed-income neighborhoods, I think it is important that we have them. The neighborhood is where we help each other. It is where we get to know our neighbor and if they are having trouble we help them as they would do for me. We have lost this.

When it comes to civil rights, I think we still need an external judge. This is where the government comes in. Everyone screams because someone has an opinion different than our own. A company that is privately owned by a family is told it does not have to provide abortion inducing contraception. Everyone gets upset, but the fact is Hobby Lobby is willing to pay for sixteen other types of contraception methods. They are just against the type that produces an abortion like result. While people are screaming, this company is anti-women’s rights. This company is not trying to take contraception away from its employees, this privately owned company only wants to operate within its values.

We cannot detract from civil rights which means we still need an arbiter to keep these nutty extremists from either taking us back to times before 1964, or creating a liberal government controlled commune where we all have to think the same, and that is not a conservative mind set. We need middle of the road thinkers who are willing to see both sides and work for compromise. Not these people that see evil or communism around every corner.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

 

Feeding The Beast And The Ugly Baby

What a great name for a chapter in a book. Creativity, Inc has turned out to be a very informative read. Learning about the inner workings of Pixar and Disney has been interesting and instructive. The authors of the book write in chapter seven about what success can do to a company. It creates this need to feed the beast. As I am pondering what this means, I immediately go into my memory banks and smile as I think about the “Little Shop of Horrors,” and the plant that kept singing “Feed me Seymour, feed me.”

The beast in the context of the book, refers to any large organization “that needs to be fed an uninterrupted diet of new material and resources in order to function.” This is what success will do; it will drive the desire for more success, which can lead to compromise and decline. One of the most profound comments in this chapter is “originality is fragile.” If we focus too much on what works, while attempting to create a formula, we will lose the creative element of our business. When that happens sometimes it is just best to stop, turn around, and start all over again. Easier said then done. If entertainment companies had done this we would have been saved from movies like Robocop 3, and other horrible sequels that destroyed the social capital associated with the original offerings.

Also, I think this starting over is what the authors mean when they describe the ugly baby. I don’t think there ever is such a thing as an ugly baby, but in the case of some creative endeavor it usually starts out pretty ugly before it gets pretty. The wonderful movies of Pixar did not start perfect, it took time and creative collaboration to turn each of the movies into masterpieces. This means that formulaic success had to be ignored.

Large organizations are always trying to cut costs, which means they are always attempting to create formulas for getting things done. This allows the organization to reduce its cost. This lack of creativity may be good for the bottom line, but it is horrible for keeping the business moving forward. Cost management is more of a defensive strategy than a growth one.

The large organization will also seek to protect the status quo. They will use terms like we have always done it this way. Leaders will argue, “Don’t disrupt what already is.” They also hold to the philosophy that recognizes “as the business becomes successful,” conservatism need to gain strength, thus creating “energy directed toward protecting what has worked so far.” Bottom line don’t need to change.

The idea that we don’t need to change is common. Those in charge are usually the ones who made the organization the way it is, so they are unwilling to change it. On the flip side though, there is just as much trouble when we change for change sake. So what is the answer? It is thoughtful leadership committed to constant improvement. This means recognizing what works well and committing to making the ugly baby pretty. It also recognizes the importance of knowing when to feed the beast and when to slay it. Success for success sake is not necessarily a good thing, especially if we lose who we are along the way.

Even though the authors of Creativity, Inc seem to criticize the importance of process, I think process helps to produce good checks and balances. However, I do agree that relying too much on process and not enough on creativity can be detrimental to progress.

My wife and I wanted to go see a movie the other night, but could not find anything we wanted to spend $10 each just to get in (we both get the senior rate now). And I always need to buy popcorn, which is another $20. We were also watching a TV show a couple of nights ago, and came to the conclusion we had watched the same story line previously on another show. It seemed to us at the time that there is a lack of creativity in the entertainment industry, thus sequel after sequel. Movie manufacturers are just like other corporations, they need to feed the beast and produce only was has proven to be successful, because it is about cost control and profit, not creativity.

