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Jobs and Taxes

Posted on 6, Aug

There was a time in our history when companies counted employees as assets, a pool of talent more precious than physical property or inventory. Over the past couple of decades a shift has happened where people are now a cost to be managed out of the system. Our current employment environment is a result of that change.

There are reports today that 14 million American are out of work, an unemployment rate of 9.1%. Some estimated that with the people that have given up looking for work the number goes to over 20 million. In my region of the country the unemployment rate is over 11%. However, there is only one unemployment rate that matters to me – mine, which still stands at 100%.

Due to my long period of unemployment (2.5 years), state of the economy, age and other factors it is statistically possible that I may never again find meaningful employment. Discussing the situation involves pushing down tears and fears when it feels like a judgment on and rejection of my value in the world. It has become a lesson of being in the moment, celebrating each breath and appreciating that I have is all I need.

Despite my battles over worth, I understand that it is not personal. A thousand or more people apply for each job opening. Yet a company like Apple sits on more cash reserves than the US government. Second quarter profits for S&P 500 companies are at an all time high. Oil companies are making historically high profit dollars while still receiving government subsidies. The people running the show find it far too easy to turn a deaf ear towards those at the lower end of the scale. For people at the top life is better than it has ever been, they have no reason to pay any attention to anyone else.

We need to stop believing that giving a company tax breaks will create jobs; it’s a myth. Remember the Clinton years? With higher tax rates companies are motivated to either spend the money or have it go to taxes. In a large percentage of cases the company will choose to spend on expanding their business, which means jobs. If the job creators won’t start creating jobs on their own, perhaps we need to give them some additional motivation.

 

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A friend I love and respect posted a note on a social network site; her remarks supported Florida’s new law to drug test welfare recipients. I wrote a response, but have since deleted it. (I think it is not fair to use someone else’s page to promote your own views.) So here is my vantage on it.

I am not as bothered by the idea as I am by the attitude and philosophy behind it. For a few bucks at the head shop anyone can have a clean drug test. This will not solve any problems, but will add layers of bureaucracy. This is just another way of further marginalizing people already living on the fringes of society.

Do you test the whole family or everyone living in the house? Why don’t we also test for nicotine, alcohol, high blood sugar and high cholesterol? Can we make them buy only store brand goods rather than wasting my money by splurging on brand names? Maybe we could ban them from eating at fast food restaurants? Oh, oh, oh, I know… let’s ban anyone receiving welfare from buying guns or ammunition; try getting that one past the right-wingers.

This law is built on a presumption of guilt and requires people to prove their innocence, before they receive benefits. So receiving state or federal benefits requires you to give up your rights? This is welfare, not prison, right? Though I understand there are some people that would prefer we move all of those social dregs into camps.

I don’t want to live in that type of country. In fact, didn’t we fight some huge war to stop that sort of behavior? I prefer the United States where people are innocent until proven guilty. Just because some percentage of welfare recipients may be drug users, it does not justify testing all recipients.

I have another idea; let’s test everyone before we give them a driver’s license. Imagine the money we’d save on law enforcement, the savings on hospital and reduced insurance costs from accidents we prevented. Heck it would create jobs for testers and stimulate the economy.

Or better yet, let’s cut off all benefits to ugly people. That might slow down their attempts to overtake our traditional values of America the Beautiful.

Okay, everybody get in line and let the tests begin.

For me, I think we need to stop trying to micromanage people’s lives and focus on education and opportunity. In the long run those things will produce better results.

 

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Bemused and Confused

Posted on 2, May

Thoughts on the death of Osama bin Laden:

I am bemused and confused. A bad man is dead as a result of our intense intent and a chorus arises with cheers; can we know peace while celebrating murder? We bring death to a killer who was motivated by hate and count it as a prize. We raise the status of those we abhor to martyr while stilling the breath from tens (some say hundreds) of thousands of civilians in our pursuit of retribution. Perhaps what we hate the most is what we are most likely to become. We exact and extract a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye and then smile with pride; in our blindness, can we appreciate a toothless grin?

We can always paint an allegory or analogy that that makes us look better in the shadow of our own darkness; those that live by hate do the same thing, yet it never makes the world more beautiful.

I am speculating that in killing a great evil we are not very different from the evil we despise. I understand that some people believe that good killing evil is a righteous thing and that it makes the world a better place. In fact, many various individuals and groups of people are convinced their cause is good, even holy; they in turn use that validation to commit murder and other crimes. Isn’t that what the evil man did? In addition, the death of one evil becomes fertilizer on the sprouts of more evil.  Perhaps I am alone in this, but I think we need to plant different seeds and find other ways to nourish them. I am guessing that is the only way we will ever harvest fruit from a garden of peace.

Please understand that I in no way support the philosophy or actions of Osama bin Laden. I am also not particularly saddened by his death. What I am saying would equally apply to him and his group; his evil did not spring from thin air. Those actions came from proclaiming war on what he perceived to be evil. The actions that motivated him were done by others in an attempt to overcome evil. It is a cycle that will only escalate if we continue to feed it. When do we get so sick from the spinning that we demand the merry-go-round be stopped?

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Walking Stick

Posted on 22, Apr

For several years my creative skills have been tied to a mouse and computer screen. But from time to time I pull out sharp objects and make sawdust and wood shavings. Walking sticks are often the favored medium.

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Cricket

Posted on 17, Apr

My apartment has been blessed by a visit from one of Mother Nature’s soloists, a cricket. I understand that in some cultures this is considered a blessing and sign of good fortune. Unfortunately, I do not live in any of those cultures.

Given this visitor’s limited repertoire and untimely rehearsal schedule I find my welcome growing thin when in the deep stillness of the night he will cut loose in a loud, lonesome and longing love song.

It is time for him to go, but like in-laws, he won’t take the hint. Please understand that I do not, at least initially, wish any harm to come to him. However, my pacifist leanings are becoming a bit less leaned.

I have tried the humane trap of placing bait on an upward facing piece of duct tape. The idea is that while attempting to get at the sweetened cereal the insect becomes stuck and can be plucked off and released outside. My second attempt was a shallow dish of molasses where the singer becomes fixated in the liquid; the cricket does not survive this method, but there is consolation to knowing he died in a state of bliss. Apparently my cricket is on the Atkins plan as neither of these methods has been effective.

I think next I may crank down the air conditioning to make him think winter has set in and perhaps he will consider the need to seek out a warmer climate.

 

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Vanity Publishing?

Posted on 31, Mar

I am a published author. Many of my poems and essays have been published in periodicals and anthologies. But by traditional standards my books have been vanity/subsidy/self published. I have no illusion that those facts give me the street-cred or status of a John Grisham or Elizabeth Gilbert. However, in addition to my writing, I have worked in the wholesale and retail end of the publishing business at street and executive levels for more than twenty years.

Here is my perspective:

The traditional publishing process: Writer to Agent to Publisher to Printer to Distributor to Retailer to Consumer

Traditional vanity/self/subsidy publishing: You pay a company to print your books.

Today there may be nothing vain about Vanity Publishing. In the past it was a dismissive term justifiably used by the publishing community to describe small print run books that circumvented the traditional publishing process. In fact, Vanity Publishing is only half of the designation. The word vanity is by implication contrasted to the word merit; when vanity publishing is used, a lack of merit publishing is suggested. The inference is that vanity published books have no merit; while not required, a degree of snobbery was often attached to the valuation equation.

In the past, vanity publishers charged a significant fee and handed you a box of books which you gave to your mother or sold to your friends. They also served specialty markets for trade publications or in-house books. One of my uncles pioneered the business of fund raising cookbooks. It might be more accurate to describe them as book manufacturers; they did little or nothing to get a book to the public. Today what are often called vanity publishers list your book at international distributors like Ingram or Baker and Taylor who make it available to online and brick and mortar sellers around the globe. That does not mean anyone is going to buy your book, but you have extended the limits on possibilities. Do something that gets you on the national news and you will be an overnight success. Your book may also have an ISBN number and possibly even be included in the Library of Congress, which were previously the benchmarks of so called real books.

With POD (print on demand) options, no one is required to layout huge printing and distribution costs, all of that is subtracted from the retail price. Nothing happens until the consumer forks over the cash; the entire process is prepaid. There are no guarantees of success, but there also are few risks. As mentioned above, I worked more than twenty years in the wholesale/distribution end of the business; we shredded 50% to 70% of mass market books sent to stores and then returned from retail as unsold. Hardcover books are often pulled from sale and remainders are sold on bargain book tables for pennies on the dollar of the cover price. How’s that for the final resting place of your dream?

The emerging model is fiscally responsible and saves a lot of trees. There are still many vanity publishers that extract large sums of money from naive authors, but there is also a new breed that doesn’t. Depending on your skill level at writing, proofreading, editing, formatting and graphic design, and/or the talent of friends, you are able to publish a high quality book in print and/or electronic formats with no upfront expense.

In the old world paradigm the publisher bankrolled and therefore controlled the process. The publishing community set the standards and also fought the first amendment battles that shaped the book world we have today. We must all be eternally grateful for those accomplishments. However in a change that parallels digital music, online news feeds and social networking the access point for the writer to reach a retailer and/or consumer has shifted and been simplified. At Amazon.com or the Apple Store there is nothing that distinguishes a self/vanity/Indy published book from a mainline publisher one. Sadly that means a lot of crap gets ink. We truly do need to establish an independent rating standard for self published books before we will gain the respect of the traditional publishing community. On the upside, free speech has never been more accessible.

Most of the best and largest selling books are still and for the foreseeable future will be done by major publishing houses. Let’s be real here, there is nothing that says a self/vanity published book is equal in sales or impact on society… for now. Though, the average consumer does not care about the publishing, printing or distribution of a book. Where, how and for what price they consume are their highest priorities; all of which are affected by the medium and social acceptance and peer pressure.

The combined effect of millions of small authors may dwarf the influence of the few major ones in the very near future. If you have not already done so, read Chris Anderson’s book – The Long Tail.

If an ebook or POD book can find a market it has merit. If it has merit, perhaps it is no longer fair to call it vanity.


 

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You Choose

Posted on 29, Mar

This is my favorite time of the year for living in a desert city. The snow birds have retreated to leave more room for the natives. The mornings are still cool enough for a walk to work. I dropped a pair of heels into my bag, tightened the laces on my sneakers, and began the nine block journey to the office. I love my job, the people and challenges. Although in this economy, I have serious doubts about how long it will last. The gloom gets thicker each day.

I had not noticed the man before. I caught myself in the lie before finishing the thought. I had seen him, but chose to act as if I hadn’t. The truth was he has been sitting on the same spot of the sidewalk along my path to work for more than two weeks. His tooth challenged grin caused me to shift my eyes and stare intensely at the furniture in a window across the street until I’d passed.

“Hope or fear, hope or fear, you choose”, he said as his thumb repeatedly flipped a gold token into the air, catching it and slapping it down on the back of his other hand. “Two side of the same coin, you choose”.

Like some silly pop song, the words stuck in my mind. Throughout the day as my immediate attention relaxed, the words played in a repeating loop, hope or fear, hope or fear, two sides of the same coin, you choose.

I got a lift home from a coworker. The afternoons are already too warm for extended walks. The words ran on into the night and through my dreams. The next morning I still heard them as I approached his block. But then everything around me became quieter. The sounds of motors, air brakes, heels clacking concrete, crosswalk signals, and beeping of backing trucks became muffled except for the phrases playing within my head; hope or fear, hope or fear, two sides of the same coin, you choose.

Today there was no person sitting on the sidewalk. Where the man had been, I saw a bunch of marigolds. I recognized them as coming from the landscaping down the block. Beside the flowers there was a coin shining as if it had just emerged from a mint. I stepped closer to read the impression through the sun’s glare. There was no ornamentation just the word hope stamped on its surface. I picked it up and turned it over to see the other side. There again was the word hope.

I felt a light tap on my left shoulder and turned to face the gleaming green eyes and grin of the man. “Keep it”, he said. “Once you make your choice that is all there is.”

The street sounds returned as if an unseen hand turned up the volume. Without further comment the man walked away.

Loudly I said, “Wait, who the hell are you?”

He replied, “They call me Cassidy Ma’am… Hope Along Cassidy.”

Before I could say anything else he was around the corner.


Available as a free short-short fiction ebook at: Smashwoords

 

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Looking for a good read?

Posted on 27, Mar

This is a collection of favorite poems gleaned from my previously published works. For my fans, I think this is a quick and simple way to access your favorites. For new readers of my work I am hopeful this will be a doorway into the realms of ecstasy, passion, spirit and social consciousness which are the watermarks in my writing.

I’ll offer one suggestion: If you read a poem once and think you understand it, you probably don’t: reading it again may reveal deeper levels of meaning.

Chrystine

 

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