Threadbare – Not Just Another Pretty Face

“When you bust through all the layers of brevity and you have shaken all the hands of hope, you can begin to share the depths of depression joblessness can bring.”

This pretty much sums it up if you are over 50 and looking for employment.

Reg – Not Just Another Pretty Face.

When I decided to do this story about my good friend, Reg Lepper I thought maybe it would help him by building on the social networking he had already begun on LinkedIn and Facebook.

As I began learning more from him about his 27 plus year career at Hartmarx, known for its Hart Schaffner & Marx and Hickey Freeman suits, and for making President Obama’s inauguration tuxedo and topcoat, I realized the complex struggle he and his cadre of sales professionals and the plant workers endured.

The company and its United States subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy in January, 2009. Workers threatened to occupy Hartmarx’s plant if the company’s creditor, Wells Fargo Bank, attempted to lay off workers and liquidate the company’s assets.

In August 2009, Emerisque Brands UK and its partner SKNL North America completed their purchase of Hartmarx.While Reg survived the bankruptcy of Hartmarx, the acquisition, ultimately of a foreign owned conglomerate based in India, many of his friends and fellow employees lost their jobs.

Not to be outdone Reg took it upon himself to write an impassioned plea, (click on the link “a letter to the President”) a letter to the President of the United States, Barrack Obama, the beneficiary of the afore-mentioned Hart Schaffner & Marx suits.  Fifteen (15) months after the acquisition Reg, too lost his job.

Like many who are unemployed, Reg wants to work.  He wants to support his family.  Like millions of Americans, there have been forks in the road and to make ends meet, he needs a job.  Reg is, as I describe him on LinkedIn.com business social networking site.

Reg’s now been unemployed for 7 months.  Not for lack of trying.  Reg has employed every means of looking for work.  Shunned by “head hunters” most likely due to his age, Reg is 64.  I can personally vouch for the fact he doesn’t behave or look a day over 30… OK so he looks a bit older, but he’s a firm believer in exercise, has been a long time distance runner.  Now his knees are telling him he needs to go shopping for a good bike – cheap!

That aside, Reg has been and is actively looking for work.  Sending out his (click on the link to Reg’s “resume“) resume doing  job interviews, volunteering his time for Career Ministry and consulting their members regarding many aspects of their search for new opportunities and careers.

Reg isn’t alone.  This is a nationwide plight affecting thousands of households across America.  If you are over 50 and unemployed in today’s economy, you could be facing many challenges including a mortgage underwater.  In such cases, how can you move to accept a job offer across the country?  What if you took a second mortgage out to pay for your kid’s tuition?  What if your kid is living at home because he or she can’t find a job or can’t afford to make ends meet on their own?

So is Reg’s story only about being a high income earner and over 50 an age related layoff?  I began to see there are many other dynamics in play.  Those dynamics include government and politics; how an increase in payroll taxes on corporate America has impacted US manufacturing jobs; and the shift in manufacturing jobs overseas.

Add TARP and “too big to fail”. i.e., Wells Fargo into the picture.  Let’s not forget the unions. Hoping to save their jobs and start a national movement, Hartmarx workers were pressuring Wells Fargo, the company’s main creditor, to approve the sale of Hartmarx to a buyer that would keep it alive instead of liquidating it and most likely putting its celebrated labels on suits made overseas, The New York Times’s Steve Greenhouse reported.tty face.

While I’m not going to rehash all the events which took place and detail the timeline I think it is interesting to point out there were a number of high profile players involved in the decline of the 124 year old company.

While researching this debacle 9 out of every 10 – news articles or posts reference corporate greed or the big bad bank, in this case Wells Fargo, as the culprit.

“That begs the question, “who buys Hartmarx suits?”

The answer is, “Wall Street bankers.”  OK, so who is demonizing Wall Street?  Obama and his posse, including Dick Durbin, Chuck Shumer and Barney Frank those who were championing the case for Hartmarx and union labor against Wells Fargo.

As reported by Progress Illinois:   The news of a potential liquidation (of Hartmarx) caused workers, union leaders, and members of Congress to spring into action to aid the company, which employs 3,000 people nationwide, including 1,000 in Illinois.  Rep. Phil Hare, who spent 13 years as a Hartmarx employee, described himself as “livid” at the bank, which accepted $25 billion in federal bailout funds. He went on to enlist the help of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Rep.  Jan Schakowsky, whose great-aunt found a job with Hartmarx after emigrating from Russia, called Wells Fargo CEO John Strumpf and urged him to keep the company running.  Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, meanwhile, sent a letter to Strumpf threatening to sever the state’s business with the bank if Hartmarx was ultimately liquidated.

Days after suit maker Hartmarx was sold to Emerisque and its Indian partner S Kumars Nationwide Ltd, SKNL a textile giant three US plants of the clothier have been shut down resulting in the loss of over 500 jobs.  Not a peep out of President Obama, then or now and the Hartmarx factory making his suits in Des Plaines… still open.

Obama, proudly flashing the Hartmarx label

While they may have saved some jobs, politicians and union bosses who should know better and who have voted consistently for more government and more spending weren’t helping the cause.  They may have acted like they are helping Hartmarx employees but their votes for higher taxes and more spending were helping to drive manufacturing jobs overseas.

Reg, on the other hand took it upon himself to champion the cause for Hartmarx workers.  He wrote a letter to the President and stirred the political “hornet’s nest” to get politicians pontificating and deserves a lot of credit for saving US worker’s jobs.

Let it be stated, from all accounts, Emerisque, a British private equity firm working with SKNL, has been doing all it can do to promote and keep the US plants open. In fact, Bud” McCullar, a partner at Emerisque called Reg and commented on how much he cared about the company and fellow employees.  Here’s a quote from Mr. McCullar on Reg’s LinkedIn profile.

“Reg is the consummate seller for an ever evolving apparel and consumer products segments.  From presenting to closing, ever the professional.”

There’s a great book called Built to Last written by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.  A very dear friend of mine recommended the book to me.   She has been fighting breast cancer for the past 10 years or more.  Apparently she, too, is “built to last.”  Thank God.

The authors define their choice of successful companies’ continued success to be built on “core values” and continued innovation by trying many things through change and recognizing and staying with what works.

If you are the management (CEO) of a company large or small it is your job to see to it you take care of the bottom line and all that goes with it.  That would be principally “cash  flow” management.  Too often, cash flow management is lost on CEOs who are paid for short term gains which inevitably cause long term pain.

That’s why small business is the backbone (more than 70 percent) of the US economy.  For small business cash flow is king.  Our only short term goal is to stay in business, cash flow and grow.

Maybe if more corporate giants and Wall Street bankers had stuck to their core values we wouldn’t be in as big a mess as we are now in today?  Case in point, the merger and acquisition (M&A) frenzy in the 90’s.  Corporate giants, including banks, joined in the M&A rush, to the extent some industry experts were predicting there would only be 3-4 large bank holding companies left in America.

Hartmarx too, jumped into the fray with an acquisition in late 1996.  They added two more in 1998.  In late summer 1999,they added another.  Maybe these acquisitions were good for the company.  I’m not here to judge.  What’s intriguing about the acquisitions is the correlation with offshoring.

In the 1990’s Hartmarx began the offshoring of production facilities to control costs. During that period, they closed ten domestic factories and shifted production to the Far East, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Someone should have written a book titled Built to “Be” Last – The Decline in Manufacuring Jobs in America – as American manufacturing companies began moving production overseas.

Now here’s the strongest argument yet to keep as to why there are fewer and fewer manufacturing jobs here in America.  If it were not for payroll taxes many more manufacturing jobs in America would have been saved.

While everybody was pointing fingers, blaming everyone but themselves for plant closings and lost jobs, you need not look further than, “it’s payroll taxes… (I’ll let you finish the sentence).”  Granted corporate greed is a factor here.  The problem is many large corporations are multi-national and feel the pressure from foreign competitors not burdened with the higher payroll taxes on workers.

Our government raised payroll taxes in April 1983.  The illustration here shows the investment US corporations began to make overseas according to PoliticalCalculations.com as “unintended consequences” of the payroll tax increase.

If you are a “for profit” company and it is your job to increase shareholder value, you are going to look for ways to lower your costs.  Increasing the payroll taxes on American workers was a major impetus to shift American manufacturing overseas.

We vote to place politicians in office to spend our tax dollars wisely.  They don’t.  On the other hand, we vote with our investment dollars to allow corporate “greed” to profit on the backs of American workers.  They do.

It’s time politicians wake up and reverse the course of lost manufacturing jobs by eliminating payroll taxes and adopting  the FairTax – see www.Fairtax.org.

Ultimately it is up to us as individuals to make the right choices.  This debt crisis is our wake-up call.  Let’s get back to our core values.  If you ask Reg it’s about God, family the desire to contribute his tremendous talent and work ethic to a company and a country “built to last.”

Made in the USA doesn’t have to be about politics or unions.  My good buddy Reg and many of those that have suffered the “unintended consequences” of increases in payroll taxes and lost  manufacturing jobs, will find no comfort here.

For more on Reg click here resume.

Life is Large!

A Trifecta! Klondike Bluffs in the foreground, Arches National Park and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the background. Awesome photography by Glenn Smith

Life is large!… and so amazing!

Don’t let  a few bumps in the road stop you from experiencing your potential.

You have an awesome future.

Don’t waste time on worry, anger or reproach.

Life’s too short.

The “what if’s?” can be endless.

The “why not’s” can be endless too.

Choose one and you will be lost in life. 

Choose the other and you will find endless possibilities.

 So “why not?”

Just a buck…

No offense to PetsMart. I’m sure they have the best of intentions.

How embarrassing!

If you have ever stood in line, reached the checkout counter and the cashier asks you if you want to donate to one of a plethora of genuinely legitimate and pressing charitable causes how do you feel?

You could have donated ten percent of your income to your church or to your favorite charity but now you are being called out publicly to donate “just a buck” to a good cause.

What do you do?  Maybe the real question is, “What can you do?”

You are challenged publicly and personally to reach a little deeper into your pocket.  You are faced with a decision to arbitrarily part with a buck.  Maybe it is 1%; 10%; 50% of your purchase.  Maybe you are a frequent shopper and a frequent contributor. Maybe you have factored the additional dollar or more into your purchase price. Maybe you linger in the vicinity of the register so you might checkout without an audience, should you choose to reject the request for just a buck.

That’s the question posed by President Obama tonight to the Republican Party.  He clearly conveyed in his message to the American public this evening, this  is a personal decision and it’s only a buck.  What’s a buck?

President Obama has made this personal.  He is hoping those who oppose him are now faced with making their own very personal decision.

The difference is it’s $400 billion bucks.  The deal was $800 billion in new revenues.  The president raised the ante to $1.2 trillion.  He waited until the Republicans had bought in, ready to swipe their credit card and the line behind them was long, impatient and tired of the delays, lack of service and needed to get on with their lives.  You can pay for it later. Next month or next year.  What’s $400 billion?  After all it’s for a good cause.  It’s for charity.

How can this get any more personal?

From Political Calculations

In 2009, Americans reported nearly $34.9 billion worth of donations to private charities serving the public interest on their federal tax forms, as they claimed the federal government’s tax deduction for charitable contributions on their taxes.  Of all these donations, $19.14 billion, or 54.9%, were made by taxpayer households that reported $200,000 or more in annual income.

Needless to say, that’s a lot of money that President Barack Obama believes would be better spent by the U.S. government in the form of spending controlled by elected U.S. politicians who would receive political benefits from it, which is why the President has repeatedly proposed cutting or eliminating the charitable contribution tax deduction for Americans who earn high incomes.

The President most recently went after the charitable contribution tax deduction in his original budget proposal for the U.S. government’s 2012 fiscal year, which could limit the amount of a tax deduction for high income earners by up to 30%.

Assuming that if not for the tax deduction for charitable contributions that Americans earning high incomes would not donate as much money to private charities, we estimate that the potential effect of the President’s FY2012 budget proposal would affect up to $1.9 billion of charitable contributions.

How fortunate am I?

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound?

I have been bowed over in anguish over a job lost; I have placed my hands over my face and head, elbows to my knees gasping for breath; I have barricaded myself behind closed doors.

So, I have often wondered, does a job lost make a sound?

If you have asked our government, technically the answer to both questions is , “No.”

I would have to agree.  Neither seen nor heard, you’re  on your own.

I have experienced both, the latter being much more traumatic, although both are deeply disturbing, I would have to say the tree was less personal and the lesser of two evils.

Symbolic in a fashion, like our government, the tree had been leaning.  It’s weight no longer sustainable, it roots no longer able to bear its growth.

I was deeply affected by the sight of the fallen tree in its magnitude.  It’s beauty and majesty held me in awe.  I often crossed it’s path, never imagining it’s demise.

Falling across a sidewalk, in a city park, the tree was swept away in a day; a series of sawing, grinding and chipping away.  At times the noise was deafening.  And then it was gone.

I, too, had moved on.  Picked myself back up.  Started a new venture.  Today I am rooted strongly, my business supported by faith, family and my business.  Supported by partners, fellow employees, suppliers and customers.

How fortunate for me, I am not a tree.

Time to pony up!

Dear Rich and Famous:

You want to raise taxes on small businesses and raise the debt ceiling so the government can spend more money on the backs of hard-working small business people, our employees and our families.

Put your money where you say it will do the most good.

Send your contributions to:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
Hyattsville, MD 20782

Much obliged!

Sincerely,

All the Real McCoy’s for Small Business

Hospitals Are For Sick People!

We are a small business in the “high tech” business.  Our goal is “advancing the paperless office.” It’s a shame our company and so many companies like ours simply cannot afford to do business with the government.

Doing business with the government is  a paperwork and regulatory nightmare.  We don’t have the time, the resources, a team of consultants to guide us or a team of  lawyers to protect us, God forbid we forgot to dot an “i” or cross a “t”.

“That is why The Affordable Care Act is destined to fail. It’s unintelligible.  Just ask anyone who hasn’t read it.”

As a software development company which replaces paper with electronic records, we believe technology can and will solve many of the cost containment problems with healthcare.

The problem is government needs to get out of the way.  Forget about subsidizing doctors with taxpayer dollars for buying government mandated and precertified technology called HITECH.  The problem is there’s too great a cost and too much red tape for a small business to get into the game.

Worse, doctors are going to pay too much money from the select few companies that are willing to run the government gauntlet to become certified under Obamacare.

Let the free market work.  My company has 32 employees.  Healthcare costs are a growing concern for our small business.  We pay the employee’s healthcare in full which has risen on the average more than 10% per year per employee over the past several years.  In the process we are seeing benefits shrink and costs increase for both employer and employee.

This is a partnership between employer and employee.  Employers want to provide a benefit in the form of compensation, in particular with a pre-tax benefit to the employee.  Employees want quality affordable healthcare for their families.  We ask the employees to participate in the decision making process.  We collaborate to find the best available plan for the money.

One of my employees with a spouse and 5 kids says, “I might as well just hand my paycheck back over to you to pay for my family’s healthcare.”

As an employer I feel terrible about this type of sentiment, but I’m paying for the employee’s healthcare, plus the cost to shop and administer the plan.  There’s nothing in it for me but to try to remain competitive in the salary and benefits area with other employers.

The 2011 National Physicians Survey, conducted by Thomson Reuters/HCPlexus and polling almost 3,000 American doctors, shows that while Obamacare would raise spending, premiums, overall U.S. health costs, and debt, it wouldn’t raise the quality of American health care. Rather, by a margin of well over 3 to 1, doctors expect the quality of American health care to decline over the next five years, in the wake of Obamacare’s passage: Only 18 percent of doctors expect the quality of health care to “improve,” while a whopping 65 percent expect it to “deteriorate.”

Recall that Gallup recently announced that only 13 percent of Americans support ObamaCare as is.  I’m not blaming this all on the President, but you have to walk the walk to talk the talk.  The President doesn’t do either.

Health insurance cost is a moving target for small business. In 2010 we paid full medical benefits for 27 FTEs.   Our cost averaged $4,900 per employee per year. This is up only 5% over 2009 due to changing providers from Blue Cross to Humana, changing plans from a PPO to an HMO, higher deductibles and over 1/2 of the FTEs selecting H.S.A.s due to the cost to their families. Since there is really no competition between providers, Blue Cross, Humana and United Healthcare we have been switching from one to the next every 2-3 years based on the plans available and the economics. In 2011 the cost will has increased to $5,030 per employee until August when we will again negotiate a new and undoubtedly less desirable coverage. Keep in mind the impact is felt not only by the employer, but by the employee with spouse and children as well.

The answer to rising prices and declining benefits is to increase competition in the health insurance market.  Why do we need a new law to create healthcare exchanges?  Why can’t we lift existing regulations to allow competition across state lines?  Encourage, not put limits on Health Savings Accounts H.S.A.’s as the new Affordable Care Act does.  I pay for my employee’s health and dental benefits up to the monthly H.S.A premium. If they select a more expensive plan they pay the difference.  I have physicians who have discounted procedures 25% because they know I’m paying for their services out of my own pocket (at least until I reach the out of pocket maximum).  The emphasis at our company is to be healthy.  We have our own gym.  We have a cycling team for the formed to fight MS.  If an individual is making decisions on their own behalf with regard to their health and their health care costs, the cost of healthcare will  truly become more affordable.

The bottom line is we simply cannot afford to get sick.

Where common sense fails. disingenuous, dishonest, demagoguery prevails.

From PoliticalCalculations.com: Combined, the Top Ten recipients of this corporate welfare took 45.6% of the total $1,789,449,634 taxpayer dollars that were doled out, with the United Auto Workers taking the largest chunk by a wide margin, with $206,798,086, or 11.6% of all the taxpayer money that was allocated for the purpose.

Surprisingly, two telecommunication giants AT&T and Verizon took the second and third positions, with 7.8% and 5.1% of the total take respectively.

After that, three state agencies occupied the fourth, fifth and sixth largest positions—the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, the Georgia Department of Community Health and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the latter frequently in the news recently for corruption scandals and its massively underfunded pension liabilities.

The eighth and ninth ranks are taken up by the State of New York and the Pension Accounting Services Department within the State of New Jersey’s Treasury Department.  Corporate basket case General Electric, which has come to rely greatly upon government mandates, special protections, subsidies and bailouts for its revenue, rounds out the Top Ten with an even 2.0% of the total handout.

The remaining 1,305 entities collected the remaining 54.4% of the money paid out by the government to pay for the health benefits of people who chose to retire from their professions early, with the Minnesota Cement Masons taking the least of all the recipients, at 60 dollars.  Source: politicalcalcualtions.com


Why do politicians, the president the mainstream media and a plethora of celebs continue to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?  Not so at the Washington Times…

“The president’s own secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, has admitted a major section of the Obamacare law is “totally unsustainable.”

“The now-familiar monthly trickling down of new waivers is, at best, a tacit admission that Obamacare is a failure. So far, seven entire states and 1,372 businesses, unions and other institutions have received waivers from the law. The list includes the administration’s friends and allies and, of course, those who have the best lobbyists.”

“More than 50 percent of the Obamacare waiver beneficiaries are union members, which is striking because union members
account for less than 12 percent of the American work force.”

“But the political payoffs don’t stop there. The Obama administration  didn’t forget its closest friends in the latest round of waivers. Although  there are 435 congressional districts across America, nearly 20 percent of the new waivers, amazingly, found their way to a single district – Mrs. Pelosi‘s.   As for Mr. Reid,  well, the entire state of Nevada found an early waiver in its Christmas stocking.”

The answer is they have no real stake in the game.  Politicians and the President want to be re-elected.  Their own constituents get a pass.  They don’t pay for their own healthcare. The mainstream media and celebrities and their Cadillac health insurance plans can afford to pay more.

The small businesses and their employees are left to deal with big government mandates already proven to unpalatable to 3.1 million individuals exempted from the plan, of which 1.55 million are in union plans. Those who received waivers and those who pay no taxes are going to continue to vote in favor Obama, Pelosi and Reid.  They have held the keys to the kingdom and skyrocketing debt too long.

If you are a taxpayer, do something.  Lean hard on federal, state and local politicians to come up with a better answer to the high cost of healthcare than the Affordable Care Act.

Ask your physician to cut you a break on your healthcare costs.  Negotiate with every insurer who offers healthcare in your state.  Look for plans which cover individuals and their families outside your employer’s plan(s).  Start moving.

Do everything you can to stay healthy.  Hospitals are for sick people.

Note:  Please help us get the good word out.  Share us on your favorite social media site and Stumble Upon.  Thanks.

Like Fine Wine…

Silver Oaks Vineyard

The unemployment jobless rate has jumped for those over 55 from 3.2% to 6.8% since the 2007 recession began.

This is an opportunity for small businesses looking to reduce the risks normally associated with hiring.

As an employer, you might consider “like fine wine, the over 55 candidates should be getting better with age.”

Rule Number One: “Ready to drink.”  Most wines available today are ready to drink (0ver 90%).  If the price is right drink it now.

Heard recently from someone over 55, unemployed, highly qualified and experienced in their line of work.  Someone whom I hold in high regard,

“I feel like I’m letting my wife, my kids and my grandkids down.”

This alarming revelation from someone heretofore has exuded confidence, success in; and dedication to; his family and his career like none other.

Over 55 and unemployed, most workers are eager to reenter the workforce.

Rule Number Two: “Taste it.”  There are many experts out there that will tell you what wine to drink and when.  My local wine shop agrees to a point but is adamant about one thing, “it comes down to you and your own personal tastes and preferences.”  The expression, “look good on paper (label)” is a common misnomer.

If you are hiring and you are a “seasoned professional” yourself, you don’t have to look over your shoulder twice to find someone with whom you can relate in the over 55 crowd.  Put these new hires through a probationary period.  They will understand they need to “earn their stripes.”

Rule Number Three: “Preservation of a good wine requires proper resources and planning.”  If you can’t afford to wait and don’t have the proper means to store your wine, drink it now.

In business, when hiring I like to use the expression “hit the deck running.” If you can’t afford to mentor, shadow, train or hire an apprentice or wait for a new hire to become productive, generate revenues, replace intellectual property, hire experience.

Rule Number Four: Price doesn’t dictate taste or value: There are winemakers out there ranging from Cameron Hughes (CH) to garage winemakers who produce excellent wine at excellent values. Famous high end growers in Napa, Sonoma and other areas sell their surplus to winemakers like CH who produce great wines at great values.

Look for experience first. College degrees, certifications, etc… is no substitute for the real deal. Many of the over 55 crowd have been “through the war.” “The proof of the wine is in the tasting.”

Some great reference sites:

http://www.staythirstymedia.com/201107-059/html/201107-sipprelle-washington.html

http://www.staythirstymedia.com/201107-059/html/201107-cavaliere-starting-over.html

http://politicalcalculations.blogspot.com/2010/08/teens-vs-geezers-in-us-job-market.html

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