It seems that with all the problems surrounding us we need a shot of creativity leadership. Maybe Creativity, Inc should be a mandatory read for all leaders in business and politics.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

 

 

 

Light And Darkness

This morning’s blog will be a little different. It is Saturday morning and my wife and I usually have a long discussion during the early hours of the day. I usually get up around 6am, she will join me in the family room around 7am, and we talk. We talk about family, current events, and other things. I remember one discussion we were having a few years back, not a Saturday morning talk, but in the car as we were driving to downtown Portland, OR. We were discussing gun control and she made a comment about machine guns and Jacuzzis. Being the good husband I am I immediately began thinking about mobsters sitting in hot tubs holding tommy guns. My wife noticed I wasn’t listening anymore and she got a little angry. However, once I told her what she said, we came to the conclusion that she meant a machine gun and Uzi.

I love my wife, and at times I have no idea what she will say, but usually she will inspire some interesting thought that I will spend hours thinking about. Today was no exception. Today we spent a bit of time talking about the world around us. Anyone who knows us knows we are between the ages of 40 and 64. This aligns with Erik Erikson’s seventh stage of pyscho-social development. According to Erikson the crisis experienced at this stage involves generativity vs. stagnation. The existential question involves whether our life counts or not. Thus we talked a bit about whether we are handling this crisis appropriately with our kids and the world we can influence.

The largest part of our conversation involved goodness and evil in the world. Having walked in this world for a bit, I wonder if life is more evil or less evil than previous years? I don’t know if that is the case or if we see more evil due to better news reporting. However, as my wife said this morning, the fact that we live within a dark world has not changed.

1 John 1:5 says that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” In Luke 1:78 the world saw a great light in Jesus Christ. In John 8:12 Jesus describes Himself as the light of the world, and anyone who believes in Him would not walk in darkness. However, this is contrasted to those in this world who chose to love darkness rather than light, because their work is evil. And as John 3:19-20 states everyone who practices evil hates the light and does not come to the light.

Regardless if one believes our current society is more or less evil than previous generations, the fact is there is just as much a need for light now as when Jesus came to this world. Therefore, those of us who have come to the light are required to walk in the light, and be light reflectors.

The question that I kept thinking about this morning is how do we do that? How do we become light reflectors? First, we need to recognize we are not the light. Jesus is the light, and in order to reflect that light we need to be close to Him. Second, if we are going to be good reflectors, then we need to mirror Him. This means we need to live like Him. What does this mean? Galatians 5:22 tells us what His characteristics are: Love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we are light reflectors then these characteristics should be evident.

We could ask ourselves another question, what does darkness look like? Galatians call these the work of the flesh. These works are: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

There are those who would say that the works of darkness are much more fun. However, in each of these actions selfishness is central. However, with the acts of the light, selflessness is central. So what does the world need? Does it need more selfish people who are living only for themselves and what they deserve, or does is need people who walk in the light of love doing good for others?

I think it is the latter. I think we have enough hatred around us. We have ISIS, killing people in the name of religion, and we have Christian fundamentalists who focus on hatred and judgment, instead of love and forgiveness. Neither of these religious expressions are light reflectors. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in hell, and I believe in salvation through Jesus Christ alone, but I don’t believe in spreading a gospel of hate.

So I for one intend to be a light reflector. I am going to attempt to draw close to the light, so that when people see me, they will see the reflection of one who can make a difference in their life. The One who they need to know!

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

Houston We Have A Productivity Problem

Over the years I have been a proponent of buying American. However, actually buying American is a bit more difficult today than in previous years. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan all build their cars in the U.S. of A. They employ American workers and pay a livable wage with good benefits.

Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, and Andy Grove, retired CEO of Intel, have both made the case for making things in America. President Obama has made many comments about the value of American competition and wanting companies to move work back to America. However, this is not as easy to accomplish as it is to declare the need from the housetops.

Stanley Furniture wanted to get on the USA bandwagon and build its cribs here rather than in China or Vietnam. “The move four years ago, was a gamble that Americans would pay a hefty premium for U.S. made baby gear.” For $800 new parents could buy a Young America crib, however, competitors who had their cribs built in China would sell theirs for half as much. We the people did not see the value in buying American, thus Stanley is shutting down its Robbinsville, NC plant and looking for a buyer of its business. 300 workers will be laid off, and the facility will probably be liquidated.

Is it just baby cribs that Americans have decided they won’t pay premium prices for? Bruce Cochrane, founder of Lincoln Furniture, “attended the 2012 State of the Union Address as an example of a manufacturer bringing back jobs from overseas.” He reopened a plant in North Caroline and started building dining sets and wooden furniture. The problem, we wouldn’t pay the prices, so Lincolnton, shut down its plant last January due to a lack of orders. They couldn’t compete.

