Toys, Toys, Toys – Oh, What Kind of Christmas will 2008 be for Toy Givers, Toy Makers…and the Little Toy Receivers…

Oh, glorious Black Friday – the much-awaited day after Thanksgiving, when retailers open their doors at 4 a.m., 6 a.m. and so on.  Hordes of shoppers rush in to the retail floors to snap up bargains.  Bringing bright smiles to retailer faces.  (And today is the big on-line shopping day, with sales in the hundreds of billions’ of dollars.) The Christmas holiday shopping season is now officially “on.”  And for toys?  Well…that may be another story, amidst the euphoric mood of shoppers over the past weekend.  Mothers, grandmothers, toy-givers of all ages and genders and income levels and educational backgrounds are carefully screening the dolls, toys and gadgets they’ll buy this season.

 

Tens of millions of toys have been / are still being recalled in rolling, huge waves of “voluntary recalls” by major toymakers / marketers.  State attorneys general (especially in New York and California) are zeroing in on contaminated or dangerous or lead-containing toys and launching investigations.  Media are all over the issue in this news cycle – which will run (we believe) out into the new year.  One city mayor in Florida today called for banning of all Chinese-produced goods in his fair town.  (Asks a colleague here – what on earth would they put in the stores, then?)

 

Toy manufacturers are proactive on the issue; consider –

 

Mattel (“The World’s Premier Toy Brands”) has a voluntary recall information section updated regularly on its Web site.  And a “tips for safe toys this holiday” for consumers. Information is presented in English, Espanol, Deutsch, Francais, and Italiano. Information: www.mattel.com   Its other brand…

 

Fisher Price has recall information posted – though the company downplays the issue on its Home Page, which features all the great toys being marketed (hey kids, remember Big Wheels?).  The menu pull down includes “product Recalls,” listing three dozen already recalled (some dating back to 1998 and 2000; then, this season’s recalls dating back to February).  Consumers are advised to call a toll-free number (Mattel’s Consumer Answer Center) or locate the F-P office near them. Lots at stake here; F-P and Mattel brands include Barbie® dolls, Smart Cycle®, Friends®, Power Wheels®, Little People®, BabyGear®, Pixar Cars®, Batman Batmobile®, and many others.

 

Little Tikes (“Fun that Lasts!”) has a bold “Made in America” on its Web site, along with notes on the “high quality” of their toys. Little Tikes offers a “Note of Confidence” about its toys, and the company’s efforts to have suppliers and independent labs pay more attention to toy making processes and products.  The firm stresses “Made in the USA” to differentiate itself from the global-sourcing competitors.  Information:  www.littletikes.com

 

Hasbro Toys has a letter from its CEO about toy safety.  Mr. Al Verrecchia writes…”no issue is more important to me than the safety of our toys and of the children who enjoy them…”  He goes on to outline testing and quality control checks, independent third-party inspections, and additional steps underway to ensure safe products reach retail shelves.  Mattel also has its “Corporate Social Responsibility” information on the Web site under the Corporate Governance section.  Read the CEO’s full letter at: www.hasbro.com/default.cfm?page=letter  CSR info at: www.hasbro.com/csr/

 

Consumers and consumer advocates are putting their own information in the “ideas and information” marketplace – which affects consumer choices and buying patterns if fear levels are high enough.  And the toy issues this year seem to fit the “concerned” and “fearful” categories (especially given unrelenting media coverage).

 

On Accountability Central the editors are trying to present all sides of the story, and to present all points of view (commentary and opinion).  You can find more information on recalls and consumer actions at:

 

The wonderfully-named “Moms Rising Petition for Safety Toys” and “MomSquawk” have a “Lead Paint Toy Recalls” Web site up, with information on the ongoing lead toy recalls (updated regularly), covering toys, jewelry, children’s products, lead point information, legal help, and other topics.

 

Information at: http://www.leadtoyrecalls.com/

 

“Manufacture This – ORG” – “Find Out What America is Made of” – Web site and blog about the loss of US manufacturing and the societal impact, including dangerous products pouring across our borders.   Information: http://www.manufacturethis.org/

 

The [federal] Consumer Product Safety Commission lists “hazard recalls” on this Web site: http://www.accountability-central.com/single-view-default/article/us-consumer-product-safety-commission-toy-hazard-recalls/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=1677&cHash=8c7c01a44c

 

There’s more…more news, commentary & opinion, research, recall information…and you’ll find this in our Hot Topics Section – “Toy Safety Imports.”

 

Your comments?  Suggestions for additional content?

 

Hank Boerner
Editor & Publisher
Accountability Central

Comment on – Getting What We Pay For; When Foreign Merchandise Is Very Low Priced, Beware, There Is Something Inferior

No free lunch! No free lunch! No free lunch! We should paste this phrase on imported goods, post it in classrooms and living rooms, and slap a sticker on the front door of retail stores. And let’s teach this to our kids when they’re old enough to start looking over the counter at goodies on display.

 

Assume the average workers’ pay levels in China are about 1/30th or perhaps less than those of the manufacturing worker in the USA. Is that a factor – – should it be — in quality of output? As commentator Frank Attardo points out in his Ontario op-ed, if the Chinese producers are paying market prices for energy, raw materials, commodities, and even more for shipping to the USA, etc.– why are their goods so much cheaper than if produced in the USA or Canada? It’s about wages — generally low, very low, extremely low wages compared to western pay levels. (The primary contractor may pay good wages for China but the sub- sub-sub and sub-sub-sub contractors probably aren’t.)

 

Knowing this, as the world’s retailers and marketers bottom fish in the cheapest markets they can find…not just China but Bangladesh and other nations… they must be ever-vigiliant…their brands and reputations are at stake. Anything wrong with foreign-sourcing? No — unions don’t like it (US jobs disappear) but consumers want the lowest prices possible. They want at least some lunch “free.”

 

Caveat Emptor! the wise Romans said — buyer beware. Buyers starting with the sourcing managers for large US retailers or distributors who contract to manufacture in the Far East; with retailers buying from manufacturers or distributors (middle men) who are sourcing in the region; importers, etc. Do they not think there will be shortcuts taken, or inferior or perhaps dangerous components used for manufacture and assembly?

 

Yesterday a National Public Radio broadcast on the dangers of imports asked a national [manufacturers] trade association representative about the recent spate of recalls…there are laws on the books, he replied, that make this illegal. So? Well, said another guest, we have the Consumer Product Safety Commission that is supposed to stop dangerous goods from entering the retail channels. But — the CPSC is under-funded (“starve the beast!” cry the conservatives) and inspectors are at the lowest level in years (less than 400 inspectors now). And they have little enforcement power. Same with the Food & Drug Administration — too few inspectors. Same with US Department of Agriculture — starve the beast! is a great strategy for shrinking goverment.

 

(Stay Tuned, we advised in this space, to the Attorneys General of the states — in New York and California, the AGs are on the case with lead toys, phoney pharmaceuticals, with problem goods at retail in general.

 

So maybe there is a free lunch here after all — for the folks who wink & nod (in government, in the manufacturing industry, in retailing, in importing) and hope the stuff they sell to consumers is really OK.

 

We need to keep in mind that the recent toy recalls got kicked off because alert consumers spotted the problems and to their credit, big toy makers began voluntary recalls. One dad working for New York State government and with access to a lab is a great problem-spotter.

 

The resulting financial crisis for the toy industry underscores the importance of vigilance in the supply line — don’t mess with Moms! — and that for now at least, there was a hefty bill for lunch.

 

There is much more to come this holiday buying season regarding the safety and acceptability of imported toys — stay tuned. And bring your own lunch or get ready to pay for lunch (with higher retail prices) — but if that translates to safer products, maybe consumers won’t mind.

