Archive for September 20th, 2009

by Dave “Doc” Rogers
© 20090920

“You know, we could say they spend money like drunken sailors, but that would be unfair to drunken sailors. … It would be unfair, because the sailors are spending their own money.” – Ronald W Reagan, August 23, 1984

Let me get this off of my chest so I can move on. In 1984, I was a US Navy blue shirt getting ready to go to sea on the USS AMERICA, CV-66. So for a lot of reasons, the President’s comments struck a chord with me. Mr. Reagan was a consummate communicator with a really good staff of writers to aid him in the delivery of his message. Coming from theatre, cinema, radio and television, and then as a leader for those industries, Mr. Reagan knew how to package his words wisely, to have specific impact. But, Mr. Reagan was not solely dependent upon the “writers’ room” for his thoughts and intents of his speechmaking; as evidenced by his 1964 speech for Senator Barry Goldwater, “A Rendezvous with Destiny.”


Mr. Reagan’s words have stuck with me over the years. As I grew older and gained a personal understanding of fiscal responsibility I assumed that everyone was gaining this same knowledge and applying it judiciously. I was wrong. I discovered that credit gained easily buries the borrower. I discovered that some borrow with no intention to payback. I discovered that some spend with no thought given to how much is spent or how often the account goes negative. I discovered some do this intentionally. I discovered that not everyone has the same level of education or understanding of what it is they learned. A degree, after all, is only a piece of paper with colored ink and signatures if there was no application toward learning. Suffice it to say, I was naïve.

As I grew older and wiser in the realms of workforce management and P&L statements, G/L accounts, profits, credits, debits, line item justification, and 0-base budgeting, I discovered that no matter how many times you told some leaders and peers there was no money to spend they spent anyway, with negative fiduciary responses applied, therefore no profit to marginalize. I began looking outside my direct environment for comparatives, the ‘how to’ of communicating and managing more effectively someone else’s money. I began to feel it was my stewardship to protect the interests that someone else had placed in my trust. I discovered yet again my naïveté.

Friends called me Doc or Dr Dave, not because of a piece of paper, but because of an insatiable sense to know, to search out, to dig deeper, to chase down, to analyze potential underlying reasons why. True to form, that is what I did in this instance. I identified two leading causes: “it’s not mine” and ‘marketing.’

Stewardship is a lost art. It requires integrity and constant vigilance toward the act of giving an account, knowing one must give an account. It has been replaced in most part by a misinterpretation of the word “entitlement” – the giving or granting of title or authority. Entitlement formerly meant status as a vassal, fief, or lord acting in behalf of the liege lord; itself a form of accountability. Entitlement meant the one so entitled now had authority to act on behalf of the one giving the title. Not so much any more. Entitlement is now construed with ‘right’ or ‘privilege’ or demanded ‘obligation.’ To say, “I am entitled to that” has become synonymous with “It is my right to do or have that.” That would be incorrect in English and in historical practice; however transitioned into common, modern use. In the United States of America there is no granting or commissioning of titles; including the BAR, including the current trend of naming ‘czars.’

With no sense of due accountability, those who have assumed the persona of “it’s not mine” have taken to doing whatever it is they wished to do with ‘it.’

– The company won’t miss ‘it’ if I just take one
– That group won’t notice if I take just a little bit of ‘it’ off of the top
– These people do not even look at ‘it.’ They will never know if I do what I want with ‘it.’

Integrity, like virginity, once lost is gone forever. Young men and young women can never return to that state once having gone down that road. They are forever changed.

Trust can be re-earned, but integrity lost once will always carry the question of mistrust and whether it will be lost again. Alcoholics Anonymous teaches to take it one day at a time. The same is true of rebuilding the trust of integrity maintenance. Those that have been given trust with an expectation of integrity have to work earnestly every day to regain that trust, and work hard every day to answer the question positively in regards to integrity.

Marketing can be a useful tool or useful skill if applied with wisdom and integrity. If it is not then it is a ‘confidence’ game ran by grifters working a hustle. Marketing identifies a desire or need or creates one in the target audience; usually those that have money or can whine long enough to get money out of those who do have it. Marketing manipulates image and desire into false gods of air-brushed, light-filtered, computer adjusted imagery creating compulsion in the already socially uncomfortable to be like the image of their god. Like I said, when done well and with integrity it works. When it is not done well or without integrity and used to compel by emotional strings to be like the god of Madison Avenue’s making, it is bad. Evil actually. It creates negative stereotypes, increased debt, crime, physical and emotional scarring … I could go on.

There was a phrase that was well known, once upon a time, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” It meant whatever the neighbor had you needed. Debt to lenders grew. Unsustainable manufacturing surges and retail sales grew. Without conscious thought toward population density and sustainable income maxes being considered, cyclic dementia in deficit spending continued until lenders could not reasonably expect to collect on the existing debt load so credit shortened which decreased retail sales which decreased manufacturing which decreased margins which decreased the need for current levels of staffing which decreased expendable income through unemployment which decreased spending which decreased … well, you get the picture.

Marketing says “You can sell anything to anybody and they will buy it.” Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and certain other sectors have bought into that. They make their sustenance parasitically off of the expendable income host or those keeping up with the Joneses. No real thought is given to what the ‘market’ will bear; as long as they can bare the ‘market.’

One of the saddest commentaries on that ideology being so arrogantly persistent was General Motors [now GUMC … Government and Union Motors Corporation] selling left hand drive vehicles post WWII to the UK, to Australia, to Japan, to New Zealand. Why do you ask? Because they are all right hand drive countries! What arrogance!?! What utter stupidity!?! One would have to have an Ivy League MBA or PhD in Business to think that was sound! Yes, their leadership has had Ivy League degrees.

The truth is the great philanthropic work the United States did post World War Two has paid off. The world’s national economies have caught up to Tojo’s ‘sleeping giant’ and now beat at her with a bully stick, fighting for their share of the world’s every decreasing market share. The businesses in the United States have grown fat while they were the only ones able to suckle at the global market’s teat. They forgot there was another entire planet of people who also wanted some of that global market. With no significant military expenditures of their own and lend-lease forgiveness, the other economies could pour their economic resources into infrastructure and globalization. Leave the United States – the wealthy capitalist – to defend to the world. “It’s not mine to do.” Meanwhile, the United States slowly falls to parity based on economic output, industry infrastructure, and population base. Soon, because no one credible can make anyone who has the purse strings listen, the United States will be at economic ruin through mismanagement and denial of global reality of decreasing market share as other national economic drivers seek parity in that global market share.

The United States of America no longer owns 75% of the world industrial market as it did post World War Two. This is a reality that does not seem to sink into the brains of Congress, the White House [several of them], and the big economic driver industries in the United States. The spending continues to outpace what the economic drivers are able to generate in revenue. Note, I do not separate individual contributor income tax revenue due to gross income to the workforce is part of the outlay of the economic driver industries. Congress continues to spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend, and spend… like it has a huge economic engine driving revenue into its coffers. Actually, it doesn’t, but don’t tell them. Enough will not listen.

Instead, the Federal government and some of its state dependencies are spending money and resources like there is no end to it. It seems like they have forgotten that the real source for the income and resources are all of those constituents for whom they swore to defend, along with the Constitution of the United States. If WDC truly cared about their country and their constituents, they would not spend beyond income, they would pay down the national debt, they would interface globally for American made products and services. The Unites States of America is not the god of this world, nor the bank, nor daddy, nor mommy, nor bully-beater-upper, nor the whipping boy for anyone’s brand of “I hate.” No, the United States of America is a relative to the world. It is why we so readily give to everyone in need. We cannot fund it all. We cannot fight it all. Sadly, we will have to lay back a bit to pay our bills and fight our war of economic realities in a highly competitive global market. Our government, our Congress, will have to stop spending and thinking they can continue to be voted into office by the amount of bread, cheese, and Circus they can provide … that bit refers to Rome, Congress.

I appreciate the willingness by those in Congress to serve this country. I have too. I followed a tradition of service by my family and served in the United States Navy. I served America on AMERICA. I appreciate the education, training, and life experiences that all members of Congress bring to their service. I appreciate they are also citizens of the United States of America. I appreciate that a majority of their constituents in their districts or in their states voting for them to represent the folks back home. I appreciate the high work that Congress does. And, thank you all.

I cannot appreciate, nor will I accept the wasting of America for personal gain by members of Congress. Many, many good citizens of the United States have died for your freedom to name call people because of political difference. Would you be able to stand face to face with Dr. King and not look away in shame for your acts of prejudice, dissent, and factionalizing of America? Would you be able to stand face to face with any of our founding members of Congress and justify your acts? Could you stand before Mr. Lincoln who championed “Union” over secession? Would you be able to stand face to face with your forebears who died in patriotic hope to preserve that which you so readily destroy through backbiting, name calling, and fiscal irresponsibility?

It is not your money to spend how you see fit. It is not your money to spend how you want. It is not your country to rule at your whim. You, of Congress, are less that 600 people who should owe allegiance to the 300,000,000+ people of the United States of America. In 1983 I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and to protect the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. My contract of service with the Navy ended in 1989. My oath of service never will.

You, of WDC, owe my country the same willingness as the men and women of 1776. You owe my country the same devotion to duty and to service as every military man or woman gives everyday; some to their utmost. You owe my country and every civilian in it the same due diligence to execute to your highest ability service to this nation to strengthen it, not siphon it.

At this point, I vote against you, WDC. 2010 and beyond, I require your sense of service, duty, and devotion to the fullest measure possible. Do not let history look to the mouth of the Potomac the way historians look to flat lands around the Tiber and weep for what once was.

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