Monthly Archives: April 2013

A ROAD LESS TRAVELED

As many of you know, I’ve been doing a lot of exploration work in these last few months trying to organize and generate interest for a Centrist Policy Institute (CPI).

The mission of CPI is to be a voice and a home for the 40% of the electorate (80 million people) who appear to be fiscal conservatives and social moderates who no longer identify with either of the two political parties.

Quite honestly, it’s become a little more complicated than I realized and probably more than I can handle on my own.  You can see a lot of what I started at www.centristpolicyinstitute.com.

I knew from the beginning I didn’t have the right contacts and as a “happy has been” I’m not sure I have enough energy to keep looking for the big dollars to launch an appeal directly to the 80 million moderates and independents.

Everywhere I’ve been I see a variety of organizations who have or are claiming significant amounts of money to pursue what I see as somewhat minimalist objectives to resolve the DC paralysis and our major problems.

Here’s what I found out there, with no attempt to validate their claim:

  1. “The Coffee Party” who claims 500,000 members or donors in local chapters.  They call themselves the anti-tea party.
  2. “No Labels” has a large staff (10 to 12) and quite a few semi well-known names from both parties as founders, advisors, etc.  They say in their daily blog they’re on to the big problems, but their website talks about bandaids for the small problems, i.e., no budget—no pay.  They claim 400,000 donors.  I am somewhat baffled by their seemingly amateurish continuing requests for donations without telling you much about what the money is for.
  3. “Mark Zuckerberg” of Facebook fame and some of his SiliconValley friends are said to be raising $50 million to address immigration reform and other single issues.
  4. “Americans Elect,” a failed concept which never got off the ground.  They spent a lot of money last year getting on the ballot in almost all states to nominate an independent candidate for president.  They never got a recognizable or qualified name.
  5. “Comeback America” talks about being centrist but want to concentrate only on economic and political issues.  They feel social issues are too divisive.
  6. “Mayor Mike’s PAC.”  Bloomberg has put up $5 million or so and hired a political pro, Howard Wolfson, to run his Political Action Committee.  They doled out a few dollars in the 2012 congressional election as well as to two candidates in the L.A. School Board contest (who never promoted that endorsement) and say they will support some individual issues like gun control.  Couldn’t get through to      Wolfson.
  7. And then there are a half dozen or more think tanks who espouse centrist principles but they only seem to want to write position papers and hold conferences.  All seem well funded.

The one thing all these groups have in common is they are adamant about not wanting to start a third party.  I wonder why?  Are the current parties doing so well?

What I’ve learned so far:

  1. This will be a long struggle to gain a foothold (not really a surprise).
  2. There appears to be nothing out there quite like the CPI.
  3. The concept of a tax deductible membership model appears to be unique and has a lot more promise that anything else out there.

I’ve already spent a couple of thousand dollars to pursue this project.  To incorporate and get it off the ground will probably take about $3,000 more—to trademark the name, expand the website and explore a grant to sustain the program over the next year.

If you’re as disgusted with the Washington paralysis as I am and feel this centrist idea is viable enough to help break through the legislative logjam in our Capitol, please email me and tell me you will pledge $50 or $100 to really help get this going.

Together we might be able to make something happen.

ArtSchwartzSig

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Blog

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT WRITING

How did I learn about writing, or did I?  Certainly I never learned to write like Frank Mecca, my college roommate who won awards for Shell Oil Company, or the voice of Lee Iaocca in his Chrysler car commercials.  I could never write like one of my first neighbors Rod Thorp (detective novels) or like my uncle Fred who wrote the most humorous letters to me when I was in college or even like my sister who was an outstanding copywriter and consumer activist.

There were a couple of life-opening experiences I had at the University of Oklahoma that helped me learn something about writing.  The first was an English class I took with a professor (name unremembered) who told us “Good English is That English Which is Appropriate to Time, Place and Situation.”  Based on that definition he said we won’t talk about sentence structure or grammar, we’ll talk about anything and everything.  We did and it was a fun and enjoyable class.

For example, we learned about the concentration of wealth in this country and the earliest actions of the Civil Rights Movement.  Having had these discussions in class, we had to write short essays on the subjects.

The textbook by Perrin (how did I remember that name) had the professor’s definition, but we never read any more.  As you can see I, unfortunately, never learned much about grammar and I became the king of the run-on sentences.  Some years later I learned that professor was accused of being a communist and terminated from the University.

The second experience was also at OU in a course called “Business Communications.”  We learned something about how to prepare a resume, how to write a proposal and other forms of business reports.  The most important thing I learned was in all communications, tell a story.

You need a beginning, an opening, an introduction followed by the middle, the content and then an ending that is a conclusion and/or a call to action.  To tell a story I was told, write like you are telling a story to a friend.  In essence, write like you speak.