 

Let’s put that “NO FREE LUNCH” sticker in as many places as we can…in the end,we are all accountable for the safety of products in our retail channels…no? Your thoughts?

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor

 

Accountability Central

Washington: Out Of Tune With Growth

For years after WW II the American Dollar was the currency of choice around the world — in little Costa Rica the dollar is still welcomed by cab drivers and hotel bellhops and merhants. But for how long…as the dollar continues to weaken against other currencys?

 

While professing to be a political and fiscal conservative, beginning in January 1981 President Ronald Reagan began to either propose or approve massive deficits and under his administration record levels of debt were incurred. The Great Communicator amassed more debt for the federal government than all presidents from George Washington to Jimmy Carter — combined! (I have not seen this figure challenged — would be interested in hearing from anyone challenging the totals.)

 

This as a game played by R’s and D’s, by liberals and conservatives — give the people what they want (government payments) and don’t give them what they don’t want (taxes to pay for same.)

 

The last time the federal budget had been balanced was in 1969 (the 1968 preparation under Lyndon Johnson, prepared by budget director Charles Zwick who went on to head Southeast Banking in Miami). All through the following years to President Bill Clinton reversed the trend we had more outgo than income. At some point, one must pay the piper, yes? Are we near that point? Bear Stearns economist David Malpass seems to be saying yes.

 

How long can the federal government adopt budgets that are hundreds of billions of dollars above (in spending) what will be collected (income)? While the congress and White House spar over Iraq spending, does anyone ask — where will the money come from? Or is that irrelevant now?

 

While we talk about “deficit” (the annual shortall) the piled up year-upon-year deficits are becoming really scary – that’s the soverign debt, now in the trillions’ of dollars. One estimmate is that all organs of the federal government may owe $50 trillion or more to bondholders.

 

The “compassionate conservative” in the White House doesn’t seem to be very fiscally conservative either, nor do the Republican members of Congress who often run on conservative platforms. The Dems are in charge of the budget now and they haven’t moved the needle back to neutral or beyond, to a balanced budget and pay-down of debt. Who will help us?

 

Every day we as a nation put on another $1 billion in debt — usually snapped up by China and other nations as investment. How long will they be patient investors?

 

If the OPEC countries shift to a Euro standard for US oil purchases, with the dollar at $1.60 to the Euro, what’s the impact on our economy? On the average consumer? On federal and state debt?

 

Notice that few of the candidates in the presidential debates (to date) talk about “debt” or “deficit” or sound fiscal policy? And few journalist-moderators ask those questions? Does anyone care?

 

Yes, every sovereign government has the right to use credit — wisely. Every goverment needs credit (bonds) to pay for long term investment. But what is appropriate credit use — and under what circumstances are un-balanced budgets OK? (Not for decades, right?)

 

Your thoughts on what David Malpass has opined here? On the national debt / deficit? On the way the USA prepares its budgets?

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor

 

Accountability Central

Comment on – SAFETY; Lead In Toys Sparks Lawsuit; The State Seeks To Force Mattel, Toys R Us And 18 Other Companies To Adopt Procedures For Inspecting Products.

Wise business leaders keep their eye on the state attorneys general — if the federal government can’t or won’t move to protect consumers, the AGs often will make the moves.

 

Investigations and oversight can begin in an individual state — such as California in the toy case — or with a small group of AGs in a coalition or working group. (New York and New England AGs work together to reduce the effects of acide rain they claim come from midwestern coal-burning electric plant emissions.)

 

And significant campaigns — leading to global settlements such as the Big Tobacco cases — often result from the universe of state attorneys general working through NAAG, the National Association of Attorneys General. NAAG has working groups — including one on predatory lending — and the smaller AG coalitions and the issues they focus on can quickly emerge into a national force for change through NAAG.

 

State laws are often more potent bases of action than federal laws or rules — NY AG Eliot Spitzer went after Wall Street’s big players using state law (The Martin Act) that preceeded 1930s federal financial markets protective legislation. In fact, President Franklin Roosevelt and his brain trust were quite familiar with the investor protection laws of the 1920s and used key elements for the 1933 an 1934 securities protection legislation.

 

The AG office is often a springboard for higher office — the former AGs of New York, Michigan, Arizona, and Washington State now occupy the statehouse as governors.

 

So yes, there is some politicking in the AG pursuits — but there is often also a genuine pursuit of creating positive change to protect the state’s consumers.

 

Smart corporate managers (and boards) will not ignore the AG’s call for change or solutions –as you see here in this LA Times story, management at Mattel (California-based)is engaged with AG Jerry Brown. Good move for all involved — including consumers at the toy counter.

 

Remember, when the feds can’t or won’t the state AGs are on the move. And often they have the ammunition such as California’s Proposition 65 or NY’s Martin Law to pursue their cases. And, the cases brought often have amicus or co-filers and supporters from advocate communities.

 

Stay Tuned to this story — California is home to key toy marketers (including Disney), the portal through which Asian-made toys flow to US stores, and home to a wide range of advocacies capable of mounting ambitious public campaigns targeting companies they think are holdouts in reforms and solutions to societal problems.

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor

 

Accountability Central

Comment on – MERGER FEARS: A TALE OF TWO CITIES: Atlanta To Put Up Fight For Delta; Business Leaders Vow To Keep ‘hometown Airline At Home’

Commentary on Business & Society

 

Gather round, kiddies, for a nostalgic view of the airline industry and its exciting early days. Airlines and the cities they headquarter in are very importawnt business partners! Back in our early journalistic days we were “an aviation writer,” something there are very few if any of today in newpapers, wire services, even broadcasting (the ABC TV Network even had a full-time av-writer in the space shot days).

 

Most airlines with familiar brand names came to life in the 1929 – 1940 era and were headed by luminaries and industry legends — CR Smith at America; WE Woolman at Delta; WA Patterson at United. (Most didn’t use their first names, as you see — the airline brand was more important to build!)

 

Airlines were glamorous endeavors (once upon a time), before the cattle-car days that came with wide-bodies like the Boeing 747. Why, this writer even remembers having to wear a suit and tie when boarding first-class on most airlines!

 

Airlines grew up around cities that they served – and the identification as an “airline city” was very important to local business interests — as it is in Atlanta today.

 

Atlanta had Delta (which began life as a southern crop-dusting operation); United called Chicago home; American Airlines started in Texas, moved to Chicago and then called New York City home before moving back to Dallas-Fort Worth. Pan Am (“Pan American World Airways,” America’s foreign flag carrier to the world!) was always a New York City fixture with additional outposts in Miami (its gateway to Latin America). Eastern started out in New York with Rockefeller Family seed money, with WW I aviation hero Eddie Rickenbacker at the helm; it shifted to Miami after space hero Frank Borman took over and looked to cut costs. Continental Air Lines was headed by the dashing Bob Six who called Denver and the Rockies — the Continental Divide — home. Trans World Airlines (TWA) began as Transcontinental Western Air (TWA) and called New York home “at the end” (it was absorbed into American Airlines). The legendary aviator and investor Howard Hughes owned this airline (and others).

 

Regional airlines — Allegheny before it became USAirways — similarly served local cities they grew up in. Mohawk, upstate New York. Southwest — today’s darling profit-maker — was a tiny Dallas-based carrier serving Texas. Alas, nothing is forever (especially in business, and airlines are businesses, even if losing money most of the time!)

 

Hometown business interests were loyal to their hometown airline — and corporate fliers made up the bulk of scheduled airline profits. Then came de-regulation (late-170s/early 1980s). Things were never the same for airline managers — and passengers!

 

We hope Atlantans get to keep their airline at home. What would Atlanta be without Coca-Cola headquarters? Looking at the “Official Airline Guide” of late-1937 — 70 years back — we find Delta Air Lines — “the trans-Southern route” — connecting Atlanta with such cities as Birmingham, Charleston, Shrevesport, and Dallas. And its been an important part of the great city of the south — Atlanta — ever since. Great them for campaign — Keep Delta My Delta — and in Atlanta! Good luck. If Delta were to move…it would be one more indication of how far we have moved from the glory days of the American airline industry.

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor – AC

 

Disclosure – HB was once American Airlines’ PR manager in NYC and then manager of corporate social responsibility programs for USA. His past airline consulting clients have included Royal Jordanian, American, NY Helicopter, Tower Air, SAUDIA, and other scheduled carriers…in the good old days! Sic Tempus Fugit! Time flies indeed — especially if you are in the “flying” business.

Comment on – Push For More Minorities On Boards; Chicago United Says Many Are Qualified

Commentary on Corporate Governance and Accountability…

 

Three cheers for Chicago United — for hi;ghlighting the issues and sending a list of qualified men and women of color to the executives and board chairs at Fortune 1000 companies for consideration as board members. Board nominating committes should reach out to Chicago United if they don’t get the list (we are approaching nominee list-making for the 2008 proxy season elections).

 

The world has changed a lot and the “face of America” has surely changed in the last decades of the 20th Century. Corporate boards are seeking highly-qualified candidates and many such folk could be found if boards looked a little harder in the various minority / under-represented communities of the United States.

 

Why is this important? Consider that New York City, the world’s premier financial capital, is now a city of minorities — the majority of NYC are minority populations. (A half-million Dominicans who are wooed by canidates back in the D.R. are emblematic of the power of New York’s minorities.) We won’t have a “majority” or many “minority” populations in the not-too-distant future. Outfits like Chicago United can help forward-looking companies attract representation from under-represented communities-of-interest — good for them!

 

If you are a board member or corporate board recruiter, here’s the Web site for you: http://www.chicago-united.org/ (Take a look at their mission, capabilities, conferences and upcoming meetings.)

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor – AC

Comment on – Fidelity shift in 2007 proxy season tips scales toward corporate political disclosure

Commentary on Corporate Governance, Investing and Political Accountability

 

Watch this trend closely — could be a freight train pounding through Corporate America in proxy season 2008 and beyond. (“Last year, a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey found that 85 percent of shareholders agreed that the ‘lack of transparency and oversight in corporate political activity encourages behavior’ that threatens shareholder value. Commissioned by the CPA, the March 2006 poll was the first examination of shareholder attitudes on corporate political spending. It also found that 94 percent of respondents supported disclosure and 84 percent backed board oversight and approval of “all direct and indirect [company] political spending.”)

 

With giant Fidelity changing its position on the issue, other mutual fund managers — and especially those in the advisory companies that cast the actual proxy vote on behalf of millions of fund owners — are finding courage and common sense to either vote “yes” on transparency and disclosure or “withold” votes and put the finger on the scale of the side of those investors voting “yes.” Good for Fidelity, Franklin Templeton, Vanguard, PIMCO,and T Rowe Price. The three top mutual fund families in the USA are Fidelity, Vanguard and American (Capital Research) — if you are a mutual fund owner in any of these complexes, you can voice your concern and let proxy vote-casters know that you are watching and these issues matter to you!

 

And you can track progress or lack of in corporate disclosure and transparency on political contributions through the excellent work of the Center for Political Accountability. (See Web site –http://www.politicalaccountability.net )

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor – AC

 

Disclosure – portions of our retirement accounts are invested in “American Funds” – we see the parent Capital Research folks doing a better job of communicating on governance issues, but they have quite a ways to go on political disclosure positions re: companies in their portfolios.

Comment on – BE HONEST AND DEPENDABLE; TAKE RESPONSIBILITY; Integrity Wins Customers

Commentary on Accountability — and Building and Preserving Trust

 

Good advice / information sharing from author Steve Watkins in IDB for tomorrow’s leaders of corporate, public and social sector organizations. And for each of us as we build (or tear down) our “trust level” with others.

 

Are you trustable? It could make the difference between success and failure in a crunch. Lessons: Back in November 1984, auto industry veteran Lee Iacocca published his autobiography — “Iacocca, An Autobiography,” with William Novak (co-author). CEO Iacocca had run Ford (he is the father of the Baby Boomers’ favorite car, the Mustang) and was recruited to turn around the ailing Chrysler (always #3 to Ford and GM). (All proceeds from the book went to the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston — as dedication to his late wife, Mary.)

 

Lee Iacocca was one of the most trusted men in Corporate America. On his watch, when Chrysler was found to have sold new cars that were slightly used (dealer demos)New York State officials went after the company. CEO Iacocca was appearing on the popular “Donahue Show” and the ever-confrontational host (Donahue) went after Mr. Iacocca. The leader’s response is a classic case of assuming personal accountability.

 

Yes, we screwed up, he professed (we’re paraphasing here), and we’re sorry and we’ll make it right. He went on to explain what happened, what the company was doing to fix things — and most important, assured everyone that it would not happen again. In effect, TRUST US (and trust me), he told the national TV audience.

 

He didn’t read a weasel-worded PR statement; nor a carefully-parsed lawyer’s short brief; nor did he mumble and cover his lips or look nervously off to the side for the waiting aides’ hand signals. He went straight to the point, took personal responsibility and pledged to the nation it wouldn’t happen again.

 

Trust — Lee Iacocca built his career, and his [two auto] companies’ success on it. He was human and showed it. Americans loved it, even talked about running him for president. In his book he states…

 

“There are times in everyone’s life when something constructive is born out of adversity. There are times when things go so bad that you’ve got to grab your fate by the shoulders and shake it … I’m convinced … that pushed me to take the presidency of Chrysler…” And, “… with determination, with luck, and with help from lots of good people, I was able to rise up out of the ashes…” He was referring to being fired after 30+ years at Ford (where he rose to be CEO) and then rescuing basket-case Chrysler.

 

Trust had a lot to do with — workers trusted him; auto buyers trusted him; the federal government trusted him and arranged financial support [Treasury Dept] for the turnaround; his co-workers in the C suite trusted him; some of them had come out of retirement to join the dramatic turnaround effort and others left good-paying secure jobs to join Lee in Detroit; the board of directors obviously trusted him when they picked him — a very publicly-fired [Ford] CEO. And he trusted himself. Great lessons for tomorrow’s leaders.

 

(Read the book again: “Iacocca,” Published 1984 by Bantam.)

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor AC

Comment on – THE SYRINGE MESS; NY Had Power It Didn’t Use; Officials Could Have Subpoenaed The Names Of Hundreds Treated By Plainview Doctor Sooner, But Wound Up Negotiating With Him For 8 Months

Commentary on Accountability

 

— or lack thereof, in several places

 

This story SCREAMS off the pages of the newspaper — read me! This episode is all about Accountability! Or lack of…enough to go around.

 

A local physician may have infected hundreds of trusting patients. The facts are still not clear. (If the allegations published in NEWSDAY and set forth by public officials are true, shouldn’t he have known better than to re-use syringes…let’s see, how long have the HIV – AIDS – contaminated blood stories been published or broadcast?)

 

And it took New York State and Nassau County health officials three years to obtain the facts and then “negotiate a settlement?” Sending letters back and forth in the mail? Threats of subpoenas…except there is wariness a judge may throw the case out? Exactly who is being protected here? (Not patients, in our view.) And long (and obviously patient) negotiation with the doc vs. censure and intervention and legal or regulatory action? It seems a good number of highly-qualified professionals forget what public trust and accountability is really all about, doesn’t it?

 

It takes four months for the state to translate a list of patients to a computer system? Ask the family members — they would have typed the names in a weekend. (Oh, forgot about HIPPA — gotta protect everyone’s privacy, right?)