I could go on an on with blaming the consumer for this fiasco, but it is not just our buying habits that are problematic. There is the high business taxes that our businesses pay, the number of regulations that a company must adhere to, to do business in the United States, and our work force does not have the skill needed to do manufacturing work. Chesapeake Bay Candle owners, who provide scented candles to Kohls and Target, have found that employees and supervisors have problems with math. “Not middle-school math, elementary school math.” And don’t get me going on the fact that the number one reason people are unable to get hired at temporary agencies is the inability to pass a drug test. We have a plethora of problems associated with our economy. Is it any wonder why our GDP has detracted during the first quarter of this year by 2.9% at an annual rate?

One issue behind this productivity reduction is fewer business startups. When I read this in my morning paper I thought, how can they draw this conclusion? First, using the latest information available, “the creation rate of new businesses, as well as new plants built by existing firms, was about 30% lower in 2011 compared with the annual rate for the 1980’s.” Then, adding to the above, a 3.5% decline in worker productivity, has led to a loss of $1 trillion is business output. This is problematic because new startups become stronger and replace aging businesses that are no longer relevant. If this doesn’t happen then we don’t advance.

Why are startups becoming more infrequent? Surveys of small business owners indicate it is current economic policy driving this detraction. “Chamber of Commerce surveys show that roughly 80% of small-business owners believe that the U.S. economy is on the wrong track and that Washington is a major problem.” Added to the problem list is the inability to find skilled labor, a complex tax code that penalizes small business, regulations that raise the cost of doing business, and the lack of available financing, and you have why start-ups and productivity are declining.

The complexity of our system of commerce in the United States is not just hamstringing startups, but is also pushing larger established companies out the door to other countries. With a 39% basic corporate tax rate, the U.S. has the highest cost of business in the world. This has led to 20 major American companies over the last two years to reincorporate in other parts of the world. Eaton Manufacturing merged with Cooper Industries in Dublin, Ireland. “Substantially lowering its tax liabilities.”

Medtronic “announced recently that it planed to acquire the Ireland based firm Covidien and relocate headquarters to Dublin.” Medtronic is the largest company to escape, but it may be just the beginning of the escape, unless we change some things. We can argue that this is not very patriotic, but the fact of the matter is companies that are leaving are paying a premium to leave, which demonstrates the value they see in escaping the complexity of our tax systems.

Another by-product of this scenario is the vulnerability to takeover for American companies. Anheuser-Busch was “absorbed by Belgian firm In Bev in 2008, leading other American brewers to merge with international brewers for tax savings purposes. Unless we get our act together we will continue to lose business to the world, and lose our standard of living.

I have heard people complain about businesses, I have heard people complain about the rich, and I have heard people complain about inequality. But I don’t see a lot of people really trying to look at all of this from a systems perspective. If we are going to repair this situation we need to see how all of this is connected. We then need to think through where the leverage points are and take action to get the ship turned around.

We need to overhaul our horrible tax system. It truly needs to be simplified. We also need to create stronger pre-school programs that prepare children to become good students. We also need to improve our elementary and secondary schools systems to produce stronger results. When high schools don’t have enough textbooks for all their students, meaning that students have to check out textbooks to do assignments, then Houston we have a problem.

We also need more trade schools, because not everyone needs to go to college, and we need more apprentice programs. Many jobs are going unfilled because our labor force just does not have the skills. These jobs are good paying jobs.

I also think we need to raise the minimum wage rate. However, to do that we the consumer need to know that we will pay more for the things we enjoy. Whether it is our coffee, or favorite hamburger, some of the cost of higher wages will be passed on to the consumer.

We also need to overhaul our immigration system. We need both high-end immigrants and we need laborers who work in the fields. It has been proven time and time again that Americans do not want to pick fruit. So we need more people who are willing to do that kind of work.

So don’t whine to me about American companies aren’t willing to create jobs here in the U.S. if you are not willing to pay the higher cost. Don’t whine to me about how horrible American business is when you have not thought through the alternatives, we all have to work somewhere, and if we don’t we don’t eat. Other countries want to be open for business, and it appears we want to close up shop so we can play video games and sit back and watch The View. The end is coming.

And that is my thought for the day!