Monthly Archives: August 2013

PROTESTS SOMETIME SEND A DIFFERENT SIGNAL

The protests following the George Zimmerman trial in Florida last month were directed at what many in the black community perceived to be an unjust verdict.  The prevailing legal pundits, on the other hand, appeared to all agree, that under the existing state laws as well as the prosecutor’s charges, the jury had no real choice.

The protestors were probably reacting more to the pre-trial publicity as well as the fact that a substantial part of the black community feels the frustration there is still racial discrimination and inequality in our society.

Any logical overview of history clearly indicates a substantial amount of progress has been made over the past few decades in our racial disparities.  That doesn’t mean there is no longer a problem and in some ways the plight in the racial community is worse today.  The degree of this disparity is, I believe, far more economic than discriminatory, and a good part of this economic plight is self inflicted.

Let’s look at some facts:

  1. High school graduation rates:
    1. Asians 93%
    2. Whites 85%
    3. Hispanics 71.4%
    4. Blacks 66.1%
  2. 75% of high school dropouts commit crimes
  3. We have spent almost $16 trillion on anti-poverty programs in seven separate agencies.  The poverty rates dropped significantly until the end of the Johnson presidency (1970).  Since then, the rate has remained pretty steady (increasing slightly).  To give this some perspective, the cost of every war, including the Revolution, has cost $6.4 trillion.  That is 40% less than the so-called war on poverty.  The money for poverty has not proven effective.
  4. Out-of-wedlock births for women under 30 (overall 53%):
    1. Blacks 73%
    2. Hispanics 53%
    3. Whites 29%

Steps need to be implemented to limit support for women who have multiple births out of wedlock.

  1. In 2000, black unemployment was 8%.  Today it’s 12%.  White unemployment then and now has been half or less.

You have to conclude that all five of these categories have had a significant effect on the economic discrimination in the black community.  Certainly, there are other factors as well.  They do appear to work together to contribute to the inability to get a job, stifle job growth, increase poverty, as well as create a decline in the moral fiber and the unity of the black family.

These facts are frightening because they continue to increase.  Where are the so-called civic leaders in the black community?  Where are congress, state governors and, of course, our President?  From all these “leaders,” I hear more playing of the victim role than pursuing meaningful solutions.

When Obama says, “Travon Martin could have been my son,” that hardly counts as an attempt to address the fundamental problems.

Here’s my proposal to address this escalating problem of black economic discrimination:

The President should convene a Community Advancement Summit (CAS) whose purpose will be to produce an outline of suggestions to address these problems and become spokesman for their agenda.  The President should be included as well as civic and thought leaders like Colin Powell, Arne Duncan, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Bill Bennett, Laura Bush, Dr. Howard Fuller and Michelle Rhee.  Leave out the rabble rousers.  Include on their agenda:

  1. A massive Department of Education campaign to discourage girls and young women from becoming pregnant outside of marriage.  The program would need to include comprehensive sex education and readily available contraception.
  2. Promote the use of school vouchers so that better schools can be identified by parents and children can get better educational opportunities.

Whether vouchers or not, much can be learned from the numerous individual schools who have had great success in motivating and achieving academic performance with minority students.  Many of these schools are chronicled in a book called “No Excuses” published by the Heritage Foundation.

  1. Mandate school uniforms for elementary through high school, including no hats or insignias.  The average cost of school uniforms appears to be $240 per child (appears high and could be reduced).  Results of school uniforms in Long Beach, CA:
    1.                          a.          Overall crime rate dropped by 91%
    2.                          b.          School suspensions dropped by 90%
    3.                          c.          Sex offenses were reduced by 96%
    4.                          d.          Incidents of violence went down by 69%
  2. A massive PR campaign by the CAS joined by cooperating entertainers to address the need for personal responsibility and the consequences of personal action.  At the same time discouraging corrosive entertainment like gangster rap which exploits disrespect for authority and aids the collapse of the family value structure.  Part of this should also be the discouragement of all-over body tattoos.

If you can’t read, speak English fluently, keep tattoos to a tasteful minimum, stay in high school until graduation and discourage sex without a commitment, how do you think you’ll get a job and stay out of the poverty merry-go-round?

This proposal might not solve all the problems of our disaffected youth, but unless we get out of the escalating rut of ineffective programs and take some new steps to control the disintegration of the traditional black family, we all face a very bleak, inflammatory future.

I’m going to send this to my congress people and the people I’ve suggested for the summit.

(Much of these proposals were expanded from suggestions first made by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.)

ArtSchwartzSig

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WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF MANAGEMENT?

Recently, I was asked to interview two candidates for a position as a tradeshow conference manager.  The staff had already met with both people and now wanted an outside and perhaps more penetrating appraisal.

It had been so long since I had done any interviewing.  I’m not sure how penetrating – or even cogent – my skills were.  I tried to prepare as best I could, trying to remember what I used to do in interviews.

During this process I was reminded of an interview incident early in my own career:  I was in Phoenix working for KTAR-TV, the local NBC affiliate, as a sales executive when I got a call from my former boss at the Electric League of Arizona.  He told me he had been contacted by a management consultant who had been retained by the Electric League of Southern California to find candidates for their executive vice-president position.  He told them he wasn’t interested in moving to Los Angeles, but they should talk to me.

The consultant called.  I sent him a resume and subsequently had an interview with him.  When one of the association principles was attending a meeting in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to meet with him as well.

The next step was a visit to Los Angeles and a meeting with the Electric League’s executive committee.  Everything seemed to be okay; and then I didn’t hear anything for a while.  Growing a little impatient, I called the management consultant and told him that if they were interested in me I would need to make a decision in the next month.

He got back to me in a week or so and asked if I could come back to Los Angeles for another interview.  “Sure,” I said, and we set a date.  Two days before the meeting I got a call from the consultant to ask if I could meet him at the Phoenix Airport the next day while he was changing planes on his way to Tucson and could I also bring my wife.

I didn’t understand the wife part, but figured I would go along.  So we went to the airport the next day and waited.  The plane from Los Angeles was late and all we had time to do was walk from one gate to the next.  He never did talk to my wife and told me that I should dress conservatively, maybe get a haircut and be prepared for a tough interview.  They were bringing in someone who would press me hard on a number of issues.

This seemed a little peculiar.  It was now 5 p.m. and there was no time for a haircut, even if I thought I needed one.  I picked out the loudest madress sports jacket I had to wear and was ready to go.

The interview started in the usual manner; and after the introductions, the president turned it over to Bob Bratton, who apparently was the “hammer.  His interrogation went on for 45 minutes or so.

I tried answering his questions as best I could.  He was aggressive and a little brusque.  Sometimes he interrupted me and his manner was beginning to get under my skin.

Everyone else in the room appeared to be getting a little uncomfortable as well.  Then he hit me:  “Okay,” he said.  “What is your definition of management”?  Wow, now we were getting academic.  I took a deep breath, realized I didn’t have an intelligent response and was about to tell him and the committee in the most measured tone I could muster that I didn’t think that this was going anywhere.

The association principal I had met with in Phoenix, perhaps sensing my irritation, interrupted and said, “I think we have all the information we need.”  Fortunately, everyone agreed, especially me.

Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue about a definition of management.  Fortunately, I was saved by the man who became my mentor, Ed Myers.

The committee asked me to step outside; and about 15 minutes later they called me back in and offered me the position.  We chatted, and I agreed to give them a decision within three days.  I spent the next day-and-a-half visiting with several members of the executive committee and then returned to Phoenix to consult with my wife and my former boss, Dick Reucker.

I couldn’t wait to see Dick and ask him for a definition of management.  Without blinking an eye, and looking at me with a certain amount of disbelief, he said, “That’s simple; management is planning, execution and control.”

I never forgot Bob Bratton’s question or Dick Reucker’s simple answer.  My only regret was I never got to know Bob Bratton.  He was promoted and transferred back to his company’s corporate staff before I moved to Los Angeles.

I stayed with the association as executive vice president; and it was my first client when I started my association management company.  My stay there was more than 10 years.  I never forgot that definition and have probably used it 100 times.

What is your definition of management?

ArtSchwartzSig

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BEST READING DURING THE LAST YEAR

It was a good year for reading.  I enjoyed a number of books I’d like to share with you.

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo

An interesting book by an author from a Native American culture.  Is it really a true memoir or an expanded version of incidents and hearsay from many kindred souls?  It probably doesn’t matter much.  True or false, it is a collection of happenings in a life we don’t normally encounter; and is very interesting.

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs

A collection of the fascinating interplay between past and some sitting presidents that led, in some cases, to enduring strong friendships.  Hoover and Truman, Clinton and Bush, and many others.  All bitter political rivals who found in having occupied the White House common bonds of respect for the office as well as a continuing desire to still serve.  Great read.

Fridays With Art (not me) edited by Dick Wooten

An entertaining account of the early and continuing days of 27 television pros who made the medium a household and personal success.  Each of the future icons contributed a chapter on their exploits growing up with this new medium.  They all started in modest ways and moved through jobs as syndication salesmen, producers and management executives and on to movies.

Whenever they were in town on Fridays, they all met with Art Greenfield, one of the industries’ earliest superstars, for lunch.

Having worked for a local TV station for awhile, I know something about their business and even knew one or two of the people mentioned in the book which made it particularly interesting.

Unbroken:  A World War II Story by Laura Hillenbrand

This is the story of Louie Zamperini, a mischievous kid who started running and became a world-class Olympic miler in 1936.  But this is only the beginning.  He became a bombardier in the Pacific on a B-24, a plane that racked up great achievements as a versatile war machine but at the cost of many crashes and tremendous loss of life.

Flying in a borrowed plane, he went down and spent almost 40 days on a raft with two other crewmen.  When they floated over 1,000 miles and finally saw land, it was a Japanese-held island, so they became POW’s and were shuttled to a number of POW camps where the treatment was unbelievably brutal.

After the war, his repatriation was a long and difficult climb.  Under the influence of Billy Graham, he achieved sobriety and led a life of forgiveness and compassion.  He lived to age 95, making inspirational contributions to many.  A fascinating story of human struggle and redemption.

A Natural Woman, a memoir by Carole King

This is the interesting story of a Brooklyn teen, songwriter who wrote many outstanding popular hits; and with continued success over many years, was finally convinced to become a performer.  She followed all her success as a writer to become a star on the stage.  It’s also the story of why Carole, and perhaps many entertainers and actors, have so many failed relationships.  It was an interesting read.

Hamilton – A fascinating biography of Alexander Hamilton, born on St. Croix, who adopted the U.S. as home.  At a very young age, he was a top military strategist and undisputable aide for George Washington.  He became one of the principal authors of our constitution and the federalist papers that outlined how the constitution could work.  A guiding light with amazing foresight, he was our first Treasury Secretary.  A short life filled with great achievements.

Killing Kennedy – Another interesting factual account of the people and events leading up to the assignation of President John Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dunguard.  Even better than Killing Lincoln, maybe because more facts are now known and in a sense we were all part of the story.  We lived through it with the authors.  Excellent read.

In The Garden of the Beasts, Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

The title is long and uninviting, but the book is a very interesting inside view of what was happening in Berlin circa 1933 when the Hitler regime came into leadership and how they assumed total power in June of 1934.  A very good read.

Bull by the Horns by Sheila Bair

This was a fascinating account by Republican Sheila Bair of her five years in the Obama Administration as Chairman of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).  Her story as the outspoken champion of tighter controls and regulations to increase capital requirements for major banks during the turbulent financial crisis is a real eye opener.  She was a leading opponent of the “too big to fail” concept and was a constant challenger to Tim Geitner.

Two other interesting books:

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – The story of a serial killer and the building of the Chicago World’s Fair.

Thomas Jefferson – The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – The bio of a man of great accomplishments in early America who mainly exercised power through other people.

Last year’s favorites:

  • “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell
  • “Jobs” by Walter Isaacson\
  • “Capital Punishment” by Jack Abramoff
  • “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson
  • “Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Reilly
  • “West by West” by Jerry West
  • “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” by Paul Torday

ArtSchwartzSig

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A BILLION HERE…A BILLION THERE

Pretty soon you’re talking about real money.  There are two organizations—one public and one private—you never hear much about that you’ll probably agree deserve a lot more attention.

With U.S. debt fast approaching 17 trillion dollars, both of those organizations attempt to identify waste, duplication and inefficiency in government.

You would think congress would pay a lot more attention to these folks.

I am mystified why so little of what they identify is adopted.  It’s alarming, almost criminal.  Let’s take a look at some of what the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Citizen’s Against Government Waste (CAGW) report:

Here is the kind of government waste the GAO reported in 2012.  Much of it also was long-ago documented by CAGW as well.

  • 82 federal programs to improve teacher quality;
  • 80 programs to help disadvantaged people with transportation
  • 80 programs for economic development;
  • 47 programs for job training and employment;
  • 20 separate programs to help the homeless; and
  • 15 different agencies overseeing food-safety laws.

As CAGW President Tom Schatz recently pointed out, one of the most outrageous examples is the 56 programs in 20 different agencies promoting financial literacy, while the government itself is on the verge of bankruptcy.

This has been going on for years through Republican and Democratic administrations.  It’s just more egregious with trillion dollar deficits each year in the Obama reign.

The GAO has just come out with another landmark report that identifies 51 areas of government spending where programs are duplicative, overlapping and just out-and-out wasteful.  CAGW has been fighting for years to eliminate this wasteful spending for many of these same programs.

Here are just a few examples of the worst duplication, overlap and waste confirmed and focused on in the GAO report:

  • 209 science, technology, engineering and math education programs in 13 agencies;
  • 160 housing assistance programs in 20 agencies;
  • 94 “green building” initiatives in 11 agencies;
  • 55 surface freight transportation programs in five agencies;
  • 53 entrepreneur assistance programs in four agencies;
  • 45 early learning and childcare programs in nine agencies;
  • 37 information technology investment management programs in six agencies;
  • 17 diesel emission reduction programs in three agencies; and
  • 15 financial literacy programs in 13 agencies.

The list goes on and on and the recommendations from this report along with a similar 2011 GAO report represent a potential annual savings of $400 billion.

To understand the importance of this fight, these recommendations could slash the $1.1 trillion deficit forecast for this year by nearly 40 percent!

Most, if not nearly all, are findings that CAGW has been publicizing for years as well.

If you think it can’t get any worse, check out these examples in the Department of Energy.  The DOE Loan Guarantee Program has given huge sums of our tax dollars in loan guarantees and outright grants to Solyndra ($500 million) and companies like:

  • Babcock and Brown, which invested in wind farms and is now bankrupt;
  • Beacon Power, a manufacturer of flywheel-based energy storage that’s also bankrupt;
  • Fisker Automotive, which received $529 million in loan guarantees to build luxury cars in Finland;
  • Mountain Plaza, an installer of systems to decrease diesel engine idling that is bankrupt;
  • SpectraWatt, a designer and manufacturer of multicrystalline solar cells that is bankrupt; and
  • Wayzata Investment Partners, a firm that invested in wood-burning plants that never produced electricity and is now for sale.

So far, CAGW has identified 21 companies that have received more than $8.4 billion in green energy loans, grants, or tax credits, the vast majority of which was provided through the failed stimulus bill.  A shocking nine of these companies are bankrupt, and many others are headed in that direction.

The CAGW was founded in 1984 as a not-for-profit private organization and has worked long and hard to publicize the waste engineered by both political parties.  Unfortunately, much of their work falls on somewhat deaf ears in the public, as well as in Congress.

Their Prime Cut Report just released itemizes 500 specific items that could save $500 billion in year one and $1.6 trillion in five years.  That amount is 50% more than the so-called “sequestration” fiasco last spring.

The GAO was formed in 1921 as the investigative arm of Congress.  It now has over 3,000 employees and a budget of over $500 million.  They claim much of what they have identified  over the years has been enacted.  It seems much more is constantly added and multiplied.

How on earth do you get out of a hole that is constantly getting deeper?

ArtSchwartzSig

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