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    Published on: November 17, 2010

    Content Guy’s Note: Over the past few years, an annual feature here on MNB has been Art Turock’s reports from the University of Southern California’s fantasy camp for over-the-hill-but-still-willing football players, and what he learned there that could be applied to business.

    This year, Art is back with a new set of observations...though the scenario is just a little bit different...

    The news went from bad to worse, as I prepared this past spring to participate in my fourth year at the USC Trojan Flashback Football Camp, an experience I’ve found to be an opportunity to live out a childhood dream and that also serves as a kind of management seminar in football cleats. By observing the inner workings of a talent development hotbed, I’ve gain leadership lessons to share in my speeches and consulting, as well as in guest columns here on MNB.

    But in fairly quick order, the 2010 Camp was cancelled. Then, on the same June day that we would have been on the gridiron, the NCAA announced sanctions against USC Football for rules violations. While this was transpiring, Coach Pete Carroll, who brought phenomenal success to the USC program, was relocating to my home town, preparing for his first year as coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

    The USC violations certainly cast a shadow over Coach Carroll’s 96-19 record and a legacy of players prepared for pro careers. Nevertheless, Carroll’s coaching philosophy provides valuable lessons about talent development. And I believe there is even something to learn from the USC missteps.

    One facet of Coach Carroll’s leadership that I most admire is his ability to shape a culture based on his “Win Forever” coaching philosophy, which contains unwavering principles such as “Practice is Everything,” and “Always Compete” to galvanize the team’s choices and actions. These principles weren’t just slogans. I observed practices and off-season conditioning sessions, and marveled at the coaching staff’s vigilance in monitoring them.

    USC’s transgressions can be traced to another principle, “Protect the Team,” which did not translate into off-the-field accountability. While 24/7 monitoring by a coaching staff is impossible, behaviors like looking the other way, ignoring the elephant in the room, praying that the program won’t get caught - all these constitute a cultural breach that drew NCCA penalties.

    These same stick-your-head-in-the sand behaviors occur in business every day. The greatest danger is when they undermine alignment with common cultural principles like “Commitment to continuous improvement” or “Talent development is job 1.” When deviations from cultural principles are deemed undiscussible or too risky to take seriously, then a company’s competitive advantage and capacity to produce results are jeopardized.

    Take a supermarket sales floor. Associates manning demos assume tasting a product is sufficient to sell, and don’t see the need for suggestive selling and storytelling skills. Pharmacists fill prescriptions but neglect to cross sell produce items which remedy depletion of vital nutrients caused by drugs. During heavy traffic hours, the store’s managers often stay sequestered in their offices at precisely the moments where their coaching could profoundly impact associates’ sales proficiency.

    What’s the outcome? For decades now, the industry defines competent performance as polite, friendly, responsive to direct request, while tolerating deficient selling skills. Imagine the countless “on the bubble sales opportunities” where shoppers ponder a product and eventually talk themselves out of a purchase.

    On the supplier side, salespeople deliver boilerplate presentations extolling their brands while failing to customize their message to address unique customer problems. After a major account sales call, the team of presenters takes 10 minutes in cavalier, “How do you think that went?” conversation and then bolt for the airport. Continuous performance improvement is unlikely.

    While there are no illegalities in these examples, many leaders fail to address talent development constraints that come to be considered “the nature of the business” so their people never approach full performance capacity.

    But let’s look at Coach Carroll’s full body of work where the unwavering principles of the USC culture were rigorously adhered to. In recapitulating my exposure to Coach Carroll’s philosophy, the unquestionable key take away was his statement:

    “If I was writing down the keys to our success, I would write one line - we’re going to do things better than they have ever been done before. We are going to teach, practice, recruit, counsel, analyze, and do everything better than it has been done before.”

    Unfortunately, “do everything better” is not a philosophy that most business bring to their field of play, the retail sales floor or a customer’s headquarters. Managers notice plateaus in sales performance, find no solutions requiring reasonable effort and risk, and find justification to give up trying to improve with priorities like:

    Cost-effectiveness. “In a high turnover industry, there’s no sense investing in developing associates who will leave shortly.”

    Efficiency. “Work must get done. There’s not a spare minute for sales training.”

    Expediency. “By simplifying job requirements, we can pay lower wages.”

    Good as competition. “Our competitors don’t do any better than we do in developing associates’ sales capabilities.”

    Compare these priorities with USC’s best-it’s-ever-been-done priorities like meticulous, creative, unreasonable, and competitive superiority. The stark contrast reveals critical differences. Is labor treated as a cost to be managed? Or is talent development treated as core competency to be continuously improved?

    Here are three significant steps any business can take to adapt Coach Carroll’s talent development philosophies.

    1. Raise performance standards to reflect best-its-ever-been-done selling capabilities. After being fired by two NFL teams, Pete Carroll studied John Wooden and other coaching greats and filled 15 notebooks describing his emerging coaching philosophy. Copy the Coach. Study companies where you marvel at their associates’ selling ability, such as Whole Foods, Container Store, Wegman’s, and Apple Store. Observe your best sales people to identify their effective behaviors. Imagine fresh ways to reconstitute your associates’ sales roles by solving unmet customer needs.

    2. Raise managers’ performance standards to include coaching. Whether these reconstituted sales roles become reality hinges on managers being able to coach associates’ skill proficiency in:
    Noticing shopper buying signals
    Educating customers on health benefits, new products, recipes
    Suggestive selling techniques
    Sharing captivating stories about suppliers and their products
    Eliciting customers’ ideas for improving the shopping experience
    Overcoming anxiety around selling.

    Don’t just re-write job performance standards and assume your current managers are capable, have time, or even want to coach. Competent managers direct implementation of their company’s operational plans. But elite managers also coach, by orchestrating job-imbedded development opportunities where the sales floor is like a football practice field, where getting work done becomes simultaneously a process of improving skills. They stage teachable moments by modeling selling techniques with customers, and giving feedback after observing associates practice similar skills in their interactions. Do you have competent or elite mangers on your team?

    3. Change your cultural conversation. Only when an organization can abandon holding on to being good can it become great. Be a leader who replaces cultural conversations and priorities that constrain competent performance with a new version that screams with audacity for talent development.
    And if you don’t believe me, just listen to some of the retail business’s most accomplished practitioners:

    “We don’t focus on economies of scale but economies of skill.”
    - Kevin Davis, CEO, Bristol Farms

    “We will become world famous for how we work and treat customers...”
    - John Yokoyama, founder, Pike Place Fish Market

    “If we don't show our customers what to do with our products, they won't buy them. It's our knowledge that can help the customer. So the first pump we have to prime is our own people,”
    - Danny Wegman, CEO, Wegmans

    Sound outrageous? Impossible to achieve?

    Getting past such reactions is the first step in adopting a “best it’s ever been done,” standard that can make the difference in your business. You can embrace it, or not.

    Art Turock describes himself as “an elite performance provocateur who delivers speeches and extended coaching projects to help food industry suppliers and retailers raise their performance from competent to elite standards.”

    Material in this article will appear in Art’s upcoming book, “Competent is Not an Option.”

    COMPLIMENTARY OFFER: Art Turock has written a detailed Implementation Plan that accompanies his seminars on this topic, containing actionable ideas to share with senior managers and to execute with your own team. If you would like to be e-mailed a copy of this piece, “Competent is Not an Option,” e-mail or call 425-814-3038.

    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    There is much discussion and debate within the halls of government and in the media about the state of the economy, whether we remain in a recession, and the best approaches to revitalizing the economy.

    But here’s a number that is startling.

    The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that “about 15% of U.S. households — 17.4 million families — lacked enough money to feed themselves at some point last year, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report ... the study also found that 6.8 million of these households — with as many as 1 million children — had ongoing financial problems that forced them to miss meals regularly.”

    This is triple the number of “food insecure” households in the US during 2006.

    If there is a good news side to this story, it is that things have not gotten worse in the past year.

    But the numbers remain startling. Fifteen percent, or 17.4 million US families went hungry at some point last year.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    That’s our Wednesday Eye-Opener.

    - Kevin Coupe
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    The Denver Post that just five months after launching its new SmartCo Foods format in the Mile High City, Smart & Final is closing the five stores down, saying that they did not live up to expectations and that projections showed little in the way of progress.

    According to the story, “Denver had been the first market for SmartCo. The chain billed itself as a grocery hybrid, offering discount prices on bulk purchases as well as single-item sales, and had features such as delis, bakeries, and produce and meat departments.”

    “While we regret having to close these stores and the impact this will have on our Colorado employees and customers, we remain committed to the SmartCo Foods concept and will open stores under the SmartCo Foods banner in other markets where we believe the concept will be successful," Smart & Final president Dave Hirz said in a statement.

    The next SmartCo store is scheduled to open later this week in California, and another one is planned for Phoenix next year.
    KC's View:
    They have to be asking themselves serious questions at Smart & Final headquarters about the whole planning process. They create a new format, they find a city in which to debut it, all the economic factors seem to be positioned in its favor, and then they have to close it down after five months.

    I mean, on the one hand you have to applaud them for being decisive and cutting their losses so quickly. But on the other hand ...

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors “voted Tuesday to ban plastic grocery bags in unincorporated areas of the county,” covering close to 1.1 million residents of the county.

    The ban says that “no store shall provide to any customer a plastic carryout bag.” The Times notes that “an exception would be made for plastic bags that are used to hold fruit, vegetables or raw meat in order to prevent contamination with other grocery items ... If grocers choose to offer paper bags, they must sell them for 10 cents each, according to the ordinance. The revenue will be retained by the stores to purchase the paper bags and educate customers about the law.”

    The Times writes that “San Francisco’s ban, which passed three years ago, is less restrictive because it still permits grocers to offer bioplastic bags made from corn starch, which are imperfect because they also do not degrade in the ocean ... Bans in San Francisco and Malibu also do not add a surcharge on paper bags ... which does not give consumers an incentive to switch to reusable cloth bags.”

    And, the Times reports, “The ban could cause confusion. The action by the Board of Supervisors only covers the unincorporated areas of L.A. County, covering some neighborhoods like Altadena, Valencia and Rowland Heights, but doesn't cover 88 cities in L.A. County. City councils could adopt a similar ordinance.”
    KC's View:
    I’m starting the countdown right now for when I get the first email from the “California is filled with crazy people” contingent.

    It is ironic that this ordinance is being passed at the same time as questions are being raised about lead in reusable bags.

    But expect to see more of these kinds of ordinances in the near future. it is where things are going. Deal with it.

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    • Walmart said yesterday that its US same store sales fell 1.3 percent during the third quarter, the sixth straight quarter of decline in this category. However, bolstered by a strong international performance (sales were up 7.9 percent), the retailer reported a 9.3 percent increase in third quarter profit, to $3.44 billion. Q3 total revenue increased 2.6 percent to $102 billion.

    Walmart is projecting that its fourth quarter US same-store sales could be anything from a drop of one percent to an increase of two percent.
    KC's View:
    “Anything from a drop of one percent to an increase of two percent?”

    Yikes. That hardly sounds like unfettered confidence.

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    Epsilon Targeting is out with a new survey, suggesting that “an increasing number of consumers switched to store brand products in the previous six months. Most surprisingly, 61% said they switched to private label personal care products, including shampoo and facial moisturizers, while almost 18% of the respondents said they moved to private label baby goods, including diapers, child pain relievers and baby shampoo ... The brand shift is a marked increase over Epsilon Targeting’s last survey, in May 2009, when 51% of respondents said they purchased private label personal care products, and 13% bought baby items.”

    According to Epsilon, “these categories historically have a higher perceived cost of switching, because consumers feel they are sacrificing on quality.”

    However, the survey also makes it clear that it is way too early to bury national brands: “National brands linger in the minds of shoppers, as indicated by the research. At least 45% of respondents said they would definitely purchase their usual label of personal care, food or household products again if they had a coupon. More than 44% said they would buy their usual brand of health products.”

    Among other findings of the survey:

    • 75% of respondents switched to store branded household products, with the highest number buying paper towels (49%), followed by bathroom tissue (43%), storage bags (42%) and laundry detergent (39%).

    • 74% purchased private-label food products. Ranking high in this category are bread (42%), cheese (36%) and cereal (35%). With food prices continuing to rise, as recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, these figures are poised to increase.

    • 59% swapped to store-brand health products, including adult pain relievers (33%) and multi-vitamins (27%).

    • 27% of respondents moved to private-label pet care products.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “poised” to ban the sale of premixed caffeine-and-alcohol drinks such as Four Loko, which have been linked to the deaths of some young people and sending others to the hospital.

    Meanwhile, Phusion Projects, which makes Four Loko, said yesterday that it will “remove stimulants caffeine, guarana and taurine from its products nationally.”

    According to Phusion CEO Chris Hunter, the company made the decision to change its formulations after unsuccessfully trying “"to navigate a difficult and politically charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels.”
    KC's View:
    See, I have a problem with the while “politically charged” comment.

    My objection to these drinks is not political. My outrage is parental.

    I have a problem with companies that market products oft-described as “blackout in a can” and “liquid cocaine.” (And don’t tell me that the company objects to these characterizations. That may be the public perception, but I’d be willing to bet that they’re just a little bit thrilled with those descriptions.) I have a problem with selling products that seem designed to appeal to young people’s worst instincts, to encourage bad decision-making.

    Yes, people can mix rum and coke. People can have Irish coffee. But there is not just a semantic difference here. What companies like Phusion are doing is exploitive.

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    The Washington Post reports that coming on the heels of reports of some lead being found in reusable shopping bags sold by Winn-Dixie and Publix, both Ahold-owned Giant Food and Safeway said that they have checked their reusable bags and found no traceable lead in the fabric or dyes.

    Meanwhile, the Post reports, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) has called for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate the issue.
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    The Associated Press reports that “growers of most U.S. winter tomatoes struck a major deal Tuesday with a Florida farmworkers group to boost wages and working conditions, clearing the way for food giants such as McDonald's, Burger King and upscale grocer Whole Foods to pass along more money to poor field pickers.”

    The deal comes after a decade of protests and negotiations between growers and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has served as an advocacy group for the laborers.

    It is said that suppliers will absorb the cost, and that consumers are unlikely to see any price increase.
    KC's View:
    As a consumer, I’d be happy to pay a few extra cents for tomatoes if I felt that the money was going to making sure that farmworkers were being fairly paid. Isn’t that the whole philosophy behind fair trade products?

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    The Associated Press reports that even as the US Senate prepares to vote - and, observers say, likely approve - a “far-reaching food safety bill that could give the government more power to prevent foodborne illnesses,” advocates of the local food movement plan to continue their objections.

    Locavores say that the restrictions imposed by the legislation could force small farms and suppliers out of business by imposing onerous and expensive requirements.

    "It's going to put a nail in the coffin of our family food producers," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), tells AP, which reports that Tester “is planning an amendment to exempt some small farms who market food close to their operations. He says many small farms already comply with state and local regulations to keep food safe.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    Three movie-related business stories in the news....

    • The Wall Street Journal reports that Harvard University Professor Noam Wasserman “teaches an M.B.A. course about ‘Founders' Dilemmas’ - the tough choices and situations that entrepreneurs face as they get their companies off the ground. To show that the lessons can even be found in popular culture, Prof. Wasserman shows his students scenes from movies and television that deal with those critical decisions.”

    One example: Dead Poets Society, which offers “an important inspirational lesson: It's crucial for entrepreneurs to find their own way of approaching the world as they strike out on their own.”

    MarketWatch reports that a new study says that “when a blockbuster comedy movie is released, the markets often stumble on the next trading day that follows it. In essence, if we laughed on Saturday, we’re likely to cry on Monday.”

    The study “found that, in general, when people went to the movies — any movie — they tended to take more risk. But when the theaters filled for blockbuster comedies, the result was the opposite ... An increase in comedy movie admissions during the weekend generates a corresponding wave of mood enhancement across the population. In turn, the latter factor may influence the marginal investor’s risk-taking behavior and the investment decisions she assesses over the weekend.”

    • yesterday announced the launching of Amazon Studios, which it described as “a new online business that invites filmmakers and screenwriters around the world to submit full-length movies and scripts to make money, get discovered and get their movie made. Through the monthly and annual Amazon Studios Awards, Amazon Studios will offer a total of $2.7 million to the top submissions received by Dec. 31, 2011, and will seek to develop the top Amazon Studio projects as commercial feature films under its first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures.”

    The announcement goes on: “Writers are invited to add scripts to Amazon Studios. Filmmakers are invited to add full-length test movies to Amazon Studios. Test movies may be made from your own original script or from any script submitted to Amazon Studios. Test movies must be full length (more than 70 minutes), but they don't have to be "full budget." While test movies must include imaginative stories with great acting and sound they don't need to have theatrical-quality production values. Film fans can review Amazon Studios scripts and test movies, or even upload alternate, revised versions. Full-length test movies will introduce public test screenings to the earliest, formative stages of the movie development process; the Amazon Studios test movie process is intended to guide a film's development and assess its potential.”
    KC's View:
    Okay, let’s look at these stories, in reverse order...

    • The Amazon story is interesting, and I have a couple of unproduced screenplays that I’m certainly going to consider submitting. But at some level, this sounds suspiciously similar to what Starbucks did a few years ago, when Howard Schultz thought he could morph the company from being a coffee company to a lifestyle brand...and eventually had to back off a bit. The Amazon story is a little different, but the company certainly has to be careful to keep its eye on the ball.

    • Comedies make us risk averse? Interesting. Bizarre, but interesting.

    • I love the Harvard story...especially because it sort of fits right into something Michael Sansolo and I have been doing. (You may not have heard, but we have a little book....”The Big Picture: Essential Business lessons from the Movies” ... available on in both print and on the Kindle, soon to be available for the iPad on iBooks, and also available here.

    Offer to Professor Wasserman: If you are looking for guest lecturers, Sansolo and I are happy to volunteer.

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    • The Business to Consumer (B2C) Alliance, made up of “more than a dozen corporations representing hundreds of billions of dollars in global commerce...working together to address a growing need for accurate product information accessed via mobile devices and the Internet,” was announced today by its facilitators, GS1 US and GS1 Canada, not-for-profit organizations that are part of the global GS1 standards body.

    The current list of participants includes: AT&T; Cisco; The Coca-Cola Company; IBM; The J.M. Smucker Company; Johnson & Johnson Consumer Group of Companies; Kraft Foods; The Kroger Co.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Auto-ID Lab; Microsoft Corp.; NeoMedia Technologies; PepsiCo, Inc.; Premier healthcare alliance; Procter & Gamble; and Scanbuy, Inc. The National Retail Federation (NRF) is also participating, contributing its knowledge of retail operations, including global retail-specific standards, to the group. 
    KC's View:

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    • The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) announced the appointment of Susan T. Borra, RD, as Senior Vice President of Communications. Borra joins FMI from Edelman public relations where she was Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Nutrition, Food and Wellness.   She is also the former executive vice president at the International Food Information Council (IFIC), where she directed the development of strategic communications programs and public affairs strategies about food, nutrition and food safety issues. 
    KC's View:
    May I say, on behalf of all the people in the media who now will have the pleasure of dealing with Borra, that it is terrific to have at FMI a team of people who actually like us, believe in the whole notion of communication, and don’t take perverse delight in making us miserable.

    Because, trust me, it wasn’t always that way. This may not be the politically correct thing to say, but so it goes.

    (Then again, maybe it wasn’t everybody in the media that the people who used to run communications at FMI didn’t like. Maybe it was just me...)

    Published on: November 17, 2010

    More about the Amazon controversy.

    One MNB user wrote:

    I disagreed with your view on Amazon selling a book on child rape – let’s dispense with the meaningless euphemisms – but I was going to let it go until some of your users weighed in on the issue of censorship.  As Americans, we love free speech.  It is a right that we all enjoy, but rights are not absolute.  They are relative.  For this reason, it is not protected speech to yell “fire” in a crowded theater.  All analogies limp, but the one about the Underground Railroad is crippled.  No one is suggesting that all books on illegal activities should be banned.  Some laws are unjust.  God help us if we ever get to live in a society in which laws against child rape is morally repugnant.  What’s next?  The Jeffrey Dahmer cookbook?  We are a tolerant society, but some things should not be tolerated.  It is not a virtue if we endlessly wring our hands and refrain from making all moral judgments.  If that makes me a bigot, so be it.  I’d rather be on the side of the bigots on this one.

    I’m not sure how much we disagree, though I certainly would refrain from describing people who are anti-pedophiles as “bigots.” (You seem to be making a political statement in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is.)

    I came out the first day and said that I thought Amazon should not be selling the book, that it needed to exert some editorial judgment...though I’ve also said that I’m sympathetic to the position in which Amazon finds itself.

    On the subject of lead in reusable shopping bags, MNB user Donald Pruitt wrote:

    It never ceases to amaze me with the environmentalists and food police trying to find something to bitch about.  I am 70 and was raised on a chicken farm in North Georgia.   We drank raw milk, and ate churned butter from my grandmothers.  I was in college before I knew that you were  not supposed to eat cracked eggs.  My dad bought a flat of cracked eggs from an egg producer for probably 50 cents.  All of our vegetables came from a garden or were canned.   We killed hogs each winter and had no meat inspectors.  How did we all survive?   My dad was the oldest of eleven and he and 10 siblings survived even more primitive conditions.

    So there may be trace elements of lead in a colored cloth bag!!   How in the name of GOD is any of it going to leach into the food in bringing it home.  Only produce would be susceptible and it is probably in a PET bag....................... oooooooooohhhhh, how about that danger?

