Gerald (Jerry) Zezas

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Are You Better At Your Job Than a Mexican?

I now that this may seem a bit insensitive to some, but I was thinking about the premise that “illegal aliens” take Americans’ jobs…

I’ve lived in two places in my life. New Jersey and Florida, both of which have more than their share of what are referred to as illegal aliens. In the 45 years or so that I’ve been part of the workforce, from unskilled car washer in a NJ car dealership to a business owner, General Manager and CFO of others’ companies, I’ve never, not once, had my job taken from me and given to one of the people in question.

So, it struck me…(here comes the insensitive part) if you feel as if your job is threatened by someone who barely, if at all, speaks English, has no resume’, can’t pass a background check, has no job history or references, few marketable skills, no driver’s license and little or no documented education…I can’t help but wonder, are you more frightened of them, or of your being reminded of your own failures? Might it have been your career choices and abject lack of value in the workforce that makes you so imminently replaceable by such an unlikely group? Does your expressed hatred of them mask a hidden disappointment in yourself? Do you find any embarrassment in complaining that those people could so easily take your job? Huh? Huh?

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Here’s what your “job creators” are doing with all the money they got from the congress in the form of corporate tax cuts

Remember Mitt Romney and his ilk, during the last election, screaming against any tax increases for the wealthy? Remember their imbecilic claims that giving millionaires tax cuts would increase employment because these “job creators” could invest in new plants and hire new people? Remember the Repubs, once again playing as if they understood economics, claiming that millionaires can’t wait to hire new people with all that tax money the congress allowed them to keep rather than pay to the government?

Well, as part of installment #2 of how Repubs are continually, perpetually wrong every time they claim to understand economics, Money Magazine published a piece a year or so ago which is holding true today. These “job creators” aren’t creating jobs…they’re using the money you gave them to buy back their own stocks, driving the price of them through the roof.

That’s right. They are taking stocks that should be floating on the market and locking them up, causing a shortage of those stocks and driving the price up. This benefits, not workers, not the unemployed, not the middle class, but only those who are wealthy enough to own stock in these companies.

Here is the article
http://money.msn.com/top-stocks/10-companies-buying-their-own-stock

You can’t make this stuff up folks. This was the second bit of ignorance that came out the the Repub cluster-fu*k in 2012, along with their predictions of hyper-inflation and drastic dollar devaluation. Where is it? And where are the jobs that these creators created from all the taxes they’ve saved?

You can love or hate Barack Obama, but can you imagine where we’d be financially if these ignoramuses had taken the White House? Or if they do in 2016?

These people make predictions and low-intelligence pronouncements (like balancing the federal budget is similar to a household balancing its checkbook) and Repubs buy it, hook, line and sinker. But they conveniently forget to check back years later when none, and I mean none, of their predictions come true. Their lack of long-term memory is what keeps them thinking that they’re right, when they are almost invariably wrong. Time and time again.

More to come…

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Welfare Queens, Kings, and Bill O’Reilly.

I can’t help it folks. This stuff drives me insane.

On Sunday, Bill O’Reilly once again took advantage of the fact that Barack Obama has more class than O’Reilly will ever, and asked, as impertinently as possible, of the twice duly elected leader of the free world some of the most insolent questions, to which the President replied with all the restraint and lack of animus for which he’s become well-known.

One question (or statement) in particular related to the premise that Obama is a “nanny state kind of guy” (O’Reilly’s words) whereas O’Reilly ostensibly rose to his elevated station with no help from the government whatsoever. They bandied this idea back and forth and then went on to other things. The President smirked at O’Reilly’s gracelessness quite a few times, but never let on his true feelings, as he usually does not with the Fox cabal. Kind of like the way you treat a wise-ass teenager who is too stupid to know how badly his impudence makes him look. Obama, as usual, comported himself well with this self-aggrandizing simpleton O’Reilly.

But I’m tired of these Repubs whose only claim to fame is a bad memory who act as if they’ve lived their lives on an island somewhere where they’ve never received any help from anyone to achieve the greatness which they now exhibit. It’s boring. And I’m tired of it.

So, lets go down a few “entitlement” programs that O’Reilly and most of the rest of us welfare kings and queens have sucked from the government teat, shall we?

