Saturday, July 18, 2009

Health Care Reform And Small Business

Years ago I had an interesting conversation with an entrepreneur that owned a local Handyman Hardware store. We were standing outside his shop and watching construction crews build a brand new Home Depot across the street. "I don't have a problem with competition," he said, thinking about his future. "I just think we should all be on the same, level playing field."
You see, Home Depot received tax breaks and property tax breaks to build across the street. Now, I understand that the Home Depot will employ many people and bring lots of sales tax to the area, but the Handyman entrepreneur had been a good citizen (paying full tax rates) for 30 years. Why not offer him the same deal.
"I don't think they really care if you are here or not," I told him.
Well, some things never change. With the country on the edge of health care reform, it was great to see the recent House Bill that expects small businesses to pay for the many uninsured Americans.
Under the House bill, businesses with payrolls of more than $400,000, must either provide health insurance for their employees or pay a penalty of 8% of their payroll. For those of you who don't own a business, most businesses don't even make 8% (of overall revenues) as a profit. Many are in the 2%-4% range, if they are lucky. This plan would destroy many small firms.
That's not all. The second part of the double whammy is a surtax of at least 1% small firms would have to pay when business earnings exceed the threshold of $280,000 a year.
Don't you think small firms would provide health insurance for employees if they could? I mean, small firms are competing with larger companies for talent.
Here's an idea: If health care is that important to this country (which I believe it is), why don't we have everyone (including the 40% of the population that currently pays NO taxes) help pay the cost.
Politicians love to give lip service to the fact that small firms are "the engine of the economy." Yeah, right. Reality: I don't think they really care.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Social Networking: Making Old Girlfriends Pay

Julie K had better watch out. You see Julie was my first love back in the eighth grade. Until, that is, she turned me down for the Valentine's Day Dance. Now, after 27 years of dealing with the pain, it's time for a little pain and suffering on her end.
I'm going to use social networking to make her pay.
First, a few facts. Her friend Sarah told me she wanted to go to the dance. Then, I asked her and she broke my heart in two. And I must say, I was a catch back in 1981. I sat in the back of the bus with the other cool kids, I wore a concert shirt to school at least two days a week (sure sign of coolness back then) and I even shaved once every few weeks. Heck, I had hair back then.
But Julie ruined my life. (I'm playing Lionel Richie's "Endless Love" as I write this).
Now, it's her turn to suffer. I'm going to use every social networking site I know (Blogs and more blogs, LinkedIn, MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, etc.) to basically trash Julie.
I was talking with a PR professional last week and he mentioned that PR firms (who used to promote businesses) will now help disseminate messages (for and against others) through social networking sites. These firms make it look like a real grassroots undertaking. (Don't want the world to know it's really four guys in a South County cubicle.) I'm going to hire that PR firm. Ah, the world against Julie K. I can rally every heartbroken 8th grader against her.
Then, I'm going to hire an IT firm to make sure all of these entries end up high on Google's searches. Julie's dog will soon know how bad she hurt me.
I could walk away, move on with my life and not worry about Julie. Yeah, right. Why would I do that when social networking is here to make people like Julie pay.
I'm looking for much more than an apology. I've had years of pain and suffering. I'm thinking a two-week cruise to the Caribbean might help.
Now, Julie will probably hire her own PR firms and disseminate bad information about me or information to make herself look better. She'll probably also hire an IT firm. She may even tell some stories about me to discredit me.
That's OK, my PR firm will just disseminate some more crap about her.
I just want to thank the designers of social networking. Somehow, when the idea of social engineering began, getting back at Julie K was exactly what the founders had in mind.
--Ron Ameln, SBM