    I am a chemist and I worked with Arsenic and Lead compounds.  True, they can absorb into the skin, BUT you almost have to bath in most of them.   I would ask some of these germophobes and pathegenophobes, DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS IN A LOAD OF BREAD THAT YOU BUY AT THE STORE?  How many rodent droppings and insect parts are allowed in bread before the baking process at a local bakery is shut down?  All these CLEAN  fanatics watch yogurt OODs, but I have purposely kept private label yogurt for six months and then eaten it with no ill effects.  My word, it has strains of bacteria added to sour clabbered milk.  That is how you make yogurt culture.

    30% of what comes off the loading dock in American grocery stores goes in a dumpster somewhere.   What a waste!!!  Have you ever been to the Mall in Washington and seen a homeless guy collecting all the discarded sandwiches and drinks from the cafeteria in the Air and Space Museum?   How many of those fellows have died from food borne disease?

    Methinks that we go to the extreme in this country and do not use good common sense in protecting the food supply or the way we think.   I will gladly take all the cloth bags that Winn-Dixie is throwing out, BUT there are no more Winn-Dixie stores within a thousand miles from here.

    But another MNB user seemed to be coming from a different direction:

    First of all…with all the recent (last several years) publicity around China and their shoddy products, as well as their reputation for using lead in paint used for consumer products, including children’s toys…why would any U.S. business purchase a product that is made in China without a disclaimer being signed stating the product is made from lead-free paint?  Isn’t this just basic ECR…isn’t this just a basic back room detail that allows for front-end safety…Isn’t it just good business to be safe???? Come on folks…check your products’ safety to protect your customer!!!

    On another subject, MNB user Mark Monroe wrote:

    It continues to amaze me how uninformed people in this country are.  In response to a recommendation of increasing taxes, cutting entitlement and cutting defense, an MNB reader responds that they disagree and what we need to “cut spending”???  What does this person think entitlements and defense are?  Try 80% of Federal SPENDING…I love how the recently elected politicians are all in favor of “cutting spending” yet have no SPECIFIC recommendations.  YET PEOPLE BUY IT! 

    It’s a great example of where we are in this country…words mean absolutely nothing.  Here’s a suggestion: why don’t people start actually REFLECTING upon what it is they hear politicians and pundits say instead of just accepting it as true and repeating it ad nauseum.  If you want to know what we’ve lost in this country it’s simple…the art of thinking.  People need to learn how to think for themselves.  To wit:

    While generically increasing taxes sounds terrible, that is only true in a vacuum.  Would a tax increase still be terrible if taxes were 2% and raised to 5%?  So we need to stop debating increases vs. decreases and start talking about optimal rates.  If you don’t want anarchy, you have to have a government.  Tax rates in this country are at historic lows and the tax code is hugely favorable to the wealthy.  Care to guess the average tax rate actually paid by the top 10% of households by earned income in the U.S.?  Try on average the top 10% pays 19% of their income in taxes…I’m sorry but this is not punitive and raising it to 22% would still not be punitive.  Marginal rates may look high but there are so many ways to avoid paying those that hardly anyone actually does (as the numbers clearly show).

    The politicians / pundits drone on and on about how you can’t raise taxes in a tough economy.  There is zero evidence that increasing taxes hurts the economy.  When was the last major tax increase in this country?  1993…and the economy was truly awful in the 90’s wasn’t it?  Maybe if you raised taxes, people might realize that they actually have to pay for all of the boneheaded things the govt has been doing (Iraq War, bailing out Wall St, etc) and start paying more attention to how the govt was spending tax revenue.  In other words, the fastest way (practically speaking) that I can see to improving government oversight by those who were intended to oversee it (duh, the people) would be a tax HIKE.  It’s no surprise that government largesse has gotten out of control during a 17 year period that involved ZERO tax increases.  It’s called IRONY and most people would be better served to understand the concept.

    As for spending, we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined is this really necessary?  On a per capita basis we spend twice what they spend in Israel (which we also pay for, by the way), which is #2 and 4x what most high spending countries spend.

    One can only imagine the emails of protest that this letter will prompt. Which is fine.

    I continue to believe that common sense dictates that everything needs to be on the table if we are to get our fiscal house in order, and that everybody is going to have to compromise if we are to make any progress. I’m also reasonably sure that the current political environment does not encourage or reward compromise or civil discourse, so I am not optimistic.

    But I am willing to be surprised.
    KC's View: