Does “he who dies with the most toys wins” still apply?

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By David Repka

I am a child raised in the “me” generation of the 1970s and “greed is good” generation of the 1980s. It is no surprise that I had a “He who dies with the most toys wins” poster on my wall through high school. The poster showed a Tudor-style Mansion (similar to the one in the photo taken in Greenwich, CT owned at one point by actor by Mel Gibson) with a 12 garage filled with great classic cars (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Bugatti, Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, etc.) motorcycles, sporting equipment, and even  a classic Chris-Craft wooden lake boat. This was the dream life every 12 year old boy in America aspired to… more and more toys!Tudor Mansion

As I make my push to 50 I realize how little the collection of material things matters. I’ve come to realize the truth in the phrase “do we own things? or do our things own us?”.

As a husband and father of three daughters I’ve learned that what matters to me most is collecting experiences, not things.  Opportunities to spend quality time with friends and family are what  get me going these days, not aspirations of having more stuff. I realize that my idea is not very unique and technology has enabled this new simplicity.

We see this in real estate with a generation of 20 and 30 somethings foregoing the “American Dream” of home ownership and instead choosing to live in upscale rental apartments. A rental apartment does not require a commitment for more than 7 to 12 months at a time as jobs, careers and relationships change.  For students that attended a university at a livable, walkable college campus it is hard to turn their back on that level of ease, convenience and shared amenities of the new high quality student housing. A rental apartment has become a lifestyle choice rather than a stepping stone to home ownership.

The Internet has enabled us to live in a world where “sharing” rather than owning is the new normal.  A web connection allows us to enjoy a multi-million dollar vacation home via 3rd Home or charter a yacht via The Moorings, Some have taken to ignoring the hassle of owning, maintaining and insuring a car because there is always a  ZipCar nearby or if they don’t feel like driving at all they can use their iPhone to hire a driver on Uber. The Internet has made my library of hard cover books, movies on DVD, and music on CDs completely irrelevant. Why own content when it can be streamed to my living room via AppleTV or if I am on the road to my iPad or my iPhone with Netflix, Hulu and Pandora ?

We are blessed to live in wonderful times where we can focus on collecting relationships and good times with friends and family rather than spending our time collecting and storing more and more stuff.

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Is a Duck Face Worth $3 Billion?

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By David Repka

The Duck Face photo sharing site known as Snapchat recently turned down an offer of $3 billion from Facebook. As a hard working 40-something entrepreneur that has worked nearly every day of his life since he was a teenager cutting lawns and washing cars… how does that make any sense to anyone over the age of 24?

Yes, it is pure genius that the 23-year old founder figured out how to make photo messages self destruct after someone sends you a Duck Face photo (unless of course you screen capture the photo to your iPhone like my teenage daughters have figured out how to do much to my chagrin as the keeper of the iPhoto library chock full of hundreds if not thousands of duck face, scary faces, ugly faces and sparrows). But saying no to $3 billion in real cash for a one dimensional app without any massive barriers to entry, intellectual property or economic moats to keep out marauding invaders? Seriously? How are you saying no to that?

$3 billion is serious money for a 2-year old start up company. Think you are leaving money on the table? In one of my favorite interview one-liners legendary entrepreneur Mark Cuban was asked if he felt “stupid” leaving money on the table when the Yahoo stock he sold went from $200 a share to $230 a share? Cuban’s remark: “It’s kinda hard to feel stupid when I’m flying around in my G-5”.

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The best entrepreneurs always know when to “capture the profit” and harvest their winnings.

 

A Clear & Simple Explanation of Who Wins When We Cut Tax (and Who Get Beaten Up and Left for Dead Outside a Bar)

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Sometimes politicians, journalists and others exclaim; “It’s just a tax cut for the rich!” and it is just accepted to be fact, without  questioning it. But what does that really mean? Just in case you are not completely clear and/or do not understand this issue, the following should help, if you are a reasonable person. Let’s put tax cuts in terms everyone over the age of 21 can understand… splitting up a bar bill (PS – The compiler of this article, David Repka, is one of the founders of the Beer Breakfast local charity movement). Drinking-to-New-Year

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1… The sixth would pay $3… The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59. So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.”Drinks for the ten of you now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.

But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his “fair share”? They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings). The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings). Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. “I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,” but he got $10!” “Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I!” “That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!” “Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!” The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the
bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking somewhere else where the atmosphere is friendlier.

(Suggestion: Re-Read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged)

Note: Article compiled by David Repka – vintage photo from the Library of Congress

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Halloween Light Show – What Does the Fox Say?

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You have got to see this Halloween Light Show set to “What Does The Fox Say” by Ylvis.

Over 8,500 lights and roughly 1066 channels of computer animation. This is the homeowner’s personal hobby and not a business. Edwards Landing Lights is simply the name he gave to the holiday display at his house. Viewers tune in their car’s FM radio to “hear the lights”. No music is broadcast outside. Most of the lights used in the display are energy efficient LEDs. Homeowner estimates the electric bill for the display at $25-$35 to run the display for the Halloween season. Stunning!

 

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Warren Buffett’s Ten Rules to Success

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Warren-Buffett-150x150By David Repka

I recently walked in to a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop to get lunch and saw a plaque on the wall with Legendary Billionaire Warren Buffet’s Ten Rules. I thought that they were so good that I wanted to share them:

1. Reinvest Your Profits. This makes sense not only in the stock market, but in a small business as well. Entrepreneurs who bleed all the profits out of a business find that they may struggle to grow the business into something larger and more valuable.

2. Be Willing to be Different. Buffet didn’t make his fortune by following the crowd. Instead, he invested when everyone else was panicked, and sold off when everyone else was buying. That strategy always beats the market. Doing what everybody else is doing – the same way they are doing it – is the recipe for becoming average. Nobody pays extra for “average”.

3. Never Suck Your Thumb. After you gather the information you need, make a decision. To Buffet, any time wasted to get to a decision is just “thumb sucking”. Success comes from immediately grabbing every opportunity that you can recognize.

4. Spell out the Deal In Advance. Your bargaining position is never stronger than before you are committed. So, advantage of that opportunity to spell out the details and specifics of any deal before you start. This is especially true when working with friends or family.

5. Watch Small Expenses. In the investment world, this translates into watching not just the returns offered by investment funds, but also the fees charged by the fund managers. This is so true in every aspect of small business and personal finance, as well.

6. Limit What You Borrow. Buffet claims to never have borrowed a significant amount of money. His advice is to remain debt-free, and then save and invest money. This is a very counter-cultural (see #2) contrast to those who preach getting rich using Other People’s Money.

7. Be Persistent. This is an advantage that the small entrepreneur has over larger, more established competitors. Persistence and ingenuity can, and often does win against large odds. If you’ve done your research, taken care of the details, watched your expenses and stayed out of debt, your success through persistence may only be a matter of time.

8. Know When to Quit. Don’t throw good money after bad. Resist the temptation to salvage a bad deal with a last-minute home run.

9. Assess the Risk. Buffet recommends thinking through both the best-case and the worst-case scenarios. This helps clarify the risks and rewards for any venture, which is critical to the decision making process.

10. Know What Success Means. Buffet doesn’t measure success in terms of dollars. As he says, “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.” Here is wisdom.

Please drop me a line and let me know your favorite Buffettism. For more inspiration and ideas on the mindset of Self-Made Billionaires please follow DesignerBuffalo.

Beer Breakfast 2013 is This Saturday in Downtown St. Pete

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Visit BeerBreakfast.com

Visit BeerBreakfast.com

Have you experienced our tradition of Revelry~Fellowship~Sanctuary known as Beer Breakfast? Hard to believe the event that started as a lark with four people in 2002 has grown to an event attended by over 250 people last year.

Please help us spread the word about “Beer Breakfast 2013” by inviting your friends and clicking “like” on Facebook:

http://BeerBreakfast.com http://www.facebook.com/BeerBreakfast

Our next event is this Saturday on March 23rd in Downtown St. Pete at The Mandarin Hide before the morning session of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Austin-design-company

This year we are supporting the Florida West Ballet, a local charity that promotes and develops youth expression through dance and the fine arts. Hope you can make it. If you can’t make it – want to buy a collectible t-shirt? Your donation of $25 includes shipping.

A Different Christmas Poem

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090127-M-9995W-095

By: Michael Marks The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,

I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.

My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,

My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,

transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,

completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,

Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.

In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,

So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,

But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.

Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,

Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,

And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,

a lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,

Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.

Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,

standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,

“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!

Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,

You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,

Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light.

Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,

I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”

“It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,

That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,

I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”

Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam,’

And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,

But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,

The red, white, and blue… an American flag.

“I can live through the cold and the being alone,

Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,

I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

I can carry the weight of killing another,

Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all,

To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,

Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”

“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,

“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?”

It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,

For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,

“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.

To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,

To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,

To know you remember we fought and we bled.

Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,

That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.

Verified on Webservices-Ventura

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Veterans Day: Freedom is Never Free

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On this Veterans Day we remember that freedom is never free. I wanted to pause to give thanks to all that gave some and the some that gave all to keep our country free from tyranny and oppression.

Also, let’s not forget that November 10th marked the 237th birthday of the US Marine Corps. A special note of thanks to my in-laws Inger and the late Jesse Baird who were both Captains in the Marine Corps. This is a special time of year because tomorrow we also celebrate my late father’s birthday. He was a Captain in the Webservices-Seattle US Army during the Vietnam era and would have been 68.

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Why Can’t We Create More Jobs in America? Too Much Dam Regulation!

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The true story below shows our government in action and crystalizes why there has not been more job creation in our country… Yes, this story has been verified in Snopes. First read the letter from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) – then read the awesome reply from the property owner.

SUBJECT: DEQ File No.09-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec 20; Lansing, Michigan

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.. A review of the Department’s files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations.. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2010.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

David L. Price District Representative and Water Management Division

=====

Here is the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries:

Re: DEQ File

SUBJECT: DEQ File No.09-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec 20; Lansing, Michigan

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 11/17/09 has been handed to me. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane, Trout Run, Lansing, Michigan.

A couple of beavers are in the process of constructing and maintaining two wood ‘debris’ dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials ‘debris.’

I would like to challenge your department WebdesignsSanAntonio to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

These are the beavers/contractors you are seeking:

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is:

(1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or

(2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. (Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.)

I have several dam concerns. My first dam concern is, aren’t the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation — so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.

The Department’s dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names.

If you want the damed stream ‘restored’ to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers — but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers’ Dams).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2010? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice by then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area. It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your dam step! The bears are not careful where they dump!

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

THANK YOU,

RYAN DEVRIES & THE DAM BEAVERS

An open letter from the founder of the small business that employs you…

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To All My Valued Employees,

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges.

However, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country.

However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interests.

First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You’ve seen my big home at last years Christmas party. I’m sure; all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life.

However, what you don’t see is the back story.

I started this company 28 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living apartment was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I slept in that car when I made overnight business trips so I would not have to spend money on a hotel room. I didn’t have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business — hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom’s for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the Goodwill store extracting any clothing item that didn’t look like it was birthed in the 70’s. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don’t. There is no “off” button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child.

You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden — the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations… You never realize the back story and the sacrifices I’ve made.

Now, the economy is falling apart, and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for. Yes, business ownership has is benefits, but the price I’ve paid is steep, and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

  • I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don’t pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes.
  • I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him.
  • Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time.
  • On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my “stimulus” check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check? Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.

The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck, you’d quit, and you wouldn’t work here. I mean, why should you? That’s nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.

Here is what many of you don’t understand … to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn’t need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now!

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don’t defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the poor of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of “CHANGE” you can keep!

So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple.

If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your Webservices-Sacramento, and your child’s future. Frankly, it isn’t my problem any more.

Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I’m done. I’m done with a country that penalizes the productive, and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, shredded the constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about….

Signed,

Your boss

PS – The moral of the story? Re-read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged