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When the Soviet Union collapsed almost 30 years ago, the assets of the country, its industrial base that had been neglected so long, was grabbed up by a few young, enterprising, creative and possibly criminal individuals. Some say there were less than twenty of them. They, and their successors, are now called the Russian oligarchs. The majority of the economic power of the Russian nation is consolidated by very few people, all under control of the central government, which is headed by an apparently corrupt and possibly murderous leader: Putin. Russia, in my opinion, is a nation state run by organized crime.

In the United States we were better than that. However, in the recent couple of years I see very similar developments. Radical deregulation is fueling the stock market, which is not a surprise. The Obama regulatory environment had throttled the economy. One can argue one way or the other. I personally believe that while we’re riding high on the economy right now, and while the super rich are getting richer, the middle class is doing “just ok.” A tax saving of a few hundred dollars funds one more trip to Costco, which is not a huge improvement for the middle class. But eventually our children and their children will regard the Trump era as a time when their fathers enriched themselves forcing them to pay the bills. The reckoning for today’s boom time will come.

We’re also massively adding to the national debt now. The debt payments are about to exceed our military expenses. While the conservative world was furious when Obama added to the debt, now it does not even get mention. All of a sudden, the debt is not important. After all, the economy is so great, it’s going to pay for it all. I do not believe this is going to work, but only time will tell.

Meanwhile, the buffoon in the White House is overloading us with so many scandals, we can’t even focus on them anymore. When Obama wore a tan suit, the media went crazy for a few days. When Michelle Obama wore a sleeveless dress, she was castigated. There are nude pictures of our current First Lady on the Internet and nobody seems to take note. We were not numb to scandals, and the media needed something to write about.

Trump does outrageous things every day that my moral compass that does accept. However, there is so much, the list is so long, it’s drowned out. While we’re not able to pay attention, the billionaire class, some of them in the White House and Cabinet, are openly lining their own pockets with corrupt activities, every day. The country is being looted and polluted. The American tax payer is being raped. And we are numb.

An oligarchy is quickly forming, where a very small number of very rich people control the entire economy and the political system.

Is that making America great?

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April 1, 1976 was the day I reported to military boot camp in Leipheim, Germany. I was a 19-year-old boy and the service was my first real job. No man ever forgets the day he goes into the military. I remember it fondly.

On April 1, 1976, that very same day, on the other side of the world, in a garage in Palo Alto, California, another boy, this one 20 years old, by the name of Steve Jobs, along with this engineer friend Steve Wozniak, founded Apple Computer.

Four years later the military discharged me, and I got ready to go to college, for math and computer science.

Four years later, on December 12, 1980, Apple launched its IPO, selling 4.6 million shares at $22 per share. The shares sold out almost immediately and the IPO generated more capital than any IPO since Ford Motor Company in 1956. Apple was worth $1.2 billion.

Then in 1997, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Microsoft and its many partners in the personal-computer market were eating Apple’s lunch. Then they called back Steve Jobs.

Today, 42 years and 4 months later, exactly 15,554 days after that auspicious day of April 1, 1976, Apple became the first company in history to reach a market cap of $1 trillion. Nobody had ever reached that before. Exxon, which for decades was the most valuable company on the planet, is at $338 billion today, almost exactly a third of Apple’s value.

Congratulations, Apple. You are an inspiration to all entrepreneurs, and I must admit there have been many crossroads in my career and the life of my own company when I found myself asking: What would Apple do now?

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I am tired of Trump supporters telling me that Trump is a brilliant business man. He is not. He is a failing business man who routinely files bankruptcy when he can’t make his businesses work, stiffing his creditors and workers. He is a con man who spent his entire career sucking money out of the middle class to enrich himself. Trump University is just one example.

Trump knows the game of the rich class, and he is putting on a circus for the middle class to distract us from what is really going on. The ultra rich, and the corporate world, are benefitting from what is going on quietly behind the scenes while we’re all distracted by the dazzling magic show of blunders and corruption and outrageous stagecraft at this rallies.

He puts on the Immigrants are Evil public show, knowing fully well that none of his facts make any sense, immigrants have nothing to do with the problems of America, because he knows we can only be angry about one thing at a time.

It’s the deeds of Congress and his cabinet behind the scenes that we should really be worried about. Here are just a few of them:

  • Dismantling National Parks or opening them to exploitation by mining and logging.
  • Removing consumer protections imposed on banks and credit companies.
  • Instituting tax cuts that favor businesses and super wealthy individuals and are largely meaningless to the middle class.
  • Neutering the EPA, whose mission it is to protect the public from corporate pollution.
  • Dismantling the Department of Education and pushing our public funds to private for profit schools where we have no control over the use of the funds.
  • Increasing the military budget and thus feeding the military industrial complex. The increase of $80 billion this year alone is more than the entire military budget of Russia.
  • Removing civil rights protections.
  • Removing all our work toward research and protection against climate change. This is the worst crime of all, since it’s going to take decades to fix, and our grandchildren get to clean up the mess. This is a crime against humanity.

Watch the hand behind his back, not the circus in front of our faces.

We, the middle class, are getting hurt and exploited everywhere along the way. The debt is skyrocketing. Some day we will have to pay for all this, and Trump won’t be around to help with it.

Corporate America is doing great and the middle class is not getting the benefits. That’s why the stock market is rising.

When it all comes crumbling down, the rich aren’t going to be affected much. They’ll still eat and travel in helicopters. It’s the middle class that will lose everything – once again.

Trump will long be gone by then.

We will still be here.

 

 

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Recently I found this one in my social media feed from an unidentified person under @SunsetSocialist:

I’m really sick of being told that there are “good billionaires.” Hoarding billions of dollars for literally NO REASON while most human beings starve to death is an action so evil that it’s almost unparalleled. They’re all moral monsters, plain and simple.

I am not a billionaire. But I am aghast when I read SunsetSocialist’s drivel.

Having money is “hoarding?” How much money do you have to have before you are a money hoarder? A hundred dollars? A thousand? A hundred thousand? A million? A billion? Does SunsetSocialist get to set the threshold just above his own net worth, so he is not a hoarder, but everyone wealthier than he is?

And what’s with “most human beings starve to death?” That is just not accurate.

Global Poverty Facts

Here are some statistics that show the scale of global poverty and its devastating effects.

1) 767 million people, or 10.7 percent of the population, live in extreme poverty with less than $1.90 per day.

2) 2.1 billion people live on less than $3.10 per day.

3) 328 million children are living in extreme poverty.

4) At least 17 million children suffer from severe acute under nutrition around the world. Severe acute malnutrition is the direct cause of death for 1 million children every year.

5) Every single day, 1,000 children under 5 die from illnesses like diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera caused by contaminated water and inadequate sanitation.

— source: Global Poverty and Hunger

While I do think it is tragic that 10 percent of the world’s population live in extreme poverty (and one might call that “starving to death”) I do not think it is my job, or my neighbor’s job, or some billionaire’s job, to feed those people. We give what we can. My question to SunsetSocialist is: How much does he give from his stash to feed the global hungry? What percentage of his income does he contribute every month? After he tells us that, he has a right to suggest how much an unnamed billionaire should be contributing. I suspect that most billionaires are already contributing percentage-wise way more than SunsetSocialist does – but I am speculating.

I just read that Phil Knight of Nike gives away $100 million a year, every year. Really, really evil!

They are all moral monsters.

Aha, all of them. I wonder how many billionaires SunsetSocialist has actually met, and would be qualified to judge for their morality?

Billionaires are people. There are going to be good ones, and not so good ones. I choose to judge people by their deeds, by their actions, by their legacy, and not by some label.

This reminds me of a post I wrote about three years ago about vilifying billionaires. Here is the link again. I stand by every word I wrote then.

There you have it, SunsetSocialist!

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Today, when I was looking for file folder tabs in our supply room, I noticed in the very front of one of the shelves stack of three Zip Disks, 100MB, still in the protective shrink-wrap, like new. I am not sure how they got to the front of the supply cabinet, but there they were.

I started the company in 1993, a full twenty-five years ago. Zip Disks were “super floppies” with high capacity, great in the years before Windows 95 even, when we were still working with Windows 3.11 (Windows for Workgroups). They were made by Iomega, and first came out in 1994 with the 100MB version. Later they had larger versions, with 250MB and then even 750MB. The ones on our shelves were the early type, with only 100MB. I still remember buying a zip drive for my main computer, in 1994, when I was the only employee. It felt like heaven to be able to store 100MB on one drive for backup purposes. I imagine I went to the “computer store” and bought a box of the disks just for good measure.

Somehow, through all the years, and the many office moves, and several office managers responsible for the supplies, and hundreds of current and former employees, these three Zip Disks survived, unscathed, in the front of our supply cabinet. Nobody ever thought that they were older than the Internet. Nobody ever thought that our company hasn’t had any working Zip Drives for at least 20 years.

I took this picture.

And then I threw the disks in the trashcan. Good bye, old friends.

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Yesterday I received a slip from the U.S. Postal Service at my door. It indicated they had tried to deliver a registered package. I didn’t expect any registered mail, so I was curious.

I went to the post office, stood in line, and eventually got this package:

Odd. I didn’t order anything from Mumbai, India. I don’t know anyone at the American School Of Bombay. And especially not anything that would require registered mail.

Then I checked the back:

This didn’t help either. The description said it was a Vector. It was checked as a gift. And the postage to mail it was Rs 131. When I looked that up it was 131 Indian rupees. A rupee is about $0.015. So mailing the package cost him about $1.96.

I didn’t want to open this. All I could think of was anthrax or a bomb or something else nefarious. I had just moved to this address. Who would even know what it was. And particularly Scott Amitron in Mumbai. I decided to let this sit there unopened until I figured it out.

Then it dawned on me. I checked my Amazon account:

Sure enough, the last time I was on Amazon it showed me a razor handle. Like men are wont to do, I am stuck with the type of razor and blades that I used 30 years ago. I won’t upgrade to the fancy razors of today, with five blades and twenty-dollar handles. I just like my old Atra Plus double blades that have worked for me for decades, even though the blades are hard to find and my one remaining handle is getting pretty rusty and sketchy. So when I saw this replacement handle, I clicked on it and ordered it for $4.90, free shipping.

Not in my wildest dreams did I think that somebody in Mumbai in India would then fulfil my order and send me a razor blade using registered mail and pay 131 rupees, packaging and handling not included.

I could have gone to the local drug store and bought a razor and spent a lot less time than I did waiting in line at the post office to sign for a registered package from India.

Oh, the mysterious ways of Amazon and global commerce.

I can’t wait to try my brand new Mumbai razor tomorrow morning.

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The Trump phenomenon still baffles me, and I assume it always will. The man looks incompetent. He speaks like a fifth-grader. When he reads his speeches, like the joint session of Congress speech earlier this week, he looks wooden and stilted. Everyone praised him for looking presidential. To me, he looked fake.  His actions are not congruent with what he says, most of the time. His plans are vapor. He talks about things that make no sense. He makes false statements, knowing fully well they are false. He doesn’t care about the average, middle-class citizen. To me, all this is completely obvious. I can’t believe that others don’t see it too.

Trump supporters don’t seem to see this. It’s baffling to me. There is one thing that all Trump supporters eventually say that justifies everything else that’s going on:

Trump is a brilliant business man, he has had great business success, and he will use that skill for the good of our country, if we only give him the chance.

That’s the argument everyone makes, and it is the core of their justification.

Well, I don’t agree. He is not a brilliant business man, just like Russian oligarchs are not brilliant business men. I think he is simply very good at manipulating others to do his bidding, and to “use the system” to his advantage.

I am a business man. I would not call myself brilliant. But I have run businesses for most of my career, and the last and current one for over 25 years now. I have created hundreds of direct jobs over the years. I have created more than $50 million of direct economic activity in the last 15 years alone, and probably generated several times more indirect activity as a result. I don’t have an airplane with my name on it. I fly coach. I am not rich. But I have been productive all my life, and I have been honest.

I have never filed for bankruptcy, either personal or in business. I have never “used the system” like Trump has several times. Every contractor I ever engaged got paid exactly what the contract said I would pay him. Every time. I have never been sued by anyone. When the market crashed, due to reckless dealings on Wall Street by Trump cronies, and due to bad regulatory oversight by our government, my real estate dropped to 35% of its value in 2008, and for the past nine years the property still has not recovered the value I paid for it at the time. It’s still upside down today. I have paid my mortgage every month, on time. Financial advisors have told me to walk away from it over the years. But I pay my mortgage because I wrote on a piece of paper in 2004 that I would. I could have “used the system” and been what Trump calls “smart,” but my honor and integrity is more important to me than being smart and rich.

Trump, the brilliant business man, does apparently not see anything wrong with “using the system” to shed his debt when he makes a bad deal, or when economic conditions work against him. I do.

When you file for bankruptcy, you are making other people pay for your losses. There is no more favorable way to put it.

When you don’t pay your contractors what you promised to pay them, you are using other people’s money to enrich yourself, and you are using bully tactics to intimidate them into settling. This is not smart or brilliant, it’s simply reckless.

This may work in business. Trump has an airplane with his name on it. And I simply go to work every day. But I don’t believe it works when you lead a country.

When we screw this up, everyone pays for our mistakes. If we are wrong on global warming, and if we’re creating hell for our grandchildren, they pay. They may curse us, but the will pay. When we see nothing wrong with polluting our rivers with toxic coal residue, and people downstream are poisoned, so people upstream can have jobs, those downstream pay. They may not like it. See what’s going on in Flint, Michigan. They may not like it, but they pay.

Is Trump really such a brilliant business man?

I am a business man, and I would be ashamed if I had used Trump’s tactics, like filing bankruptcy four times, like not paying income taxes for 20 years (which we can only assume he did), like suing contractors who worked on my buildings, like sexually assaulting women in my employ. I am proud that I was not a brilliant business man, I guess.

But then, I don’t have an airplane with my name on it, I don’t have luxury properties all over the world, and I don’t get to ride on Air Force One for my vacations, at $3 million of taxpayer money per trip.

Do you see why I am baffled?

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Well, Speaker Ryan, the problem as I see it is this: The Republican-controlled Congress, from 2000 through 2008, and then again from 2010 through 2016, has not done one thing to deal with this problem of healthcare in our nation. The Affordable Care Act may not be perfect, but it’s one hell of a lot more and therefore better than the big NOTHING the Republicans provided in all those years in control.

Now, if you get to work and produce a healthcare product that works, that’s less expensive, that covers preexisting conditions, and that does not kick millions of Americans off what they have now, GREAT. We will all welcome that.

So, please, refrain from upsetting the apple cart until you show us the orange cart – pun intended.

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Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences.

— Donald Trump, December 1, 2016

 

Trump China 1

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The founder of the Chobani yoghurt company is Hamdi Ulukaya, a Muslim immigrant from Turkey. He came to upstate New York 10 years ago with nothing, bought an empty Kraft plant using an SBA loan, and started hiring employees. Ulukaya is now a billionaire. He just made some headlines recently:

The clip below shows how he got started:

This man is not even a United States citizen yet, but he has created jobs for over 2,000 people in the United States already, and growing. Yes, he is a Muslim immigrant.

When the interviewer asks him about how Obamacare affects his business, she is obviously expecting complaints. However, he says “I have bigger problems. I need to make more yoghurt.” I have to agree. Most business people are way less worried about their employees’ healthcare costs than they are about running the business. If the business is run well and is successful, healthcare costs are a footnote at best.

So here is an amazing success story created by an immigrant. To my dismay, I then saw somebody commenting with this under the YouTube video:

chobani-comments

This kind of sentiment in our country makes me sick and embarrassed about my countrymen. Let’s just get this straight:

A guy comes from Turkey 10 years ago, a son of a farmer, penniless. He decides to start a yoghurt company. He goes to the SBA and borrows $800,000 and with that he rescues a factory in upstate New York that was being shut down by Kraft, and he proceeds to turn that $800,000 loan into a billion-dollar company, creates 2,000 jobs, then gives away 10% of his company to his employees, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars EACH, and Jim Allen III, Col. Richard Hunter and Lauri DEAGUIAR have a problem with that?

One complains about veterans dying in the streets. Why, if an immigrant farm boy from Turkey can start a yoghurt company and create American jobs, why don’t the veterans in the streets start some companies?

Another complains that he is a lying pig because, presumably there was a Turkish refugee in Idaho who raped a poor 5-year-old girl? I don’t get the connection. Sorry.

Here we have a self-made billionaire, who used the system, and borrowed $800,000 from the SBA, and built a great company. That’s Ulukaya. He is demonized by comments like this because he is an immigrant, and he is a Muslim.

I know of another self-made billionaire, who used the system (his words), and borrowed a small loan of $14,000,000 from his father, and built a great company. That’s Trump.

Both created thousands of jobs. Both are billionaires. Both “used the system.” One has never filed bankruptcy. Since he never had a billion-dollar loss, he presumably pays federal income tax.

But one is an immigrant, a Muslim and a not yet a citizen.

And the other is Donald Trump. He is running for president.

A tale of two billionaires.

You choose!

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One of the most common arguments in favor of Trump I hear by all upstanding Americans who support him: He’s a successful business man, and America needs a successful business man for a president.

I call bullshit.

  • This argument is often made by people who have never run a business and therefore have no idea what it means to be a business man. In my opinion, running a country, being a statesman, is nothing like running a business.
  • Being a statesman you have to have class. Trump has no class. He is a boor.
  • Bill Gates is a successful business man, too. He’s not qualified to be president just because of it.
  • If being a successful business man is sole qualification, does that mean that the richest one is the most qualified? Of course not.
  • The Forbes list of billionaires includes heads of drug cartels. They are, by money standards, very rich. Does that qualify them to be president?
  • When you study Trump’s business success you find numerous occasions where he screwed the little man by not paying him for his services and by filing bankruptcy to get out of his overextended positions. Is that called success? Not in my book. It’s called being a con man.
  • I have been a business man all my life. I don’t have a building or airplane or helicopter with my name on it, but I also never screwed people out of their money, and I have never filed bankruptcy when things got tough. I believe I am a successful business man, but I don’t believe I am therefore qualified to be president.

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On April 1, 1976, almost exactly 40 years ago now, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in the garage of Jobs’ parents.

Garage-Steve-Jobs

The garage has become a historic site and the center of tech mythology. Wozniak put some cold water on the mythology in his comments in this post.

Who would have thought at the time that 40 years hence, this little company would be the most valuable company on the planet, the icon of corporate America, and the company that would take on the U.S. government in a legal fight about encryption, and the U.S. public in understanding the subtleties of high tech and how it affects the war between good and evil?

Now some Americans vilify Apple for sympathizing with terrorists. Even Trump is trumpeting drivel about this. Apple has taken the fight to the public. My stand is fairly radical in favor of Apple.

Personal communications devices must be secure. To be secure they must be encrypted, and there can’t be any backdoors. Any software system that has any backdoors will automatically be open to anyone. Backdoors never work. All large government contracts our company holds explicitly disallow backdoors of any kind. Yes – “The Government,” our customers, require that there be no backdoor. However, here “The Government” is asking Apple to build a backdoor to 700 million iPhones it has sold over the years. It makes no sense.

Sorry, one investigation into a case of terrorism does not warrant exposing 700 million users to intrusion by “bad guys.” Let’s make no mistake about this: The bad guys will get ahold of the backdoor quicker than you can blink.

Let’s put this into the perspective of the infamous debate about the Second Amendment. Encryption of my devices is my only defense against bad guys with backdoors. I have a right to that encryption, just as I have a right to own a gun to protect myself against bad guys with guns.

Think of secure encryption as your only defense against bad guys with software that want to steal your stuff. And then you might see the very important point that Apple is making.

Apple knows what it is doing, and apparently “The Government” does not. Would I trust “The Government” with the key to my valuables?

NO!

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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a Koch-backed conservative group that drafts bills, many of which are designed to repeal and weaken renewable energy laws and standards state-by-state. Republican politicians, who are funded by the Kochs, push these laws in their respective state legislatures.

— Ring of Fire

The Koch brothers built the world’s largest fortune based on oil, coal and the distribution, transportation, processing and sale of those commodities. In the last 30 years, Koch Industries expanded into many other areas, buying up hundreds of large and small failing companies and turning them around. One of the largest acquisitions was Georgia Pacific, that makes products like paper towels and such.

The Kochs have an uncanny formula for making companies work. Much of their business philosophy is based on libertarian principles, teachings and values. No government. Since the libertarian movement in this country had its peak around 1980 and have never flourished since, the Kochs have backed the Republican Party and its candidates as the closest fit.

The less government, the better. No government would be best. Let the free market take care of things. Supply and demand should be the only guiding principles.

With renewable energies, versus fossil fuels, the supply and demand principles didn’t work so well over the last 40 years. There were many government subsidies for oil, coal and gas, and Koch Industries has benefited from those. It stands to reason that they will try to squash efforts by the government against support of renewable energies.

When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding – that’s a problem.  That’s not the American way.  That’s not progress.  That’s not innovation.  That’s rent-seeking and trying to protect old ways of doing business and standing in the way of the future.

— President Obama

Fortunately, the tide has turned, and there are more and more people in the country who are genuinely interested in renewable energies. There are still forces that try to squash renewables, calling them job-killers, but they are consistently proven wrong. Here are some facts:

  1. No matter what we say about fossil fuels, they are limited. Perhaps we have a few decades’ worth left in the ground, perhaps a few centuries. But they will run out. Not planning for that time would be negligent.
  2. Renewable energies do not leave greenhouse gases. Whether greenhouse gases cause global warming or not, it is still better not to pump CO2 into the atmosphere.
  3. Renewable energies will return energy independence to countries. There will be less reliance on trade and therefore dependence on other countries. OPEC countries will suffer, but now is the time for them to retool, if they have the wisdom.
  4. As renewable energy becomes more used and cheaper, it will drop below the tipping point and it will become a massive local job creator. Preventing or delaying that for today’s profits, as the referenced article suggests, would be obstructionist and unacceptable.

Koch Industries knows how to make money and they are not shy about pushing their agenda. We need to take them very seriously. They are one of the most powerful forces in our government today.

But I do believe the tide has turned. Now how long will it take China to figure this out?

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Bernie1

Bernie Sanders has been getting headlines and filling up stadiums of people with his message:

Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.

Here is another quote:

Sanders, an independent, is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. On Saturday, the second day of a three-day Iowa swing, pointed out how FDR called the wealthy protectors of the status quo “economic royalists.”

“He said, ‘They hate my guts. Never have they hated someone as much as they hate me. And I welcome their hatred,’” Sanders said.

“And let me echo that today: If the Koch Brothers and the billionaire class hate my guts, I welcome their hatred. Because I am going to stand with working families.”

In a 1936 speech at Madison Square Garden, just days before his reelection, Roosevelt described his opposition as “the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

“They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

— Des Moines Register

He is basically saying that billionaires are bad people, criminals, and financial and moral rapists of the middle class.

I call this whole line of thinking bullshit. Bernie may have some good ideas. I admire his zeal and energy, but he needs to drop this silly line of thinking because it makes no sense.

I am not a billionaire. I am not a millionaire. But I have been a business owner and job creator all my life. For the vast majority of my career, I was responsible for meeting payroll. I know a thing or two about business.

There are very few billionaires in the country. Forbes lists about 400 or so. The exact number does not matter. The fact is, they would all pretty much fit into one Boeing 747. It’s not a lot of people.

I have read the biographies of a number of billionaires, including several of Bill Gates, several of  Steve Jobs ( – by Isaacson), and one of Elon Musk ( – by Vance).  I have learned a thing or two about billionaires in the process.

I actually talked with Ted Waitt, the founder of Gateway 2000, at a CEO round table in San Diego. There were about 10 to 15 of us CEOs of local companies who invited business personalities on a monthly basis, and one time our guest was Ted Waitt. At the time he was worth about $1.4 billion. Ted talked about the days when he started Gateway in his family barn in Sioux City, South Dakota. He started the company on September 5, 1985 with a $10,000 loan secured by his grandmother.

On September 5, 1985, I was a computer programmer in San Diego, making $26,000 a year. I could have started a computer company in my garage. But I didn’t. Ted did. He talked about the early years trying to keep the company going. “Every morning we’d go to the mailbox and see what checks we received, and then the accountant and I would decide which bills to pay that day,” he said, and to every one of us CEOs in the room, that rang home loud and clear. Everyone who ever had to meet payroll has run out of money and has had to figure out how to make it past that. All too often, the solution came in form of a personal credit card in the owner’s wallet – or worse.

Ted Waitt didn’t become a billionaire because he ripped off people, stole from the middle class, or was greedy. He was successful because he provided a product (computers) at a time when the personal computer business was booming, and supplied that product at a fair price, with high quality, and with little overhead, since he pioneered the concept of mail-order computers (along with his rival Michael Dell at the time). He was eventually successful because we worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week, for years and years, and took enormous risks. He shipped millions of good computers. Our company bought all Gateway machines in the early years. He created thousands of high-paying jobs in – of all places – South Dakota, until he couldn’t fill the positions anymore, having pretty much employed everyone available within commuting distance. That’s when he moved the company to San Diego. Ted Waitt, through his sheer tenacity, brutally hard work, long hours, his creativity, vision, and leadership built a billion-dollar company, made himself fabulously wealthy (billionaire), made many of his partners and investors very wealthy, employed thousands of people, became a major industrial factor in Sioux City, South Dakota, and supplied good, solid computers, made in the USA, to millions of people for many years.

We don’t want to strike down people like Ted Waitt! We need more of them, many more of them, if the USA is to ever again be an industrial nation that creates and ships products all over the world.

I don’t need to talk much about Bill Gates, who has been the wealthiest person in America for some 25 years or more now. Gates, of course, heads off the billionaire class, and in my estimation he is one of the most brilliant business men of our entire generation. He has created an entire industry. He employed many thousands of people, now for more than 40 years. Many thousands of ex-Microsoft workers are millionaires now in their retirement. Microsoft still fuels our US economy. It’s one of the companies that still makes stuff right here and exports it all over the world. Microsoft is a major job creator.

Apple is the most valuable company on the planet, with today’s market cap at $661 billion. Steve Jobs became a billionaire many times over, not because he raped the middle class, but because he reinvented an entire host of industries single-handedly, including computers, movies (Pixar), music distribution (iTunes), cell phones (iPhone), and modern computing (iPad). It is reported that Apple is now working on a car. I guess it’ll be called the iCar?

Steve Jobs was a billionaire when he died too early. He, too, created good American jobs and industries that will fuel our national economy for decades to come. Apple is one of the most recognized brands on the planet. He founded the company on April 1, 1976. I remember that day, because on that very day I reported to military boot camp. Every soldier remembers that day vividly. Jobs built his company through relentless hard work, vision, persistence when everyone around him told him it could not be done. He ran several companies in parallel for years (Pixar, Apple). Apple would not exist without Jobs. There would be no Apple stores everywhere. We would not be using iPhones. Smart phones might look different entirely today if it hadn’t been for Apple’s creativity and leadership. Jobs was a billionaire, and he produced more value for the US than thousands of average workers combined.

Then there is Elon Musk, an immigrant from South Africa who arrived first in Canada as a teenager in the late 1980s with a few hundred dollars in his pocket. Eventually, he cofounded PayPal, and after it was sold, started Tesla, the electric car company, SpaceX, the rocket company, and he was heavily involved in SolarCity, the solar energy leasing company. With Tesla worth over $40 billion, and SpaceX still private, but estimated at more than $12 billion, Musk is a multi-billionaire and he got there by taking huge risks, working extremely hard for decades and having an outsized vision of what can be done.

Did you ever think it would be possible to start a brand-new car company? Or how about a rocket company that will compete with Russia and NASA? That’s exactly what Musk did, from scratch, in his garage, with his own money, that he made from writing code for PayPal – while the rest of us went to work every day at our jobs. Now he too employs thousands of people in several companies. Those companies are still growing and creating jobs in America, every day, every week, every month.

We need more people like Waitt, Gates, Jobs and Musk in this country, not less. Bernie Sanders does not know what he is talking about when he vilifies billionaires.

Granted, I just listed a few prominent ones here, but I could go on and on. Go and study up on the biographies of the wealthiest people in this country, and you’ll find that for the most part, they are the ones that have created opportunity, wealth and welfare by providing superior products for the US and the rest of the world.

So when I quote Sanders again from the top of this post:

Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.

I can only say: what an idiotic statement!

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In 2013, the average Pizza Hut restaurant had revenue of $861,000. I just went to a Pizza Hut restaurant in New York State a few weeks ago, and my bill was about $24, tip not included. So if that restaurant served 100 people like me a day, it would add up to about $861,000 for the year. It all sounds reasonable.

A Pizza Hut restaurant is not much different from a McDonalds, or a Subway, or any other fast food restaurant. If they do more than a million dollars a year, it’s phenomenal. Most are struggling along. Many barely make it.

Having government raise the minimum wage from say $8 to $15, almost doubling the payroll, will surely put many restaurants out of business. Many are starting to add kiosks now so customers can order on a screen, without a human assisting. I have seen kiosks on tables at Olive Garden, I have ordered at a kiosk at Panera, and I recently saw that McDonalds is adding kiosks for customers.

Raising the minimum wage on restaurants for low-skilled or unskilled laborers is not solving the problem. We like to talk about everyone “deserving a living wage.” Those rich employers just have to make it work. Tell that to the owner of the Pizza Hut, who barely makes ends meet, and sometimes has loss years because he can’t get enough customers every day (remember, he needs a 100 every day of the year).

There are people with college degrees working as paramedics, firemen, teachers and yes, soldiers, who start out making $16 an hour. That’s what these jobs pay at the entry level. Compare that to the skill you need to flip a burger – something you can learn in a few days, and tell me again that everyone “deserves” $15 an hour.

It just does not work that way.

Forcing employers to pay higher wages to low-skilled employees inflates their costs and ends up with one of two results:

  1. They go out of business since they can’t make ends meet.
  2. They lay off staff or shorten their hours and bring in kiosks or other automation.

Both result in job loss. Fewer service jobs. More unemployment for low-skilled workers. More dependency on government handouts. Fewer jobs in the country. Higher prices for basic goods and services.

Raising the minimum wage for low-skilled workers sounds like a noble thing. After all, everyone “deserves a living wage.”

Nonsense.

Those that obtain an education and plan a career where workers are needed and therefore the pay is high will get that higher pay.

We have a terrible shortage of doctors, nurses, engineers, computer programmers, and many other professional careers that pay six figures each. Nobody deserves a living wage. The economy, the collective “all of us” are willing to pay doctors, nurses, engineers and computer programmers a lot of money because those jobs are hard, they are stressful, they have long hours, and they require many years of education.

The solution to our economic problems are not government subsidies, or regulatory interference. That never works. The solution to our problems is education.

But education is hard work.

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