Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Have A New Partner!

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
                                                                                              President Barack Obama

  I read the transcript of this speech. Then I searched for a video, figuring that perhaps the words above were taken out of context. But there he was telling a cheering crowd that essentially, it takes a village to start a business. As one of those business owners he was talking about, I feel compelled to respond, even though my opinions on this subject are about as important to the President as his views are to me.

When I chose to enter this business many years ago, I made an intentional choice. By choosing the path of the entrepreneur, I gave up any hope of security. I would never have company paid health insurance, an employer funded pension plan, paid sick leave, paid vacation, company provided office space, furniture or secretarial help. I would never have the security of knowing that even if I had a couple of unproductive weeks, my full paycheck would be waiting for me on pay day. The reason I gave all of that up?...I was crazy. I was crazy and arrogant enough to bet on myself. Besides, there were advantages to working for myself, first among them being, I liked the boss. I would never have to ask him for a raise, I would never have to ask him for time off. I would be free to make as much money as I was humanly capable of making. If I chose to work 70 hours a week, my income would invariably rise. If I chose to play golf every day, I would immediately see a dramatic decline in my fortunes. But it was all my choice. In the early days the hours were brutal, the level of rejection high, and my income was terrible. I would often lay awake at night wondering if I had made a huge mistake. At every turn there were obstacles to success. I almost quit a hundred times. But I didn't. Now, after 29 years, the gamble has paid off. I have built something of value and it has given me the one thing I always wanted most of all in the first place...freedom.

I didn't need the President to tell me how important it is to "give something back". I learned that lesson as a child first from the Old Testament concept of "gleaning" set forth in the Book of Ruth, then in the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan. But mostly I learned it simply from watching my parents live their lives. Although they never made much money, they were always giving to others. My Mother's "give-away fund" became famous where I grew up. The command in the Bible to give wasn't a function of one's wealth or ability to give, rather, it was a universal command meant for all of us. So, the President's assertion that those of us who have been successful must pay more to the government so THEY can help others sounded strange to me. Isn't that what my
top 5% income has already allowed me to do? Because of my income and the freedom it has earned me, I have been able to devote untold hours to working with the young people of my church. I have been able to chaperon trips, donate scholarship money to send many kids to camp, make countless contributions for others to go on mission trips. All of this has been the direct result of the blessings of successes I have had in a business that I started from scratch, and whose income has resulted in me being among a group of Americans ( top 5% ) who already currently pay 58.66% of all income taxes paid in this country.

The President minimizes my own responsibility for that success by pointing out that somewhere down the line I had a teacher that inspired me. I did. Actually I had more than one inspiring teacher. The best one of all was probably from the 5th grade...Mrs. Winston, a black lady who rode me mercilessly and constantly harangued me for not doing my best. To this day I remember and am thankful for the life lessons she taught and the inspiring way she taught them. As I recall, two of my fellow students in that class went on to become convicted felons, Mrs. Winston's powers of inspiration not withstanding. The President also points out that every day I drive to work on roads provided by government. He's right. As a matter of fact, just the other day I was driving to work and pulled up to a government provided stop light where I saw a gentleman take a swig out of a Pabst Blue Ribbon can in between intense nose-picking sessions at 7:30 in the morning. No doubt, he was headed to his highly successful business enterprise just like me, since we both were using government provided roads. I wonder which one of us paid more taxes to the government so they could provide that road and that stop light?

Still, the President said something that struck a chord with me. He kept talking about we're better when we are "all in this together". It caused me to start thinking. If he's right and I really didn't build my business myself, that there were lots of others equally responsible for my success, and in fact, we are all in this together, then that must mean that I have lots of silent partners out there, first among them, the government. Well, since my government "partner" takes 31% of my profits, isn't it only fair that I send them a bill for 31% of my expenses? Below is a partial list:

$4875 for office furniture, the purchase of which help create or save jobs in the cheap, wood veneer office furniture industry.

$56,000 for Errors and Omissions insurance coverage to protect me from lawsuits brought on by angry customers and their pernicious ambulance-chasing lawyers. Although I've never filed a claim, this is the tribute that I have been required to pay to stay in business.

$19,200 in yearly operating expenses to keep the doors open here at my office.

I know times are tough right now at the U.S. Treasury, but if nothing else this President has taught me the importance of making "investments" even when the National checking account is overdrawn. So I'm sure that my new "partner" won't have any problem coming up with his fair share of my company expenses. After all, I pay him MY fair share each and every month, even if I have to hit my home equity line to do it.

So, Mr. President, as soon as I get your check, you can count me as a new convert. You'll get my vote this November...as long as that check clears.