Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Warren Buffett & The War on Billionaires

I know what you’re up to Warren Buffett. You don’t fool me for a second. You may think you’re slick—but you are not, sir.

By now, most of us have read the article in the N.Y. Times written by Buffett where he chides us not to coddle the super-wealthy, like himself, and supports higher taxes for those in the top echelon of the tax bracket. I’m sorry. I’m not buying it though. Something smells fishy and I think I’ve figured it out.

Buffett is scared. And he has good reason to be.

The 2012 election is rapidly approaching and the Yes-We-Can Man that Buffett supported the last time around has become the Well-I-Tried-Really-Hard-But-The-Other-Guys-Are-Really-Mean Guy and he’s in danger of not being elected for a second term. And I don’t know if you’ve taken a good look at any of the Republican Party hopefuls but the group as a whole is crazier than a guy trying to do cartwheels up a flight of stairs.

And here are the facts: We’re in debt—big time. And the Repubs—well, they all like low taxes and starting wars. They’ve learned from the last dummy and this time around when they start lowering taxes they know they’ll need to climb out of debt somehow and no matter how many programs they cut, they’ll never do it that way which leaves one, fairly obvious plan.

Declare war on Billionaires.

Let’s face it. The groundwork has been set. The days of having to declare war on countries is OVER. We can now declare wars on groups of people. The Terrorists came first, but the War on Terror came about when our problem was being afraid. We needed to beat somebody up so we could feel better, tougher, safer and less afraid. Mission accomplished. Just a decade removed from the horrors of 9/11 we do nothing but whine and complain about long lines at airport security checkpoints. We’re positively arrogant, once again, in the face of terrorism.

The new problem is money. We don’t have any. And we don’t do or make anything here anymore. We’re a country full of people with desks, laptops and chairs with good lumbar support. The only thing we actually make are spreadsheets and power point presentations. We fill both of those things with information skewed to prove this point or that one. We talk about metrics and forecasts and synergy. We learned one thing really quick when the economy failed. The majority of the workforce is superfluous. A business owner can fire half of his or her employees and the only difference is less meetings to attend where people try to prove to one and other how smart and important they are and fewer spreadsheets to read.

So, what does this all mean for the future? Well, there’s a good chance that Crazy-Eyes Malone or Maverick McGee is going to be our next president and when they’re in charge there’s really only one possible course of action to take: The War on Billionaires.

It’s a win-win proposition.

These silly bastards have amassed their billions of dollars without ever having built personal armies or allocating vast portions of their wealth to defense! They’re practically helpless! We can invade Warren Buffett’s estate or Bill Gates’ mansion with virtually zero resistance! This is exactly what the GOP needs, a war without a single casualty and no need for an exit strategy! Hell, I’m sure the troops won’t mind occupying the Gates Mansion for a couple years anyway!

We kick guys like Buffett out of their homes, take all of their money and let them live on the streets so their bleeding heart liberal friends can feed them with foodstamps and in the process, we amass enough money to buy our way out of debt and probably even have a little surplus when it’s all said and done! So what if we make 600 former billionaire’s upset in the process? As long as we take care of the millionaires and those making six-figure salaries the Repub base will remain strong.

Oh, they won’t run on this platform of course, but if you pay attention, you can see it forming already. Warren Buffett has certainly seen the writing on the wall. It’s actually pretty comical that he thinks he can volunteer to pay a little bit more in taxes and somehow avoid the inevitability of The War on Billionaires.

It’s too late, I’m afraid. Barrack Obama will be a one-term president. He said he could, but it turns out he couldn’t. There isn’t a single good leader in the entire group of Republican candidates and even if there was, it would be impossible to tell because they all get their talking points from the same place. No, it’s inevitable now. President Palin will be running the show soon and The War on Billionaires will commence. She’ll be posing for pictures in a flight suit after flying onto an aircraft carrier anchored on the slip for Bill Gate’s yacht before you know it.

Debt resolved. Crisis averted. Problem solved. The billionaires may as well adopt a moose with a bad limp as their logo. You had a good run Mr. Buffett and this last gasp effort with the equal tax thing really was a nice try. I hope you make a mean spreadsheet.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Deion Sanders is a Hall of Famer now, enshrined with the other NFL greats in Canton, Ohio. It’s an honor he has certainly earned. His play, on the field, over his 14-year career, spoke for itself. His mouth and his “Prime Time” persona, however, left many divided on two-sport star though.

I’ve always rooted against Prime Time. Those who self-aggrandize themselves are the ones I want to see fall. I wasn’t alone in that. Deion isn’t shy about calling out “the haters.” These days he does it while praising the Lord, yet another big mouth in the sporting world giving praise to Jesus on the inhale and screaming “look at me!” on the exhale of every breath.

My issue isn’t with the hypocrisy with which he throws the Lord’s name around though. That can stay between he and Jesus and I trust it’ll get worked out just right. My issue is with Prime Time’s speech and more specifically the message it contained and that it was directed at a bunch of kids in a corporately sponsored tee shirts.

In his speech he says: “I never told you, Mama, I played for a youth team called the Fort Myers Rebels. Everybody on that team, their parents were doctors or chiefs of police. Me and my friend were the only African-American kids on that team. I was ashamed of my Mama. My Mama worked in a hospital. She pushed a cart in a hospital. I was ashamed of my Mama, who sacrificed everything for me to make sure I was best-dressed in school.
One of my friends in high school saw her pushing a cart and clowned me because of my Mama. So I made a pledge to myself that I don't care what it takes, I'm not gonna do anything illegal, but my Mama would never have to work another day of her life.”

I forgive you, Deion, for being ashamed of your mother, as a kid, in that situation. And I understand how something like that can motivate a kid—as it apparently did in Sanders’ case to achieve more. Kids are foolish and stupid and don’t understand what’s truly important in life. What’s unacceptable is that Prime Time doesn’t seem to truly understand that what his mom did for him is real. He fails to appreciate that there was honor in pushing that cart. There was honor in sacrificing so that he could be, “best-dressed in school.”

Deion, you gave your mom more money than she’s ever probably known what to do with, but you didn’t save her. She didn’t need saving. It sounds like she had honor and integrity and a strong work ethic and life may not have been easy for her, life may not have been a piece of cake, but she was managing and doing the best she could. Deion said that he had been ashamed of her. He never said that he stopped being ashamed. He talked about how he tackled every bill she was sent after he turned Pro.

He went on to say that he created the Prime Time persona as a way of seeing to it that cornerbacks got paid more in an NFL where a premium wasn’t really placed on that position. He thinks that he’s the reason why they do now, though pass-happy offensive guru Mike Martz, in attendance in support of Marshall Faulk who was also enshrined, probably had more to do with that than Prime Time ever did. He said that he did it all for his mama. Everything was for his mama.

I’m sorry, Deion. I’m just not buying it. The honest part of what he said was that he was ashamed of her. That shame certainly motivated him. He has, unquestionably, provided for his mother and given her a luxurious second half to her life. It wasn’t all for her though. It was because he didn’t want to push a cart in a hospital. It was because he still doesn’t see the honor in pushing that cart.

He went on to say later in his speech: “What are we doing with this platform? Are we just walking around with these gold jackets? Let's provoke change. Truth family, I love you. We are raising your kids to be CEOs, not employees, leaders, not followers.”

I’ve got some news for you Prime Time. CEOs sit around in boardrooms and talk but their subordinates are the ones who get things done. And every General in the history of war will tell you that it was the soldiers, not themselves who won the battles that shaped the world we live in. Success isn’t the money in your bank accounts, it’s not the number of celebrity friends who come to watch you give a speech, it’s not a matter of whether people see you as a shot caller or a follower. Success is about being the best you can be.

Your mom was a success long before you gave her cars and jewelry and a big fancy house. She wasn’t a leader; she was a follower. She wasn’t a CEO; she was an employee. She was a woman with a kid who wanted the world and she provided him with the opportunity to take it. She provided that opportunity by pushing a cart. She provided that opportunity by cleaning up after people who probably didn’t appreciate what she did. She provided that opportunity because it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t about getting respect for her. It was about putting food on the table.

There’s dignity in pushing a cart, Deion. There’s honor in cleaning up after others. There are important people in this world who will never hold a press conference or fly in a private jet. Prime Time was never about your mother. Prime Time, like everything else in your career, was all about you.

There’s a Hall of Fame for people though, Prime Time. I know that you know all about it because you’re big on praising Jesus. When it comes time for induction into that hallowed hall, I think you may be surprised to find that all the first ballot inductees to that sacred place are the people like your mom who pushed the carts because they cared about others, more than they ever cared about themselves.