Here are the eight steps I gave to employees to help them improve their writing:

  1. Read more.  Read lots of books, magazines.  Read anything and everything.
  2. Before you start, organize your thoughts.  Make notes or have an agenda for what you want to write.
  3. Understand you need to know something about grammar, but writing is not a separate formal language with a whole set of different rules.
  4. (Most important).  Writing is telling a story on paper.  Try writing like you would talk to someone to tell a story.  Try dictating into a tape recorder or get voice recognition software for your computer.  Or think to yourself what would I say if I were speaking to someone?
  5. You can always add the grammar when you edit your draft.
  6. You have to be an editor.  It’s tough, but you have to go back over what you have written and polish it.
  7. Remember what you write has to have a beginning (an opening), a middle (the content) and an ending.  The same is essentially true for each sentence.
  8. Write often, write a lot.  The more you write the better you will get.  Write notes, letters, reports.

Maybe these steps can help you or someone you know who wants to improve their writing.

ArtSchwartzSig

4 Comments

Filed under Blog

CONGRESSIONAL REFORM ACT

1.  No Tenure/No Pension.  A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no benefits when they’re out of office.

2.  Congress (past, present & future) should participate in Social Security.  All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system.  All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.  It may not be used for any other purpose.

3.  Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, if they choose, just as all Americans do.

4.  Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5.  Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

 6.  Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7.  Both Houses of Congress have a responsibility to pass a budget by June 30th or forfeit their pay until they do. This is the only way the electorate knows what they are doing.  Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators.  Ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

(Most of these proposals came from an interview Warren Buffett had with CNBC last year.)

The U.S. Senate passed a budget last month.  It was only a trillion or so out of balance and included a billion in new taxes with almost no attention to the deficit problem.

And now the biggest surprise, four years and two months past the constitutional deadline, our Imperial President is about to unveil his first budget proposal today.  It will be somewhat similar to the Senate version and includes $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax increases.

Hard to see how either budget plan will get adopted with a $17 trillion dollar debt and both Social Security and Medicare facing imminent bankruptcy.

Both entitlement programs currently pay out about two to three times in benefits more than they received in premiums.  The budget must face up to this situation or our fiscal problems will continue to mount.

Until BOTH parties are willing to embrace the following three principles and move on then decisively, we will continue to fall deeper into the fiscal abyss and do nothing to ameliorate the open hostility and dysfunction in our government.

  1. Meaningful entitlement reform
  2. A complete overhaul of the tax code to produce more revenue
  3. An almost balanced budget

Why is this so hard?  It’s really not brain surgery.  Both parties talk about it and do nothing.  A pox on both their houses.

ArtSchwartzSig

2 Comments

Filed under Blog

THE GREAT FAMILY DEBATE

It wasn’t about the last election. It’s gone on a lot longer than that. It wasn’t about the unresolved issues of immigration or the deficit, or even terrorism. It wasn’t even about whom mother liked best. It was about something more important than all that.

It was about which was better Oreos or Hydrox cookies. Of course I knew that Oreos was best. My sister, an otherwise very intelligent person, spoke for Hydrox. It was an ongoing contest and debate. We never committed to arbitration or mediation. We each knew we were right. The intense and aggressive arguments became the mantra of our childhood.

Just in case you somehow were denied this treat in your childhood Oreos and Hydrox were 2 round chocolate cookies filled with a sweet vanilla cream inside.

Most people dunk their Oreos or Hydrox in milk (ooh that’s the best). Some people take the cookies apart and ate the filling first (how undisciplined). My sister kept her Hydrox cookies in the refrigerator. I was aghast. I would never do that to my Oreos. How could she possibly want to eat cold cookies or dip them in milk?

Hydrox was born in 1908 by the Sunshine Biscuit Co. Oreos by Nabisco didn’t come about until 1912. Truth be told Oreos was trying to imitate the Hydrox cookie, but were clever enough to get people to think that Hydrox was the knockoff.

The adamant fans of Hydrox claimed that their cookies had a tangy, less sweet filling and a crunchy cookie that stood up better in milk (balderdash, I say).

Sunshine and Hydrox were purchased by Keebler about 1996 and sold again in 2001 to Kellog. In 2003, Kellog’s quietly killed off Hydrox after failing to dent Oreo’s dominance. On the 100th anniversary of Hydrox in 2008 Kellog’s brought them back because of thousands of phone calls and an on-line petition from devoted fans. That only lasted a year. Of course you know why.

Are Oreos better than Hydrox? It seems the proof is in the consumer’s votes. Since its debut in 1912, 362 billion Oreos have been sold in a 100 countries worldwide, making them the best selling cookie on the globe.

The Oreos are available in dozens of variations. I personally prefer the original. The United States of America is the number 1 consumer of Oreos, but can you guess who is number two – – its China who devour the green tea version.

I only wish my sister had been here to at least have some Hydrox cookies during the anniversary year they were available.

ArtSchwartzSig

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog