Cash Flow

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 24th, 2014

Economics 101

New Complex and Confusing Regulatory Policies require Additional Accounting and Legal Fees to Comply

There have been demonstrations  to raise the minimum wage.  President Obama even called for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  He also wants employers to pay salaried people overtime.  There have been demands for paid family leave (paying people for not working).  Unions want to organize businesses.  To get employers to pay union wages.  Provide union health care packages.  And union pensions.  Obamacare has made costly health insurance mandatory for all employees working 30 hours or more a week.

Environmental regulations have increased energy costs for businesses.  Sexual harassment training, safety training, on-the-job training (even people leaving college have to be trained before they are useful to many employers), etc., raise costs for businesses.  New financial reporting requirements require additional accounting fees to sort through.  New complex and confusing regulatory policies require additional legal fees to sort through them and comply.

With each payroll an employer has to pay state unemployment tax.  Federal unemployment tax.  Social Security tax (half of it withheld from each employee’s paycheck and half out of their pocket).  Medicare tax.  And workers’ compensation insurance.  Then there’s health insurance.  Vehicle insurance.  Sales tax.  Use tax.  Real property tax.  Personal property tax.  Licenses.  Fees.  Dues.  Office supplies.  Utilities.  Postage.  High speed Internet.  Tech support to thwart Internet attacks.  Coffee.  Snow removal.  Landscaping.  Etc.  And, of course, the labor, material, equipment and direct expenses used to produce sales.

The Problem with Guaranteed Work Hours is that there is no such thing as Guaranteed Sales

The worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression has created a dearth of full-time jobs.  In large part due to Obamacare.  As some employers struggling in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression can’t afford to offer their full-time employees health insurance.  So they’re not hiring full-time employees.  And are pushing full-time employees to part-time.  Because they can’t afford to add anymore overhead costs.  Which is hurting a lot of people who are having their own problems trying to make ends meet in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  Especially part-time workers.

Now there is a new push by those on the left to make employers give a 21-day notice for work schedules for part time and ‘on call’ workers.  And to guarantee them at least 20 hours a week.  Things that are just impossible to do in many small retail businesses.  As anyone who has ever worked in a small retail business can attest to.  You can schedule people to week 3 weeks in advance but what do you do when they don’t show up for work?  Which happens.  A lot.  Especially when the weather is nice.  Or on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  As some people party so much on Friday and Saturday night that they are just too hung over to go to work.  Normally you call someone else to take their shift.  Then reschedule the rest of the week.  So you don’t give too many hours to the person who filled in.  In part to keep them under 30 hours to avoid the Obamacare penalty.  But also because the other workers will get mad if that person gets more hours than they did.

The problem with guaranteed work hours is that there is no such thing as guaranteed sales.  If you schedule 5 workers 3 weeks in advance and a blizzard paralyzes the city you may not have 5 workers worth of sales.  Because people are staying home.  And if no one is coming through your doors you’re not going to want to pay 5 people to stand around and do nothing.  For with no sales where is the money going to come from to pay these workers?  Either out of the business owner’s personal bank account.  Or they will have to borrow money.  It is easy to say we should guarantee workers a minimum number of work hours.  But should a business owner have to lose money so they can?  For contrary to popular belief, business owners are not all billionaires with money to burn.  Instead, they are people losing sleep over something called cash flow.

Cash Flow is everything to a Small Business Owner because it takes Cash to pay all of their Bills

To understand cash flow imagine a large bucket full of holes.  You pour water in it and it leaks right out.  That water leaking out is expenses.  The cost of doing business (see all of those costs above).  A business owner has to keep that bucket from running out of water.  And there is only one way to do it.  By pouring new water into the bucket to replace the water leaking out.  That new water is sales revenue.  What customers pay them for their products and/or services.  For a business to remain in business they must keep water in that bucket.  For if it runs out of water they can’t pay all of their expenses.  They’ll become insolvent.  And may have no choice but to file bankruptcy.  At which point they’ll have to get a job working for someone else.

Cash flow is everything to a small business owner.  Because it takes cash to pay all of their bills.  Payroll, insurance, taxes, etc.  None of which they can NOT pay.  For if they do NOT pay these bills their employees will quit.  Their insurers will cancel their policies.  And the taxman will pay them a visit.  Which will be very, very unpleasant.  So small business owners have to make sure that at least the same amount of water is going into the bucket that is draining out of the bucket to pay their bills.  And they have to make sure more water is entering the bucket than is draining out of the bucket to pay themselves.  And to grow their business.

This is why business owners don’t want to hire full-time people now.  Because full-time people require a lot of cash (wages/salary, payroll taxes, insurances, training, etc.).  They’re nervous.  For they don’t know what next will come out of the Obama administration that will require additional cash.  For every time they want to make life better for the workers (a higher minimum wage, overtime for salaried employees, guaranteed hours, etc.) it takes more cash.  Which comes from sales.  And if sales are down future cash flow into the business will also be down.  Leaving less available for all of those holes in the bucket.  So they guard their cash closely.  And are very wary of incurring any new cash obligations.  Lest they run out of cash.  And have to file bankruptcy.  Which is why they lose sleep over cash flow.  Especially now during the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.


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Minimum Wage, Obamacare and Unintended Consequences

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 3rd, 2014

Economics 101

The Affordable Care Act greatly increased the Cost of Unskilled and Inexperienced Workers

The Affordable Care Act has changed the employment landscape.  In particular it changed a lot of people from full-time employees to part-time employees.  Especially at entry-level jobs.  Or minimum wage jobs.  Jobs that may be physically demanding but require minimum skill or experience.  Making them ideal for unskilled and inexperienced teenagers entering the workforce.

Not everyone, though, is a teenager in these minimum wage, entry-level jobs.  Some adults find themselves in them, too.  Older adults.  Single parents.  Widows.  Widowers.  People whose circumstances have changed.  And who don’t have the skills or experience for other employment.  So they find themselves struggling to get by on their entry-level, minimum wage job.

Then the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) made their struggle more difficult.  For it required employers to offer health insurance to anyone working 30 hours or more per week.  Greatly increasing the cost of unskilled and inexperienced teenagers.  And their other entry-level, minimum wage workers.  So they did the only logical thing.  They cut their hours below 30 hours per week.  Shrinking the paychecks of both teenager.  And those who are struggling to live on their minimum wage paychecks.

The Unintended Consequences of Obamacare changed Full-Time Workers to Part-Time

We call it unintended consequences.  When a government program to solve one problem creates another problem.  In an attempt to give people with insufficient income to buy health insurance Obamacare forced their employers to provide health insurance for them.  This caused employers to cut hours for these employees.  To keep the cost of their entry-level, minimum wage workers from rising.  Thus reducing their insufficient income even further.

The rollout of Obamacare did not go well.  In the effort to give people affordable health insurance a lot of people actually lost the health insurance they liked and wanted to keep.  Another unintended consequence.  (Unless the Democrats designed the Affordable Care Act to destroy the private health insurance industry as many believe then things are going exactly as planned as people may soon start demanding that the government step in and provide national health care).  Causing a bit of a problem for the political party that gave us Obamacare.  The Democrats.  In the upcoming midterm elections.

It’s one thing causing people with individual insurance policies to lose their health insurance that may or may not have voted for you.  But to further impoverish the impoverished working those entry-level, minimum wage jobs was another.  For thanks to endless class warfare the Democrats put the impoverished into the Democrat camp.  So they needed to do something to replace the income they lost when Obamacare changed them from full-time to part-time employees.  And chose further class warfare.  By forcing those ‘rich’ employers to pay their entry-level, minimum wage workers a ‘living wage’.  By increasing the federal minimum wage.

Obama wants to Raise the Minimum Wage to replace Earnings lost when Obamacare made Full-Time Workers Part-Time

In the State of the Union address President Obama said he wanted to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.  But why $10.10?  The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.  And if you earned that working 40 hours each week for 50 weeks (assuming you take 2 weeks off over the year for personal reasons, holidays and vacations) that comes to $14,500 per year.  Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 brings those annual earnings to $20,200.  Or $5,700 more at the higher wage rate.  It’s a lot of money.  But probably not enough for someone to quit a second job.  For if someone is working 20 hours a week at a second job that would come to an additional $7,250 a year.  If they work 30 hours a week in a second job that would come to an additional $10,875 a year.  And some people have to work 70 hours or more a week to approach a ‘living wage’ when they don’t have the skills or experience for a job that pays more than an entry-level, minimum wage job.  So raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour probably won’t solve everyone’s financial woes.  But it will do something else.

If people who were working 40 hours a week went to working only 29 hours a week after Obamacare they would lose 11 hours of pay.  At the current minimum wage that comes to $79.75 less in their paycheck each week.  A significant amount for someone struggling to make it on something less than a ‘living wage’.  But look at what happens when we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those 29 hours.  If we multiply the additional $2.85 per hour to those 29 hours that comes to an additional $82.65 a week.  Which is a little more than the $79.75 they lost when Obamacare cut their hours.  So it would appear that the new push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 is to put the money the Obama administration took out of these workers’ paychecks back into their paychecks before the fall midterm elections.  So they still won’t be angry and vote Republican because of what the Democrats and their Affordable Care Act did to their paychecks.

They want to sound compassionate to those with insufficient income by wanting to raise the minimum wage to replace what they took away from them with Obamacare.  To give these people a ‘living wage’.  For the current minimum wage is actually worth about 20% less than it was during the Reagan administration.  When it was $3.35.  Wait a minute, you say.  How can $7.25 be worth less than $3.35?  Because of the Democrats’ embrace of Keynesian economics.  The government wants to print money to spend.  To provide economic activity when the private sector is not.  And when President Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971 they ramped up those printing presses.  And have been depreciating the dollar ever since.  Because they made the dollar worth less and less over the years the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage fell.  Even when people were earning more dollars.  And raising the minimum wage won’t address this problem.  Only voting the Keynesians out of office will.


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Obamacare is Raising Health Care Costs and Causing People to Lose their Health Insurance

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 13th, 2013

Week in Review

Members of Congress think they’re smarter than the average business owner.  But they’re not.  In fact, when it comes to running a business most Congress people don’t have a clue.  Yet they continuously pass new legislation.  Discounting any concerns business owners may have.  With a certain measure of disdain.  For business owners are, after all, the enemy.  Because they object to paying higher taxes.  And they object to higher regulatory costs.  Just so they can keep their earnings.  And that’s just being greedy.

When the Democrats rammed Obamacare through Congress on a straight party vote the business community said this legislation was going to hurt them.  But Congress didn’t care.  Their basic attitude was ‘screw them’.  They’re just greedy.  But they weren’t being greedy.  They were just worried how they were going to stay in business under Obamacare (see Some Small Businesses Opt for the Health-Care Penalty by EMILY MALTBY and SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN posted 4/8/2013 on The Wall Street Journal).

Mr. Levi currently spends about $140,000 a year on insurance premiums to cover 25 managerial staff at his business, Consolidated Management, which runs cafeterias at schools, offices and jails.

Under the new law, he will have to offer insurance to all of his 102 full-time employees starting in January. Assuming all of them take the coverage, Mr. Levi says the cost of premiums could exceed $500,000.

“I’ve never made a profit in any year of the company that has surpassed that amount,” says Mr. Levi, 62 years old. “I don’t make enough money.”

He says it makes more sense to drop insurance entirely and pay a penalty of about $144,000…

Mr. Levi…is worried that failing to offer insurance could entice employees to seek employment at competing businesses that do offer benefits.

“If we don’t offer coverage, will it be harder to hire people?” he asks. “That’s the unknown.”

Meeting the new health care mandate will turn an operating profit into an operating loss.  Now as much as the Democrats may hate the very idea of profits a business just can’t remain in business if it doesn’t make a profit.  So his choices are go out of business or cut health care.  But if he cuts health care he may lose employees.  And have trouble hiring new employees.  For even though the majority of his employees were happy to work without health insurance those positions that had it may be very hard to fill without it.  Which may leave the only option available is the going out of business option.  Putting 102 people out of a full-time job.  And he’s not alone.

Mr. Epstein, 52, employs about 250 workers and currently provides health insurance to his 20 office personnel. If he were to start covering the 100 or so nurses and nursing assistants that work full time, his annual health-insurance costs would jump to roughly $600,000 from the current $100,000, he says.

Even if he takes the penalty option, he estimates he would have to pay about $240,000—a cost he doesn’t think his business could absorb. To compensate, he plans to cut the number of hours his nurses and nursing assistants work so they will be considered part-time under the law. He says he will hire more part-timers to ensure patients receive the same level of care.

Few business can just absorb another $500,000 in costs.  Even absorbing an additional $140,000 is not that easy.  Unless you have a monopoly and can just increase your prices.  But few have the privilege of just increasing their prices to absorb additional costs.  Most have to figure out how to cut costs elsewhere.  Such as dropping insurance coverage.  Forcing full-time workers to part-time.  Or deducting more out of their paychecks for the higher insurance cost.

To avoid the employer mandate, some small firms are considering other strategies, such as increasing employees’ share of the premiums, so they don’t have to shoulder the entire cost of offering benefits. Others say they will stay under the 50 full-time employee threshold or deliberately turn full-time workers into part-timers.

This is the reality of Obamacare.  And when it hits our businesses with higher regulatory costs it is ultimately the employees of the business that pay.  If you have ever wondered why the current economic recovery is one of the worst in history this a big reason why.  Obamacare.  It has frozen hiring.  And even pushed full-time workers to part-time.  All in the name of trying to pay the costs of Obamacare.  Which, according to the geniuses in Congress, was going to make everything better.  Giving everyone high-quality health care.  While cutting health care costs.  So far it appears to be doing the exact opposite.  And they’re still rolling it out.  So the worst is, no doubt, yet to come.


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FT123: “It takes both a tax rate and economic activity to generate tax revenue.” – Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 22nd, 2012

Fundamental Truth

There is an Incredible Amount of Economic Activity behind a 20-Ounce Bottle of Soda Pop 

Have you ever considered all of the economic activity that had to happen before you could buy a cold 20-ounce bottle of soda pop from a convenience store?  First of all, building that convenience store itself required a lot of building supplies.  And construction workers to build it.  People in factories hired people and bought materials to build the food equipment, coffee equipment and coolers.  The people utilities hire make sure the store has access to electric power, gas, water, sewage, telephone and Internet access.  Transportation companies deliver food and merchandise to the store.  Who buy trucks and vans from dealerships who buy them from automotive manufacturers.  They hire drivers for their vehicles and workers for their warehouses.  They buy fuel for their vehicles.  Refineries provide the fuel and they hire people and buy petroleum oil.   Which provides more jobs in the pipeline, railroad, trucking, shipping and oil drilling industries.  Who all hire people and buy things built by other people.

The food and merchandise came from plants that hire people and buy material.  The one brand of soda pop you purchase hires many employees and operates one or more bottling plants.  They buy advertising that provides jobs for others.  They buy cans and bottles that come from suppliers who make them out of raw material that still others extract out of the ground.  These suppliers hire even more people and buy even more materials.  There is label or artwork on the cans or bottles that other people are hired somewhere to provide.  Their offices operate with computers and software built, shipped, installed and programmed by others.  They maintain a web presence which creates further jobs.  Their employees use smart phones the company purchased from others who hire people and material to build them.  And hire even more people to maintain and operate the networks.

And the list goes on.  There is an incredible amount of economic activity behind that 20-ounce bottle of soda pop.  In a vast complex of horizontal and vertical business relationships.  Each providing their little part in the big picture that lets us walk conveniently into a convenience store whenever we want and buy a cool and refreshing beverage in a 20-ounce bottle.  Now multiply this for every product in that store.  And for every store in the country.  Millions of people working in millions of jobs earning a paycheck.  And each paycheck deducts payroll taxes.  Such as Social Security, Medicare, state unemployment, federal unemployment and workers’ compensation.  Each check (in most states) deducts federal and state income withholding taxes.  Some cities even deduct a city withholding tax.  Businesses pay taxes on their earnings.  On their personal and real property.  Just as homeowners pay real property taxes on their homes.  And there’s more.

In 1992 the Middle Class paid approximately 40% of their Total Earnings in Taxes

If you look at your cellular bill there are taxes itemized on it.  When you go to the store you pay a sales tax on most purchases other than food.  Some people even pay a city sales tax.  If you buy cigarettes or drink alcoholic beverages you pay an excise tax.  Or sin tax.  They tax the gasoline you buy for your car to pay for the roads we drive on.  If you buy sugar in the store you’re paying a sugar tariff.  If you make a capital gain on your investments you pay a capital gains tax.  And on and on.  Throughout that complex of horizontal and vertical business relationships there are taxes.  Just as consumers pay taxes throughout their ordinary day.  It adds up.  According to CATO, in 1960 the middle class paid about 30% of their total earnings in taxes of every kind at every level.  In 1992 that number rose to 40%.  And is no doubt rising.

Staying with the 1992 number, this means for every dollar you earn you ultimately can only spend 60 cents of that dollar on you.  The other 40 cents goes to some governmental coffer.  Or looking at it in another way say you gross $800 a week.  Your net pay will be less for the taxes you see withheld from your paycheck.  But when you add the other taxes you don’t see you really only get to spend $480 of that $800 you earned.  Or if you gross $41,600 annually you’ll be paying approximately $16,640 in taxes of every kind at every level of government.  In a word – ouch.

Yeah, we all know that we pay a lot in taxes.  Most of us are just resigned to it.  But with all these debt crises (at the city, state, federal and international levels) it does make you think a little more about all those taxes we pay.  And the cries to get the rich to pay their ‘fair share’.  The amount of taxes the rich pay are even worse.  The percentage numbers may be lower if they pay a lower capital gains tax rate on an investment portfolio, but they are paying from hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions in tax dollars.  Which dwarfs our $16,640.  Yes, they can afford it more than those less rich can.  But that misses an important point.  Tax rates alone do not make tax revenue.  You have to have a prosperous economy, too.

The more People that are Working the more People pay Payroll, Income, Excise and Property Taxes

You cannot tax yourself to economic prosperity.  For if the number of jobs remains the same while we increase tax rates that will only leave businesses and consumers with less money to spend to create economic activity.  And when they spend less in economic exchanges all those taxes we apply to those economic exchanges will generate less tax revenue.  This is why cities, states and national governments have deficits during poor economic times.  Because there is less economic activity to tax.  All you have to do is some simple arithmetic to see why.

Say there is a city with 250,000 working middle class people.  Each earning on average $41,600.  So each contributes $16,640 in taxes at the various levels of government.  Or $4.16 billion in total tax revenue.  Now say a recession comes along.  And the city suffers 10% unemployment.  Putting 25,000 people on the unemployment rolls.  This will reduce that tax revenue down to $3.74 billion.  Or reducing tax revenue at every level by $416 million.  Just about a half billion dollars in lost tax revenue.  All while government benefits increase at every level to cover those 25,000 unemployed.  Add a second city and that could add up to $1 billion in lost tax revenue.  Ten cities could reduce tax revenue at all levels by $5 billion.  Causing deficits at the city, state and federal levels.  It adds up.  And they cannot make up those shortfalls by increasing tax rates.  Because higher taxes reduce economic activity.  Which is what generates those tax revenues.

Now consider the alternative.  Say the government removed some costly regulations for businesses.  Or they repealed Obamacare.  But only removed some costly regulations while leaving tax rates as they are.  This business-friendly environment would encourage businesses to rehire people.  Let’s say they rehire all 25,000 laid-off employees.  If they did they would, of course, restore that lost $416 million in tax revenue.  Without raising tax rates on anyone.  The point being that you can’t generate tax revenue without economic activity.  So any policy that would discourage economic activity would reduce tax revenue.  For the more people that are working the more people pay payroll and income taxes.  The more people that are working the more money consumers will have to spend and pay taxes on their purchases.  And the more people that are working the more houses they will buy which would bring in more property taxes.  Higher tax rates can’t make this happen.  Only economic activity can.


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FT106: “You can’t have high paying jobs with generous benefits and low consumer prices.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 24th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

To give Workers High Wages and Generous Benefits a Business has to sell their Goods at High Prices 

The problem with politics is that voters don’t understand economics.  And they demonstrate this by demanding mutually exclusive things all of the time.  Where having one thing makes it impossible to have the other thing.  Like that old saying that goes like this.  You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.   You can have cake.  Or you can eat cake.  But you can’t have cake after eating it.  Because once you eat your cake it is gone.  And there is nothing to have.  These things, then, are mutually exclusive.  You can have one or the other.  But you can’t have both.

Now let’s transfer this train of thought to economics.  And to its most fundamental element.  The demand curve.  Which represents people in the economy.  Consumers.  And the stuff that they buy.  And at what prices they will buy the stuff that they buy.  Let’s take large flat-screen televisions.  The big ones.  Over 60 inches in size.  If they cost the price of a luxury car few consumers will buy them.  But if they only cost the price of a pack of gum consumers will buy them until they have one for every room in their house.  And consumers will buy various amounts at the prices in between.  But in general this one truth holds true.  People will buy more televisions as their prices fall.  And they will buy fewer televisions as their prices rise.  When we show this graphically by plotting how many televisions they sell at various prices we get a demand curve.

Well, you think, why can’t we just sell televisions at the price of a pack of gum?  More people will have televisions.  That’s good.  Because people just love watching television.  And television makers will make more televisions.  Creating more jobs.  And jobs are good.  Everyone says so.  So why not just sell televisions for the price of a pack of gum.  Well, I suppose if we pay the people who make these televisions a wage and benefit package closer to the price of a pack of gum, we could.  But who wants to work for a paycheck that can only buy a pack of gum?  Which brings us back to wanting mutually exclusive things.  To give workers high wages and generous benefits we have to sell goods at high prices.  Which is mutually exclusive to the low prices consumers demand.

Big Oil’s Exxon Mobil was not as profitable as GE and Apple in 2010

Yes, you can’t have low consumer prices and high pay and generous benefits.  Because, per the demand curve, higher prices mean fewer things sold.   And fewer things sold mean lower sales revenue.  And sales revenue pays for everything in a business.  Including wages and benefits.  Which means lower sales revenue means less money available to pay wages and benefits.  And any company that tries to pay high wages and provide generous benefits has to do one of two things.  Have a product they can sell a lot of at high prices.  Or go bankrupt.  Two of the Big Three Detroit automakers tried to do the former and failed.  So they went bankrupt.  And the government bailed them out.

So to pay employees well these companies need to be profitable.  Unlike the Big Three.  And to be profitable you have to have sales revenue large enough AND prices high enough to generate profits.  Profits so large that they can provide high wages and generous benefits.  Unlike the Big Three.  Because they couldn’t sell enough cars at high enough prices to pay those high union wages and generous union benefits.  But some companies have been profitable.  Including one corporation liberal Democrats love to hate.  Exxon Mobil (a member of a group liberal Democrats derisively call Big Oil).  One company that the current liberal Democrat administration loves and partners with in green energy technology.  General Electric.  And one corporation liberal Democrats just love period.  Until Steve Jobs died, at least.  Apple. 

In the fourth quarter of 2010, the profits for Exxon Mobil, GE and Apple were, respectively, $9.25 billion, $4.46 billion and $4.31 billion.  The first thing that jumps out at you is that Big Oil is making twice as much money as the corporations liberal Democrats love.  Which is why they hate them.  And why they love to bitch about high prices at the gas pump.  While at the same time they are rejoicing about those high prices.  Because those high gasoline prices help push their green energy agenda.  But these profit numbers are misleading.  Because they don’t factor in the cost of producing those profits.  And the most common way we do that is by dividing these profits by the sales revenue that generated them.  Giving us net profit margin.  When we do this for Exxon Mobil, GE and Apple we find their net profit margins on those profits were, respectively, 8.79%, 10.8% and 21.2%.  Of the three Big Oil is the least profitable.  And Apple is the most profitable.  In fact, nearly 2.5 times more profitable than Exxon Mobil.  But no one is demanding that the government step in and lower the price of Apple’s products.  Unlike they do with Big Oil.

The Government’s Regulatory and Compliance Costs increase the Price of Gasoline at the Pump

So why is Big Oil less profitable than those other businesses?  Well, for one, you can’t drill for American oil in China.  Like GE and Apple can build products in China.  And by working in the United States Big Oil is subject to massive regulatory and compliance costs.  And government regulates few things more than the oil industry.  The permitting process alone just to drill an exploratory well can take years for approval.  And millions of dollars.  It wasn’t like this when gas was cheap in America.  Before all of this regulation.  In the days when John D. Rockefeller was refining petroleum no one was complaining about high prices.  In fact, his competition complained about his low prices.  Prices they couldn’t match.  Asking for the government to investigate them for antitrust violations.  Which they did.  And busted up Standard Oil.  So they could sell their products at higher prices.  But when you can manufacture goods in China you can escape all of these regulatory and compliance costs.  And governmental insanity of protecting consumers by raising consumer prices.

Some may counter that the net profit percentage isn’t the important number.  But the dollar amount of their profits.  The same people who say we shouldn’t look at the dollar amount rich people pay in taxes.  But what they pay as a percentage of their income.  Which is an example of a double standard.  Determining how much profit is too much by one standard for Big Oil (dollars).  But determining by another standard how much rich people should pay in taxes (percentage).  It doesn’t make good sense.  But it makes good politics.  Especially when you have nothing but class warfare to rely on to win an election.

The attack on Big Oil is also irrational.  For Big Oil can do one thing that even GE and Apple can’t do.  Provide high wages and generous benefits to American workers.  Because American oil deposits can only be extracted in America.  By American workers.  If only government will cease their attack on Big Oil.  And allow people to drive gas guzzlers if they want to.  Let them fill up those tanks.  Increase the demand for gasoline.  If they did and we got rid of the anti-gasoline policies Big Oil will go after that oil and bring it to market to meet that demand.  Making it inexpensive and plentiful just like John D. Rockefeller did.  Before government stepped in to ‘protect’ consumers.  And added so many regulatory and compliance costs that has since jacked up the price at the pump so much that it is eating away an ever larger share of a family’s budget.  And ultimately reducing their standard of living.  Without even getting any high paying jobs with generous benefits in the bargain.  And if you ask me that’s a pretty sad job of protecting consumers.


