The Glass Darkly

Saturday, February 07, 2009

An Email from a Relative:

I got this forwarded email from a relative who claims to be a Christian. I usually just delete them immediately, yet something begged me to take a chance and read it. I knew it would make me want to respond, yet I knew I had better not. So I recorded my response here and am still mulling over in my mind if my silence is really condoning such attitudes:

A Boss Who Tells it Like it Is..... (an awful lot of truth)

To All My Valued Employees,

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges. However, the good news is this: The economy doesn't pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country.

However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interests.

First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You've seen my big home at last years Christmas party. I'm sure; all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life.

However, what you don't see is the back story.

I started this company 28 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living apartment was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.

My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn't have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business -- hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom's for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the discount store extracting any clothing item that didn't look like it was birthed in the 70's. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don't. There is no "off" button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child. You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden -- the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations... you never realize the back story and the sacrifices I've made.

Now, the economy is falling apart and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn't. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for.

Yes, business ownership has is benefits but the price I've paid is steep and not without wounds.

Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don't pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes. I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him. Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time. On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my "stimulus" check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check? Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.

The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck you'd quit and you wouldn't work here. I mean, why should you? That's nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.

Here is what many of you don't understand ... to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn't need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now.

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don't defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the poor of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change you can keep.

So where am I going with all this?

It's quite simple.

If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your SUV, and your child's future. Frankly, it isn't my problem any more.

Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I'm done. I'm done with a country that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

So, if you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, steam rolled the constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about.. ..

Your boss

My "response:"

I find the attitude of this writer arrogant and think he is totally missing the point of what makes life important. This writing makes it sound like what makes life important is how hard you work and how far up the ladder you climb. While I respect people who have worked hard all their lives, I do not believe it gives them the right to look down on those who have not accomplished the same successes.

I do not measure success in life by how much I accomplish, rather what kind of person I am and how I treat other people. While this person sounds like he cares about this country and the people he has been able to hire over the years, in the end, his motives are exposed. His hidden message is what matters is not the people – really – it is the bottom line. Part of his bottom line is that, when the government doesn’t do business like he thinks they should do business, he throws the towel in. He labels a government good or bad based on who they care about. If it is not him, they are reckless or misled. Don’t be fooled by his “worries” for the employees. His words are telling. He is not really worried . . . for he has accumulated enough luxury to live the rest of his days on. And based on this writing, it seems that is all that is important.

I think the real problem with the world is not how poor or rich people are, rather how willing/not willing we are to live in cooperation with our neighbors across the street and around the world. This man prides himself in the fact that all his life he was busy, busy, busy, sacrificing all for his business. His goals? Good old American independence and self-sufficiency. That’s what this country was built on and aren’t we proud! Some American Christians nearly equate these values with godliness.

Well, I’ve always been taught that pride comes before a fall. My faith has taught me that how we love and sacrifice for our NEIGHBOR – not worrying about ourselves – is what makes life valuable. I value interdependence and interconnectedness that is willing to sacrifice for the betterment of those AROUND me, not looking at people as ABOVE or BELOW me on a ladder of false promises.

I admit, mine is a different view on life than this man’s and a very different view on the world. For while I have certainly benefited from it, I don’t put my trust in the market economy. While free-enterprise is part of the back-bone of our market system, I don’t judge my freedoms based solely on what the government allows or doesn’t. While I have enjoyed the security offered by my U.S. passport, my safety is ultimately not based on military might, how nice my neighborhood is, or how much money I have in the bank. I could live in a democracy, within socialism, under a dictator or respecting a monarch. My government could take everything from me, yet it would not change my right to happiness or ability to find success in life. For my success is not based on what I can do or not do, rather who I am and how I treat others around me. I have seen friendships and relationships sustain humans through a host of difficulties and suffering. Where the global economic structures could do nothing, the hands and hearts of neighbors could.

So, ask me? If I’m going to brag about what I’ve been busy, busy, busy doing all my life? It will certainly not be about the money I’ve saved or invested, nor the luxury I expect from all that hard work. It’s going to be about the people I’ve come to know through sharing life together and working to bring peace to a world torn apart by greed and hate. For, ultimately, it is love that is possible through following Christ that is going to make the world a better place.


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