 

And speaking of that,thanks to the crusading journalists at NEWSDAY who wouldn’t give up, we know the name of the physician — at first, these unaccountable overseers in key regulatory positions wouldn’t reveal “who” was injecting patients with dirty needles.

 

For a pathetic view of medical and healthcare oversight in this great state of NY, take a look at the timeline in the story above. Vigilant nurse (thank you! to those on the front lines in our hospitals and clinics) spots patients from doctor’s office (December 2004 — 36 months ago). The state Department of Health visits and watches doc at work. Five months later, 98 letters go out to patients who may have been infected. Four years later, thanks to official inaction, now 628 letters must go out — how would you feel if you were one of the patients receiving such a letter, or a family member? Would you feel really good now about government oversight of critical health issues?

 

Every American deserves legal representation and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But what kind of legal system allows stonewalling when patients’ lives may be at stake? (Would you entertain lawyer’s letters or responses while patients may be getting a needle that may be carrying Hepatitis B or C or HIV?)

 

A lot of un-accountability to go around here. Let’s see what State Senator Kemp Hannon’s hearings yield. And with the DoH under the governor’s supervision, can we call on Governor Eliot Spitzer — he of crusading AG fame — to intervene forcefully to make sure this process is never repeated with other medical issues…

 

These are the kinds of incidents and behaviors that inspired us to create Accountability Central…as famed Judge Louis Brandeis said a century ago…”Sunshine is the Best Dis-infectant!”

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor – AC

 

Your views on this? Send us your comments…

Comment on – New Poll Shows that U.S. Small Business Owners and Wall Street are not on the Same Page

Commentary on Wall Street – Main Street relations…and attitudes…and polling results.

 

First read the classic work, “Other People’s Money” by Louis Brandeis (published 1933). (Subtitled, “…and how the bankers use it!”)Judge Brandeis explored many topics of keen interest to Americans today, including the nature of “the financial oligarchy” (those who control banking, Wall Street and financial markets). Other People’s Money at work makes these interests happy and keeps the economy humming. (Common wisdom.)

 

Then consider, that Wall Street interests are working with vast volumes of OPM (other people’s money) while Main Street interests are using their own money — often, in limited supply at the moment (and hoped for wealth over the years if all goes well).

 

When you are wheeling / dealing in millions’ and billions’ of dollars and it is OPM (belonging to beneficiaries of pension funds, mutual funds, yours and my brokerage accounts and IRAs, foundation monies in trust, etc.) the attitude is assuredly different than that of the Main Street entrepreneur who —

 

— now has higher energy bills (including electric, natural gas, gas & diesel fuel)

 

— higher medical insurance fees for employees and themselves (with no relief in sight)

 

— higher property taxes (local government costs more to run now)

 

— worker shortages (causing in part the reliance on immigrant labor in some industries such as healthcare & hospitality)

 

— the uncertain state of employing such workers (does this invite a govt raid?)

 

— higher operating costs overall, thanks to the rising cost of many items

 

— more competition from big box stores if they are retailers nearby

 

— get the picture? It will be interesting to watch over the coming months if Republican or Democrat candidates for the presidency, the congress and statehouses “get it” in terms of what small business owners worry over and address their issues. So far, not much of real substance being offered. Wall Street interests are mostly always served — big lobbying bucks float around at fund-raising parties and all that. (Again, it’s usually OPM paying the freight.)

 

What keeps you up at night? On Wall Street, the possibility that OPM may stop flowing? On Main Street MY MONEY may stop flowing (cash in) or will flow “out” (of the cash register).

 

So this is about attitudes — first determine, whose money is it? (Mine, yours or OPM?) Then follow the polling numbers.

 

Stay Tuned to Elections 2008 and small business concerns…as well as…Wall Street concerns…ain’t the same thing, as the poll by American Management Services and Suffolk University make clear.

 

Hank Boerner

 

Editor – AC