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FT101: “Unlike government a business tries to fix bad policy before it bankrupts them.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 20th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

If Businesses give their Employees Overly Generous Pay and Benefits they will not be able to Stay in Business

A lot of people say businesses are greedy.  That they are always trying to go on the cheap when it comes to their employees.  The fatal flaw of capitalism some even say.  That need to make a profit.  And because of the profit-incentive businesses try to use as few employees as possible.  While paying them as little in pay and benefits as possible.  Which they, of course, do.  Because that’s the only way they can stay in business when their customers are doing the same.  When we go to the store looking for the maximum value at the lowest price.

You see, a business has to earn enough sales revenue to cover all their costs.  And their sales prices include these costs.  If these costs are too high people won’t buy from them.  So this is the reason why they pay their employees as little in pay and benefits as possible.  Because of us.  And our greed.  To keep as much of our money as possible when shopping.

So businesses can’t be overly generous to their employees.  For if they are they are then faced with two choices.  Raise prices to pay for this generosity.  Thus dissuading consumers from buying from them.  Which reduces their sales revenue.  Or they can choose not to raise their prices.  Which will increase their costs greater than their sales revenue.  Either way it’s bad for business.  For if they give their employees overly generous pay and benefits they will lose money.  And not be able to stay in business.

Businesses must make these Difficult Choices if they wish to Survive in the Real World

In free market capitalism businesses have real constraints.  They can’t be overly generous.  Because they won’t be able to earn enough revenue to cover their costs.  But neither can they be too miserly with their employees.  Because they have to be generous enough to entice them to work for them.  It’s this balancing act between generosity and being too cheap that causes a business problems.  Because in good economic times employees like to demand more.  And if they don’t get it where they currently work they will leave and work for someone else.  So employers are generous.  Sometimes too generous.  Which they usually learn when the good times end and they can no longer cover their costs at the new levels of revenue during those bad economic times.

A business cannot raise revenue by simply saying ‘raise revenue’.  For it is not up to them.  It’s up to the consumer.  And during bad economic times they’re just not buying like they once were.  Which leaves a business only one choice.  They must cut costs.  Either by cutting back on pay and benefits.  Or by really cutting back on pay and benefits.  By laying off employees.  It’s either that or they will bankrupt themselves out of business.

All businesses must make these difficult choices.  If they wish to survive.  Because they live in the real world.  Capitalism.  Where there are winners and losers.  And where businesses fail because they don’t make the difficult choices when they have to.  We’ve all seen a favorite store go out of business.  It may not always be because of the cost of their employees.  But it is always because they’re not earning enough revenue to cover their costs.

Difficult Choices are Rarely Politically Expedient and don’t bring in Many Votes

Health care costs and pensions have been the biggest costs businesses have struggled with.  That’s why defined benefit pension plans are a thing of the past.  Unless you’re in a union.  Or in government.  And employees are contributing more to the cost of their health care benefits.  Why?  Because of our aging population.  People are having fewer babies and are living longer.  And consuming more health care and pension benefits in their retirement than the actuaries ever dreamed possible when they created the health care benefit and defined benefit pension plans.

It’s no different in the public sector.  In fact, it’s worse.  Government grew.  And taxes grew to pay for that growing government.  It became more expensive to have babies.  So people had fewer.  Made possible by birth control and abortion.  Now there are fewer and fewer young people entering the work force to pay the taxes to pay for the ever growing number of seniors in their retirement.  Again, something the actuaries never calculated.  And there’s no way to fix it.  It’s a failed model.  But government won’t give up on this bad policy.  Unlike businesses have.  Because government doesn’t operate in the real world.  Like those businesses.

Government can do things businesses can’t.  They can tax.  They can run deficits.  Paid by massive borrowings.  And they can print money.  So they don’t have to make the difficult choices.  And chose not to.  Because those difficult choices are rarely politically expedient.  And don’t bring in many votes.


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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #43: “If business ain’t selling, business ain’t hiring.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 7th, 2010

The Greediest People are in Government

A lot of people don’t understand business.  No big surprise considering that most people get their education from the public school system.

Our teachers ingrain it into us from the earliest days of our schooling.  Business is bad.  And they’d be even worse.  If it wasn’t for government.

Business is all about profits.  Not people.  Business is greedy.  Government takes more of our money than business does but government is never greedy.  Just business.  Funny how that works.  The lesson we learn?  If you’re really greedy and want a lot of money, be in government.

Government Earmarks and the Airport for Nobody

We deal with business on our own free will.  We choose to buy what they’re selling.  It’s a little different with government.  They take our money.  And if we don’t cough up enough of it, they’ll seize our assets.  Even send us to jail.  A business just won’t do that.  No matter how greedy our teachers tell us they are.

And more times than not, we don’t want what government is selling.  Earmarks.  Such as the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  The ‘airport for nobody’.  An airport nobody needs and few use.  But dump trucks of taxpayer dollars find their way to the John Murtha Airport.  Why?  Because Murtha was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  And that’s what representatives do.  Raise our taxes.  And take our money home to their districts.

Yet business is bad.  And government is good.  Go figure.

Government Spending Disrupts the Free Market

During good economic times, people say business is greedy.  They’re making their employees work overtime instead of hiring more employees.  During bad economic times, people say business is greedy.  They’re causing a recession by not hiring more employees. 

Businesses hire employees.  That’s key.  The more they hire the better the economy will be.  And you just can’t say that about government.  Because when they hire more people, it doesn’t stimulate the economy.  It just increases our taxes.  Leaving us with less money to stimulate the economy with.

Some people will say that government spending does stimulate the economy.  That’s what Keynesians say.  But they’re wrong.  When government spends money, they’re just spending our money.  And when they spend more we spend less.  The spending nets out.  But it disrupts the free market.  Millions of taxpayers will spend less at millions of small businesses.  Who will then sell less.  And hire less.  Maybe even lay off some employees.

We Spend Less when We Earn Less

Are these small business owners greedy?  No more so than you are.  Consider this.  Let’s say you and your spouse both work.  You make a comfortable living.  You can afford to hire a landscaping company to cut your grass.  You can hire a lawn maintenance company to fertilize your grass.  You take your car once a week to where they hand wash it.  You and your spouse sign up for ballroom dance lessons (while a sitter watchers your kids).  Now let’s say one of you gets laid off.  What do you do?

Well, if you’re like most other people, you cut expenses.  You let your landscaping contractor go.  Your lawn maintenance company, too.  You tell the people at the carwash that they can’t wash your car anymore.  You tell your dance instructors that you don’t need them anymore for lessons.  And you let your babysitter go.

Because of you some people have lost their jobs.  Are you greedy?  Or are you just adjusting your expenses to be in line with your sales revenue (i.e., your income)?  When you go from 2 paychecks to 1, you simply can’t afford to spend money like you used to.  And it’s the same for a business.

A Business Spends Less when they Sell Less

In business cash is king.  They use it to pay their employees.  Their employee benefits.  Their suppliers.  The interest on their debt.  Even their taxes.  If a business doesn’t have enough cash to pay these, they may not be a business much longer.  To be successful, then, a business must master their cash flow.

Making this more difficult is the fact that a business has to spend cash often BEFORE they get paid.  They pay employees, employee benefits and taxes often before the customer pays for the product or service of these employees.  Of course, before a customer pays they have to buy what a business is selling first.  If the business is not a ‘cash’ business, this can add even more time between the cash going out and the cash coming in.

So when economic times aren’t good and businesses are not selling, businesses aren’t spending.  They try to get by on less.  They hold onto their cash.  As long as possible.  Because they are uncertain of what the future holds.  But one thing they do know is that the future will take cash. 

Hiring People doesn’t Stimulate anything but Costs

So why doesn’t a business just hire more people during a recession?  Wouldn’t that stimulate the economy by giving people more money to spend?  Well, let’s say a restaurant hires a new cook.  The business pays the cook a wage and a benefit package.  Let’s say it adds another $1,000 per week to the business’ cash flow.  But it’s a recession.  Hiring the new cook doesn’t change the number of people coming into the restaurant to eat.  It just costs the business more.

The new cook will have more money to go out and stimulate the economy with.  But what good does it do for the restaurant owner?  Unless the new cook spends at least $1,000 per week buying meals at the restaurant (which is not likely to happen), the owner loses money by hiring the new cook.  His or her cash flow will only get worse.

This is why businesses don’t hire people during bad economic times.  Because no one is buying what they are selling.  Hiring people will only make a bad situation worse.  It will put a greater financial burden on a business that is already struggling to get by on what little cash they have.   

 Businesses and Taxpayers Stimulate Best

But our public schools still teach us that business is bad.  And government is good.  Even though it is business that creates jobs and hires people.  And it’s government that raises taxes and kills jobs.

To create jobs you need to help business make a profit.  Tax cuts are a good way to start.  With fewer taxes to pay, a business can use that cash elsewhere. With fewer taxes to pay, a taxpayer can spend that money elsewhere.  You let businesses and taxpayers keep more of their money and they will do good things.  This is how you stimulate the economy.  And how you create jobs.


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