1. O’Reilly grew up in Levittown, NY, where the FHA subsidized every mortgage. The FHA was instrumental in Bill O’Reilly’s father getting his mortgage. The FHA is a government agency.
2. O’Reilly’s father went to college on the GI bill. For Free. On Uncle Sam’s dime. GI or no GI, he got a free college education.
3. O’Reilly, before he became a gazillionaire, owned numerous houses throughout the country, each upon of which was a mortgage, upon which there was interest, which O’Reilly deducted from his federal income tax every year. The only reason that the government gives this form of welfare to home owners is to support home ownership. But it also applies to multiple houses, like vacation homes. The mortgage interest deduction is basically a welfare-like handout to every homeowner in the country who has a mortgage.
4. For the rest of us, Repubs included, which of you will refuse Medicare when you turn 65? Which of you will refuse Social Security when you come of age? Which of you returned the tax credit that George Bush gave you in the early part of his presidency? Which one of you would turn one down today?
5. Is the air you breathe cleaner than Athens, or Bejing, where the exhaust coming out of the tailpipe of a modern car is LESS polluted than the air that it sucks in? Well, you can thank that socialist organization, the EPA for that (BTW, Richard Nixon, that socialist, marxist pig, started the EPA).
6.Is the water you drink cleaner than the Ganges in India which is so dirty they don’t even recommend washing clothes in it, yet millions get their drinking water from it? Yup, EPA again.
7. Do you pay 110% interest on your credit cards? No? Well I guess a thank you card is owned to the Federal Reserve, who regulates credit card companies.
8. Was the pilot on your last airplane ride licenced and properly trained? Well, a call to the FAA might be in order.

Yeah, yeah, yeah you pay for all that stuff with your taxes, I know, I’ve heard it before. But that is not an argument for suggesting that someone who takes advantage of government programs is on welfare, or a nanny state guy, any more than it suggests that you are a welfare recipient when you take advantage of any of the above, or a government scholarship, or low interest student loan.

And I know at least a few people with large properties who claim farm deductions for their large tracts of land, thereby saving huge amounts of property taxes. This is quite a common occurance, but you won’t find a lot of poor people with large tracts of land ripping off the government for their fair share of property taxes. That’s because poor people don’t own large tracts of land!

I have been a businessman for a large part of my life and fully understand the concept of fending for yourself and not relying on others, but this sanctimony has to stop.

So, to recap. If you’ve ever accepted a mortgage interest deduction, if you receive more in Social Security or Medicare in your lifetime than you pay, or, for that matter, ever gotten a scholarship or student loan, then you, according to Bill O’Reilly’s definition, are a nanny-state kind of guy.

Or, by the same definition, a Welfare Queen.

Sorry To My Female Readers, But This Is A Myth

President Obama, in a speech last week, repeated the oft-used platitude that “women make $.75 for every dollar that men make” or something like that. This self-serving applause line has been perpetuated by those who pander to women in general and like to rail against men specifically. But its not true.

During my own educational process I’ve been tasked with numerous papers regarding this subject and have found, time and time again, that women who do the same job, with the same education and the same experience, make the same money. Why the discrepancy? Well, the answer is somewhat complex, but I can reduce it to one overriding reason. Children. Yes, women, who have been biologically and evolutionarily chosen to be the factories of our perpetuation, usually take some time off to have children. Sometimes, many years. I know this because I see lots of babies around and, based on my extensive education and personal experience, they all came out of women.

If you do some simple math, you will find that two college grads, one female and one male, both 25 years old, who apply for the same job as a financial analyst, will get paid the exact same amount (I’ve yet to see a job that advertises one salary for men and another one for women). The problem occurs later on. Let’s say that these two meet at work, fall in love and get married. Irrespective your opinion on the matter, statistically, it is the woman who will quit her job (especially if the husband’s salary can support them both) and raise their children. This becomes more prevalent as the couple decides to have two or three children, since it is obviously more difficult to work outside the home the more children you have.

Then, say, 6 years later, when the children are in school or day care, the woman chooses to re-enter the workplace. She is now 6 years behind her husband in experience and has likely not maintained her contacts for the last 6 years. It makes perfect sense that a 31 year-old woman who hasn’t worked for 6 years would be worth less money than a man (or woman for that matter) whose experience is current. In that case it is perfectly justifiable for the person with less and less current experience (in this case the woman) to make less than the other (in this case male) applicant. This is quite a common scenario, especially in higher tech industries where technological change is a major factor, although there are certainly some women who work during their child-raising years. The point is that statistically, if anyone is going to quit their job to raise children, it is still likely to be the female, rather than the male. This may change in the future, but it happens to be the way things are today.

Other factors include the fact that woman are less likely to take high-risk/high-pay jobs (there are substantially more male firefighters, police, oil rig operators, armed guards and coal miners than female). In addition, women take most of the lower paying jobs such as education, sociology, early childhood care, performing arts, as well as part-time jobs which allow them to spend more time with their families.

Further, women, once again due to obligations to their children, are less likely to take jobs that require long hours or overnight travel. Once again, statistically, if there is a male presence in the household, it is he who is more likely to take on these higher paying jobs, since the woman, (this is based on statistics, not stereotype), is more likely to forgo the higher pay for the purpose of raising children.

The conclusion is that, although I’m certainly an Obama supporter, he is just as guilty as anyone of pandering to women in an effort to gain their support by perpetuating this myth.

And he should stop doing so.
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Oh The Karma, the Irony, the Opportunities to Say I Told You So…

Today, Reuters news service had a piece about an announcement by Walmart and Sams Club. They are downgrading their earnings projections because their customers aren’t spending as much due to federal cutbacks in food stamp assistance!

By Dhanya Skariachan

Jan 31 (Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday that bad weather and reduced food stamp benefits in the United States had dragged down comparable-store sales in the fiscal fourth quarter, more than offsetting a positive bump from the holiday season.

Yes fellow Libs, calm down. Stop the the fist pumps and yelling “I told you so you idiots” and similar exhortations. Be respectful…

Now, to my Repub readers…really guys, could you have made this any easier? Wal Mart, that bastion of conservative views, that anti-union, anti-female, anti-minority supreme soviet of capitalism, is proving that government assistance to the poor is good for the economy!

This is the company which pays its workers so little that some enormous proportion of them must collect food stamps just to eat, is now complaining because they’re losing money due to cutbacks in food stamps!

Hmm, could it be that government programs like food stamps and other forms of assistance for the poor is actually good for our good-ole capitalist, up by your bootstraps, Adam Smith/Milton Freedman/Ayn Rand based economy! Could it be that food stamps and unemployment checks go right back into the economy, generating wealth and jobs, as compared to tax cuts for the 1%, which tends to generate more off-shore bank accounts?

Could it be that every economic theory promulgated by the Repubs over the last 5 years (where’s the hyperinflation that was right around the corner, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin?) was just intellectual insouciance backed up by, er, ah, nothing? Could all the Mitt Romney cognitive bluestockings have been wrong when they said that trillion-dollar economies were so simple as to be compared with our personal checking accounts (presumably they both needed to be balanced).

Could it be that the subject of economics is a just a little more complicated than this week’s featured short-skirted blonde Fox spokesmodel was sufficiently adroit to explain? (although Elisabeth Hasselbeck does have some decent legs).

25-Blondest-Women-of-Fox-News

Now, will you please just stop talking and listen to us when we tell you stuff? Jeez…
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Hamburgers and Minimum Wages

The premise that raising the minimum wage will force employers to cut jobs is as imbecilic, shop worn and oft disproven as the one that claimed employers will stop hiring if we raise their taxes-remember that bit of tripe?

Employers don’t base their hiring on dollar cost-they base their hiring on the amount of personnel required to do a specific job. In an efficiently run company, the amount of employees doing a particular job is exactly the amount needed to get it done well and on-time-no more and no less. The larger the company, the more efficient they presumably are, since they have the resources to measure these things quite accurately. The cost of those employees is reflected in the price they charge for their product-not in the quantity of employees, for the above reasons. If an industry needs lots of people, it hires accordingly and the cost of labor is reflected in its pricing.

An example is McDonalds. Statistically, the typical McDonalds counter worker can handle a certain amount of customers per hour. For the sake of this argument, let’s say it takes 3 minutes to help the average customer, which would mean that counter worker helps 20 customers per hour, on average. If there are 5 counter workers standing side-by-side all day, that’s 100 customers per hour and 800 customers per eight-hour shift (5 workers x 20 customers x 8 hours). Now let’s say that the average check per customer is $9.00 (this includes when people buy food for others at their table or to take back to the office). At 800 customers per shift and $9.00 per customer, that shift in that McDonalds should earn $7200.00 in revenue ($9.00 per customer x 800 customers). If every one of those workers should get, let’s say, an increase of $1.00 per hour in wages, that’s $1.00 x 5 workers x 8 hours = $40.00. If they get a $2.00 per hour increase it means that means an increase in wages for that 8-hour shift of $80.00. Now, if we simply divide that $80.00 increase in the cost of that shift by the amount of customers served during the shift ($80.00 / 800 customers = it works out to $.10 (ten cents) per customer per meal. Not $.10 per bag of fries or $.10 per Big Mac-$.10 for the entire meal! McDonalds can give their counter workers a $2.00 per hour increase and only raise the price of the average meal by ten-cents!

Now, before you go ape-shit on me, I realize that there are anywhere from 10-20 people or more in the kitchen who have to cook that food as well, and their incomes are just as important as the counter workers, so let’s include them, shall we? Using the numbers above:

To put this to the most stringent test, we’ll exaggerate how many people are needed. We’ll use 30 workers for this McDonalds. 30 workers x 8 hours x $2.00 per hour raise = $480.00 per 8 hour shift for the entire McDonalds store to get a $2.00 per hour raise. Once again, divide that by the 800 customers served during that shift and you get $.60 (sixty cents). So, friends and neighbors, McDonalds can give everyone in that store a $2.00 per hour raise and only have to increase the cost of an ENTIRE MEAL by sixty cents!

The argument made by these companies is that customers won’t spend more for their food (bullshit, especially if it’s only an average of $.60 on the entire meal) and so they’d have to lay off workers. Well, if they have so many excess workers that they can lay them off and say, have only 4 employees at the counter handling those 800 customers per shift, it means that they have been operating inefficiently to begin with. My suspicion is that they can’t.

But, let’s say that our friendly neighborhood Mickey D does, in fact, lay off just one worker to cover their additional expense of a $2.00 an hour increase for the counter workers. Now they have only 4 people working the 8 hour shift at the counter. The numbers go south quickly:

4 counter workers x 20 customers per hour = 80 customers per hour. 80 customers x $9.00 for the average check times 8 hours in the shift equals $5760.00 in revenue for that shift, A NET LOSS OF $1440.00 IN REVENUE from the $7200.00 per shift they were making with 5 counter workers. But, that should be covered by their savings from having fired the counter worker, right? Well, no.

That counter worker is getting paid, as you’ll remember, minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, so by firing him or her, you’ve saved A TOTAL OF FIFTY-EIGHT SEMOLIANS! (8 hours x $7.25 per hour = $58.00). So, all those MBAs at the Golden Arches are threatening that, rather than raise the price of a $9.00 meal by $.60 and potentially lose one or two customers because of it (since everyone would be doing it, where would those customers go?), they would rather fire employees, which saves them $58.00 in wages per day, yet costs them $1440.00 in lost revenue!

C’mon folks. Labor, although not exactly cheap, is not the largest expense in food service. This is grade school arithmetic, yet these fast food megaliths are hoping that you and I (and their workers) forgot where we put our calculators.

These are the same tactics used in the last election. Those of a certain “protect business at all cost” political persuasion (OK, Repubs) have persuaded workers that it is in their best interest to let the bosses keep the money, because then those extremely wealthy bosses will allow it to trickle down and rain upon us.

They hope that their expertise in getting us to vote against our own interest will continue unabated. Will it?

Health Insurance Companies…They Do What Now?

In 1993, most health insurance companies in the country spent about 95% of their premiums paying claims (this is called their Medical Loss Ratio). During that same time, Medicare paid almost 97% of their premiums on claims. Since then, by denying claims and cancelling policies of those who get sick often, we have arrived at the following:

Blue Cross/Blue Shield-medical loss ratio=82%
United Health Care-medical loss ratio=82%
Aetna-medical loss ratio=81%
Humana-medical loss ratio=84%

So, our health insurers have found a way, in a suspiciously lock-step manner, to decrease the amount of their premiums which go to pay claims by as much as 14%. On total premiums in excess of $500,000,000,000 ($ one half trillion) that means that, on average, health insurance companies are pocketing an additional $75 billion per year over and above their normal profits. For comparison purposes, Microsoft made $20 billion last year-total. Apple made about $24 billion.

Now, as good capitalists, we would normally say, “good for them”. There’s nothing wrong with success, right? Well, sure, but I think it’s time that we determine what, exactly, these companies do for us.

Insurance companies are aggregators of risk. That’s it. They don’t provide any other services that we can’t provide on our own. They don’t give us advice on how to stay healthy, find good doctors, or determine if a recommended treatment is or isn’t called for. We do that all on our own, in conjunction with our doctors. Insurance companies simply hold our money, pool it with the money they get from others, and presumably pay it out to those who make us well. The concept makes sense because, like all insurance we buy, we expect it to accumulate enough money to pay for our needs should a medical issue arise.

But now, we have the ACA, (Obamacare). What the ACA does is gather together numerous insurance companies in one central location, or Exchange (that’s what the web site is for). It gives us a place to pick from numerous insurance companies, presumably find the one with the best coverage at the lowest price, from which we can then buy our insurance. Seems simple, huh?

Well, it’s simple until you look at it from 30,000 feet. The ACA is, in effect, aggregating the aggregators. They are sweeping up a group of insurance companies and putting them in a bank, much as the insurance companies sweep up our premiums and put them in a bank. The government, in an effort to ensure that Americans have health care, is making us pay, not for the health care itself, but for insurance. And by forcing us to buy insurance, they’re forcing us to give anywhere from 16%-18% percent of that money to these insurance companies in pure profit. This is, in actuality, a form of Corporatism, used largely by the Fascists in Italy before WWII. (I use words like “Fascists” quite sparingly and, due to the fact that these words are so often used by those who do not understand them, I affirm very strongly that I’m not accusing anyone of being a Fascist).

So, the question remains, what are insurance companies doing for their profits? They’re helping us to bank some money for future medical bills. That is what they do, in totality.

Now, there are some other entities which do the same thing. One, Social Security, takes money from our paychecks every week and aggregates it, paying out money to us when we get old. (Contrary to what some in certain political parties will say, Social Security is fully funded through 2050 and is not even remotely going bankrupt. I’ve been hearing about its impending bankruptcy for the last 20 years). Another is Medicare. A small amount gets deducted from your paycheck and put in a big ole’ account, paying for your medical expenses from when you’re 65 until you die.

With all the Tea Party protests over the years, especially when Obama was running for re-election, I have never, not once, heard of a rally, protest or national candidate which advocated abolition of Social Security and Medicare. Not one! Although some, like GW “Cowboy” Bush advocate privatizing it (he quieted down, murmuring to himself, after the stock market tanked) and badly hair-plugged Rand Paul says the same, I have yet to hear anyone, anywhere claim that either of these programs are failures.

Oh, and to repeat: Medicare spends 97% of its revenue on claims. That’s, on average, 16% more than the collective insurance companies.

Your tax dollars at work…

So friends and neighbors, I hope you’re seeing where I’m going with this. Since our government has proven itself quite competent at managing health care (they’re a little slow on websites, I’ll give ya that one) and have a decades-long track record of helping to keep Americans healthy, why aren’t we simply bypassing the highly profitable health insurance companies and sending it all to the government?

It’s called “Single Payer”. Barack Obama did not attempt to get it through Congress and I can now see why. The herculean effort to pass the ACA proved to be so difficult that I believe his refusal to go for single payer was prescient, if not visionary. It would have failed, and I think he was smart enough to know it.

But single payer has to be the next step. The resistance to it, however, will be much more transparent in its mendacity than toward the ACA. Once the ACA is fully in place and functioning, the only argument against single payer must be made on the part of insurance companies. There is no one else who will suffer, once we have a fully functioning ACA, from the complete dismantling of our current risk-aggregation-for-profit system than the companies who add more to the cost of it than any other single entity.

What must be remembered is the inevitability of the need for health care. There is no question but that we will all get sick. The medical industry and all its component parts have a monopoly-like hold on humans. We will be forced to use their services sooner or later, yet we let them determine how much to charge us, knowing full well that we have no place else to go.

The use of auto insurance is not inevitable. The use of flood or fire insurance is not inevitable. Many of us go through our entire lives without a car accident or an overflowing river damaging our homes. Life insurance, although inevitable, is not for us-it is a gift for our heirs. There is no comparison to health care in any other aspect of life, or of insurance.

Governments exist to do for people what they cannot do for themselves, like protecting borders, fighting wars, damning rivers and repairing the damage from earthquakes. Virtually every other industrialized country provides some method for their citizens to have the health care they need. There are no alternatives to health insurance for us. We have no place else to go.

Americans, some of whom quite vaingloriously describe themselves as “exceptional”, do not seem to think that that exceptionalism should extend to the goal of majority of its citizens being healthy.

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