Entitlements, Work, Family & Faith

Entitlements, Work, Family & Faith

Other than “Entitlements” the above title could be a short listing of what is missing in America these days?  Think about it, you would think that Work, Family and Faith would be at the forefront of what we need to focus on to get our country back on track.

Unfortunately all that seems to be in the news these days is debates about entitlements.  Every day there is some topic about entitlements discussed on a news program or written in a paper or online blog.   The topics range from what programs should be cut to how horrible someone must be to even think of cutting any of the programs.

Let’s talk about each of these items for a moment. Entitlements. Unemployment. National Debt.  These three issues are unfortunately and painfully linked and must be addressed before our nation falls into another recession that may prove difficult to dig out of. The citizens of our nation have become so expectant to the availability of some form of entitlement that we are borrowing from our unborn citizens to pay for our current problems.

Now, you may assume that because I feel there is a need to reduce the amount of funding deployed on entitlement programs, I am a cold-hearted member of the “one percent”.  Well, I would have to say, quite the contrary.  I fully support public assistance programs.  What I have issue with is the idea that we ALL are entitled to something.  I think the term entitlement is actually a problem in itself. The reason I put the word ALL in capital letters, is to illustrate that at some point, some of us do earn an entitlement.  I stress the word “earn”.  Someone that has worked his or her whole life contributing to our society and is no longer able to do so has earned an “entitlement” and should be assisted if need be.   The problem with our current system of public assistance or “entitlement” programs, is that for some, the assistance can be perpetual, simply because they have asked for help.

What I am getting at is this; Work.  I know, crazy idea right?  Let’s have folks work or contribute towards earning their assistance.  It is obvious that the contributions that we make by paying federal and state taxes is simply not enough to cover the cost for the amount of assistance that is needed. So where am I going with this idea?  I am suggesting that those folks that are taking advantage of the system or even those that are not and are legitimately in need of assistance, can indeed offer their time to help get our country back on its feet.  I feel that these able body citizens can contribute towards earning their assistance by offering their time and efforts to work in programs that are needed but have been cut or eliminated.

Why is it that we as a nation do not ask for anything in return for the assistance we give?

You can’t make the argument that the assistance programs are paid for by the citizens, so they are “entitled” to the benefits in return.  The only way that this argument holds water is if all of us actually paid equally into the same pool of capital.  Good or bad, I think we all can agree that this is not the case in America.

There are a lot of unemployed individuals in our country.  Times are tough.  Non-the-less, there is still a need to execute on the many basic services that are now going unattended.  There are endless jobs in all areas of our society that have been reduced or eliminated because of the current setback in our economy.  Folks that are receiving public assistance can help fill these roles.  Let’s at least make our assistance programs an efficient tool that can be used for further public good.

Let me be clear, I certainly understand that we are going through a very difficult time here in America, but not withstanding our current economic condition, we need to remember that we live in a country with tremendous opportunities for those that are willing to put their best efforts forward.

The benefits that come from taking pride in your work not only will have an excellent economic impact on your paycheck, but also provide countless additional benefits to your family, your community and the future of our country.

As I have written before, we have a pride issue in America.  Some of us are simply not willing to do the work.  We would rather apply for some type of assistance from the government than change our lifestyle, give back a little or develop the skills necessary to find work.  Even worse, when some of us actually find a job, we seem to treat it with distain.

This makes you wonder what we are teaching our young people about expectations.  Are we teaching them that because they are Americans, anything that they want should simply be handed over to them?  I don’t think that this is the case, but it sure seems that way when you watch some people working in what they might consider a sub-optimal job.

This leads us to the third topic.  Family.  There has been a clear deterioration of “family values” in America for quite some time.  For proof, all you need to do is take a look at the divorce rate in America.  It is amazing that this has become a topic of contention and some folks get all up in arms about this subject. The hard truth is that our “anything goes” attitude toward most everything in this country has devalued one of the most important institutions there is, the family.  We need to find a way to educate our young people of the long-term value that comes along with a solid family foundation.  We need to find ways to bring honor, humility and personal responsibility back to the forefront of our daily family life.  We need to educate our children about the differences between families of the “greatest generation” to the families of today.  We need to illustrate the evolution of how culture and faith has changed in America.

Ah, Faith, the final topic of this article.  Faith, depending on your religion, is a belief in a god or in the doctrines or teachings of your religion. Informal usage of faith can be pretty broad and is often used as a substitute for “hope”, “trust” or “belief”. Faith is further exemplified by various attitudes about the future, which by definition, has not yet occurred.  This being said, our “faith” in ourselves, our “faith” in our family and furthermore, our “faith” in our country is the cornerstone of the resurgences of our economic woes.  We all need to dig deep and find our “faith”.  For the faith we have in ourselves and in our country is what will motivate all of us to put forth the efforts that will bring about a better future for our families and our nation.

One of my favorite quotes that I think all of us should consider is, “Success is always one step beyond where you were about to stop.  Never give up.  There is always a way.”

This statement relies completely upon faith.

I have Faith that the citizens of the United States of America, can Work hard to better our own lives and the lives of our Family members, without the demand of Entitlements.

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The Unemployment Rate

Aren’t we all just a little tired of this nonsense relating to the recently announced 7.8% unemployment rate?  Oh, let me be clear, when I say nonsense, I am not talking about Jack Welch’s comment that “the numbers are a fabrication”.  The U-3 numbers are at best inaccurate, but fabricated may be a bit of a stretch.  I am talking about the nonsense of the use of the U-3 number at all.

Why on earth do we even look at the 7.8% number or the U-3 category?  The U-3 number is the “official” unemployment rate.  The number is so “official” that it completely adjusts and/or ignores an entire population of unemployed and underemployed citizens. Maybe we should call it the “official adjustable unemployment rate”.

Let’s stop kidding ourselves; the U-6 unemployment rate is an unchanged 14.7%!  Why on earth would we not be counting all of those that are unemployed or underemployed?  Whether unemployed citizens are or are not looking for work is completely irrelevant.  They are indeed unemployed!  End of story!

Even if you want to take a more conservative look at the BLS numbers and back out the number people who are “working part time for economic reasons”, the unemployment rate is still 9.3%!

So why are we putting so much energy into debating whether the rate is “real” or “fabricated” or whatever descriptor anyone would like to attach to this number?  Don’t you think that we should be spending 100% of our time and energy realizing that even at 7.8%, there are far too many citizens without work in America?

Oh, and by the way, each month there are over three million jobs that are going unfulfilled in the United States.  Yes, three million jobs! A July, 2012 article in Bloomberg News stated that these jobs are going unfulfilled due to a lack of skills in the American workforce.

Maybe a good start should be to focus on investing in workforce training and education programs that target the type of job skills that those three million positions require?

We need our leaders to join together and deliver sound policies that will help create solid long-term employment opportunities in our country.  Let us together, stop the “party politics” and take control of our country’s future.  Our first job is to elect leaders that have the ability to understand the value in both sides of an opinion and the courage to unite our nation and gain the support necessary to drive our economy forward.

“United we Stand, Divided we Fall”

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Women Transforming our Financial Markets Symposium

Please join Dr. Robin L. Smith and I at this informative NowStreet event.  Dara Albright has put together an excellent group of speakers that are sure to provide great insights.  The event will held in New York City on December 11, 2012.

Key Discussion Points Will Include:

  • Raising capital & maximizing returns as U.S. market structure evolves
  • The demise of the small cap IPO and its consequences on job creation & economic growth
  • Redefining Capital Formation
  • How equity-based Crowdfunding and peer-to peer-lending will revolutionize the marketplace
  • How to legally and successfully Crowdfund in the current environment
  • The differences between securities-based Crowdfunding, reward-based Crowdfunding & typical micro-cap investing
  • Using social media and other advances in communications to reach investors & provide greater transparency
  • Finding the ideal financing structure for your business/client
  • The developing Crowdfunding organizations and introductions to its leaders
  • Private share transacting
  • The settling & clearing of private shares
  • How the removal of the solicitation ban impacts investment bankers, issuers, hedge funds, the marketing & PR industry and investors
  • Meeting angels & incubators
  • Constructive liquidity strategies for private company stock
  • Funding your venture with Self-Directed IRAs
  • Using retirement accounts to gain diversified exposure to some of the fastest growing private companies
  • Tax issues related to JOBS Act changes
  • How capitalism & humanitarianism can converge to form new investing philosophies
  • How women can help transform Wall Street, create jobs and rejuvenate the economy

Use the below link to register.

http://nowstreetwomen-esli.eventbrite.com/

THE DREAM ACT, JOBS, IMMIGRATION & PRIDE

I was reading an article about The Dream Act and Illegal Immigration today and I was struck by the comments that some people made in response to the article.  It is amazing to me how one-sided some people think.  There is simply no thought as to what happens if you follow a path all the way to the right or all the way to the left.   Are we not capable of finding solutions to problems that are without some form of emotionally charged rhetoric? 

The issue surrounding the Dream Act suggests that we should not be deporting certain immigrants that have come here illegally.  We should be providing some of these folks opportunity to remain in the U.S., get a great education and attempt to become productive American citizens.  It is being suggested that those immigrants that have come here as children or those that have served in our military, should not be penalized or deported.   Typically however, when we are speaking about this segment of the population, we are speaking about immigrants families that are here as laborers or some type of service worker. 

Although I am actually somewhat a fan of the Dream Act concept, I struggle with the basic idea that we need to put so much effort towards inducing these folks to stay here.  For those that are stating that these young people are “stealing education opportunities for American young people’, all I can say is; REALLY?  Have you see the success rate of our k-12 school systems?  I am so disappointed that we are not able to produce a larger number of educated young citizens that are eager to contribute to the growth our economy.  You have to sit back and wonder how this is even possible.  We have the best universities in the world and yet, our young people are either not going to school or not finishing what schooling they have started.  We have to find ways to invest in our teachers and education systems. We absolutely have to find ways to get our young people excited about learning and even more excited about what this country can offer them as educated members of society. 

On the issue of illegal immigrants “stealing all of our jobs”.  Once again all I have to say is, REALLY?   When was the last time you saw a large group American workers lining up at a farm to apply for work in the fields or apply for work that does not have the best pay in the world?  The answer is, they are not.     

It is interesting; I have had opportunities to meet with some of these immigrant workers over the years.  The folks that I have met were not making high wages or working a few hours a week.  They were working long and hard, doing jobs that most of us would not even consider working.  The interesting part to me is that they are happy to be doing the work.  They even somehow seem to find ways to send money back to their families.  They are so filled with pride in the work that they do. 

We have a pride issue in America.  Some of us are simply not willing to do the work.  We would rather apply for some type of assistance from the government than change our lifestyle or develop the skills necessary to find work.  Even worse, when some of us actually have a job, we seem to treat it with distain.  

This frustrates me more than anything.  Recently I was at a coffee shop ordering a coffee and a bagel for breakfast.  The people working in this coffee shop seemed to be completely disturbed that I stopped by for my breakfast!  They barely acknowledged that I was standing in front of them offering to my hard earned money in return for my coffee.  

This makes you wonder what we are teaching our young people about expectations.  Are we teaching them that because they are Americans, anything that they want should simply be handed over to them?  I don’t think that tis is the case, but it sure seems that way when you watch some people working in what they might consider a sub-optimal job. 

How about this for a crazy idea?  Be thankful that you have a job.  Show some pride in your work. Do your very best at whatever task is provided to you.  You would be surprised at what can happen.   Actually, there should be no surprise at all.  In America, we have example after example after example, of hard working people that have started at the very bottom and worked their way up to great success.  

Let me be clear, I certainly understand that we are going through a very difficult time here in America, but not withstanding our current economic condition, we need to remember that we live in a country with tremendous opportunities for those that are willing to put their best efforts forward. 

The benefits that come from taking pride in your work not only will have an excellent economic impact on your paycheck, but also provide countless additional benefits to your family, your community and the future of our country. 

Find your Pride! 

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Our Elected Officials

Rhetoric to the Left of us! Rhetoric to the Right of us!  Yes, it is presidential election time in America.  The sales pitches are coming at us fast and furious from all directions.  More often than not, every four years we put ourselves into the position of listening to nonsensical one-sided arguments of what needs to be done to improve our nations economic situation.

I say “put ourselves into the position” because we have done just that, we have placed ourselves in the position of listening to political nonsense by continuing to vote for those that play the political game.  How can we fix this?  Well for starters, we can actually vote in our elections.  Simple right?  You would think so, but this really needs to improve dramatically.  In the last two presidential elections about 40% of those eligible to vote, simply did not show up at all.  In 2004 58% of eligible voters participated and in 2008 about 63% of eligible voters participated.  What is amazing is that in 2008, that 63% number represented a record voter turnout.  That means nearly 40% of eligible voters did not cast their vote and therefore a very large portion of the populations voice went unheard.

The next thing that we need to do is become more engaged in the affairs of our Nation.  To do this, we all need to become far more educated as it relates to the various issues at hand.  It is simply not good enough to blindly follow the incumbent or latest contender that gives the best speech! We get so caught up in the emotion of any given issue that we don’t even take the time to figure out what is important or what our vote actually means to any given matter.  Our lives, our economy, our health-care, our education and our children’s future are far too important to be swayed by a perfectly delivered political speech.

An embarrassing example of this “emotional following” was when Rachel Maddow, a MSNBC news personality, confronted a group of protesters in Alaska.  The protesters apparently were against some of the views of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.  When Ms. Maddow asked some simple questions about the issues they were being opposed, the individuals that responded simply did not have accurate knowledge about the issues that they had taken the time to protest.  One of the protesters actually ended up confessing, “I honestly don’t know enough about him to answer that truthfully”!   Can you imagine?  You take the time to make signs or posters, you march defiantly about an important issue and yet, you don’t even have any real knowledge about what it is that you are protesting!  Wow!

The best way to vote for “change” is to fully understand both sides of an argument for any given matter and then develop plans that address both the long-term and short-term needs of the issue at hand.  To do this however, voters need to understand what the consequences of any give vote may actually mean.

For instance, a candidate may be suggesting a solution that is more long-term in nature.  If this is the case, the voters need to fully understand that with long-term solutions or “investments”, there is often sacrifice and even pain.  If the voters fully understand the commitment that is necessary to achieve such a goal and are willing to make the sacrifice, you just may have happier constituents.

Unfortunately, what we see in our current political environment, are talented salespeople using strategic and emotionally charged buzzwords that simply don’t address what needs to be done to provide actual solutions. After the emotion has worn off, we often become very we disappointed because what we thought our representatives had promised did not even come close to materializing.  It is truly amazing how little our candidates actually say.  If you take the time to listen closely you will not only be amazed, but very disappointed with how few solutions our elected officials actually offer.

Some months ago I was at a conference about the then recently passed JOBS act.  At this particular conference, the promoters had a certain senator speak to the conference via video feed.  Although the senator was amazingly articulate and extremely engaging and I even found myself nodding in approval of what he was saying, I quickly caught myself and started to listen closer.  What I found was that the senator pretty much had no idea what he was talking about and for that matter probably new less than anyone at the conference that was there to hear him speak.

The point I am attempting to make is that we need to find ways to personally become more engaged in the issues that face our country. We need to question the meaning of the proposals that we being asked to vote upon so that we can fully understand the consequences of such a vote and we need to firmly demand results from our elected officials.

The only way to do this is to become more educated about the nations issues and be sure that our voices are heard.  This can only happen if as many citizens that are able to vote, actually vote.

The first presidential debate is this week.  Please take the time to listen to what both candidates are specifically saying or more importantly, listen to what they are not specifically saying.  Take the time to question the meaning of their proposals and how it may affect the long-term and short-term issues that our economy is facing.  If you are not clear about the meaning of these proposals, ask a trusted source.  When you ask your questions, be sure that both sides of the issue is explained to you in detail, so that you can better weigh the pros and cons of every proposal.

Remember, our officials are elected to work for and represent our views.  They are elected to make the choices “Of the People, By the People, For the People”  

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Random Thoughts: Income Inequality

I think the term “income inequality” is not exactly an accurate term.  I think that “wealth inequality” is probably a better term or statement.  First of all, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, your level of education, for the most part, drives your level of income.

Wealth on the other hand has many limiting factors.  For instance, your wealth can fluctuate greatly by the movements of the housing market or the stock market provided that you have funds invested in 401(k) accounts or other type of retirement accounts.

Income taxes play a role in wealth creation as well.  This is a topic that has been at the forefront of our consciousness as of late, because emotional discussions about “who is paying their fair share” have been repeated relentlessly by the media.  The reality is, something like 40% of Americans pay zero income taxes.  For those within the middle class that are actually paying income taxes and are not part of the “one percent”, and assuming President Obama is reelected, your tax situation will not change and more than likely, your “wealth” situation will not change much either.  Why is this?

For starters, those that are gaining an “inequitable” amount of wealth are, generally speaking, not generating this massive wealth from their paycheck.  Sure it starts there, but remember what we talked about at the beginning of this blog, your level of education, more often than not, drives your paycheck.  So how is this large wealth disparity created?

One of  (I repeat, “One Of”) the root problems relating to wealth creation for the average person is quite simple.  The average person is not allowed to make the types of investments necessary to gain the kinds of returns that generate great wealth.  Wait!  What did I just say?  The average person is NOT ALLOWED to make the investments necessary to generate great wealth?

Basically the financial markets are rigged against the average investor in the name of “consumer protection”. Unless you are deemed an “accredited investor”, generally speaking, you are out of luck with getting in on the ground floor of the next Apple or Microsoft.  The basic idea is that unless you have gained a certain level of income or wealth, you are not capable of making investment decisions.  Well, that is unless it is a government sponsored investment like buying a house that you can’t afford.

Did you realize that nearly all of the appreciation in value of Microsoft stock happened after they completed their IPO?  This provided many investors the opportunity to gain and build wealth from their early risk based investment.  Conversely, 100% of the appreciation in the value of Facebook stock happened before their IPO.  What this means is that the only people who made any money from their Facebook investment, were the “accredited investors” that were ALLOWED to invest in the early stages of the company’s history.

Let’s illustrate this in another way. There is absolutely nothing stopping the average person from walking into a casino and spending every dime that they have on a poker game or slot machine.  Am I the only one that finds this a bit strange?  I can spend every dime I have on a slot machine, but “God forbid” that I invest my money into a business venture that can earn a potentially great return for myself in addition to potentially producing wider benefits to the economy as a whole.  How about charities?  Think about it.  Each year American citizens give almost $300 Billion to various charities.  No, I have nothing against giving to charities, but the same argument holds true.  I can give every penny I have to a charitable organization, but unless I am deemed an accredited investor, I am not able to put my hard-earned money into a business that might create jobs and help grow the economy.  So basically, the idea is that you are more than welcome to give away all of your money or gamble away all of your money, but unless you have already made a bunch of money, you are not able to invest it in businesses without some kind of restriction.  Well, of course you can always purchase the stock of the companies that the “accredited investors” are wanting to get out of.  So I guess that is something?

Our capital markets have been turned upside down in the past twenty years or so.  It used to be that an initial public offering or “IPO” was done to generate growth capital for an emerging business. Investors were able to invest early enough to earn a great return. These days, IPO’s have simply become an exit for “accredited investors”, allowing them to dump their shares into the hands of “unaccredited investors”.  We have gone from being an “Investing” society to a “Trading” society in a very short period of time and there is a tremendous need to reverse this trend.

I am very concerned about the growing wealth gap in America and the fast shrinking middle class. There are many important points that we can discuss, but if you really want to start taking a close look at wealth inequality in America, look no further than your ability to invest your own money.

I know that there are many solutions to these important issues; my colleagues and I discuss them often.  I can only hope that were are able to find and elect government officials that will be willing to unify the American people and actually address these issues rather than simply spin more of the same nonsense that they often use trying to get elected.

I am now part of The CEDI SocietyCEDI is a non-partisan organization that intends to address these issues and create opportunity for citizens across all socio-economic levels.  At CEDI, the belief is that the citizens of the United States must do just that, Unite.  We must educate our society to the value of our individual differences, so that we can find unifying solutions for our Nation’s most pressing problems. Image

“One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.”

“One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.”

 

We all know that the above is a passage from the American Pledge of Allegiance.  We all learned this basic concept of unity in grade school.  It seems to me that some of us have forgotten or at the very least don’t value this important message and way of life.  I am speaking of the idea that we are indeed “One Nation, Indivisible”.  We must all find a way to return this concept to the forefront of our thinking.  We must find a way for the citizens of the United States of America to take an active actionable interest in their nation even when there is no immediate direct benefit.  We must once again become a nation of long-term investors and the idea of immediate gratification must be “educated” out of our collective conscious.  This need for instant results is driving us into a hole that will be very difficult to get out of.

 

Politically we have become so divided that our election process is nothing but an elaborate “sales” job for the two primary political parties.  The parties spend so much time and money trying to convince us of their positions on various topics with the most ridiculous spin; they forget to simply offer an actual solution for any given issue.  Of course the divide in politics is nothing new, but aren’t we all just a little tired of being sold?  Is it not the responsibility of our elected officials to present the views of the people and then govern by their direction?  This constant bickering of “party line” nonsense has to stop!  I am personally interested in solutions.  I am not particularly interested in who comes up with the solution. 

 

We are a nation of individuals, yes.  However, this cannot mean that we are a nation of individuals solely looking out for themselves.  We are the “United States of America”, not the “Individual States of America”.  Yes, we each have individual rights, however it is the common unity of all of us as a Nation that allows a person to enjoy their individual freedoms and successes.

 

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”

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ATLANTA, MISSED OPPORTUNITY, LEADERSHIP & TRUST

I have been watching Atlanta, my former hometown and the current home of my daughter and two grandsons closely in recent years.  It is so disappointing to see a city with such amazing potential, continue to fumble opportunity after opportunity. 

The latest missed opportunity was the failed passing of the T-SPLOST proposal for transportation reform in the Atlanta region.  This was a critical measure that could allow Atlanta to one again become the lead city of the southern United States.

One of the main issues stopping Atlanta from truly becoming a great international location is the city’s limitation of transportation options.  It is shocking to me that the people of Atlanta would not be willing to spend and extra $.01 to build a better way of life. 

Think of all of the economic development that would occur from Atlanta being able to offer a better transportation infrastructure. One of the key reasons that companies choose not to relocate to Atlanta is that it is simply far too much of a hassle to get around town.

I now live in NYC and am always amazed that the traffic in the Atlanta metro, an area that is four times smaller than the NYC metro, is far more disruptive and difficult to navigate.

Now let’s be clear, it is easy to understand why.  For starters, Atlanta is a little late to the game in creating a denser urban core.  Not too late, but late nonetheless.  MARTA, their rail system, is extremely limited.  Of course, trying to build every new office building or residential tower on a single street can be a bit problematic.

What really stopped the people of Atlanta from voting to enact a measure that would clearly bring benefit to a fantastic city with tremendous opportunity and potential?

Trust.

Simply put, the people do not trust that the government will actually spend the money on the programs that are outlined.  They do not trust that the money will be spent in a way that will actually bring the benefits that the measures are intended to create.  This is a big problem not only for Atlanta, but also for our country as a whole.  Our elected leaders need to stop the partisan nonsense and forget about how a decision is going to effect their re-election options.  The people of our county are more than capable of finding ways to fix our problems.  We first need to stop electing “talking-heads” and find leaders that are willing to make the hard decisions.  We need to find leaders that we can trust.

Most of all, we, the people, need to step-up.  We need to find the trust in ourselves.  “Self-reliance and ambition made the United States the most powerful nation on Earth. But that ethic is now eroding fast.”

If Atlanta wants to start its growth engine again, its citizens need to find leaders that they can trust and then be willing to put their money where their mouths are.  If Atlanta, simply wants someone else to magically fix and pay for its transportation issues, then I am sad to say, Atlanta is headed for a future of decline and mediocrity.

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Of the People, By the People, For the People!

I know that the following commentary may be a day or so behind the comments made by many others before me, but after thinking about this, I decided that I will have my say.  I often not try not to comment on what our various Presidents say.  This time however, I think we really need to pay close attention to the statement that our President recently made.  In a “stump” speech in Virginia, our President stated; “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that…………somebody else made that happen”.  The “someone else” that he was referring to is our government.

Now there has been plenty of rhetoric on both sides of the isle over this statement.  Some on the right have stated things like “Obama hates America”.  The left of course is trying to defend the President by saying that we all have taken this out of context or that he was not using a teleprompter, so he made a small mistake.  Common boys and girls!  First of all I would find it hard to believe that the President hates America, however I think defending what he said is equally as naive.

Let’s put this into context for a second.  The point that President Obama was attempting to make, was an argument for raising taxes on the wealthy.  He was trying to point out that without the government, these wealthy people would not have been successful.  One of his supporters even tried to further explain by stating; “Obama wasn’t saying, “You didn’t build your business.” He was saying “You didn’t build the roads and bridges that made it possible to build your business.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a problem with this.  Our government is not an all empowering entity that provides “success” to its people.  The key word of that last sentence is the word “Our”.  I think the President, while attempting to make a political point, forgot who the government actually is.  We are a government “Of the People, By the People and For the People”.  We are a society of people that elect representatives to help voice and deliver our collective interests.

Let us not forget, we, the people, came first.  We, the people, came before the government.  We, the people, created the government.  We, the people, came together to form “a more perfect union”.  The government did not do this, we did. 

In context of “roads and bridges………….If it were not for people like Henry Ford who was successful in building the automobile, there may not be any roads or bridges.  The government did not create the automobile.  Here again, the people came first.

Now, I would like to point out another “minor” detail.  Exactly where does the government get the money to pay for the “roads and bridges” and other elements of “our success”?  Yep, you guessed it.  The money comes from us.  Our taxes. The hard earned money of commerce. The financial contributions of the people, is how those “roads and bridges are built.

So as best as I can see, the people that grow their businesses and become successful are indeed those that are responsible for building their businesses.  The government is merely a tool of the people.  Whatever the government allocates for roads, bridges or any other service it provides, are in reality provided to the people…….from the people.

Let’s never forget that we are a county;

Of the People, By the People and For the People!

THE POPE, STEM CELLS & THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

I am happy to say that I am back home in New York from my trip to Rome.  It was oppressively hot, and our air travel experience was slightly less than enjoyable.  I was in Rome accompanying Dr. Robin L. Smith and Dr. Max Gomez of the Stem for Life Foundation.

This was a follow-up visit to the Vatican where in November of 2011 the Stem for Life Foundation and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture held a global conference titled Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture. The below photo of me meeting Pope Benedict XVI was from the November trip.

This latest visit to the Vatican was the opportunity for Dr. Smith and Dr. Gomez, along with Monsignor Tomasz Trafny of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, to directly present their recently completed book titled Our Stem Cells: The Mystery of Life and Secrets of Healing to the Holy Father.

The book focuses on concepts discussed at the First International Vatican Adult Stem Cell Conference and presents the reader with an engaging, comprehensive overview of adult stem cells and their vital role in a future of regenerative medicine. In powerful accessible language, the book showcases a wide array of emerging adult stem cell breakthroughs.

In addition to making the science easy to understand, the authors filled the book with here-and-now case studies on how adult stem cell therapies are already helping real people suffering needlessly from deadly and debilitating diseases and medical conditions.

The book not only speaks to the success of the Stem for Life Foundation’s historic partnership with the Vatican, but it sets the stage for the next set of events that the collaboration will deliver.

I am sharing this with you not only because my trips to the Vatican and the opportunities that I have had to work with the Stem for Life Foundation have been truly amazing, rather, I want to share with you some interesting experiences that I had while attending this ceremony.

For those that actually read my blogs, you know that I tend to write about topics that relate to the United States, its economy and how we as individuals participate in both.  Well, here I go again, more about America, its economy and its citizens.  I might be the only person that can find a way to relate a visit at the Vatican to American economics.  However, while awaiting the presentation ceremony, Pope Benedict delivered a Mass, amazingly I might add, in about six or seven different languages, for literally thousands and thousands of people.

Irrespective of your religious beliefs, it really is a moving experience. As part of the Mass, a number of Priests, each speaking a different language, addressed those attending and announces the presence of select groups from various parts of the world.  Each time a group’s name is announced, they try to make their presence and their love for the Pope known by screaming, shouting, waving flags, singing or playing music so that the Pope will see them and send a personal wave of blessing.

A couple of things stuck out for me during this “hair raising” experience.  First of all the pride that each group had for their homeland or even their individual city, when announced, was almost unimaginable and brought tears to my eyes.

By the way, the folks from the various American states and cities were incredible.  The Texans were really great, but the group from North Dakota, Wow, I have never heard such pride.  They showed their love for the Pope and their pride of being at the Vatican representing North Dakota in such a way that all those attending, had to turn around with cheek splitting smiles of approval and stand up and clap for the energetic Americans!  It was truly breathtaking to hear such joy and pride from any individual group.  Of course, I have a special bias for the North Dakotan, for they were also representing the Untied States.

Even though the pride of the American pilgrims was amazing, what most stood out for me was how each group from America was introduced.  It made no difference if the group was introduced by their state or by their city, they were ALWAYS, addressed as being from THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  Not the U.S., not America, but THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

This really struck me and I was so emotional each time it was announced.  These days we far too often, simply refer to our country as America or the U.S.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, but sometimes it makes me think that we have forgotten what we as a country are all about.  We live in the United States of America.  We have always been a country with diverse communities and equally diverse interests, yet we have “united”, to build our nation.

I believe that it is this, essentially simple concept of “uniting” or coming together, can allow our country to emerge from this difficult economic period, stronger and more united than we ever have been.  If we all can take the time to think about how our personal desires and actions effect the “big picture” when building for our individual successes, we, as a country can have the opportunity to get back to the core principles of our fore fathers.  United we stand, divided we fall.

This is and we are, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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